Monday, January 30, 2012

The pursuit of happiness

Our local news this morning reported two more teen suicides at a nearby high school. While I don't pretend to know the reasons behind what happened, I can say with certainty that these kids weren't happy and saw suicide as the only way to achieve it. I'll save you the diatribes on mental health, counseling and psychotropic drugs (I'm too exhausted to tackle that discussion twice in one day), but my earlier discussion did bring up a good point on Facebook this morning.

We believe that we've got the right to be happy.That regardless of whatever comes our way, happiness is the God-given right we possess.

Sadly, that's just not the case.

In a world of immediate gratification, fast food, microwaves, smart phones and the internet, we're taught that we can have anything we want the minute we want it. We don't have to work for it or wait for it and as a result, we also don't know how to appreciate what we have already. I'll admit that I'm as guilty of this frame of thinking as the next person.

What I'm not guilty of, however, is believing that I'm going to be happy all the time.

I've battled with depression since I was at least nine years old (possibly earlier) and have done almost every possible kind of treatment. I'll spare you my own personal experiences for now, but suffice it to say, it wasn't until I embraced the fact that life isn't always sunshine and roses that I finally got better. I know there are going to be days when I just don't feel like getting out of bed. Days when the last thing I feel like doing is smiling or laughing. Days when it's all I can do to shower or brush my teeth. Days when I'll cry.

Unfortunately, we're taught that sadness isn't normal. That sadness is clinical...medicinal...mentally debilitating. We're taught that crying is bad, that feeling blue isn't healthy. And that a pill (pick a pill...any pill) will fix it all. Unfortunately, as long as we believe those things, we will NEVER overcome depression. Because a pill isn't going to pay the bills or find us true love or land us the perfect job or make the annoying neighbors move. We're always going to have stressors in our lives that make life a little tough sometimes. We have to make a conscious decision that regardless of what happens that may not be good, we can still choose to be happy.

Now, I'm not talking about cheering and celebrating when a job offer falls through or your car breaks down, but those things also aren't the end of the world either and we have to keep that in perspective. Given my irritation last week when I missed my flight to Minneapolis, you know that I have as hard a time with perspective as anyone else. It's a struggle for all of us. We can only keep trying.

Remember, we're not guaranteed happiness, only the pursuit of it.

So go pursue it already!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A vessel revisted.

About eighteen months ago, I wrote a blog called The Vessel. In it, I wrote "I can't wait to see how it all pans out for her."

And get to see it, indeed.

I wrote this blog about Sherri Shepherd and the role of "Lula" in One for the Money. I'd been tipped off about the casting call by my bestie and I immediately sent a DM to Sherri alerting her to it. When I'd read the book a few months earlier, I couldn't picture anyone filling that role but Sherri and as far as I was concerned, nobody else needed to even audition. Little did I know, Sherri'd had "Lula" on her Vision Board for years. She'd wanted to play this role since she'd read the book seven years earlier.

I've said before and I'll say again, I am so blessed to be a part of Sherri's life and to have her as part of mine.

I love you, girl and I'm so proud of you. Let's go rock that Red Carpet!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What she needs

As the mom of two teenaged children, while I'd never let them know this, I frequently wonder if I've done the right things. Have I taught them right from wrong? Do they truly understand Stranger Danger? Will they "just say no" when offered drugs or alcohol? When the time comes for sex, will they have the courage to abstain and if they don't, will they be smart enough to protect themselves? These worries are constantly on my mind, especially as they become more and more independent.

Midget (who's fourteen for those of you who are new) and I had a little heart to heart tonight and the topic came up about what a good kid she is. She's got a bad habit of lying to me from time to time to get herself out of trouble, but fortunately for me, she sucks at it and I can usually tell when she's trying to pull one over on me. So anyway, we were talking about how she's a role model for the younger kids in our neighborhood and that I've been told more than once by parents around here how much they appreciate her sticking up for their kids or mother henning them if/when the situation arises. It's always a proud moment for me when someone sees her with me and says "This is your daughter? You should be a proud mom because she..." and they proceed to tell me that she defended someone or ratted out a neighborhood bully or whatever the case may be. And it makes me happy to see the smile that Midget gets when I tell her about these instances.

For whatever reason, as we were talking, she brought up a situation that happened a few months ago with some friends of hers. They were all hanging out at somebody's house and they were smoking. We're a non-smoking home, so to be around cigarette smoke isn't something Midget's used to. Anyway, one of the girls offered her their last cigarette. Midget took it and looked at it and asked the kids, "Why should I smoke this?"
One of them replied, "So you can blend in with us." (Apparently the little thugs watched After School Specials to see how it's done.)
She snorted, looked at them and said "I don't wanna be an idiot." She then proceeded to go outside, toss the cigarette to the ground and stomped it out. Her friends were pissssssssed.

Her mother, however? Proud.

I've taken a lot of flack about not providing my kids everything they want: computers, gaming systems, closets overflowing with designer clothes, blah blah blah. And it's true. I don't give my kids everything they want. I don't believe that sets them on a good path for their life.

But what I have done is given them exactly what they need.

My daughter is already a better person than I was at her age. I gave into my friends. I took the cigarette (and many more after that -- from my mom's stash, mind you) and smoked every damn one of 'em. I lied to my mom about it. Fortunately, I had the brains to stop smoking before I became addicted, but the point is, I gave into peer pressure.

My baby girl didn't.

I won't win every battle as a mom and I know that. But I won this one.

Thank you, Jesus.

Tape over my mouth

Since Blogger is being a pain in the ass and won't let me edit my page to reflect my stance on Blackout Wednesday, I can only post the link to explain why I'm "Censored" today and what it means to you.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Love Eternal

Fifty years ago, in this dress of Chantilly lace and satin, a young girl of eighteen pledged to spend her life beside one man.

Until death do they part.

Not until the stress of kids got to be too much. Or until the bills got too high. Or until they got bored. Or until someone else came along. Or until one of their careers led them away from the other. Or until the nagging got too frequent. Or the snoring became too annoying.

Until. Death. Do. They. Part.

I'm once-divorced. It's not something I'm proud of, mind you, but it's the truth. Just like this girl promised, so did I. Until death do we part. Little did we know "death" was just five years away. We knew nothing about lifelong promises and felt we were above the vows we made. So we walked away.

Like most people of divorce, I took my lessons with me and much to even my own surprise, within a year of my divorce being final, I met a man and married him.

That man and I have been through hell and back. We've seen the dark and we've seen the light. We've seen the tears and the anger and the frustration. We've seen what rock bottom looks like and we've come close to throwing in the towel.

So close.

Closer than we ever care to admit and closer than we'll ever be again.

When we got to that point, it was only then that we realized if we gave up, we'd never have what his parents have. We would be just another statistic...just another failed attempt. What we realized is for better or for worse really meant just that. We'd seen the "worse" and it wasn't pretty.

So we made a decision, however subconsciously, that we were going to find the "better."

And I'm so grateful we did.

We still have bills we can't pay, days when I can't stop nagging him and I rarely get a full night's sleep without the interruption of his snoring, but we're here and we work every day to get it right.

And we have his parents to thank for giving us a living example of what it means to love eternally. Their compassion for each other reminded us of the compassion we still had in ourselves to push through.

Happy 50th anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Anyone who knows me knows that I speak in song lyrics and movie quotes, so it rarely comes as a surprise to anyone when I pull out a favorite Julia Roberts reference.

There's this scene in My Best Friend's Wedding where Julia and Michael are on the boat in the Chicago river and they're juuuuust about to kiss, but before that can happen, they talk about moments passing you by.

That, my friends, is where I am right now: my moment has passed me by. Not for good, by any means, but for now, it's gone.

For many, many reasons, most of them having to do with my husband's current situation at work, our New York move is on hold. What that means is no pretty brownstone on a sleepy Brooklyn street - no subway ride into the city at dawn - no Macy's, Bloomies or Saks - no view of the ESB.

As I've swallowed this bitter pill, I've tried to keep perspective and figure out what I'm able to do here in Iowa that can prepare me for the eventual move out East. Most of it involves classes and lots and lots of writing. I have to start treating my writing like a full-time job if I'm going to get better (read: published). It means turning off my phone, disconnecting the internet (you have no idea how damn appealing Pinterest is to someone with an easily distracted imagination) and shutting my office door. It means late nights and early mornings. It means scrapping complete manuscripts and starting over because I know down deep, there's a better book in me.

So while right now it feels like I'm stuck here, I'm not. I'll travel. I'll research. I'll observe. I'll ask questions. I'll drill my author friends for advice. It feels a lot like treading water, but in reality, I'm strengthening my swimmer's legs.

And, as Julia said in Eat. Pray. Love., "It won't last forever. Nothing does."

So there's that.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 - a look back

I noticed, as I was preparing this year's slideshow, that my life has become busier. I'm doing more, seeing more, traveling more, enjoying more. I adopted the mantra, "Live out loud" a few years ago and ever since then I've been doing just that. I grab life by the horns and I tackle it head-on. This year was no different. Though it would be virtually impossible to list every highlight from 2011, I did come up with some of my favorite memories and listed them here.
  • "Oh my God! YOU. TWO. DID. NOT!"
  • A moment amidst the chaos
  • Thanks-forbeingmyfriend-giving with Tara and Ann Marie
  • Green beans that tasted like nail polish remover
  • Welcoming Weston James to the world
  • "You got any o' that Franzia wine?"
  • Trying elk meat for the first time.
  • Floating around the Caribbean with my Alphas #ItsaTSQthing
  • Riding the Tilt-a-Whirl four times in a row with my bestie
  • Meeting Adam Bouska
  • Welcoming Lacey to our family
  • Big Man getting his permit and realizing how far that little "runt" has come since he first started out in this world
  • Baking cinnamon rolls for the guys and their band, only to have Brian Littrell accuse me of making him a FatStreet Boy
  • Having two of my photos featured on display at the Iowa State Fair
  • Sharing Sherri & Sal's special day with them
  • Driving a golf cart for the first time (and NOT wrecking it)
  • Getting the opportunity to meet Maisy & Loki (Oh, and that Lancaster chick)
  • Being reassured I wouldn't run into the people who were Occupying Wall Street (and running into them anyway)
  • Helping warm-up the audience at the View in Tom's absence
  • Going for a carriage ride in Central Park
  • Making Santa laugh and wiggle like a bowl full of jelly
In 2011, I learned to breathe. And trust. And forgive. And stand strong. I loved and I lost. I finally comprehended what it means to show tough love. I rebuilt and knocked down walls. I made friends and lost some. Above all, I lived. I lived out loud.

And I will continue to do so.