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Friday, July 25, 2014

Books for Katherine

One of my life's greatest joys have been my friends.  I have the best friends in the world.  They come from almost every size, ethnicity and belief.  I am either the United Nations or Benetton.  No matter what occurs in my life one thing I know for sure, I have friends.

Some friends are from High School.  That long ago place filled with football games, broken hearts and just trying life on for size.  I still have Patti, Roxane, Heidi, Craig and Judi in my life and it makes me feel young to see them and talk about Three Dog Night, Cheech and Chong and Rare Earth and that silly boy who dumped me.

Some friends are from college....I am still in contact with them.   Bonnie, and Becky, Debbie, Charron and Sue.  They are no further than my Facebook page.  A reminder of a time in my life that had huge changes, big risks and more broken hearts.

Some friends from my single days of staying up too late and dating all the wrong men - Wendy kept me from drowning in my own bad ideas.  Some friends are from my casino days....Cindy and Janice....and my precious Amy.  All of them still there.

Then my friends who we raised small children with....Jane and Stef who never made me feel silly when I cried at my Ashleigh's last day of kindergarten, or yet another miscarriage.   Or just the sometimes overwhelming job of raising children.

There there were my football mom days with Denise, my cheer mom days with Nikki.....

Ten years ago I had a great birthday party, all my besties were there...and if I was having another birthday party right now, every single one of them would be there again.  Except for Claudine...she passed away a few years ago.

I am friends with all of these women for a million different reasons, but we all have one thing in common.  We needed each other, and we were there for each other.

I have done a lot of volunteer work over the last 40 years, some it in PTA, some in the community, and most of it at church.  The work at church has been the most meaningful because it has been hard work, but it is also the most rewarding.   To simply get lost in helping other people.  I will never forget putting in a backyard with 15 other people for a family with little children who had no place to play.  The endless meals taken to families that were sick.  Visiting women who just needed a hug and someone to tell them they could do it.  Driving people to the doctor, the dentist and one time a therapist.   Driving to the hospital at 2am to comfort a woman afraid she was going to die.  Then there was going with a car full of women to clean someone's home that had been so ill and just couldn't.  Organizing all the food for the family dinner after a funeral.  Holding a friend who had just lost her baby,  hugging a friend who had just had a baby......sitting up all night with a woman abandoned by a husband.  Giving encouragement to a friend as she sat outside a jail right before she went in to see her son.  Comforting a friend as yet another adoption promise is broken, and then months later, joyfully holding her newborn when finally an adoption promise is kept.  Sitting on the curb waiting for a friend to come home after hearing her grown son had drowned saving someone else's son.

It is during those kind of times that friendships are forged forever.

But then sometimes the unthinkable happens and they move away.  It truly hurts your heart doesn't it?  Facebook is wonderful but it is just Facebook.

One of those friends is moving away right now, in fact just in a few weeks.  I knew it was always a possibility, her husband's job was eventually going to take them to a faraway place...I knew that, but I chose to never think about it.  I am, after all, Scarlett O'hara at heart.

So when I found out she was moving I wanted to give her something, but what?  What would mean the most?

This is what I came up with......I am giving her books.  And not just any books, but the books that meant the most to me.  The books that change our lives.....they aren't the greatest books ever written, but the ones with the greatest memories for me.  These books answered some of my life questions....and if you know me, you know I have lots of life questions.  And some of these books just opened doors for the first time.

The first book is called "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"  by Betty Smith.  I read it when I was 13...I loved it then and I love it now.  For a girl who grew up in Texas reading about a family in Brooklyn was exotic and exciting.  I still remember the feeling I had when I finished....sadness.  Sadness that such an incredible reading experience was over and I would never read that book for the first time again.

The second book is a Book of Mormon, not the play, the actual book.  It changed my life....

The next book is called "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz.  My friend Amy gave it to me and I read it often.  Four little sentences to live by, written by a man who came from a family of healers.  They are simple yet profound....
     1.  Be Impeccable with your word
     2.  Don't take anything personally
     3.  Don't make assumptions
     4.  Always do your best

The fourth book is called "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood".  It started a journey of forgiveness for me and my mother after reading that book.  It is just a fun book about all the ups and downs of a real southern family.  But it deeply impacted me.

Then the last 2 books are more is about Grace.  I wanted to give her this book because we are so awful with Grace.  We keep trying to do it all, to figure it all out, to carry the whole burden alone.  When we never, ever have to.  Whatever source of power you believe in will help you with all the problems of life, all the never have to go it alone, or be alone.  And then the last book is called a Heart like His by Virginia Pearce.  It is a book about feeling God's love.  It is a religious book, but it is only about love.  No matter what kind of larger power you believe in this book is designed to just make you feel love.  And love always wins.

It might seem silly to do this....but I wanted to give her something that would transcend a simple gift of a picture frame or a candle.  This comes from my heart to a friend who served with me in some of my hardest times.  The only question she ever asked was, "what can I do?  I don't feel like I am doing enough."  She was so much more than a wise counselor.  She never stopped giving, never stopped trying and always, always had a smile.

I know you are going to think this picture was stolen out of Vogue, or Town and Country, but it is a real picture of Katherine and her 3 adorable children.....That's Ellie and Reese and Ashlyn with Katherine.  Just a picture of the girls as a gift for her sweet husband, Jason, taken by our talented and amazing friend Autumn Mohlman.

If you are looking, life has the most amazing blessings to give you....but you have to look.  Take pictures with your heart.

And I will not say goodbye.......

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Morning with the Feds

I missed a call yesterday because I was face-timing my daughter (talk about looking old, I cannot find a place in my house where the lighting is good enough to keep from looking like Strega Nona) so I just sent one of those throw away lines that our new phones let us do.  You know, sorry I missed your call, call back, something like that.  The missed call sent a text right back...OK.
So this morning I was returning calls and I sent a text to the missed cell number asking if 10am was Ok to talk.  I didn't know if it was a Planning Commission thing, a catering thing or directions to the end of the rainbow.

This is the text I received....

"I would like to speak in person at a location of your choosing and talk for ten to fifteen minutes.  Thank you, John Henderson, Special Investigator."

Holy Cats....

To which I replied, "You have the wrong person"

"Is this Donna Tagliaferri?"

Oh crap.

What have we done to warrant a visit from a special investigator?  I am about as subversive as Donald Duck but that doesn't mean I wasn't sleep walking, or someone has my identity, or an evil twin....Suddenly I am in a Robert Ludlum novel.  To make it worse the voice mail he left cut off just as he was saying what he needed from me, so I was stumped...but intrigued, I have to admit, I was intrigued.

So I called right back, screw waiting for 10am.

"Mr. Henderson?  This is Donna Tagliaferri, you called me about a matter that requires a special investigator?"

Then he went on to tell me a friend had put me down as a reference.  Mr. Henderson works for the government, the federal government and the security branch of the federal government at that.  The security branch of the government that decides who gets to know all the cool secrets.  He was trying to find out if I thought she was fit for that kind of responsibility.

I am drunk with power.

My friend was being investigated because she had recently been given a promotion and a new security clearance.  I knew she had just been given a promotion, but I didn't know she was replacing Eric Snowden. Well, she isn't replacing Eric Snowden actually, but it kind of felt like it  We agreed to meet at my house (seemed less scary) at 10am.

At exactly 10am Mr. Henderson appeared at my house, badge in hand.  I scrutinized it carefully (when would I get this chance again?) and let him in.

My very first question for him was, "Tell the truth, how much fun do you have scaring the crap out of people with that special investigator stuff"

He laughed and it turns out Mr Henderson is a really nice, very interesting man.  He told me all about his days as an interrogator in the military.  Seems he was very big in body language.  I told him I had recently listened very closely to an expert in body language (  for an entire hour.   I now consider myself an expert and I pointed out to him that he was steepling his fingers...

....which all the best body language experts will tell you means he is confident and honest (what great qualities for an ex-interrogator and a present day special investigator!)

Guess what?  Mr. Henderson knew that....seems he studied body language for a long, long time.  I asked him if he played poker, he could tell in a second what kind of hand everyone had.  He assured me he never gambles.  He told me how he would get people to confess...first they have to have something to drink.  Evidently guilty people have dry mouths and it makes it hard for them to talk.  Water or a soda is necessary to cut the dryness in their mouths caused by, well, guilt.  But isn't that true?  On every police show the first thing they offer the about-to-be-grilled-person is something to drink, right?  Now we are all on to them.  The next time you are arrested and the police offers you a beverage, fahgettaboudit!!!  

Your welcome...

After a bit more chit chat we got to the questions...I was holding my friends career in my hands...

Drunk with power...

He asked me some typical questions...honesty, trustworthiness...then he asked me if I knew of any subversive groups she belonged to.  "You mean outside the bowling alley?"

Any foreign countries she may be particularly loyal to?  "That country from the Princess Diaries."

And then the big one, does she exhibit any behavior that might be suspicious?  I stopped him, leaned in real close and said...


"She scrapbooks"

At this point Mr. Henderson was pretty much finished.  So I told him all the things the body language expert had revealed in our class.

On 60 minutes Eric Snowden was telling the truth in his interview.  I don't know what he said, but it was true.

The police in the Oscar Pistorious case are lying.

Hillary is definitely going to run.  He showed different body language movements she made that gave it away to him.

Jack, the body language guy, showed a clip of Bill Clinton being asked if Hillary would rather be a grandmother or the President.  From the movements he made Jack said, "I knew at that moment that Chelsea was pregnant because of how Bill reacted to the question.  Every part of his body language was, "I have a secret, I can't tell...oh no..." they were classic non-verbal communications.

But the best part was analyzing the hug.  A sincere hug is "heart to heart".  Think about it, when you hug someone your heart is situated over the heart of the hugee.   That is a sincere, caring and authentic hug.  So if you get one of those counterfeit kind of awkward hugs, it means nothing.

According to our body expert, who had a gazillion-bazillion degrees, we are all a little transparent.

A little?

As for me, I  have been practicing steepling my hands.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Circle of Life...find it in your life too..

Saturday our little catering company had three jobs, a baptism, a funeral and a wedding.  I realized about half way through the day we were involved with a true circle of life.  We have done all of those things before but never in one day, and never for nicer people.

We meet people having the best and sometimes the hardest times of their lives, because no matter what we need food, right?    And although we always strive to have great food, on time, presented beautifully, the contrasts I experienced on Saturday were simply profound.

The baptism was for the child of a dear friend....a very sweet and happy friend.  I was so glad we could be a part of such a great occasion for them.  I love that family and bringing Ray Ray's incredible chicken fingers and Raybolis just made me happy!!

The funeral was for an employee of another good friend, an extremely sad occasion as the death was unexpected.  She wanted her company to provide all the food after the funeral.  She knew the family was in shock and taking this off their shoulders was a great gift to them.  In our culture we don't like to refer to food as comfort, it's just fuel, right?  But sometimes food is called upon to be comfort, and that is what we were doing, we were bringing comfort.  

The wedding was the last event on Saturday, all completely organized by the brother of the bride.  In our conversations through the week he said he wanted this wedding to be perfect as his gift to her.  How can you not be touched by that?  It was a reaffirmation that people are wonderful and kind.  Later that night as I was leaving the venue my client came over and told me how great everything had been and how much he appreciated what we had done.  He was completely sincere....then his sister, the bride, came over and said. "thank you, I couldn't have asked for anything better."  Brides don't usually take the time to thank us, they have a lot going on....but I remember each one that has taken the time.  This bride and this client were indeed special...I am grateful they were pleased with what we did.

The life lesson from this experience?  

First,  be aware, sometimes we get caught up in our own lives so much we don't see the great stories happening all around us.  

Second, do your best....always, no matter what it is, do your best....iron your shirt, tell the truth, be on your best.  

And lastly, be matter how important your life events are to you, think of the people around you and be grateful.  Don't turn away from any opportunity to sincerely thank someone.  It helps you remember all the blessings, tender mercies, and miracles that are happening in your life every day.

Thank you for stopping by, I appreciate every single one of you!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Something I wish I hadn't done...

Against all possible odds I lost my mind at exactly the same time a show on FX started.  So I watched it, and now I really wish I hadn't done that.

The show is called the Tyrant, and it is easily the most violent show I have ever seen.  The images are just burned in my brain, and they are awful.  While I was watching it, I kept thinking, this is terrible, I need to turn this off...but I kept watching.  Now I need a week in the woods to clear my head out.

Our society has told the inventors of entertainment that we want to watch awful, violent things.  Our society is reflected in the shows we watch and movies we attend.  The most popular shows on TV are murder shows......police fighting crime, solving crime.  Even Castle, which is one of my favorite shows, revolves around a corpse every week.


However, I think I am Gandhi...I scoop bees out of the pool so they won't die, but yet I am watching murder and mayhem regularly.  I am an enigma wrapped up in a riddle.  Actually, we all are.

We watch housewives yell at each other and people who are famous just for being famous.  All of our news comes wrapped up in folks angry just to be angry.  If you weren't mad before you started watching the news, you sure as heck will be after you watch it.  They talk over each other, stretch the truth to make their points, build straw men and call it reporting.

And we watch....and we watch.....and we watch.....

We blow up twitter and Facebook when we are ticked.  We leave anomymous comments and then run like little kids.

We do things that really take our peace away.

As a friend said today, we can do one thing to create a more peaceful earth.  What one thing can I do?
Do I give up Mark Harmon, Richard Castle and Tom Selleck?  No more George Stephanopolis or Chris Wallace?

Well, I gave up the Tyrant for sure.....

I need to get my peace back....
Simple but true...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mother Theresa, Minnie Beckman, Carol and Me

A dear friend inspired this post today.  One, I am so happy to have friends who inspire and two I am glad to have all the answers.

There are four kinds of problems in life.  Marriage problems, health problems, children problems and money problems.  And if you give them enough energy, problems can become a full time job with the added benefit of being completely who you are.  When the focus is entirely on yourself it's very easy to believe the world has life wired,  and   you      just      don't.   We can't see other folk's challenges and trials when all you are doing is looking at your own challenges and trials.  For instance my friend is a fascinating woman with an amazing life story, but some of her friends are only concerned about how much money she has.  They make remarks about how she can afford this or travel there and wouldn't it be nice, and hey baby you pay for lunch.  If you are in a weakened place it is easy to see other peoples blessings and wonder where is yours?  Why don't I have a better marriage, better health, better children or maybe just the ability to pay my bills?  It doesn't take a MBA from Harvard to know that if the focus is only on problems there is no time to find a solution.   If your boat is leaking do you stop and analyze why the boat is leaking or do you just find a way to fix the dang boat?  It just makes sense to give energy to the solution, not the problem.  After you get your boat to the shore all anyone is going to remember is how you acted when your boat was leaking.  The problem will eventually be over and all you will have left is how you handled the leaking boat.  Hysteria and panic or calm and measured thinking?  I don't know why but this well thought out logic leads me to a funny thing from the Southern wisdom of my Grandmother who said, "I don't mind suffering in silence, as long as everyone knows." Minnie was always good for a real life she was Scarlett O'Hara, making  the best of everything and never without a Cadillac.

You don't have to be Mother Theresa through all trials and tribulations, because some things are definitely worth a pout, but don't let it become who you are.  Our trials shouldn't define us, our victories should.

And this is from begets energy and the opposite of energy is atrophy. Definition of atrophy? Gradual decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect.  

I learned this the hard way.  The very hard way.

I am the most unhappy when I only focus on my problems, but I am blissfully happy when I am serving others.  If I focus on my problems I am lethargic and hopeless, while if I serve others I have energy and joy.

I am not suggesting you find a widow and paint her house, just be nice to people, say thank you.  If someone offers you some anger return it with kindness.  Send a thank you note or a thank you email, heck...text someone and tell them how big and strong and fabulous they are.

Solutions not problems....

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Worst One? No, I Am!!!

I read a funny blog last week about a woman who claimed to be the worst Mary Kay salesperson ever, and I know I am running the risk of turning people off with this post, but she is wrong.......I am.  I admit it, I sell Mary Kay but with a codicil.....The reason I signed up is pretty easy, we were having real financial reversals and I knew the first thing to go would be make up and skin care. Looking like the bottom of my shoe was scary.  I wasn't roped into it, I already used it and I liked it, but I wanted to sell it on my own terms.  That is a luxury I don't have in other parts of my life.   I looked for the right woman to sign up under and I found her, she is very good at what she does because she has a Mary Kay Kar, I mean car.  I have never signed anyone up....I have never even asked anyone to sign up, I don't go to sales meetings or wear the pin.  I offer it, so buy it, don't buy it....I think (Oh please I hope!!!)  no one runs when I send out an email that I making an order.  For my friends who buy it,  it is just a convenience which is all I am trying to do.  They order I bring it to them...that's it, and I do discounts often (like now 30% off)

I have used everything from Chanel to a bottle of olive oil, and I know skin care in completely personal and unique to them.  This product has everything I need and I have pared down my needs.  I have a hard time doing anything complicated, scratch that, I don't do anything my "regime" is so simple.  A dear, dear friend is a make-up artist and skin care specialist.  Together we went through all the products and she made these recommendations for me...Easy peasy

Cleanser -  I use 3-1
Serum - whatever line you use make sure you find one with a collagen serum, it protects your skin, keeps your skin from sagging and has helped with age spots.
Moisturize - my skin is so dry - I use an intense moisturizer during the day (seriously that is what it is called) and find a night time moisturizer with retinol for the night.
I cannot go without extra firming eye gets rid of the bags under my eyes...not kidding.
And lately I have loved the CC cream (correct and cover - get it?) as my foundation, it has a great sunscreen in it which I have to have since I use the retinol.

I send everywhere in the country through an incredible service they have and I never charge for shipping right to your door within a couple of days.  So if you need anything, take a stroll through my website, it's a good day since I am offering a great discount.

Everyone needs mascara right?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Where I Stand Today...

One of the best things I have done lately is join a Facebook page called Women of Midlife.  One of the writers I regularly follow is Carol Cassara and her daily blogposts.
The reason I do is simple, I read her blog and think.  I don't read and get mad....I don't read and feel guilty....I read then think.
Unfortunately some bloggers do want to make you mad or elicit some gratuitous emotion.  Their blogs are the equivalent of train wrecks, hoping a lack of actual writing skills will be disguised by images and feelings that simply lure you in and then add nothing to your life.  It's the "Housewives of....."  You fill in the blank.  There was a time no one admitted they read the Enquirer, and then they got it right on the John Edwards story and suddenly closet readers came out from a kind of witness protection program and said, "see the Enquirer has been getting a bad rap all these years!  I knew it, they are actual reporters."
Right.....but then a whole new genre of "got'cha" appeared.

My son once told me, if you are good people will find you.  Regardless of what you do excellence will come to the surface.  Just be authentic and as my good friend Winston Churchhill once said, " I am easily satisfied by the very best."

Carol writes today about insecurity and I found myself in, around and through the entire blog.  She represents thinking that wasn't in my universe or so I thought.  After I read many of her blogs I realized we were talking about very similar things...with just different words.  She is a reminder to incorporate more critical thinking into my little Studebaker of life.  And if we don't agree...she doesn't care!  Unlike some bloggers Carol doesn't withhold pen pal friendship simply because we don't agree on the same color of grey.

It has taken years to confess, and yes I am using the word confess, that I want to be a writer.  The tapes of "who do you think you are wanting to write, everyone thinks they are a writer!" play loudly in my head.  I need to read the words of fearless women, women who are routinely jumping off cliffs.  Because I am jumping off cliffs, and sometimes I am being pushed off cliffs.  I need people to test my ropes, catch me as I fall or just clean up my scratches and bruises after a fall.

I am no longer a status quo girl. I want to embrace the fact my life doesn't look normal to me or anyone else, but it is my life.  Everyone's secret is we are dealing with the same things......different to be sure, but the same patterns.

And we have got to be fearless.

The enemy is fear.  We think it is hate; but it is fear.  Gandhi

I am almost 60 years old for hell's sake, when do I think my life is going to start anyway?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


So my husband and I were offered an opportunity to sit through a time share presentation for the sole purpose of 2 airline tickets to...wait for it...anywhere in the United States....sounds great doesn't it?

Well there is extensive initial pain...3 hours of being reminded everyone in the world is traveling and having fun and, well, you aren't.  Three hours of well intended salespeople trying to find ways to convince you to pay $20,000 for a vacation time share.  We don't have $20 extra dollars much less $20,000 so we were very passive, assured them it was a great idea...but kept one eye open for the door.

I felt like a hostage.

They had the first go offer is made to the first one who wrote a check for $20,000.  They would get an entire extra year of airline tickets.  One did...I watched him write out the check.  He was triumphantly escorted out, his salesman all smiles.  I wondered what the heck they did with him after the door was closed.

And then there were the rest of us, we obviously weren't as smart as the first buyer but we would have to do.   A very serious salesman in a red shirt stood in front of us and spoke very slowly, as though the reason we didn't accept his first offer was because we were too dumb to know what was going on.  But wait this offer was exactly the same as the first one but for $!0,000.  I suddenly felt so badly for that first guy, he pulled the trigger too fast. After that deal was revealed another couple jumped up screamed, "we'll take it!"   That happy couple was ushered out and I swear the wife turned and gave me a smirk.  A smirk?  Wow competition is alive and well no matter where you are.

Now there were the rest of us.  The salespeople looked at us as though we were the biggest losers ever and offered us "kind of a deal" for $2,000.  Keeping score?  It has gone from $20,000 to 10 to 2.
I kept thinking to myself, we are here for the tickets, we are here for the tickets.  They made one last sweep through the room and finally believed us that we would have to "think about it".  Euphemism for not in a million years.  Escape was so close....I could feel freedom.

After extensive paperwork, we ran to the elevator and kept running until we got to our car.  We didn't stop breathing hard until we were safely down the street.  Even then I kept looking behind us thinking the guy in the red shirt was going to be chasing us down the street.

Clean getaway...we did it!  And we had the paperwork in our hands for the tickets.  We had a plan for those tickets.  We were going to visit my husband's family in New Jersey for the family reunion.  With no extra money for anything in our household (what recession?) visiting Ray Ray's family hasn't been an option.  So this was a complete blessing.

I had jumped through every hoop...the paperwork was tedious to get the tickets, a $100 was required, but we finally got our activation number.  All that was left was to give them a date and an airport.  We are caterers and we can't make any vacation plans until we know what events we may have.  I looked at the paperwork a hundred times and I swear it said the departure date had to be 30 to 45 days in advance.

It didn' said I had to make the request for at least 60 days before departure....or...wait for it, the entire offer is void.  the 30 to 45 days was how long they had to respond to your request.

So this morning I received the following email

The Travel Service Center Processing Department is unable to accept your travel request because you have submitted the information within 60 days of your departure date.  Per the terms and conditions of the certificate which you have agreed to, all travel requires a minimum 60 day notice prior to your requested travel dates.  Any travel request forms received with invalid dates or destinations will void the offer.  

They said they would refund part of the $100 I paid them to activate the offer.

I called this nasty little outfit to find out what the heck had happened.  A nasty woman answered the phone and just kept talking over me.  That's when I realized I wasn't the only one who had made this grievous mistake.  Donna's wisdom - Whenever you speak to anyone on the phone about a problem and they start talking over you...they do not want to hear your side and want   you    off    the    phone.  So they start to filibuster.  To them you are just too stupid and didn't read the fine print of their well written contract.  I didn't have a chance.

I was amazed that asking for a departure date 45 days out instead of 60 cost us the 2 tickets.  No do- over, no excuses didn't read the fine print and you are out.  It is hard for us to know when we can actually get away, if someone asks us to cater a wedding or a party, we do it.  So coming up with a date we could go was a challenge.  All of our children will be in New Jersey for the family reunion with all the other family, and we were counting on those tickets.  Nutz....

Experience is the best teacher isn't it?  I will read the fine print to the best of my ability from now on and not assume I know what is in a contract, even if it is for a couple of airline tickets.

I learned the hard way, but I am still ticked.

Can we stowaway?  Fed Ex ourselves there?

For all my enlightened thinking I realize yet again it is a lot easier to go through life rich and thin.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Writing and Writing again...

So here is how it went down.  I was 22 and was offered a job at the Houston Chronicle writing a kind of "gossip column".  It was to be benign, not a biting column, just tennis tournaments, parties, all the fun things that can happen in a big city.  I could not wait to tell my parents, this was the best!  My mother took in the news and said, "How much does it pay?" Well, it was a contingency thing, I told her, if it worked out pay would follow.  But in her one sentence I didn't just hear, how much did it pay, I heard loud and clear from a life time of listening to what I couldn't do...foolish girl you have no real talent, this is just a pipe dream, you need a paycheck, a sure long you will continue hoping this works out? Find a real job.  This is a waste of time, they are using you.   People like us don't do things like this, dreams are for other people.

I walked into my room and threw my purse through the window.

I didn't write again for a long, long time.  In fact....34 years.  My parents weren't bad people, they thought by steering me into a sure thing I would have an easier life.  And writing was not a sure thing.  Sometimes we have a kind of Stockholm Syndrome going with our families, just go along to get along.  It was so much easier to find a job and forget about writing, and it was easier....frustrating but easier.  But so much harder to ever start writing again.  I wrote here and there.....long letters, letters to the editor, letters to friends...never anything serious because I would not give myself permission to write.  There was always something more important to do and sitting down to write was a luxury I would not give myself.  If I would even get close to a typewriter (an ancient machine we used a while back) I couldn't do it.  I wanted to be a writer but never gave myself permission to try I would always hear my mother's voice and I agreed, dreams like that don't happen to people like us.

Then my friend Ann McMullin sent an email about a woman's column in a Utah newspaper.  She said she sounds so much like you and I know you will enjoy her writing.  I found her right away and her columns made me laugh, cry and think.....I was an immediate fan.  I went to the archives and read every one of her columns.  She was open and honest in a way I didn't even know could be done.  Her voice was so clear....I loved it.

We became cyber friends.  At least that is what my children called it.  I commented on her columns and she replied to me, which evolved into writing emails...lots of emails.  She was so supportive and kept saying to me, "you have to write, you have to write"  I cannot even explain the process I went through to just let go and do it.  My family was incredulous...what's the big deal?  Just write.  It did sound simple...but I was paralyzed with fear.  I was afraid I couldn't do it and besides there wasn't time to just sit down and write, so I convinced myself there was no point in even trying.

But my cyber friend kept encouraging me and it took a long, long time to believe her.  We wrote to each other for years...through some of my most challenging personal times.  And all through this she would continue to tell me to write.  And I thought, I will, I will....some day.  The longer I put it off the more I could say it was too late, and then I wouldn't have to let go and do this scary thing.  Facing fear is harder than anything I have done and I have a lot of fears.   I admit that right out loud.

Then one day I started a blog.  All the insecurities were there, all the reasons not to write were still there.  But I finally did it because Ann Cannon told me I could.  Even though thoughts raged in my head that I could not write,  I kept writing because Ann Cannon said I could. You can read her columns here, she is the most entertaining of this genre anywhere.
I wish I could do that cool thing where you just put in the name and the link is there when you click on it, but my computer skills have not reached that point yet. )

Along this journey I have encountered lots of people with the same thoughts in their heads that I had.  For all kinds of reasons. The greatest battles people fight are in their own minds when they cannot realize their incredible worth.  It is so easy to listen to the voices of the world telling you that you aren't good enough and that you literally cannot do it, so you might as well give up and not even try.  It is easier....but there isn't a single bit of worth in things that are too easy.

There is a quote by Marianne Williamson that I have used it over and over.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 
― Marianne WilliamsonA Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"

This quote speaks to me in a way no other does.  I allowed my fears to shrink me and I stayed shrunken in so many ways for far too long.   It takes a concerted effort to do hard things and face fear. Start looking at yourself the way God looks at you and you will fly!!

Ann Cannon convinced me I could fly....I am so grateful I finally listened to her.  Love you Ann.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Isolation Is The New Black

I heard yesterday that Bowe Bergdahl was in insolation for 2 years.....2 years without seeing another human beings face.  I hadn't thought of it before but isolation is a true form of torture.

We don't need Al Queda to put us into isolation, we do that to ourselves every time we think we are the only ones with money problems, the only one with marriage problems, health problems, or children problems.  Even with bookstores filled with self-help books we find ways to isolate ourselves into thinking..."I am the only one."  (I guess I thought all those books were written just for me)

"No one will understand"

Further isolation....

"I am so stupid to have let this occur."

Then...."there is no help for me."

Which can only be followed by depression, more loneliness and true unhappiness.

If you are caught in the trap of negative thinking it is so hard to change those tapes, but it can be done.  Please know you are not alone in whatever situation you are in.  Books are great at helping, but people are better.  Find people who are going through what you are.....connect with them.  Support groups are there for a reason.  I had specialized my problem so perfectly that I was convinced no one else was going through what I was.  Therefore I would not be able to find help because it was a problem of my own doing and how did I expect there to be help?  Isn't that exhausting?  Thoughts are not real, and that thinking was not real.  I convinced myself I deserved to feel the way I did, to go through what I was experiencing...I deserved it.  Isn't that sad?  And exhausting?  There is no energy in that thinking.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a village to raise adults too.

Start with this....abandon negative thoughts .  All of them.  And not just negative thought about yourself.  Get rid of the ones you have about anyone or anything.  Positive thoughts create just does.  Negative thoughts will drain your energy and you will not be able to see the solutions. And there are always solutions....always.

Positive thoughts energize, negative thoughts drain.  You really are what you think.  The next time you go for a walk alone what do you think about?  Is it positive or negative?

What are you thinking?  No seriously, what are you thinking???

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cher and the Vietnamese Elvis

So the other day my daughter and I went to get a mani-pedi.  She got the mani I got the pedi.  The salon we went to has a different business model than what I am normally used to.  You don't have to make an appointment so you get whomever is available.  Sort of the HMO of nails.  Move in, move out!!

Fellini would get a headache from how many characters are in this one salon.  And the incongruity of the whole scene is so entertaining!  With a concert of Cher playing on a loop in the background to the salon manager who strangely enough reminds me of Elvis.  It is wild!!  I have only been there a few times but he always greets me with, "Ashleigh's mom!"  He is a slight Vietnamese man with a huge personality and a bigger belt buckle, pointy boots with an endless variety of costumes.
He is obviously in control of this salon from the way he orchestrates the whole room.   He turns you over to a woman who demands you pick a color.... quickly!  Picking a color isn't much of a challenge for me as my toes are always red.  But I am very particular about the shade of red, not pink red, not glittery red..but candy apple red.  The lights are very low so it is hard to discern color variations, and certainly not something I can do quickly.   My new guide was acting more like a warden than an affable nail technician...pick the color....pick the color....pick the color.  For some reason her insistence seemed to slow my polish picking ability which made her all the more impatient.  Sort of like slowing up when someone is tailgating.  I was very grateful for our language barrier because I did not want to know what she was saying to the nail person she turned me over to.  My third person.  We kind of stared at each other for a minute and then he handed me a hot towel and a cup of water with fruit in it.

Why the hot towel?  But I like the water with fruit.

After you are in the chair Elvis comes back to inquire if you need anything, several times.

The stress of small talk with the nail technician is certainly not a problem, he never looked up once, so I watched Cher's concert, and you know what?  It was very, very good.  I saw her at Caesars twenty years ago in her first farewell tour, but this one was much better.  I don't know how old it was but I do know she used every bit of her talent, which beside all of her songs, included scenes from her movies and variety shows.  She hired great dancers to perform while she was off stage changing her costumes and the choreography was wonderful.   I read that in a recent concert she addressed her age with the audience by saying, "what's your grandmother doing?"

You gotta love that...

Meanwhile back to the salon, nails are done, time to!!!

Cher and Elvis in one afternoon.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

I am afraid I made a mistake

Nothing happier than dog with his head out the window!!

Here is how it started, "I need to tell you there was an unfavorable review...."


OK, so we have all had those moments.  That kick in the gut moment when you made a mistake, or did something someone didn't like.  That know that moment.... Yikes!  We hate that moment!

But guess what boys and girls it happens to everyone!  Isn't that wonderful?  You are not the only one.  However our negative default emotion goes to, "I am the only one."  You fill in the blank;

I am the only one to.....

Have money problems
Have children problems
Have marriage problems
Have health problems

Here's another...

I am the only one struggling with something new that I cannot figure out and I am doomed to be a failure...I can't do it.  

Then we are surrounded by Pinterest-ish quotes like, "if you think you can or you think you can't, you're right."  So now that means everyone is figuring it out but you.  Obviously people are reading this and saying, "I can do it!"  they are going forward losing weight, running marathons, having picture perfect children and successful husbands or adoring wives......

If that is you, you are listening to the wrong tapes.

Let's discuss my change.

I didn't fall apart when I read that sad email, but I would have last summer.  Just last summer I was finishing up a full 10 years of experiencing horrible fear.  Fear of had chased out any bit of faith or confidence I had.  I was so unhappy...So horribly unhappy.

But then I met a woman who helped me look fear in the face so to say.  I did a lot of work changing the way I looked at things and especially how I think.  I began to see life is a series of choices.  I needed to stop choosing fear.  She asked me at our first session what I wanted to get out of our time together.  I sat there a puddle of goo and told her I wanted to be happy.  I did not think it was possible...but it is.

I know it sounds so easy....just choose happy....but like almost everything important it is easy.  

So when I received that email I spent a moment feeling terrible.  I had offered what I thought was my best and they didn't like it, I was rejected.  Rejection is an emotion that will leave us with a void.  And that void is often filled immediately with fear, self-loathing, lack of confidence, depression.  Those were my default responses so I had to work hard to change my thinking.  I couldn't listen to the voices that were telling me I wasn't good enough, or smart enough, or talented enough.  And the topper voice...."What makes you think you can do that?" 

 I have found better voices to listen to.  But it requires remembering.

Remembering God wants me to be a success.  

I have learned to do my best and let it go.  I imagine great things now..I "see it"  before it happens, just like Tom Brady.  Whatever I am doing I see the whole thing, the preparation, the process and the result.  Anxiety disapates and confidence has a place in my head.  I already saw it, it can happen.  And then peace..... 

I have also incorporated 4 agreements...I love the fearless attitude of Miguel Angel Ruiz who wrote them.  These 4 agreements do not conflict with my Mormon faith...they prove we are all looking for the same thing.  The one thing all people want is to be happy, and following these simple steps have helped me.

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
  2. Don't Take Anything Personally.
  3. Don't Make Assumptions.
  4. Always Do Your Best.

With my unfavorable review I chose to use the four agreement as a transparency to put it right over it.  This is what I did.

1.) I emailed her immediately and told her I was sorry it hadn't worked out.  I said I would incorporate the changes she wanted, and then thanked her for giving me another chance.  

2.)I remembered I was good at what I do.  It was just this one thing that didn't work.  

3.)I didn't assume she was without taste anyway so how could she critique me?  

4.)I reassured myself that I do try hard to do my best.  But that doesn't mean everyone, every time, is going to like "my best".  That's ok, there is plenty of work for us all.

I slept just fine last night.  

Quite a change from last year, I am so blessed to have found help.  So my advice to you is when you start to feel fear...Stop!  Those negative thoughts are not real, they are just thoughts and you can be a success.  Exchange those thoughts right away.  It takes practice, but it works

Choose happy!!

Your welcome.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Notice to Mattress salespeople

Notice to mattress salespeople - stop.

Stop trying to sell a mattress to me by describing the pounds of human cells, sweat and other bodily droppings that are imbedded (imbedded! HA!) in my mattress.  I heard a commercial this morning that basically described any mattress as a toxic dump.  Your scare tactics won't work, instead I am going to keep my mattress a bit longer and just ask my exterminator to spray it.

And while I am at it, the new commercial for. "I've fallen and can't get up" sounds more like water boarding than someone at the bottom of the stairs.  Please stop.

How about the folks who call selling medical supplies pretending like they work with your doctor.  "it's time to reorder, what would you like?"  One caller made a terrible mistake when he suggested I didn't want my husband to stay healthy since I wasn't buying his particular medical line of love.  The last person who threatened me that way dealt with impotence and baldness after a small but reliable curse I place on people who displease me.   We had an understanding before he hung up that he would never call again.

How about the calls that sound like they are from your credit card company, but are really just folks looking to consolidate your debt?  They make it sound like you missed a payment?  Mistake

And while I am on the subject, never ever respond to anyone calling me about carpet cleaning.  They offer a great deal, come to your home and tell you they cannot possibly clean your hideous carpet without using the same formula Superman drinks every morning.  Which by the way is far and above the quoted price.  No matter not ever allow them to clean your carpet, I don't care if all of your furniture is outside and you have a party the next day....get them out of your house and find someone who isn't using fraud as a marketing tool.  Be strong!!

Ever get your oil changed only to get a list of possible problems that claim would keep you from getting your children to soccer practice safely?  Aren't you a better mother than that?  And then 60 minutes shows up....fabulous.

There is a solution....find someone with a personal reference.  Ask your friends for referrals and then take a minute to call and ask about their experience.  Find someone who has used their exterminator for years, the same carpet cleaner, the same mechanic, the same appliance repairman the same caterer, the same hairdresser and stockbroker.  Buyer beware means it's on you.  There are lots of people out there who do a great job.  Repairmen who get a charge (ha!) out of fixing your stuff. It's like a puzzle to them...they love it, and they know how much their time is worth.  There are air conditioning guys who are thrilled to turn on a newly repaired unit and give you relief, my carpet guy (All American Carpet Cleanres) is the happiest man I have ever met.  When I get new carpet - which I desperately need - he is going to miss me.  We have a great relationship because he has singlehandedly gotten my carpet through years longer than it should have.  We have shared salsa recipes and family stories.  Mark Andrews ( who took all the pictures for my website and is simply amazing.  Also, I love my butcher because he is thrilled to find enough chicken for me when we put an event together.  Melissa who lovingly grooms my dogs so well that they wag their tails when we arrive at Love-A-Pup!!

Think of all the people who make your life work....reward them with referrals and your thanks.  I am not saying you shouldn't learn to do things for yourself, right now my husband is changing my daughter's brakes, but don't think you have to do everything yourself.  I heard a man admit he hired a handyman to tackle a list a mile and a year long that his wife had waved in front of his face for months.  The squeaky door, the leaky faucet, the broken window, the door latch, the fan that needed to be installed and some shelves that needed to be hung.  All so annoying!!  When his wife came home to an all fixed house she was elated!!  Weeks later he confessed to her he had hired it out.  And guess what?  She was furious!  She felt he should have fixed everything himself and he felt nothing but relief and peace that it was done.  Isn't that what keeps us from some projects?  We think we can do it, and either we can't or don't have time and it never gets done.

So, bless my heart, I am opening the cage, fly my friends, fly!!  Hire someone you trust, someone that you will have to pay, but deserve the pay for a job well done.  Lets get the economy going!!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Untangling the mysteries of life...

Ever feel this fearless?

I watched an amazing movie this afternoon.  Amazing movies inspire me to do great things.  The movie evoked emotions in me that made me feel powerful.  When I get the feeling I can do anything, over come any obstacle, climb every mountain I have to write it down.

Unfortunately, my default emotion seems to be a bit opposite of "can do." and more like, "that would be great  but here are a million reasons why I can't"

I am kind of living my life backwards.  Instead of starting a business, a hard business, when I was young, eager and really healthy.  I am starting a business as an-almost-senior-citizen with a bad knee and a worse attitude.  Instead of saying, "so what?" I say, "why?"

Why am I doing this?  Why?

The answer to that is simple, we are unemployable-recession-victim-folks with no other options.

So in the words of my uncle when I was afraid to give the eulogy at my mother's funeral..."Donna, get on out there, you are made of better stuff."  Or as my Aunt would say..."Donna get out the butt-kicking machine and get it done."  Tough folks.

The movie I watched today was called "Freedom Writers".  As a person in love with words it really struck a cord.  Their stories told in their words gave them freedom.  They thought no one understood their lives on the streets with drugs and gangs until one teacher showed them a better way.  First she taught them about the holocaust and the biggest gang in the world, and how it started.  The pattern was the same...and they began to see, little by little that other people had problems, terrible problems.  But  they still prevailed.  And so could they, and they did.

Sometimes we see our problems as obstacles we cannot get around.  We need to jump on top of those problems and look around.  From that vantage point we can see what others are going through.

We can:

1.) See we are not alone, the negative voices in your head will always tell you, it is just you - you are the only one with this problem.  For years I thought we were the only ones in the country with money problems.  That's right, all those commercials on TV about mortgage problems were made just for me.  All the self help books in the library?  That's right, written just for me.  No one else needed them.  Being alone with failure is a bad place to be.

2.) See how other people handle their problems.  There aren't a lot of different solutions to problems, it's usually pretty simple...we need to see ones that will help us.

3.) Be an example of success... to show folks not to give up.

For four years I was in charge of about 160 women in my ward (parish, local church, ashram).  It was my stewardship to give them hope and encouragement through illness, marital problems, children problems and financial problems.  I found most situations fell in among those four areas.  I sat with them as they cried and told me there was no hope, no way out, no solution....but if I could get their attention, have them hold their fear at bay.....some could see solutions.  Doors would open, faith once tried was strengthened, and that problem became a strong place in their life going forward.  Facing fear straight on is not a cliche.  I wanted them to grab fear by the lapels.  If they let fear rule their lives, they stayed in the same place, feeling the same negative emotions over and over again.  You have to let go of the side of life's pool and just swim.  It isn't easy to let go... I know because I was not willing to let go for a long, long time.  Going through my head was the well rehearsed negative speak I was great at.

You can't do it

You are too old

What makes you think you know enough to do that?  Who would ever hire you?

Just give up.....don't even try.

A friend would tell me if the voices in your head give you peace then it is truth...If the voices make you anxious or afraid, then it isn't true, it is just a thought and thoughts aren't real.  None of those thoughts ever gave me peace, so I replaced all of them with these;

I can do it.

Since I am older I will be strengthened.  

If I don't know then I will find the solution.

The Lord (universe, higher power) wants me to be a success.  Think about that, the Lord, universe, higher power wants you to be a success!!

And you know what?  I started to feel peace.

There is a dove on my lanai who sits on her eggs no matter what.  She is driven by some intangible instinct to hatch those eggs.   We have had 100 degree heat, 70 mile an hour winds, rain with a few lovely days.  And yet she remains.  There is no doubt about what she is doing to me or to her.  I have not one time wondered if she would still be there.  I know she will,  it has never occurred to me she would give up and fly off and leave those eggs unprotected.  For her failure is not an option.  She puts her obvious fear of humans completely aside to sit on those eggs.  I wondered, "has she ever done this before?  And if so how does she know what to do?"  But she has figured it out and does after day.  And here is her success...

I took a lesson from this sweet bird about overcoming obstacles.

You may have never done it before, so what, do it!

Make a good plan and stay with it....Go BIG!!!

Trust your instincts, trust the light that is in you.

Don't be matter how big the dragon (or the human) don't be afraid.

 Had it not been for my time with the women in my ward I never would have been able to see my own insecurities and fears.  I had to confront them in order to start a path to joy.  And they showed me how.  

However it has not been easy.  My default mindspeak is..."give up, sit by the side of the wagon and let the wolves eat you"  and that would be easier.  But growth isn't easy, don't they call it growing pains?

I am living proof that almost-senior-citizens still have growing pains.

Fear be damned....full speed ahead!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

The mistakes bloggers make

Ray Ray's bouquets for Kelly Andrews

I just spent an hour going from blog to blog.  I believe in the high tech world it is called, "Blog hopping."  And ingenious phrase meant to distract you from what you are really doing....which is laboriously going from blog to blog trying to figure out what others are doing that is so compelling causing them to have thousands of followers. Not that I have to have thousands of followers.  I just want to improve what I am doing.

I read "blog mistakes 1-5"  followed by "blog mistakes 6-10".  Nuts....

I found I make every mistake listed.  Including not having a niche.  The logic from that is any readers I may have don't know what to expect from me.  Which immediately begged the question, people are expecting something from me?  Who knew?  Is there an implied contract when you write a blog for some kind of expectation?

Oh my, another pressure for an already packed Monday.

And evidently monkey brain writing is a bad thing.  (Monkey Brain - inability to focus on what you should be doing and indulging on every shiny object that catches your eye).  That's what I do...I am the dog on "Up".  He carries on a conversation and right in the middle he jerks his head around and says, "squirrel!"

I read so many blogs that are labeled, "humorous".  I didn't realize how important labels were.
I read blogs by smart people and a few loons.  I read political blogs, cooking blogs and designing blogs.
One thing I did notice is I rarely pay attention to the ads on the side of the blogs.  Unfortunately I did on one blog.  After reading the post I trusted her, sort of like meeting a new friend.  To support her, I clicked on one of the ads on her page.  Sort of like buying wrapping paper from your friend's child for the school fundraiser.  And guess what?  It was that survey stuff, the quote stuff, the "we will pay you money if you respond stuff"  I foolishly clicked on send.  My name is now in the inbox of every insurance, diabetes and heartburn salesman in America and I will be unsubscribing for days.  I just fielded the first call about the quality of my septic tank.  Oh, my....this might be a day where the phone accidentally falls off the hook.  

Bloggers please refrain from ads with booby traps...we don't like that.  

However not all is lost,  I did come away with some good ideas from my hopping.  Unfortunately I immediately felt I needed to be based in Silicon Valley to implement them.  My background needs to be lighter, information on "about me" should be better.  My issues with the computer are epic and it would be so much easier to let someone else fix it, twist it, or just figure it out. I am a great deal like my grandmother who always said, "I am not afraid of work, I can lay down right next to it and go to sleep."  I admit I am a classic underachiever who has long accepted the fact I need a staff.  People I can happily order about.  People who will solve all my little problems, do the heavy lifting and dust when necessary. 

I day dream about my imaginary staff.  They (that's right, they -I have a substantial number of people on my staff) show up with rakes and shovels when I am doing yard work I don't want to finish with one being an expert with sprinklers.

I imagine they appear with brooms, mops and dust cloths when I don't really want to clean.  My staff installed a new oven and did a lot of ironing, cleaned out my closet and brought in new clothes for my  new size that was achieved by my imaginary staff of nutritionists and personal trainers.

An imaginary masseuse has arrived with a table and oils in hand and gotten that kink right out of my neck.  

My imaginary staff  brought in beautiful wooden shutters for my upstairs windows, new carpet and a whole new paint job for my home.  And a tag along siding guy who fixed the missing piece of siding on my house.

There is nothing wrong with a healthy imagination, no matter how far fetched.  After all William Arthur Ward said, "If you can imagine it, you can achieve it: if you can dream it, you can become it."

Now I am imagining a staff of social media experts who can swoop in and make the necessary changes to the blog and my website.

One change I can't make is removing my monkey brain...I admit it, I follow shiny objects.  If something is interesting to me I want the latitude to write about parameters not a niche.  

One of the best things that has occurred from my blog came quite unexpectedly.  Last week I wrote a personally cathartic piece about my mothers. At the end I put in a line I didn't even think about.  Gratitude gives forgiveness a place to grow.  Right after I put the blog out my good friend and neighbor, Claudia, added that little phrase to a picture and put it on my facebook page.  It came out like this...

An amazing gift because I love everything about this picture.  Especially that the flower is blooming right where it is planted, against all possible odds, just like all of us.  

So here's to a day of blooming my friends.  No matter the matter the obstacles.  Go and be the person you want to be.

Thank you Claudia for the picture, and thank you God for the words.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Life Before Oprah Wasn't Easy

As a mom I know that every woman holds her newborn and utters the same prayer, hope or wish.
"Make me better than I am, help me do a good job, bless this baby in spite of me."

The relationship a mother has with her children can be a complicated one, mine is more a science project.  I had three mothers.

The woman who gave birth to me - Opal Leigh Jones

The woman who adopted me - Madeline Brown Beckman

The woman who raised me - Jerry Osborne Beckman

Seemingly, these women have nothing in common with each other.  All three    different places with different lives.  Yet they are all connected through the eternities by one person, me, Donna Lynn Beckman Tagliaferri.  I find that fascinating, and very mysterious.  All three remain an enigma to me, I Only know what was whispered to me by a random cousin, aunt or family friend.  No one with real knowledge ever sat down with me and explained what in the world was going on.

My young life was "Before Oprah", a time we didn't talk about anything that might be uncomfortable.  Oprah opened up the flood gates to make therapists rich all across the country.  Unless, of course,  you still didn't have the courage to ask hard things, or have relatives with the courage to tell the truth.

I don't know much about my birth mother, Opal Leigh.  In fact until my father died I didn't even know her name.  But in his private papers I found my original birth certificate, and there was her name, Opal Leigh Jones.  I was thrilled to see such a great Texas name because all through my life I lacked identity, but I knew I was from Texas, so that was my identity.  In fact I told my children they were half Italian and half Texan. Looking at her name erased all doubt in my mind about where my people came from.  The only information I gleaned from the birth certificate was she had given me a name.....Patti Jones.  Think of a very young woman doing her best naming me after a popular singer of her day, Patti Page.  It is so sweet and so sad at the same time.   I had been told (by the whisperers) she was 16.  The whisperers also said a family friend had wanted to adopt me.  This friend financially supported Opal through her entire pregnancy but decided they had become too close.  She felt their close relationship could be problematic for a closed adoption, so she told my parents about me.  The one person who really knew Opal never told me anything about her.  Life before Oprah was hard on secrets.  The whisperers told me my father was a professional golfer, they met at the Houston Open and I was born in the Houston Methodist Hospital.  But none of that ever came with any proof.  I have never looked for my biological parents, and to my knowledge they have never looked for me.

Then there was Madeline Brown.  An absolutely beautiful woman who hunted and fished better than the men.  She was the life of the party and could drink anyone under the table.  I belonged to her, she was my mother and despite her problems I never wondered if she loved me.  Drugs and alcohol destroyed my parents marriage.  I still remember their horrible fights right in front of me.  My father at one end of the kitchen Madeline at the other....screaming at each other.  And then one day Madeline packed up all my things and took me to Alaska where her aunt had a business.  She was going to start over I guess, but it didn't last very long.  The whisperers told me her addictions made taking care of me impossible so she traded me to my father for cash.  After I went back to Texas she visited one time that I can remember.  We went to dinner and then she took me to Louisiana to see her family.  That wasn't part of the visit agreement so all hell broke loose when she brought me back.  I never saw her again, my father never talked about her.  Before Oprah you never talked about uncomfortable things.  I wasn't healthy to bring up "such things".  Then one day when I was 8, my dad told me in a very controlled voice that my mother had died and we would never speak of her again.  I spent the next 10 years looking for her because I was never convinced she was really gone.  I didn't know where she died, I still don't.  My frustration was acute because I didnt have anyone to ask.  I saw my grandmother one time while I was high school and I met up with my Aunt Pee Wee after I was married (she was best friends with the woman who took care of Opal Leigh - that's how I ended up with Madeline)  She told me my father had forbid any contact with their family.  I don't know why I didn't ask anything at our brief lunch, but I didn't.  I never found out anything about anything.

Bless our hearts, we had no idea how to handle real family problems before Oprah.

Which brings me to Jerry.  When my father brought me back from Alaska there was a woman in my house.  I thought she was the housekeeper, but my father kissed her when he left for work with no introductions at all.  I figured out right away she wasn't the housekeeper.  I looked at her and she
looked at me and the most complicated and strange mother daughter relationship was born.  She was married to my dad, she wasn't necessarily a step mother.  I never really felt like she was my mother, at least not what I thought a mother and daughter relationship should be like.  I didn't know until I was grown how damaged she was, her past made her incapable of being a mom.  Her father died during the depression and her mother was never able to take care of her so she was raised by aunts.  Good Christian women who loved her, but weren't her mother.  Her brother was taken by the other side of the family, splitting them up.  They didn't reconsile until they were in their fifties.  She had been married 6 times before she met my father and never had children.  Our relationship was doomed before it could even occur.   Oprah never would have allowed this. But since she wasn't around it did occurr until I was about 19.   I was tired of being afraid, so I changed my life, went to college, got married and started my own family.  I reinvented myself, but still struggled with fear, what am I saying I still struggle with fear.  It wasn't until I had children of my own that I realized how hard it is to raise them. Jerry had reasons for treating me as she did, but that doesn't make it easier. 

It is true I didn't have a normal pattern for mothering, but all three moms gave me something

Opal gave me life.

Madeline gave me the insight to not drink or use drugs...I saw how it destroyed a very beautiful woman.

And Jerry gave me the ability to take on hard things and do your best no matter how hard it might be.

Against all possible odds the relationship I have with my children is pretty normal.  And I am so grateful for that....

Who knows?  Maybe my moms have been watching over me, helping me break the patterns that could have continued on.  I am grateful for that....

Gratitude gives forgiveness a place to grow, and that is where I want to be.  Thanks Oprah....