Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Excerpt time!

Still on the fence about whether or not to grab a copy of Here's to Campfires and S'mores?

Check out this excerpt to see if it wets your whistle:

“Whatever.” She rolled her black lined eyes and sucked on her cigarette again. “Go to bed, Molly. This isn’t your business. It’s barely our mom’s business.”
“Not my—” Anger washed over me, and I stomped over to them. “Who the hell do you think you are!?” I pulled their cigarettes out of their mouths, threw them to the ground, and stomped on them. Then I pointed down the embankment. “Get your scrawny little butts down that hill, and into your cabin. Shut up and go to bed. Give your mother a break for once, and act like nice kids, instead of entitled, depressed brats. Do you hear me?”
“Hey! What the…” Erin yowled, staring down at the crushed smokes in anger.
Seth cursed under his breath. “Not cool.”
Erin looked at me with eyes of pure hatred. “You sure have changed, and not for the better.”
Seth’s shoulders slumped and he let the umbrella drop to his side. “Let’s just go.”
Fine.” Erin whipped around and began the trek down the incline. “It’s no wonder Uncle Jamie left you. You’re such a bitch.”
Her words knocked the wind out of me, and I stood there with my mouth open as they left. I heard them bickering back and forth until the sound of a cabin door slamming ripped through the night, and I fell down onto my butt on the hill. I felt my underwear getting soaked with cold rainwater, but didn’t make an attempt to move. Instead, I pulled my knees up to my chest and rested my forehead against them before dissolving into tears.
Erin was right. I was a bitch. I might not be a crazy one, the type who carves her name into the driver’s side door on her ex-husband’s car, or who sends threatening texts to the new girl he’s banging, but I wasn’t a friendly woman anymore. And I hadn’t been for a long, long time. I’d become a crusty, bitter old bitch. April’s emo teenager had hit the nail on the head.
I sobbed as the rain stopped falling, and the leftover drops dripped off of the leaves around me. I no longer felt drunk and blissfully numbed to all the pain I’d been toting around like an overweight purse for eighteen months. My buzz had worn off. Either that, or my run in with April’s surly teens had sobered me up. I was left to sit in the woods with a soaking wet butt, feeling everything I’d attempted to drown away with too many tumblers of vodka.
Minutes passed. I don’t know how many. Maybe ten. Enough that my throat and eyes ached, and I was ninety percent sure I would wake up with a hangover the size of John Goodman’s former body in the morning.
Startled, I sat up and bumped a fern above my head, which then rained water down on my head. “Great,” I muttered bitterly as a cold droplet rolled down the back collar of my shirt to my bra strap. “Who’s there now? You little punks come back to kick me while I’m down?”
“What?” Jamie emerged through the brush, his blond hair falling in wet scallops across his forehead. “Who are you talking to?”
“Nobody.” I sniffled and put my head back down. “Go away.”


Monday, January 15, 2018

Going on the defensive.

Just yesterday my closest girlfriend and I were chatting. Well, instant messaging, as one does when they live 5K miles away from their support system, but you get the picture. We were swapping crazy husband stories, complaints, praise, observations, and general anecdotes about marriage and life with our husbands--who were clearly switched at birth, because they are literally just like each other. It was a conversation in which we were buoying each other up in a way that only a true friend can. We talked about how we could improve our relationships with our husbands we love so much--because we do. They're pretty darn awesome--and how we could go about implementing change with two men who don't necessarily embrace big changes.

I suggested that when we have conversations with our husbands where we are discussing changes that we would like to see, maybe we should ask them what changes they'd like to see in us. I figured it might make the conversations that all married couples have in which the husband's eyes glaze over and he starts watching an old football game in his mind, rather than listening to what the wife is actually saying (or maybe that's just my hubby?)more tolerable if the husband can have the floor as well. He can bring up some changes and/or improvements he thinks would benefit the marriage, too.

Although, my friend and I are both so darn perfect, I can't imagine what they might want us to change. I mean, come on....

So when you're done laughing....

So anyway, my friend said the following, after I made that suggestion:

"That's a good idea. More of a sharing moment than a bashing moment. Not that we're bashing each other, but explaining how we feel. Why is that so hard sometimes? It's so easy to get on the defensive rather than listen to what someone is trying to tell you."

And I had a hallelujah moment. I really did!

Sometimes my best friend is so smart, it baffles me that she's not president, or something. Truly one of the kindest, most patient, most supportive people ever. I love her! She really hit the nail on the head with that one IM. Sometimes when we talk to people about changes that we need to make, or things that they might not want to hear, they wind up feeling ganged up on, or attacked, and they miss the entire point of the entire conversation! Gah! So frustrating!

I'm guilty of it, too. If I feel attacked, I have a bad (but admittedly necessary) habit of shutting down, walking away, and closing the door on people. I've had enough therapy to know that it's my defense mechanism. If someone hurts me, I shut them out. If I suspect they will hurt me in the future, I shut them out. I do it before they can do it, because I am tough and strong and....

Emotionally fragile. *hangs head in embarrassment*

So last night I made a pact that I am going to work hard at trying to better understand the people who are still in my life, or might come along in the future. Friends, coworkers, neighbors...and especially my husband and kids. Maybe if I can better understand what it is they're trying to tell me, rather than being angry and defensive, I can start working on improving myself, so as to make them more comfortable and happy when we're together...instead of shutting them out as a defense mechanism. Not that it isn't okay to shut abusive people out. But when it comes to my husband and children, I should always work hard at being the best me I can be. Amirite?

It will likely take me a while to implement this change. Bear with me. I'm a slow learner, a slow grower. Like a friggin' Chinese maple.

Notoriously slow growers.

I also really appreciated my friend's wise words because I recently had an experience in my life when I spoke to a person with only the best of intentions, and it completely blew up in my face. My daughter was being put in an unhealthy and unbearably uncomfortable position, and she asked me to ask the adult involved to back up and give her some personal space. Being her mom, it was my job to support her, so I did it--knowing full well that I'd been put into a lose/lose situation where I was either going to tick off and potentially lose a friend, or potentially let down my daughter and let her remain in an unmanageable situation. There was literally no winning in this scenario.

So I put on my big girl pants, and I told this adult as kindly as humanly possible that her actions were making my daughter uncomfortable, that she was coming across as very intense, and that it needed to get better. The conversation did not go well. In fact, it imploded. The woman got on the defensive, and just couldn't seem to humble herself enough to see or understand anything except her own feeling of being offended. She called me a liar, shut me out, wouldn't return messages, and eventually told me she could only be friendly to me in person from now on.

So what did I do? Well, I shut her out, of course. It's what I do.

(But really, who admits to someone that they're only going to be nice to you when there's an audience? And what self-respecting person would actually tolerate being told that? I mean, come on.)

But still...this was a perfect example of what my friend from 5K miles away said: It's so easy to get on the defensive rather than listen to what someone is trying to tell you. So through this conversation with my bestie, I was able to find two ways that going on the defensive with people has impacted my life. Both through my actions, and through the actions of others. It made me take a long look at my own choices, and assess whether or not I was actually listening to what people were saying to me, or was I fixating on my own hurt? I was also able to fully understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such behavior.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I always find that when God has a lesson for me to learn, He knows that I'll never grasp it unless I am put into a situation where I am forced to live through it and grow from it. Hi, my name is Brooke, and I am a frequent guest here in the Refiner's Fire. They should make a punch card or something.

Oddly enough, I'm grateful for these experiences. All of them, even the crappy expat experience we're on the home stretch of. Nothing forces a person to grow and stretch more than being pile driven by life.

Actual footage of what expat life did to me....and my family.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What I wish someone had told me about expat life...

....before I moved to this town.

Last night, I made my son apologize to a child that he called a "jerk."

He didn't want to, and frankly, the kid deserved it. But it had to be done. When my kids say rude things, they have to apologize. Period.

But that doesn't erase that this all came about because this other child was bullying my child online, and acting aggressively and cruelly. Which just seem to be traits of the expat child. At least where I live. Expat kids in this community--a wealthy suburb of Seoul, in South Korea--are forced, and often trained, to be cutthroat and cunning. To do whatever it takes, by any means necessary, to establish and maintain their position on the social totem pole, even if it means hurting other people and abusing friendships and trusted relationships.

As a parent, it's nauseating to watch, and even more upsetting to navigate your children through such ugliness. I hate it. Which is why I am so excited to move home to America this summer. Though, I fully disclose that if we'd moved somewhere else abroad, our experience might not have been so unhappy. It just so happened that we landed in a city that has a reputation (that we weren't aware of prior to moving here) for being less than friendly or inviting to foreigners. Hindsight is always 20/20. *sigh*

It's been quite a trial for my kids. They'd never experienced this type of behavior before. Sure, they'd had friends who were unkind before, but never to the extent that the kids within the expat community have displayed. They've been gaslighted, called names, told to "kill themselves," hit, punched, slapped, spat at, ignored, lied to, lied about, cheated, and my poor daughter has been at the receiving end of a "frienimy" situation that still goes on to this day. And yes, this has all been at the hand of other expat children. Everything in the expat situation is magnified. Amplified. Turned up to eleven, if you will. And it's hard for kids. Cripes, it's hard for adults!

Surprisingly, I'm not even that mad at the aggressive expat kids here. Yeah, I don't particularly like some of them--you can only screw with my children so many times before I go all Mama Bear on you. I didn't earn that reputation by telling my kids to turn the other cheek all the time, amirite? But I do, for the most part, try to encourage my kids to let the ill behavior go, respond firmly but kindly, and stand up for themselves in a way that doesn't threaten or belittle the other child (hence, why I had my son message the kid who was so, incredibly rude to him to tell him that he was sorry for calling him a 'jerk'.)

Why do I offer mercy to children who abuse my kids? Well, because living as a child expat is a hard life. As in, really freaking hard. And I have pity for every expat kid in this stupid town.

I know, I know. There are a handful of expat parents reading my blog, getting all puffed up and defensive, saying, My child isn't living a hard life. My child is getting a global experience. My child is getting a world class education, and seeing beyond their bubble. 

Yeah. I see you. *waves* Now, simmer down. Because an alternative perspective is coming at you, and brace yourself. This might sting a little.

When you're an expat child, you are a child being thrust into a culture that you know nothing of while you're still trying to figure out your own existence. You're being moved from place to place, culture to culture, while still trying to figure out what your own personal culture is, and how it relates to you and your life experience. You're being asked to accommodate the whims and desires of adults who have infinitely more coping and adaptation strategies than you do, and you're doing it all while growing, learning, and developing parts of your brain and body that have been working properly on your adult parents for decades. You're being asked to do very adult things--world travel, cultural immersion, ignoring hate or disrespect, adapting to different traditions and languages, different foods, different healthcare, different educational systems, different governmental systems--all while constantly accustoming and re-accustoming yourself to your own ever-changing body and brain. You're asked to be smart, kind, accepting, and tolerant while being put into environments that are not always smart, kind, accepting or tolerant to you, and then hailed as global citizens as if that's a trophy to behold--even if you're struggling emotionally or mentally with such changes every few years. And while yes, this is an amazing, enriching, and priceless experience for a child to have, it does not come without some challenges, and sometimes those challenges bring out the worst in a kid. I know this because we've lived it.

Kids here are sometimes angry. They don't know why, because they're kids, but an adult--looking from the outside in--can see it. They're angry because they're living in a city where the expat population is small. They're being forced to be friends with other kids who aren't kids they would normally gravitate towards. They're thrust into friendships out of parental pressure and necessity, and then they are forced to either "make it work" or go without friends at all. Unfortunately, here in the community we're living in, there is a social heierarchy. Status is everything, and the more posh your parents are, the higher your status. Kids--being resourceful little buggers--pick up on this quickly, and they behave accordingly. The wealthier kids, the ones with the parents who are the most socially active and the most involved with the posh private school, as well as the expat circle, they're the ones who alpha dog the other children. They will say and do whatever it takes to make sure that the other kids know they're in charge and that they'd better fall in line, or pay the price, socially speaking.

In addition to that, when you look different from the entire population around you, as a teen...this is not a fun experience. Often times you're judged unfairly by the way you look, and you are judged for not meeting a certain physical standard, because you have a body type that differs from what the cultural norm is in the country where you live. During a time when you're coming to accept the shape God gave you, you're being taunted and tormented by the locals, and often taunted and tormented by your fellow expat kids, who claim their place in the hierarchy by having a body that is more appealing by the standards set back in your country of origin! It's a lose/lose situation, doubled in intensity if you fit neither standard, and your expat peers--the only ones you have available to spend your time with--are nitpicking your every detail and flaw because of it. They do it because, they too are insecure about their own looks, and their own social position, and their own desirability in a culture that doesn't consider foreigners to be pretty or desirable much at all. They do it because they're kids. And kids are, by nature, insecure creatures. Add in the trauma of being a foreigner in their community, and the insecurity increases ten fold. These have been my teenage daughter's experiences. Again, I know this because we've lived it.

I know, Harry. So do all the kids in this town.

My younger children have had similar negative expat experiences. Experiences I wish we'd been more prepared for. Which is why I blog honestly about our adventures. I wish someone would've warned us about what expat life is really like for children, rather than just telling me what a beautiful, enriching experience they would undoubtedly have. Beautiful and enriching? Yes. Painful and sometimes damaging. Yes.

My sons are 11 and 9, and therefore haven't had all the same experiences as my daughter. The children in their age bracket are mostly aggressive and occasionally mean. They don't necessarily "alpha-dog" the other kids, or nit pick them on their looks, the same way that the teenagers my daughter goes to school with do. Rather they lash out at random, biting whoever has the misfortune of putting their hand near their food bowl. Let me explain:

Younger kids who live as expats here go through the same things I mentioned above. They're thrust into new cultures, asked to ignore inconveniences and mistreatment, and offered a handful of other children that they either mesh--or don't mesh--with, and told to "make it work."

Am I the only person who hears Tim Gunn's voice when I say that?

Moving on....so these kids are given a very small pool of kids from which to draw. Sometimes they're lucky. They find kids they really dig, and then they spend their time abroad with the bestest bestie that they'll ever have, and they form a solid bond, and then they'll inevitably be asked to break that bond, so that they can move to the next country with mom and dad. It's often explained as "part of the expat experience" and kids are told how "lucky" they are that they will collect these friends all over the world, all in an attempt at raising them to be Global Citizens. Personally, I think it's cruel.

I can hear the naysayers starting to get restless.......hang in there. I warned you this might sting a little.

I am in no way an expert on children, or children's behavior. But I do have four children of my own, I am a former foster parent, and before we moved abroad, I worked at an elementary school as a para-educator. SO....while I am not an actual expert, I do take pride in my ability to see unhappy kids when I spot them. And many of the expat kids I've seen here in the community I am in are not happy children. I see kids who verbally abuse other kids. I see kids who bully other kids, both in person and online. I see kids who manipulate and sabotage friendships. I see kids who become addicted to video games and social media. I see kids who are hypochondriacs. I see kids who are depressed. I see kids who taunt other kids, who egg other children on, and who gaslight other kids. I see kids who try to alter the opinions of other children against their victims. I see kids who self harm. I see kids who lie incessantly.

And the reason they're doing these things is because they're not happy. Yes, these things can happen in your home country just as much as they can happen abroad. Yes, these aren't behaviors specific to living as an expat, but living as an expat doesn't help the problems at all. And in our family's experience, it magnifies the ill behavior, and makes it worse. Like I said...everything you feel when you're an expat is turned up to eleven.

When they don't fit in, and they don't have any other groups of kids to fit in with--it just makes them angrier. When they don't mesh well with a person, but mom and dad keep thrusting them into social situations with them--it just makes them angrier. When they think they've found a friend, but that friend finds a new friend and there aren't any other children available who speak their language--it just makes them angrier. When they are called ugly, or stupid, or <insert insult of your choice> and everyone laughing are the only kids from which they have to choose from--it makes them angrier. My kids were taken away from a place where if one circle of kids doesn't work out, they can go find another circle that does, and plopped into a life circumstance where they are told to "make it work!" or...go without friends, period.

I can't imagine anyone responding well to that situation, much less an eleven year old. Crap, I'm 41, and I could barely handle it.

That's why I made my son apologize to the little punk kid who bullied him online yesterday. Because that punk kid is likely fighting a battle that--while unsaid--is all too familiar to us. He is living somewhere where he doesn't quite fit, doesn't quite like it, and doesn't quite want to be--all because his parents have forced him to be, just like we forced our kids to be--and he is angry, sad, lost, frustrated, and lashing out in random ways, simply because he can. Because he probably has to.

Being an expat in the city where we live is not just a beautiful, enriching world experience. It is those things, but that's not all. It's also demeaning, trying, emotionally draining, exhausting, painful, and incredibly damaging--if you're put into a community that isn't meant to support foreigners. Not that the city where we live set a goal of not being supportive of the expat community. On the contrary, I think it was designed to be an global community--it just isn't there yet. It's young. It's a fairly new city, and like I said, it's filled with pretentious folks who hold social status and public perception in the highest regard. It's simply not a supportive community at this point. It might be, someday. But as of today? Nope.

Unfortunately, this behavior isn't exclusive to expat children here. Oh, no. It is rampant in the adult expat community, as well. Ask me how fun that has been. Just ask.

Just kidding. You know I'll tell you anyway.

Expats here are all about seeing and being seen. And when you are seen, you darn well better play the part of a cultured, well spoken snob, otherwise you're subject to criticism and gossip. Again, I know because we've lived it.

My first year here, I was shell shocked. Gimping along with one foot here in this new, vastly different life of "doing lunch," cocktail parties, going to cultural events for the sake of a photo op, and rubbing elbows--always rubbing elbows.....and one foot back in my plain, somewhat simple suburban life in rural Washington state. I made friends, but didn't get too close, because I was still clinging to my life and friendships back home. I was invited to everything, but only went to about a third, and wallowed in my homesickness for months.

My second year here, I made the choice before even getting on the plane to return after a summer in the USA that "this was gonna be my year." I threw myself into the social game head-first and yes, I played the part, even when it required me to be a colossal b*tch. I did lunch, and gossiped with the other expat women. I planned parties and learned how to mingle and do that odd fake-hug-cheek-kiss thing that people do when they're greeting someone, even if they hate them. I made myself available to the people at the top of the social hierarchy, nudging myself so far up their bums, you could hardly tell where they ended, and I began....and by gosh, I did it. I let my connections to home go by the wayside, shoved my nice, country girl lifestyle to the back of my mind, and played the part of a worldly, socialite expat--despite having grown up on Government Cheese in Fairfield, Washington, and I alpha dogged my way to the top(ish) of the social totem pole......

Which made falling back down that much more painful.

Actual footage of me falling from my spot on the totem pole.

My third year here, my family fell on some hard times. My kids were struggling significantly, and my relationship with family back home had been shattered. My health was taking a nose dive, and the kids did not, and I do mean did not, want to return to their private school for the last year. The strain of the unhappiness was waning on my marriage, and the depth of my children's unhappiness was staggering. We were--as a family--in desperate need of love. When we all climbed on the plane to fly back to South Korea for our last year abroad, we were all bruised and scarred and feeling extremely fragile. We needed love, acceptance, compassion, and to be buoyed up by our community. When we lived in the USA, we were in such a place where if I'd reached out and said "We need help. We need love. We need friends." we likely would've had 5 casseroles dropped off, 3 playdates scheduled, and at least 8 kids would've reached out to my teenage daughter asking if she wanted to accompany them to the mall, to a movie, or to a church activity. We're mormons. Fellowshipping is what we do.

But I'd forgotten where I lived.

Upon returning to South Korea, when I reached out and asked for compassion from some of the expats I considered friends, I was met with what is best called: cold resistance. I was told by a fellow mother that my daughter didn't need be invited to everything, that she didn't need to be lifted up--needed to lift herself up, and she wasn't welcome to impose herself on her daughter's plans. (I'm paraphrasing. But you get the drift.) I was told by another friend all of the reasons I was now unliked by the community (which was news to me,) and all of the things I'd done to offend and ostracize myself. Then I was given a list of things I could change about myself to better fit in and be more accepted by the expats. I was incorrectly called crazy and suicidal by another woman (because that was her only reasonable explanation for my dislike of living in South Korea,) who joked that I was off meds and needed an intervention. I was lied about, gossiped about, and trash talked. I've been iced out of (part of) my church community by a crazy person, and forced to fight tooth and nail for my teenager in a situation where adults shouldn't even have involved themselves. My kids were mocked and ostracized at school because of my social faux pas of speaking up and asking for support from people I thought were friends.

And so--except for just a few select friends--I cut them all off. Shut almost all of them out for my sake, and theirs. (See my post on THAT RIGHT HERE.)

I made the decision to go into my third year abroad with a better attitude. Instead of focusing on having the best time ever, being the center of it all, being popular, seeing and being seen...I decided my focus during this last year abroad would be on being a better person and being myself. Because I was no longer playing the part of a chipper, grateful expat who would look excellent on a South Korean tourism board pamphlet, and because I was brutally honest about my experiences abroad, instead of stuffing all of my feelings down with a xanax and some zinfandel like everyone else here does, I was no longer welcome in the hierarchy. My honesty, transparency, and straight talk weren't welcome. They were frowned upon, and resented. My change in priorities wasn't appreciated. They didn't want me. They wanted the version of me that I'd  created for the sake of being on top--or close to the top--of the social heap. Because I didn't want to systematically and purposefully leave people out of events and activities anymore, I couldn't be part of the fold. Because I didn't want to alpha-dog other grown women to make them feel inferior or unwanted, I was unwelcome. And because I didn't like the person I'd become, mean-girling other women like they were unworthy of my attention or that of my fellow expat snobs, I was no longer a valued member of the expat society here--and neither were my children. I apologized for my behavior to women I'd hurt or left out, and asked for forgiveness. I didn't like the person I'd become over the last couple years, and I told them so. Some forgave me, and became true friends. Others didn't like the new or the old me, and passed on both options. And that was okay. I'd earned that.

Everybody needs a slice now and again.

We're left to our own devices for this last year abroad. Left to paddle our way through the rough waters of expat life with little support from the community we thought we'd built around ourselves. Though we still have the love and support of some, we certainly aren't being buoyed up by the community like we'd been in years prior. When our life got too messy, to unattractive for the clean, shiny, smiling, group of foreigners who do lunch--but little else--we had to learn how to deal with it ourselves. And so.....that's what we're doing.

Every day we get up, assess our situation, pray for the fortitude to get through another day abroad, and discuss how we're going to deal with the inevitable hurtles that will pop up in our way--and believe me, they always pop up. We've learned firsthand how brutal the expat life is, how angry and sad it makes kids, and how difficult it is to fit in, whether you're a child or an adult...and we've found a way to deal with it together. If nothing else, this experience has brought us closer together as a family, and that's something.

The expat life here is no joke. It's tough. Not for the faint of heart. Not for the weak. And like I've said a few dozen times, I'm a giant marshmallow who does not do well in tough situations. This has been a challenge, and that's putting it mildly, and I'll be grateful when it's over. Living as expats has afforded us some amazing experiences, and has created a global awareness in my children that I never could have created otherwise. I am so grateful for that. But I would not categorize myself as big believer in the benefits expat life. In my experience over the last (almost) three years...it's done more damage than good, and for that I have significant mom-guilt. I asked my kids to make a nearly impossible situation work, and then had to sit idly by while almost everything we'd built as a family crumbled down around us. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

And that's the hard truth I wish someone would've told me about a few years ago.


Friday, January 5, 2018


So as most of you know if you've been following my blog for a spell...I wear wigs. My hair started thinning four and a half yrs ago when we had a failed adoption and lost our daughter. Shortly thereafter, I had WLS and lost 100 pounds, and my hair fell out in clumps. Then it grew back. Then we moved to Korea.........and it has been falling out since.

God bless Korea.

Yeah. So.......anyway....I shave my head and wear wigs. And I'm literally never seen without either a wig or a scarf or hat on. Not even my husband and children see me walk around with nothing on my head. Not because of their reaction, but because I really hate being seen without my head covered.

I have friends--usually ones with full heads of thick, gorgeous hair--who push me to go in public with nothing on my head. They see it as empowering me or something, which it's absolutely not. It's embarrassing.

I just can't do it. It's too uncomfortable for me. Which is why when my daughter--who is a very talented makeup artist--asked me to do a photo shoot with glamorous makeup and no wig, I totally wanted to crawl in a hole and hide. Not because she was trying to hurt me, or embarrass me, but because it was asking me to come so far out of my comfort zone, that I felt like I might as well pose naked.

Just utterly exposed.

But........well, I will pretty much do anything for my kids. Well, within reason. And asking to do my makeup and pose for a few pictures is perfectly reasonable. So I finally said yes. And this was the result:

Breathtaking. My daughter has mad skills. She can (literally) make anyone look beautiful.


Thursday, January 4, 2018


I saw this picture online the other day and immediately reposted it everywhere.

Those words basically epitomized my 41st year on earth.

Last year I saw a therapist for a while (stop your laughing and fist pumping, it wasn't my first time, and likely won't be my last--and if you've never been, you should try it. It's amazing.) and he did something life changing for me. Literally, it changed the way I live and think and breathe and exist....

He gave me permission to remove people from my life.

Right?? I know. It seems like as a 41 year old woman, whose been through a divorce and was estranged from her father when he passed away, I would've already known how to do that, but alas, it was something I still struggled with significantly. It didn't make sense to me, either. But still. There I was, keeping people in my fold who were not kind or accepting of me. Usually because of shared DNA, or out of loyalty or respect and concern for other people's feelings, or because I had a history with them, etc, none of which actually did anything for me, except create more drama and unhappiness, but still...I did it.

Until one day I was told I didn't have to anymore.

It was magical.

One day, in one of our sessions, he said to me, "You keep asking people to do things for you that they aren't emotionally capable of doing." And it hit me like a ton of bricks! I really was doing that. I was asking for things from people (somewhat benign things like love, acceptance, respect, inclusion, etc...) who weren't equipped emotionally to give them to me--and then I was destroyed when I couldn't get it. But through that therapy experience, I was able to realize that I was the one who was setting myself up for failure. I was the one who kept going to the watering hole, only to see it was still dried up and empty, and then falling apart because I was still thirsty.

See?? Therapy. It's amazing.

I've spent the better part of the last year--with an emphasis on the last six months--doing what I call "cleaning house."

I've removed people from my life who aren't accepting of me right here, right now, as is, flaws and all. If they can't accept me as I am today, then they can't stay in the boat. Period. Because even though I'm always working on being a better person, learning how to conduct myself better, learning how to communicate better, learning how to shut up better.....I am still me. I will continue to make mistakes, continue to believe the things I believe, and will continue to be the person that God made me to be, again, flaws and all. If that doesn't work for someone, then why stay connected?

If someone's instinct is to change me, or to require me to be anything different from who I am, then they're probably not someone meant to be in my life--and vice versa. The cleaning house movement isn't just done for me. It's done for me and the folks I'm removing. Cripes, if we bring out the worst in each other, then why would we stay connected? If all I do is aggravate you, and all you do it hurt me, or the other way around, then why? Like honestly? Why?

My ex husband and I were smart enough to see that we brought out the absolute worst in each other, and therefore knew we didn't belong around each other. Now we generally just stay away from each other. Kudos to both of us for seeing that, and doing what was right. (Look at me, complimenting my ex husband? Progress!) I just wish it hadn't taken me forty years to realize that I could apply that mentality to any relationship in my life?

Guess I'm a slow learner.

I think that over time, and with the help of some leaders and teachers who have significantly changed me for the better, I have learned to listen to what people are telling me through their actions. Actions speak very loudly and clearly. You just have to pay attention. If someone insults you, or makes fun of you, and it's not done in a mutual, silly-bantering sort of way...they might not be meant to stay in your fold. If someone gaslights or scapegoats you, they might not be meant to stay in your fold. If someone hurts you, or makes you feel "less than" or unworthy, they're probably not meant to be in your fold. If they lie or spread rumors about you, they're not meant to be in your fold. If they regularly ice you out, or stop speaking to you, they're not meant to be part of the fold. If they stipulate changes you need to make, in order to be more lovable or desirable, they shouldn't be in your fold.

Yes, even if they're relatives. Even if they're old friends. Even if they've done nice things for you in the past. Even if it'll tick your family off. Even if it's not socially acceptable.

If the relationship makes you feel anything less than accepted and valued, get out. It's allowed. It really is. It doesn't mean you wish them ill. It doesn't even mean you dislike or hate them. Sometimes you even love them. It just means you're incompatible. And that's okay.

There are some people in this world that I simply do not like myself when I am around, therefore I no longer go around them. Period. I want to be a nice, kind, loving, person, and if a person brings out the worst in me, I'm allowed to stop putting myself (and that person) into ugly situations. I want to be nice, because....

Nice is the new cool, yo.

I'm finally listening to what people are saying to me with their actions. It's frightening, making these changes. Downright terrifying sometimes. I won't lie. But if you're ever made to feel like you're hard to love as is, I strongly recommend you do this.

And go get a therapist, stat. It's worth it. They're amazing.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Have you read Marisol's story yet?

Marisol Vargas is rich and beautiful. And annoyingly overconfident.

Demo Antonopulos is blue collar and ruggedly handsome. And annoyingly craggy and bitter.

These two are about to collide in a very loud, melodramatic fashion. Check out the scene below to see if you might want to read more.....

“You’re gorgeous and confident.” Demo scoffed. “Not to mention conceited, flashy, kinda pretentious, entitled, maybe even a little bratty.” He glanced up at me, and wrinkled his face. “I mean… no offense, or anything.”
            My head jerked backwards. His words stung like a smack. Not because I was insulted, but because I’d been called every single one of those things. More than once. Not that I would admit it to him. “Those are mighty big words for a guy like you.”
            His dark eyes narrowed. “This is exactly why I didn’t want to date you before, and I still don’t now.”
            “Has anybody told you that you’re a dick?” I asked him, my voice shaking.
            “A time or two, yes.” He grit his teeth together. “Has anybody told you that you’re an over-confident little show pony?”
            “You sure didn’t mind cuddling up with the show pony the other night.” I thumped Demo’s chest with my finger. “That is, until your girlfriend showed up.”
            His face was starting to turn red. “She’s not my girlfriend.”
            The office door swung open and the matriarch of Triple D’s appeared in the doorway. “Demetrious Marcos Antonopolous. Are you abusing this young lady?”
            “Abusing? Really?” Demo closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “No, Yiaya.”
            She leaned over so she could see me around Demo’s shoulder. “Hello there, Marisol. How are you?”
            I waved at Yiayia, and my heart tugged. There was something about that old broad that made me want to put on fuzzy PJs and sit down with some cocoa to listen to stories of the days of yore. “Hi, Yiayia. I’m fine, thank you. How are you?”
            “Just great, dear.” She smiled, her wrinkly face scrunching up. “Is my grandson giving you a hard time?”
I looked up at Demo, who’d fixed his gaze on something across the shop. By the disconnected look on his face, he might’ve gone away to his “happy place,” and it only irritated me more. I wanted to cuss him out. I wanted to bring my knee up to collide it with his man parts with a satisfying whack. I wanted to leave Triple D’s in a blaze of melodramatic glory, then ride off in Candace’s minivan…

Oh, crap. Candace was still waiting for me.