Confessions of an OSU Calendar Girl

Yes, I actually was an OSU calendar girl. Maybe I want to remind myself of that since I am feeling a little fluffy here lately. The truth is, I was curious to see how many hits I will get on a title like this – I will let you know in my next post. I was also a fitness and hair model in college. I was a high school homecoming queen. I had all kinds of superficial labels working in my favor. But I was also voted friendliest and best personality in HS – making me sort of well rounded, or at least grounded. I could have probably been just about anything I really put my mind to. But I didn’t.

I didn’t have a clue. I kind of just let the wind blow me in any direction it might be blowing on any given day…never realizing that I had the power to make anything happen in life – until recently. I have mostly let life ‘happen’ to me. Or at least it feels that way. So…as promised…here are some confessions of an ex-calendar girl:

1.) Being a calendar girl, or a fitness model, or a homecoming queen does not grant you immunity to self doubt, and make you feel like you are actually beautiful. Most of the models that I met in the business had some serious insecurity issues. I, of course, was no different in that regard.
2.) Models are dumb and superficial. Yes…there are plenty of those out there. But this is not limited to the models themselves…everyone in the business seems to be this way…fake, superficial, and completely self absorbed. But there are exceptions to every rule and every now and then you would find someone that you could talk to about more than just hair, makeup and clothes. All of which I knew next to nothing about.
3.) Calendar girls are easy. Yes. Most of them probably are. Most of the girls I met were about as lost as I was, looking for significance and would do almost anything to find it or get some kind of attention. I would say about 10 of the 12 months that were in Key West for the photo shoot all had a sexual encounter while they were there. Even I did…I didn’t exactly plan for it or go looking for it…but when you are naive and living your life letting the wind blow you in any old direction – anything can happen. And unfortunately mine ended in an assault situation…because another thing is true about calendar girls…they usually don’t attract the “good guys”.
4.) Models live a glamorous lifestyle. Not true. Unless you have really made it and are flying around the world – this is a myth. It is pretty much a starving artist lifestyle. Let’s just say – keep your day job.
5.) Models starve themselves to stay thin. Some did, and it is a sad thing to see. But personally, I ate like a hog. A very unhealthy hog. At that age, metabolism is kicking. If you have the right body type and stay active…you can eat anything you want. Don’t believe any commercial you see for a product touting great weight reduction when they have a 20 year old modeling it. Now…38 is a different story.
6.) The modeling industry is full of sexual predators and exploiters. YES! This IS absolutely true. While there are some very reputable agencies…there are way more shady operations going on. If you have a daughter considering modeling…BE there. As horrifying as it may be to her – BE HER ADVOCATE. I am not saying to squash her dreams or not allow it…I am saying be her guardian. If she ever doesn’t get an assignment because you were there…she doesn’t want that job. Trust me.
7.) Modeling improves your self esteem. Perhaps it could. But perhaps it could make you feel even worse about yourself because the rejection rate is usually higher than the acceptance rate. It all depends on what they are looking for. And there is always someone prettier or skinnier or taller to compare yourself to. I mean – come on! This is a business based on looks…your self esteem is under major attack here. You better have some thick skin.
8.) Models take drugs to stay thin. Some do. I knew a few. But drugs or alcohol were used to help ease the pain of number 7 more than for weight loss. However, I am not sure drugs were any more prevalent in modeling than any other campus like environment.
9.) Modeling opens doors to other careers. Sure. Maybe. It could. What really opens doors – at least the right doors – would be self confidence, an actual skill set and, and a great personality. Looks really only matter if the career you are seeking is based on your looks…and even then…that is still in the eye of the beholder.
10.) Models think they are better than everyone else. Some may think or act like this, but I think the honest truth is that they are just as intimidated as anyone else. Modeling is a comparison business…just as you may be comparing yourself to their long legs and perfect cheek bones…they are probably comparing themselves to how you are better at any sort of thing than they are…like reading or thinking. ; )

Now, granted, I only modeled for a few years and never signed with any big agencies. It was just a hobby and experiment. But it did give me the exposure to know all these things first hand. My biggest reason for walking away from it was 1) I was technically too short to really go anywhere with it and I didn’t have the drive in me to ‘fight’ for my short rights, and 2) I really didn’t fit into that world. At least I wasn’t grounded enough to feel confident in being ‘me’ and stay in that kind of business. It does honestly cater to the superficial and I also had too many run ins with slime ball characters claiming to run legitimate businesses. It’s a business – and ‘you’ become the product or commodity – you run the risk of being used by someone just wanting to make a buck off of your look – or worse yet – seeing just how far you will go for the sake of the mighty dollar…it is all just kind of weird.

Here’s the real deal. Looks fade. If you base anything you do in life on your appearance – you are going to be sorely disappointed. Looks are not what it is all about in the real world, despite what all the tabloids want you to believe. Beauty honestly does come from within. At 38 I feel more beautiful now than I ever did when I had all that going for me. And truthfully – the best label I have ever been given is ‘mommy’. Because the beauty I am talking about is not the reflection in the mirror. It is about becoming comfortable in my own skin. Figuring out who I really am…which, by the way…I am not completely there yet…but I am closer than ever before.

Women can shine at any age. It just comes down to whether or not they choose to do so. It really is a choice. Did you realize that beauty is actually a choice?! I have met some physically gorgeous women and yet they were either so wrapped up in themselves or some kind of bitterness or self doubt that they were actually unattractive. And of course on the other hand – I knew a lady with no arms and legs who powered her wheel chair with a contraption she controlled with her mouth…and she was incredibly beautiful. She was driven and confident. She was not letting any handicap stand in her way of achieving a goal in the world…and she was really, really nice.

Some of the most beautiful women I know are plain, have wrinkles, wear jeans and frumpy sweatshirts most of the time, and some don’t even have their teeth anymore. But they have their sense of self and are grounded in all the places that count. They are real. They say the hard things. They laugh out loud and they love without regards to the possibility of rejection. They are vulnerable and yet strong. They don’t sugar coat the hard times, but they don’t dwell on them either. They have found out the secret to life…it is not all about them. I hope to one day be one among those beautiful girls. I am working on it and I believe I will get there someday…just because I chose to be.

A Tragic & Beautiful Legacy

It’s weird how some memories just creep out of the woodworks at the strangest times. I recently posted a blog (The Last Lady Slipper) remembering things about my Grandma and Aunt Dell who passed away about 2 years ago. I can hardly believe it has been that long! But my Grandpa is on my mind today…probably because the holiday season is here and he was always such a gracious host.

Grandpa was an Italian immigrant. Looking back, he was one of the hardest workers I know. He was already retired by the time I had any memories of him, so I never knew him as a employed working person, but he had these hands and fingers of stone…signs of his hard work in the concrete tunnel/pipe industry. And even as an old man retired for years…he was always busy.

There were some rare times where I would get to actually sit down with him on the outdoor porch glider. I loved rocking with him on a summer day…just being. Sometimes he would tease me and call me “Hey little bit”…hmmm sound familiar? I call my littlest one that! But when he called me this – as he did with all the grandkids – he would tap me on the head with his finger…his finger of stone that felt like a rock on our heads. He thought that was hilarious…he would just laugh. Then he would be off again like a flash to tend to his little Italian paradise he had created right there in Dayton, Ohio.

He made his own wine from a double row of grapes stretching ¼ mile – or it seemed to me anyway. He also grew a small patch of concord grapes and had all kinds of fruit trees. He had everything you can imagine including things that are NOT supposed to grow here – like a fig tree. He would dig the root ball each year in the fall and lay it on it’s side, then cover it with a tarp all winter. In the spring, we would set it right again…it lived for years under his care and was huge! He also had one tree that grew both apples and pears – he apparently grafted a branch into the existing tree…he made these things look simple and easy.

My cousins and I would eat ourselves sick on apples, pears, figs, and those concord grapes. I remember running around spitting seeds at each other having seed wars under the metal awning and near the gardens as we dodged seeds and the huge lumbering bumblebees that were always present around the grapevines and flowers.

He raised lambs and had some geese for awhile – and man, those geese were mean! We made the mistake of naming some of the lambs after us cousins. All was good until it was slaughtering time. Talking about Lee Ann, Jason and Angela being cut up in pieces in the freezer and petting their sheep skins on the back of the couch gave us all the creeps and hindsight.

Because he was old school Italian ‘fresh off the boat’ we had huge family gatherings with some of the best, freshest, and authentic Italian meals anyone could wish for. There was this wonderful and strange season of my life where all the aunts and uncles and cousins would all gather together for these spectacular family meals. It was heaven to me.
Grandpa would do all the cooking…he woke up super early. Mom and I lived with him during this time. He had a small farm in Dayton, Ohio. He woke up early started the sauce and roasts, then if it was the right season, we would head out to the gardens and grab some extra good stuff. The smell of mint still always reminds me of him and his farm. He had a whole patch of it right near the vegetable garden.

We had some great times there. But it was only a small window of time. Life never stays still. Mom was so unstable. She was still having intense signs of schizophrenia and I was finally at the age where I could ‘choose’ who to live with. I made the choice to live with my dad. I longed to have a stable place to finish school. I had never been in the same school for more than 2 years – and it was usually more like a year or less. I remember being so completely confused as to where I was – what class room to go to…what bus to be on. I got lost a few times just because I honestly didn’t know where I was sometimes. I was tired of that. I was approaching high school and just wanted to attend all 4 years in the same place.

Mom was so terribly unstable at the time though, there was no way possible for dad to enter the house and actually walk out with me without mom calling the police. She had done this before – even when it was dad’s visitation. One time dad got so angry that he actually got into a fist fight with the cops…and he was an ex cop! It was a crazy, crazy time of life. Dad looks back at that time and just sighs, and shakes his head…he can at least kind of smile about it because it has been so many years and he is so much wiser. But then, he was just acting out of emotion…he was tired and so, so hurt.

So anyways…I was literally stuck – a prisoner in my own home while mom is home. So, one day while mom was away I packed up anything that I felt was really important to me into 2 boxes that I could carry and I set them outside near the drive way. It was a stealthy operation and I was an emotional wreck carrying the boxes out. I couldn’t let Grandpa see me. Looking back, I am not sure he would have prohibited me leaving or not, but I couldn’t take the chance.

Dad and Deb pulled up into the drive way at some designated time and we threw the boxes in the car, I jumped in and we were off in a flash. It was technically a kid napping in some people’s eyes. But it was actually an escape. Now that…is just one of the most bizarre events of my life. It is also quite sad on so many levels. It was probably the last time I really saw Grandpa – at least healthy anyway. What a terrible way to say good bye. I remember feeling so guilty for so many years over that.

Grandpa was getting older and was eventually put into the dreaded rest home. He had several strokes and it was surreal to see this strong man who worked so hard just sitting there…staring…not even able to communicate. I was just a kid and didn’t know what to do or say. I am still really bummed about that. He must have been so lonely. No one visited him very often – because it was too hard on ‘them’.

Real tragedy hit when Aunt JoAnn was killed in a motorcycle accident. No one had the heart to tell Grandpa that she had died. Finally a few weeks or later he found out and shortly afterwards he gave up on life too. The whole family broke down. True colors came out, which were not pretty colors. Fighting over inheritance and people looking out only for their own interest tore us all apart. No one was who I thought they were. Aunt Jo Ann’s daughter got the worst of it. No one seemed to reach out to her or even help her. I don’t know where most of those people are today. It’s bizarre and like talking about someone else’s life because it feels so far removed at this point.

Living with Grandpa was such a dichotomy of beautiful things and terrible dark things. I loved the place that he had created – the gardens, fruit trees, the wonderful family gatherings. But there was always a hint of a dark undertone. I was too young to really understand what that was. But the truth is – nothing is what it seems sometimes. My grandpa appeared to be a loving, happy, doting grandpa – and to me he was and always will be.

But I find it interesting how different my memories of my grandpa are so different than my Grandma. I had a real relationship with my Grandma and Aunt Dell. I just kind of co-existed with my Grandpa. He wouldn’t let anyone really ‘in’. And granted – I was still really young. But he was always kind of a mystery.

I found out the truth through the years…piecing things together…mostly in the quest to find out why mom turned out the way she did – Because selfishly – I was deathly afraid of becoming her one day. Turns out her brother also has the same affliction and I am kind of sure that the other two sisters had some kind of mild variance of it. They all had something they were dealing with in their own way. Mental illness may be a medical condition, but there are things that can ‘trigger’ it.

The sad truth is that my mom was beaten by Grandpa in her younger years…quite brutally apparently. And she wasn’t the only one – he also beat his wife. I never knew my Grandma on this side…she died when mom was still a girl. I have to be quite honest – her real cause of death is still a mystery. Over the years, mom has told me several different versions of the story and unfortunately, I don’t know which one is true. Mom talks to voices sometimes. It is hard to believe anything that she says – even when you want to.

The one thing I do know is true is that Grandpa had a temper and he did in fact beat mom – I had to find this out from dad. He knew what was going on. He helped rescue mom from that terrible environment. So, when mom tells me that Grandpa beat her mother to death…is that the truth? When she said that her mom died of a cancer like illness…is that true? All I do know is that during certain times of her life, mom has revealed some of the things she had to witness and it just had to be one of the scariest and darkest moments a child should never have to experience. If someone is capable of beating their own child…they are very capable of beating their spouse or anyone else. A raging fist knows no boundaries.

So…did Grandpa have a touch of mental illness too? Did Grandma? How can so much good and so much bad come from the same source? Can people really change? Did Grandpa really do these things? Did he spend the rest of his life in regrets or did he make peace with himself? For all I really know – I think he may have died all alone in that lonely, institutional like, antiseptic smelling rest home. It’s a tragic story on so many levels. Yet – I knew him as a pesky, busy, productive, smiling, sweet man.

I may never know the whole truth. I am not sure it is even important anymore. I know some awful things happened…and that they are now over. I also know that some really beautiful things happened…and they get to remain in my memory. I have chosen to focus mainly on those things that I do personally know…the happy and amazing things.

Isn’t life just amazingly strange? When you look at a time line – you only have so much time here. What will MY legacy be? What will yours be? We all get a chance to ‘create’ a life, a space, a little paradise in the middle of chaos. Or we can succumb to the craziness of life and make some terrible choices that people will have to pay for. Chances are – we will all do a little bit of both.

When you walk away from this blog today, I hope the overall message you get is not of disgust or anger towards my grandpa. That is really missing the entire point. I hope what you get is this idea of life in general – the chance we all have to make an impact onto this world and others. How even if you make terrible mistakes in the past – you can still live on to impact others in a very positive way. Life is never over until it is over. Every day is a chance to do something better, or say you are sorry, or forgive – or to choose to love.

My Big Fat Dysfunctional (not greek) Thanksgiving

I had always dreamed of a huge family gathering at Thanksgiving. And I was sure that at my age I would be the host and everyone would be flocking to my house that would be so warm and inviting and all Martha Stewarty.

I came from two families that had awesome family gatherings. My mom’s Italian family and dad’s Germanic family – both had big family gatherings with lots of extended cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. I loved those kinds of events. I somehow just assumed that I would be carrying on that tradition and my house would be that “place” to be.

So, it is a bit shocking and potentially depressing when at this Thanksgiving the only family I will be celebrating with this year is my oldest daughter. Where did that close knit family go? Where have all those extended family members gone to on both sides of the family? Well…people die, and people move, and families just slowly disintegrate when you let them.

You start realizing just how amazing some people were…and how much difference one person can actually make. When I look back I see that there were really only a few key people that would “make” those family gatherings happen. When those people died…family gatherings just kind of fell to the wayside and all these extended family members have completely fallen out of touch. I have no idea where most of them even are anymore.

The harder part for me though in some ways is the fact that I won’t be seeing either of my parents or brother, and my youngest daughter will be with her dad and his family. Mom moved to NC and is recovering from a mental breakdown and a horrendous case of pneumonia. Dad and stepmom are already in SC for the winter with my sweet dog Zeke. And my brother, who is one of my favorite people in the world texted me to see what I was doing for TG, but failed to follow through and actually extend in invitation. So it is just me and my big girl this year. I would have considered traveling, but now that I am a working girl, that isn’t really even an option.

OK. Now…can I be frank here. Yes…I have a very dysfunctional family. Do we all feel better now? I know – we have some level of dysfunction – I am no different. So…I am just getting that out there. Yes…the fact that I will actually not see any of my family during either Thanksgiving or Christmas is a bit odd. But a lot more people are getting in this situation as families are spreading out across the country and globe and getting together is just not as easy as it used to be when everyone lived in the same zip code or at least state. The part that makes it all harder to deal with is that I am single. Really. That is what it comes down here, folks…single parents on holidays with no family around…is kind of a hard pill to swallow.

Last year was one of the hardest holiday seasons because I was still reeling from the separation and pending divorce. So this year, I am redefining what holidays really are and mean. I am actually so thankful and happy to be right where I am. I don’t have to work, worry, fret and stress out about having any hard to please personalities over for a huge ordeal that I put hours and days of effort into that will be over in a matter of moments. I just get to show up, with my rice crispies pumpkin patch and laugh and enjoy some of my favorite people in the world.

I will miss my funny, sweet 2 year old, but will have plenty of the remainder of the weekend for her to completely wear me out. She is just so funny at this stage of life. How I love the age of two and how I want to just eat her whole sometimes. It is such a fleeting stage where you long to kiss nearly every inch of them. How do two year olds ALWAYS smell so good?

Looking through new eyes, I am no longer looking at all that I don’t have. Ok…in honesty – I am trying very hard to not look at what I don’t have. I do still ache and wish for someone special to be with during these times. But here is what I DO have: I get to wake up on Thanksgiving Day with both of my girls. We are all healthy. We get to spend a slow morning getting ready and hanging out and hopefully get some snuggling in. Then my little one is off to visit with her dad and family while my big girl and I get to go visit some great friends…play, hang out and eat probably more food than we should. Because I won’t have my 2 year old, I will have the opportunity to actually talk, and be engaged rather than only partially listening and mostly distracted.

We will get to share the fun little rice crispies pumpkins that we made the night before. These have become our own little tradition. I started making them a few years ago and they have become a favorite thing each year now. And the next morning my big girl and I will partake in the craziest shopping day of the entire year. We are going small – we will only hit the local Kohls. I will be armed with my discount cards, and a 2 hour time limit. Then we will come home with hopefully a much needed pair of shoes for her and a few other little things here and there. Then we get to be reunited with ‘Little Bit’ and the world will be right again.

If we are lucky we will find another set of friends to visit – or just spend the day being together…snuggling up with a good movie and some popcorn, playing outside if it is nice…and just playing life by ear. But it is all our choice! We don’t have to compromise or feign excitement over someone else’s idea of fun on these days. We won’t disappoint or let anyone down. We just get to be. That is a pretty great gift right there!

Though I would still love to have that bustling house some day…it is just not meant to be this year. Next year my oldest will be old enough to actually help out at a soup kitchen and has an interest in it, so maybe we will plan on spending some portion of the day doing something like that next year. But this year…we are going to spend one more year healing…loving…redefining what our new traditions will be, and being truly thankful for all that we DO have. Because I realize that even if it is so very different than I had hoped or expected, I am still very, very blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving to you – wherever you are, whomever you are with (or not) and whatever you are doing.

Ramblings From a Recovering Loneliholic

Please excuse poor grammar or spelling errors…I am rocked tired, but apparently have some ramblings that need to come out and I though I have tried to do some self editing…my eyes are crossing and my computer is acting up. This is as good as it gets tonight folks.

I have been an addict. I didn’t even know it at the time…probably like most addicts…the condition comes on slowly and before you are fully aware – you are a full blown mess.

My vice was not drugs. Ashamedly I have to say I have had moments where I leaned on alcohol – hoping to drown out some of the pain. But it was just a mask or symptom to my real addiction. Men. Or the idea of a mate, a partner, my Gerry McGuire person that would come along and “complete” me.

Well, hey! Guess what? I AM complete. Just as I am. No man is required to complete me. How did I never know this before??? I am a pathetically slow learner. That’s why you love me. Cause reading about me makes you all feel like freaking geniuses. But up until now I have honestly been some crazed loneliholic trying to fill the perceived void in my life with the idea of a man.

I can blame my childhood and I will for just a moment. It was a terribly lonely childhood. I was simply alone A LOT. Alone and with sad and scary conditions. Looking back, I simply cannot imagine any child I know or love living like I did…but yet – there is always a sadder story. But blaming and being bitter doesn’t get you anywhere in life except…more bitterness and ironically – more loneliness. At some point you have to get beyond all that and take on the responsibilty of moving beyond it. You have to dig deep, search hard and find forgiveness on all kinds of levels. Then you have to look really hard in the mirror and start getting honest and real and truthful – and the truth does indeed bring freedom.

But getting back to being a victim of Lonely: That is how a girl like me ends up divorced twice in less than 10 years. That is probably how Liz Taylor has the sad repuation she has. Once you recognize what you are…you can spot others pretty easily. That’s how it is with addicts. The scariest thing in the world to me is living one more day – let alone years like I have been living. I may be a slow learner, but how completely devastating it is to see someone at 70 or 80 still struggling with this idea of filling a void with something or someone else – that only they themselves have the power to address.

But look at me – all high and mighty – when I am not even out of the woods yet. I am in a state of detoxification, I guess. I am still in the process of recovering. I have not yet mastered it. But yes, I am making some real progress…just like this next character you are about to meet.

I don’t watch much TV. It drives me nuts. But when I do – it is usually waaaayyy too late at night to find anything of real redeeming value. And I have to admit, I am not looking for a deep show about something terribly interesting…because the whole idea is to GO TO SLEEP. I find myslelf flipping to MTV – hoping that somehow they might actually play music videos again. It’s like revisiting the refrigerator when I know there is nothing better in there than the last time I checked 5 minutes ago…but still hoping.

So ANYHOO…I flip to good ol MTV and there is a show about some drug intervention. DJ AM something or another created the idea of this reality show called ‘Gone Too Far’ where he himself – a ‘recovering’ drug addict goes around staging interventions for kids that are so horribly addicted it is just downright disturbing and terribly sad to even watch. The videos they got of some of these kids doing drugs and what it has done to them is just horrendous.

Well – long story short – DJ AM started this series apparently and begun several interventions on film. Somewhere in the middle of the series – he freaking has an overdose and dies! I didn’t really believe what I was even hearing at first. They kind of glazed right over it and didn’t make a big deal about it. But Adam Goldstein, or DJ AM did in fact die at the age of 36 just this past August…I had to look it up. Maybe they state this all in the beginning of the show or something, but I tuned in in the middle of this particular show.

He said something that hit me hard. He said to this kid he was helping, “Look – you are going to be a statistic either way – you are either going to be the kid who rose above it, kicked it and is an inspiration to the world, or you are going to be the example of what not to be”. Wow. DJ AM managed to live on both sides of the statistic. He was in the middle of doing some really awesome and important work…and he slipped and fell – right into the very thing he was fighting against.

I am not here to judge the guy. I am actually really sad the world lost this guy in the middle of his progress. It seemed like such an unfinished, inappropriate ending. It also scares the hell out of me. It shows how easily it is for addicts of ANY kind to slip back into old habits. I married twice because I was absolutely exhausted and done being lonely. Now, I know some of you out there don’t even see the connection or think I am over reacting. Drugs and men are very different things. There is a physical and chemical thing involved with drugs. Well…if you would like to be brutally honest…there is a physical and chemical thing invovled in relationships too.

I don’t care what background you are from. Strict, loose, money, poor, educated or not…these kinds of things will come get you wherever you are at. Addictions do not know class, color, race, economics…we are all fair game. The only defense is your own perception. Do you NEED to fill a perceived void in your life? And if you do…with what shall you fill it? (There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza). Then we are faced with which kind of ‘thing’ we will fill our void with. That then becomes our addiction. At the root of any addiction seems to be an underlying theme…loneliness – sometimes with other classic symptoms like restlessness, unhappiness, unfulfillment.

The addictions then, are only the mask to this underlying root cause. The addictions get all the attention. Drugs and alcohol get the biggest wrap, but I think it is time to admit that relationships, sex, even food in some cases are really addictions all wrapped up under the same big umbrella as the bigger taboo ones. Then there are the workaholics, the collectors, and other lables – even ‘super moms’ – yes – anything that causes a person to act out of balance to the point where marriages or jobs or other normal things we try achieve in life become threatened.

If we throw ourselves into anything so hopelessly that we lose sight of who we really are and what we are really supposed to achieve in life – it ‘could’ be an addiction. Yes – as always – this blog has taken a turn in an unexpected direction for me.

I was trying to merely point out how scary it was to see myself in similar shoes as these kids who were thowing their lives away trying to achieve and sustain some kind of ‘high’ that could help numb the pain of the reality of life. They used drugs. Drugs always scared me. But I honestly didn’t realize I have been using ‘men’ until just recently. And maybe I am exaggerating. I can honestly say I loved my first husband. But our divorce threw my lonely-itus right out of remission and it came back with a life threatening vengence.

I did not recognize what I was even doing and before I knew it, I was remarried. I was still numb and had not properly mourned the death of my first marriage before I jumped face first into a terrible mistake. I explained it all away by telling myself that I had known this person for 20 years and that he was one of my best friends. But in all honesty he wasn’t. He was just a boy that had worshipped the ground I walked on from the moment I stepped onto that school bus one sophomore morning – and 20 years later in my blurred emotional vision I misinterpreted it all as love.

Loneliness makes you do incredibly stupid things. I have two great girls that will bear the emotional scars of my stupidity. All because I couldn’t recognize Lonely for the beast that it is and figure out how to look deep inside myself and realize that I am complete. I do not need any man to come along and save me or complete me in some way. A man should compliment – not complete. And I saying this and meaning it for the first time in my life. How sad, but encouraging.

There is hope for me yet. And I am on fire and excited about that. I want to reach out and tell the whole world! I am so excited to sing a happy song after so many months – and years, really…of sadness and loneliness. I want to reach out to women that have been where I have been and wake them up. I want to stage an intervention right now and help ween them off whatever is holding them back from realizing their full completeness and potential. And I want to share this message with my own girls, most importantly.

But what if I fail in the process? What if I fall down in my weakness and right in the middle of doing all kinds of good – I fall down and become a statistic for the complete opposite of everything I am fighting for? Just like DJ AM? That scares me half to death. It spurs me on to want to try even harder to NOT fail. But you know…I still might. So what then? Will it all be in vain and for nothing?

What will become of the kids DJ AM had already intervened with? Will they be even more inspired to do better and do it for themselves AND him – or will they wave their white flags and reason that if HE couldn’t do it – how and why should I? What is his legacy? I guess it depends on how you look at it all.

Let me give you a completely different perspective. Stephanie Spielman died just this past weak fighting one of the most horrendous and courageous battles with breast cancer as I have ever heard of. 11 years and 5 different attacks of it. This woman kept going – and not just going…she fought with a brave, honest, open candidness about it all that was so vulnerable, rare and beautiful. Now please do not get offended that I am even talking about these two individuals in the same conversation. The circumstances and issues are so completely different, but here is the thing…both her and DJ AM died fighting the very thing they were doing so much to help others prevent or avoid.

Stephanie’s fight is so much easier to grab onto and get behind. She was a beautiful woman with a fairy tale marriage to her high school sweetheart that happen to turn into a hunky Pro football leading man, had 4 awesome kids, and then bam…in her prime – struck down with a terrorizing affliction…none of her choice or doing. She was innocent. But what she chose to do with it was amazing. Intead of hiding it, or battling it all alone and keeping it to herself – she chose to share it with the world and raise a crazy amount of money for the cause.

I guess that is the common denominator I am talking about here…what they chose to do with it. DJ AM may have not been innocent in his plight. He made obvious and terrible choices. The only great thing he did was – share it with the world in such a complete and honest way that it actually became inspiring. He was passionate about helping other people overcome the hell that he knew. He just didn’t have the capacity to do it for himself apparently.

I don’t know how anyone else sees it, but I am inspired. I WANT to make it. I want to beat the statistics. I want to fight against my issues. Now again – I am not comparing myself in any shape, way or form to either of these characters – especially Stephanie. I am just saying these two people have made an impact on me. I am moved and have the desire to act on that passion. We all have different missions, goals and motivations – but the over all theme is this:

Wake up and live right now! Stop moping around feeling sorry for yourself, making excuses and wasting your days and moments here on this earth! There is a lot to be done in the world – a lot of people that need some hope – in all different flavors and varieties of it.

That is what I am hearing. I don’t know exactly what it all looks like for me right now. I am still in the very early stages of my recovery. I am just a little twig that recently emerged from my serotinous seed from the fire of last years divorce (see About Me if you are new and confused). I have a different story to tell. It is ugly in it’s own right. But I know that I am not alone in the battles I have been fighting. And if there is even one woman I can somehow help awaken and inspire to rise above the menotony of a luke warm life than hallelujah.

I am on the very beginnings of this new chapter of my life. I am not an expert. I am just real, raw, and ready to be completely honest. I am a recovering loneliholic…and this is my story.

At The End of My Rope

Whether you believe in God or not, I think you may appreciate this. I tend to have a bit of a warped sense of humor and something someone said the other day made me start thinking…and that is always a scary thing. But if you like Monty Python kind of stuff – here you go.

Back in the old testament there was this huge holy temple. Once a year or so a high priest – like the head haunch-o guy priest would have to go into the temple and ask for forgiveness for the entire village. He had to enter the ‘Holy of Holies’ behind a special curtain that NO one ever entered except this one highly ordained person. In order to do this they had to tie a rope to his leg in the event that he was struck dead during the process – because this place was so holy that if he did die – no one else was holy enough to enter the tabernacle to retrieve his body!

Ok…I have a billion questions and images about this one passage alone and I have to admit…they are funny. Forgive me, I know this may not supposed to be funny stuff – repentance, sacrifices, atonement and such is kind of serious business, but seriously…here are the silly things that go through my head.

So…how many times did it take before they finally thought – “Hey…let’s tie a rope around this sucker this time, because the last few times hasn’t gone so well”. And I wonder too, how many rotting high priests were left behind that tabernacle curtain? Did they just become a sacrifice at that point? And how long did the people wait for that guy to come out before they just assumed he had been struck dead? And what in the world did they think in the event that he was struck dead – were they to assume that they had been forgiven or did they feel scared that the guy they chose failed the task?

Can you imagine the talk around the village? “MM-hmm…did you hear – Johabothith (just making something up there) got struck down! I TOLD you we should have picked Ahabojah…HE wouldn’t have gotten himself all killed and stuff”. And what about the family left behind – were they shamed or honored? Maybe their death was looked upon like an honor or something good, rather than a failure. I don’ t know.

And who got to be the person to pull the rope? Was that person picked too? Can you imagine having that task. “Yep…I’m the official rope puller guy. Assistant to the assistant of the most Holy”. And when did he know when to pull that rope? What if the priest was just being very still in the middle of a very important prayer and the guy pulled the rope – just to see if he was still alive? I can just hear it now…”Not now! I am praying here – and for YOUR sins I might add…let me add one more to the list now!” And what if when the rope puller guy DID have to pull a dead body out…what if it got caught up on something? Can you imagine? Oh…the sweat rolling off that poor soul. He’d be like…Geesh! Now what?

And from the perspective of this high priest…omg…what pressure! I would be watching the entire village all year – taking notes…being some kind of moral police – trying to keep the people in check. Cause at the end of the year I would know that I would have to ask for atonement for ALL of that! I’d be like a mother hen yelling at ever little offense “Stop doing that…no! Don’t do that…Would you put that back? Stop looking at her that way! You can’t do that – what are you thinking? My life is on the line here!!” I can just imagine someone doing something REALLY bad…this priest would be like…”Great buddy! Thanks A LOT! How in the world am I going to get out the tabernacle alive now!?”

Then I think also – how smelly and rotten stinky was the Holy of Holies? Even if there were no dead, rotting high priests from the past, there were still animal sacrifices. That was another one of the tasks of the high priest –was to take the best, most perfect goat or lamb and sacrifice it as an offering. So what happened to all those animals and the blood that was shed in that place – year after year? I mean – it was such a holy place that no janitor could go in there and help clean it up, right? Did God just consume the sacrifice completely up? And what about the rest of that area – even if God did all the dirty work and cleaned up the dead stuff…what about the just everyday upkeep of the area. Was is really dusty and dirty? Again – no custodians on duty there. Did the high priest spend an hour or so before the ritual just cleaning stuff up?

Then I think about the ignorant souls. Just silly stuff. Like if there was a new person in the village and say someone was giving them a tour of the place. They show them the well, the market place and then…here is the temple. What if a little kid on the tour just happen to wonder behind the curtain? I mean do you think that NEVER happened? Of all the people in the village – are we to believe that no one just wondered back there on accident – or even on purpose just to see what would happen?

I don’t mean any disrespect here. I am just asking honest questions from an admittedly slightly warped view on things. If any of you have some insight here – it would be interesting to hear it. Just don’t get all angry and legalistic about it. Did God finally realize that this old system was kind of crazy too? Is that why he had to radically change things and do the unthinkable – bring his only son to be the one and final sacrifice for all? I can just see him sigh, shake his head, roll his eyes, and then roll up his sleeves for real business.

The hardest part of the Christian religion, for me at least, is this idea of so much blood shedding and sacrificing. There are other huge questions about all the miracles – like virgin birth, parting of seas, etc. that some people have spent their lives trying to explain away or disprove – that I sometimes wonder about too, but mostly I get hung up in this bloody, violent, paradoxical need for death in order to have life.

And how hard it is to even talk to kids about it! Even a little creepy. I didn’t even talk to my own child about the whole cross thing until she was about 6 or maybe 7 and even then I wasn’t sure it was the right thing. I let her kind of lead me in that area, quite honestly. She became curious about it and so I explained it to her the best I could – and there was also Sunday school classes to help out (Thank goodness). I still skip over the bloody battles and some of the more violent parts of the Bible. I mean – the Bible is a violent, scary book. There are battles, demon possession, slaughtering of Christians and other nations, adultery, brothers killing brothers…I mean it is grown up rated R stuff. For those of you out there that haven’t read it – it is a pretty interesting grown up read.

But the bottom line is…that somehow I still believe…Even though some of it still boggles my mind – or some of it just seems downright strange. I guess for me, it’s not just these little snap shots – it is the WHOLE picture that makes sense to me. You can’t take things out of context and then judge the entire thing. Can you love or not love a whole person based on what their big toe looks like? You have to look at the entire picture – and the entire picture screams out LOVE.

I may not always make the right choices or live every waking moment like a “Christian” should. I am guessing that even that high priest didn’t either. We are just human. The problem is that the world looks to people like me or other Christians or even the church to base their faith on. And we will fail you all…every time…because humans cannot save people. You have either already been faced with or will at some point be faced with the question…Do you believe? And you have to personally figure that out – no one else can do that for you. Everyone has a different take on this.

Someone once said that they just don’t have the ‘faith’ gene. I have to ask myself…has this person ever been to Taco Bell? (And I know they have). Because, though I love Taco Bell and go there more than I care to admit – I see the kitchen back there…I see the workers responsible for delivering my meal, and I eat it anyway…THAT my friends…is faith. If you drive a car or fly in an airplane – you have the capacity for faith.

I am not preaching. I am not even trying to persuade anyone. I learned last year that I cannot make anyone choose anything – right or wrong…everyone is going to make their own decision and they have to live with that. I am just blogging out my own personal thoughts, struggles, beliefs. I am not qualified to tell anyone what to think or believe. That’s not my goal in this cyber space. These are just random thoughts that go through my silly head.

I am just saying that at the end of the day…It’s good to know what is at the end of my faith rope…and it’s not a dead high priest.

Every Little Scramble

Every Little Scramble was probably my very first composition that I remember. I also had some instrumentals that I called ‘Rain’ or ‘Thunderstorm’ and things like that (see…I was always a nature nut apparently). But Every Little Scramble is the first song I remember actually having words.

What is a scramble? That is a very good question. I remember my Grandma asking that very thing. I must have been around 4 at the time, so in my 4 year old brain, a scramble – or at least THIS particular scramble referred to the logo or symbol that was on the piano I was playing at the time. It was more like a design, but to me at that time – it was best described as a scramble. I honestly don’t know what brand name the piano was now – I don’t remember, but I bet money that if I saw that same symbol, I could tell you.

I stared at that little scramble for hours as I would play and play and play. So what else was a girl to do, but make an ode to it. And ‘Every little scramble’ was the result.

I wish I could say this story had some kind of Casey Casum ending – with a “look where that little girl is now” kind of cinderella story. But the truth is, I am still at about that same level, just playing the piano when I can steal a moment now and then. I am still creating music, but I am not sure it is any more advanced than ‘Every Little Scramble’.

But there IS a different kind of happy story ending. I may not have any fame or riches or credibility to make some great story, but I can honestly say this. I love banging on the piano and trying to sing for the people I love just as much today as I did when I was a kid. And that has not always been true.

I took my music into hiding for the bigger part of my life. At least 25 years. Not until about 5 years ago did I allow it to start resurfacing. Only about 3 years ago was I able to start playing and singing for very close friends or family…and even then I felt as if my heart would jump completely out of my body as my shaking hands missed notes from sheer anxiety.

I took my music and probably more accurately my whole self into hiding for many years. My very last memories of the farm that I loved so much, was me being literally used as a human tug of war rope between my parents. Mom had one arm…dad had the other. They were literally pulling me apart. My dad finally came to his senses and let go. He took me inside for one last tear filled hug as I stared wide eyed and completely confused…and I didn’t see him again for about 2 years. And I don’t think I ever saw the farm again or that same piano.

I eventually got another piano somehow. Either dad got it for me or someone must have donated it to us. Living with a mom with schizophrenia doesn’t lend itself to economic stability. Mom and I moved from relative to relative for awhile and then we went from apartment to apartment. I honestly don’t remember huge chunks of my elementary and middle school years. But I do remember playing the piano…like a crazed, frantic woman. Because I was a woman. I was older then than I am now. I had to become a mom of sorts. I had to take care of myself and somehow manage to look after mom.

I know she was honestly doing the best she could do. I don’t fault her or blame her anymore. I love her very much. I just had to accept at some point a few years ago, that she has never been and never will be the kind of nuturing mother any little girl longs for. She had a very limited capacity for little else than just surviving her own battles, let alone the enormous responsibility of raising a little girl.

She had conversations with aliens, talked to voices, paced the room for days on end talking about the russians who were upstairs doing x-rays and start screaming about the spiders that were crawling all over her! Oh…that one really freaked me out. She was screaming for me to come get them all off of her. And when I couldn’t find or see all of these hundreds of spiders that were attacking her, she started screaming at me and how awful of a daughter I was for not coming to help her.

So – my music became my sole comforter. It was my friend and very personal. I didn’t play for nearly anyone for many years. In HS, I tried to play for some family and friends, but it was still very guarded and uncomfortable. But when I was alone…I would play so loud that when I would finally stop I could hear the walls of the house creaking or settling…what was THAT all about?!? Was I losing my mind too? Anyhoo…

I specifically remember SO many times – I would be playing my heart out and I would see the headlights turn into the drive way and I would bolt up the stairs and grab a book and pretend like I had been reading the whole time. My heart would be racing and pounding and I would feel all out of breath – as if I had just been doing something terribly wrong and trying to hide it. I mean…some kids smoke pot, or smuggle boyfriends into the house after school. My big bad vice was…dun, dun, dun…playing the piano at crazy loud decibles.

All that to say this. Only about a year and a half ago I started getting the strangest itch to WANT to play for people again. So…30 and some odd years later…I am back to square one. Playing little compositions for anyone that might listen. I am not sure my songs or words are really anything more than just little scrambles, and I guess I have to be ok with that. I am just thankful to still love music. I know I will never be the best or greatest songwriter or performer and that is ok. As long as I am having fun and a few people are around to ask – umm…what is that? I guess I will be happy. Because all my ramblings make perfect sense to me.

I also have to say sharing my music with my daughters has got to be one of the greatest joys. It is hard to practice with a 2 and 8 year old on each side of me like banging monkey book ends, but to see the smiles and joy in their faces is priceless. My 2 year old, especially…she plays and sings a little then she’ll just kind of stop and study what I am doing and if I catch a quick glimpse of her, she does this shy littly coy smile and then starts banging and singing away again. The fact that they are the inspiration, or in my oldest daughters case – co writer for a few of the lullabies is really a dream come true. And when they dance together doing little pirouettes when I play their songs ‘Butterfly’, ‘Wild Horses’ and Unicornacopia’ – I am in heaven. I am a very lucky mom.

Thanks Erica, for listening to my scrambles and ramblings today. Let’s hope for the best on the 30th. I am actually going to play some of my scrambles for as many woman that show up that evening for coffee, fellowship and girl time. I am pretty excited and amazed to be part of it all – I am so not qualified! I have no idea what to expect and I am glad about that, as I have found expectations tend to just ruin stuff anyway. So here is to ‘the rest of the story’ and all my little scrambles.

The Disconnected Connected

I was driving today and saw three guys in a car beside me at a stop light. All three of them were silent, heads down, focused on something. Their cell phones…even the driver. I watched as the light turned green and the driver thankfully at least moved his eyes to the road, but the other two did not move. They were frozen in a zombie like position…unaware that life was passing them by. That’s what they looked like – zombies or like they were in some kind of trance. No words were exchanged, no interaction among person to person, no smiles…Just a zombie like stare.

No, I wasn’t staring and I didn’t wreck my own car…if you were wondering. These were glances every so often, confirming their frozen postures…and my biggest pet peeve. The unavailability of people that are right beside you in person. We are becoming less and less available…as we are becoming more and more connected.

The movie Wall-E touches on this so brilliantly. That’s a great movie. It’s fun and sweet on the outside, but serious and makes a big statement on the inside. Of course it takes it to the extreme…or does it? IT depicts selfish lazy people in moving chairs, denied of nothing they desire, faces glued to a computer screen, mass consumerism and media, with no individual thinking. Everyone is distracted and never fully aware of anyone else. But they are very, very busy…doing nothing. And ultimately they are lonely.

When I think about it in those terms alone, we are not really very far from that reality right now in some ways. I am not saying that technology is the root of all evil. I am not even saying it is bad. I think our technological advances are pretty amazing – whether I buy into all of it or not. It is an amazing feat of human ingenuity. I respect that. I mean after all, I am posting this FB, you are reading it on FB or some internet favorite link. The real issue is how it is used in the hands of people. We all have free will to use it and or abuse it how we wish.

I have to just say this. It is a huge pet peeve of mine to see a couple walking together, or a parent with a child – totally immersed in something else – be it a cell phone conversation or texting, or checking e-mail on a hand held device. The person or child left waiting looks so alone. The ‘busy’ person is basically saying – even though you are right beside me, this call or text is more important right now at this moment than you are.

Now, again, I am making sweeping generalizations and I realize that. Even I have been guilty of it now and then. It is just a fact of life in many ways – sometimes we HAVE to take a call. I’m not out to guilt anyone to death. Just making observations…because this is my own blog space, and I can.

Maybe I am just extra sensitive to it because that was my life for 5 years. My ex-husband was ALWAYS on that phone. My daughter even did an impersonation one time when she was too young to know that she was hurting feelings in front of his bosses. She said, “Here’s my daddy” and she pretends to put a phone to her ear and walk around talking and looking real important. They all laughed and thought it was funny, I guess…I thought it was sad. Maybe they didn’t realize the extent of the problem and the truth.

Add to it that I found out later that many of the texts and phone calls during that last year of our marriage were actually to another woman…made from within our own house. He probably texted her while sitting in the same room as me and the girls. Now there is a girl’s worst nightmare right there! It’s funny how certain things just stick with you. I am making progress in so many areas of healing, but this cell phone thing is still a huge deal to me. I have to really calm myself down when I am with a friend who takes a call when we have some very limited ‘in person’ time together.

Time is valuable. As a single mom – I have very limited moments in time where I don’t have children with me and am able to say complete sentences or not go running off to keep someone from killing themselves on something. I try to give my friends the same respect and not answer my phone during these times. And yet, it is reassuring to have my phone. It becomes a weird addictive sickness. How did we ever get by without them before?

I guess the bottom line is this: How unexpectedly ironic! With incredible social network tools like facebook, twitter, e-mail, internet and countless ways to access it all – we are more connected to people and information than ever. And yet – we are becoming less available for the person sitting right in front of us. We are becoming the age of the Disconnected Connected.