Category Archives: Failing Forward

The Lonely Version of Gloss

For a long time, specifically this last year, friends of mine and I have had conversations that center around the same question:

Why do we not talk about the hard parts?

If you follow any of my writing, you have obviously read about trying times in my life. What always seems to blow my mind, though, is that both readers, acquaintances, and friends alike believe that I just woke up one day, stepped out of a closet where I left all of the bad memories behind and into a glossy version of a white picket fence life. It is as if most people believe that becoming a well-adjusted person happens overnight and that there is no room to discuss the hard parts. This lonely, glossy version of my life is something I don’t recognize, because it’s not at all the truth.

I’m tired. I’m tired of misconceptions. I’m tired of hearing my friends who are having bad days worry what others will think because they are struggling. I’m tired of hearing my badass female friends live in fear of letting their guard down because they will be seen as weak.

And so, today, I’m going to tell you about my hard parts. The parts that I don’t talk about because, well, to be frank, they are a part of my life and I have accepted it. That doesn’t mean it’s okay, or that it’s not frustrating or hard. Because it can be, and it is okay to acknowledge that.

This part of my story has several different parts to it, but this ‘hard part’ starts four Mondays ago. I have to see a urologist every three months because my bladder does not work like a normal person’s bladder does. I have scar tissue from being sexually abused, which traps bacteria, which in turn causes frequent urinary tract infections. I also had a severe case of anorexia during my formative years, which weakens the bladder. Both of these issues set my bladder up for failure when I had a hysterectomy many years ago.

When I had my hysterectomy, I had to start using catheters to empty my bladder. I also had to start taking medication to make my bladder work. I had to spend a full day every three months at the doctor’s office where they checked my bladder and my kidneys through every invasive test possible.

For almost eight years, I have checked into this urologist’s office. I wait, as someone in their thirties amongst a waiting room of octogenarians, while they look suspiciously at me, wondering why I am there. I get called by the nurse, and the same routine happens every time. Every time, every three months, for the last eight years.

I go into a special bathroom. I wash my hands and I sit down on a fake toilet that is connected by wires to a contraption on the counter next to it. I start to urinate and when I stop, the machine prints out a graph of the flow rate of my urine output (spoiler alert: it’s terrible). I then go into the exam room where I lay down on the exam table and pull my pants down so the nurse can scan my bladder for retained urine. I lay there why the nurse tries to cover her shock over how much is still leftover because my bladder cannot empty itself. When the doctor comes in, sometimes she sends me over to the imaging center to ultrasound my kidneys and then to nuclear imaging where I watch my kidneys on a large screen overhead drip in tiny dots that look like constellations.

Every time, every three months, for the last eight years. I realized this Monday, four Mondays ago, that not once have I cried about how much it sucks, and I make jokes about it, because, really, what else am I supposed to do to get through it?

Four Mondays ago, the routine started again. I walked into the bathroom and urinated into the fake toilet, watched the graph grind out informing me of my bladder’s failure and then I went across the hall into the exam room. When I walked into the exam room, I stopped and my chest started to tighten. On the counter was a setup for the nurse to catheterize me and I started to panic. In all of these years, with the exception of childbirth, no one else had catheterized me, but me.

I started to cry. These big crocodile tears of frustration, shame and anger fell down my cheeks the entire time. This poor nurse, she couldn’t understand why I was crying. When I apologized to the doctor for basically coming unhinged and a sobbing, blubbering maniac, she hugged me and told me I needed to cry, that these were tears of grief.

And that’s when I realized for all of these years, I have never once cried about this. And I’m not sure why I haven’t cried, because the situation, although surrounded by the best medical professionals, is invasive. When does the invasiveness stop? Never. It never stops. Why do I have to continue to be invaded when the people who did this to me don’t have medical professionals poking tubes into their genitals multiple times a year?

That was four Mondays ago. The next Sunday I started running a high fever and I couldn’t stand up. The next day, three Mondays ago, I went to my general practitioner’s office because I thought I had appendicitis. Turns out, I had pyelonephritis, a bad kidney infection, probably taken root from a urinary tract infection that lasted on and off last year for ten months.

To be clear here: I got this infection because thirty years ago, someone touched something that they shouldn’t have.

For the first ten days, I didn’t leave our bed as I ingested two heavy duty antibiotics. Other people had to help me with the boys, and once, when I was home alone with the boys and unable to get out of the bed by myself, our oldest son had to help me walk to the bathroom, a mere twenty feet away.

After the first two antibiotics didn’t completely get rid of the infection, I began going in for daily shots of antibiotics, the third antibiotic. And then, last Friday, I started a fourth antibiotic to try to get of this nasty thing once and for all. Before this week is over, I will spend another 5-6 hours in a doctor’s office as I am scanned and invaded and then prescribed a long term low dose antibiotic based on the current bacteria counts.

When I was twenty years old, I forgave my abusers and all of those complicit in what happened to me. I did this for me, and me alone. It was as though a physical bag of bricks was removed off of my shoulders. Since then, I have accepted what happened, and through forgiving, I was able to leave my anger behind.

And then last week, I realized I was angry. Not in a hot-tempered sort of way, but in a bitter, nasty, invasive anger that dampens every minute of your day. I felt heavy. I was at church last Wednesday, and I choked out to the priest that I was struggling with forgiving again.

I’m angry that I just lost three weeks of my life to an infection caused indirectly by other people. I’m angry that even though I haven’t been touched by them for twenty years, that I am the one that has to live with the consequences. I’m angry that I continue to go through invasive procedures because someone put their hands where they did not belong.

This is where I’m starting to talk about the hard parts. I’m so sick of everyone thinking that once you get through the hard parts, and you’re never allowed to have a bad day, or struggle with what has happened to you. Because let me tell you, there are parts of it that I could do without. Even on days that I’m doing great, I have to stick a tube into my urethra because an evil person sexually abused me and caused scar tissue. I pay roughly $100 per month so that I can have the supplies to urinate like a normal human. I routinely take antibiotics because I have chronic UTI’s because of what these people did to me.

I am the definition of you never know what battle someone is fighting. I know I look like I have a white picket fence life. And truth be told, I absolutely love my life. But when I have the few hard days, like last week, I hold back because I know that other women will judge me and talk about me just for having the courage to say out loud that I am struggling. I said this part to Harmony (my writing partner and partner in crime) last week, when I was lamenting how frustrated I was that I couldn’t just be angry for once about what happened, for fear of what would be said about me. The two of us have this thing where we play out worst case scenarios. In this case, it was playing out what could be said about me, which morphed into us listing all of the things that, within the last year, have been said about me and in turn shared with me.

Within the last year, I have been told that these things have been said about me: That I’m a raging alcoholic….That I’m just a dumb trophy wife…..That I’m messed up by what happened to me….That I have psychological problems from what happened.…That I almost lost my mind….That I’m uptight…..That I take myself too seriously…..That I don’t take myself seriously enough….That I’m just an aged Barbie doll, flitting around thinking that I’m actually smart.

All of these things have been said about me, and not a single one of them is true.

What I’m trying to say is that people are going to say what they want to about you, regardless of what the truth actually is. The worst has already been said about me, and I wasn’t even vulnerable about the truth. And, as Brene Brown would say— these people haven’t been face down in the arena with me so their opinion does not count.

Recently, Harmony realized she is an alcoholic, and because she is authentic, she is not hiding her road to sobriety. But I’ve also watched women tear her down because she has acknowledged she has a problem and that there are hard days. People are talking about her like they talk about me. Over the last few weeks, as I watched her go through obvious physical withdrawals and taking her to AA, I’ve wondered why women put others in a neat box of assumptions and labels, tied neatly up with a bow.
So is the question:

Why do so many people put each other in a box to make themselves feel better?


Why do so many people put each other in a box? To make themselves feel better.

I think it is the latter. But I am not backing down in acknowledging the hard parts. We absolutely need to talk about the hard parts. This is how we get better, evolve, form more authentic connections and live the life of our choosing.

Harmony and I had a Facebook live over the weekend talking about this, about how we are both embracing these difficult conversations for both ourselves, for other women, and the women who will come after us. You can watch that here.

It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Buckle up. The conversations are coming.

Writer’s Block & Laundry are an Ugly Pair

Birthday Walk on the Beach

I’ve been dealing with writer’s block for the last two to three months. If you’re not a writer, it’s an excruciatingly frustrating experience. I liken it to this: you put dirty clothes in the washing machine and feel relieved you took the first step (let’s say this is opening your laptop). You know that the wet clothes need to be put in the dryer, but you put it off and have to rewash the clothes because of mildew because you waited too long (you get distracted by anything else in your life and do not write). You finally put the clothes in the dryer and push start (you set aside time to write and then you stare blankly at the screen while you try to translate words onto a page). The clothes sit in the dryer for two days because you just cannot, for the life of you, muster up the follow-through to get the clothes out of the dryer and put them on your couch (you then block out time, yet again, to write and words start to flow and you have a fantastic idea, and then you stop). The clothes sit on your couch for two days, then you fold them, and then for some reason, unclear to you at best, you are unable to put the clothes up, an act that will most likely take ten minutes (you are paralyzed by the words on your page).

This is where I’ve been, paralyzed by the words on my page and unable to process the thoughts in my head and translate them into tangible paragraphs to read.

I had an epiphany this month, well two actually. First, fear of failure is paralyzing to me. This is not a new concept to me, but it circles back every once in awhile. When I went viral two years ago, I was terrified I would never again move people with my words as I did then. I was wrong, of course, as time has proven to me, but I had to continue to put authentic writing out.

My second epiphany is that I needed to process the last few months. Since July, our town has struggled with a multitude of stressful events. Alton Sterling was killed by a police officer. Shortly after, a man came into our town and shot and killed police officers. Our town dealt publicly with riots and bad press. Then, a flash flood destroyed almost half of our town, with almost no national attention. To top it all off, the coach of the LSU football team was fired, and their beloved mascot, Mike IV, died last week.

Since July, my writing partner Harmony Hobbs of Modern Mommy Madness and I used our page Hobbs & Hayworth to address some of the issues our city has faced. First, we held a round table discussion to talk about race relations in our town and how to talk to our children about current events. You can watch that here.

And then we got to work getting the children and school affected by the flood the school supplies and uniforms they need. At last count, we’ve been able to help about 5,000 children in our local parishes, all thanks to everyone who stepped up and helped us when we asked. Read more about this here.

I have a lot more to write about all of the above, but what has really weighed on me over the last few months is the revelation of people’s character. It’s been said many times, but now more than ever, I believe that in times of challenge, people reveal their true selves. It is truly remarkable that once the fog of survival fades, everything becomes crystal clear. People’s true motives, deals made with their devil behind the scenes, and what others say about you when you aren’t around are revealed, even when you can hardly stand to look with one eye open at the truth.

I don’t know about you, but I like to know where I stand with people, no matter how painful that knowledge is. This brings guttural disappointment, and feelings of embarrassment if you have been blind to something right in front of your eyes. But this is life. Times of trial and challenges reveal that friends will become strangers, and strangers will become family.

The question remains, what do you do with this knowledge, because once exposed, you can never go back to the way things are. It changes you at your core. You can be bitter, or you can use it as fuel to once again, re-evaluate.

For me, my circle continues to get smaller. And yet, my life has continued to get much larger, so much fuller, and more fulfilling. This is a trade off I will gladly take and not look back.

I turned 38 recently, and as I have written many times before, it is a painful reminder for me. But it’s more than that. It is my personal litmus test as to whether or not the weight of my baggage is worth it. I will tell you, unequivocally, even though I would not wish it on my worst enemy, it is so worth it. I am loved, and surrounded by family, friends and colleagues who fuel me to be better. My commitment to myself, as I head towards 40, is to remain true to myself and act with integrity. People will continue to question why I do the things I do and continue to say negative and untrue things about me behind my back, but I am the only one who has to answer to God and the universe for my actions. And that, knowing who I am, is the greatest gift I have starting my next year on Earth. I wish it for all of you, because once you know it, it provides incredible freedom to live an even more authentic life.

And so, I am holding myself accountable to put the dirty laundry in the wash and finally put this writer’s block up on the shelf where it belongs.

14 Pieces of Graduation Advice You Need to Hear (But You Probably Think You Don’t)


Being in my 30’s, I would like to think that I’ve learned (the very hard way), a few things that you might find useful. Recently, I had a conversation with some friends about what we wish we could tell young women when graduating from high school. That seems like a never-ending list, so I narrowed it down to these:

1. High school will not be an indicator of the rest of your life and you have a one year time limit on bragging about what you did there. I know, it seems borderline crazy and I’m sure you are rolling your eyes, but keep reading. You need to remember this: no one in the real world cares about what you did in high school. Really. And it’s AWESOME. In fact, give yourself the time limit I just gave you and do not brag about what happened in high school. The amazing and great reality is that high school is not a life you created for yourself, it was created for you. Let that sink in. Guess what? The life you get to create for yourself is upon you. And it can be whatever you want it to be!

2. Going into this new life, you need to also remember that you are the keeper of a super secret weapon, also known as a vagina. Yes, I’m going there. You need to remember one rule about your vagina: It is yours, no one else’s, and boys will say whatever it takes and lie to get into your panties. You don’t owe anyone your vagina, no matter what is bought for you, or is said to you.

3. The old saying ‘revenge is best served cold’ is a lie. It is best served by doing what others said you could not do. Growing up, I was admittedly a disaster due to circumstances beyond my control. It propelled me into my passion for helping others, but this was not always the case.

In high school, I was a listless mess, the girl you would look at and think would never make anything of herself. I had a teacher tell me, that because I was attractive, not to fret too much because I would make me a great trophy wife for someone one day. Even writing this years later enrages me. Not too many years after my rape and when I finally started to pull myself together, I ran into this teacher. Showing them what they said I could never do, just pushed me harder to keep doing better. It will also earn you respect with critics who judge harshly, especially yourself.

4. Don’t be embarrassed by where you came from. No one is going to be impressed that you came from affluence, every last thing was handed to you, and that you are riding on the coattails of someone else’s success. You’re trailer park trash, worked two jobs to make it through college, and are still humble enough to remember how you got there? Now that’s impressive.

5. Get help for your problems. Listen, every last one of us has problems. Some you can see, some you cannot, but every bad thing that has happened to you will affect every last decision you make and color every relationship you have. I made the choice early on that I didn’t want to live a life clouded by the bad experiences I had. I’m going to be very frank with you here, and most people will never tell you this, but: ‘it’ (whatever ‘it’ may be for you) never goes away. ‘It’ will never go away. It will get easier to accept, you will view it differently as you age, and it will shape all of your future decisions. Make the choice to get help for your problems, and it will be the best decision you ever make. Also keep in mind, that while the actions of others will keep you awake at night, they will not think of you again and the damage they have left behind. Take care of yourself first.

6. Listen to your intuition. Take the time to develop this sixth sense you have. It will tell you everything you ever need to know about making the right decision for you. This moral and mental compass is a skill, and as such, must be used and exercised to develop. Use it, and use it often until you learn to recognize your ‘gut’ feeling. It will always steer you in the right direction during major decisions.

7. Learn to fail forward. What do I mean by that? You are going to mess up. Royally. Like, more than you can possibly imagine in your wildest dreams. Give yourself a night, maybe two, to cry an ugly cry and eat ice cream out of the tub (unless you’re lactose intolerant – then find something else to eat your sorrows away). If Britney Spears can shave her head on national television and Monica Lewinsky can give an interview in 2014 in Vanity Fair, then you, too, can reign in your embarrassment and move forward. Did you already mess up royally? Then what are you going to do about it? Get up and do better because you can and you have it in you to do it.

8. Find your passion. You are the only one who knows what this is. Don’t let other people push you into a career that you don’t want. Your intuition (refer back to #6) will tell you what that is. Most likely it’s the thing you do for hours procrastinating or as a hobby. Don’t waste your time doing what others think you should be doing and live someone else’s life. You get one life that only you own. Do with it what you want. You want to bag groceries the rest of your life? Then, bag some hell out of some groceries and take pride in it.

9. Don’t marry someone just because they ask you. That includes your high school boyfriend. It is highly unlikely you will marry your high school sweetheart. You might, but the odds are not in your favor. If someone asks you to marry you, and your gut is nagging at you to say no, then say no. In case no one has told you, marriage is hard. Moonbeams and sunshine last through the honeymoon. Then, you have to make compromises with someone you will realize is a complete stranger who might as well have landed from another planet. For some of us, it works out, for others, it won’t. I hope you are one of the lucky ones. If you’re not, remember the little chat we just had about failing forward? You can always get it right the next time. Also, I encourage marrying the nerd. The nerds work harder than most to have a stable, no drama life and they don’t try to relive the glory days of high school that no longer matters. The ‘cool factor’ does not equal a great life. Examples in case you think I’m crazy: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Marry. The. Nerd.

10. NEVER put anything in writing unless you are comfortable with it being read by other people. Real privacy no longer exists, and unless you are comfortable with everyone alive reading what you said, don’t send it. Also, always double check to whom you are sending your nasty grams to, you would hate it to go to the wrong person.

11. Send paper thank you notes. In this digital age, it is a forgotten touch that matters and makes someone feel special. Once you read #13, come back and read this again.

12. Be nice to the waitress and other people who work for you. If you are nice to others, but not those who serve you, you are not a nice person. Success is not always permanent, and that could be you at any given point, so be humble.

13. You, yes you, can make a profound difference in people’s lives. Don’t ever think that what you do doesn’t matter. Everything that you do affects something or someone, so live with intent.  Also, thank people for the difference they make!

14. When the Universe asks you to, step up to the plate and do what it asks you to. This may be too far out of your reality at the moment, but I want to discuss what happens when life throws you curveballs and messes up your plans. Because it will, or you will get exactly what you planned, and it ends up being not what you really wanted. Regardless, you need to be open to the beauty of the curveball. My plan had always been to make policy in my field of work. Not because that was what I needed to do, or what I was meant to do, but because I was too tunnel-visioned at the time to be open to where I could really make a difference. Then, I met my husband, we married and two children who are autistic. This was definitely not in my plan. We had a ton of growing pains, and at first, I had an identity crisis of sorts. What was I going to do now that my plan had gone up in flames? I stepped up to the plate, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and opened myself up to the beauty and possibilities that came with my new life. Once I stopped focusing on what I didn’t achieve, I started looking at what my real passion was, and how that could fit into my life, and that’s when I realized writing is what I secretly wanted to do my entire life and never had the guts to do it. And guess what? I can do that with being a mother to two special needs kids and a wife, all because I chose to step up to the plate and deal with the life handed to me.

How are you going to step up to the plate?