Category Archives: Relationships

Memory Lane

The Saturn dealership where I used to work is now a Kia store. There is alot of red trim on that aging building on Gordon Highway, nestled in between failing businesses in a declining part of town. I picture the interior of that structure when I drive by on my way to Sconyers, or the airport, or the flower warehouse, wishing I could pull in and just nostalgically walk around. I spent 60 hours a week for 6 years in that building; I knew every inch of that place. I was involved in so many aspects of the business that the Saturn IT guy had to call me at my new job to get the password to the network computer. A former friend who worked there years after I left said he could still see evidence of my work on bulletin boards in the hallway.


The Saturn building on a snowy day


The primary motivation behind my desire to snoop around is sentimental. Kevin and I worked there together in the late 90’s and early 00’s, during a time in my life when I was in what I call my “bad boy” phase, dating guys who were not compatible with me. Kev and I got along well as co-workers, a relationship of mutual respect. I never thought of him as anything except a kindred workaholic spirit, except for one day,  standing in his office, watching him juggle stressful situations with grace. He reached into his drawer and ran a quick brush through his hair while saying something that made us all laugh. In that moment, a thought occured to me: if I ever do decide to stop fucking around with guys who are all wrong, I need to find myself someone just like Kevin.

A few years later, my shitty romantic habits were beginning to concern me. I was teetering toward 40 with no real sense of why I sabotaged healthy relationships in favor of drama-filled ones. I had been in this place before, and even sought counseling about it, but always disliked the therapists I met. One therapist was fresh out of college and had a look of panic when I shared my feelings with her. Another was a nerdy type who left me feeling judged. Despite these failed attempts, I thought I would give it one last try, calling on a therapist who knew both of my parents, as well as one sister. I figured it would save us some time if I didn’t have to describe my family dynamic with her. Let’s call her Dr. Liz.

When I called her office to set an appointment, the receptionist stated that Dr. Liz was not accepting any new patients. I would not be deterred. “She has to see me!” I exclaimed. “She already knows my whole family and I need her help!” The young woman put me on hold, returning a few minutes later with the good news. I started therapy the following week.

I don’t recall much about the short time I visited Dr. Liz, except her office filled with books and one of those small flat dishes filled with sand and a tiny rake for nervous people who want to move the sand around in a meditative way. I do know that I was happy to finally meet a therapist I liked, who was cool and stylish and non-judgey. I didn’t see her very long, as she would finally determine that there was really nothing wrong with me, including my proclivity to sometimes “live in the past”. She explained that some people just spend more time than others thinking about the past, and that it was perfectly fine. She also told me it was perfectly fine if I never settled down, and not to worry about it. Maybe it will happen, maybe not. The main thing was just to always be honest about my feelings.

It was such an enormous relief to hear someone I respected give me a diagnosis of “you are ok.” I stopped worrying about life so much after that, and terminated my toxic relationship. Years later, when I heard that Kevin was getting a divorce, I felt like it was a sign that I should reach out to him. It took a bit of convincing for him to go out with me, but once we found a slow, comfortable way to get to know each other, the foundation was formed for something healthy and lasting. Early in our courtship, when Kevin still worked at Saturn and neither of us had cable TV at our respective apartments, we would stop by Zaxby’s on Sunday evenings for dinner to-go, and head over to the dealership to drink wine and watch Brett Michaels in VH-1’s Rock of Love.


The lounge where we watched Rock of Love. Was the TV really that small??



So yes, thinking of those fun times with Kevin, I do still feel a bit of fondness for the past, and that is why I feel the pull of that old dealership with the red trim on Gordon Highway. I yearn to walk through the halls where I used to spend so much time. I could see the office where I first thought of him as a person instead of just a cool co-worker. I could see the customer lounge where we used to eat chicken fingers and watch reality TV. I could visit the ladies room where I cried over icky boyfriends and know that I never have to feel that way again. My memories during the years when the building still held the Saturn logo set the stage for the life I live now. And though I don’t think I really “live in the past”, I do feel an immense gratefulness for those years, when I grew up a little. It’s because of my time in that building that I was able to find something better for myself than what I had. I not only found someone just like Kevin, I got the real thing. And it is even more amazing than I imagined it would be.

It’s OK to be Facebook Friends with an Ex

In 1983 my then-boyfriend David picked me up from work at Davison’s in his yellow truck and proceeded to drive to the other side of the Augusta Mall, stopping the vehicle in front of a dumpster. He grabbed a large shoebox from the floorboard and opened it so that I could peek inside. I noticed an amalgamation of photos, notes and cards. He looked me in the eyes, the hint of a smile emerging on his serious face. He then shut the lid, got out of the truck, and ceremoniously tossed the box into the garbage. What looked to be a valuable assortment of sentimental memorabilia was now mixed up with discarded Corndog-on-a-Stick cups, Spencer gift packaging and J Riggings hangers.

He returned to the truck and proudly announced that the box contained his entire collection of mementos from past romances. Now that he was dating me, he said that he saw no reason to keep any physical evidence of these relationships. He wanted to boldly demonstrate his commitment by destroying any connection to those who came before me. He was three years older than me and quite a ladies man, so the gravity of his gesture was not insignificant.

All these years later, I do not recall what I said, but can distinctly remember what I thought: That was a foolish mistake. It was foolish because the sacrifice made me more uncomfortable than happy. I also hoped that he didn’t expect me to reciprocate. Although my box was considerably smaller, I was attached to my collection of poems and love notes, and wanted to keep them forever. I saw no reason to discard a part of my short life story. I was not a jealous person, so I wasn’t worried that any of his exes would resurface in his life, and knew that he had no reason to be concerned about my former crushes. The whole affair made absolutely no sense to me.

I don’t recall if I gave in to the pressure to toss my small box away, but because I no longer have my early notes, I assume that I did. I don’t know if David ever regretted that audacious moment; we lost touch after our break-up and I only heard bits and pieces of his life after Angie. He has since passed away, so I am happy that I still have a few notes and pictures from my three years with him. He was my first serious boyfriend, and we were even engaged for a short time. I like to think that if he were alive today, we might even be Facebook friends, clicking the “like” button on one another’s family vacation photos.

I’m just not one of those people who think it is necessary to pretend a past romantic relationship didn’t happen. As a happily married person in my late 40’s, I am proud that the collage of my former connections has made me into the person I have become. I am 100% certain that I wouldn’t be happily married if I didn’t have a gloriously diverse combination of experiences to inform my perspective of a healthy relationship. The memories should not be dwelled on, but neither should they be tossed; I cherish my personal history.

Although I missed the chance to connect online with David, I have become Facebook friends with quite a few members of the Angie ex-boyfriend club. Networking with someone on social media is not an overly serious matter to me, and as a PR person I prefer to accept most friend requests. I find it is an intriquing way to get to know people and peek at glimpses of their daily lives without necessarily having to invest any meaningful time. So, in my mind, the fact that about 1% of my Facebook friends are past boyfriends is not a big deal. Seeing their political rants or pet videos on my newsfeed is no more consequential that the postings of say, a former co-worker or my next-door neighbor.

Every once in awhile, though, one of them will offer a thumbs-up to one of my cat photos, and I like that because I’m sure they remember how important my cats are to me. Sometimes I will click “like” on a post about an ex’s favorite baseball team, acknowledging my recollection that he was a fan. In fact, it feels quite evolved and mature when I can keep small casual connections like a Facebook friendship with these guys from my past. For example, when I see one of my exes on Facebook with his posse of small kids, I am thrilled to witness his happy, full life. I also know in that moment that the two of us were never destined to be together, since a large family was never my dream.

With a few exceptions, I am connected to almost all of my past loves and brief flings. There is only one guy in my history to whom I would be reticent to befriend, because of some borderline stalker behavior after our break-up. I confess that in my most paranoid moments, I assume I am already Facebook friends with him, imagining that he has created a fake persona to connect with me. That’s how the mind works sometimes. In reality, he likely never thinks of me and could care even less about social media. I know I cherish my past more or less than others cherish theirs, and that’s ok. We all have different stories.

I did have one ex who friended me and then un-friended me, and my hunch is that he was forced to do so by a jealous person in his life, or maybe he still harbors hard feelings about our decades-old awkward encounter. Another ex-Ron- refused my request outright, messaging me that it “wouldn’t be in the best interest of his family”. While I certainly respect the response, it is clear that he certainly gives more weight to friending than I do. At 1,300 friends, I am obviously connected to people I have never met. And, like David with his box, Ron has clear ideas about dividing his emotional past and present into different segments, cutting out the parts that are painful or tricky.

I, on the other hand, embrace the tapestry of my romantic story, a varied one filled with a wide range of personalities and difficult lessons. I look forward to the day when I am retired and can sit in my rocking chair and periodically peruse the online posts of past contacts, smiling at all the wonderful accomplishments of people who briefly crossed paths with me before I found the love of my life. I might even bring out my old shoeboxes filled with the notes and photos we all collected before the days of social media, happy that I am married to the type of person who appreciates me despite my crazy past and would never ask me to throw the boxes away.


Ladies Man in Training

I met my step-son Forrest when he was 10 years old, and even then he was already showing signs of being a bit girl-crazy. I joked with him about it, saying I was going to buy him a t-shirt that says “Forrest Loves the Ladies”.  Every day he would have a story about a pretty girl who talked to him or punched him (also known as flirting, especially during middle school years). A true ladies man was being born.

By the age of 15 he had his first girlfriend, and I will never forget how Kevin and I “fake chaperoned” his first date at the fair. We pretended to split up in order to meet again later, but we purposely kept a close watch on where they were. When they started holding hands, we were skulking nearby to witness it.

I wasn’t too crazy about that first girlfriend, for numerous reasons I would rather not discuss, but I will mention her rudeness over dinner. I suppose times have changed, but when I was a teenager we tried to impress our boyfriend’s parents, not stare at them with indifference when asked a harmless, small-talk question. She was aloof, gloomy and dismissive.

One thing that has not changed since I was a teenager is the ultimate insignificance of parental opinion. It was better if they liked your sweetie, but if they did not, you didn’t want to hear about it. I am therefore keenly aware that I have to hold my tongue about Forrest’s female friends. He reinforced that message by telling Kevin that I am the “last person he would want to hear spouting relationship advice.” I get that. So my blog is a good outlet for my opinions.

I know I can safely talk here about the young ladies in my step-son’s world because:

  1. I will change names to numbers to protect the innocent
  2. My step-son doesn’t read my blog. If I am honest, very few people do.

My favorite chickie was girlfriend #2, who made the common mistake of being too clingy and scaring Forrest away. He became so panicked by this serious relationship, he has since refused to let anyone claim they are a “girlfriend” at all. Thus my term chickie, which is about as casual as it gets. Chickie #2 was very pretty and presented herself well. In my opinion, her only deficiency was the excessive affection, which is more of a strategy error than a character flaw. Forrest fought horribly with her after the break-up, and neither of them demonstrated maturity for quite some time. Parental intervention forced both parties to act more civil toward one another, which was important because of an overlapping circle of friends.

I never had a chance to meet chickie #3, which was fine with me since she was 2 years younger than Forrest. I’m worried, though, about chickie #4, who has a distinctly different personality from the others. She is abrasive and arrogant, with not much more in the manners department than chickie #1. The worst part about #4 is how Forrest acts around her. She is a bit of an ass, and he acts like one when she is near. It it absolutely torture to watch.

We went out for sushi with them, and it was literally the longest 30 minutes of my life. It was only 30 minutes because I left before the check was even paid. The hateful things the two of them said about other teens, including chickie #2, made me go pale. I know I can’t tell him who he can date, but I certainly don’t have to be around her, and do not intend to- if I can avoid it. All I can do is pray daily that their relationship will be short-lived and that a clean, permanent fracture will end my torment.

When I returned home from that fateful dinner, I knew that the experience was a karmic payment for what my family endured during my 20 years of poor-decision making in relationships. I can recall some painfully awkward moments of guys who loathed spending time with my family, and acted like they were waiting for a root canal. Conversations were forced, dinners were curtailed abruptly.

When I returned from my sushi debacle, I wanted to call every member of my immediate family and apologize. Although I dated some true sweethearts, I know there was a solid decade of bringing home people who were less than charming. My family, true to form, were gracious and kept most of their opinions to themselves, which I appreciate tremendously in hindsight.

Knowing that my family survived my boy-craziness, I tell myself to be cool through my step-son’s girl-craziness. I must try to hold my opinions and let the kid create his own relationship path, which for now appears to be the ladies man path. I just hope he approaches it with grace and respect, and chooses chickies who know how to politely converse over sushi.

Anger-Free Zone

Buddhism teaches that all life is interrelated. Through the concept of “dependent origination,” it holds that nothing exists in isolation, independent of other life. Everything in the world comes into existence in response to causes and conditions. Nothing can exist in absolute independence of other things or arise of its own accord. [July 99 SGI Quarterly]

I’ve been thinking about dependent origination and anger lately. Twice in the past month I’ve been on the receiving end of bitter diatribes from customers, rants so angry that I erupted into tears as soon as I hung up the phone. I’m not blameless in these matters; in both cases, I made mistakes. I failed to inspect work on one person’s car, and I failed to call the other in a timely manner. I accept responsibility for these oversights and have no problem apologizing. Apologizing and taking ownership of problems is what I do for a living, and it’s become a polished skill. In hostile conditions, however, that skill sometimes sits in the corner and refuses to come out until the air clears.

I do not have the kind of personality that gets angry, so it is hard for me to relate to other people’s need to fulminate. I get upset, frustrated, worked up, and vexed on a regular basis; however, I am hard-pressed to think of a time when I clouded the air with an unleashing of venomous words. I don’t say it to brag, and I don’t feel self-righteous about it; it’s just the way I’m hard-wired. I know that everyone is different, so I try not to judge.

My step-son Forrest and his mom are two people who are definitely wired differently from me. They get angry, and feel compelled to express it, especially with one another. They are both head-strong, and I hear that they’ve had screaming matches that would make me curl up in a fetal position. The blessing here is that because of their conflicts, Kevin and I are able to spend more time with Forrest, who seems to thrive when he is around his dad. The tragedy is that the relationship Forrest has with his mom has become so strained that some permanent damage may have been done. It will take a serious olive-branch, kumba-ya, soul-baring, pride-swallowing love-fest to get them back to a place of some semblance of trust. And even that is only going to be as good as the time it takes for one or both of them to get angry again.

The problem arises, as almost all problems do, from a perspective that embraces being right. Once somebody says “it’s the principle of the thing”, and starts using that principle to justify their outbursts, all is lost. My personality dictates that it is more important to get along than it is to make a point, a position I embrace more as I see that angry or insulting exchanges only result in hurt feelings, and rarely in peaceful resolution. We don’t have to convince one another of our point of view. We only have to listen and be respectful. There are many times in life we have to “agree to disagree”, or even better, take ownership and apologize.

Here is the critical point in apologizing, and I’m sure all lawyers will disagree with me: just because you say you’re sorry, doesn’t mean you are saying you were wrong. You can apologize for yelling, or apologize for someone’s frustration (aka empathy). You can apologize for the simple purpose of putting the conversation in a more peaceful place.

It’s important to remember, as you simmer in all of the “rightness” in your head, that it’s often impossible to sway the other person’s point of view. So if you are steadfastly holding to “the principle of the thing”, you are sacrificing the relationship in the vain hope that the other person will eventually acknowledge they are wrong, a tricky thing for even the most evolved human beings.

As difficult as it is to convert someone to your point of view (because, like you, they want to be “right”), imagine how much harder it is to convince them when you are expressing yourself in a state of anger. Angry outbursts have damaging effects, which brings me back to the concept of dependent arising. We cannot know all of the repercussions our words and actions will have on others. The indignant customer who yells at me feels justified; he is convinced that he is a victim of some wrong, but he doesn’t have all of the information about the situation. He certainly doesn’t have any information about what his angry words will mean to me as I sit in the middle of my family dinner. When you throw garbage out into the air and walk away, you no longer see the garbage, but it is still there for someone else to manage. Words yelled in anger are garbage, and the mess is very difficult to clean.

Everything in the world comes into existence in response to causes and conditions.  How I present myself to you will impact how you present yourself to those around you, who are also affected by these interactions. The ripple effect of how we choose to behave has far-reaching consequences, and anger will always contaminate that stream. The only thing we can do at that point is wait until the anger subsides, go back to the source of the garbage-spewing and apologize to them. “I am sorry for your frustration. I take ownership in being a part of the resolution. I kindly request that our future interactions take on a tone of increased mutual respect. Here is my olive branch, will you accept it?”

Perhaps we can impact the ripples around us with greater empathy. There are reasons people lash in anger, reasons I will never know. Their wiring may not be for me to understand.   For my part, I promise to embrace the art of the apology and do my part to keep the air clean for those around me to thrive.

Angela’s Greatest Hits


Taken the day of the concert, see Superstar post

Have you ever been suprised when an artist who has only been recording music for a short time decides to put out a “greatest hits” collection? When I hear about it, I invariably think, “Really? Isn’t 20 years old a little young for a retrospective?”

Of course, it really doesn’t matter what age they are, or how many hits they have. They must have had some inspiration to assess and re-assemble their short ouevre into a “best of” compilation. I respect that. In fact, despite my short “career” in the blogging world, I have decided to do likewise. I just need you to pretend not to notice that I only have 2 greatest hits in my blog collection.

Today’s peek at my stats page showed me something I had not seen before, which is the blog ranking. One of my 48 posts has been seen the most by a phenomenal margin over the others. Almost all of my posts have 1-168 views. (I know, I know, but I’m only 20 years old in blog-years!) My leading blog, however, has an impressive 1,871 views. That is amazing to me.

The winning blog in my short 3-year career is “The Former Clinique Consultant”, about how my time with that company impacted my life.  Turns out, someone who had just started a management job with Clinique found my little story, and made all of her consultants read it as a learning opportunity. She wanted them to take my first-person narrative to heart, and remember the customer’s perspective as they put on the lab coat each day. Short of getting a teacher to assign your blog to their class, or getting Oprah to talk about it, I’m not sure I could ask for much more to help get attention for a single article.

The next blog in line, although with much less fanfare, is my sentimental favorite. It is an incredible story of getting to meet my all-time favorite singer, Rick Springfield (who, by the way, is very justified in doing greatest hits collections, considering his multiple decades of creating music). Rick is not the star of the blog, however. That honor goes to my Kevin. It is a touching story of how much Kevin does to make my life extraordinary.

Shortly after I wrote the Superstar blog, a co-worker (who just so happens to be a tough, brawny technician) told me that he wished he hadn’t read it at work, because he had to pretend not to have tears in his eyes when people walked in his office. When you can make an ultramasculine Lexus technician start to cry, you may be onto something. I’ve had a few other people tell me of a similar emotional reaction to the blog. That’s powerful stuff, and means more to me than all the viewers and followers in the world. I’m also hoping it garners me a little forgiveness for putting out such a young Greatest Hits collection.

Happy Birthday Colin


Much like the 1.9 million fans of this Facebook page, I don’t know much about the soon-to-be 11 year-old named Colin. We all clicked the “like” button because of an inspiring story: Colin’s mom created the page as a social media greeting card after hearing him say that he did not want a birthday party. He said there was no point to planning a celebration because “he doesn’t have any friends” to invite. Something about Colin’s story resonated with us.

Maybe we have known a young person who had difficulty making friends at his age. Maybe we have been to countless kid birthday parties and understand how important they can be. Maybe we like the chance to be a part of a community of empathetic people. Maybe we want to send a message to the kids who refused to let Colin sit with them at lunch, forcing him to eat in the secretary’s office.

Regardless of our motivation, it is truly heartwarming to see the deluge of attention the page has received. Especially touching are the video messages, such as the comedian who got everyone in the club where he performed to say “Happy Birthday Colin!” I also was moved by the army soldiers who sent in their sincere wishes for his big day.

I can’t be alone in hoping that the page gives Colin a bit of “street cred” at his school, and that classmates who formerly shunned him might in the future give him a nod or wave in the halls. It has to help that the messages are from such a diverse audience, including police officers, sorority sisters and people from around the world. One recent post looks like it is written in Farsi, and others from as far away as Australia remind us that Colin’s struggles of isolation are global.

A news interview with the mother from Kalamazoo, Michigan when the page was at a mere 8,000 likes reveals that Colin is shut out from his peers because they do not understand his behavior, which is the result of a disorder similar to Asperger’s. She noted that sometimes it is easier to reach out to someone with an evident physical disability, as opposed to a developmental issue that is not apparent on the surface. Colin’s story is one more reminder for us all to demonstrate kindness without question, because we never know what someone’s story might be. Universal compassion is always a wise policy.

I look forward to March 9th when Colin’s mom Jennifer posts a video of his reaction to the page. I hope Colin feels all of the love behind it, not just from the millions of fans from around the world, but also from Jennifer, who clearly adores her son. My wish for Colin moves beyond joy on his 11th birthday, and becomes more far-reaching as he progresses into adolescence.

Colin, no matter what acceptance you may or may not get from the other kids around you, today or in the future, please know that by just being your unique self, you have inspired many people to be a little more gentle with one another. That is a birthday gift you can carry with you always- but it is also a gift you gave to us. Thank you.

Thankful for Randomness

In 1988 I went to Atlanta with a co-worker named Mark to party with some of his friends; one of them was an auto mechanic and part-time race car driver. I thought the mechanic/driver was cute, so of course I feigned an interest in cars to make conversation. By the end of the night, mechanic/driver and I had arranged for me to bring my car from Athens to Atlanta for a major service, and in return I would treat him to dinner. His name was Charlie, and we dated on-and-off for a couple years. It ended amicably, and we’re even Facebook friends today.


At Road Atlanta, 1989

The reason I mention this story is not because Charlie (the guy) was significant in my life, but because Charlie’s passion (the cars) stuck with me. Our random meeting led to my life taking a distinctly different turn. Had I not gone to Atlanta that night, I would have never been exposed to the automotive world. Though we had long since broken up, Charlie was somewhere in the back of my psyche when I told my sister in 1997, “I want to move to Augusta; watch the classifieds for me.” I told her I would sell either cosmetics (which I had done before) or cars. She kept an eye out for sales openings and in no time, I was driving to Augusta for interviews.

If you know anything about the car business, you know that there is always a dealership looking for sales professionals; it has got to be the highest turnover of any industry. In a matter of weeks, I was making plans to move to Augusta. Because of this fortuitous turn of events, my life evolved into a new career, and ultimately I would meet the most significant person in my life-Kevin. In addition to being the most amazing service manager this town has ever seen, he is the most amazing human being I have ever met.  Without the interest in cars I adopted from Charlie, I would never have met Kevin, and my life would have traveled down an entirely divergent path.


Ang with love of her life

Kevin has made so much possible in my life, and followers of my blog have heard many of those stories. One which I’ve not yet mentioned is the thoughtful surprise he arranged for me: to be a driver of a racecar at the Richard Petty experience. In terms of adrenaline, it only matches jumping out of a plane for powerful life memories. That’s an experience I wouldn’t have had without Kevin.


I’m sure the career path from cosmetics to cars is an unusual one, but I’ve loved both industries equally. I’ve been able to drive the latest cars, learn the newest technology and meet the coolest people. In my early days at Saturn, I was introduced to Dave Rosenblum, who coordinated an inner-city youth racing program in which at-risk teens worked as part of a pit crew. We brought Dave and his car to Augusta, and he spoke at Evans High School about the importance of staying clean and working hard.


Inner city youth race car, circa 1998

Meeting people like Dave and driving Richard Petty-level race cars are life moments I will always cherish, and there was a certain randomness that brought them to me. Having sensed this randomness at a young age, I’ve long been intrigued by small decisions that have metamorphic results. I often ask couples how they initially met, are there is always a similarly arbitrary set of events that led to their life-changing connection. It makes me aware and appreciative of the power of taking risks, as well as the power of making ostensibly innocent decisions.

Whether or not indiscriminate circumstances are the result of divine intervention, destiny, karma, or natural chaos is not the purpose of this blog. Regardless of the source of the coincidences which bring people together, there is an inherently magical or miraculous feeling which can inspire tremendous gratitude. While I subscribe to the theory that I must take ownership of the events in my life, I also acknowledge that I have been tremendously lucky or blessed, depending on your POV. Ever-grateful, I can say a prayer for the immense blessings of my life, but I think it is also nice to be somewhat indebted to Mark and Charlie, good guys that fortunately crossed my path at the right time, and opened up a world I never would have known otherwise.

Acceptance for Blamers

I have been working with the public since I was 15;  I have been managing people since I was 24. On top of that, I was single for 30 years. These are the credentials I offer for claiming to know the most fundamental truth of all human interaction: Anything we hope to accomplish in life comes down to accountability. Regardless of personality or beliefs or socioeconomic status, all individuals fall into one of two categories: those who take ownership of their experiences, and those who blame everything on external forces. For the sake of this blog, I am going to call the latter group “blamers”, and the former group “normal people”. I hope you will forgive me for sounding judgmental. I’m actually pleading a case for blamer acceptance.


There is a book called, “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)”, which explains the mindset of the blamers. Apparently they suffer from “cognitive dissonance”, which is a fancy way of saying that they lie to themselves because they couldn’t cope with the truth of their own failures. I won’t go too deeply into why they can’t cope, because it doesn’t interest me, and because it is enough to know that these blamers are out there, with their fancy-sounding disorder. For whatever reason, they are completely incapable of the one sentence that normal people say on a regular basis: “Well, I messed that up. I’ll do better next time.”

Blamers don’t realize that admitting a mistake is not a big deal. It’s like they are stuck in the third grade, when all kids lie about who glued a frog to the teacher’s desk or who jammed their gum into the pencil sharpener. It is unfortunate, really, because people admire a person who is not ashamed to apologize and offer to make amends. Blamers think their self-worth is tied to their mis-steps, and after too many hits, the ego cannot do anything but regress into the old habit of pointing the finger. It doesn’t matter where the finger points- another person, the weather, a broken computer-as long as there is a reason for their error that takes the ownership off of them.

Here is the main “take-away” for you, dear reader, and I want you take it in slowly and pause for reflection. You cannot change a blamer or tell them that they are a blamer. By definition, they could not accept that fact. You cannot argue with them, reason with them or help them improve. Their lives belong to the wind or the random chaos that surrounds them. They do not believe they can improve their lives, and therefore if you attach yourself to them, you need to accept that a certain amount of randomness will impact you. Let them experience their own consequences without trying to save them or get wrapped up into their stories. The “drama queens” of the world are all blamers, and they all ironically claim to hate drama.

The only strategy that will save your sanity is to be able to recognize a blamer, control your emotional attachment to their issues (which they always have), and focus on their positive attributes. For example, when dealing with a “blamer” customer, who often likes to go on and on about the bad things that happened to them, just stay calm and focus on the solution. “Let’s not worry about why things went wrong,” you can calmly offer, “let’s just focus on moving forward in a positive way.” When you demonstrate enough confidence and reassurance (often through repeating the above line in what is called the ‘broken record’ technique), the blamer will eventually calm down and revert back to their core personality, which is frequently quite charming.

So when at all possible, surround yourself with people who will own or even embrace their flaws. Making mistakes is a beautiful thing. Be gentle with the blamers, understand that they are just hard-wired that way, and appreciate their good qualities. Recognizing and understanding these two types of people will simplify your interactions and minimize the drama in your own life. Now that’s what I call a fundamental truth.

Step-Mom in Training

I did not realize during my dating years that I was not only learning how to have a successful relationship, but learning how to be a good step-parent. You can’t be single as long as I was and not date guys with kids. I vividly recall the moment I learned that a guy I was dating in college had a 2-year old. I was shocked because he seemed way too young to be a divorced dad. I never met the child, and we quickly broke up. I knew that I was too immature to handle seeing someone who was living in the grown-up world.

Eventually I learned that dating someone with a kid could be a good thing, if you are smart about it. While many parents wisely refrain from introducing the child to a new sweetie until they know there is some relationship potential, some guys will introduce you right off the bat. This one guy let me and his daughter Christine hang out together from the get-go. Christine and I were silly and had fun, doing things like building tents out of blankets and chairs, creating a little village in her small room. The relationship with her Dad was short-lived and I was told that the she cried when it ended. I am sure they were the same kind of tears one cries when their ice cream drops to the ground, but I was still touched. I realized that this type of break-up is more difficult, because you essentially have to let go of two people you love. I call it the double-break-up.

My next double-break-up was far more significant and tragic. The boyfriend, although he was a good person in general, was inclined toward excessive drinking.  At one point in the rocky five-year relationship we even discussed marriage, which I know now would have been a disaster. While I am grateful I was able to escape, I regret that it was an ugly break-up, one where I found myself sneaking in to his apartment while he was at work, heart pounding as I grabbed as much of my stuff as I could. I jammed clothes and household items into pillowcases, praying that he didn’t come home. Needless to say, I didn’t get to say good-bye to his son Matthew, whom I adored.

Matthew and I spent a lot of time together when his Dad was drinking or sleeping it off. We threw the baseball and frisbee, fed the ducks, watched music videos and played board games. Matthew and I became fans of the band Linkin Park when we saw their “In the End” video. Sadder memories include the night his Dad left for the store, and didn’t come back for 9 hours. At one point during that night, Matthew and I drove through parking lots in an attempt to find his Dad’s car, which we eventually did -at Ruby Tuesday’s.  Once I knew his Dad was in a bar with a girl, and not dying in a ditch, I took Matthew back home and put him to bed. I waited for his Dad to stumble home, about 3 am. I pretended to be asleep, and when he went into the bathroom, I snuck out and went home, refusing his calls. I’m ashamed to admit that this was not the time that I left for good.

There are more stories like that, times when I watched out for Matthew’s best interests while his Dad was distracted with his own pain. There were also fun times with the three of us. I learned a great deal from watching Matthew with his Dad, who was good about telling his son he loved him, and making sure he ate well and did his homework. I learned about sacrifice, since Matthew’s Dad hated living in Augusta but stayed here to be close to him. Matthew’s parents divorced when he was a baby, so it was the only life he ever knew. Neither parent re-married through those childhood years, and it made my departure seem even sadder, since Matthew didn’t having a chance to see what a healthy relationship looked like while he grew up.

Matthew was in the 7-12 year old range when I dated his Dad, so I was familiar with that phase of raising boys when I started dating Kevin, whose son Forrest was 11 at the time. I waited many months before I agreed to meet him, not wanting to go through another double-breakup heartache. But things were going well with Kevin, and it was time to be brave. I was thrilled that Forrest was, like Matthew, a happy and fun kid, and we hit it off immediately. I wore a Linkin Park t-shirt the day we met, and we instantly bonded over music and movies. We had fun that first day, decorating a Christmas tree at Kevin’s place, listening to CD’s and talking up a storm.

Kevin, Forrest and I had a lot of fun during the dating years, when Forrest referred to me as “step-mom-in-training” and I referred to him as the “Sprout”. We enjoyed First Fridays, tattoo expos, trips to Atlanta and Savannah, and times with both of our families. I have been so blessed with this relationship, because Forrest is like his Dad. He is kind, easy-going, and has a great sense of humor. There have been many times riding in the car that Forrest says something from the back seat and Kevin and I burst out laughing. He has his Dad’s comedic instincts, which, when coupled with an adolescent’s lack of filter, can be doubly hilarious.

On top of these blessings, Forrest has always been respectful to me. He has never yelled, or sassed back, or copped an attitude with me. The only times I have truly been upset with him have been the times he has not shown his parents their due respect. They have the tough job, though, the true parental responsibility. I know that every step-parent situation is unique, but mine is one that works best in a supporting role.

Forrest is fortunate to have two amazing, involved and dedicated parents. Kevin and Melissa seem to get along better than Matthew’s parents did, and for the most part agree on how to give Forrest a good foundation for the future. Their divorce agreement decreed that Forrest would spend alternate weeks with each of them, allowing for equal parenting duties. This seemed to work well, once Forrest learned that though the rules were slightly different in each home, the ultimate goal of communication and respect stayed consistent.

It took me a few years to find my niche within this structure. I wanted to be supportive to this family and help Kevin during his weeks with the Sprout. At first I was a little too zealous, becoming overly passionate about how Forrest should be managed during the tricky middle school years. At one point, the school headmistress stared hard at me during a parent conference and declared that “Forrest already has enough parents”. I found I could help with areas like homework and transportation, throw in small tidbits of advice to Forrest when needed, and be there for fun and for guidance. That seemed to be the best level of involvement for all concerned, and works well to this day.

My ultimate goal with Forrest has always been and will always be the same, and is identical to the goal I have with my niece Mary Catherine: I want them to feel that they can come to me anytime they need help, support or friendship, no matter what may be going on in their lives. In fairness, I still feel that way about Matthew-if he ever needed me, I would want to be there for him. Once you nurture that seed of caring for a young person, it stays with you, and the best that you can hope and pray is that they know it, and will act on it in a time of need. It would absolutely break my heart if I thought for one second that I could somehow support Forrest or Mary Catherine, but they didn’t feel comfortable asking me for help. I have that kind of protective love for each of them.

Thankfully, this week I learned that Forrest knows he can lean on me. He was going through a difficult time and reached out for me to pick him up so that we could go eat and talk. Melissa called me the next day and we had a nice talk about the matter, reinforcing a true sense of partnership which has blossomed through the years. Kevin, Melissa and I all love Forrest dearly, and want for him the absolute best.  Although my role is a supporting one, and I step back to allow his parents make the big decisions, it is my choice to do so. I know that the Sprout has a balanced perspective which comes from seeing that we may have different parenting styles, but we work well together to make decisions in his best interest, and support one another as Forrest shares his time between the two homes. Perhaps my training has paid off, after all.

The Sweetness of Kevin

I went to the dry cleaners one morning to pick up my clothes, and they told me that the bill had already been paid. They handed me the plastic-covered hangers, one of which had an envelope stapled to it. In my car, I opened the envelope and found a “thinking of you” card from Kevin. I thought, this is a sweet way to start the day!

A few weeks later, I came home to my second-floor apartment to find a case of Dasani and a case of Diet Coke sitting outside my door. At that stage in my single life, I often purchased my Diet Coke bottles one or two at a time, so I felt like I had won the lottery. Not only did I have what seemed like an endless supply of my essential nectar of life, but I didn’t have to tote the heavy cases up the stairs.

Early in our courtship, Kevin set the stage for these kinds of generous gestures, which were matched in their romantic thoughtfulness only by their practicality. These gifts meant way more to me than flowers or stuffed animals, not just because I was dirt-poor, but because they were unique ways to show affection. I had received flowers and chocolates in my past, but to have my dry-cleaning paid for by a new boyfriend was definitely a first.

Soon the gestures were popping up on a regular basis, and although I felt spoiled, I never took it for granted. I still felt a ping of happiness when I approached the stylist’s counter with my freshly colored hair and she told me that Kevin had paid for my salon visit. I was still delighted when I got into my car to find a full tank of gas. Hard-to-reach light-bulbs were changed.  Clogged drains were suddenly clear. This was romance, and I was hooked!

On top of it, Kevin did the more traditional boyfriend things too. He held my hand, opened my car door and sent flowers for my birthday. He introduced me to the concept of multiple greeting cards, giving me both humorous and sentimental Hallmark messages for every occasion. One Christmas I had 4 separate cards under the tree.

Now that we are married, the gestures still continue, and yet still continue to amaze me. Last week he took two of my credit card bills and –get this- he paid them off! I know what you are thinking; that it is what married people do, but I have never been married before, so it is new to me. I certainly have never had a paid-off credit card before, so the overall feeling is extremely foreign. The best part is that there were no strings attached. He didn’t say, “I’ll pay this off, but you have to promise not to use it again.” I’m pretty sure it is implied, but it is still nice not to have to hear it.

The other fringe benefit of being married is that members of my extended circle are now the happy beneficiaries of the Kevin sweetness. Mom gets her WI-FI hooked up, the cats have a month’s supply of canned treats at the ready, and my favorite charities receive donations. Kevin attends all family and work functions, and has picked me up when I had to deliver cars for my job on the weekend.


I don’t tell you all of this to brag, although I am sure it comes across that way. I am simply blown away by someone who is so selfless, and feel compelled to chronicle it for posterity. I also want to try to let Kevin’s thoughtfulness inspire others, as it has me. I try to make similarly kind gestures, such as leaving cards in his sock drawer,  making the French Toast he likes on Sundays or stocking him up on his favorite “Life is Good” t-shirts.

Perhaps one person will read about Kevin and be inspired to say to his wife, “hey honey, give me the keys to your car so I can fill it with gas.” Or maybe a wife will surprise her husband by paying for a round of golf. (Or a round of drinks afterward.) Being thoughtful requires a little creativity, a little paying attention and a little inspiration. Next time your spouse’s car is behind you in the drive-through line at Chick-Fil-A, tell the cashier that you are paying for your car and his car. For the cost of a sausage biscuit, you both have started the day with a little sweetness. That’s practical and romantic.