Two weeks ago today, my life, my family's lives, and the lives of my best friend/her family changed forever when we learned the news that her twelve year old daughter, who was in the hospital, wasn't going to make it. The time since has been a surreal adjustment to life with a gaping hole in our hearts and I know I wouldn't make it through this if Anna wasn't one of my Invaluable Friends.
I have been best friends with Anna since we met the summer of 2012. At the time, we each only had one child: she a three year old girl, and me a not-quite-one year old girl, and they were the best of friends. We were instantly connected. So similar in all the ways that mattered, and different in ways that merely complimented our whole. We decided to have another child at the same time, and our second born children are just 19 days apart. And while there were special children in my life before we met, knowing her children is what taught me to love a friend's children as your own. And despite us all moving away from that base in Colorado, we've stayed close, and every time we've managed to come together in person, our children have picked right back up where they left off, the same as us.
So you can imagine the absolute punch to the gut the last two weeks have been for us all.
But making you feel sorry for us is not the point of this blog. I want to write about how much it means for Anna to be not only my best friend, but an Invaluable Friend like I mentioned in my previous blog post, because it truly makes a difference getting through a hard time.
There have been several instances in life where I've been by a best friend's side through hardship and found myself taking on a weight (perhaps not meant for me) with no idea how to set it back down. Being a people-pleaser, I've always felt it my job to just suck it up and deal with it because they're going through a hard time. I couldn't be weak, I had to be there for them! I've stayed silent, even when it ended up burning me. (It's worth noting that no one has ever told me that's my job, it's just how my brain is wired.)
Over the last two weeks, I have found myself doing the same thing. See, as mentioned in the previous post, I go to my Invaluable Friends to talk through things.It's how we process. And this time, it was happening ten fold to the Invaluable Friend! I couldn't possibly bother her! I've talked to my husband, who, with his fix-it attitude, always says he wishes he had the answers he couldn't possibly have; I've written things I haven't wanted to share with anyone; I've turned on sad songs that help put words to my feelings. But honestly, I've forced myself to somewhat suck it up and get through it because it wasn't about me (even though it directly impacted me.) And I've felt like I've failed at that, especially when we rushed to their town for support and her celebration of life. For once, it was like I didn't know how to be that strong "always there for you" friend.
Today it hit me, though, while on one of my regular video chats with Anna. We went through our normal conversation, sometimes (most times) veering towards how we're feeling (or not feeling). For a moment, we shared a dark humor joke with each other (one I won't share here so as to not offend anyone), and we shared some things we've each written in our grief, and I was reminded of our promise to each other two weeks ago: we would get through this together. I'm not being annoying (or worse, falsely upset. Thanks, imposter syndrome), I'm going through this WITH someone. We aren't separately going through a major event. We've been friends for nearly a decade and this was happening to us both, even if in different ways.
Two weeks ago, we didn't know how we would get through this (hell, we still don't) but we will do it together. And that has made all the difference.
Exactly one year since the release of “The Archer,” Taylor Swift announced she had a surprise album, “folklore,” dropping at midnight (7/24). As many others did, I stayed up until it was out and stayed up listening to the whole thing and even listened to a few on repeat until I just had to sleep.
With the timing of the release falling exactly on the anniversary of one of the hardest blogs I ever wrote as well as things going on in my life currently, I knew that this album would be exactly what I needed right now. What I did not expect was for some of the songs to hit me so hard that all I could do was cry as I felt seen by a complete stranger. Which brings me to the reason for the blog: her writing.
I've always said that Taylor is a fantastic writer. Whether you're a fan of her music or not, you can't deny the girl's got some mad skills when it comes to lyrics. The way she's able to show you a glimpse into her life, her mind, and her absolute raw emotions in the short time span of a song is something that should be appreciated by all. I know that I definitely do, especially as a writer.
According to her social media posts, “folklore” was an album created in isolation thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. As the world locked down, she poured her time (heart, soul) into writing. In the classic Prologue to the album, which she posted on her social media last night, she states “It started with imagery. Visuals that popped into my mind and piqued my curiosity.” A process that is all too familiar to writers.
Later, she states, “Pretty soon these images in my head grew faces or names and became characters. I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing about or from the perspective of people I've never met, people I've known, or those I wish I hadn't.” That statement tells us that a good portion of this album is likely fiction with truth laced throughout. Ask any writer (myself included), that's how we work.
That hasn't stopped the Internet from going absolutely wild wondering about what parts may be true, though, and what that truth could mean. Which, if you read the whole Prologue, is kinda her point. “A tale that becomes folklore is one that is passed down and whispered around...The lines between fantasy and reality blur and the boundaries between truth and fiction become almost indiscernible.” Gah! I love it. Every detail she creates is done so purposefully. She absolutely left us guessing on purpose.
Now let's talk about the fact that she wrote this all during quarantine. That in itself is a huge feat. It's easy to say that she had the time, so why not? I can't speak for her, but I do know that I, and many other writers I know, have had a very hard time delving into anything creative or fiction in a reality that feels too much like fiction. We are living in a very difficult time, and simply being forced into having the physical time to do something doesn't mean our brains are able. Somehow, Taylor was able to sit down and create entire worlds (possibly to escape the real one). She (probably not-so) simply decided she wanted to write and wrote. As a writer who has struggled to write during a pandemic, it's downright impressive!
So here we are, almost 12 hours since the album released. Personally, I've listened through a couple of times and plan to continue doing so today. And with each playback, I'm sure I'll find a new detail that will cause me to compare to other songs she could be referencing, while also finding my own circumstances in her lyrics.
And that's what's so magical about her writing: we can sit all day, write ourselves into the lyrics and wonder how she could possibly know intimate details of our lives, and we can theorize about her own life, but at the end of the day, this album could simple be what it states: folklore. She is a storyteller, and she wears the title well.
Like many of others during the wild ride that is 2020, I have found escape scrolling my For Your Page on TikTok. From hilarious jokes to cute animals to creepy ghost stories, I've been sucked in for hours. But nothing grabbed my attention like one particular video I came across on June 30.
The video showed was a clip of a 90s era home video shot from the point of view of a child holding the camera with text overlay stating “LISTEN TO CHILDREN ABOUT ABUSE BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.” By the end of the video, I was chilled. I needed to know more.
Immediately, I shared the video to a Facebook group I help admin for true crime fans asking if anyone had heard of it (admittedly, I didn't click the profile that posted the video, though I knew it was posted by the child holding the camera in the clip). A few people commented that I should look into the case more, especially the podcast created by the TikTok user, Sarah Turney. From there, I went right to my Stitcher app, searched for the podcast, and hit play.
Here we are now, a short ten days later and I've finished listening to every episode as of this moment. I'm left feeling like I must do something. But what could I possibly do? I already ordered my Justice for Alissa merch, but it hasn't quite felt like enough. Well, I'm a writer, and I can write.
I can use what little audience I have to hopefully shed more light on a decades long case that I had never even heard of before ten days ago. If this gets people to listen to that podcast, or check out her TikTok, or to sign a petition, I'll accept it. All I know is that I can't do nothing, for reasons I don't think I can even explain beyond the fact that I got invested in those 24 podcast episodes.
I'm not going to pretend that I could sit down and tell the story as detailed or as well as Sarah Turney herself has given on the podcast, so I'm going to preface this by saying you need to listen to Voices for Justice to get the full story.
Before you read about the case, I want you to imagine you grew up with your dad and your sister. Your mom died when you were very young and your other siblings are far older than you. Life is pretty normal—you fight with your sister some, but ultimately, life is okay until your sister runs away one summer. Then one day, years later, the police sit you down and tell you they don't think your sister ran away. In fact, they believe she's been murdered and your father is the one who did it, after years of him sexually abusing her. And that's only the tip of the iceberg.
This is the case of Alissa Turney, a Phoenix, Arizona teenager who went missing in 2001 and was reported as a runaway by her father. It is now believed by Sarah, her family, and many others including the Phoenix police department that Alissa never ran away and was likely murdered by her adopted father, Mike Turney. When looking more into her disappearance years after the fact, the police were able to get a search warrant for their home, where they then discovered 26 pipe bombs created by Mike, seemingly to be used in an act of domestic terrorism against an organization that he felt had been out to get him for decades. While in prison for the pipe bombs, the police encouraged Sarah that they were doing everything they could to charge him for the murder of Alissa after he was out so he couldn't combine his sentences for a lesser one.
Since then, it seems as though the police department has dropped the ball. From switching the detectives who dedicated years of their lives searching for answers off of the case, to simply not returning phone calls and e-mails (and so much more in between), Sarah has been left running in circles trying to reach the conclusion that was promised to her. What it basically all boiled down to was they wanted to prosecute but simply couldn't with the circumstantial evidence they have. They suggested for Sarah to get media attention. So she did. Despite the number of petition signatures, media deals, social media followers, etc., this case has yet to see justice.
The podcast ends on July 2 at the time of my writing this, with Sarah choosing to halt the detailed timeline for the time being in order to lower the risk of it potentially hurting the case while waiting for the prosecutors to hopefully accept the case and charge their father. She ended with a call to action for listeners to keep spreading Alissa's story. While I hope she's able to post an update sooner rather than later, and I look forward to the other content she wishes to produce on the show, I'm going to do my part and try to share Alissa's story.
This blog post hardly does this story justice and is honestly too complicated and detailed to explain in the detail necessary to understand the case, but I'm not here to regurgitate every detail to you. I'm here to tell you to go listen to the Voices for Justice podcast. Check out the website, the merch store, the patreon, Sarah's TikTok. Do what you can to help support this case and find justice for Alissa.
Photo from https://justiceforalissa.com/
Well, I haven't written here in a while. It'd be easy to say it's because of how stressful things are right now, but that would be an excuse. If I'm being honest with you all, I've been scared to go too deep since one of my blogs blew up in my face when it was taken personally by people I never even named. But I've decided it's time to stop being scared to share how I feel on my own personal blog, so here I am (even if I am a bit scared to hit that "publish" button). After all, as Taylor Swift said, "Snakes and stones never broke my bones, so...you need to calm down." And admitting that plays into what I want to talk about today, which if it isn't obvious from the quote, is another Taylor Swift song (though not the one I just quoted).
I have wanted to write on "I Forgot That You Existed" since I first heard it when Taylor's "Lover" album dropped last year.
The song starts out with Taylor admitting that she's caught up remembering how someone hurt her and realizing it was controlling her thoughts ("free rent living in my mind") until suddenly she just forgot that this person existed. Throughout the song, the verses feel heavy as she recalls how she was hurt before entering the chorus with a much lighter feeling in her forgetting them.
Now, let's be real for a minute. We all know Taylor hasn't actually forgotten anyone or anything that they did. If you know anything about the result of her "cancellation" back in 2016, you know that it destroyed her mental health. (If you don't know, I highly recommend you watch "Miss Americana" on Netflix.) You don't just forget that someone made you feel so low that you literally just disappeared and considered ending the career you worked so hard to create since childhood. Instead, I feel Taylor teaches a great lesson on letting go of sitting in the mess of it. She made a decision, whether consciously or not, to simply move on. She didn't seek revenge, didn't stay in that dark place for too long (though I'm glad it gave us the "reputation" album), she just found a way to live life without that dragging her down anymore.
I must mention what I feel is probably the most important lyric of the song: "I thought that it would kill me but it didn't." She wasn't worried that the hurt inflicted is what would kill her, but the forgetting! She thought if she let go of that feeling then what? She lost? She wasn't strong? Who knows! But the point is that she realized it didn't hurt her to let go. It helped her. And it felt GOOD.
On that same note, she says several times throughout the song "it isn't love, it isn't hate, it's just indifference." Because when she stopped letting the situation define her, there was no more positive or negative surrounding it, it's just there.* Which leads me to the bridge. Taylor says "I forgot that you sent me a clear message, taught me some hard lessons, I just forget what they were. It's all just a blur." I personally read her tone in this part as sarcastic. I feel it's her way of acknowledging that she did in fact learn very hard lessons (perhaps about forming strong boundaries? oh, wait, maybe that was just me.) while not letting herself stay stuck in what brought her to that lesson. Like the indifference statement, she's accepting the fact of the situation without attaching a strong positive or negative emotion to it.
Oh man, the amount of times I have found myself in the exact same situation. Stuck in a loop, replaying events, searching for red flags I missed, and wondering WHY yet another friend flipped on me when I tried to be the best friend I could be--and I just CANNOT let it go, for only God knows why. But, inevitably, there comes a day when I will be going about my business and something reminds me of someone and I realize I'm not trapped anymore. I have forgotten they exist.
At the end of the day, it isn't even about the person or what they did anymore. It's about your own thoughts and your broken patterns trapping you. It's like having a storm raging in your brain that you can't quiet because you know you shouldn't even be in that mental place, but you are. So when the memories get triggered, and you realize you weren't in the storm for any given amount of time, it is a freeing feeling. Like the music accompanying the chorus, it's light! Taylor's giggles as she says she forgot they existed isn't her laughing at the person, it's her relief! And when I listen to this song to help me break my own destructive cycle, I can't help but giggle right along with her. I am free!
I'll be honest with you all, I still periodically get trapped letting people live rent free in my mind when something triggers a bad memory, and I would be shocked to hear if Taylor didn't, too. But the thing is that now, I know I'm doing it and I can take the steps I need to pull myself out of that loop and go back to forgetting. (Honestly, listening to the song helps.)
So here's to us forgetting that those who have hurt us exist. "It isn't love, it isn't hate, it's just indifference....so, yeah..."
*shout out to Blake Walker for pointing that bit out to me. my Taylor blogs would never be complete without his Swiftie input.
For whatever reason, girls are associated with drama. Pregnant and having a girl? Oh, get ready for that DRAMA! I am a mom of two girls and I wouldn't have it any other way. And guess what? I have friends with sons and I can tell you they seem just as "dramatic" (dare I say it's normal human behavior to learn how to deal with big emotions? but that's a topic for another time.) I'm not writing to talk about whether boys are as dramatic as girls or anything like that. I want to talk about the girl drama amongst their friend groups that has become expected, and therefore written off as normal.
I came across a blog last week that gave this particular mom's opinion on "girl drama" and what she deemed an appropriate level of involvement in said drama. I don't entirely disagree with her opinion on not being involved beyond being a sounding board for advice and a shoulder to cry on, but there were aspects that I felt aren't beneficial for our daughters. While she says she will never call another mom about their kid's part in the drama the drama, I feel there is a line that can get crossed where that's necessary. She went on to say that when we get involved, it prevents our daughters from knowing how to handle people not like them and so on. Beyond that, and the whole reason I'm writing this at all, she said our daughters need friends who they've fought with, creating a "sisterhood forged in fire." As a girl who thought I had that sisterhood growing up, can we NOT?
The same day I saw that blog, I came across old writing and journals dating as far back as my 8th grade year of school. With the exception of some fun nostalgic pieces, what I found from that year up to my sophomore year of high school was the inner workings of a mind that was clearly not okay and, while I'm sure hormonal changes played a part, it was my group of friends and how we treated each other than created such angst.
Our "gang," as we called ourselves (think Scooby Doo "come on gang!" more than actual gangs), was known for our inner drama. Through the years, I had several journal entries that repeated the same idea: "we're fighting again." One particular entry detailed an account of a friend who left our group. Her reason for spending time with new friends? "They don't all hate each other." This was nothing short of treason to 13 year old me, but to 29 year old me, that's such a punch in the gut. She was right. It wasn't okay how we all treated each other. But we truly thought it was making our bond stronger. Creating that "sisterhood forged in fire."
By the time high school rolled around, our "gang" had mostly fallen apart, as it should have long before. Three remained, me and two other girls, my only "real friends." Things were worse, somehow, despite there being less than half the friends left behind. We isolated ourselves, hardly talking to anyone outside of sharing classes with them. The fighting continued, and it continued to take its toll on me.
The tipping point came one afternoon when they asked me to stay after school. They sat me in the teacher stool at the front of the room and sat in the empty desks before me. This was an intervention. They were telling me I was acting different, that something was obviously wrong with me and asked why I wouldn't tell them. I wondered how they couldn't see that my only problem was them. I didn't speak up, though. I've never been good at confrontation so I just sat there and took the humiliation. I went home and cried harder than I ever had up until that point in my life, wondering if there was something fundamentally wrong with me.
Our perfect little trio didn't last too much longer after that. Our fights transformed from being about all of us to me being the bad friend because I was starting to disengage. I wanted out, but didn't know how to leave. Where would I go? I didn't even have a regular table in the cafeteria because we ate lunch in a classroom (one of the girls' mom was a teacher). I felt like no one would get me the way they had. After all, we had forged our sisterhood in fire. But I did. I left the friendship. And honestly? My high school experience improved exponentially when I let go of that assumed obligation of sticking together because of what we had been through.
I made amends with most of these girls before high school was ever finished. I'm connected with most of them on social media now and I'm actually pretty good friends with the "leader" of our "gang," who was who I would say was probably the most toxic to me back then.
The maturity it took for all of us to come back from that dramatic whirlwind wasn't learned through our fights. It took individual growing. None of us were or are bad people. We just thought our fighting made us stronger, when in reality it made us toxic to each other. The drama was unnecessary. Some bickering could be expected, but we took it too far and developed unhealthy relationship habits instead. Again, it's very important to note that there was no actual benefit to sitting in this "girl drama" for YEARS. So why are we subjecting our daughters to the same thing?
Perhaps this mentality of "friendship IS drama" is why I've found myself in far too many "girl drama" situations than should be normal for an almost-thirty year old (ironically, in most situations, the women involved have been older than me). It's something I'm learning to avoid before it reaches that point via very strong boundaries. And I can tell you from experience, the drama I went through as a teen prevented me from knowing how to implement those boundaries until now. (There's no one to blame but myself for that, but it's important to realize.)
On the opposite end of the spectrum of girl drama, there's my relationship with my best friend. We've been instantly bonded since we first met nearly a decade ago. We consider each other extensions of ourselves. We're each other's platonic soul mates. The worst "fights" we've ever had is over differences of movie preferences. And it's not that we just ignore problems--there are no problems to ignore! We're similar in so many ways, and are just accepting of the things that make us different. We are physical proof that what society is telling us is not only normal, but vital for growth, is a fallacy.
So, no, don't call little Susie's mom the minute she says something mean to your daughter, but do more than the bare minimum to help them through their "girl drama." Show them it can and should be better. It's time to stop accepting this idea of dramatic friendship as normal and spreading it to our young daughters, especially when we have proof that we can have strong relationships without it. Let's give them better. Let's teach our daughters that friends can have disagreements, but they shouldn't constantly be breaking your heart and destroying your mental health.
Editing to add:
Since posting this blog, both of my parents have reached out to me saying they wish they had known this was going on to put a stop to it. The thing is, though, the simple reason they didn't know about it was that we didn't tell them. For whatever reasons bred into us from society, we thought it was normal. This was the same era that Mean Girls came out (a movie this group of friends actually went to see together, actually). While the movie is exaggerated, it shows you that society sees the drama as normal and sometimes just gets out of hand to the involvement of adults. Until that escalation, though, it's just in the world of the teens/preteens.
All the more reason to teach our girls ahead of time, so they know to come to us when it does happen. This wasn't on my parents for not seeing what I refused to show. This was on me for thinking it wasn't worth showing.
By the time I hit my mid-twenties, I felt completely lost on how to dress myself. I had spent most of my formative years wearing skinny jeans and a graphic tee or hoodie. If I wasn't wearing that, it was a work uniform. Before I knew it, I had two daughters and a whole new body that came with them and still absolutely no idea how to dress myself to match how I wanted to feel. Try as I might, nothing met the unrealistic expectations set by television and Pinterest.
In an already confusing time in my life, I felt even more lost. I started to find items here and there that I felt good in, but I almost felt fraudulent; like I was trying too hard.
Enter: Filly Flair.
I came across the online boutique Filly Flair in 2015 from a post on Facebook. I browsed their website and fell in love with a brown leather jacket that was perfect for my Halloween costume I was trying to put together. I had to have it. I loved, and still love, that jacket dearly, but I didn't regularly shop the store. Truth be told, at the time I discovered Filly Flair, I couldn't afford to regularly shop anywhere. But I loved the store already.
Even though I couldn't order, I followed their page and often shared their contests on Facebook, hoping at some point maybe I would have the chance to own more of these cute clothes I had always been searching for. When Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2017 rolled around, I managed to snag some deals on their site and was finally able to order a few things. Like the jacket, the styles were cute and the quality so much more than I could hope ordering online. I was sold, but I had no idea some cute clothing items were just the beginning of a new era for me.
At some point, I had been added to Filly Flair's VIP group on Facebook. The team over at Filly Flair was always very active in this group, even including the owner, which was nice to see. Everyone always shared their cute outfits they had purchased, showing everyone how the items truly were instead of us all having to rely on model pictures. While I was unsure at first, I quickly began to love sharing my new items in the group, too. Everyone was so positive and complimentary. We were all complete strangers, but we were all connected by this one store. It was like finding a whole new community!
Last fall, Filly Flair changed things up, which in turn, changed how all of us interacted in the group. They started what's called Comment Sold videos, where the staff (especially the owner!) would go live on Facebook and showcase the new items and the customers commented "sold" to buy it right from the video, clicking a link to check out with ease. The videos let customers get a real feel for how the clothes looked and fit beyond professional photographs on a website. I didn't think I would like the videos. Having previously never been able to make purchases on a whim, the thought of sitting through a God-knows-how-long video instead of scrolling through a website when I had the extra cash sounded like pure torture. But let me tell you guys, I was so wrong. These videos were fun! You got to see the real, bubbly, amazing personalities of the owner and staff as well as getting a more detailed look at these products that a photograph alone can't capture. The new videos became almost addictive. Never having been one to know fashion, I suddenly wanted to know what the next trends were going to be. I began branching out, trying styles I never imagined myself wearing—and never would, if not for seeing them demonstrated so well. And I felt good about how I looked. The feeling I had been searching for for years!
Filly Flair shifted from being just about clothes for me back at the start of this year. The owner had gone to Las Vegas to make purchases for the store. From her hotel room, she would go live on Facebook sharing the newest goodies she found, but being in the intimate setting of a hotel room, the mood was completely different. This was no longer “The Owner of Filly Flair” talking with us from a place of business; it was simply Laura hanging out with us and showing us items she liked. These late night videos became our collective girl hang out time. While it was just a video of her and the women on the trip with her, and comments from us customers, it was a shared feeling throughout. Since, Laura has started going live from her personal bedroom closet and the feeling like we're all friends hanging out is a common topic of conversation. In those videos we get the real, raw life of Laura, with her children or pets sometimes joining in on the fun. Filly Flair isn't just another faceless business, it's a small business (if you could still call it that with their reach thanks to Facebook) owned by a young woman just a few years older than me, who followed her dream and created it with her own two hands.
Beyond watching these videos with hundreds of other women from all over, I've made friends because of the Facebook group. A few ladies realized a couple of us were frequently on the videos and liked a lot of the same items, so one morning, I was added to a group chat on Facebook messenger with these ladies. We've called ourselves the “FF Addicts,” and we talk about our favorite items, share what Filly Flair we're wearing that day, or just talk about what's going on in our vastly different lives.
What started out as a hunt for cute clothes became the discovery of a beautiful community of beautiful women in all walks of life, from fellow moms, grandmas, farmers, women working their dream jobs, students, women traveling the world with their military husbands, just to name a few I've seen. And while most of us have never met Laura or any of her amazing staff, I think it's safe to say we all feel like we have a new friend who rocks an awesome business that is growing right before our eyes.
Deeper than that, I discovered a buried confidence inside of me. Where I was a lost twenty-something trying to find her way in a newly changed body thanks to the miracle of childbirth, I am now a late-twenties woman with her head held high in her new favorite Filly Flair outfit. Of course, clothes are not the end-all-be-all to make a confident person. Beauty on the inside is just as, if not more, important. But you have to admit, when you feel good about the outside, you can feel a lot better on the inside. At least that was the case with me.
In fact, this past June, my husband and I celebrated our ten year anniversary in Bora Bora. Over half of my portion of our suitcase was items purchased through Filly Flair. I purchased a lot of it specifically for that trip. I knew that I would have a great time on our vacation wearing a potato sack, but having these items from a company I am passionate about made me feel more beautiful and confident. I absolutely loved taking pictures of the outfits to share with my FF Friends and the Facebook group. It made an already special trip even more special.
I've been enjoying this company for four years now, and I don't plan on stopping any time soon. I absolutely love trying out the new styles, and buying the styles I've loved for years. I love talking with my new friends about our favorite new trends. I love seeing the joy that comes from the whole staff at Filly Flair as they keep hitting new records in their business. I never would've guessed it when I bought that first jacket, but Filly Flair really is more than just clothes.
When you become a mom, it's easy to get swept up in that title and lose sight of who you are as an individual. Your identity feels lost. After my oldest was born, I don't think I fell into that too hard. I worked retail part time, and eventually full time towards the end of that season, which I think probably helped me remember Lindsey alongside Mom. When we moved from Colorado to Texas, and I had our second born, it was different. I was no longer working, we had just moved to a town where the number of people we knew was limited, and my husband worked long hours and eventually started traveling. That left me alone with our daughters, being Mom.
While I (thankfully) didn't suffer from PPD, I was in a sort of funk in this time. Not only was I going through the stress of all of the major life changes, but I couldn't even find clothes I could wear in the closet. For the longest time, I had primarily worn my work uniform (khaki pants and a black shirt), so what clothes I did have that were different than that were styles I didn't really enjoy anymore and what was left after that was too small. I felt like I was in some sort of limbo. I knew I needed to change it. I needed to do something that made me feel good.
I started trying to make a point of the tiniest amount of self care. At the time, that came in the form of MLM nail wraps (I know, I know. Don't judge.). It was just something for me to feel pretty and, since I never felt I was good at painting my nails and couldn't exactly go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, it worked for me. As silly as it seems, it helped. Between liking how I looked and the friendships I made in this time, I was gaining confidence and really solidifying an identity outside of “just a mom.” I moved on from the nails and focused on my writing again.
Being a writer is something I have dreamed of since I was in middle school and realized that that was even a possibility in life. I've been writing since at least that young, if not younger, but I never saw myself as A Writer until I clawed my way out from under “Just Mom” and made myself do something with it. I spent countless hours sitting at Starbucks writing short stories and arranging story orders while my kids played with the toy bin to create Paranormalish. Fast forward a few more years and Lost in Grey came. I'm not just mom: I'm Lindsey Behee, author. I love that this is who I am. It fits.
But still, I am Mom. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love being a mom and seeing the little individuals that my children are growing into. I would never change it for the world. It's just, as any mom can tell you, as much as you love it, it can be exhausting. Oh, the number of times I've said “I'm going to change my name for the night!” or “Can I just run away for a little while?” as the incessant calls of “mom” echoed in the house. Even in knowing who you are on your own, the weight of being mom can be a lot to bear. No matter the number of times you remind them, it feels like they forget that you're as human as they are with your own needs, wants, emotions. No, to them, you fear you'll always be “Just Mom.” (At least, until they're adults.)
That feeling is why I was so taken aback at our kids' open house last night. I snapped a picture of my 8 year old's drawing hanging in the hallway, where one part of it was intended for a person she admired: Mom. I was honored. In the stress of the busy, crowded evening, I didn't look closely at the picture, though. Once we were home and I had a moment to look at the few pictures I took, I zoomed in on that corner of her page. There, pointing at what must be a desk in front of me, she labeled “writing a book.” Across from me, she drew herself with heart eyes, labeled “looking at my mom.” Not wanting to make any assumptions, I showed her the picture and asked her what it said. She confirmed it. “You drew me writing a book?” I smiled as tears came to my eyes. “Yeah, I was thinking about that one book you wrote with [Anna]...what was it? Lost in Grey?” I smiled and thanked her. I then walked in the other room and cried. I had never felt so seen by my children as I did then.
See, we all know that kids see and hear everything. They're no doubt going to repeat that grown up word you just mumbled under your breath, and they're going to make their doll-Moms threaten to ground their doll-kids in a tone you swear you don't use. But they also see more than that. As much as we think that we're only Mom in their eyes, they see who you are and what you're doing. My baby knows I'm a writer, and not just because I tell her, but because she watches me, and she sees me.
There's absolutely nothing wrong if you feel your calling is to be a mom—in fact, I think that's great. But if you feel lost under the weight of that title, know that you can be more and your kids will see it and admire it just as much as they admire your mothering. Our kids, with their metaphorical heart eyes, see us.
Ah, Friday the 13th, one of my favorite days! And it's happening at the start of fall. Even better. If you've known me at any point during a Friday the 13th, you know I kinda make it a big deal. Each time it happens, I hang my Jason Voorhees hockey mask and machete wreath on my front door (HOA be damned when I lived in a neighborhood with one), I change my Facebook profile to my famous-amongst-friends Jason stick figure with matching status (“Be safe, Jason is Alive. We dug up his body.”) and I always wear one of my haunted house shirts.
What a lot of people don't know about this huge ordeal I create is that I'm not some major fan of the Friday the 13th franchise (I actually prefer the Halloween movies), it's all about the family I joined in 2006, which I realized today is 13 years ago! That realization made me feel nostalgic, so I decided I would jump on here and share with the world why my stick figure Jason and my love for this “holiday” exist.
Thirteen years ago this fall, I tagged along with my sister to a dusty old basement filled with wood pallets and black plastic: my very first haunted house volunteer gig at Misery Manor. At first, I was what was called a “lifeguard,” which was essentially a tour guide that was stationary to one room. A bit into the season, a new room was constructed off of ours, so I took over the role my sister had been playing. The role that created my relationship with Jason Voorhees.
In a sleeping bag on the dusty floor, I shined a flashlight on my face to let the crowd know that I had won a contest to spend the night down in this haunted house and, if I survived, I'd win $100. But before the groups left the room, they witnessed Jason Voorhees slamming my sleeping bag against a large metal commercial refrigerator before charging at them with his machete as the deafening soundtrack threw in lines from Friday the 13th Vol VI (“Jason is alive. We dug up his body!”). I loved this! Watching the terrified reactions of countless strangers from my little hiding spot was exhilarating!
During breaks or the rare slow night, the characters in the rooms directly around me would hang out and get to know each other. Nathan, the man playing Jason, became our great friend. Like I mentioned before, we were all really a family, and it was hard to leave that season behind when November rolled around.
The next year, the group we volunteered with didn't put on their own haunted house, though we did do some work here and there between two different haunts. Still, every Friday the 13th, I made my same posts with my same picture (the one time I didn't, my co-worker got hit by a car! He was fine, but I make sure to post every time now, to be safe.)
In 2008, though, it was peak Misery Manor. I was a freshman in college nearly an hour away, but that didn't stop my roommate/best friend from showing up every single night and working our tails off. That year, I was a tour guide, and we were intense. Our job wasn't to gently walk people through the haunted house, we were just as much part of the show. The high energy of this year's spook house made everything so much more fun. Back then, I was always doodling silly stick-figure comics based off of things that happened to me, bloomed from a silly conversation, or what have you. I can't tell you what the first Jason comic was, but I can tell you it all came from something Nathan had done or said. That season, I drew countless comics filled with inside jokes featuring the characters Jason (Nathan), Sister Olivia (Alyssa), Sister 6 (Laura), Cup (Lindsay), Straw (me) and any other people who were around in the scenario. When November brought MM to an end, I gathered all of the Jason comics and put them in a binder for Nathan since he was the big star. Since then, I've drawn what's now always my profile picture each holiday as well as a few other comics.
So, you see, it's not that these are my favorite movies, or that I'm superstitious (except for having to make my status), or anything. It's that it reminds me of my wonderful Haunted House family and the wonderful memories I have with them. Even though the wonder that is Misery Manor has essentially retired, and I live over 1000 miles away, my love for my chosen family will always be strong.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Friday the 13th. Be safe out there. Jason is alive. We dug up his body!
Today is the first day of school for the kids. I'm sitting here alone at my desk with my coffee and a bowl of cereal, with nothing to interrupt me aside from a dog needing let out, for the first time since 2016. The house is eerily quiet. My baby is now in school with her big sister.
My little kindergartner has been scared about starting school since we moved 5 hours away from the school she expected to attend. We've all done our best to alleviate the anxiety with books, personal anecdotes, talking to her about all of the positive things about school, like learning to read and do math (two things she's actually very excited about).
This morning was the most excited she's been since the fear set in. As she went through the morning routine like a pro, she occasionally mentioned her stomach hurting a little bit; a physical sign of her nervousness, no doubt. But she was smiling. She excitedly took her bowl to the sink and brushed her teeth, hardly able to wait to get her LOL Doll backpack on. She was all smiles as I took the traditional back to school pictures and as we walked to the school. Her big sister and I kept her distracted with the things she's looking forward to instead of what she was scared of. She asked if we could drop her off last, so we took my oldest to the cafeteria where she'll wait with her class. As we left, they hugged as my youngest said “I'll miss you!” Then it was her turn. We went into the gym and found where her class will sit every morning. She was all smiles as I took some pictures before turning her peace sign hands into two thumbs down. She was scared again.
I crouched there on the gym floor with her and told her (as well as the seemingly terrified little girl sitting behind her in line) that so many of the kids were scared this morning, because it was new to all of them, but that they would all come together and lift each other up and have a wonderful time. After talking a little bit more, and several hugs and kisses later, I promised her I'd see her this afternoon and left her in the care of her teachers. I caught a glimpse through the crowd before I walked out of the gym and saw she still wasn't crying. A good sign.
I know she's going to thrive in school. As sassy as she can be, she's strong, smart, sweet, and friendly. I have no doubt that the only thing that will get her over her fear is to go through it and realize it's not all that bad. She will adjust and adapt.
And then there's me. Sitting here alone. For the first time since my oldest started kindergarten.
When the youngest child is off to school for the first time, the stay at home mom is often asked, "what are you going to do now?" Will we get a job? Will our homes finally be show-room-ready clean? Will we frolic through the grocery store (or any store, the possibilities are endless) in the low crowds of a weekday morning without at least one kid in tow? Maybe. Who knows?
For the longest time I've simply responded to this question with, "enjoy it." A lot of my stay at home mom life has consisted of me being the only parent home for sometimes weeks on end as my husband worked his tail off supporting us 5 hours away (not the case now that we've moved, thankfully). So, if you ask me, I've definitely earned being able to enjoy some solitude. Once that gets old, though? I have absolutely no idea.
But regardless of what we moms entering this new season literally do with our time, I know one thing we'll do for certain --something that all moms have always done and will continue to do in this ever-changing world of parenting: adjust and adapt.
Well, guys, Taylor Swift has done it again! Another new song from her upcoming album is out today and it's AMAZING! I swear that's relevant information to this post. Just stick with me here.
I had been putting off this blog post until Taylor Swift released the album Lover, as I feel it, with it's butterflies and pastel aesthetic contrasting with the snakes and black and white of Reputation, would be perfect evidence to support my argument, but the title track came out and it has me pumped enough to go ahead and write this!
Before getting to this song specifically, let's get to my point that the trope of the suffering artist has to go.
I recently saw an article that said Sad Taylor Swift is the best, And it has a point. my favorite songs of hers are the heavier ones (just see my post on "The Archer"). And back when details of Taylor's super private relationship slowly started coming out, leaving people speculating if they would get married, I remember seeing comments from people wondering what she would write about if her heart stopped getting broken. So, I feel that point on Sad Taylor leads to a slippery slope that's all too common in the creative world.
This idea of suffering has often gone hand in hand with art. Just look at how we talk about Hemingway, Plath, Van Gogh...This trope of the tortured artist is an old one and it's dangerous for us artists.
It's dangerous to feel you, as an artist, must suffer to produce anything worthwhile. It's a feeling I've dealt with myself as a writer. My journaling is often tapping into my darker feelings and, while I have no intentions of sharing them publicly, I can't help but feel it's some of my best work. I struggle with this on a physical level, even. When Anna Timperley and I wrote Lost in Grey, sleep deprivation simply fueled my imagination, helping us breakthrough plot issues and hitting our word count for novel status. Now, when I struggle with writer's block (which is almost always), I have to physically tell myself that I'm not going to exhaust myself for the sake of trying to write.
As the great poet Andrea Gibson said in their 2018 Facebook post, which actually inspired me to think about this topic as it's been in my mind since the original post, 'your joy is as deserving of your pen as your grief.' Your happiness doesn't make it impossible for you to make good art! Happiness does not equate to lack of substance.
Now back to "Lover." The song is beautiful, and most importantly for this topic, her happiness is palpable. Listening to her talk about the joys of living life with her love, you can't help but smile. I'm sitting here listening to it (again) as I write this and my heart swells with joy hearing it. The emotion I get from it is like when a girl writes her name with her love interests last name all over a notebook. It's like she's so happily blown away that she can't believe it's actually happening while realizing the simple things they can do like having friends stay over, or not taking down the Christmas lights, because it's THEIRS, all while wildly smiling each time she says the word "lover" (I can't be the only one who hears that smile, right?).
And lyrically, I just love it. She has so many nods to previous songs, which is one of my favorite things about her songwriting. "Take me home" could be a nod to "Style". "Forever and ever," "Sweeter than Fiction." Christmas lights are even in "The Moment I Knew." And with the exception to the reference to "Gorgeous" by calling him as a magnetic force, each reference is a nod to heartbreaks past. It's like using these phrases again are a way to cancel out the pain from before. Taylor never fails us with her lyrics, and her happiness doesn't negate that truth.*
"Lover" isn't her first song written from happiness, though. We all know she can write a fun bubbly bop like 'Shake it Off" or "Me!", but she has deeper songs about happiness, too. Just listen to "Gorgeous," a song that describes the feeling of having a crush better than anything I've heard or read. Listen to "Call it What You Want", where you can feel how in love she is with the description of her "baby." She even gets hot and steamy about her love interest with her song "Dress." She has these beautiful songs of substance that don't stem from heart break, but from feelings of infatuation and love. and they're off her darkest album! It's possible to destroy this trope! And based on the hints leading up to the release of "Lover," I have a feeling she's going to keep proving that point. Just another thing that makes Taylor Swift a good role model.
And if Taylor Swift isn't really your style, you can find all sorts of examples of this out there, too! In fact, going to my favorite, King of Sad Songs, Conor Oberst has an entire album of hopeful songs.
The point is, we all go through dark times, and writing (singing, painting, whatever your medium) is a wonderful way to cope and process through those feelings so please, don't stop making art when you're sad. But don't limit yourself to needing to suffer to make your art. Don't sit in your misery for the sake of creativity. Your light art is as special as your dark art.
*Shout out to Taylor Swift super fan Blake Walker for helping me find references to older songs in "Lover." This blog would've had a lot less substance without him!
Hello! I'm Lindsey. I'm a writer with a ton of random thoughts bouncing around in my head. So I share them here in hopes that they reach others with these thoughts.