Lady Gaga’s not my cup of peculiar tea. Had it not been for some fabulous gay divas whom I’m lucky enough to call friends, I never would have known this was a song of hers. But the title fits. As ridiculously corny as it sounds, I truly feel as though I’m on the edge of glory. I’ve been to hell and back this year….2012 is my vindication. A fresh start. The first year of the rest of my life. Watch out, world.
“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” ~ Booker T. Washington
Now it’s time to give credit where it’s due and reflect on the joys of this year.
11 Blessings of 2011:
1) Tatum Maris Reed, my precious unborn daughter, serves as a constant reminder of the greatest blessing in life– a child. Of all the times for me to be pregnant, it is no accident that I’m expecting right now. Our sweet little girl was a complete surprise but I know the life inside my womb keeps me strong and focused while reminding me that everything I do is for my family. With the presence of Tatum, depending on me in every sense of the word, I can’t afford to crumble.
2) If not for my beloved Adam, my fighting spirit would be crushed, and it would be so easy to lose hope. Nobody will ever have the satisfaction of seeing me ‘break’ nor will I ever give up, shut up, or go away until the outcome and my desires are one in the same. The only person tougher than me in this situation is my son. To be yanked apart from the people he loves– not once but twice– with zero explanation is beyond traumatizing. Even before his removal from school that fateful day he had already seen too much. But my Adam is a trooper. We’ll get through this. Our first few months in California will NOT define our family’s time here. Watching him dote on his little sister and be the best big brother will be the ultimate reward.
3) During a time of tremendous uncertainty I stumbled across an advertisement for a job that ultimately became mine. Fate works in mysterious ways. Who would have thought I’d ever skim through a local newspaper– I turn to the internet for my news– my second day in Paso and see a promising employment opportunity? And a church of all places! To say I was ‘de-churched’ [more on that in #8] is putting it mildly. Two weeks elapsed from my series of interviews until I was offered the position and I began work on October 5th, exactly one month after arriving in the women’s shelter. Not only do I love the work I do but I am so lucky do being doing it surrounded by kind, talented, and inspirational coworkers. It’s an honor to work for a church whose mission and philosophy I support wholeheartedly, the place I attend on Sundays. Even daily tasks that may seem ‘dull’ fly by because it’s fulfilling for me to know that I’m helping others and making their lives easier.
4) An incredible organization dedicated to providing women with safety, education, healing, and community resources took me in when I had nobody in this foreign land and completely changed my life. Where would I be without the Women’s Shelter of San Luis Obispo? Their support and the resources they provided helped me steer myself back on the path instead of wandering around aimlessly because I was so stunned by recent events. It boggles my mind to think of it– getting picked up from the Atascadero police station after filing a domestic violence report by a shelter volunteer who took us to a safe facility in Paso Robles, getting settled into our suite the same day, and having a dedicated group of professionals point me in the right direction when I knew absolutely nothing about opportunities available to me in this new area. Even after I left the house they’ve continued to care for me. Once life settles down a bit I most definitely plan to volunteer for WSSLO….but I know I can never express my gratitude or repay the debt.
5) Despite the fact that I missed a narrow window where I could have returned to Memphis, I am here in California for the foreseeable future….and I not only survived but flourished independently. Let me be the first to tell you I’ve had tremendous assistance from organizations and individuals getting on my feet. Within a month of arriving in Paso not only had I started my job as an Administrative Assistant but I’d enrolled Adam in a prestigious private preschool. By Thanksgiving I had the keys to my apartment. I’m not on Section 8, I don’t live in low income housing, and I definitely pay rent. All of my expenses are paid on time. My parents aren’t paying my bills and I don’t rely on a man to provide for me. This may not sound like anything novel….but considering the complete 180 I did in such a short period, I’m damn proud of myself.
6) Brandi Crook is the woman of my dreams. Neither one of us is embarrassed or ashamed to discuss our time at the shelter, so I can tell you that is where we met. We shared a suite and she a huge factor in my ability to acclimate to the shelter and get my behind into gear. I felt an instant connection with her. She went above and beyond to help me with listening ears, insightful advice, and even child care when I needed a sitter for a few days after I’d started work and before Adam’s child care went into effect. One night she even put lotion on my feet and gave me a foot massage that took me to Cloud 9. I loved our book swaps and I’m so glad we’re still close after we both left the shelter. Sassy, witty, opinionated, intelligent, courageous, fun, direct, sarcastic, an excellent mother, refuses to settle for less or let people escape accountability– there is simply no one else on this planet like her– and that’s one of the absolute highest compliments I can give. All hail Brandi. Maybe it can’t happen for 2012 but we’re on for Sandals ’13.
7) My family is the greatest, as are my friends, old and new. I come from a very close-knit family, especially with those in Memphis….there are my incredible parents, Aunt Sarah & Uncle Tommy, Oliver & Gideon [my first cousins and their wives, Katrina & Carly, respectively], and Sharon and Kenny. As we say in the South my ‘people’ are everywhere. And I miss them so much. I’m hoping to use my time out west to connect with my California family as well. Additionally, my friends are the most eclectic yet amazing bunch. They are sorely missed and loved beyond comprehension. Thank you for reminding me why you’re the best group of loved ones, especially during my absence. It’s been so nice making new friends here too.
8) Spirituality became my anchor during this tumultuous time. With the exception of Bella Luna Bliss back in Memphis, I’d all but lost touch with the divine. I thank my church for reminding me that organized religion can be a very positive thing and restoring my faith in Christianity. Let’s just say what I hear on Sundays here ain’t nothing like the Bible belt! Of course the role of UU always has a prominent place in my life as do other meaningful spiritual traditions….I’ll never lose that insatiable urge to learn about the faiths of others and I’ll always lead by example as opposed to proselytizing. But I’m in a much better place now, considerably more whole.
9) JiLTED– the magazine formerly know as STiR– is back in business. So I guess this means I’ve officially announced the name change. The word itself resonated deeply with Mandy and me– and is a literary reference to one of our favorite authors– thus making it a perfect choice. All of us are thrilled beyond belief to get it started again and there are so many fresh faces lending their time and talents! For those of you who don’t know, ours is an online magazine covering a wide variety of content [books, spirituality, art, politics, etc.] and we don’t shy away from controversy. The mini issue arrives on January 7th and our debut issue hits the presses on April 7th. Please contact me for additional details about writing, artistic involvement, or other ways you can contribute.
10) Would you believe me if I said I have learned some serious lessons this year? I honestly can’t even begin to list them all here. What most people consider ‘regrets’ I view as learning experiences and I’ve had the education of my life in 2011. I’ll never be the same. My relationships will never be the same. Our family will never be the same. My outlook on virtually everything will never be the same. Perhaps my greatest triumph will be my refusal to capitulate to the anger, bitterness, and negativity and prevail.
11) Angels are among us, truly good people exist, kindness is everywhere, love is all around us, and I am fortunate enough to realize this firsthand. Literally there are tears [of the happy variety] streaming down my face as I write this. Whether it’s a non-profit, friends from church with true servant’s hearts, or other acts of kindness I’ve encountered I am so eternally grateful for all the love and support I’ve received. When I arrived at my apartment I had nothing– by the end of the first day I had a loveseat, two end tables, a breakfast table, kitchen items, towels and blankets, two lamps, and a full-sized bed with a mattress, pillows, and linens. Wow. People have gone above and beyond to give me rides and call/text just to check up on me. I’ve had invitations for holiday meals and know that help– for anything– is only a phone call away. How truly blessed I am.
With infinite love, gratitude, and respect,