"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Loss of Elizabeth Edwards

I was all fired up this morning, so angry about the protests planned for the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards today. I am still angry, still fired up, but I realized that I don't want to give words or white space here to the protesters.

I am so saddened by Elizabeth Edward's passing, so sad for the pain she endured in her life. I believe there are a few people that tread through life exemplifying grace in ways so obvious that the word is used over and over again to describe them until it becomes synonymous with their name. Elizabeth was one of those people.

Those of us not in the public eye can say we can “just imagine” what it is like to live through a crisis publicly. But truthfully, it is too much too imagine. Your worst pain, your worst nightmares all out there for strange eyes to see and judge. Pictures that last a lifetime in your head and on paper and computer screens blasted out with headlines that are somehow your life.

In the last years of her life, I am sad to say that this was her life. And still, she remained Elizabeth—human, real, resilient, and always showing grace. I believe she leaves a legacy for her children that will outshine all of the headlines, the controversy, the pain. 

Elizabeth’s life was a lesson in devotion and loyalty. First to her husband and his numerous campaigns both of which she believed in deeply. Her devotion to her children was always evident through her words and actions, and in her oldest daughter Cate’s words about her mother. Cate will deliver her mother’s eulogy today.

I struggle with my own beliefs when things like this happen. I can’t understand why someone like Elizabeth had to endure losing a son (which is enough tragedy for a lifetime), then endure battling with cancer, robbing her of time with her remaining children, and then the betrayal by her husband. I can’t make sense of it. I can’t find a way to say—that makes sense. Because it doesn’t.

I just know I am sad this morning that someone who made a difference in the world, a positive difference, is gone. 

And there is little grace in that.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Dreams do come true...


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Zahra Baker: A Call to Action for All of Us

Undoubtedly, you instantly recognized the photo above as that of Zahra Baker, the Hickory North Carolina 10 year old who was recently confirmed dead, allegedly at the hands of her stepmother and possibly her father. The details are blurry. It has not yet been confirmed if the stepmother acted alone or if Zahra’s father was involved. Accusations are flying.

Several reports have alleged that Zahra’s stepmother was terribly abusive towards her. In articles I searched and read this morning, this was a common theme. One article quoted a family member as having witnessed beatings, but she didn’t call DSS or the police because she was addicted to drugs and feared being caught or charged. Other articles have stated that other people involved DID call DSS, and that the school that Zahra attended had also tried to get involved and help.

I have never seen so many people I know so upset by a story. My Facebook page is exploding with tributes to Zahra and heartbreaking status updates about how this case and this little girl are haunting them. So many people say they wish she was here so they could hug her, comfort her, take care of her.

It is too late for Zahra. It is NOT TOO LATE however, for countless other children out there who are enduring the very same abuse and neglect in their homes. Unfortunately, I can almost guarantee you that within your county, your city, your state, there are several children just like Zahra that need you. NOW.

We all feel helpless when we hear of these stories. And in some cases—either by geography or circumstances- we are. But, if more people in every community started to take action, to get involved in organizations that prevent and aid in child abuse cases, it would make a difference.

I was a Guardian ad Litem in the state of NC many years ago, and the impact it made on my life was significant. I know that my involvement was crucial in at least one case that involved a child being removed from a dangerous home situation- and I hold that memory dear to my heart. The real impact that experience had on me though was the stacks and stacks of folders of abuse cases in ONE county in North Carolina, too numerous and horrific to stomach. I was in shock to learn of the sheer number of cases, and over half of them as serious and horrific as a Susan Smith case or a Zahra Baker case. So many don’t make it into the media, so we all—understandably so—think these are isolated cases. Abuse seems to happen “somewhere else” in another neighborhood.

It happens every day, in every socioeconomic situation. In the worst neighborhoods, and in the best. From people you would expect, and people you would never dream could harm a child.

So, here’s my call to action for everyone reading this, everyone I know, everyone who is aching over Zahra Baker. DO SOMETHING. Not just writing a check to an organization—that does help—but we need more.

First, pay attention to the children you know, the children in your child’s school, children in your church, your co-worker’s children—everywhere. We should not be a paranoid society, accusing innocent people of wrong doing. But, children give signals, and most of us know—we get that gut feeling when something is wrong. If you get these signals, get involved, find out what’s going on, and if need be—report it. Yes, it is drastic. Yes, it is a HUGE decision not to be taken lightly or made for any other reason than the safety and well being of a child. But, you could be changing a life--saving a life.

Severe abuse is not always physical. You can’t just look for bruises and broken bones. The worst abuse is sometimes emotional and is easy for the abuser (and the victim) to hide. Again, listen to your gut. Does the child seem sad, depressed, timid, or excessively anxious or worried? Do things just seem ‘not right’? (click here for a list of signs for recognizing abuse).

More often than not, your gut is telling you something is wrong because of a series of factors. You know one or both parents and are questioning their actions or lifestyle, AND the children seem to be struggling. 

Cases of abuse are not always an obviously evil abusive parent or family member. Unfortunately, the parents or family members are often sick themselves—either fighting addiction or mental illness—and in these cases they truly can’t see the harm they are doing. But no matter who has what trouble, no matter how tough it all is—the children need to be put first. Their safety and well being is all that matters. The emotional scars from all kinds of abuse take years—sometimes lifetimes—to heal. 

The other action we can all take is to get involved with organizations that do good work, hands-on work in the fight against child abuse and neglect. I was so inspired by a friend of mine this week, who said after this case with Zahra Baker, she felt she had to do something to help. She found out about the Guardian ad Litem program and applied to be a volunteer. Inspired by her action, I also decided to go back to the Guardian ad Litem program, finding an application online and downloading it just yesterday.

I do not want Zahra Baker to have lost her life without something positive coming out of it. It is a senseless, horrific, heartbreaking tragedy. This child got the worst hand dealt to her by life, and I can’t make sense of it all, no matter how hard I try. All I can do now is try to prevent it from happening to even one child in my community. And none of us should rest until we all do the same.

Here are some organizations doing great work. Check them out, become educated, become aware. Do something. (click below to go to the organizations' websites)


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Name Change

I have a new last name. It is bizarre after 41 years to say the name, write the name, know that it is mine. It is a gift.

I was married last Saturday, November 13 in a small church near our home. If I had handpicked one day out of the year to tie the knot, I could not have picked a better one. The weather was absolutely perfect, around seventy degrees, and if there was a cloud in the sky, I didn’t see it.

Without a doubt, I had given up on this dream ever coming true. About 3 years ago, after a combination of heartbreak, bad luck, and just life, I remember writing in my journal: I am on my own for good, I know it. I have to face that.

I didn’t have some hope off in the distance, I wasn’t writing those words to be dramatic. It was my truth. I knew it in my heart. 

I am writing these words now because I want so badly to give hope to someone out there who feels the way I did. And I want to be so clear that I was in such a low place, as low as one can get. I just remember seeing emails and stories of friends and strangers finding love, bliss, happiness, and it seemed like another species on another planet to me. Depression had an unshakable hold on me, had grabbed me with its tentacles, and pulled me into the shadows and gave me no hope of breaking free. Depression had found me as a result of many things—my childhood, failed relationships, career let downs, and my own self esteem.

Today, my life has changed. It wasn’t just because someone walked into my life and flipped a switch. It was a process of healing, therapy, and friends and family circling the wagons for me. It was a long look at myself and my life, and somehow letting love in—cracking the door enough to give my life another chance.

It was not easy. I can honestly say that the last four years of my life were the hardest because as an adult, I had to face down demons, fears, and patterns that had grown accustomed to living with me. Going through everything through the years was excruciating, but trying to relive the worst parts, dissect them, and then make sense and heal was at times worse. There were things I kept shut away, and it was easier temporarily not to put them out on the table.

My husband (I still can’t get used to saying that!) and I do not have a perfect, flawless relationship. We argue, disagree and sometimes annoy each other to pieces. But we do have an honest respect for one another. And we truly like each other as we are- flaws and all. I have never ever been in a relationship where I was myself. I couldn’t be for one reason or another. (all signs that you are in the wrong relationship). It has alarmed me how at ease I am around him, how I catch myself being totally silly or just effortlessly free.

I have realized that I have settled in the past in so many ways, and I beg of anyone reading this—man or woman—don’t settle. Not in any way, not in one cell of your being. And we all know when we are settling. That inner voice tells us. We just ignore it because we think we don’t deserve better or can’t do better. And you can. 

I have cried happy tears every day since the wedding. I have stopped and relived the happy moments of our wedding a hundred times. One of the greatest joys for me was seeing all the people who circled the wagons for me when I needed it, there with us to witness the fruits of their labor. These were the people who refused to give up on me, who saw the hope of something I couldn’t see. These are the people that built a pathway for me to take to the place I am today.

All the decisions Shea (my husband!) and I made about the wedding were the right ones. We fretted over tradition, family pain, our own beliefs, and of course, all the food and event decisions. I can’t count the number of times we have looked at each other since Saturday and said—it was all so perfect.

So many women- my friends and fellow bloggers and women who read my blog- wrote to me before the wedding and told me to try and slow down on the day of the ceremony, to drink it all in. Several women said they couldn’t remember a lot of the day- it was a blur.

I talked to Shea about this a few days before the wedding. We made a pledge to each other that we would savor the ceremony, really take care to be in the moment and drown out everything else.
As I followed my bridesmaids to the back of the aisle, I took a long deep breath. I looked around at the women who would lead me into the sanctuary. I caught a glimpse of the blue sky as we walked by the open back door of the church. And I watched my dear friends wink and wish me well as they headed down the aisle. I will never forget those moments, or the moment I stood at the back of the aisle and saw Shea’s face just as he saw me for the first moment. We never lost eye contact for a second as I walked down the aisle to him. 

It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

It was the beginning of my new life. 

My new life with a new name.

~~We had an amazing photographer at our wedding, the photos won't be ready for a bit. For those of you that asked and want to see them, I will post a link when they are ready. Thank you to everyone for the sweet wishes for our wedding!~~


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Circle of Love

In the last few months, with the wedding date ahead of us, my fiancé and I have been tumbling through a bittersweet time. There has been so much shared joy- first between the two of us. Both of us are 40 (ok, I just turned 41), and neither of us has ever been married. Although it may not be too uncommon these days for folks to wait to get married—or even not to get married at all—for us, it was never not wanting to get married—it was not having found the right person. We both feel such a sense of gratitude in having finally found each other. It was a long wait, and both of us doubted we would ever have this bond and this love in our lives.

The other joy has been sharing this time with family and friends, feeling the love and happiness pour over us. So many of our friends have been wishing this happiness for each of us—and to see them so happy for us is as touching as anything I have encountered. Our close friends knew how badly each of us wanted this happiness—this love--this wedding—this life. To share it with people who have been along with us for our journeys before this—all the heartbreaks, the career highs, the life losses—it is all so special. At our wedding shower last month, we looked around the room at all the people there, remembering all the milestones we have shared with so many. All the weddings, showers, birthdays, holidays, family additions…the list goes on. These people made our lives whole up until we met each other, and now the intermingling of everyone just makes everything complete.

The bittersweet explanation is the turmoil we have been dealing with that only a few close friends know about. We were betrayed and hurt by people we trusted…so deeply that I cannot find words to write. We continue to try and tiptoe through the daily reminders of this pain, a pain no couple should ever face in the days leading to their wedding. I have watched my fiancé hurt in a way I cannot completely heal, and I have shared his pain in a way I have never shared anything else with anyone. I worried for weeks that our wedding would be tarnished by this pain. I worried that these memories would somehow cast a shadow on everything—darken the day somehow.

Instead, we have found this new strength…knowing how good we are for each other, knowing how strong we are. We have had rough moments but have never for one second doubted one another. This test of us has almost, just almost been a blessing.

I had never doubted anything about the man I am marrying- his morals, his heart, his honesty, his simple goodness and inability to be false. But, even knowing that in my heart is strengthened by seeing it in action. This time of trouble has shown me who he is and who we are. It has let me know how we will handle a crisis. We are not perfect, not without flaws or the ability to make mistakes. But, in the end, in times that are as tough as these moments have been with the worst possible timing, I know that we can swim our way through together, picking up for each other where one leaves off, saving each other in the process.

If it is possible, I will walk down the aisle more sure than I could have imagined that I am headed in the right direction, into the arms of my best friend, my soulmate, my happiness. 

I am finally at the point in my life that I believe I deserve it. 

We both do.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Yours and Mine

It is all yours and mine…

This unexpected pain

Robbing us of time

That should have been

Dedicated solely to joy.

We share the weight

We keep going, you carrying me

When I should carry you.

And all I want is the moment

Thirty days from now.

A white dress

The scent of freesia

The faces of friends turned forward

Then back to me…

I want to just be there.

Seeing you

Waiting for me

Beckoning me to take the first step

To hope

To know we are each other’s fate.

My heart worries

My soul is restless

Afraid I bring dark clouds with me

Snatching the blue from your sky

Robbing you of light somehow.

You promise me

Every day

That I am the other half of your heart

Your happiness, Your light…

Your life.

I can’t imagine

That I am to you

What you are to me-

Peace, hope, love, joy

Laughter in the darkest moments.

If you only knew

The pain you soften

With your words

The memories you erase...

The hurt you heal with a glance.

It is all yours and mine…

To take back our own sky

Paint the clouds, find the light

Hear no voices

But our own.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

When Did You Choose to be Straight?

For all the heated debates, ignorance, and passionate arguments, sometimes the simplest questions can have a powerful impact. This is just brilliant as far as I am concerned. I hope this video is viewed millions of times and somehow, in some way makes a few people think.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Rescued a Human Today

I am sure where this originated, but today I got this via Facebook through Petmate Pet Products. Very touching and very true. Last year, I wrote about being rescued by my dog Bear. It's true. We rescue them, but they also rescue us.


I rescued a human today.

Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her. I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn't be afraid.

As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn't want her to know that I hadn't been walked today. Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn't want her to think poorly of them.

As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn't feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone’s life.

She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship.

A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well. Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms. I would promise to keep her safe. I would promise to always be by her side. I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes. I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven't walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.

I rescued a human today.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Someone's Son: The Tragedy of Tyler Clementi's Suicide

We really know little about Tyler Clementi. Right now, he is a headline. Tyler took his life after his roommate at Rutgers University secretly spied on him via webcam from a friend’s dorm room and then publicly released the video (of Tyler making out with another young man) on Twitter. It is infuriating and heartbreaking.

If you have read many of the articles out there, you might know he was an accomplished violinist, and a member of the orchestra at Rutgers. His family has been quiet, releasing only one statement asking for acceptance and compassion for others in our communities and for their own privacy to grieve. Those who knew Tyler who have been interviewed have described him as incredibly intelligent and caring, with a love of helping others.

Tyler was a lot of things to many people, I am sure. I can’t help thinking of what we don’t know about his life. That at one time, he was a toddler, wobbling around his family’s living room, taking first tentative steps. He was once a kindergartner, learning the alphabet at his gradeschool. He was someone’s son. Someone’s friend. He had tremendous potential.

I also think a lot about the age, 18, when we go off to college. The whole experience is almost surreal. You are thrown out of one world into another. From a somewhat protected environment into a completely unprotected one in many ways. The glory of that unprotected atmosphere is the ability to find out who you are, to test the waters, to explore so many different things. But, it is a double edged sword. All that freedom can seem overwhelming to some, as it was for me. Tyler had only been in that new world, at college for less than a month. He barely had time to adjust.

No matter your sexual orientation, belief system, culture or anything else…imagine yourself at 18 years old in Tyler’s situation. Your roommate is spying on you, has a camera in your room, and is sending this video of you in a romantic or sexual situation LIVE to a world (or so it would seem) of internet watchers. I daresay many of us would feel weakened, hopeless, humiliated. And remember how your young mind worked. Every slight by someone else could seem like the end of the world. Humiliation on this level would have been devastating.

I want to say that his roommate and the woman who filmed him via webcam, spied on him and then released the video over Twitter are young too, and learning a hard lesson. But it is not that easy. What they did took malice. I can’t help but think—was there a point when either one of them got that uneasy sick feeling of knowing what they were doing was wrong? Did they ever think of the consequences or pain their actions would cause? Evidently not, as they tried to repeat their actions again after the first episode.

I do hope this is prosecuted as a hate crime. Although I don’t know all the details, the homophobia of Tyler’s roommate seems evident. I have been so upset by this story, by these events, by the horrible outcome. I feel so sad for Tyler’s family, and even more heartbroken that Tyler could not feel the support of all the people, famous and otherwise that have spoken out since his suicide. He had no idea of the legion of people across the country, around the world that have felt his pain, and have asked for an end to bullying activities like this one.

The other problem is that the laws have not caught up with the technology. After the Megan Meier case, I had hoped the government would spring into action, and realize that we as a nation were already behind the times and need to catch up quickly by putting laws in place to prosecute internet crimes. Sadly, we are still behind, and the criminals in Tyler’s case will likely serve little, if any jail time.

For now, it up to every parent to teach acceptance, tolerance and compassion. It is up to every person to set that example. For those who teach the opposite, who preach hatred, a reminder that your child could be on either side of a case like this one. And both of the outcomes are horrible- a death and/or a life ruined.

We are all responsible. Every moment, every day. Every single one of us.

Article Links and resources:

Early Article About Tyler’s Death from ABC:
It Gets Better Project:
Celebrities Ban Together to Speak out Against Bullying


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Parts of a Whole: The Collage of Who we Are

I have written a great deal about the struggle I have with the relationship with my parents, my father in particular. A lot of the words I have written were almost therapy, a way for me to explore things I remembered, turn them over and over and try to make sense of them. It is easy in an overview to see things as black and white, with a hero and a victim. There are many reasons I have struggled over the years, battled depression, and questioned myself. I do believe with all of my heart that the foundation I was given led me to a struggle with my self esteem and gave me more obstacles to overcome at a young age. However, I do know I can’t blame everything on my upbringing or my father’s alcoholism. I know that I am still responsible for choices I have made, and paths I have chosen.

I have never been good with money. I can remember so vividly being in Mrs. McCune’s math class in middle school crying my eyes out because I could not balance my imaginary checkbook that was given to us as a class assignment. This wasn’t Algebra or Calculus. It was addition and subtraction. And I wasn’t a stupid kid. Outside of the checkbook register, addition and subtraction were easy. Put in the context of paying bills and shopping, I couldn’t make it work.

Some of my struggles over the years with money have been just not having enough of it, working three jobs trying to make ends meet, eating spaghettios almost every night to survive. But as I found career success and made a great salary, I still had issues. Some of it was due to retail therapy and comforting myself because other things were lacking, and some of it was just my lack of money management skills.

My relationship choices did have a predestination quality, we learn what we live—how we are taught to love. But at some point, you have to say to yourself people who hurt me are bad, those who don’t are good, and learn from it. I was a slow learner to say the least.

So, yes, I know that my childhood shaped me, maybe more than I would have liked. But even amidst the pain and at times, bitterness, I know I gained some things from my parents that are the better parts of me.

I have my mother’s heart. My mother’s compassion is a gift I am thankful for, even though it causes me to feel things 100 times more deeply than I should, causes me to cry over small injustices every day. I sometimes wish I didn’t feel things so deeply, and have, over the years, wished I didn’t form such intense strong attachments to people, but I know that the opposite would be worse. I have watched my mother love without worrying about anything in return for much of her life. Although I know it isn’t healthy, it is at times still amazing to watch.

I have my father’s wit and sense of comic timing. In times of stress, I learned to borrow this gift from him to ease tension, or divert everyone away from the negative forces in our lives. Though shy outside the house when I was younger, I could be a clown and a performer at home when I needed to be. Although the circumstances may not have been ideal to grow this trait, I am thankful I have honed my sarcasm over the years, and my ability to always laugh at myself. I think that in particular has helped save me at times.

The weird thing is, all of us grow up in completely different circumstances, some good, some bad, and you can’t ever completely predict how any one person will turn out. There are some psychological profiles that we can expect given certain things, but truthfully, it all seems like a weird lottery to me. Someone who grows up in a family of abuse, neglect, and horror can grow up to be successful, warm, giving, and healthy, while someone from a seemingly healthy, loving home can grow up and lose their way or worse, find a life of crime.

The best and worst of the two people who raised me is the collage of the person I have become. While some people deal with pain by withdrawing, I have expressed it openly in various ways including writing. And writing is like breathing to me. I cannot imagine my life without this need and love for words. I don’t know if I was born to write, or if my circumstances carved this notion into me. Probably a little bit of both. Out of everything I have and am, and even if I never find true success at it, I would not want to lose my love of writing or the ability to do so. Do I wish there were things I didn’t have to see, endure, learn or know to get where I am? Definitely. Are there things I regret and wish I could have handled differently? God yes.

But there is no way to pick and choose the parts you can delete and still remain yourself. Even in my lowest times, when the world seemed so dark to me—I would ask myself—do you wish you were someone else? And I could never answer that question affirmatively. I knew I didn’t want to be in the pain I was in, battling what I was battling, but at the core of it all, I didn’t want to change who I was. Sometimes that still amazes me. That even as flawed and hopeless as I have felt, I wanted this heart, this mind, this body, this face, these gifts, these burdens.

And today as I try to reconcile so many things, I still do. All the pieces, flawed and unblemished, broken and repaired, silent and screaming, loved and forgotten...are why I am here today, finally happy and whole. Loved by myself and others for all those reasons.

What a gift that is.

The amazing collage pictured above was done by Gloria Martin at


Thursday, September 23, 2010


I can barely begin to explain the tumble of emotions I have been through over the last three weeks. There is first and foremost the utter and complete happiness of being with my fiancé and making wedding plans. Plans I thought I would never make with a man I thought I would never meet. The only certainty in my life for so many years was sadness and the belief that it wasn’t going to get any better. I can honestly say that a day does not go by where I don’t stop for a moment at some point during the day and give thanks. I waited a long time for this happiness, and so did he. I sometimes think (and worry) that all brides and grooms must feel this way at the beginning when they walk down the aisle. No one knows for sure if they will last- if they won’t make it. How do I know my situation is different? All I can worry about is the now, and the now is wonderful. And after that, I know I can’t take one second for granted.

Planning my wedding has been more than I ever bargained for. Finding the florist, the photographer, and picking a caterer…all those details are daunting enough. Add a full time job and anything else into the mix and it gets overwhelming quickly. In the past, I have helped friends plan their weddings, have worn more bridesmaid dresses than I care to count, but nothing can compare to planning your own. It is more than picking out a white dress and asking friends to stand up for you. It is more than choosing colors and selecting flowers. There is so much emotion tied to your own wedding. Not just the love and commitment, but all the family decisions and involvement can complicate (or deepen) everything to a place you never imagined.

I have struggled with the situation over whether or not to have my father walk me down the aisle. My mother has been terribly hurt and completely unable to understand why I wouldn’t want him to accompany me at the church in November. Her level of denial still astounds me. She cannot go to a place where she has to see the reality of what my father’s alcoholism has done to our family, and the lasting effect it has had on me. Since I brought up the issue and expressed what I wanted, it has caused weeks of arguing, awkward conversations and tears on both ends. It would be easier, it seems, to give in. Again, it is only 30 feet and maybe 5 minutes, right?

I keep telling myself that. And even though I know it seems to my mother and maybe to everyone else that I am trying to punish or hurt my father, I can honestly say that is far from the truth. My decision is for me. I didn't truly realize it until all the talks with my mother recently. I also believe it won’t really hurt him- except maybe his pride. Maybe no one understands my reasons, and I have a difficult time expressing them. There is bitterness from me towards him, I think that is apparent in my past blog entries. There is pain and anger. A lot of that comes from the years I have spent in therapy and trying to heal. Years I feel that I ‘lost’ in my life because of it all. Going through the pain was enough, but losing time made it all seem to last forever.

But my reason for this decision is apart from that. I made promises to myself growing up—things I would do and have—things I would be one day. The love I would find, the life I would lead. And it has taken me so long to even begin to fulfill those promises. I feel as though now I am leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for the little girl I was, leading her to where I am now. Finally, I am here. All of the pain was worth it. We made it. I made it.

I am proud of myself for getting through everything I have gotten through. I survived. Just barely. I am so thankful I did. And emotionally, I did that myself. I had friends and a therapist who helped me with the tools I needed to be able to fight, who held me up so I could walk through the door. But emotionally I had to get there myself. And I fought hard. I want to walk down that aisle knowing that in order for me to be here, to be in that church and say those vows, and find the peace and joy I have waited so long for, I did it. In spite of my father, in spite of setbacks and heartbreak. Somehow, I did it. And those steps down that aisle belong to me, each one of them.

To me, and the little girl I was, the little girl I made promises to- promises that have finally come true.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Pain vs. Tradition: The Walk Down the Aisle

It’s not that far to walk. Maybe 30 feet I am guessing? It is a small church. And at the end of that walk, a part of my life will be over and a new one will begin. It will take 3 minutes or less. And yet, it is the one thing about planning this wedding that has caused me the most worry, the most heartache. It has been the one argument my fiancé and I have had over anything to do with the wedding.

Will my father walk me down the aisle?

I actually have already talked to my mother about where my father should get fitted for his tux. I have already had a disjointed conversation with her about him walking me down the aisle. I never called her to formally ask. He and I have not really spoken in over a year. The last time we spoke was by necessity at a family gathering for Christmas last year. My mother called me a few months ago once I started to plan the wedding, simply asking what my father should wear to walk me down the aisle.

It seems easy enough to those outside the situation. Knowing my history with my father, knowing my feelings about him, knowing the pain he has caused in my life—NO—he should not have the honor of walking me down the aisle. It seems easy enough.

Do I want him to? No. Mainly because I have had to take care of myself for a long time. I may have done a poor job of it at times, but I have had to find a way to navigate through this world, to honestly survive my relationship with him. It was his voice I heard in my head for the better part of my life. The voice that made me doubt myself, that made me make choices I would not have made otherwise. The voice that told me I wasn’t worth a healthy relationship or belief in myself. The voice that constantly made me doubt myself and at times hate myself. That voice I heard—his voice-- became my voice. I was 36 years old before I even began unraveling that mystery; before I began to try and hear my own self in there. Before I realized it was his voice and not mine I had been hearing.

This isn’t about breaking with tradition. For me, tradition went out the window years ago. I could care less about wedding etiquette or rules, or what people see as right or wrong. A lot of people don’t know the truth about what went on in my house growing up, or who my father was behind closed doors, or who he is now. So yes, there might be questions at the wedding, but that isn’t it either.

It begins and ends with my mother. Although I have wanted to pummel her at times over the years for concentrating on nothing but the fact that I wasn’t married, that I was getting older and was going to end up ALONE, that I was going to get too old to have children—I am happy that she is getting to see this happen. It has worried her to death—almost literally. I know she only wanted my happiness as she completely missed the irony that she was begging for me to enter into an institution that had brought her nothing but pain, disappointment, and loneliness. I know that it will be one of the happiest days in her life to be at my wedding. And I think she has had too few of them. I know if I tell her (because I will have to tell her since my father and I don’t speak) that I do not want him walking me down the aisle, that it will be she who suffers. She will hear him venting, he may refuse to come, and my mother is at times dependent on him when traveling. Not because of any illness or anything like that, she just relies on his opinion, almost his permission, to do anything.

My mother is living in the biggest state of denial I have ever witnessed. Part of this is that in her world, we are the perfect family, have had no issues or dysfunctions to speak of, and every holiday has been a Normal Rockwell painting. My wedding is just another painting in progress, and everything should be in place: the bride in white, the handsome groom, the three tiers of cake, and the father walking the daughter down the aisle.

As much as I want to just let it go, and do the easy thing…I woke up yesterday asking myself who this was easy for. I have, too many times in my life tried my very best to make things good for everyone else. And to be honest, because I grew up living my mother’s denial, I too kept up appearances that everything was normal, if not wonderful in my family for many years. You can learn denial and keeping secrets just like you learn everything else. Everyone at college went home for Christmas and excitedly talked about relatives not seen all year, presents, family meals, and just happiness. At times I even made up stories, or at least very heavily embellished what I had to look forward to. The truth was, Christmas was one of the most painful times of year for me. There were several Christmases that my father either made me leave the house (on Christmas Eve) or things became so explosive that I had to leave. I wasn’t a problem teenager. I didn’t come home with a tattooed boyfriend or a pregnancy announcement or any of the other afterschool-special problems that might send a parent over the edge, even at Christmas. It was as if just my existence, my very being, and all the disappointments I had become were too much for him to handle without loads of alcohol and profanity spewed in my direction. It took me awhile to stop trying to be the last missing piece in my mother’s Rockwell painting, coming home to make it complete for her. Finally, I started taking vacations at Christmastime, saving my vacation time at work, and not always being honest with those who I knew about where I was going. No one wants to hear that you are spending Christmas alone, even if it is in Maui or Paris. It is best to just let people assume you are heading home with the rest of the world.

I took baby steps in trying to preserve my sanity. Not going home for holidays, and then not visiting when my father was home. I felt guilty making things hard on my mother, but had to, at some point, save myself.

And in about two months, I am getting married. It will be one of the most important and happiest days of my life. And though it may seem like an easy decision one way or the other…to spare my mother’s feelings or to say no to someone who doesn’t deserve the honor…it isn’t easy. But, I have waited so long for this. For this love. I honestly had completely given up on it happening for me. And the joy I have had in my life for the almost ten months I have been with my fiancé has changed my life and made me stronger. I honestly believe I had to learn to love again, and my fiancé has taught me. They say you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. I think for the most part, that is true. But sometimes, you can’t see yourself until someone else sees you. Believes in you. Helps you hear their voice and your own above everyone and everything else. And that has happened for me.

The thought of even the gesture of letting my father walk me down the aisle makes my stomach hurt, makes me angry, makes me sad.

The thought of walking myself down the aisle, toward the man I love, toward my new life makes me nothing but happy.

Maybe it is an easy decision after all.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Danny & Annie

Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

I am so behind with my writing. This is my weekend to write, and I am beginning by taking a little shortcut to share something I came across via Twitter this morning. I am not crazy about the animation style of this, but the story behind it is just beautiful. if you don't know about NPR's StoryCorps, you need to check it out. I cannot count the number of mornings on my way to work that I would have to pull the car over when listening to some of these stories. Just beautiful stuff.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cherry Grove

I never thought of living here—in the Myrtle Beach area. This was a place my family vacationed when I was a child, specifically in Cherry Grove. My parent’s best friends had a family beach house there, and some of my happiest memories of childhood are those weeks we spent together, our families comingled, sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, beach towels, and sunscreen.

Since we were spending time with their closest friends and their small children, most of the tension of my family was left behind as soon as we headed south in the direction of Cherry Grove. I remember just loving the sound of those two words- Cherry Grove. It meant a week of laughter, good food, and feeling almost normal. I have known the Harris family since I was six years old, have spent as much time with them as any of my extended family, and have always been in awe of the happiness in their house, their family—that has only grown more beautiful over the years. I feel so lucky that I grew up spending so much time with them, really seeing firsthand what a healthy marriage and family looked like- what it felt like. And I always felt at home in their house- and still do to this day.

Once we were all at the beach, the minute we drove up to their orange and brown house on stilts, I felt relaxed and more myself than most any other time. I loved the Harris’ daughters as if they were my own sisters, and reveled in the role of big sister—and the opportunity to do it for a whole week was thrilling to me.

I couldn’t tell you the exact years we started going to the beach, or when everyone’s schedules got too busy and children grew up, moved away, and finally the house stopped being a gathering place. But of all the places I have traveled and lived, Cherry Grove held a special place in my heart.

I remember so well waking up in the mornings on vacation, slipping on a swimsuit still damp from the day before, finding flip flops (mine or someone else’s) and trekking the block to the beach. I can still see pictures in my mind—photographs we would get developed after the trip, showing one of the Harris girls as a toddler in a tiny, baby-sized bikini on the beach, eating fistfuls of sand, usually with me hovering somewhere nearby, laughing, the ocean breeze sweeping my hair to one side.

Nighttime was spent with us all gathered in the kitchen, seemingly everyone cooking something, eating until we felt we would burst; or we would all head out to dinner, trading children in each other’s cars and heading to Calabash to eat fried seafood in a restaurant overlooking the water.

Slipping into bed at night, my skin still felt warm from soaking up the sun all day, and I felt more a part of a normal family than any other time.

But I never thought of living here. This was a vacation spot. I think there was also some magical association I had with the time I had spent here, and the thought of marring those memories would have been too risky. Better to leave those experiences safe and in the past—and not return to see a reality of some sort, or create any unhappy association.

Then, when I met my fiancé, one of the first trips we took together was to this area. He had also grown up vacationing here, but had continued that tradition himself as an adult through the years. He also had an almost magical view of this area, and said he had hoped to retire here one day. He had dreamed of living here, but never saw a way for it to work out.

And then, in a bit of a whirlwind, we got serious, his work situation changed, my work situation changed, and I made inquiries about a job here. Neither of us thought it was likely we would really be able to end up here, but it was nice to entertain the idea and put a few feelers out. His dream became my dream.

It all popped into place so quickly, it is still hard to believe. And as much as I am thrilled to be here with him writing our love story, I see the signs for Cherry Grove and I am taken back immediately, decades ago. I almost wish I could go back and tell that girl—me at 12 years old—that all the love I needed, all the things I hoped for—were going to find me—a little farther down the line than I might like—but in a place I treasured. This beach, these roads, these places I knew and loved would one day be home for me…in more ways than I could have imagined.

In the past month as I searched for a church for us to get married, I googled information, called churches and pastors, and drove around looking for a place that felt right. One night, I came across a Facebook page for a little church nearby. I called the next day and made an appointment to visit. The moment I walked into the sanctuary, I knew this was where we would say our vows. And the address, of course, is Cherry Grove. I can’t imagine a better place for this new beginning, this new chapter of our lives. I will walk down the aisle in a church in a city that held nothing but happiness for me, and that happiness will continue... right where I left off so many years ago.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Life is a little more hectic than usual these days. I stare at the ring on my finger, still so new to me—the ring and the idea of it. At the age of 40, starting this journey with someone who has also never been married, is almost strange—but beautiful at the same time.

Both of us have had heartbreak in our past, and both of us doubted this ever would happen. So every step is a little sweeter because we waited so long. For me, it was a more painful journey than I would have wished for, but this happy ending is making up for a lot of old wounds.

Years and years have passed since I wore one of many bridesmaids dresses for friend’s weddings. Those were the years when everyone I knew was getting married, and I wanted so badly to follow in their footsteps. I felt like an outsider, like there was something wrong with me that I wasn’t planning my future with someone at the age of 22. I can remember vividly the bittersweet moments at friend’s weddings—so happy for them—so moved by their commitment and joy—but on the car ride home, a sadness would hit me wondering if I would ever find that kind of love.

Over the past few weeks, I have started planning our wedding. We have found a church, made our wedding list, looked at cakes and invitations. I bought my wedding dress last week and picked out the bridesmaid dresses with my maid of honor. When I first started planning, it felt awkward to think about trying on dresses, asking friends to be bridesmaids. At this age, women might be planning a second wedding, not a first. I wondered if I would stand in the dressing room at the wedding shop, surrounded by twenty-somethings, and just feel old and out of place.

But I didn’t.

I felt incredibly happy, lucky, excited, and in love. All the things a bride-to-be should feel. And I was surrounded by twenty-somethings. Looking around, I felt I might have something they didn’t—a little wisdom—and an even a deeper appreciation for the blessings I have. For the hope of it all—the days to come—and the knowledge that years and years of loss and disappointment can lead you to your very own happy ending. Nothing you could have foreseen or planned, nothing anyone else could have predicted.

I am enjoying all this planning—the chaos, the creativity, and even the stress. And I am careful not to take one moment for granted. Both of us remind ourselves how lucky we are all the time—and how worth the wait all of this was.

I have an absolutely beautiful ring on my finger. I catch myself staring at it often. And as cliché as it may sound, it is even more beautiful because of what it stands for—what it means—what I waited and hoped for. I honestly had given up on all of this ever happening for me.

And finally, it has…all at the ripe old age of 40.


Sunday, June 27, 2010


Last year, after a horrible experience moving, I swore it would be years (and years) before I would ever undertake another relocation of any kind. And then, a series of unexpected wonderful things happened. In the midst of all that happiness, a move didn’t seem quite as daunting. And I wasn’t doing it alone this time.

So, with move #42 (ok, I am not sure of the number, but that doesn’t seem far off) behind me, I now reside in a beautiful home with my fiancée which is only a five minute walk from the ocean. I have felt as if it was almost too much happiness for me to handle.

I know that sounds ridiculous, and maybe even ungrateful—which would be completely false. I am so happy and so grateful for every minute of it. I don’t take one moment for granted. What I have been doing, much to my fiancee’s dismay, is waiting for the other shoe to drop. I have never felt like a lucky person—even remotely so—and all this good fortune is daunting. I can’t believe so many wonderful things could be happening—that they can keep on happening—without me having to pay somehow…without some sad news to even it all out.

Being a worrier by nature, I know the pitfalls of this kind of thinking. But, as sad as this sounds, I have never been this happy and the fear of losing it is with me constantly.

I have been trying to do better, to just live in the moment and take it all in. Every day I wake up and have another day without some surprise disaster, I gain a little more faith that I can trust everything. I trust my fiancée completely, it is more of the worry of life interfering. And in addition to being a worrier, I have an incredibly creative imagination, so I imagine all kinds of things happening that could turn my life upside down. It is some weird safety system I have locked into my psyche…if I think and worry about something—it won’t happen. As in, if I imagine all the worst-case scenarios, I have myself “covered”. I won’t be blindsided, I will be safe.

I know there are no true safe places in life. Anything can happen at any moment. Just as I never would have believed a year ago that today I would be planning my wedding. At the beach. Where I now live. Where I have a new job I love, and a fiancée who loves me just as I am, quirks, flaws and all.

Thank goodness chance things happen.

Thank goodness life isn’t predictable.

It is all chance, circumstance, and a little bit of luck. Nothing I can control from here. Nothing that worrying will solve.

For now, I will walk down to the beach, feel the sand between my toes, breathe in the salty air and just say…thank goodness.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Preconceived Notions

When you hear about an addict--what image does that conjure? Do you think fearful thoughts, judgmental thoughts, compassionate thoughts...or prefer not to think about it at all? I can say in all honesty that years ago, probably even when I was old enough to know better--I was judgmental when thinking of an addict, throwing this person I heard about in a category of failure or depravity that I couldn't imagine being close to.

I cannot begin to say how deeply I have been affected by Katie Granju's story of the loss of her son Henry. I know that initially it was just because in following her blog and her writing, I felt as if I knew her, even just a little, so it was very much like feeling the pain for a friend.

I had read her blog entries, following Henry's struggle for life daily. I read her words and worried for her, hoped for Henry, and learned more about him along the way. Something struck a chord with me. Something deeper.

And then, Henry died.

I have hurt for Katie, but somehow related to Henry in a way I couldn't understand. I am not an addict, have never faced addiction. But, I have suffered from depression and battled it many times alone and in secret because of the stigmas attached to any kind of mental illness. I have been so close to the edge of not coming back. I know that place. I cannot compare my suffering to Henry's. But I know what it is like to feel at the mercy of something that is harming you--and in the face of it being powerless to help yourself or make the right choices. It is horrible, frightening, maddening. And more than heartbreaking.

Then, Katie published Henry's eulogy, given by his father. This series of words made me catch my breath:

...Henry was a brilliant, beautiful baby and child who from the very beginning, simply felt the world more deeply than most of the rest of us. This special sensitivity was both his blessing and his curse. His inborn and intense empathy and intuition gifted him with a natural creativity that he expressed musically and in writing. However, it also caused him great suffering, a suffering that he never seemed to be able to shake completely, and which he eventually attempted to mask in ways that hurt him more than they helped him. Henry was – in so many ways – just too sensitive for the world into which he was born.

A few people who have been close to me forever--who know me well--and who have seen me in darker moments, have often described me in this way--feeling things more deeply....too sensitive for this world...I can see myself in that way. It has been a battle for me my whole life to separate myself more- to not be so deeply hurt by others, by the world around me. I was so struck by the realization that none of us can judge what we would or wouldn't ever do or be. We are all closer to the edge than we care to know. I could have easily slipped into the abyss. The path I took was not so different from Henry's, it was just another form of masking that pain. I think of the harsh judgment I have had in the past thinking of addiction--of addicts. And now, I feel I understand more than I would care to.

Part of the reason I have been so touched is that I am so grateful at this moment for my life, for survival, for making it through everything even though I fervently believed that I would never feel the joy, love, and peace that I do now. I wish with all my heart that Henry had made it through this to feel the same. I have no doubt he would have. The world lost an amazing person--not an addict. A beautiful boy, a beloved son, brother, cousin and friend.

I rarely post a video of this length on my blog, but I ask you to take the 20 minutes to watch it. It is Henry Louis Granju's life in pictures and video. Watch these images and ask yourself tough questions. Make others you know ask themselves tough questions about how we judge people battling addiction and those who love them. And if you have children...please hug them, love them, tell them how amazing they are. Do this in honor of Katie and Henry.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Losing Henry

Henry Louis Granju 1991-2010

Through blogging I have come to know people all over the world, some I keep in touch with daily and are some of my closest friends, others are my writing “teachers” that critique my work honestly and help keep me on track. Then there are other bloggers that are such a source of pure inspiration to me—I read their work with awe, coming back each time to help me find a starting place for my own writing.

This was definitely the case for me when I started reading Katie Granju’s blog. I forget how I found her, but I am so glad that I did. While she and I on the surface don’t seem to have much in common- there is something in her writing that strikes a familiar chord with me and inspires me all at once.

So many people describe her writing as brave and honest—and it always is. But recently, she was braver than ever. She wrote about her son Henry and his battle with addiction. What prompted this was an overdose and viscous assault that brought Henry to intensive care, clinging to life. She had written around his addiction in the past, keeping this secret, this private pain. I understand that completely. These things are hard to share with close friends and family, much less the world. Friends and family can be judgmental, the masses can be brutal. But in sharing it, she has no doubt opened the door for so many parents, so many people battling addiction, and so many people who haven’t seen the human side of this illness to learn, to help, to heal.

Katie kept a bedside vigil with Henry as his condition has progressed, slipped, improved, then worsened. I read her words—the unconditional love of a mother—not seeing her son as an addict, but as the person she knew and loved. The joy of her life no matter his mistakes or problems. Her will to bring him back was unfailing. She peppered her posts with pictures of Henry—some when he was so young- holding a Harry Potter book too big for his hands…he and his siblings dressed up and smiling for family celebrations…Henry as a teenager with dark black beautiful curly hair smiling at the camera with his wise eyes…I have wept for her more than once. I wrote to Katie one night. I had to. I told her that her love for Henry—the way she was not judging him—just loving him and being there for him was so incredibly important—so amazing. Most people reading that would think that any mother or parent would do the same. The sad truth is, that is not the case. Especially with cases of illnesses that aren’t as “accepted” such as mental illness or addiction, some parents can’t see the illness and only see someone making bad life choices. Maybe over and over. It is hard. I do understand how hard it can be. But the pure love in Katie’s words, all the beauty she saw in her son…it has me crying now. And I know that he knew that, knew that he was loved for the beautiful person he was.

Henry died on the last day of May. I do not know how Katie found the strength to write her son’s obituary. But she did. Bravely, honestly, beautifully. As always.

One part of one of her posts has stayed in my mind, I think of it so often.

He was sleeping far more than he had previously and speech was becoming more limited. For the first time, he started using nonsense words or in one case, a very distinct made-up word that he used as a toddler and hadn’t used since.

In Henry’s distress, in moments when he was, perhaps, far away in another place, fighting this damage to his brain, he went back to this moment as a toddler using this made up word that Katie recognized immediately. This speaks to so many things—the memories our mind holds onto—our subconscious…but what I like to think is that Henry went back to a safe place in time, when things weren’t so complicated, when all he knew was love and joy. I think he returned there—to that familiar feeling-- because he was again feeling so loved and safe in his last days here—with his mom Katie always at his side.

Katie’s original post about Henry's illness:


Katie’s blog:


If you have a moment, please send her a note of love and encouragement. She is also fighting for a thorough investigation into Henry's assault.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Being Seen

If anyone had told me a year ago I would be madly in love and heading into the next chapter of my life with such excitement and confidence, I would have told them they were crazy. I might have even been rude about it. But, here I am, now taking a second look at my cynical view of fate—as too many things keep working out and proving me wrong. At times I feel as if there are pieces of a large puzzle being rearranged, sliding together, locking into place, slowly forming the picture of my life as it is supposed to be—maybe as it was always supposed to be.

Saying that I have struggled in the past is a gross understatement. From this lofty spot I am in now, I look back and wonder how I could have made some of the choices I have made, how I couldn’t see what was so clearly bad for me—or a mistake about to happen. It is hard for me to fully remember the fog I was in for awhile and how it hindered more than just my vision but also my ability to reason, to make the right choices, to put myself first. It is difficult to remember how cloudy it was when you are standing under a clear blue sky on a sunny day. But, I do remember.

Some of the questions I have asked myself in quiet moments are – How could I have ever been with someone who treated me the way “x” did (insert any one of a list of ex-boyfriends)? How could I have made THAT choice? What was I thinking? I am fully aware that I struggle with my self esteem –I have for a long time. And I hold onto the adage that you can’t truly love someone else until you love yourself.

I had done a great deal of healing before meeting my current boyfriend, and was at a turning point in my life as far as understanding the need to surround myself with positive people who cared about me. But, I had only begun to see myself the way I needed to. I am 40 years old, and the sad fact is—until this relationship, I don’t think I have been loved—truly loved-- for myself for everything that I am—all the good and bad, the in-between, the things no one else knows. It is sad in that sense that it took this long, but it is beautiful in the sense that at the age of 40, there is a rebirth in my life—something brand new that some people never get in a lifetime.

In looking back at all my errors in judgment, missteps and wrong turns, I realize more than ever that it was how I saw myself that was the guiding force. This reflection in the mirror was created by my childhood, and my own experiences, and also by the people I let into my life—and all my insecurities led me to settling for less in relationships and friendships—basically, not valuing myself.

The thing is, it is a downward spiral. If you already doubt yourself, and let someone in your life who won’t value you either, you are deeper in the pit than before. It can be a succession of trips down a painful path, until you are so far gone that finding your way back is almost too long a journey to face. And I have been in that spot. That very spot when there seems to be no map to guide where you are headed, no compass to steer you.

I would never have believed I could be in this place now, not so long after being so lost.

Being seen is a tricky thing. Truly being seen for who you are without any games, masks, or hidden agendas is scary and beautiful all at once. It is disarming and comforting at the same time. I realize over the years all the things I have tried to hide that now I don’t worry about. I am truly myself in all the hours of the day.

I have had to share things I didn’t want to, let go of habits for protecting myself, and believe in tomorrow when it used to be all I could do to get through today. It has not been easy. At the heart of all this is trust-which has been such a foreign concept for me. It is not only trust that this person won’t betray me, but also trust that when I bare my soul, he will still be there accepting me after I tell him some long-held secret. I feel as if I am holding my breath each time I do—taking this huge leap and praying to land safely.

So far, so good. I think the bravest thing we can do is love completely. Letting go and believing in the best of all things. Even as I am in it, I can’t write the equation or pass along the secret. I can’t point anyone else in the right direction.

But I can tell you that there is a way back from the darkest path. You don’t need a compass, you don’t need a map. You need to believe that at the end of it all, with each step... you are worth it.

The real you is worth being seen.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

An Open Letter to Men Who Cheat

After watching in disgust over the last months as John Edwards, Tiger Woods and Jesse James all had their dirty laundry aired before a world-wide audience, I have found myself relating to the women and children who are dealing with the pain of those betrayals. I know all too well the embarrassment and shock that comes from finding that someone you loved and trusted is not the person you believed them to be—nor is your life what you imagined. It has, quite possibly, all been a lie.

I know women cheat, and are as guilty as men of this behavior, but I can only speak from the side I know, and so I offer this open letter to men who cheat. To clarify, I am specifically writing this letter to men who cheat who are husbands and fathers.

To Men Who Cheat:

Perhaps you got married too young. Perhaps you married the wrong person and know it now. Perhaps there is nothing wrong in your marriage and you can’t help yourself. Whatever the reason you are stepping outside of your marriage—whether it is once, twice, or too many times to count—you have no excuse. You may think—if only you knew MY situation. Well, I do. I grew up watching my parents in a broken marriage and knowing my father was cheating. I knew it before I knew what cheating meant. I knew it before I knew what sex was. I knew it and learned it before I learned what it meant to fall in love or be in love.

You may say that there was no way for a child of four to know all that. You would be wrong. While I didn’t know the details, I overheard arguments my parents swear (to this day) that I could not have heard because they took care to be quiet. Even when I recite word for word things I heard at four years old and still remember verbatim, they deny it. They deny it as the shock washes over their faces that I could say those words. Words they DID speak over thirty years ago. Words I have never once forgotten. Words I recorded in my head, words I didn’t understand the meaning of. But each syllable remained in my brain until each year passed and I understood their definitions.

Not only are you hurting someone that at least at one time you cherished—adored—loved—enough to stand in front of a churchful of people, and/or God, or just everyone you knew and loved on both sides of your families and someone legally allowed to unite you—and said—YOU are the one, and I will do right by you, honor you. Not only are you hurting this woman, changing her life, demeaning her, disrespecting her, hurting her in ways she could never have imagined…you aren’t just cheating on her. You are cheating on the children you brought into this world.

If I know you, and I do, you have somehow separated the two things completely. What is going on with you and your mistress(es) has NOTHING to do with your children. You love your children unconditionally. And they love you the same way. And therein lies the key. You expect their unconditional love despite your actions. And you will get it. And it won’t cost you a thing. But, it will cost them everything.

No matter how careful you believe you are, how little you think your wife knows, how justified you think you are for what you are doing, know that, in addition to damaging your wife’s self esteem, your children’s self images will be redrawn by your choices. You can shake your head reading these words. But, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it will happen.

Your son may grow to resent you for your treatment of his mother, but somehow, inexplicably in the torment of learning what we live as children, he may grow up to do the same thing, cause the same pain, repeating what may be a never-ending cycle of broken vows and lost faith.

Your daughter may grow up to date and/or marry men who treat her just as you are treating your wife now. And somehow, no matter how hard she tries to choose differently, she will always end up with this same type of man. And the cycle will continue as her children learn what they live.

And this I can promise you. No matter how your children end up, at one time or another, and maybe always, they will somehow blame themselves for what you have done. It makes no sense, and you may believe there is no possibility of this. But, they will. They do. Right now. They believe if only they had done something different, you wouldn’t have torn their family apart, wouldn’t have made such an important and devastating choice.

So, as you make a list of all the reasons you are justified, or even if you feel you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone… ask yourself this: is it REALLY worth it? Is a lifetime of damage and pain that will repeat itself for generations…is that worth it?

It’s not. I promise you. Some words of advice…if you are headed in the cheating direction…be a man. Step up to the plate and either make a choice to heal your marriage—or leave. How many times have those of us who grew up in these households heard that our parents stayed together for the children? This gift you are giving us is a ticking time bomb. This gift of “staying” is a prison sentence for everyone involved. Show us (your children) that real adults face the end of things and respect everyone involved enough to do the hard things. To make the hard choices. To do the right thing even when it isn’t easy. Teach us how to be honest, to make tough decisions, to treat people with respect.

Perhaps none of this will happen. Perhaps you will never be caught. Perhaps if you are (or have already been) caught, there will be no repercussions. Perhaps your wife will remain whole and unscarred, and your children will grow up to find the love you somehow didn’t, and have the healthiest of relationships, the happiest of families. Perhaps. And maybe you won’t regret what you are doing or have done. Maybe it won’t matter one bit.

But, ask yourself…how likely is that?

Read the words I have written above, read almost every entry on this blog. I am your daughter, decades from now, all grown up, living with the choices you have made or are making.

I can answer a lot of questions for you.

I can tell you how my life has been changed, altered and damaged by these choices you have made or are making, how it still affects my life even as I have just celebrated my 40th birthday.

Trust me.

It matters.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Borrowed Wings

When you look back
in the rooms of your past self--
were you ever not lonely?
Were you ever strong?

I see you at sixteen
vulnerable and afraid;
worried and tempted.
But is this your reflection?

Or were you defiant…
brave (you thought) beyond reason-
only weak and broken
after the vows and the exchange of rings?

No matter now.
Your life has nearly passed.
Fifty years with someone
who might have robbed you of your spirit and soul.

What a choice to make
at sixteen, so young
in the shadow of poverty--
the grip of seduction.

I imagine your life without him.
Another choice.
Anything but the one you made.
Anyone but him.

I see you courted and loved-
not the twist of temptation.
Someone seeing you
in the small ways that denote you are seen.

You never had that.
At least not within my lifetime.
Not for the many years
I have watched you wither.

My sorrow for that
runs deep.
But I keep it at bay
in exchange for the pain I have endured.

You had other choices
after that first one.
No matter how looming his shadow.
No matter how lost your soul.

You could have gone-
disappeared with me
into the dew drenched morning
before he woke.

You could have stayed
and fiercely protected me;
showed me and him your intentions
even if they failed.

At least the battle
would have been fought
instead of the immediate surrender
of all of your purpose.

I was a casualty-
thrown to the front lines;
sacrificed because your strength failed-
leaving me behind in ashes.

My foundation was gone-
blown into the cloudless sky.
My sense of self
scattered in places too far to recover.

The things you didn’t get to do
Or see, or know, or have...
or be--
there is no way to undo a lifetime.

And I can’t be your only joy-
the weight eclipsing my own choices;
the guilt of all you lost
wrapped up in my biography.

I have to fly with borrowed wings
far away from all the wreckage…
Viewing from a high safe place
the choices you made.

artwork by Kathleen Piercefield.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back in Time

A few years ago I was browsing in a little antique shop and saw a tattered wicker basket filled with photos. I sat down in a chair much older than me and started flipping through the photos. My family has very few old pictures as my mother and father grew up very poor- and the few pictures they took or had taken were an extravagance. So, looking at the worn sepia and black and white images, actually holding them in my hands, fascinated me.
I remember vividly coming across a wedding photo, the bride and groom’s apparel hinting at the era they belonged to. The picture was in a heavy cardboard frame that folded with a flap like a greeting card to reveal the picture inside.

I stared at that couple, the nervousness on the bride’s face, the humorous look of boredom on the groom’s. I turned over the photo to find the studio and the year the photo was taken, but no trace of a hint as to the identity of the people in the picture.

Even then, I couldn’t explain to myself why I wanted to buy it, but I did. And I started a little collection of vintage photos that I have added to over the years.

At first I thought I would just collect old wedding photos, and started keeping my eyes open when I traveled or wherever I saw an antique store—especially one I hadn’t been to yet. But then, as I sifted through photos over the years, others would speak to me somehow—a group of men photographed for a formal occasion with tan lines across their foreheads from working outdoors in hats, a seemingly ancient schoolroom with children all dressed in their Sunday best-looking solemnly into the camera, a sepia photograph of a mother holding her baby in her arms-gazing at her with such love and intention that it almost made me weep.

Without fail, I always wonder how these pictures have ended up where they are. I sit in a small damp store surrounded by items discarded or sold from another generation, and have trouble understanding. I can see tables and mirrors, knick knacks and dishes finding their way to a store a lifetime later, but family photos? Photos of weddings, christenings, holiday photos—how do those get separated from the family?

Having gone to many an estate sale in my time, I know that the odds and ends of a family can find their way to the auction block or for sale after everyone has picked through and chosen the things they want from family members that have passed. But these intimate photos stare back at me from another era and I have to wonder how they landed in my photo box—what journey brought them here and how did they get lost in the first place?

So there is some weird pull that I feel, almost to give these photos, these families a resting place.

The photos that I do have of my family, my grandparents, and my childhood photos are precious to me—even with my background with my family—it’s the history of those photos that mean something to me. Watching from one generation to the next as my parents left poverty to build an upper middle class life when the odds and their lack of education made that seem impossible. Seeing my grandmother’s eyes return in my mother’s face and then in mine. Seeing the resemblance of cousins, aunts, and great grandmothers in the mirrored reflection I see every morning. And maybe most importantly, seeing how my parents grew up—even with just a few photos—when trying to make sense of who they are…who we are.

I love looking into the eyes of these strangers and trying to imagine who these people were, what their lives were like, where they ended up, who they became, what they were thinking in the moment the camera clicked. I won’t have answers for any of these questions I am sure, but I keep collecting these pieces of history and adding them to my photo box, wondering what mystery I will find next.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Steps

Tonight I took a step back in time. I took a dance class.

Since the age of six, I took dance classes, and the dance studio became a haven for me. Home was confusing or frightening, school was awkward and stressful, but the dance studio was just comfort- something I was good at that gave me the opportunity to divert my attention away from everything else. You can’t focus on anything else during a dance class—nothing but the music, the steps and your own rhythm.

I continued taking classes all through high school and even into college, but the last time I was in a studio in a class was over 18 years ago. EIGHTEEN. I thought about that number in the car on the way to the studio. 18 years. That was probably going to be the age of most of the women in the class. So they were NEWBORNS the last time I was in a studio.

I was lucky enough to find an adult class in the first place, much less only a mile from my house. I knew I needed to go. I called months ago about the class and every week, something came up (real or not-so-real) that kept me from going.

I know I need to exercise and be healthy. I want to lose weight. And the only type of exercising that appeals to me is the main form I spent most of my young life doing. So taking a cue from my last blog post—I ran out of reasons to wait.

I got to the studio early and was almost overwhelmed at the response I had just moments in the door. A ballet class was finishing up, the students all around the age of 14. I felt such a sense of familiarity and nostalgia standing there, the music blaring, watching these girls—remembering when this was all second nature to me—when being in a dance studio was when I felt the most “right” and comfortable. That was when I started asking myself why I had waited so long to come back to dance. I knew I wasn’t going to be as light on my feet, or walk into the studio with the confidence I used to. I knew I was out of shape and a LOT older than I was the last time I was here…but it was a part of me—who I am—who I was---a part of my life I loved and enjoyed very much for many years.

I was a bundle of nerves watching the students file in for my class. All younger, most with tiny dancer frames, with varying levels of experience. I actually had butterflies when the teacher came to the front of the room to begin. For a second I eyed the door, afraid I would make a fool of myself. Then, the teacher jumped right in, starting the music from a remote in her hand, and I didn’t have time to think.

It was hard. I definitely learned how out of shape I was—and the figure I saw in the mirror seemed foreign to me—having stared at my much younger and thinner self in dance studio mirrors for so many years. But I was keeping up and sticking it out.

I had told myself beforehand that no matter what, I had to make it through the whole class. And although I was sweating and breathing harder than I had in awhile, there was no question about me making it through the entire class because I was having such a great time.

I remembered why I loved dancing so much. The freedom of expression- that beautiful unison of a group of dancers in sync, creating something graceful while exercising out stress, worry, and excess energy. The other thing I used to love was the kinship between dancers—an unspoken respect for each other—and an understanding of the desire to make each step right, have each beat spoken for.

And tonight, one of the most wonderful surprises came from my fellow students. I was definitely the lowest level dancer there, had trouble with some steps, couldn’t find my footing in more than a few instances. The younger girls especially were so sweet and encouraging—cheering when I got a tough combination (finally) that we had to do one by one across the floor. Not an ounce of judgment or questioning why I was in “their” class. So touching and exactly what I remembered from my fellow dancers so many years ago.

I know tomorrow morning I will be reminded of just how out of shape I am, and will discover pain in muscles I didn’t know I had. But I will also remember how I felt when I walked in that studio earlier tonight and heard those first beats of music.

I was ready to step back out on the dance floor.



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