The Cat’s Out –

My step sister uses the phrase, and I might add, way too often, “The cats out of the bag”.

She did this when she thought my son was seeing a girl she thought he shouldn’t be seeing.  He was actually doing something legitimate like homework. No matter, it was what she uttered accusingly at him whenever she thought he might be with the girl. Dumb.

So now that’s our inside joke for any and all assumed revelations. So begins my story.

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Mazatlan 1966 – Spring Break

Long ago, 50 years or so ago, I was a young girl enrolling in college. I had been out of school six months and decided it was time to further my education. My mother was unworldly and uneducated for the most part, no help there other than she thought it would be a good idea. So, here I was at registration doing my best to fill out the required forms.

I’d not been a good student, not because I wasn’t smart enough, no it was more the stress of my living environment.  My mother married a guy whose five children were all in foster homes. She thought it noble to take them all in, so she (they) requisitioned for them to live with us. One was adopted out to his grandmother before the other four were finally released to us.

Here I am a teenager in high school and our family is expanding. As it was, I had a brother and two sisters already, so adding the other four made us eight. Our parents  four years later, would have one more child between the two of them. I was the eldest and I had just turned 16. Mother worked and her new husband was shipped off overseas. There was already the whispering of war ahead, but I was so unaware until Kennedy was shot.

The little ones came to us two at a time. I fell in love with the first two. They were four and six years old. They had lived in Boston, so had the cutest Boston accents.

It would also be the year I would lose my “virginity” willingly.

The other two kids arrived six months later and were not as pleasant. They were 11 and 5. The five year old had a chip on her shoulder a mile wide and the other one was obnoxious. I would be in charge of them all. My list of duties were not unlike those of any parent. I was the parent.  As I kept house and cooked meals, my homework went by the wayside.  Needless to say, I escaped whenever possible. I went to football games and sneaked out whenever I could. Was I a bad girl? Well, in my heart of hearts I think I knew I wasn’t but like a good many teens I acted out sometimes, “looking for love in all the wrong places”.  My self esteem left a great deal to be desired in those days. In truth, I was overwhelmed in every possible way.

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1966 Beauty Pageant

There were times I thought of myself as unworthy and as stupid as I imagined everyone else thought I was. Deep inside I struggled to convince myself that I was more than the sum of my parts or than what lay on the surface. I relied on my good looks more than my brains. (Sorry- camera’s weren’t that great then – BF do you remember taking this?)

I remember one time, mom and I got in this big fight.  Name calling was what she did best. So, at one point, I’d had enough and left home. My boyfriend at the time had a friend, whose sister lived alone, so I crashed with her, cooking and doing laundry in exchange for room and board. I was good at both those things. During those months, I got straight A’s. I remember one of my teachers saying, “I always knew you were smart. What’s different?” I told him and he was sad.  That was short lived however and I, out of concern for my siblings, would eventually move back home.  I learned from one of them that with me gone, there was no one to run interference for them and they were miserable. It was what I did. Fight the bad guy.

So, when I graduated high school my grades were less than optimal. I didn’t actually think there was any way for me to go to college.  We had no money and my grades were abominable. Then I learned that if I could maintain good grades in Jr. College, I could earn my way into a four year college. I thought, why not?

That is where and how I met K. It was a late enrollment, so there weren’t as many classes open and I was having a hard time deciding what to take. I will never forget how he popped in from out of nowhere to help. That he noticed me was a mystery. He was charming and beautiful and I’m not exaggerating. He of course, got me into two of his classes, Business Law and English which would later become his profession teaching.

I had just gotten over a horrible breakup with the aforementioned boyfriend, who I thought I was in love with. He had  up and married unexpectedly, leaving me in the dust. I guess I should have expected it. He had graduated with honors and was attending a four year college and I was … hard on myself. I was devastated and K was so… what I needed.

I poured out my heart to him and he was a good listener. In those days he was quite the surfer dude,  always looking for the best waves and places to go for them. We did a lot of fun things together. He was so easy to be with. We were friends.

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During spring break, a group of us planned a trip to Mazatlan. As it turned out, of all the girls planning to go, I was the only one who made it there.  Here I was with K and several of his friends. They surfed and I’d lay in the sun. We drank tequila shots with beer, ate raw oysters and drank lots of pina colada’s and margherita’s. Hell, it was spring break!

We hitch-hiked everywhere.  Actually, I’d get out in the street and put my thumb out and when someone stopped, the guys would converge on the vehicle and we’d all hop in. I don’t think anyone seriously minded. They all thought it was fun, having this hot girl hitching for them. Yes, I was hot and… I would never have hitch-hiked in the states!

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Dudes waiting for a ride- my dude sits on the left

We also rented a jeep for those out of the way places like a lighthouse, (me moving a “formidable” rock in our way) and we

rented horses and rode on the beach. My nethers hurt so bad from riding as I’d never ridden a horse before, but it was so worth it.   That must be why our daughter loves horses.  So, yes one thing lead to another.

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Horseback ranch

If I thought K looked like a Greek god before, he looked even more so on the back of a horse.

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Adonis

I didn’t actually know I was pregnant for some time and by then K had gone back to Maryland and was no longer in my life. Interestingly though, when we decided to take a train home, a little old indigenous woman on the train came up to me/us and said I was with child which we thought ridiculous since we’d just done it.  I was fairly naive and thought I was suffering from a stomach bug, barfing all the time.

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Caught getting into my airline shoes!
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Tina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our daughter was born, I got a job as a flight attendant and would marry a pilot and change my name. Unbeknownst to me, so did K. He went back to his birth name, so in the end neither of us could find the other.

Tina, in the meantime grew up and later married.

 

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Trying on her Bridal Gown

Move the clock forward 34 years later and we would accidentally come across one another via the internet.  When his sister told him she had found us. He exclaimed, “How? I’ve been looking for 34 years!” That was good to know.

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Tina meets Beatrice

She got to meet her grandmother and aunts for the first time when she was 35 or 36. I got to meet them as well. They said as far as they are concerned, I’m their “sister” in law. His mom was 96 or 98 at the time and would die just shy of 100, not long after.

Shortly after he would meet his daughter in Amsterdam and later take a trip to Bali and begin celebrating birthdays from the point they were reunited onward.

 

As for us, we have not seen each other since we parted. I know I wasn’t the love of his life nor was he mine. We were “just friends”.

Would I want to see him or he me?  Good question.  We’ve seen pictures of one another but not spoken except through emails and through our blogs.

I am currently married to the best person for me. My hubby was able to help me heal in ways that no one else could and it couldn’t get better than that.

As for K? I know he’s single. Been married twice and lives far away.

When our daughter first met him, to paraphrase her, she says to me, “Oh mom, I know now why you fell for him, he is so charming.” LOL

Yes, he is that.

She also asked me if the song “Monday, Monday” meant anything to me.

Oh yeah!

One of these days if we live long enough and if he ever returns to the states, maybe someday we’ll meet again. Who knows?

 

 

 

Women’s Day

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet in honor of all the women in my family who’ve reinvented them self late in life.

First, I salute my sister Diana.

My sister Diana, who with me found the stresses of caring for our aged and dying parents quite trying at times. It forced us to find ways to grow and be better than we once were.

Di found that drawing would calm mother as well as herself and she developed her own unique style of crayon art

and from there she wrote her first book “The Importance of Thomas” which reveals, as told to her grand kids, her journey  with me in caring for our parents.

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Available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback

Second, My daughter Andrea:

My daughter Andrea, who just started writing her own blog, I salute as she embarks on a new career which is growing stronger everyday.

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Andrea

At 34, she went back to school and was the first girl in my family to finish college and get a degree.  You can read her story and goals at the link that follows. (Actually, Diana was the first in my family to finish college, but of me and my girls, Andrea was)

Her blog: http://usmountainstandard.com/about

Third, I salute my daughter Tina

Now, my firstborn Tina,  married at 17 and didn’t even finish the last 6 months of school thinking marriage was her destiny, At 45 she found herself evolving.

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Tina

Tina in Bali 2

Despite the fact that she didn’t start her family until she was 29, my former 3.5 grade point average student took her time getting that GED.

I only list her third because she is only now starting her journey.

At age 47, she started college and is now waiting to be admitted for a nursing degree, which I don’t think will be a problem with her getting straight A’s.

Both girls following in their mother’s footsteps taking strides, moving forward late in life. I guess you could call us late bloomers.

And well, most of you know my story. It’s been a rocky road but I keep on truckin’. I’m blogging while embarking on a screenwriting career.

And finally, I salute me:

My first screenplay was written with Andrea in mind, but even though her acting career took a detour, she is now back on track. With encouragement from Sean Astin and others, she has renewed her enthusiasm for film. Like me, she doesn’t know where that will end up.

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‘Baja Run” is the story of a woman who goes up against the Mexican drug Cartel and her father in order to save her son.

With Andrea, I have just completed the first phase of a web series we hope to start filming sometime next year.

Both girls are supportive of my efforts and eager to collaborate.

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Andrea, my grand daughter Becca and Tina showing their best sides.

Everything I’ve done I did after 45.  It took three marriages for one to take and that was at 45. I raised four children, two girls and two boys and in the interim pretty much kept my dreams on hold.  Now it’s my turn.

At 45, I learned to ski and…

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Cross Country skiing in this pic, but I did downhill as well.

I rock climbed and loved it. I would say it was my favorite sport. I also climbed mountains.

and at 50 I got to go to one of the most prestigious acting schools in LA, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

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Dance Class

In addition, I got to learn more from  LA Coach Molli Benson, Check out her site: “Specialty Acting Workshops”

At 65, after mother died, I learned belly dancing, Jo 1

It’s been quite a journey for us, but here’s to the ladies…AND we’re not done yet!

 

More Detours but Now I’m Back on Track

After the divorce I went on a two week cruise with a girlfriend of mine. I went wild, you saw the movie “Wild?” well, not that bad.

I attribute a good part of that to an incident just prior to me leaving for that trip. My airline pilot husband came to visit the day before I left and tried to rape me, again. He kept saying, “you want it don’t you?” and “I’m gonna miss that ass”,  this time I did what my attorney suggested and laid there like a limp rag and didn’t fight him.  I was shocked, it worked. When I didn’t fight, he let go of me and left me alone, but it was still demoralizing. So I went through a brief self destruct period that lasted about six months.

While on the cruise, I was the party girl and at times would bring everyone in. The staff on the ship asked if I’d be interested in a job as cruise director. I guess the felt someone who could rally everyone to have a good time would be an asset.  I turned it down. What I should have done is take it, but I didn’t. They’d offered all expenses paid for me and my girls and special schooling for my girls in addition to teaching them several languages. But, I wasn’t sure I could trust the moral integrity of the crew or the pressure of performance by the staff, so I passed.

Instead, I went home got a job at the gym teaching nutrition and makeup for Jack La Lanne’s.

There, I met and got involved very briefly with the most gorgeous hunky guy I’d ever dated. We parted friends and that was nice.  We decided we were heading in two different directions and we wanted to see each other happy in that choice.  My girls were disappointed because even as young as they were, he was not only pretty but congenial as well. They liked him a lot. I think of him often, but not lustfully, just wondering if he ever got where he was going.

I thought it was interesting at how easy it was or that it was possible for two people to part so amicably, without that achy feeling you get like you’d lost something.

Maybe it wasn’t really a self destruct period so much as more of a growing “you’re okay” period.

After him I dated someone I’d dated before and became engaged but that didn’t fare well. One day as I was cleaning up after dinner, I overheard him threaten my eldest child. I don’t know what preceded that, all I heard were his words when he said “you just wait until your mother and I get married!”  I immediately went straight to the living room and told him, I’m sorry but we aren’t getting married and if he couldn’t say or do whatever it was he intended now then I wasn’t waiting to find out what he’d do later. He left. I never saw him again and since learned he died a few years back.

A few months later I met another young man ten years my junior. After a whirlwind courtship, we married.  Suffice it to say, although we have two wonderful boys from that relationship, after being married to him, I didn’t pick up a Bible for about 10 years. Neither did I step into a church. It was the most suffocating period of my life. That was the paranoid camper.

During that time, I did start back to college but again never finished. At least I got to do that and I could tell that as an adult I would have been an excellent student.  It was during that marriage we moved to Colorado where we eventually separated. Unfortunately after the divorce, I had to get a job and go back to work so no more schooling.

After much therapy, my life started to get on track again.

While married to #2, I met yet another young man (even younger than the second and an employee of ours, so actually I’d “known” him for some time) and his atheism/agnosticism changed my life in two ways.

First of all he forced me not to “need” anyone or anything.  He taught me to lean on and trust my own abilities. Believe it or not that applies to faith.

Second, his agnosticism challenged my faith and I discovered that I still loved God and that my faith was still alive.  In time, he accepted Jesus and became a believer.

Shortly after we married, I was approached with an opportunity to get into the film industry.  I did a few extra parts in film, took classes and kept my feet in the water by starting my own talent agency. It paid quite well, but unfortunately jobs were few and far between in our small town.

I bounced around from job to job during this time. I had moved up to sales exec for the company I was with which sent me traveling quite a bit and some of that was to Aspen, Telluride, Vail and smaller towns in between. I did radio and later as a Realtor, I would visit those areas again, so I was in among “the stars” constantly.

Then came 9-11 and my priorities changed. Hence came my volunteer period.

I felt so compelled to do something to help in whatever way possible that I joined forces with Red Cross and assisted many disaster clients. That was rewarding for a time but after Katrina that ended.  So detour after detour and then more.

When my parents got ill, everything else took a backseat to their needs. Fortunately, my husband was right there for me and supported me in whatever it was I needed to do for them.

We packed up and moved to Alabama where we became farmers. Later I would join the staff of the State health department as medical interpreter.

My sister D later joined us and she too became my biggest advocate. WE became each others cheerleaders and mentors.

When my father was dying he kept talking about all the opportunities he had passed up or failed to take advantage of. It was regret after regret. I told Diana to listen to him. “That sounds like us”, riddled with excuses. I thought about my writing.

Years before Diana and I had talked about writing a screenplay about our parents and their dysfunctional relationship, but it never happened. (I still have the notes so someday … maybe.) Instead, I wrote about the red bra I had stolen from the five and dime and how it impacted our lives.  It was called “The Red Bra Party”. It was my very first completed screenplay.  It was abominable, but I got it done in time for two contests, so I submitted it. I was exuberant because as shabby as it was… I DID IT!

I told Daddy before he died that he could take credit for that. I got a lot off my chest with him before he died, some of which I regret because although it needed saying I probably shouldn’t have done so as he’s dying, not that he would have been so considerate. What can I say? I am my father’s child.  I did let him know I appreciated his colorful personality and how I forgave him because in reality his abuses made me stronger and they didn’t break me.  They could have, but they didn’t. Some of that could be his genes and some of mom’s.

Whatever lives they had, whatever hardships they endured made them harsh, it didn’t me.  Whatever it is that’s in me made me more determined. I’m fueled for bigger and better things and I know it!!

The screenplay I wrote after that one so impressed my actor daughter that she gave me a free trip to the Sundance Film Festival.  I got good remarks on one screenplay sent to Austin Film Festival and I’m working on improving that among several others. Now I’m blogging and meeting countless of writers online.

I’m in California now and networking and meeting more amazing people and writing again, full time, so it’s all good. The interesting thing too is, everyone is willing to share what they know.  Not what you’d expect huh?

All these detours and now I’m back on track.