Keith Urban, Now Pain Free

Dawn Keith Urban Aug 2016

Summer 2016: The first time I met him.

I turned around the other day and there he was. Keith Urban. The object of my fantasies and desires for years. Countless years. He said “Nice to see you” and gave me a hug. And I felt nothing. Don’t get me wrong – it was great to see him because he’s a lovely person. And I love his music. But I felt no pain. No longing. I felt content. I felt peace. Many years ago, thoughts of Keith Urban brought me pain.

Years ago I was very unhappy. I was convinced I had taken the wrong path. My idea of what  my life should have looked like certainly did not resemble my actual life.

I spent my time wondering about a “fork in the road” – a moment of decision where I had to decide between two paths. I remember it well. I‘d just finished a semester abroad in Sweden. I’d already modeled in New York and Germany and had spent a summer as an intern at MTV in New York. This was back in the late 80s when they played music videos. I was not one to shy away from a challenge. I was fearless with a touch of blissful ignorance.

Instead of doing the risky thing and trying to get a job in entertainment, I chose to stay home near the boyfriend. I’m sure there are many reasons I did that. Having a best friend /romantic partner had always been important to me and I thought I could also find a great job. Plus, it was what people my age did.

Fast forward a number of years. Expectations not met.

So Keith Urban became my muse. I’m not sure how I discovered his album “Golden Road” in 2003 – about 15 years ago. His album and videos took me into “What If?” territory. Songs like “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me,” “Somebody Like You,” and “You Look Good In My Shirt” had me feeling elation and pain simultaneously. I felt longing. What had I done to myself? I could have had a different life. I met all kinds of people at MTV and while modeling. Famous people. Talented people. But there I was. Stuck in my hum-drum life. I thought I’d made poor choices.

Keith Urban was single back then. He represented the idea of an intimate bond with another person. Travel. Excitement. Living to full potential. Being appreciated. Feeling loved. And he’s a  hot musician! And music is my mojo! He was one-stop-shopping.

I flew to a city where Keith Urban was playing and stayed with friends. This was during his early career. I remember feeling sad that he was way beyond reach. I was just an audience member. An audience member stuck in a life.

After putting in my best efforts at the time, like marriage counseling and a move to a new city, we got divorced.

As Keith’s career was gaining momentum, he did a show in my town. I was working in country radio at the time and was devastated when I had seats in the nosebleeds. It felt painful. He was so close, yet so far, once again. The shitty seats felt like a metaphor for many things in my life.

A few years later, I got married again. I was so happy the day I got married. I no longer had a need for a muse. The happiness I was looking for was not a distant thing – I had found it. I had done the work, or so I’d thought.

My new husband and I went to a Keith Urban concert when he played in the town where we lived. And oddly enough, the pain of seeing Keith Urban was gone. I was really happy. I felt connected to my husband. I was really happy to be with him. What I didn’t understand was that my husband was feeling pain that night; insecurity. I did not understand my husband’s pain. He thought I was wishing I was with Keith instead of him. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Sure, I loved watching Keith perform. Music brings me joy. But there was no longing. No pain. Plus, I was thrilled that Keith had his life with Nicole and their kids.

About 18 months into that marriage, it ended. I understand now that my second husband’s thoughts about many things caused him a lot of suffering. That caused a lot of suffering for both of us.

A few years after that marriage ended, Keith was playing in a city a few hours away. I knew I could probably meet him via a contact with my radio job. So I drove to the venue with a few friends. My friends got to meet the opening act while I went to something called “The VIP experience.” It’s a small area where the musician does a few acoustic songs before having a short Q&A session. There’s some food and drinks and you meet other super fans. I have to admit it was really fun to be back there. But, before all that, you meet the artist. So, I got in line to finally meet him. I was at the end of the line. And, oddly enough, I wasn’t really that nervous. All those years of anticipation. I kept saying to myself “I’m about to meet Keith Urban. I’ve been waiting for this for more than a decade. Why am I not flipping shit?” I mean I was a little nervous, but it was more like fear of the unknown.

Keith was behind a wall of curtains. So unlike many other meet and greets, I could not see him interact with other people before it was my turn to say “Hi” and get a picture. Instead, it was wait in line, move up a little, wait a little longer, move up a little more, wait, move, get to the front of the line, wait, bodyguard opens the curtain, and “whammo” – there’s Keith with his professional photographer.

So there he was. Keith. In all his Keithy-ness. Perfectly lovely as you’d expect. And I was fine as I usually am. I’ve been told I’m “clinically extroverted” so even if I’m a little nervous I can usually pull off an intelligent sentence. I mentioned something technical about his current album which he liked and then asked if I could hug him for the picture. Obviously, he said yes.

It was all over in minutes – and I was back at my seat waiting for the acoustic set to start. And I was fine. No tears. No longing. Hmmm. I felt oddly let down. In a good way.

He no longer represented what I could not have. Something had changed. I knew it would be great to meet him. His music brings me so much joy. And if I could build a partner, he certainly seems to be a great prototype. So yes, I was thrilled meet him, but there was nothing else. He no longer represented a life I longed for.

After my first divorce I realized I had to figure out what had not worked and go toward  connection and intimacy. I thought I had found that the second time. I was wrong. But that’s okay. After the second divorce, it was back to square one.

How did I end up divorced twice? How do any of us end up where we are?

I’m learning to be curious rather than judgmental. 

I’ve been with my sweetie for almost two years. Lots of questions. Lots of scary and vulnerable moments. Lots of pain to work through. It’s been horrifyingly great.

A few weeks ago, Keith Urban was playing in a city a few hours away. Even though my sweetie is not a fan of concerts, crowds, or music, he said he’d go because he loves spending time with me. He knew my whole Keith Urban “story.” This time, we were in the radio room. We were with other radio people backstage – a relaxed area where Keith chats with folks – some of whom he has known for years throughout his career.

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Summer 2018: He is much prettier than this.

Keith walked into the radio room and saw me, gave me a hug, and said “nice to see you” because he’s polite. He would, of course, not know me from Adam. Or Eve, as he’s only met me once. But, he’s so nice and easy to chat with, I wasn’t going to complain. I, of course, mentioned something about being presentable (not having food in my teeth) and he countered with something about “why be presentable?”

Later, I asked him for another hug pic and he mentioned something about me being tall like his wife. My boyfriend, Keith and I had a conversation about his razor stubble and what Nicole thinks about it – my boyfriend also likes to skip shaving. Keith said he and Nic like the look but she doesn’t like the way it feels either. Keith said he skips shaving due to laziness. My sweetie liked that answer. Thinking back, dammit, I should have asked him a music question. Like how do they pick which songs get released, in which order. Shitballs.

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Best photobomb ever.  (My sweetie isn’t possessed. Red-eye reduction gone haywire.)

And then we got the other pic. The one with me and my sweetie. And Keith.

We got to stand in the pit and watch the concert up close. I loved it cause I knew the songs. Since we have old feet, after about an hour of standing, we went to our seats. I knew my sweetie was there enduring the flashing lights, loud music he didn’t know, a huge crowd, a long day of driving, and a $40 parking fee, just to be there with me. So, we left a song early so we could beat the crowd and get to our hotel before midnight.

My boyfriend didn’t spend any time worrying about whether I wanted to be with Keith Urban instead of him. He knows I only want to be with him.

But since he can’t play guitar and sing, I’ll just have to get my Keith fix every so often. 🙂

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My Chicago Fortune Teller

IMG_7488A few weeks ago, I walked into a room at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago and it looked familiar. The room had a modern feel and the view of Navy Pier was great. About 15 years ago I stayed at that hotel. Fifteen years ago I was there with my husband and two of my three kids. But this time, I was there with my boyfriend.

Back in 2002, or whatever year it was, I was living about an hour outside of St. Louis and was a stay-at-home mom raising three kids. I’m guessing the year because it pre-dated uploading things to Facebook to find later. I remember using Priceline to find a hotel and taking grade-school daughters to the city and leaving my toddler son at home with grandma. I remember visiting the American Girl store and riding a tour boat on the river and onto the lake on a very cold night.

So, how did I get from that hotel 15 years ago with a husband and two kids to now – that same hotel with a boyfriend? What the hell happened? And what if a fortune teller would have found me in the lobby of the hotel during that stay 15 years ago to tell me what my future would hold? Well, lemme tell ya.

I was in the lobby all those years ago, getting an overpriced Coke from the gift shop, and a lady in an olive-drab cape approached me. I thought she was a fellow guest, albeit, in an unfortunate outfit. Wrong. She said she was a fortune teller. My fortune teller. She asked if we could chat; she wanted to tell me something about my future. Of course, I thought she was a kook, but I was also mildly intrigued. So I followed her over to one of the couches in the lobby and thought “this oughta be good.”

Just then, she reminded me of my 5th grade year in New Jersey; some friends and I bought a pack of cigarettes at a local hospital’s vending machine. Holy shit! She’s for real! Before I could wrap my head around that one, she started talking. “Dawn, you poor thing. I’m wary of telling you of things to come, but feel I must so you can prepare yourself. In the not-too-distant future you will move across the country and have many surprises. People you trust will be dishonest. You won’t see it coming. You will be betrayed. And abandoned. You will lose your home at a really bad time. Rewarding job prospects will be non-existent and you will work low-paying jobs. You will work really hard to earn a Master’s degree, but you won’t use it. There will be long periods of time when you and your kids won’t get along. They will struggle. You will be brought to your knees and sometimes will feel that you don’t really want to be alive. Those times will scare you as you have never experienced them before. You will spend a lot of time crying and feeling anxious. You’ll feel traumatized. Oh, and you’ll have a heart attack. You will experience three life-altering phases. You will wonder why all of those things are happening to you. But don’t worry, you’ll be fine in the end. FYI, you’ll be back here in 15 years and you’ll have a wonderful time at a conference with a professor you call Jimmie Jailbait.

Uh…

What?

With that she got up and walked toward the lobby doors. I could see her trip and fall before she reached the revolving doors. She got up and left the hotel in a blob of olive-drabness.

I sat on that couch in a stupor. I didn’t have much time to think about what to do next, because a few minutes later, a woman with bright pink hair plopped down next to me. She looked like Cyndi Lauper. Before a word could escape my mouth she said:

“Hey there you hot piece of ass! I’m so glad you came to Chicago Dawn! I know you are feeling a bit lost now as a stay-at-home mom, but no worries. Things are certainly going to change for you in the next decade or so. You are going to have some big changes and surprises coming your way but you will handle them with grace. You are surrounded by love and people who truly love you. You will be helped by your first husband when the chips are down. And when despair comes, you will survive the waves like a ship toiling at sea. What you need will appear. And you are so strong. You will rise up like you always do. You will be hurt, and scared, and lost. But you will find strength you never knew you had. And you will find true friends. And you will continue to be a great mother. Stay the course sister. You will create something that helps others after you weather your own battles. You will invite people into your pain and triumph. Oh, and you’ll be back here in about 15 years at a conference for nerds and you’ll LOVE it. And the guy you’re with is a keeper. He’s gonna help you and you’re gonna help him.”

She gave me a long hug and got up to walk away.

I jumped up and said “Wait? What? First husband? You mean there will be more than one?!”

She just winked and said “Due time sweetness, due time. Just keep in mind that all this stuff happens for you – not to you. You’ll figure that out too. It’s all in the way you think about things. You’re gonna do great. And you’re gonna do great things. Oh – and that drab chick that was here before me – I tripped her on the way out and told her to go back for more fortune teller training. Her delivery sucks.”

With that, she was gone. But not before she stopped at the lobby bar for a six-pack to go.

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Anyone who knows me well knows I often say “If you would have told me then, I would never have believed you.” That’s what I kept thinking during that recent stay in Chicago. That thought comes to mind often, especially at the holidays. For example, if something odd, challenging, sad, or wonderful happens, I often think “Wow, it’s the 4th of July. If you would have told me last year on the 4th of July when I was (fill in the blank) that today I’d be (fill in the blank), I never would’ve believed you. Yep, life sure changes.

And there are many narratives we can use to tell the stories of our past. So many lenses to look through. So many thoughts we can create.

Lately, I’ve learned so much from life coaches Martha Beck, Brooke Castillo, and Susan Hyatt. They share their own work and the wisdom of many teachers. I listen to their podcasts and/or read their books. I think Oprah SuperSoul podcasts are great too as she interviews wonderful teachers/guests. Check them out if you are interested in looking at life through a new lens.

Lost Motherness

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Syd’s birthday – Kyle not happy

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Glynn’s birthday – Kyle not happy

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Must be Kyle’s birthday. 🙂

About a year ago, I found a company that would transfer my old videotapes to a digital format so I could watch them online. I didn’t record a lot, but was curious about what was on the tapes I had. I was excited when I got the link and could start watching. Wow. There they were; those moments of daily life with my kids. There they were! My little kids! In the flesh. In voice. In movement. My God, they were precious. Where did the time go? And where was I during that time? I watched the tapes and just cried. I cried for the mom in those tapes. That sad mom. That lost woman. I cried for the 15 years I was there with them, but not really there.

My first memory of being really alone as a mom was the night I brought my oldest daughter home from the hospital. They told us she’d turned blue that morning in the nursery; she’d stopped breathing from choking on mucus. I think that was the longest night I’d ever spent awake on her floor. Alone.

From there, years passed as I made big decisions, alone. Decisions about how to handle big problems and little problems. ADHD. Speech delays. Reading delays. Chores. Sleep overs. Jesus. Mary. Joseph. Sex. Drugs. Rock and Roll. I was a kid with kids. Really, what the fuck did I know?

I did not want to be a stay-at-home mom. All those years, I thought I was supposed to be doing something else. I was supposed to be somewhere else.

IMG_6833My mom was a stay-at-home mom. And she always told us we had to get a college degree. I guess that implied we had to do something other than what she did. So that’s what I set off to do. Different experiences when I was young set my mind toward doing “something important.” Growing up, people thought I should be a model. So I did that in New York and Germany. I had a theater scholarship at the community college, so maybe that was something? Then I went to another college and got a degree in Broadcasting. And I was smart. I had a free ride. I worked really hard too. When everyone else was getting wasted on Wednesday nights, I was at home reading my textbooks. During my last semester, I studied abroad in Sweden. And the professor who sent me to Sweden thought I was special – he thought I should get a Master’s. But, I didn’t think sociology was my thing. Looking back, I’m grateful he was my cheerleader.

I even did my college internship at MTV in New York. So, by the time I was 23 years old, I had done some pretty cool shit. Hell, I‘d even lived in San Francisco for one summer with a group of nuns and did volunteer work. That was the summer I worked backstage and met Mr. Mister! I even lived at the beach in Ocean City, MD a few summers. You could say I was not one to rest on my laurels. I grabbed the world by the balls, horns, or whatever.

IMG_6836Fast forward to the married me. Before kids, I worked a low-paying job in radio. After a few kids I worked jobs in promotions and advertising that, looking back, were okay. I even had a nanny for a while. I lived where I lived because of the husband’s job. I guess we decided his job was more important; he could make more money. My talents were never really considered. By him. Or by me. Or his parents. Or my parents.

It became obvious that it was my job to raise the kids – whether I had a full-time job or not. The husband worked. I was always so jealous of my friends who had husbands who would get home from work and play with the kids – or be the Scouts leader. I was so jealous of the couples who talked and knew each other. I was jealous of the idea of working and having kids and the myth of having it all.

By the time there were three kids, we had moved to another state. A job that ignited my talents, would have meant an hour commute – plus all the house and kid work. No. Fuck no. And there was no way I was going to put the kids in daycare from 7 AM until whenever. I know myself pretty well. When I work, I work. The kids would have lived at the daycare. And both parents would have been an hour away. No. Fuck no.

IMG_6841At the beginning of my time at home I felt very isolated. And lonely. Alone. There were many days I felt I was dying. The fun me. The creative me. The one who wanted to make something. The one wanted to experience the world and learn new shit. I created a freelance copywriting business so people would know I was still there and had something to say. Make no mistake, being a stay-at-home mom is exhausting. The hardest work ever. How many moms and dads do I know who go crazy just staying home with their kids over summer break? The husband used to say that he’d rather go to work than stay home and “babysit” the kids.

In the last few years, so much resentment had built up. Where’s the recognition for moms? Is there a Nobel prize for good momship? Is there really a “Mother of the Year” award? Do they do stories about moms on 60 Minutes? No, not unless you trap your kids in the basement. Where’s the big salary to show what a great fucking job you did? Where’s the trophy? Where’s the social support Hillary – fucking baking cookies comment? You get a bunch of patronizing “hardest job in the world” comments at dinner parties.IMG_6840

I created a group of girlfriends to help fill the void. But there was a void. I was supposed to be doing something. Something for a resume. But stay-at-home motherhood is just a void on a resume. It’s a nothing job on a resume, even though you’ve been doing so much. On a resume it is literally space you have to fill with something important.

And if you get divorced, you’re fucked. Split things evenly, my ass. After being home for decades, there is no way a woman’s career can catch up to a man’s. No way. He walks away the financial and career winner. His salary remains, and you start over. (Yes, I am still working through some anger. Some of it self-directed.)

And yet, I would do it all over again. It’s the regret I am trying to heal.

I was sobbing when I told my counselor “I would give anything if the 53-year-old me could go back to that time – the time in those videos – and just sit in bed with the kids when they were little – and just read to them again. If I could be with them for just one day! I would cherish them, I would read them a book, I would smell their hair, I would cuddle them, I would snuggle their little bodies, I would stare at them while they were sleeping. Just ONE day – I want to go back now to when they were little.”IMG_6844

And I cried when I told that story to a group of people the other day. And I cried when I told the story of the videos to my boyfriend this morning.

What a cliche! What a horrible cliche! The person who wants to go back in time to relive some moment. The person who didn’t listen to that other cliche “stop and smell the roses!” How lame!

Thinking of it feels like torture. I know I had joyful moments back then – but when I think back to that time, it feels dark. When I see the videos, I see that I was a good mom. I see the joy. I just don’t remember it.

I keep thinking that I want some fairy godmother to come knock that younger Dawn upside the head and say “Wake the fuck up! You are going to be here for 15 years or so. Relish it. Enjoy it. Live it. Breath it. Settle in. You will never get these moments back.” And the Dawn of today says “Yes, Yes, Yes! I would do it. I would settle in. If I only knew then what I know now!”  Great! Another cliche!IMG_6838

So where was Dawn back then? She was stewing in resentment for what she thought she should be doing. What would I do differently? I would feel the joy of those kids.

Back then, I was a good mom. I was probably a great mom. But I wasn’t present. I was living in muck.

My counselor tells me I need to be nicer to myself. I need to go back to that Dawn and be nice to her. Comfort her. She was doing the best she could at the time. Give her a hug. She was working really hard. Alone. I have a hard time doing that for myself.

IMG_6832My kids are adult-ish now. Luckily, I get to see them often. Last night, my 25-year-old Face-Timed me and said we needed to do it more often cause “the Kardashians do it, so we should too.” Kardashians or not, I realized how lucky I was that on a Friday night when she was bored, she thought to call her mom. This kid was also at my house for a long school break recently, and we spent a lot of time talking. I feel close to her. I feel like I know her.

IMG_6839The same goes for the other two kids. My other daughter and I Face-Timed last night about a spring break trip we will take to New Orleans. I’m sure she’s happy that I will help pay for part of the trip, but deep down, I think she’s happy to be going with me. I feel close to her – and I feel like she lets me know her pretty well.

My son and I have lots of great talks – just like I do with his sisters. He’s almost 19 and I always feel great when he says “love you” when he hangs up the phone. I think he is a pretty sensitive guy and I always feel he’s listening even when other people think he’s not. I think he knows I love him unconditionally. The best thing I’ve heard lately is that to love that way means to love someone “for no reason.” I think my kids know I love them for no reason. I just love them.

I now understand the idea of being present. At least I am trying really hard to understand. I cherish the time I have with my kids now. In 20 years, I don’t want to watch a video I have of them on my phone and cry – then beg to go back to relive it. I want to feel the joy now. I do feel the joy now.

Thank God. And Jesus. And Mary. And Joseph. And all the other ones out there looking out for us.

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Vulnerable at the Phone Fixer Shop

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Edited bikini pic from my phone

I don’t have any naked pictures on my phone. Naked pics aren’t my thing. But, I have taken pics of myself in undies to demonstrate the kind of bikini I wanted to buy. And I have a pic of myself in a bikini in Mexico. So, if you had my phone, you wouldn’t find anything too racy. The undies pic could be a Kohl’s ad. And I literally walked down a beach in Cabo San Lucas in that bikini last month. But, if you are my Facebook or Insta pal, you’ll recall that neither of those pics appeared online. Why? I guess I just don’t want to post pictures of myself in a bikini. It’s just not my thing.

A few days ago I did a story on-air about how Apple is throttling speeds on older iPhones like mine, the iPhone 6S. With every “update,” the phones get slower. Apple purposely slows down the processing speed to accommodate the aging batteries in older phones. I wasn’t losing my mind; my phone IS slower. The fix? A new battery rather than a new phone. Since I always buy the Apple warranty, AppleCare Plus, I was told the battery replacement would be free.

I made it to the local Apple place; always in a basement. Very cordial male computer geeks were waiting on a guy who had his wife’s laptop and external hard drive. He left it there to be “saved” by the geeks who know the mysteries of computers.

When it was my turn they tested the battery and told me to come back the next day. While I was there I noticed the techs kept coming in and out of a locked door. I left knowing I’d be back the next day – but the idea of turning over my phone creeped me out. Why? It’s not as if there’s much to find. So why did I feel so icky? And why did I feel uncomfortable for the man who’d left his wife’s computer behind?

It’s the issue of privacy. And the locked doors. When you go to places like an Apple service provider, Best Buy, Verizon, or wherever – you are just turning things over to a stranger with no assurance of privacy. All your communications. Your writings. Your pictures. Your web searches.

That man just left his wife’s computer and hard drive. Such a personal thing. So much on there. Did he just hand over his wife’s diary? Her emails? Her credit card numbers? Does she have naked pics on there? From the tone of his chat with the tech, he wasn’t taking it there for a routine checkup.

Many of us go to the dentist or doc for routine checkups. But how many of us take a trip to the computer shop or phone store to see if they are running well? And before we go, do we wipe every personal thing off of them? Not likely. We usually go when they crash; in the middle of something important like a personal email, specs of a new invention, or a break-up text. So, when the computer comes back to life in the hands of the tech, there is our life, for their perusing.

Just like we often head to the hospital when our body crashes. Or to a lawyer when our life crashes. But at least when we visit a doctor or lawyer we feel like the things we say are gonna be kept secret. We are in the room with the doctor or lawyer. We are part of it. The doc is gonna tell us what she finds. The lawyer doesn’t know our secret sins unless we tell him.

So the next day when I returned, I gave them the passcode to my phone and asked if I could watch them replace the battery. They said it was not allowed by Apple – and the guy disappeared behind the locked door. Such an icky feeling. The tech was just one click away from all my emails, all my photos, all my texts, and the credit card numbers that are stored in my phone’s wallet app. So, when this tech guy came out from behind the curtain, so to speak, was he going to know what I looked like in my underwear? Will he know that I have three kids? Will he know where I work and that one of my Nashville reps just sent me a bunch of download codes for a new country album to give away on-air? How the fuck will I know? He will know. I won’t know a thing.

A few minutes into my wait one of the techs came out and we had a great chat. I asked him about the locked door and he told me Apple has all kinds of rules. The tech working on Apple phones has to be behind a locked door and cameras watch him as he works. There is also a very pricey piece of equipment that replaces phone screens, hence the added security.

I was very blunt and said “What if I had naked pics on my phone?” He said “Delete them before you get here.” I asked about bringing in a computer and all the personal information they contain, and he said “Apple says to wipe your computer clean before any repair by backing it up with Time Machine and an external hard drive.”

All I heard was blah, blah, blah. That’s like saying don’t have a heart attack while sitting on the toilet. Again, most people visit computer and phone repair places when the devices aren’t working. So having a chance to end the text, stop the writing, log off of Dropbox, or whatever, is not always an option.

Sure, backing things up for safe-keeping is always a good idea. That’s why I back up to iCloud. But computers and phones don’t whack out at convenient times.

We shouldn’t have to worry that Snoopy McSnoopPants is going to read our stuff and look through our photos. There is no transparency for the consumer. There should be a window where we can see what they are doing. What’s the big secret Apple? We should be able to watch what the tech is doing just like the window at Krispy Kreme donuts. I don’t care about Apple covering their ass. I want them to care about mine. Well, not really – just my figurative ass.

I am generally a trusting person and I’m guessing that the tech working on my phone the other day didn’t have the time nor inclination to look through my phone. From what I’ve read online about this issue, many techs just want to get your phone or computer fixed. They have enough to do without taking time to look through your personal stuff.

But I also know human nature. Perhaps you’ve seen stories about pics being taken off phones. Or emails being read or credit card numbers taken. Sure, there are many times when our private information is vulnerable, but often, we feel “safe.” Like when we share information with doctors, lawyers, ministers, therapists, bankers, mortgage lenders, teachers, and the like. But in those cases we feel protected by laws. But when we go to a computer or phone store “broken,” we have no such sense of security. At least it doesn’t feel that way.

Kudos to those of you who can make yourself feel “safe” before dropping off a computer. You can encrypt, log out, wipe clean, or whatever. But you gotta know there’s plenty of folks who have a hard time just figuring out how to save to iCloud. For them, learning how to erase all personal ties from a computer is out of the question. And as I said, sometimes you get caught with your pants down – or, with a document open. Your computer crashes mid-something. I write, a lot, and some of it is for my eyes only. If my computer crashed while I was writing in my journal, it would later open under the gaze of a computer tech. I would hope he or she would not read it.

If I did have a heart attack on the toilet I would assume the paramedics would come to my aid and cover me with a blanket to protect my privacy. I’m not sure there is a standard protocol for techs who see private information. Close the file to protect privacy or keep looking cause it’s titillating?

From reading blogs, I know techs sometimes see stuff they don’t want to see, like child porn. And they see things they “don’t want to see” while doing the job of fixing a phone or computer. That’s what happens in a profession where you deal with private information. I’m sure nurses and teachers hear a lot during the course of a day. But they are trained on how to deal with it. Is the Geek Squad? The phone techs at Verizon? Apple techs?

Perhaps a computer or phone tech should not be thought of as an “electronics geek.” They are dealing with private information. They aren’t just fixing an electronic component like a TV or fridge. Ethics training needs to be implemented because they are not just dealing with a motherboard and microchips.

And as far as I know, there are no protections for us when it comes to handing over our electronic selves. Apple just takes them behind a locked curtain.

* I have no complaint about the service I got at the Apple service provider. My phone works great now. My complaint is with Apple.

Divorce: Things lost, but not forever

Gorging yourself on pulled pork and pierogies is expected when you visit a local arts fest. This, after I tried on 45 rings and my sweetie bought me a gorgeous handmade necklace. As we walked along, checking out booths full of stuff, I saw a bunch of Christmas ornaments. My sweetie asked a question. I didn’t answer. Instead, I just kept walking with a lump in my throat. I knew if I answered I would cry. So I just whispered something about not having my Christmas tree. I told him I was trying not to cry. So, we just walked while I let the moment of grief pass. For the last three years or so, I’ve had a lot of those moments. Odd moments that come at the oddest of times.

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This angel has been on top of my tree since the early 1990s.

December of ’92: I lived in Omaha, Nebraska and my first baby girl was six-months old. It was time to go tree shopping. I’d grown up with a fake tree and had such warm and loving feelings about it. That tree was stored in a big-ass box and was a pain-in-the-ass to put together. It had wired branches that went into a long-battered wood pole. It had colored lights with night-light sized bulbs, glass ball ornaments, garland (not tinsel), and a nativity set. I used to stare at it for hours. That tree paired with “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on TV made me feel sheer joy as a kid. Even now, a decorated tree and Charlie Brown means warmth, safety, and love.

So 1992 was my year to recreate the same thing for my new family. My baby daughter and I got into our Ford Festiva with tires the size of donuts and headed into the wilderness of big-box stores to find our tree destiny. And there it was. Six feet of plastic beauty. Sixty-bucks later it was loaded into the Festiva: back seat down, rear gate of the car flipped open, rear-facing car seat illegally strapped into the front seat, and new mother convinced she’d go to “shitty mother” jail.

For 23 years that tree was my tree. It became the family tree because soon enough there were three kids and a dog. Year after year it stood. And it was always the same; white lights, gold garland, and ornaments. It stood, bearing all those ornaments; those Hallmark series ornaments purchased for each kid beginning with the year of their birth, the Barney ornament that moves, the naked Santa ornament from cousin Betty Jean, the leg lamp ornament that talks, and all the goofy school pics ornaments the kids made. The tree was a beauty.

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A beauty to behold

Well, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One year, after I got the lights on the tree, one of the strands went out. In frustration, I drove to the store to get a new strand. All they had left were LEDs. Onto the tree they went. The result was ridiculous, as you can see. The incandescents glowed yellow. The LEDs glowed blue. How unsightly! And it was on display out the front window! Did I give a shit? Well, obviously not. I thought Martha Stewart. Bite me. I had a leg lamp from the movie A Christmas Story in my front window the rest of the year. My front window was a freak show.

A few years after the lighting incident I got divorced for the second time. I was forced to downsize and sell the house I’d been living in with my kids for 11 years. For years after our split, my first husband and I worked together to make sure the kids never had to move. No such luck with husband number two. I don’t feel like wasting any breath on that turd, so instead I’ll chat about my stuff – that really isn’t just stuff.

I had to sell my house and move in a short period of time. I had to get rid of stuff in a frenzy. I am not a materialistic person, but some days I felt like I was dying. Getting rid of sixty-percent of my stuff felt like death. Perhaps I am sentimental? One day I sat in the garage sorting screws. And I was crying. Ex-husband #1 walked by carrying a box as he was helping me move and probably thought I was batshit crazy. I thought Oh my God. Will I need screws in a townhouse? I won’t have a garage, but will I need a screw at any point in my future?

Sure, I took loads of stuff to Goodwill. Multiple car loads of stuff. But there were certain things that meant something to me that I had to get rid of – like my kitchen table. Yes, the table my kids and I sat around year after year. It wouldn’t fit in the townhouse I was moving into, but there was no way in hell I was giving it to Goodwill so it could sit there with some garish price tag on it. So I decided to list a bunch of stuff on Craigslist under Free to see what happened. Now the table lives in Boalsburg. Ex-husband #1 and I delivered it to a young couple who needed it for a growing family.

Next, my house plants. My beloved house plants. Some of them came from funerals; my dad’s funeral, my former mother-in-law’s funeral. From my first day on-the-job in 1993 in Omaha. From here and there and everywhere. These plants had moved with me from Nebraska to Missouri to Pennsylvania. Two female friends came and loaded them into the back and front seats of their cars. They are still alive, I think. The plants – and the friends.

Artwork. I had Impressionism prints on my walls. For years, Renoir, Monet, and Pissarro brightened our space. One morning, a guy literally came and took them off my walls. He said he was opening some sort of business and would use them there.

Holiday decorations. Ouch. I loved decorating for the holidays and I had a big house. I was going to a very small townhouse and bins of stuff had to go. For example, lots of the stuff was for Halloween. I took pictures of my beloved ghouls and goblins, posted them online, and asked people to take them home. People were kind enough to tell me what they were going to do with them; my skeleton bride was going to grace a haunted hayride – or maybe she was going to a local neighborhood. Either way, she was going to a nice place.

Christmas. I don’t really remember many of the decorations I got rid of, except my tree. There was no place at the townhouse for a six-foot, fake tree. So she had to go. I saw visions of her standing all alone in the back lot at Goodwill. No fucking way. I would sob. No. Hell no. So her picture went online with the rest of the decorations. As far as I can remember, she went with someone who had a Christmas-themed business.

That time is still a daze for me. Even now, I don’t know where some of my stuff ended up. I just remembered I used to have a reindeer in a rocking chair that rocked and sang Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. Where the hell is that? I still regret giving some of it away. At one point I drove a car-full of antiques to an antique mall and some sleazy guy gave me $60 for all of it. The wedding dress from wedding #2 was part of the deal. He told me the dress would end up at a flea market. I didn’t give a shit where it ended up.

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Me and one of my daughters at the Met

About two years ago, I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC with one of my daughters. We walked into a room filled with Impressionism. Even though I’d seen it there before, seeing it again hit me hard; the Monet that was no longer in my life. I got tears in my eyes. The memory of what was.

I’ve had many odd moments since giving away my stuff. I missed that skeleton bride at Halloween. So, I found the exact one from the 1990s on eBay recently. It was odd to be so happy about finding her. This past Halloween she graced the living room of my boyfriend’s house. I think his kids named her Mrs. Bones.

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Mrs. Bones

My townhouse is absolutely lovely now. It’s home. I remodeled it after I moved in and my friend Sarah was nice enough to give me a few ceramic, lighted Christmas trees to replace my fake tree. And after that day at the arts festival, my boyfriend said we’d get a tree this year at his house. He and his girls picked out a real tree. That’s a first for me.

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The real tree – my stuff and his stuff

I sorted through the boxes of ornaments, lights and garland I managed to keep. Three years after the loss of my tree, my ornaments are back up. And so is that strand of blue-white lights. My boyfriend had ornaments and lights too, so we have a dual-family tree with lights of different sizes. I hung my craft show ornaments and he hung his shiny red balls. (Get your mind out of the gutter.)

When I am at my boyfriend’s house, I will sit in the living room and look at the tree, just like I did when I was a little girl. Just as I did when I was a new mom, just as I did when I had toddlers and teenagers. I still feel serene around a tree that I decorated. My nativity scene is set up too and the angel that’s been on top of my tree for decades is back on top. She’s just in a new place.

* This is just one story of loss due to divorce. If you are divorced you know the losses are many; friendships, family members, material items, plans for the future, companionship, love, and others. But over time, these losses can certainly turn into new paths of friendship, love, family and plans for the future. Believe it.

Open Letter on my Anniversay: Letting Go of Fear

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One year ago today, I went on a Match.com date with a guy I call Jimmy Jailbait. You may have read the story; I peed myself cause I waited too long to head to the bathroom. Tonight I’ll head to his house after I work-out. Then I’ll cook dinner while he’s at a “back to school night” with his ex-wife and kids. But tonight, instead of pee, it will be tears. Like many other days this year, I’ll just cry.

I’ll cry because I’m happy. I’m learning to let go of fear. I’m returning to that sweet, bright, happy person I used to be. To the core of myself that loves people. To the one who wasn’t cheated on by really important people in her life. To the one who wasn’t surprised by lies. I’m making a return to the one who knows people are worthy of trust.

It’s been a rough year. I can’t count the times in the past year I’ve driven to work in tears. I can’t count the times I’ve cried through sessions with my counselor. And how many times have I cried with my friends? I’m supposed to be in love. Why am I crying?

I already know. It’s because I feel like I’m “walking the plank” with Jimmy. Because I am. I have been so vulnerable. I’ve revealed so much to him. Lame things. Insecure things. Horrible thoughts. Things like “I can’t go to see the Wonder Woman movie with you because she’s beautiful. I will feel like a nothing sitting in the seat next to you because I know you’ll think she’s hot. I’ve never been insecure about my looks before. And now I’m not sure what is happening to me. Aging? Being cheated on numerous times? I’m not sure what it is.”

And Jimmy is there. He hears all of my stupid-ass shit. He lets me cry. He lets me be funny. He lets me be strong. He lets me be weak. He lets me be damaged. And sad. And smart. And powerful. And goofy.

He has let me in too. He has been vulnerable. And honest. And caring. And I can see that he really listens. I feel really loved.

I see how he treats his kids. I see how he treats my kids. I see how he treats his ex-wife. And I see how he treats his peers – and the server at the restaurant. And I’m in.

He gives me a lot of his time. He shares a lot of his thoughts. I do feel very loved. Maybe that’s what scares me. I have felt loved before. And then…

The thought of facing the pain I’ve felt in the past makes me cry. I’m crying as I write this. But I’ve never been one to shy away from living. So here I am. Living.

I can trust myself. And I can trust him. I just need to keep breathing.

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* Over this past year, I’ve been to lots of counseling, read lots of books, and I love listening to Dr. Laura Berman’s podcasts. In January, my friend Debbie and I will launch a divorce support group called “Rebuilders.”  Stay tuned.

That Marriage: The Big Lies

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Recently, I was on-air getting ready to chat about something: The Blake Shelton concert coming to the area, why coffee is good for you, or maybe some big news about flip flops. A FB Messenger “message request” popped up. I didn’t recognize the woman’s name. The line that caught my eye just as I opened the mic was “I’m fairly certain we were sleeping with him at the same time.”  The messages continued until we got to this screenshot.

Some divorces are easier than others. The one I am writing about now was devastating. For the past few years, I’ve regarded my ex as a person in deep pain. No matter how much I’ve wanted to lash out at him, I’ve stopped myself. It felt like kicking a dog when he’s down or pouring salt in a wound – whatever cliche you prefer. Mind you, not lashing out has probably been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My plan is not to lash out now, but to share part of the story – about how I dealt with rage. With anger.

It’s hard to know where to start, so let me say I married a person I didn’t really know. The marriage was full of jealousy, lies, and insecurity. He thought I was a liar. When I “liked” FB posts from a former boyfriend I was “disrespectful.” When I had meet and greet pics taken with country music singers, I was “celebrity humping.” When I went out with groups of male and female friends, I wasn’t “acting the way a wife should.” And when I wrote a memoir about a very difficult time in my life, he was horrified. I shouldn’t have gone public with that sort of info.

That marriage almost consumed me – with his alcoholism. Luckily I discovered Al Anon. As I mentioned, the marriage was full of lies. The alcoholism sort of lies. What I did not know, until that FB message, was that our marriage was also full of the cheating sort of lies. His. Not mine. I can honestly say, I never saw that one coming.

After about 18 months of marriage, “Richard,” I’ll call him “Dick” and I agreed that I’d quit my part-time job. I’d been teaching part-time at a university and I wanted to go back to freelance copywriting. On my last day at the university, he left. It was the third time he’d left. The first time was for one night. The second time was for a few weeks. The third time, it was for good. He was convinced I was a lying, disrespectful wife.

Then I lost my house. It’s impossible to pay a mortgage with no job. I had to get rid of most of my belongings as I moved into a tiny townhouse. My kids lost their family home. So I faced the loss of my marriage, my job and my house – all at once.

Dick cheated on his first wife. I found out about one of his indiscretions accidentally after we were married. At various times, my friends had asked me, “Do you think Dick cheated on you too?” And my reply was always the same, “Oh no. He really loved me. I felt it. I can’t even imagine that.”

Idiot. Fool. During the marriage, I was so obsessed with trying to manage his drinking that I never gave a second thought to his ex-fiance. At the beginning of our relationship he described her as a loon. He talked about her for about a month into our relationship – about how she wouldn’t leave him alone via text and email so he had to block her. I’d had some nutty exes too, so I trusted him to work it out. As far as I knew, his last contact with her was when she picked up the rest of her stuff from his garage.

So, there I was, on-air, messaging Dick’s ex-fiance. And she was telling the truth. She knew things. The kinds of things that only Dick could have told her. It was clear they had been communicating since we started dating – and throughout our engagement and marriage. Dick had remained a cheater. The ex-fiance put it this way: “He was a world-traveler who did as he pleased.” Apparently, Dick would give me a kiss good-bye before he left for a two-week, work trip; only to stop by her place en route to the airport. He’d promise to bring both of us the same London hoodie as a souvenir.

Prior to finding out about the cheating, I knew he’d lied about lots of things. I housed that information under the umbrella called “addiction.” So, this betrayal was new. And I was shocked. Throughout our marriage and after he left, he accused me. Questioned me. His emails and texts were vicious.

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Now, I realize his behavior was simply an example of projection – a basic concept you’d learn in a psych class. He was the guilty party. He lied – so I did too? It all made sense. The hypocrisy was more than I could bear. For almost three years I “held onto myself.”  I didn’t give in to rage and anger – but at some point the dam will burst. And the dam was about to burst.

Within a day or two it hit: absolute anger and spitting rage. I had fantasies of collecting dog shit in gallon milk jugs –  so I could add water, then drive to his house and pour the shit all over his precious car. I was especially excited about the idea of pouring it down his windshield so chunks of shit would get caught in the wipers. And the driver’s side window would be good too – maybe the shit would seep down into the door. Pouring liquid dog shit all over his car seemed apropos.

But of course, I’d get caught. Plus, I’m a goody-goody. I had to stand in the corner once in grade school. I still remember the shame. So end up in the newspaper for a crime because of this douche canoe? No thanks.

But I had to do something. Send him a screenshot of the messages between me and his ex-fiance? Put posters up in his neighborhood with his face and words like “cheater” and “fucktard?” Egg his car? I had to do something.

Eggs. Fine. Yes. I wouldn’t have to get out of my car. I could throw and flee. Less chance of getting caught. So I got a dozen and drove to his house. Would he be home? I hadn’t kept up with his whereabouts for years so your guess would have been as good as mine.

He wasn’t home. No cars. I figured I could egg his house. He’d come home to broken eggs on the porch and all over the yard. So I sat there for a while. Then I drove away. Then I drove back and sat. And pondered. No. I can’t do it. He’s an ass. You my dear, are not. Drive home. This too, shall pass.

Perhaps you are thinking I’m a pansy. That eggs are really no big deal. A childish prank perhaps. You may be right. But for me, throwing them would have been unleashing hatred and anger. So non-Zen. So childish. So low. So middle-school. So 7-deadly sins like. Wrath?

Instead I just talked to my boyfriend, my counselor, my friends, and my family. In a few weeks I felt a lot better. The anger passed.

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The eggs in question. A reminder that I didn’t throw them. I probably shouldn’t eat them either. 

I understand that beneath anger is often, hurt. And the news of the betrayal was very painful. I was blown away. I was absolutely joyful on the day of our wedding. And I could have sworn he was too. How did I not know he was cheating? What signs did I miss? Can I trust my own judgement now? Are all men cheaters?

It took me a year to start dating after the end of that marriage – and being in a relationship now has its own travails. There’s fallout after you’ve been lied to and cheated on. It’s rough. And it’s not as if men my age come without their own failed marriage and issues. Luckily, my boyfriend, Jimmy Jailbait and I, talk. A lot. About subjects you wouldn’t believe. (see First Date: The Big Lie)

On the positive side, I have found somebody who trusts me. I think this is a sign that I can trust him. But it’s still hard. But I think I’m doing well. I’m trying to be brave.

There is a lot more I will write about. This is just some background information and a slice of how I dealt with one bit of anger. I will write about what I’ve learned in counseling, divorce support groups, and through books I’m reading. At this point I don’t even know if anyone wants to read this crap.

And as I’d mentioned, I was on the air when the messages between me and the ex-fiance were going back and forth. So if you ever hear or see an on-air person being a little “off,” say a prayer for them. You never know what shit may have just hit the fan.