A letter to Mrs. Baker

Dear Mrs. Baker*,

I doubt you will remember me over the thousands of students that you taught at your years of WUHS. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to write.

My senior year was memorable for many reasons. I had finally gathered my courage and tried out for the cheerleading team and made it. I had a date to Senior Prom and I had you for English.

Here it is, over 20 years since I graduated, and I still, immediately, give your name as the teacher that influenced me the most in my schooling. You pushed me to be a better writer, taught me to enjoy plays and American writers, and taught me more about life than any teacher I have ever had, before or since.

This past February, after a series of detours and two children, I started my graduate degree in education. My professor asked us to talk about the teacher that influenced our decision to become educators and I spoke about you. You are the reason I am struggling through graduate school as a single mother with two teenaged boys.

Because when I grow up, I want to be like you.

I want to spark curiosity in my students, give them a desire to question everything, the need to know more, read more, inquire more. I want them to learn from me what I learned from you: the world is a beautifully diverse and interesting place. Go out and experience it!

When I was going through my divorce a couple of years ago, I started a blog as a therapy to help me through what was becoming an increasingly bitter and hard time in my life. As I wrote my first few posts, I wondered if they would pass muster in your class. But whether they would have or not, I continued writing, knowing that the joy I found in using words to express myself had first been discovered under your tutelage.

You are the reason that I minored in English for my B.A. I wanted to have the opportunity to pass the knowledge I had gained from you to a new generation of students.

You were also the reason that I was well prepared for the rigors of college writing and the high expectations of my college instructors. In fact, I’ve never had an instructor as hard to please as you were.

I wanted to take this moment, as I work on a project preparing my first lesson plans, to thank you. Thank you for your guidance. Thank you for your wisdom. Thank you for the lessons you taught me all those years ago.

Thank you for being the most memorable teacher I ever had the joy of learning from.

Thank you.

This is the letter that I wrote to my high school English teacher today. I will be mailing it tomorrow. A huge thank you to S.F. for finding the address for me! I so appreciate it!

Mrs. Baker,

Here’s younger me and “oldish” me :)

Senior Year 1991

Senior Year 1991

This is me, 2014

This is me, 2014

From one strong woman to another

Dear J,

I know that life is hurting right now. Every waking breath you take hurts. You hurt for what you have lost, for what you will never have. For the dreams that you held and then watched slip away from you because of someone else’s decision.

You feel out of control, like you can’t put the pieces back together. That maybe you were meant to be stuck where you are right now, because that’s where he put you with his choice.

That you can’t go back and you aren’t strong enough to move forward.

But you are and you will.

He left, true. But he left because of a deficit in him. Whether it was a restless soul, a lack of being able to commit, a want for something that he didn’t think that he had where he was.

But, the bottom line here is that he left because of a fault of his. Because he couldn’t hack it where he was and he decided to leave.

I know that you loved him and that your future seems so dull without him. I know that it hurts you when you wake up in that bed and realize that he is not lying there beside you. I know that it feels weird to do things around your house with no expectations thrust upon you by another person.

All of those things make you feel lost. All of those things, maybe, make you feel weak because you wonder what he would think about the new curtains that you hung, or the dust catcher that you bought.

I understand. I understand all of what you are feeling and what you are going through. I know how hard it is to stand on your own without that idea, that feeling, of someone being there at your back. I get it. It makes you think that you aren’t strong enough to stand on your own.

But you are.

You are strong enough. You can stand on your own.

Look at you! You’re already doing it. You’re doing it and didn’t even realize that you are.

He left and you didn’t fall down in a ball on the ground and die. You lived! You chose to live without him. You chose to have a life that didn’t include him. You are strong.

You are strong enough to get up every day. You are strong enough to do the things that need to be done: go to work, shop for groceries, do the laundry, take a shower, shave your legs (never underestimate the power of a smoothly shaven leg. They do wonders!).

You are strong enough that you make plans with your friends for the future. You are strong enough that you plan a menu for the month, to start shopping for Christmas gifts in June, what you want to do for your summer vacation.

You are strong enough that you are looking to YOUR future. Where you want to go, what road you want to take, things that you want to experience.

And here’s the cool thing about that: THE SKY’S THE LIMIT! You don’t have to wait for anyone or anything to do these things with you. You can do them on your own.

You can take those cooking classes you’ve always wanted to take, the dance classes you thought would be cool, the water aerobics class that you’ve been eyeing for months.

You can do all of these things. Why?

Because you are strong.

Strength is not about being bold and flashy. That kind of strength is fleeting, forgotten as quickly as it came.

Your kind of strength is the strength that moves mountains. It is quiet, fluid. Like water, it may not work quickly, but it is powerful, carving valleys out of solid rock. Your strength is the kind of strength that everyone wishes they had because it will carry you through all of your days. It will flag, sometimes, this is true. But it will come back, stronger than ever.

Nothing can hold you back. You are a force to be reckoned with.

Keep getting up, going to work, doing laundry, shaving your legs. Keep doing these small things. They are the foundation upon which your strength will stand and assert itself. Sometimes when you least expect it to.

That quiet strength will take you through the rest of your life, with no room to look backwards because your future is taking all of your energy and concentration.

You are strong. You inspire me, and everyone around you, with your strength.

Don’t ever doubt it.

Sincerely,

Miss Independent (formerly The Forgotten Wife)

PS: Demi Lovato has a great song called “Skyscraper” that I think pretty much sums it up. And with a much prettier singing voice than I could ever have. I’ve included it here for you. I hope you like it and that it helps strengthen your resolve. Listen to the words. You are a skyscraper. Don’t forget it!

Good Enough

As any of you that have read this blog since the beginning (THANK YOU!) know, my divorce was rough.

You know the marriage was rougher.

Ward and June Cleaver we weren’t, that’s for damn sure.

Who cleans house in high heels and pearls??

Who cleans house in high heels and pearls??

I wasn’t spectacular to him. I’ll take responsibility for my share of blame in the collapse of our marriage. To be sure, he wasn’t spectacular to me. The only honest thing he did before he left with that other woman (I’m working hard at reining in my Bitter Bitch) was to admit that he had spent 16 years emotionally and mentally abusing me.

Yes, he admitted it. Shocking, no?

And, here we are, over two years since the separation and almost two years from the divorce and I’m still dealing with that crap.

hand tiedHow frustrating is that? I know that I can’t expect to be over it immediately. I know that I will feel the effects for years. But I have made so much progress in coming back to life that it is so defeating sometimes to know that I am still trying to untie myself from his definition of who I was.

It is so very hard to recover your self-esteem, your sense of self, when you spent 16 years with the person that you pledged to love and who pledged to love you, trying to do the best you could and it was never enough.

You were never smart enough.

You were never skinny enough.

You were never pretty enough.not good enough

You were never sexy enough.

You were never a good enough mother.

You were never a good enough housekeeper.

You were never…..

Nothing I ever did was good enough for him.

When the man that you have married tells you that you are subpar at every level on a daily basis, you don’t just get over that in a snap.

So, here we are, two years later, and I’ve met this guy. He’s pretty terrific. OK, he’s more than pretty terrific, but we’re not going to go into massive details. Let’s just say that he’s very sexy, very smart, extremely witty, a talented storyteller and so much more *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*.

He’ll tell me that I’m beautiful and sexy and smart. He does so with regularity and ease. You can tell that he means it, that he’s not lying to just get into my pants. I can tell he means it. Truly means these things that he says.

And I want to believe him. I do. I want to see what he sees. I want to feel that I’m beautiful, sexy and smart.

Sometimes, when we talk or when I’m with him, I feel it. I feel like I’m all of those things and more. I feel like Superwoman having a man as great as him think those things about me.

But, when our conversation is done, or I go home, or even sometimes when we are chatting, I wonder what it is that he sees.

I know he can’t be seeing the same woman I see. That woman isn’t smart, nor sexy, nor beautiful. She doesn’t have anything to offer to a great man like him. Why does he still talk to me?

For 16 years I was told that I wasn’t beautiful, sexy or smart. For 16 years I was told that I wasn’t enough. So, how can I be enough for this man who has everything in the world to offer a woman?

And therein, my friends, lies the issue.

I have to stop wondering what I should do to “be enough” for a man in my life and just be me. Be myself in all things.

Good enoughI have to stop trying to be anything for anyone and just be the person that I am.

I have to just be me.

I have to be that woman whose eyebrows are never plucked quite right, whose roots constantly need touching up, whose house is never clean enough, who feeds too many stray cats because she’s a sucker for them. I have to be that dorky lady who laughs too loudly at lousy puns, who thinks science jokes, Doctor Who and Cosmos are pretty awesome. I have to embrace my almost bottomless pit of trivia about nothing that anyone in the world cares about. I have to appreciate my love of all things J.D. Robb, Patricia Briggs, Laurell K. Hamilton, and J.K. Rowling. I have to be political and care about what is going on in the world. I have to be all of those things.

Because all of those things make up the person I want to be.

If somewhere along the way I happen to be lucky enough to find someone who is willing to accept me with all of my quirks and my dorkiness and my lame jokes and my obscure passions, and also finds me sexy and beautiful and smart, then that will make me a pretty lucky lady.

It doesn’t mean that I will not ever have periods of self-doubt. Bouncing back from a bad relationship isn’t easy and it takes time.

But I have to stop wondering what he sees in me, why he likes to spend time with me, what the attraction is. Instead of questioning it, I need to just accept it.

It doesn’t matter why. It doesn’t matter what.

All that matters is: He does.

That’s good enough for me.

Ok, lady, I love you. Bye bye.

About a week ago, I decided it was time to do a Facebook cleanse.

Don't squeeze the Charmin!

Don’t squeeze the Charmin!


This is much like a juice cleanse, but without the need for all of the toilet paper.

Seriously, though, I had over 350 people on my Facebook page. Who needs that many people all up in their life? I decided it was time to remove some people and to slim down my Facebook interactions.

I took a close look at who I had on there. Some were holdovers from when I was actively gaming on

Does anyone Farmville anymore?

Does anyone Farmville anymore?

Facebook. They were the first to go. I mean, I truly lost my taste for Farmville a couple of years ago.

The next ones to go were those adult friends that I had just outgrown or didn’t really care about anymore. You know the ones. The people that you meet and feel an immediate connection with and you just HAVE to be Facebook friends so that you can talk to each other whenever you want! And I don’t want to miss a single picture that you post! And you’re so witty, I love reading your status updates!!

You know who I mean.

You know who I mean.

Then they move away, or your kids don’t play sports together anymore, or you’ve decided not to do the PTA this year and you drift apart. And suddenly their pictures aren’t so mesmerizing and their posts are not that witty.

Yup, it was time for some of them to go, too.

Then come the high school friends that you have wondered about all these years since graduation. Whathigh school graduation are they doing? Are they married? Do they have kids? Are their kids ugly? (Oh, come on! You know you’ve wondered!!) It was especially meaningful for me, as I joined FB having moved away from where I had gone to high school and hadn’t really had a chance to connect with anyone from high school since graduation. So, when I joined FB, I went on a friending spree looking for everyone I could find that I went to high school with.

But something happened in the last few years. There were a lot of folks from high school that I had absolutely zero in common with. Except that we graduated from the same little high school. Our likes, politics, religion, humor – none of it meshed. But I hung onto them because they were from my past.

Well, it was time for them to go back there.

By the time I was done, I had purged over 150 people from my page. Each and every person on my page, with the exception of less than 10, I have met in person. I have spent time with them. Some of them are from high school, yes. But these are people that I reconnected with and have enjoyed having in my life. Many of them had words of encouragement for me when I was going through my divorce. All of them have are beautiful people, inside and out. These are all people that I wanted to keep in my life, even if only on Facebook.

I took the time to clean out my Facebook page because it, like clutter in your house, can weigh you down. You can be putting information out there that you maybe don’t want everyone to see. Maybe you are getting bombarded with some political stuff that you don’t agree with that is getting you down. Maybe it’s religious. Maybe you are just sick of seeing them post all the fabulous meals that they have or the sick new swag that they bring home constantly and just have to post on FB. Or maybe their humble brags get you down.

Why did I actually initiate the purge? For the simple reason that Facebook was depressing the hell out of me. I would look at the pictures of these people and realize that I had none of that in my life. I had no one that I could call my own, I had no money to buy any swag, and what the hell was I going to humble brag about?

Bottom line: I was jealous.

I was jealous of their lives, jealous of the things that they had. Just plain jealous. No, it’s not a pretty emotion, but it’s real, (to be fair to myself, it had been a pretty crappy couple of weeks for me, which made it a lot harder to look at those folks and not feel jealous).

But then I realized something more. They were not a whole lot more than fluff, the ones that had inspired my jealousy. Not all, to be fair. But a lot of them. It was always about their new things or the new places they were going. There was no substance. No true value. Not to me, anyway.

So I purged them. I cleaned up my news feed and, in doing so, also swept some less than desirable things from my soul, as well. I took control of my happiness and didn’t wait for anyone to do it for me. I spent so much of my adult life tying my happiness to someone else’s happiness that I forget that I can just make me happy now. It’s another step, a small one true, towards making sure that I never go back to that place I was with the ex again.

Without remorse or regret I was able to pull the trigger and say:

The Rough Road

I started graduate school in February with my alma mater UMUC. All the classes are online, which is how I did most of my Bachelor’s Degree, so I knew that it wouldn’t be an issue.

The way that the graduate program for education at this university is set up you take one class at a time. The classes are 6 credits and run for three months. I’m currently in week 8.

When I started the class, I was thinking to myself that this was going to be a piece of cake! I was taking 4, FOUR, English classes at the end of my undergrad, going through a divorce and finding a place to live and I still passed all of them. One class will be a breeze!

Instead:

See how the room looked around him? That’s my house.

Between class, hunting for a job, dealing with my youngest son’s horrible behavior and a myriad of house problems (like leaky pipes), I’m that guy that just went nuts.

On the upside, I’m pulling an A.

On the downside, it’s 10:22 pm and I’m writing this as I take a short break from working on my next project which is due in a week and for which I have no idea what I’m doing.

Yes, just like them - fabulous, but Clueless

Yes, just like them – fabulous, but Clueless

Yeah, it’s going to be a long week!

But even with all of the challenges and hurdles I have to jump, I’m in graduate school. That’s nuts to me. I never, truly, thought I would get here. I never thought that I would be on the road to earning my Masters in Education. I never thought that I would be able, for various reasons, to take the first step of achieving the dream that I have held since I was 12.

Yet, here I am.

Despite the divorce, three layoffs in the past two years, the fact that my trailer seems intent on falling apart around my ears, my son’s lackluster performance in school and his attitude issues, I am still on the road to my dreams.

reaching for dreamsI could have thrown in the towel, walked away from the kids and gone my own way in life because it was the easy thing to do. People do that all the time (i.e., my ex). But I didn’t. Sure I have had days where I just have curled up in a ball and bawled until my eyes felt like they were going to fall out.

I have had days where I just wanted to walk out the door and never come back. Who doesn’t?

But that’s the cowards way.

I’m a lot of things, many of them not favorable, but I’m not a coward. I’m not afraid of hard work and hard times to reach my goals. I’m not afraid of rolling up my sleeves and doing what needs to be done to make things work out the way I want them to.

socks Except for laundry. That’s why God created laundry baskets, so you wouldn’t have to fold the socks and they could still be considered clean and out of the way.

Where was I? Oh, that’s right. The rough road.

The easy road will seem so perfect. It will be filled with sunshine and light, and unicorns pooping rainbows overunicorn pooping your head. Angels will sing and all will be good.

Until you hit the bump in the road.

Because, it’s a fact, folks. You will always hit the bump in the road, no matter which road you take: easy or rough.

The difference between the easy road and the rough? On the rough road, you will learn to overcome and even greet your fears and your problems. You will develop coping skills that will allow you to not curl up in a ball and cry every single time something goes wrong.

rough roadThe rough road teaches you how to put on your big person britches and move on. It teaches you that a hurdle is just a hurdle and not the end of the road. It teaches you that you have the strength to move forward, even when all seems hopeless.

The easy road may get you to where you THINK you want to be with minimum challenges and everything coming up roses.

The rough road will allow you to prove to yourself, and everyone else, that you are worthy of the goal that you have reached.

And after a trip down a rough road, nothing in the world is sweeter than reaching the star that you had the audacity and courage to reach for.

Insomnia

It is 2 am and I can’t sleep. I hate when this happens, as it inevitably does, ever so often. My eyes want to close, feel tired and gritty, but then I lay there for hours, just thinking.

I think about things I want to do, things I should have done. Mistakes I made and directions I want to go. On the worst nights, I play “what if,” which is so destructive.

So, I sit here in my bed, watching movies on Netflix to keep my errant mind from wandering too far afield.insomnia

I find myself wondering what you’re dreaming about. If it’s sexy or sweet. If I’m there in your dreams. I know I shouldn’t wonder. I know it’s probably a little creepy that I admit it. But I do wonder.

My dog is under the bed, snoring. Ever so often she dreams and yips in her sleep. I wonder if she’s dreaming of a field full of bacon, all there for her enjoyment. All three cats are fast asleep as well, dreaming of world domination, no doubt. The kids are passed out. I can hear my oldest sometimes talking in his sleep. It’s sweet.

couple sleepingAnd here I sit. Wishing I could sleep like everyone else in the house. Wishing I could sleep in your arms, honestly. Wondering what it would feel like to have you warm at my back, your breath feathering the hair on the nape of my neck. Your arm thrown across my ribs and cradled against my chest, your knees tucked behind mine. Our feet touching, gently.

If I could sleep, I know I would dream of you.

If I could sleep.
.