Why Write, Why Blog, Why Paint?

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I’m only speaking from my experience here,  but when you lose someone close to you unexpectedly — whether it’s a boyfriend or spouse or child or a parent — it’s amazing how therapeutic you can find the everyday things in life. The simple things. At least that was true for me. Although you’d never know it now, following the death of someone that I love, I begin to work in the yard. I grew things  from seed, I made my own potting soil by mixing vermiculite and three other things I can’t even recall now.  I was the only 23-year-old in the garden section of Lowe’s  every morning at 8 a.m., but it helped me learn to trust God again. I planted 35 hostas around the tree in my backyard in one weekend before I even realized that hostas won’t thrive in my soil, so then I started all over again.

And I also turned to painting. At three in the morning when you can’t sleep and you have all these “what if’s” and “maybe I should have’s” running around in your head, picking up a brush seemed to quiet that. And when I had successfully repainted every room in my house five times — and I’m not joking, the two little girls I kept could come in in the morning and never know what color the walls may be — I turned to painting everyone else’s house. People used to laugh when they would ask me if I love to paint and I would respond, “No, I actually hate it.”  They didn’t realize that I was serious. It was just something I inherited, a talent I was born with, a genetic gift from my mother that I never really even paid attention to until I was grown. I never took an art class in my life — that seems impossible now — but I was too busy with Speech and Theater. Art just didn’t interest me.  Still, it wasn’t so much the end result of painting that I liked or even the process,  it was what it gave me personally — peace of mind. Stillness of thoughts.

Like most artistic people, I enjoy the gift that art gives an overactive mind. Whether that is writing, painting, or music. Whenever I get confused about my place in this world, I pick up a brush. That’s much better than picking up a bottle.

So thanks for your interest in my pieces. There is nothing quite like planting a seed and watching it grow to remember that everything is as it should be and there’s nothing quite like doing a simple task and doing it well to remind you that God is still good and in control.

Thanks for being a part of my healing!

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Dear America: I Wish We Cared About Solving Addiction as Much As We Care About Kim Kardashian’s Robbery

I can’t sleep thinking about that poor woman whose step daughter posted on the Yard Sale pages looking for a support group for her stepmother who had lost her son to addiction. It’s rampant, it’s growing, it’s everywhere. I’ve written many times about the fact that in Tennessee more people died of heroin overdoses than auto accidents last year.  Yet we force you to wear your seatbelt, but what action are we taking to insulate our population from overdose and to overcome addiction. Why are we still — yes, I’m talking to you Dickson County — covering it up? Why aren’t we talking about it, lecturing about this in our schools and our Sunday School classrooms?

Whether you drink yourself into a stupor;  you are gambling addict, a sex addict, a food addict, or you starve yourself — it’s all the same. Or, perhaps, if you’re not one of those,  you’re maybe one of these people that have $15,000 in credit card debt where you can’t step out of the house every morning without being dressed from head to toe because you’re so darn insecure.  Pick your poison.

Unless and until we fill that hole in our soul with something other than ourselves, we suffer. Where the disease of alcoholism gets you is that not only do we suffer in shame and silence, but our form of coping mechanism kills us.  With increasing frequency.  We have generations brought up under what I call the ‘Mama’s Broken Heart Generation’ — where you don’t feel, you don’t talk, and, God forbid,  you show your crazy, right? You lie to save face and you hide it, and the truth,  at all costs.  That was that generations’ mentality.  It’s also the signature characteristics of families peppered by alcoholism.

That particularly damaging line of thinking — never being able to be honest or be real about what’s going on in our life — is what drives people to seek some sort of solace outside of themselves. But we’ve also got to shatter this long-standing American-held notion that men aren’t allowed to have feelings.

I even had battles with Democrats who criticized President Obama when he shed a tear over not being able to do something about gun laws.

“A president can’t be emotional,” they said.

“Maybe Congress needs to be a bit more emotional, maybe Congress needs to shed some tears their own damn self and something might actually get done,” I said.

“Yeah, but presidents can’t boo hoo.  I mean, is he going to stand there and cry when we.get attacked,”  they said.

“He wasn’t crying when he killed Osama Bin Laden, now — was he?”

I think we know who won that round. 

When 20-something first graders were gunned down in their classroom and nobody gave a damn enough to do something, we have problems as a nation. And when one man can buy a weapon that killed 47 people in nightclub — it IS the damn gun,Conservatives.

We don’t want your handgun;  we don’t want your shotgun, we want to stop psychos from outarming the police, and we want to stop one-man killing crews from being able to slaughter dozens in minutes.

Anyway, this wasn’t a gun control rant,  this was a drug addiction awareness one. I’m simply linking to the fact that so ingrained in American society is the belief that we can’t feel emotions, that the president is not even supposed to give way to human elements of showing the ache that comes from burying babies in double digits.

Chhildren are dying, people are dying, in large numbers due to addiction, and I want to know when we are going to get serious about solving it and stop sweeping it under the rug as something ‘bad’  children do.

Yes, good little girls raised in the Church of Christ who can quote the Bible better than you, drink. And good children from wealthy homes who had every opportunity, try drugs and then wake up dead.

We’ve got to fix this so there are no more mothers like that poor woman on the yard sale page.

It’s time to get serious,  Tennessee!

These United States

This morning I was setting in the car at Dunkin Donuts, drinking my coffee, and thinking about how I need to be at home finishing my projects to sell before winter comes and it’s time to turn the gas on. But I needed to write for a minute. Because of the feeling I had when  I looked around at this blessed life we call America.

Everytime I see or have an interaction with somebody who has Down Syndrome, I just feel this calling on my heart to adopt a child that’s been given away because someone either couldn’t care for them or didn’t want to care for them because they were born with Downs. I mean, there is no joy in life quite like what can be experienced through having any interaction with someone with Down Syndrome. The joy in their hearts and spirit is just almost indescribable. And I set there with tears in my eyes watching this champion of life come out with his mom and his car keys, and I always go back to Donald Trump mocking the New York Times reporter on that stage. And it fills me with anger. Because bullies always pick on the weakest person. What Donald Trump failed to realize is how much stronger those with disabilities are than he will ever be.

That conversation last night was so infuriating, I seriously almost threw my cup of coffee at this lady.
To watch someone who claims to have a family member who is disabled defend the actions of Donald Trump — it’s just sickening.  Because there’s no excuse other than it’s rooted in race. If you sit there and say you have a sister who is physically disabled and then you make excuses for a presidential candidate that mocks people like your sister — simply because Donald Trump was outwitted by a man who walked a little different than he  did — there’s no other description for that, no other excuse for that, other than you are a racist white girl who likes what Trump has to say about Mexicans and black people so much that you’re willing to overlook his very clear and deliberate mimicking of someone with a handicap. You don’t have to like Hillary Clinton, but to go so far as to casually dismiss Donald Trump’s actions is unthinkable.

As I’m sitting there a little man walking in the coffee shop hollers at me, and he looks like my Pop except he’s carrying a book like my Uncle Chunky. And I recognize him.  He comes there everyday to drink coffee and read.  He hollered at me and said, “I like that Hillary sticker on the back of your car.  Did you see mine?”

And I just felt my heart smile.

“Yes, sir!” I called. “I saw your Hillary and your Obama one too. You’re my kind of people!”

The fact that he drives a Ford doesn’t hurt.

My heart was simply overjoyed. Seeing that young man with Down Syndrome with his mom, driving. Knowing it took every bit of nurturing that she gave him and every bit of belief and faith that she had in him when some people would have said you can’t, you never will.  And then seeing my Democratic buddy. I was happy, but sad. I just don’t know happened to our country. What happened to politics in this country. Why the division and  the rhetoric that you hear coming out of the anger in this most divisive of American elections is so fear-laden. When it couldn’t be further from the truth. We are in a better position than any other nation on Earth right now. The idea that we’re about to fold, or that nobody is afraid of or in awe of our military or country is just a scare tactic.

As I watched that young man get in his little Ford Ranger with his Mom and put it in drive, I looked through the window at my elderly friend drinking his coffee and reading a little bit of his political book, and I saw generations of Americans.  Young, old.  Black, white. Rich, poor.  Disabled or “normal”  — whatever the hell that is. And that’s the America I know. That’s the America I believe in.  The America public servants like Hillary Clinton dedicate their life to believing in. I can’t imagine, cannot fathom, the idea of getting behind the political prescription alleging to cure the diagnosis of America being a rapidly sinking shithole.

Do we have problems? Of course. Are we a dumpster fire where you’ll get raped by Mexicans, black people have no jobs or education and can’t walk down the street without getting shot —  because, you know, like there aren’t black people who live in the country and farm — and where we are vastly spinning into an oblivion of nothingness and despair and the only man that can save us is the great Donald J Trump alone?

Give me a break! 

The America Tump talks about is not the country I know.  Because the spirit of the American people is there everyday and it is tireless, even in the midst of the most divisive and ugly presidential campaign in American history. 

I see you, America.  I see your spirit.  I see your heart.  I see men like my granddaddy who worked at a Ford plant for decades so his granddaughter could fear S-words on the land he plowed, turn her nose up at the creek, lecture him about the cholesterol and dangers of eating the red meat of the cattle he sold and then gave us the cash, and sit back and read books.

The factory workers in Michigan, the coal miners in West Virginia, the bean farmers in Iowa, and the investment bankers in Charlotte. Everybody across America contributes to the fabric of who we are and it doesn’t stop with being white. I like cornbread and Yankee goulash as much as I like fried catfish and Mexican food. It’s the diversity of America that makes us so special. And it’s the goodness of who we are that makes us a superpower. If we lose that, what have we got?

Trump’s “America First” slogan was specifically derived from the same slogan used in World War II by the Americans who didn’t believe we should interfere with the Holocaust. Their descendants are likely the same ones who don’t believe that we should help Syrian refugees now. If America loses her way, if America loses her soul, if America loses her backbone,  if America loses her dignity, we won’t just be NOT great, we will be lost. Hopelessly.

Hopelessly. And that’s something America has never been. From the time Alexander Hamilton argued with John Adams, we have always known who and what we are and it’s very clear in those documents that our founding fathers sat down for us to govern and guide this great nation.

Some of us long for a time where politics resembled Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan. And a time when friendships were formed by men like the irreplaceable HW Bush and the man who defeated him,  Bill Clinton. Poppy Bush oozes goodness into everything he touches. It is possible to get back there again. To a time when we have more hugs between people like Michelle Obama and George W Bush. A time when you didn’t have to hate somebody just to disagree with them. But it starts with telling somebody like Donald Trump that his voice — his meanness, his cowardice, his gutter gab  — does not represent the majority of us.

And it never will. Not in these United States.

I Owe My Life To Words. I Won’t Abandon Them Now.

Karma has never been kind. Ever.

I learned in 12-step meetings that if we all got what we deserved, we would all be in trouble. And I come to witness this fundamental truth — that God can take far better care of people than you can.

When you know that you’ve always went above and beyond to try to help;  you’ve always extended a hand when you can;  been giving of  yourself and your resources;  always been nice and you let yourself be mistreated on multiple occasions. And someone takes advantage of a situation and uses it as an excuse to get in your face and belittle you — and it’s not even original, it’s the same verbal abuse you’ve heard many times before — I will never again be down on myself enough to apologize for getting angry.  Because I’m human, and that anger is  loooongg overdue. Hell,  even Jesus got angry in The Garden of Gethsemane. All you have to know when you lie down to sleep at night is you have always done your best.

It’s okay to stand up and say I will not be intimidated, I will not be verbally assaulted, and I will not go through another round of verbal put-downs “everybody is embarrassed of me; everybody hates me; I’ll never amount to anything; my Uncle Chunky wouldn’t speak to me if he was alive because he’d be ashamed of me… blah blah blah” by a grown  man who gets in your face and threatens you — or, on several occasions, tells you to open the door so you they can kick your ass — all because you FINALLY attempt to stop lying for them. Stop covering.

Stop pretending to have an answer to “How is so and so…” and start saying, “I have no clue.  They’re not allowed to speak to me because I have no more money to give or because I’m the only one that can’t be manipulated or that one can try to sway, play, draw to their side.”

I’ve never been a piece on that chessboard.

Because here’s the thing: I wouldn’t have made it through the things I made it through if I cared about having anybody on my side. I wouldn’t have made it through what I made it through if I cared what anybody else thinks. I  learned when I was very small that all I have to live for is me and God. And if I’m okay with my choices,  it doesn’t matter if I stand alone. Because when you stand in truth, you don’t ever stand alone.  You stand with your higher power.

The truth is, life has never been that hard for me, but it’s never been that easy either.

I recently had a conversation with someone I went to school with who has always followed my writing who said, “I never would have known it, but girl,  you’ve been through some shit. I always knew you were tough, but I didn’t know how much.”

I haven’t hung out with this girl since high school. But she had no clue how true those words were.

From a court case that changed the course of my life and went all the way to the state Supreme Court that really shook me to my core. To losing two instrumental people in my life so young. To surviving the suicide of a boyfriend and then the persecution by those who tried to have me arrested and intimidated to cover up for the fact that they were involved in his “suicide” that the TBI would not rule out as a murder. To watching so many friends from Spencer to Red Wing succumb to the disease of addiction and alcoholism. I miss them every day. To learning what it’s like to navigate a life where you may not talk to another person for days at a time except for the woman who takes your coffee order. To learning what it’s like to treat food as food and not just another drug to abuse yourself with. To battling depression. To surviving alcoholism with a genetic disease that wanted alcohol more than it wanted sanity. To overcoming the post-traumatic stress that follows you from an experience that shaped every relationship you have with a man a
for the rest of your life — one you still aren’t ready to talk about. The real reason you bailed on college and that degree. Because you couldn’t go back. You can never go back. Not after something like that.  And the only thing you know to do was work double shifts and two jobs and stay busy and don’t think.  And when that didn’t work, you drank.

Until the drinking stopped working, too.

So, see if you think I care about sides, or you think I care what you say about me, you never really took a good look at me at all — did you? Here’s why I will never be quiet and why I will never stop writing, no matter who wants me to…

because through everything that I went through,  it was always the word of somebody else that helped me. Either the words in a book, either in a meeting, or either the tear stained Dixie Chicks album cover jacket and the words that got me through nineteen.  Whatever the source, I swore that if I ever got to a place in my life where it made sense, and I could use one word or one experience to give somebody else some peace, some hope, or some light — then that would make it all worthwhile. The only point of life is each other. And I am only here because somebody gave to me. Every experience I’ve been through has made me stronger.  Every time I didn’t stand up for myself, I learned something and I had to live with disappointment. When I come out of it on the other side, I realize this:   everything we go through is not about us, it’s about somebody else.   We’re here to share our experiences, to pass on our truth, our lessons, and I will never be quiet about my struggles just because somebody else has appearances to keep up — and God forbid the truth be out there, that people who are miserable abuse, manipulate and hurt others.

And people who are generally just content to hurt themselves — while appearing to be the one with all the “problems” — are generally stronger than all the perfect people together.

I’ve lived the life of one who has earned the right to speak out. I’ve battled for my place in this life, and I fought like hell to keep my head above water while everyone else just stood around and said: “Ha, ha — look! She’s drowning!”

I never fucking drowned. 

And this is my time.  It is my time,  and if you think I need you to be there with me — you don’t know me at all.

I’m just sad that anybody else has to be mistreated for actually standing up for me.  I’m just sorry that someone has to be hurt with the things they love the most in life because they had the audacity to finally stand up for me. It’s beyond wrong. It’s shameful.

I’ve said this to my naysayers all along and I’ll say it again. You better hope that your children have one ounce of my soul in them — because  it would be the best gift you could give them. Life could beat the shit.out of them and they’d still stand.

So while you’re out to get a pizza and you see someone who constantly talks about what a fuck up you are drunk and at the liquor store on a weeknight — and driving —  you remember what you learned that made all the difference.

That God can take faaaar better care of people that I can. Everybody gets their dose of Humble Pie, and I’ve eaten enough that I can tell you  — it’s a taste you won’t ever forget.

Some folks have a big ole helping coming.

I speak from experience:  there’s no amount of success, or shit that you can buy, or liquor you can drink to make that mess taste good when you wash it down once it comes your turn at the table.

Best remember that.

What’s Done In Secret, God Rewards In Plain Sight

You know, I’ll say this … I’ll say a lot on my blog, but I’ll just say this here.

When you grow up around a bully, you develop a fight or flight mentality. Boyfriends have chased me down, got in front of the car so I can’t leave, because I absolutely hate bickering and verbal abuse and chaos. Boyfriends hate that about me.  I walk away from a fight. My mother hates that about me, too. I had so much of it growing up, that I just don’t. I’ll say what I have to say — usually in print — and I’ll set  down somewhere where you can read it, and then after that, I’m out until you push me to the point that I show up at your house with a ball bat or a broom.  I run.  I escape. Until I can’t and then I’m kill or be killed. That was a coping mechanism. What I don’t do is all that in the middle. I just say what I have to say and let them whirl. When you whirl too much, you’ll see me. But I don’t go back and forth. When you grow up never knowing  what day you’ll say the wrong thing and have to endure getting your ass kicked, you pick your battles, and you only know one escape — away.

When people start jawing, I’m out. I just put my truth out there, you can do what you want with it. That’s the same reason I no longer argue politics. I just say what I think and you’re only job is to like it or not. I don’t give a damn about “arguing” or feelings. That wasn’t exactly a luxury I had. There was just ANGER all the damn time.

That said, as much as I walk away the second somebody starts running me down — no, I will not stand around one more day and listen to abuse — nobody deserves to be shunned. Nobody. I wouldn’t wish the pain of what I’ve had to endure — and ignore — on my worst enemy. Ever.

It’s cruel. It’s manipulative. It’s abusive. And it’s wrong. The world can never strip from me that which my Uncle Chunky gave me, and even in my most alone, even in my most let down, even in my most lonely, I can go visit his grave and know, instantly, that there’s somebody out there that loves me the way that God loves us all. The world can never beat me down enough to make me lose that. But it doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean I was immune. And I wouldn’t wish that treatment on a stray dog, let alone a person. Nobody deserves that. Nobody.

My friend Jamie would always tell me that where man has hurt you God will use you. And my Uncle Chunky always said what’s done in the dark eventually comes to light, and that God sees all — and rewards all — even if man never does.

If all of that is true, man — it’s going to be hell of a time when it’s time to cash in on spiritual payday. Karma is ugly. But some of us, we have a huge refund coming.

I’m ready to collect my check. 

Rage Against The Internet

Let me rant about a couple things with regards to the internet today. 

1) I left Verizon for Straight talk years ago after my then boyfriend ran up a $800 cell phone bill on our phones buying Madden football games and using the internet 24-hours a day. I learned a couple things then:  a) never sign a contract for a phone for a boyfriend;  b) Straight Talk is the same thing as Verizon but much cheaper. The only downside to that is I have to use a dinosaur of a phone and when I watch the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates four times a piece each on YouTube and used up all my high speed data, my phone is at Turtle crawl. Which makes uploading things on yard sale pages of pain in the booty. 

Now, I’m a bright girl. I did Data Entry for XO Communications, hired at the ripe old age of 20, chosen over people who have retired from BellSouth and came to XO to pursue a second career, given the only position as an order coordinator who had the responsibility of being the sole overseer of two new markets, and not only began to become the go-to trainer for all markets handled by our Service Delivery Center, but became responsible for training sales techs and admins in Austin and San Antonio on a job I have never done — theirs. “Candi in Nashville” became the solution for everything. For several markets. “Call Candi in Nashville,” was a well uttered phrase. I was a political science major, I had absolutely no experience in Tech.  Other than working for BellSouth Mobility which was a welcome change fom the retail and waiting tables double jobs I had been doing while still trying to go to school during my time in BOTH cities, Murfreesboro and Knoxville (I loved that money you could make in a Bill Clinton economy, it bought a lot of alcohol). In another life, I could have given Carly Fiorina a run for her money as becoming the first female CEO of a major tech company.

I can learn anything. I just don’t like to. Especially things like Apple and data. It’s like… Zzzzz!

Which is why when I do get married, he’s going to be, like, a tech geek and get me new iPhones and shit.

Now, next internet rant.

2)  The yard sale pages. That really bugs me. For example, I have a bed that I’m just distressing and selling. It’s been left out in the elements — where a certain someone borrowed it (bet you can guess) and then, because they weren’t having to pay rent, went on a buying themselves new furniture spree, got a new bedroom set, and just threw my bed in the woodpile at my Pop’s instead of bringing it back to me until my Pop called ranting about someone “having no damn sense”and he put it in the bed of his truck and brought it to me, but it had set out in the rain for days and the wood veneer on the front warped and peeled,  but it’s still a solid headboard and footboard, comes with rails, and I’m distressing it to camouflage what just paint won’t. (Is it any wonder I reached my breaking point on a certain individual?)

So… a man saw my post and asked me what I wanted for it. I said $50,  hoping he would come back with $30, and he says nevermind. Now, it’s a solid headboard and footboard even though it’s down to the  pressed board in some spots and comes with rails, and I’m spending my hard-earned time to make it look like something you buy in a window shop in Franklin and pay way too much for. How is $30 unreasonable? Some of these online yard salers irk me. The “looking for free stuff” ones. Particularly when they throw their kids in there. Who isn’t looking for free stuff? But this is life and that doesn’t happen!!

Here’s my bed:

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What was he thinking? $10? It’s worth more than that just to paint. By the time I sand and gloss it, with the right bedding, all you will see is the posts and it’ll be adorable.

Some of these “will you hold it seven weeks and take $0.50 for it folks” are gonna get cut.

I just need to calm down and eat. I realized earlier, due to anger and stress,  that I hadn’t eaten since Friday. Like any girl that’s in recovery from abnormal relationships with food, I realize I haven’t eaten the way some women find out they’re pregnant. Wait… it’s been how many days?

I’m just not sure technology is for me. I still read a hardback, why would I think that I would actually enjoy online yard selling.  No, I’m not going to waste my gas or my coffee money to meet you to sell a $3 pair of britches. What is this stuff?? I think I’m still team the real thing.

The internet, and my lack of high-speed access to it, is on my bad list today, bloggers.

Dear Depression: You Can Suck It

I was just talking to somebody about someone and they said, “What if they apologized?” And I said,  “They can shove their apology right up their rectum with that hose that they used to inflate themselves to a pint-sized Michelin Man. The best thing they can do from now till eternity when they’re around me is to keep their head down and not talk. That’s their only salvation.”

And I remembered.

I remembered who I used to be.

I got an email from a college friend a year or so back that said,  “You just don’t sound like the same girl that I knew. What happened to that girl that wouldn’t take anything off anybody?”

I didn’t know. But it’s true. Depression changes you. In college I mostly hung out with all male friends, didn’t take crap from anybody, unintentionally intimidated most of the other girls that came around and routinely got my tab picked up as an incentive to get me to get in verbal fights with Republican men at the bar. I can still hear my college boyfriend, a Republican, saying: “Here she goes,  here she goes, grab a seat — she’s about to crush him!”  Right before I would tear into somebody over Bill Clinton. This was during the impeachment trial, so I got to do that a lot.

I used to operate on that three-strike system and once you got three strikes, neither Jesus nor Bil Clinton could convince me to let you back in my good graces.

I don’t know, perhaps I’ve been taking Cymbalta and running again long enough to get the benefits that I started to remember who I am and what I’m worth.

I just know that I’ve been walking around today with a completely different attitude of “F*ck you,  depression!”  Maybe it comes from standing up for myself. Maybe it comes from the endorphin release from good old fashioned go-till-you-drop exercise. Or maybe it comes from knowing that my lifelong political hero, Hillary Clinton,  is about to take the White House, and in doing so, is going to defeat a bullying, uninformed idiot who belittles women and verbally abuses them when he can’t outwit them. 

I’ve had a lot of experience with those, so perhaps this victory feels personal.

I started out a journal when I was 19, the very first line reading:  “Someone once told me if you leap, you just might find you could fly. So I jumped. And I hit the ground.  But the fall didn’t kill me,  and I saw some pretty incredible things on the way down.”

That was why I always claimed that the title of my memoir was going to be “On The Way Down.” I can’t think of anything else that sums up life, or at least my life, any more beautifully than that.

Of course like everything else I wrote and did nothing with, it’s now the title of a country song making somebody else money, but first penned by me.

C’est La Vie, friends. C’est La Vie.

Which, coincidentally, is the same way I feel about depression. That’s life. But not ALL of life. There’s so much more to me — and you — than that.