One week ago today I sealed the house, locked my doors, and wondered if I would ever see it again.
I moved from California to Florida 20 years ago this month. My plane landed the evening of September 21, 2017. It was a new adventure, living in a city that I fell in love with the first moment I saw it.
We’ve had storms over the years. Tropical weather, Cat 1 hurricanes. We’ve had scares. Remember Charlie? He scared the hell out me up until he took an odd east turn and destroyed the center of the state. We’ve had nothing like Hurricane Irma.
Usually, there is about a week of warnings. A week. A week of every news organization, local and national, warning of every conceivable bad thing a hurricane can bring. Death. Destruction. Mayhem. Heartbreak. Devastation. They thrive on it. They spend every moment warning of the upcoming apocalypse. It’s their job.
The meteriorologists and anchors love a good hurricane. They become giddy at the idea of 24-hour coverage, meyham, death, and destruction. High winds will take down mobile home parks, trees, and roofs. Heavy rains will bring street flooding. Storm surge will bring worse. WE MUST WARN THE PUBLIC! Yes, they must, and it’s overwhelming.
A week of these messages leaves a person battered and bruised before the storm even arrives.
Then there is Storm Anxiety. That feeling of dread that takes over. The inability to decide, do I stay or do I go? For me, the inability to eat without running to the bathroom. Constant nausea. I lost five pounds in four days. Five pounds. Four days. Think about that. Storm Anxiety brought me the need to lay in a fetal position. All day. Storm Anxiety led me to accept the fact that I would not have a home when all was said and done.
My Storm Anxiety set in on Monday September 4. I was scheduled to work only Tuesday and Wednesday that week, as I had taken a few vacation days to “relax and rejuvenate” after a crazy couple of months. Ha. Irma had other plans. That damn Irma.
The reports stated that:
- Irma was going to take out the Keys.
- Irma was going to take out South Florida.
- Irma was going to take out the Tampa Bay Area.
- Irma was going to come right on up and wipe out St Petersburg.
- I live in St Petersburg.
I reserved a rental car that Tuesday for a Friday pick up. I had a list of what to pack and a doctors appointment on Thursday to refill my blood pressure meds. Kind of a necessary appointment.
By Thursday, Irma had shifted east enough that I cancelled the car and used that money to trim up my front trees. I went to the doctor. The pharmacy screwed up my order. They said to return on Friday to pick it up. It was chaotic there and I forgave them and headed home.
Friday morning, Irma had jogged again and was heading straight for us. My car rental was no longer available, there most likely wasn’t enough gas in the state to get me to safety (not that anyone could guess where that might be,) and I still didn’t have a prescription.
Here’s the thing about evacuating that people don’t understand or ever really hear. There are two roads in and out of Florida, one on either side of the state. I live in the middle on the west coast. If you want to safely leave, ensure there is gas along the way, and that you won’t get stranded on the side of the road, you must go at least four days in advance. I’d lost my window of opportunity. It could take 20 hours to go what would normally take three hours. I know this to be true, as I know many this happens to.
Over the course of that week many friends and relatives called and texted and messaged. At one point it was so overwhelming I had to turn my phone off for 14 hours. I did not listen to the radio, I did not watch the news, I pretty much turned off anything electronic. It was kind of nice being in the dark so to speak, for those 14 hours.
Everybody meant well. It was just too much all at once, and constant reminders of the doom and gloom that was being spread. While I love everybody, it did not help my anxiety level. I did my best not to let on.
A friend invited me to ride the storm out at her place. She tempted me with her new hurricane resistant windows and not being alone. I took her up on it and am I glad I did.
I stood in my house last Saturday, a few keepsakes in hand, and said goodbye. I expected that I would lose my roof, as it is almost 20 years old. I knew if that happened I would lose everything inside. I live in evacuation Zone C, so I wasn’t worried about the water rising. If the water rose that high, well, we would have bigger problems. I honestly couldn’t think of anything I had to take except my kindle, some clothes, and a very special book. I locked the doors and drove away, crying.
Sunday we hunkered down and sat out the storm. We watched it get windier and windier, rainier and rainier. I posted some video updates periodically on Facebook, which seemed to give my friends and family something to watch and hear from me.
Sunday night was when all the action was to occur. I went to bed about 11:30 PM and the power went out at 12:04 AM. I listen to the wind and the rain batter the front of the house. Thank goodness for new windows! I did finally fall sleep for a few hours, and woke about 6 AM Monday morning. It was still windy but the worst had passed.
We waited until the city and county said it was safe to be on the roads and then we ventured out. We checked a couple friends houses who were out of town and then I went to my house. Everywhere we went there were downed trees, branches, debris. Overwhelming.
I insisted on going to my house alone. Whatever had happened, I wanted to be there to soak it in before letting anybody else into my emotions. I was raw and numb by that point, and I just didn’t know how I would react.
On September 11, 2001 I sat in my living room crying, a feeling of disbelief and numbness washing over me as the towers fell and our country changed. 19 years later, I sat in my living room crying again. This time the numbness and disbelief were joined by gratitude.
My house was standing. I had a roof. There was a lot of debris in the yards. One small tree had came down in the backyard and barely brushed my back porch. There was no power, and there wouldn’t be for several days. But my little house had survived.
Tuesday we went full force into cleanup mode. I cleaned up the front and sides of my house, and then I joined my friend and cleaned up the front of her house. We also helped a couple of her neighbors take care of some things at their houses. It was a full day, And no time to really let anything sink in.
Tuesday night it all hit me. My family and friends were still messaging and texting to make sure I was OK. The only way I can describe how I felt then and now is shell shocked. It is still incredibly overwhelming. You’re thankful, and then you feel guilty because you actually came through it OK and so many others didn’t.
- 80% of the county I live in lost power.
- 25% of the homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed.
- 4 million people in Florida lost power.
- 12 people died at Irma’s hands the last time I looked.
- 1.1 million lost power in the Tampa Bay Area.
There are islands in the Caribbean that may not exist anymore. There are other islands in the Caribbean who are running out of food and water and desperately waiting for help to arrive. Elderly people who went to shelters and can’t go home. So many people displaced. So much devestation.
And the media? They are hanging on every horrible tidbit, cameras in faces, reporting the worst. Again. Death. Destruction. Mayhem. Heartbreak. Devastation.
Overwhelming. Shell shocked. I haven’t complained much as I’ve been fortunate to come through relatively unscathed. A little house damage that can be dealt with. No power for five days. A place to stay that had power and all the comforts of home.
I am exhausted.
I cry easily. I find myself driving around taking it all in. I close my eyes and hear the wind and rain. I still can’t wrap my head around it. Shell shocked. Numb.
I will go home tomorrow and move back into “normal”. I will take less for granted. I hope I begin to feel normal soon.
This article first appeared on Sassy Direct on August 27, 2017.
Someone asked me recently, “Why Willing Beauty?” My “Why” is a bit long and involves an ankle brace, a boot, air conditioning, money, and tenacity.
In 2014 I decided I wanted to do a half marathon. I have never been an athlete, but it sounded like something cool to do when I turned 50. I didn’t know if I would walk or run, but I knew I would do it. I had a year and a half to prepare. I had time to train and choose a race, and I was excited. I started walking. One morning I was walking downtown, hitting my stride, and I felt my ankle turn under. I fell. Hard. I hit the ground and I felt incredible pain all over.
People stopped and tried to help me up, and I said no, I’m fine, I’m just a clutz. I got myself up and limped to a nearby bench. I looked down to see that my knees and shins were a bloody mess, as was my hand and water bottle (which I had been holding when that hand hit the ground.) No wonder passers by and the people who tried to help looked so concerned. I washed them off with my water bottle, sat for a few minutes, and decided to continue on.
I walked about three miles that morning. When I got back to my car, I took off my shoes and socks and saw stars. My ankle had been sore during the walk, but when the sock and shoe came off? It was swelled double, horribly bruised, and it hurt like hell. The doc said that when I removed the sock and shoe, I released the blood and tissue that was keeping it compressed. He put me in a brace and sent me to physical therapy. I had torn ligaments, and I was a mess.
It got better, slowly, and I walked a 5k in that brace in October 2014. 58 minutes, hitting my goal of less than an hour, two months after that fall.
2015 was the year to really train. I walked another 5K in March, improving on my time by about 5 minutes. Excellent. Not long after that 5K, my wayward ankle turned under again. It was worse than before, and I ended up in a boot. It took longer to bounce back.
I persevered. I continued walking, increasing my speed. Three friends and I signed up for the Disney Princess 5K to be held in February 2016, a few weeks after I would turn 50. We needed to be able to walk it with a 15 minute per mile pace or better. We were gonna DO this thing. (We really just wanted the T-Shirt and medal.)
In the summer of 2015, my air conditioner decided to begin a slow descent into oblivion. I poured what I had into keeping it going, as I couldn’t afford a new one. The financial burden of living on the edge for so many years was taking a toll on me, but I had my walking and Disney to keep me focused. This was just another bump in the road.
After Thanksgiving, I signed up with a coach, someone who could help me walk my 15-minute mile and reach my goal. She was affordable, and I really liked our sessions. Things were looking up again.
On December 23, 2015, my air conditioner took its last breath. It was 90 degrees that day, and we were looking at those temps taking us to the new year. I was devastated. I simply could not afford $5-6K for a new system, no matter how I ran the numbers. You see, I live in Florida. This was, in my mind, catastrophic.
I dragged myself out, put on a happy face, and spent Christmas with friends. I tried to push the home issues down and enjoy the day. There was a visit my bestie, a trip to Tampa for lunch with more friends and then we went to see the new Star Wars movie. It turned out to be a wonderful day and I was thankful. I actually had fun. That evening as I was leaving, my weak ankle turned under again. This time I was on my friend’s front steps and the fall was spectacular. I’m pretty sure I scared her family. The ankle was blown again, worse than the first two times.
The next few weeks remain a blur. Pain. Fear. Anxiety. The boot. My ankle was so bad and I was so miserable. I spent New Years Day trying to figure out how to change this ridiculous trajectory I was on. Someone had reached out to me a few days earlier about joining a Direct Sales company. I decided to see what that was about. I joined on New Year’s Day, having no idea what I was going to be selling.
2016 was unpleasant. On January 11, 2016, my cat escaped to the garage and climbed up on the loft area over the kitchen. I climbed a ladder to get her (without my boot.) I lost my balance and the ladder toppled over. My head fell 11 feet to the cement floor. Metal shelving broke my fall. I miraculously was able to stand up and get myself into the house. You can see photos and the story here. An undiagnosed concussion would wreak havoc from then on.
I turned 50 with zero fanfare. In fact, I was incredibly sick and miserable. There was no celebration. I had nothing to celebrate. I was living with no air conditioning in Florida. My ankle hurt all the time. The concussion was bad, and I was having a hard time with simple things like remembering my words and driving. I struggled with using the products that I was selling. I had no idea what I was doing. I stumbled upon a Facebook group whose goal was to provide training to direct sellers. Proper training. The group was all about attraction marketing and not spamming. It was the opposite of what I’d been exposed to, and I decided to learn as much as I could.
Our mother died in April. She and I had grown estranged for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into. My brother took the brunt of all the crap that was her life and her final few months. Suffice it to say, recovering from that took a toll on both of us for a very long time. (I still yell at her from time to time.) A brief summary of that time can be found in my posts Derailed and Life is a Choice…Just Choose.
Somehow I survived summer. I got into a routine of when to open the windows when to close them when to leave the house and when to go home. My business was not going anywhere, mostly because I could not use the product. How could I sell something I could not use? I am stubborn and continued to try to make it work.
In September my niece had a baby. A miracle of life and something positive during a time when my brother was struggling with too many burdens related to our parents. Burdens I could not help with, and for which I will always feel guilt. I saw that baby as his reward for being a good son. I was happy for him and his new family. I was still quietly struggling.
In November our father died. The parental saga was over. It had been a horrible, sad, devastating year. I honestly don’t recall much of the end of the year. A lot of grief, a lot of anger, and still, a product that I could not use.
2017 arrived and I declared things had to look up. I would figure out the money and the business. Living with a brain injury quite literally changed my life, my focus, and my priorities. (And yes, I’m still recovering.)
In February a friend who I’d gotten know in that Facebook group reached out and told me about a new company that was starting and a ground floor opportunity. I ran the numbers quickly in my head and told her no and thank you for thinking of me.
The problem was, I could not let it go. I kept running the numbers. Looking at the opportunity. Researching the company. I started saving. I wanted in on Willing Beauty. My friend was building an amazing team and had an amazing mentor. The product was exactly what I wanted to use at a price point I could afford. I started saving.
In April I surprised my friend and joined. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or how, but I knew I had to be part of this from the beginning. I had learned so much in the last year and a half, I knew I could make this happen. I began using the product.
My skin loved it. I had no issues. NO ISSUES. I shared HY+5 regimens and an Essentials regimen with close friends and family. Dry skin, oily skin, combination skin – we all could USE IT! I resigned from the other DS company to focus on Willing Beauty.
It’s now the end of August. There have been hiccups and there have been changes. That is always the case with something new, right? Willing Beauty officially launched on August 1. I have customers. I have a wonderful mentor and an amazing upline. I’m building a team. It’s beginning.
I continue to be told that my skin looks really good. My fine lines have lessened, the tone and texture are better and my skin feels hydrated all day. This product really IS as good as they said it would be. What I like almost as much is that I can FINALLY be a walking billboard for what I sell.
Some of my friends, people my age, are beginning to retire. I obviously didn’t plan as well as they did. I’m incredibly happy for them, don’t get me wrong. But it’s in the back of my mind, taunting me. I see other friends working well into their 70’s, and it’s hard for them, physically and mentally. Thier lives didn’t turn out exactly as they had imagined either. It hurts my heart.
At some point in the last few months, I woke up scared. I don’t want a third Florida summer with no air conditioning. I don’t want to work into my 70’s. Hell, I don’t want to work into my 60’s. I’m 51 years old. I need a solid retirement plan. I need a home that I can live in and not visit each evening to sleep and shower. I want to swallow my anxiety and put my walking shoes back on. Walk before Run. I think it applies to both my half marathon and my business. Time, training, hard work, enjoy the rewards.
I’m not afraid of hard work. I’ve worked since I was 14. I know how to work. I’m devising a plan and creating goals. I’ve never done that before, so I’m seeking advice. I WILL transition from working full time and doing Willing Beauty in the off hours to working party time and doing Willing Beauty full time. Then I will not need a “real job” at all.
The culmination of the last three years is my “Why”. Willing Beauty is still ground floor. The compensation plan is great, and the path to get there is doable. It is DOABLE! I just have to be willing to put in the work. Work and sacrifice now to ensure I have a future. Walk before Run. I’m good with that.
Where can you buy Willing Beauty? You may visit my website at fiftysetgo.willingbeauty.com and shop our products. Don’t forget about our 100% Happiness Guarantee! It promises that if our products are not right for you, they can be returned for a full refund, including shipping, no matter if the bottles are full or empty. We believe in our products THAT much!
You may also join my community at www.pennyslounge.com. There we discuss important topics of the day (like the weather or what kind of milkshakes we like) and share about the journey we call life. If you’d like to know more, give me a shout at email@example.com. I’ll be happy to answer your questions and tell you more.
This article first appeared in Sassy Direct on August 8, 2017.
It’s that time of year when parents purchase school supplies and the kidlets grab their backpacks and head back to school. It’s a time for new clothes, new notebooks, new shoes, new pencils and pens, new book covers (do kids still use book covers?) and the inevitable first day of school angst.
It’s tough to be a kid! Especially a kid on the first day of school. Choosing the perfect outfit, styling the coolest style, rockin’ the clear skin…Wait, how do you do that? How many of you got up excited on the first day of school only to find a new pimple had formed overnight? Or worse, it appeared on school picture day! What is a kid to do?
My first pimples arrived at age 12. I’d like to say they have gone away, but a few times a year, one pops up and reminds me that they are still out there, watching, waiting to ruin a perfectly good day. I had little to fight them except a horrible product that dried the offending area out so that it looked worse than when I started. I always ended up piling makeup and cover-up on to try to deflect from the issue. It didn’t work.
When this happens to a kid, it can be devastating. Enter the willa line of products from Willing Beauty. We offer a variety of better for you products to help tweens and teens get the upper-hand against pimples and blemishes while learning the importance of a good skin care regimen. The willa line is made to the same standards as the HY+5 Regimen, making it a kinder, safer approach to teen and tween skin care.
The Essentials Regimen is a gentle “starter set” to get kids going in their skin care regimen. This set is all about prevention and developing good habits. It is perfect for tweens as well as teens who have fewer issues with acne and blemishes. For the occasional blemish, the TAKE ACTION Acne Spot Treatment pen is a perfect companion. Kids (and adults) can keep one at home and one in their backpack (or purse) so they are always ready to stop blemishes in their tracks. I never leave home without mine!
The Clear Skin Regimen battles everything from blemishes to full-on acne. It was created especially for blemish-prone skin. It treats, soothes and protects leaving kids with healthier skin. Oh, how I wish I’d had that when I was 14!
What do you do if your kidlet isn’t into skin care? What if he or she doesn’t want to take a bath more than once a month, let alone wash their face twice a day? Everything in the willa line can be purchased ala cart. Find the product that they WILL use, and take baby steps with them. This too shall pass, really!
During the month of August 2017, we are offering a special on all of our regimens. You can choose either The Essentials Regimen or Clear Skin Regimen AND receive a FREE XO Lip Oil for just $48! That is a $32 savings! When you sign up for our No-Brainer Replenishment at the time of purchase, you will receive a special code in September to lock in the $48 price for the life of your replenishment. The last day to order is August 31, so don’t delay! The prices on the website are already marked down to make it easy. The free gift will automatically be added to your order. How awesome is that?
What happens when your kidlet starts using these products, falls in love with them, and starts telling all their friends about it? Kids 14 or older can become a willa Boy or a willa Girl! What a great way to share the better for you skin care love while earning money for things like class rings, car insurance, cool designer clothes that mom and dad don’t want to buy, school jackets, prom and college!
You may visit my website to learn more about willa the girl and product line (yes, she is a real girl!). Got questions about the products or how to become a willa Boy or a willa Girl? Contact me on Facebook. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have! If you’d like to hang out, join my Facebook Group, we have a lot of fun!
Here’s to a healthier, happier you!
Thanks for wanting to request a free catalog for Willing Beauty…Wait! We don’t have a traditional catalog!
“But how can I see what you have to offer?” That’s easy! Read on…
What we DO have is an easy to navigate website with all our company and product information readily available. Providing our story, services, and products electronically makes it easy for everyone to find what they need without depending on a print piece that can be easily misplaced and outdated. Best of all, we are able to invest the dollars spent on catalogs on YOU and the products your skin loves most.
On our website, you will learn the company’s “why” – the story of a mom who, through a skin cancer experience, began to question the safety of the ingredients in our personal care products. The more she learned, the more determined she was to provide her children safer options.
You can read about the ingredients behind our proprietary HY+5 Complex™ – Hyaluronic Acid + the 5 Forces of Nature representing the best age-defying, skin nourishing goodness that Mother Earth has to offer:
- Prickly Pear Seed Oil
- Alpine Edelweiss Flower
- Deep Sea Hydrothermal Enzymes
- Vitamin C
- Antarctic Glycoproteins
You will find that we offer three regimens plus ala carte options to cover the skin care needs of young adults and grown ups alike. We truly have something for everyone!
Are looking for the HY+5 Regimen, the Start Fresh Foaming Face Wash, the Clear Skin Regimen, Peel Away Charcoal Mask or the amazing XO Lip Oil? Our website makes to easy to select your desired product, learn about it, and make a purchase.
You can also easily see the fabulous perks that are available to our customers;
- Our 100% Happiness Guarantee ensures you get back every cent of your purchase, including shipping if our products are not right you.
- The Crush Club helps you earn Golden Heart Rewards with every purchase. You can use your rewards for FREE product. You also get a personal website and the ability to share the love with others!
- Our flexible No Brainer Replenishment can be set to YOUR schedule (4, 6 or 8 weeks) which guarantees that you never run out of the products your skin loves most.
Are you looking to start a business, add another income stream to help with monthly expenses, earn some mad-money or work full time for yourself instead of someone else? We make it easy to become a Beauty Advisor. You can use your Golden Heart Rewards to upgrade to Beauty Advisor at no additional charge or you can opt to become a Beauty Advisor from our “Join” menu and start right away.
To put all this in a catalog would make for a big ole thick book! Who wants to keep track of that? Our website allows you to point, click, and go straight to what you want to see.
Here’s to a healthier, happier you!
I’m a busy girl. I’m rockin’ and rollin’ all day long, and when I get home at night I want nothing more than to change into my jammies, curl up and relax. I don’t want to be bogged down with a complicated skin care regimen. One of the things I love about Willing Beauty’s regimens is that they are SO simple to use! Three steps in the morning, three steps at night, and they take less than 5 minutes. I am more than willing to commit to that kind of routine! (See what I did there?)
HY+5 Regimen Morning
Step 1 is the cleansing. In the morning, I hop into the shower, wash my hair, apply conditioner, and then wash my face with DO OVER Nourishing Cleanser. I love this cleanser! When I was a kid, I was always told my skin wasn’t clean until it felt tight. No more! It smells so…clean, and it does not make my face feel tight after I’ve used it. In fact, the first day I used it, I washed my face twice because I thought maybe I didn’t use enough!
Step 2 is to moisturize with DAYDREAM Illuminating Day Moisturizer. This stuff is so yummy! It comes out of the tube thin, so you think, “I’m going to need a lot of this.” That is not the case. A little goes a long way. A pea size amount takes care of my face and my neck/chest (because we should always cleanse and moisturize there too!) It absorbs nicely and doesn’t leave any kind of “moisturizer feeling” behind.
Step 3 is the GET SET SPF 30 Tinted Primer. Again, a little goes a long way. Slightly tinted to help give a smooth appearance to your skin, this product has better for you SPF to protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun. You can use it alone or follow up with makeup.
Easy Peasy! Less than 5 minutes (not counting the shower time, because I take a seven-ten minute shower.)
HY+5 Regimen Evening
I don’t take an evening shower, usually, so we can skip the shower time. The evening routine is just as simple and just as effective.
Step 1 is cleansing my wash my face with DO OVER Nourishing Cleanser. It washes away the day and leaves my skin feeling clean and fresh.
Step 2 is to moisturize with PARTNER IN TIME Ave Defying Night Serum. Like the DAYDREAM, it out of the tube thin, but a little goes a long way and you immediately feel the difference. This product has a little extra oomph, so it works it’s magic while you sleep. Again, a pea size amount takes care of my face and my neck/chest. It too absorbs nicely and doesn’t leave any kind of “moisturizer feeling” behind.
Step 3 is my little secret weapon, the SLEEPOVER Replenishing Night Cream. Thicker and creamy feeling, it too does not require a lot. It seals in the PARTNER IN TIME goodness while giving yet another boost of HY+5 action. It absorbs nicely and doesn’t leave that icky “I’ve got thick moisturizer on my face” feeling.
Again, less than 5 minutes and super simple!
HY+5 Regimen Morning Modified
I have VERY dry skin. Even living in the humid state of Florida, you can look at my arms and legs and see that I could possibly be reptilian. I’m not, I just have dry, scaly skin! I have adjusted the daily HY+5 Regimen to accommodate my moisture needs. Thus, my personal regimen is 5 easy steps.
Step 1, cleanse with DO OVER.
Step 2, after cleansing I use the BORN TO GLOW Skin Elixir, a wonderful mix of luscious oils that gives my skin that extra attention it needs. A few drops go a long way. I use it around my eyes and mouth, my forehead, and neck.
Step 3 is DAYDREAM.
Step 4 is a tiny amount of SLEEPOVER Replenishing Night Cream. Honestly, the tiniest bit.
Step 5 is the GET SET SPF 30 Tinted Primer.
How did I come upon this combo? I played with the products and amounts for a couple days until I landed on the combination that left me feeling fresh and hydrated all day long. And it still takes me less than 5 minutes. Easy Peasy!!
Do you have 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening to devote to beautiful skin? Hop on over to my Facebook Page and shoot me a message, or shop here. I’m happy to answer questions and help you get on the path to beautiful skin.
Here’s to a healthier, happier you!
If you watch Grey’s Anatomy or you have read Shonda Rhymes Year of Yes, you know of the superhero pose:
“Standing around like Wonder Woman in the morning can make people think you are more amazing at lunchtime.” Stand up like a badass, legs in a wide stance, chin up, hands on your hips. Like you own the place. Like you have on a magical silver bracelets and know how to use them. Like your superhero cape is flapping behind you!
-Shonda Rymes, Year of Yes
First, Year of Yes is an awesome book. Second, buy the book. Everyone should read the book!
I never realized I had an inner superhero until long after I’d lost her.
I grew up in a small town. From as far back as I can remember, I felt like a fish out of water. I mean no disrespect to anyone in my family or the town I grew up in. I simply always longed to see and experience what the world had to offer, and I never felt like I belonged, even in my own family. I often felt like an outsider looking in, wondering what was wrong with me.
I always had a lot of fear in me, deep down, paralyzing fear. Fear that held me back, fear that left me on the sidelines. There was always a voice in my head saying “you don’t need that” “stop over-reaching” “why can’t you appreciate what you have” “it’s good enough for us” – years later I would learn that the voice in my head was the mother.
At the age of 12, I began planning my escape. Things happened that year, things that scarred my soul. 12-13 were hard years for me. Being the good girl I was, I never said a word about my struggles. Never once, to anyone. But, I knew I wouldn’t stay. I just had to get to high school graduation. 12 year olds should never think like that.
At age 14 I read the book Scruples, or as I like to say, sex education in paperback! It was a great book full of adventure, strong women…and sex! I hid that book for a long time because, well, the mother did not need to know I had read all THAT! (When she read the book, I got yelled at.) But the sex part didn’t make an impact near as much as Paris did. It was then that I fell in love with the idea of seeing Paris. Paris was Utopia, my ultimate goal. I had to get to Paris. When I would mention that? I was told I didn’t need to go to Paris. There was nothing in Paris for me. “It’s just a book. Stop trying to be someone you’re not.” “Everything there is old, there’s nothing to see.” “Parisians are rude.” “Be realistic. People like us don’t go to Paris.”
Throughout high school, I began to come into my own. I credit a few amazing teachers who saw potential in me, encouraged and mentored me. They truly changed the path of my life and made me believe I DID deserve all the world had to offer. I could BE more, DO more, WANT more.
I took part in Future Homemakers of America and was able to travel to regional and state meetings, participate in competitions, and meet new people who were not from our small community. Me? Homemaker? It wasn’t just about that so much as giving young women the skills to be amazing.
By Senior year, things were clicking for me. I was evolving into a confident person whose fear of everything was slowly being replaced with anticipation for the future. The beginnings of my superhero cape were forming.
I became a regional officer for FHA. The leadership training and time spent with my advisor was a true, life-changing gift. The mother did not approve. She didn’t understand why I never wanted to be home. That was her stance. Me, looking for excuses to be gone, wanting more than I really needed…
My music teacher encouraged me to sing the National Anthem at our first or second home football game. A Capella. I don’t remember that very well. I recall walking out onto the field, taking a few breath, and for the first time, unconsciously assuming the super-hero stance. I remember it ending and people being amazingly kind and complimentary. I thought, if I could do that, I could do anything!
There was a flurry of music training, music and FHA camps, drama, and other FHA related activities in high school. It all prepared me for life on the outside (although I did not realize that at the time.) Gifts I never took for granted.
Those experiences taught me to perform.
If nothing else, I could push the fear down and PRETEND I was brave. I could put on my game face, assume the superhero pose, step “on stage” and be amazing.
I desperately wanted to go to college. That was not encouraged at home. Waste of time. Waste of money. We didn’t go to college, we are doing fine. “What have we ever done to make you want to leave? “You’ll get no help from us!”
She kept that vicious promise, and I was determined to NEVER move back home and let her win. I won a few scholarships, but in the end, the choice was college or rent. I ended up ending my brief college career and losing those precious scholarships. “You just have to work hard, you don’t need more than that.” “Come home and I will take care of you. Just come back home.”
My superhero cape had a tear in it. I’d failed. I couldn’t figure out how to make college happen on my own. I was all of 19, how could I let that happen? I later learnedthatnlack of parental support was punishment #1 for having the audacity to move out of the house after graduation. That tear in my cape was the first of many.
I was 23, I think, when I decided to go to a trade school and get my accounting certificate. I needed more skills to get a better job. That opened the door for my 17 year career at a company that changed my life. I learned amazing skills in the accounting and IT departments, and they didn’t care that I didn’t have a degree (that wasn’t as big a deal in the 80’s and 90’s as it is now.)
While I excelled at work, I did not excel at a personal life. I fell into a rut, believing, finally, that if I just worked hard I didn’t need anything else. I had drank the Koolaid. My cape was slowly shredding. She had won. A business trip to Florida woke me up and changed the course of everything.
A co-worker invited me to spend the weekend with her. We went to the beach. I experienced downtown. This was a place I could see myself living in. It wasn’t Paris, but there was 28 miles of white sandy beaches. It was kind of like the Santa Cruz I remembered when I was really little, without the boardwalk. The place my Nana taught me to love the ocean. The mother hated that my Nana had such influence in me.
St Petersburg Florida is an amazing city with a small town feel. The vibe, the pace, it all just clicked for me at that time. It was exactly the change I needed to make, and I hadn’t been looking for a change!
I took a deep breath and made a superhero decision to move. That was twenty years ago. My cape was slowly mending itself.
That decison began a 19 year battle with the mother, full of anger, hostility, lies, manipulations and verbal abuse. I was over-reaching again. She must have failed if I needed to live so far from her. Yada. Yada. Yada. As hard as I tried to fight it, she continued to influence me. My poor cape.
I blossomed. I took up volunteering and focused on fundraising. I was a member of the Junior League (which made the mother crazy, me being one of those “stuck up, elitists”. “You’re not one of them. You never will be. Stop over-reaching.”) I worked with Race for the Cure. I loved volunteering, giving back, being a part of something bigger. It was satisfying.
It took superhero powers to approach businesses for funding. Hell, I solicited $500 from my gynecologist while my feet were in the sturrups! I was terrified, but I was DOING. Living. Being.
I finally went back to school. Twenty-odd years after failing, I was back. I loved it. I did amazingly well. I got a bachelors in three years, while working full time. I worked, I studied, I went to class, I did homework. That was my life. The response from home? “That’s a waste of money. Why do you continue to want more than you are meant to have?” “You are wasting your time, you need to come home.”
I graduated, exhausted, run down, and numb. As much as I loved school, keeping up with everything took a toll on me. A few months later my 17 year career came to an end. Changes were in the air and I did not want to be a part of them. While I don’t regret leaving when I did, doing so broke my spirit. That was my home, the place I had grown into an adult, it was in my blood. My boss and I didn’t part on the best of terms and that ate me up as well. Part of me has never fully recovered from the loss. My cape had a new, huge tear and a few shredded areas.
I ventured out on my own and started a business. Timing was bad, economics were not in my favor, and try as I might, I couldn’t make a go of it. When my biz ended, the experience broke me some more. My cape looked like Swiss cheese.
The last ten years have been, well, hell in many ways. The abuse from the mother plus the ups and downs of my finances, health, and overall life…everything I tried to achieve left me scarred and two steps behind where if begun. Soul sucking is the word you’re looking for. The pressure from the mother became unbearable.
That brave little girl retreated and my inner superhero disappeared. The cape fell into ruins, and the remnants blew away in the crazy, wild winds that were ruling my life.
In the last two years I blew out my ankle a a second and third time. The mother died, and I felt guilty for feeling relieved. The father died. I reconnected with family I had been denied a relationship with most of my life. I learned a great deal about the truth of my childhood and the lengths the mother would go for absolute control. I woke up and saw the mother for the insane, sociopath she truly was.
In the end, I was going through the paces. Get up. Go to work. Go home. Sleep sometimes. Get up. Go to work…
This week I realized…I am a shell of my former self.
In the shower a couple days ago, I realized I need to get that brave little girl back. I need to make a new cape. I assumed the superhero pose. I stood there, allowing the water to wash off the grime of the previous day and some from the previous years. I realized I will need a lot of showers to wash all that grime away. I began searching for that brave 12 year old who wanted to escape that world and have more. This world, my world, needs her.
I decided to enter performance mode. Put on my game face, every day. Strike the superhero pose, every day. Push the fear back, every day. I expect some days will go better than others. I have to keep moving forward.
I can see that little girl, peaking out from the sideline, tentatively deciding how to proceed. I need to coax her out again.
I need to be brave, get out of my way, and return to me.
PS: I went to Paris in 2004. It was was amazing as I thought it would be. In fact, on that trip I saw Rome, Florence, Vincenza, Venice, Milan, and Paris. I will go back. I will have coffee at a cafe and eat strawberry crepes. I will sit among the artists on the steer and sketch the most beautiful city on earth. A superhero can do that.
Photo from Grey’s Anatomy borrowed from https://goo.gl/images/mVgdaz
A CT scan is $300…or $400, in either case, it’s kind of a lot and I’ve not gotten around to it. Yet. I’m thinking I need to, as good ole Herman continues to raise his head now and then.
Herman doesn’t like extreme heat. When I get overheated, he acts up. It’s summer in Florida. Herman is restless.
He still does not like lifting or any type of exertion. Damn it Herman, I need to be able to DO things! I need to exercise, and I need to lift things at work without you wreaking havoc the rest of the day.
Today was one of those days. I lifted a 35 pound or so item up from the floor and into a wagon. I ended up with a headache. My coworker jumped in my case, worried that I’d hurt my back. I didn’t even tell her that I had woken up Herman. He and I simply spent the rest of the day co-existing.
I think my memory is as improved as it’s going to get. Long term is pretty good. Short term can be spotty. Somethings I remember really well. Some things I don’t. I have noticed that on “Herman Days”, the memory isn’t as good as it should be. I’ve decided I need note cards in my pocket and purse to help me with things I need to know at the drop of a hat. Key points. Elevator speeches.
One really annoying thing with all this is me trying to learn everything I can about Willing Beauty – the company, the product lines, all of it. Some things have stuck well. Some just don’t stick at all. I find that if I read something over and over, and study a lot, it helps. I didn’t have to study this hard in high school or college!
There is a bright spot in the Herman saga! Yes, I said a bright spot! It’s really exciting. Are you ready???
I am able to put more of my head on a pillow. That’s huge. I still sleep at an incline with a pillow under my neck. It’s kinda comfortable, I don’t snore, and I don’t wake up sore. I kind of like it. But I can get more of my head on a pillow for a longer period of time now than I could even six months ago, so that’s good. Plus, it gives the kitties a place to snuggle next to me (they do love a good pillow.)
I’ve begun to wonder, is it all in my head? Maybe I’m all better and my head just THINKS I’m not. Sometimes I think it’s all a dream and I will wake up. Oh how wonderful that would be?!?! I don’t think that is going to happen though, so I need to keep making it work. Herman is, by far, the toughest relationship I’ve ever had!
Wait. What? How can that be? Who doesn’t love fireworks? The anticipation, the whooshing sound as they fly into the air, the surprise when they explode, showering the sky with delightful colors. Everyone loves that, right?
No. Not everyone.
When I was a child, we would go to my grama and grampa’s house on Independence Day to set off fireworks. They had a long sidewalk in the middle of their (always) lush, green lawn and two water sources close by, which made for the perfect fireworks launch site.
Grampa spent a lot of time keeping that lawn lush and green. Mainly because he took great pride in doing so. Also because a green yard surrounding a house in Northern California during fire season is a good thing!
Fire season. Every summer, the state of California catches fire. It always has, it probably always will. The mother would say it was natures way of cleaning house. To me, fire is terrifying.
I always had anxiety during the summer, worried about the fire hazard (which was always posted in town on the Smokey the Bear Sign by the fire station.) I would see that sign, and my stomach would flip. Every fire that started in our area would send me into a silent anxiety attack. Silent because, I never told a soul about my fear.
I’m rather terrified of fire. Every summer I would make a list of things to take with me in case we had to evacuate (we never did, although the parents were evacuated a few times in my adult years.) I also kept a small suitcase packed under my bed with some of those things. No one knew that I did that, but I was ready…just in case.
Fireworks require fire.
The dad and grampa would lay sheets of plywood over the sidewalk and lawn to create the perfect size fireworks perimeter. A bucket or two of water was strategically placed. Once they were ready, the family would gather (sometimes just us, sometimes the aunt and the cousins, sometimes others.) There was always watermelon. I think melon was a theme. (Hmm. I’m not a big melon fan…interesting.)
Anyhow, I digress. When it got dark, they would begin setting off the fireworks. I would begin the anxiety attack. I was always terrified one would fall on me and I would catch on fire.
Yes. That was my fear. Crazy? Probably a little!
Sparklers? They are the devil. Little balls of fire close to the skin. They can catch your hair on fire! Burn your skin! Poke your eye out! The devil I tell you! THE DEVIL!
The mother would inevitably try to make me hold a sparkler. In fact, she found joy in holding them way too close to me and taunting me because she knew I was afraid. I suppose that was her way of wanting to cure me of my “irrational fear”. Her words. It didn’t work.
I never outgrew that anxiety.
I don’t mind watching fireworks from afar. The cities in my area put on lovely displays. Backyard fireworks? No thank you. I fear one will land on me and I will catch on fire. I fear someone else will catch on fire. I fear someone will have one explode in their hand. I fear a dog will eat one.
I now live in a neighborhood where the neighbor’s all around me enjoy fireworks. They REALLY enjoy them. The weeks of Independence Day and New Years, they set them off for days. They are loud, they sometimes shake the walls, and I fear one will land on my roof and burn my house down. It only takes one.
Just a few more days of fireworks, and I can push that anxiety back down until New Years. Thank goodness fire season is only twice a year!
It’s 4:08am. I’ve been awake for almost two hours. It seems to be my new routine. As I lay here with a million things running through my mind, I suddenly remembered something I’ve been quietly excited about for months:
Yesterday marked one year since my last “monthly visit”, “that time”, or as I came to refer to it as “my monthly hell”.
It was never an easy road. I started when I was 12. I remember waking up one morning, seeing the evidence, and being angry. This was not something I ever wanted to deal with. I certainly had never looked forward to it. I had awful cramps all day, and I had to go to school and suck it up. I remember being so nauseous and in so much pain I could barely concentrate. I was miserable.
When I get home, the mother had called EVERYONE she knew to tell them “the exciting news” – I was woman!
Actually, I was humiliate. She became irate. She told me I was being stupid, that I should be proud of “becoming a woman”.
H U M I L I A T E D.
I told her that it was nobodies business and she had no right to announce it to the world. It was my personal. It was embarrassing and I was miserable. She told me to grow up. She told me I was a child and had no rights. I told her I was supposedly a woman. She told me to shut up before she slapped that look off my face. Oh the warm memories…
The next 39 years were mostly hell where this was concerned. Severe PMS hat dragged on for two weeks. Extreme cramps that often left me sick for two days every month. Heavy flow that left me exhausted and wondering how people ever survive such blood loss.
In high school, the cramps were so bad my doctor prescribed Vicodin. Yes, I said Vicodin! WTH?? Who does that???
I was never allowed to stay home with a migraine or cramps. I was told at an early age that I had to learn how to live in the world with these things, and that I was never to use them as an excuse. I won’t say as an adult that I followed that advise. Rarely did I call in sick, and if the mother got wind of it, she gave me hell.
I had an abnormal pap about 19 years ago. Precancerous cells were caught early and dealt with. I asked for a hysterectomy, and was told no. I was serious, but the doc didn’t take me seriously.
At this point I will mention that I am the only female on the mother’s side of the family to have a uterus after the age of 30. There was no family history to compare me to. There was a lot of cervical cancer, cysts, hardening of the uterus, and generally not healthy female parts.
In my late 30’s/early 40’s I asked again for a hysterectomy. I was told that would be “elective surgery” and insurance doesn’t cover that. Instead she put me on the Depo Provera shot and for four glorious years I had no “time of the month”.
H E A V E N.
The PMS was gone. The severe nausea and other symptoms that arrived on day one were gone. It was amazing. Then my job situation changed and my insurance changed and they were no longer covered. Heavy sigh.
Then they got sporadic for several years. Every two weeks…every six weeks…every few months…every two weeks…you get the picture.
Finally, I skipped several months. I started keeping count. On month six? Surprise. Mother Nature did that to me three times.
This time, I wrote the start date down and forgot about it. A couple months ago I checked to see what it had been. June 19, 2016. It had been heavy, ugly, made me sick as a dog, and lasted a full seven days. Then nothing.
It is now 4:45am on June 29, 2017. One year has officially gone by. One year, which marks the official start to menopause.
Perimenopause has been here for several years, as have hot flashes, night sweats, and the like. I can live with that.
I will make a doctor appointment to get checked out and make sure all is well. Then I may call my friends and suggest a celebratory drink.
This bears celebrating. The horror that began 39 years ago is no more.
Welcome menopause!! I’ve been anxiously awaiting your arrival!!