Posted in beaty, Post A Week Challenge, Treasure Chest

Monday’s Treasure Chest – Feathers, Friends and Google TV

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted a Monday Treasure Chest. I’m going to try and get back on track with that by posting a few things I’m thankful for today. And yes, I realize today isn’t Monday but for the sake of this blog, let’s just pretend it is. Okay?

I am rockin’ some new feather extensions in my hair. I LOVE them! I want more. As a matter of fact, I’m already plotting ways to make that happen before we leave for vacation next week. My super awesome amazing hair designer, Sugar, ordered the extensions because I begged and pleaded and she loves me. They came in Friday afternoon. Yes, I was at the salon bright and early Saturday morning to get my new bling. Did I mention that I love them? If you are in the Tampa area, you should definitely go see her and get your own. See how awesome they look?

I also want to recognize a couple of people in my life who mean the world to me. You know who you are and I can’t thank you enough for being the real deal when it comes to walking the walk and talking the talk. I respect and admire you and and hope to live my life as authentically as you do. When I needed a sympathetic ear yesterday, you were both there for me. We haven’t talked in months but there was no doubt in my mind who I would turn to when I needed truth and honestly. You are two of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met and I am blessed to call you friend.

The last on my list is sort of a shameless plug in order to get myself some extra entries in a contest over at Aiming Low. Well, it’s not entirely insincere that I would write about Aiming Low because I do completely and utterly love the site and regularly stalk follow a few of the bloggers over there. I mean, who wouldn’t love a site that brings several of your all time favoritest bloggers (Anissa, Faiqa, and Cecily) together in one place?  How can you not be sucked into a website that’s is described as “…a group of women/men/moms/dads/bloggers/friends/writers that believe that there’s no shame in serving mac and cheese for dinner three nights in a row, Febreeze was created to make a questionably clean shirt smell ready-to-walk-out-the-door-fresh and that slack isn’t a way of life…it’s an art.” I do highly recommend you scoot right on over there because I guarantee there will be laughter in your future if you do.

One of the bloggers over at Aiming Low, MommyGeek, is launching a new bi-weekly column about geeky stuff. Helloooo. I’m all over it and can’t wait to read each new article she posts. She kicked off her new column in style by telling us all about Google TV and now I’m all in lust and must own this. Oh, and to make it even better, Aiming Low and Dish Network, are giving away a Google TV system. OMG! Can you imagine how much my dear husband would love me if I actually won this spectacular prize? So, I’m telling you guys all about it for two reasons. First, by doing so, I’m earning an extra 10 entries in the contest. Second, and against my better judgement, I’m sharing the opportunity for you to also enter to win the Google TV from Aiming Low and Dish Network.

Have a great week!!

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Posted in Post A Week Challenge

It Could Have Been Me

Demons.  We all have them. Some are more vicious than others. Your demons are no more or less scary than mine, and vice versa.  Some of us face the same demon day after day while others face the infrequent demon only when it decides to rear its ugly head.  Let’s face it, demons are a part of our everyday life. Some people manage to conquer their demons through various means but others struggle in ways that we can never understand.

Take the teenage girl who was molested by a trusted family member. She may deal with this memory by simply not remembering. We can do that. We can repress a memory to the point that it never comes to the forefront of our thoughts. One day it might again, but for this girl, it’s her coping mechanism. There’s the grandfather who recognizes his Alzheimer’s is stealing his life and his memories. He copes by putting a bullet through his brain. His demon wins and his family loses but it was his way of quieting the evil voices that guide us sometimes.   Right or wrong, these ways of doing battle are just a couple of the many options in the arsenals we use to deal with our troubles.

There is another method we sometimes choose, and for me and my world, it seems to be the easiest and most common. I know I’m guilty of it and I bet you all know someone else who is as well. I’m talking about the method of numbing our pain, of chemically suppressing our emotions so that the hurting, anger and anguish are just not dominant in our lives.

In my lifetime, I’ve had some pretty big demons consume my thoughts. Most of them came for a while and through some twist of fate or by God’s grace, I’ve managed to slay them all (almost).  The wars were not won overnight but it was during the battles I fought that I faced the option of which direction my life would take.  I drank and I partied and I drank and sometimes I even took a pill if it made me feel better.  This may be a shocking confession to some of you. To others, not so much.

I need to clarify this just a little. I’m not a raging alcoholic, nor am I a needle between the toes drug addict. What I’m talking about is, those days, weeks or even months when the pain is too great to bear, I have been known to drink a bottle of wine or an enormous rum and Coke, just to help me sleep through it.  Do you know that feeling? Those times when the voices in our heads are filing us with dread and self-doubt and no activity or distraction can shut them up. Those times when it seems our only alternative is to put them out. To sedate them. Hey, if I’m asleep, I’m not crying anymore, right?  If I’m asleep, my heart doesn’t feel like it’s going to pound through my chest cavity and end up on the wall across the room. If I’m asleep, the memories that haunt me will simply fade to black.

These episodes have been very rare and I can only think of three periods in my life in which I resorted to this form of coping on a larger scale. There was one time in my early 30’s when it seemed that my life was falling apart and it was easier to spend my evenings in a drunken stupor than to deal with the realization of the mistakes I was making. The second episode came a few years later. This time I wasn’t dealing with my own demons. This time, I was struggling with the demons of others, with the helplessness that comes from watching someone you love being sucked lower and lower into the bowels of their own hell.  When there was nothing left to do but watch the destruction, I chose to cope with months and months of binge drinking parties that left me with days of missing memories. The last time I turned to synthetic mood enhancers was the fall of 2005. This time was different though. My coping for this short period involved booze and prayer. I know, that’s a pretty strange combination but it’s what got me through. Lucky for me, this one worked itself out and everyone lived happily ever after.

There have been other times but these three are the most severe and significant examples.  Some other ways that I’ve dealt with a bad day may have included the use of some prescription medication in a way other than for which it was prescribed. For the record, I have not illegally obtained any form of narcotic since my youth. Sorry, I just felt the need to put that out there. You never know who reads this blog. When I say that I’ve used pills to deal with a bad day, I mean that I may have taken a pain pill when I wasn’t in physical pain. Hey, mental pain is still pain, dammit.

I am very much aware of how dangerous my method of coping has been.  I have lived on the slippery slope and managed to hang on for dear life. In every one of these instances I ran the very real risk of allowing my coping mechanism to actually become my new demon. I don’t know why this never happened. Maybe I was scared so straight at a very young age that my internal will just stopped it from becoming more than it was. Am I stronger than others who allow the drugs and alcohol to take over? No. I am absolutely not. Is my brain wired differently? Maybe. I have no idea why these episodes never became a bigger problem. I’m thankful and I contribute it to God’s grace, but I know there is more than that at play here. God gives us free will for a reason and my free will took a different path.  That is all.

Every day I am faced with a reminder of the evil that is addiction. My life has been altered because of it.  Other people’s lives are being affected daily because of it. The thing is, at this point in time, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Addiction almost cost me something dear, but thank God it did not.  We beat it down.  I say ‘we’ because I’m not sure the addiction could have been beaten by a single person. I believe that once the addiction was identified, it took the addict, the family, the doctors, lawyers, judges, therapists, and friends to beat this demon. Would it have been defeated if one of those people had not stood up to face it head on? I’m not sure, and I’m glad I don’t have to find out. The wake of destruction left by the addiction is still evident but it doesn’t matter anymore.  I still get mad and have moments of weakness where I blame the addict and then I remember why the addict became an addict. That’s all it takes. A single moment to remember what pain was being numbed and it becomes easier to forgive.

If someone does lose their battle with the demon that is addiction, I pray they find the peace they seek. I will never judge them if they chose numbness over pain. I have no right to do that because it could easily be me. I believe that addiction is one of the ugliest monsters one can face.  Addiction is real and it’s a problem that is devastating families and relationships every second. It hurts those who are addicted and it can destroy those who love them.

If you know someone who struggles with addiction, stop for a moment and think about how they got there. Did they begin using drugs or alcohol to stop a pain that never seems to end? Do they fight a demon we cannot see? Are they fighting alone because they want to fight alone, or is it because no one offered to help? Have offers to help fight the addition been made and rejected? Have you considered that it’s not the addition they need help fighting? Maybe it’s the dark, deeply buried secret they can’t seem to forget. Maybe they just need that one person to say they care. Why don’t you ask if you can help them? Ask if you can hold their hand or make a phone call or pay for a therapy session. Help them help themselves if they want it. Some do want it. Some need to be released from the addiction but it’s an impossible task until they are released from the demon that drove them there.

Addiction can be very quiet and may sit in a dark closet where no one can see it. It’s hard to do battle with an invisible demon, so ask them to reveal it to you so you can fight together. Invite them to lay their troubles down at your feet, at God’s feet, at their teacher’s or doctor’s feet. Maybe they just need someone to help them carry their cross if the burden is too much for them.

Do you know someone who is struggling and you are afraid to talk to them? Don’t be afraid, just do it. It may be the conversation that saves their life.

Posted in Post A Week Challenge, Treasure Chest

Monday’s Treasure Chest – It’s YOU!

I missed my Monday Treasure Chest post last week because we were traveling back from St. George and Rock by the Sea, and honestly, when we finally got home, I completely crashed. The last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of the computer and think. However, on the drive home, I was contemplating about what the post would be about if I actually found the energy needed to write, which I obviously did not. As I thought about my many blessings, one kept coming back to the forefront of my mind. I found myself smiling with joy each time I thought about my most recent discovery in that chest.

My treasure chest has been overflowing lately with blessing of you. Yes, you, there, reading these words. I am so honored and humbled that you’ve taken time out of your busy days or nights to check out what I have to say. I am even more grateful when you tell me about it. Recently, I’ve been left completely speechless and crying tears of delight because of the compliments you guys have given to me.

I had wanted to start a blog for a really long time but my fears kept telling me it would not work.  Once I finally decided to just go for it, I was so blessed by the fact that Gil was there every second of the way offering words of encouragement, praise, and guidance. I could not have gotten this far without him. I, also, could not have done this if not for you and the amazing, sweet, wonderful feedback you have been providing me for months now.

I recently received an email from someone I love and cherish very much. This email left me in tears for hours. These weren’t sad tears but tears of joy and a sudden awareness that I’m doing exactly what I should be doing with this blog. I’m writing about what I feel, what I want, what I need and what I love. I’m trying to say things here that maybe I’ve been too ashamed or afraid to say out loud. It’s strange how I know this is the most public way possible to share my innermost thoughts but something about it also seems so anonymous, and that makes it less scary. I know, that makes no sense to anyone outside of my crazy little brain, but it’s how I feel. I’ve felt demons inside of me start to die and disappear. I’ve felt portions of my soul, which I thought were dead, start to rise again. I’ve felt closer to God than I have since childhood.

When I started writing back on January 1st, I had big plans and big dreams for how this project would progress. After 30 days of writing every day, I had proven to myself that I could do it and all the fears I had simply faded away. You guys were reading and commenting and telling me that you liked what I had to say.  You were telling me that my words touched you and you told me how you felt the same way but couldn’t find the words to say the things I was saying.  I was flying pretty high and very satisfied with what I had accomplished when February rolled around. But then, I began to fail myself. I began to find reasons not to write as often.

I don’t know what happened. I blamed work, kids, exhaustion. All of the same things that were there in January but I somehow managed to still make the time for me and for this blog. I still thought about writing every day but I could never find the motivation I needed to sit down and type. What really sucks is that the motivation was there, I just kept ignoring it, kept pushing it aside and giving something else a higher priority. You guys kept providing the motivation I needed in the form of conversations and emails, comments and feedback, and questions about when I would post again. I don’t know why I let my dream start slipping away, but I did. I feel ashamed and thoroughly disappointed with myself.

“Where you invest your love, you invest your life.”

~Mumford and Sons

As I sit here and write, I think about all the things I want for this piece of my world. I want to tell my tale and find out more about myself, but there is so much more I want. I want to share my experiences with you. I want to grow in my faith in God with you. I want to talk about my marriage, both the good and sometimes not so good parts of it. I want to share both the uplifting and heartbreaking stories that have made me the woman I am today. I want to open myself up to you in an effort to share who I really am and who I really want to be.

I am going to pour my heart and soul into this dream of mine. I am going to love and nurture it with every ounce of passion I have. Maybe if I do those things, and do them honestly, maybe you can find some piece of my life and experiences that inspire you.  Maybe you won’t make some of the mistakes I’ve made. Maybe you’ll find some peace within yourself because my words helped to heal an old wound. Maybe you will find the inspiration you have been looking for to pursue your own dream because you see my courage in the pursuit of mine. My main objective with my writing is still to find my authentic self. But how awesome would it be if I play a very small part in helping you to find your authentic self as well?

Posted in Inspired by Music, Post A Week Challenge, Treasure Chest

Monday’s Treasure Chest – Anticipation

An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but precursors of the things which we are capable of performing. ~ Samuel Smiles

Today I opened up my Treasure Chest and was a little surprised by what I found. It wasn’t a person or a thing or any particular act that overflowed from the top of my blessing box. It was, instead, an emotion. It was anticipation. It was something I never considered a blessing before tonight, but after thinking about it all day, I am certain it is my treasure of the day.

Gil and I start a much needed and deserved vacation Wednesday morning. We’ll be heading up to St. George Island in the panhandle of Florida. Since 2008, we have made this journey north to attend the annual charity music festival known as Rock by the Sea. We look forward to this trip every year because it’s an opportunity to hear some of our favorite artists, discover new ones, hang out with our music-loving friends who have become family and well, it’s at the BEACH, people. What’s not to love about this?

Rock by the Sea (RBTS) is a Florida not-for-profit organization dedicated to planning and producing music festivals and events that raise money for deserving charities that provide direct services to those in need. RBTS has created an outlet for those agencies to gain exposure with the public and to facilitate donations. Through musical concerts, silent auctions, merchandise sales, and general donations, RBTS has been able to create awareness and provide an avenue that leads to involvement and enhancement of the direct services provided.

Even though this is our fourth year attending RBTS, this year is very different for us. It’s different because we will play a role in helping to make the event the best it can be.  Late last year, we were invited to join the RBTS Board of Directors and I can’t even begin to tell you what an honor that was. RBTS is an event that has been very near and dear to our hearts since our first year attending. Not only does the event benefit a variety of charities that are incredibly close to our hearts, it just so happens our dear friends, Beth Gosnell and Gail Harkins, are two of the founding members of Rock by the Sea.

I’ve admired Beth and Gail since I first attended Rock by the Sea II in 2008, and to be asked to be a part of this organization was one of the highlights of my life. This group has managed to make this event look completely effortless for those of us attending. I’m so very blessed to be a small component within this group of extremely giving individuals. I have so much to learn from them, but at the same time, I hope to add value to the organization as well. I’m very new and very green when it comes to charity event planning, especially fundraising, but I’m willing to learn. It’s what I hope and dream I’ll be able to do with my life someday, and being given this opportunity has only reinforced my desire to make this dream come true.

The anticipation and uncertainty of the upcoming week consumed me today.  I managed to be super productive at work but every second my mind had a chance to wander, it did just that. I thought about things like the weather, the idea of too much sun on my frog-belly-white skin, what food to pack, how many pairs of flip flops I’ll need (yes, I said NEED), and other vacation related concerns we all think about before a beach vacation. But this is not all I thought about. My mind also drifted to concerns of how much I’ll be able to contribute, how much money we will raise, will the honored charities be happy with the level of awareness we bring, will the event hit any snags along the way, etc. The thoughts just went on and on.

The anticipation inside of me fuels the hope I have for this event. My hope is that we do the charities proud, that we raise enough money to make a difference to at least one person, that everyone’s journey to and from the event is safe and without incident, and that the feelings of love and selflessness envelope us all weekend. I hope that when the music has stopped and it’s time to pack up and head home, we leave St. George feeling as if we’ve accomplished something extraordinary, both individually and collectively.

I’ve been given the gift of anticipation, and my anticipation level is ten times what it’s been in the past. My reward, however – or shall I say, my treasure – at the end of the weekend, can potentially fill a thousand treasure chests. For this, I am truly blessed.

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This year RBTS has selected three amazing charities. They are University of Florida’s Pediatric Brain Tumor Program, The Down Syndrome Association of Tallahassee and Camp Sunshine. I invite you to visit each of the charity’s websites and see the incredible services they provide to people in need.

If you would like to know more about the organization Rock by the Sea, please visit our website or Facebook Page. If you would like to know more about our upcoming RBTS 5 event, you can check out our Facebook Event page.  We also invite you to follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

If you would like to make a donation to Rock by the Sea, you can do so here.

Posted in About, Childhood Memories, Me, Post A Week Challenge

Who The Heck Is Leelee Gonzalez?

(Plinky Prompt of the Day: How Did You Get Your Name?)

I was talking with my pregnant friend Ashley this afternoon and at some point the conversation turned to baby names. Let’s just say they haven’t picked one for the soon to be new baby girl Lambert and from the conversation, it may be a while before they do agree on a name. It got me to thinking about names and how much I love names. It’s a weird fascination, but trust me, it’s not as weird as my fascination with fuzzy feline nut sacks. I’ll save that one for another day.

I love hearing the story of people’s names. To me, our names are who we are. I have always been a very devout believer that family names are important when choosing a child’s name. I know many people do not share that feeling but I feel very strongly about that. Had I been blessed with children, you can believe I would have used a family name. I always dreamed of having a baby girl and naming her Marian (after my grandfather) Elizabeth (my grandmother) and calling her Mari-Beth because all true southern women should have two word names. It’s a rule.  During my previous life, I did dream of a baby boy named Creighton Lee, after my ex-husband’s great grandfather (the Creighton part) and Lee (me, my dad and my ex-husband all share this name). I heard years later that my ex-husband did indeed have a boy with his second wife and I heard a rumor his name is Creighton.

My parents must have been reading from the same rule book when they had me because here I am, Lee Ann. You can’t get more southern that that one. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my name, but for as much as I wish I had been dubbed with a moniker like Sophia, Genevieve or Samantha, I wasn’t. However, my name does have pretty special meaning. My first name, Lee, was my father’s middle name, while my middle name, Ann, is my mother’s middle name. I would say that my parents covered all the bases here. Not only can I see glimpses of my mom and dad every time I look in the mirror, but I’m also reminded of them each time I hear my name. This often makes me smile.

Now, as much as I love my parents for sharing their names with me, I’ve also been pretty bitter about the simplicity of my name.  I can remember the first time I realized my name was lacking some flair. It was during my sixth grade graduation ceremony as the principal announced each name and each one flowed with this beautiful multi-syllabic harmony.  That is until they called out my name. Lee.Ann.Roney. Bor-Ring! I remember thinking how odd it sounded after hearing names like Loren Micheal, Julia Dell and Kerry Dawn. It was almost like something was missing. Like there should have been something else, another name, another syllable. Something. But nope, it was just Lee…Ann, and thus began my utter aversion for my name.

Now, throw a very thick southern accent into the mix. This is where the ridicule began. “What’s your name?” “Lee Auunnnn Roneeeeey.” Go ahead, sound it out. Say it out loud. See what I mean.  I was as country as they came as a child and my accent was as thick as syrup, so every time I said my name, it would be repeated by the adult listener with such a drawl that it would take them about 45 seconds to get those three little words out. Seriously.  Of course, it would be followed up with an “Ain’t that cute” comment that I think was supposed to make me feel better, but never really did.

As I got older, my favorite game was to change up my name when I met new people. Sometimes, I would be just Ann, in an attempt to keep it real, and sometimes I would pick something completely different like Sabrina or Catherine. Lord only knows where those came from but they were names that made a statement and I liked that. At some point I created my bar name of Angel and then Angelee, which I’ve always kind of liked. It was my beloved nephew who created my current persona of Leelee, which I would make my legal name in a heartbeat.

When I got divorced from my first husband, I elected to keep my married name, Sullivan, because that had been my name my entire adult life. It just made sense at the young age of 32. My work history was based on that name and it just seemed like it would be too complicated to explain a name change at that point in my life.  Besides, Sullivan was so much less likely to be misspelled AND it gave me some street cred on St. Patrick’s Day. I also dropped the Ann when I left Alabama, so at 32 years of age, I had officially become Lee Sullivan and Lee Ann Roney was never to be again. Ever.

Now, let’s flash forward to June, 2009. I’m about to get married for the second time. For a year a battle was fought inside me over what to do with my name. My deeply rooted traditional heart was telling me I should take my husband’s name. It would be an honor to share my husband’s name. I WANTED to become Mrs. Lee Gonzalez.  And then I said that out loud. I really didn’t like the sound of it. At.All. But, take my vanity out of the picture and my reasonable, rational head was telling me to keep the name I had been using for almost 18 ½ years. I thought about the years of history in both my personal relationships and my career that I would have to basically change. There would be credit cards, bank accounts, student load accounts, work emails, and the list goes on and on. When I was 22 it was no big deal, there was like one thing that required a name change so the idea of not changing my name back then never crossed my mind. Now, combine all of this with the fact that my marriage documents are all in Spanish and I can tell you right now, all of this is more work than it’s worth. Way more work than I’m willing to put in to it. Oh, and let’s not forget that my wonderful, progressive thinking, new husband adamantly opposes the idea of me giving up my identity (my name) for some old-fashioned tradition. So, the decision was made to keep it simple and keep my name.

Now, here’s where I have a problem with all of this. I am currently married to the man of my dreams, building a life together in our happy, little, blended family and I am wearing my ex-husband’s name like a scarlet letter. I’m not sure how to feel about this. I sometimes feel like I’m cheating, like I’m betraying my marriage with the constant reminder of a man who has been out of my life for over a decade. I need to resolve this in my mind but it still really weighs me down at times. I wish I didn’t think about it and that when I do think about it, that I didn’t feel so bad about it. Gil doesn’t care. His kids don’t care. Why do I care?

I keep threatening that I’m going to have my name officially changed to Leelee Gonzalez. THIS would be my perfect name. It’s got panache, it flows in perfect syllabic harmony AND it would allow me to take my husband’s name. If I decide to change my name and deal with all the hassles associated with that, I’m going to do it right! Hey, go big or go home! Right? Gil does not find this joke funny. At.All.