Competition is not always a good thing

There it was. Her photo. She is prettier than me, I thought.  She had a great smile. “Damn it,” I whispered as I scrolled through her Facebook profile. I bet she had braces.  She could be a toothpaste model. My teeth slant and are stained the color of my favorite latte. I heard she was smart, funny and some sort of an artist.

She was an artist alright. She could make a masterpiece out of an Etch A Sketch. There was a sketch of The Joker, Superman and even the Pope. The only thing I ever managed to create on that thing was a box with uneven lines. I can barely draw a stick finger with a pencil and paper. It must take great patience to draw on an Etch A Sketch.  Fantastic! She has me beat in that category, too. I lose my mind after 5 minutes with an 11-year-old and Common Core math.  I didn’t know this woman, but I disliked her.  After all, she was my competition.

Her name is Shea.  She and I were up for a job as the co-host of a local morning show on a country station. I don’t own a cowboy hat or know the first thing about line dancing. I did have a weird obsession with Kenny Rogers as a kid. At 9-years-old I had a poster on my wall of a gray haired man next to a pinup of Thomas C. Howell and Ricky Schroeder.  My grandmother listened to Conway Twitty on her 8-track cassette player. It was the size of an office chair with multi-color lights that flickered to the beat. I hated the music, but was mesmerized with the technology. It doesn’t seem so impressive now. That’s the extent of my country music resume. Still, I really wanted this job.  I needed this job.  I had worked part-time in television for over a decade to raise my children. I chose not to send them to daycare. Well, they are all in school now. My life felt stagnate.  I longed for change, financial independence and a creative outlet that didn’t involve crayons and a placemat at a chain restaurant.

I dabbled in radio here and there, but this would be the big break I needed.  I auditioned.  Shea auditioned.  Then, I got an offer from another company and dropped out of the race.  Shea didn’t get that job. Another woman landed the gig.  I don’t know where Shea ended up. Honestly, I never thought of her again until today.  I was scrolling through Facebook and there it was. Her photo.  That perfect smile. My heart dropped when I read the caption. Shea had committed suicide.  I am sad for her family and friends. It also saddens me that I was rooting against her.  Yes, that is natural because she was my competition. But I sunk deeper than that. I was a caddy bitch – not directly to her – we never met or shared mutual friends, but that doesn’t make a difference to me now. Women who are insecure or jealous often resort to attacking others. Instead, we should be building each other up and admiring one another’s strengths. It turns out, Shea wasn’t that much different than me.  I, too, struggled with depression in my life. Maybe she needed that job as much as I did. Maybe she looked at her photo and focused on imperfections only she saw.  Based on the social media posts I have read thus far …. Shea didn’t realize how many people were rooting for her – in life – not to get a job that seems so insignificant now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

 

You can read more about Shea Baker here:  Kentucky.com

 

 

 

Side Effects and Benefits

When I was a teenager we sunbathed while lathered in baby oil.  I don’t think we ever applied sunscreen. We basically fried our bodies and nobody thought it was a bad idea. I also thought putting lemon juice in my hair would give me golden blonde locks.  Instead, I looked like a tomato and smelled like Pine sol.  I don’t need photos to remember those days. The wrinkles on my forehead are a constant reminder.  I’ve had an injection or two and have purchased enough anti-aging face cream to fill a small pool. Recently, a friend suggested I try a dermal-roller. What is that you ask?  It’s a small rolling pin with little needles that you slowly drag across your face.

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That sounded so awful that it must work, right? I logged on to amazon prime and ordered that sucker with one click.  The “Buy it Now” feature is very dangerous.  When you are sleep deprived leather pants seem like a good idea. They are never a good idea. The dermal-roller arrived the next day. I have warned my children not to play with knives or run with scissors, but I ran upstairs and locked myself in the bathroom to run needles ACROSS MY FACE.  It felt like you would expect it to feel… awful.  The directions say begin by rolling 4-8 times across in a horizontal, vertical and diagonal pattern. One of the many precautions is no to use the derma roller without supervision or permission from a trained professional. Perhaps, if you need a trained professional to use this tool, don’t sell it for $19.99 on the internet. I am a rebel. I once put a bag of popcorn in the microwave with “This Side Up”  facing down. So, I went ahead without seeking assistance.

Afterward, my face looked like you would expect it to after running needles ACROSS YOUR FACE. I was slightly concerned that the redness would not subside by morning.  Luckily, it did.  My skin did not look any younger. According to the brochure, this is a long-term healing method. It takes weeks to see results.  I will take their word for it and stick to a nice filter or have someone take my photo while standing on the top rung of a ladder. At least I have a new scare tactic for my children the next time they complain about having to wear sunblock. “Do you want needles dragged across your face when you are older? No? Then, put it on!”

In a carnival, of sights to see

Carnivals are neat. Rides that travel at a high rate of speed, extreme heights or both are set up and operated by a person who took a training course. (Coincidentally, that is all that is required to operate a jet ski.) One doesn’t get a degree in Engineering to take a gig as a carny.  In many states 16 is considered an appropriate age to work as an amusement park ride operator. My son, at 16-years-old, couldn’t remember to put on deodorant. There was a 50/50 chance that he would brush his teeth on any given day. Yet, a teen can monitor the Gravitron? That being said we gleefully put our children on board.  We went to a carnival this summer on a 90 degree day.  What could be more fun than spending a small fortune on ride tickets, sweating profusely and risking a footborne illness to enjoy a fried waffle?

The fun started on the sleigh ride.  It was initially moving at a snails pace. Then, the carnie put that sucker in overdrive.  I had mixed emotions.  I was slightly fearful this thing was about to go off the rails.  On the other hand, the facial expressions on the riders, my children included, were meme worthy. I would be lying if I said I didn’t laugh. Everyone survived.  We piled back into the minivan and headed home. I patted myself on the back for being mom of the year until my children started screaming. It turns out it’s not a good idea to drink a milkshake before going on the Gravitron. My son’s friend was puking! No, my first instinct wasn’t about the child’s well being. It was about the carpet in my vehicle and the stench that would linger. Thankfully, there was a large cup in the backseat and this kid had the wherewithal to blow chunks in it.  For once, it paid for my children to leave their garbage behind. They are usually trying to hand me garbage, while I’m driving. I could be swerving to avoid a collision and my children would still shout, “Mom, what do I do with this?” They never know what to do with their garbage. They can figure out any electronic device put in front of them, but are We can walk into a place I have never been before and my children will ask me where to find the garbage can. I don’t have garbage radar or a map of cans at every location we visit. I don’t want to carry their garbage in my pocket or put it in my purse. I will, however, allow a cup to remain in the backseat the next time we visit a carnival.

The Graduate

My oldest son graduated from high school over the weekend.  The day snuck up on me. It turns out 18 years isn’t long enough to prepare for a milestone of this magnitude.  When you’re a parent the days are long and nights are short. It seems you are always busy. When you have a newborn you long for the days when he can sit-up and sleep through the night.  Then, you tell yourself parenting will get easier when he can communicate and walk. It doesn’t. When you are caught in the middle of Target with a toddler having a temper tantrum you long for the days when he will go to kindergarten. Getting your child to do homework becomes a daily battle. Throughout the years you will will taxi that kid to games and clubs. The minute you walk through the door and take your shoes off he will call for a ride home. Then, he gets his driver’s license.  He spends a lot of time with his friends or girlfriend.The phone doesn’t ring as much. The house is a little quieter. Suddenly, you long for the sleepless nights, complaints and even a Common Core math worksheet here and there. You know there were plenty of good memories in between the chaos, but wonder if you enjoyed it as much as you should have. Did he?  The answer came before graduation when my son was presented with an award and gave a quick speech. “I want to thank my mom for always being there for me….even today when I told her 15 minutes ago about this award ceremony.”

 

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Right in the Trash!

One more day. I only have to pack school lunches for one more day. It seems like an easy task. How long could it possibly take to throw a few things in a lunchbox? This is where people chime in about how  I need to enjoy these moments while I can. Time goes by so fast. I can hate packing lunches and love my child at the same time. There is something about cutting the crust off bread at 4 a.m. that can send one into a psychotic rage.   I accidentally bought American cheese last week. Do you remember the scene in “Sleeping With the Enemy” when Julia Roberts realizes the cans are misaligned? That was the level of panic I had when I realized I wouldn’t have “white cheese” to put on my daughter’s sandwich. What the hell happened to me? I am afraid of an 8-year-old. A friend once said “If she is hungry enough she will eat it.” No, she won’t.  It will go right in the trash. Then, she will want a snack the second she walks in the door instead of two seconds after she walks in the door. What’s the difference between packing a lunch and making it at home? That’s a good question. It’s one of the great mysteries of the world.

The time I will save packing lunches will be used sorting through papers. Every year my child brings home enough worksheets, workbooks, artwork, etc. to fill a swimming pool. My kid isn’t going to finish the last six pages of the math workbook. It’s hard enough to get my children to do homework during the school year.  Plus, because of the Common Core curriculum I don’t even know how to answer the problems. I miss the good old days when you could solve a problem without 100 steps. I could also do without you sending home every piece of paper they touched during the year.  Not all artwork is created equal. They aren’t all winners. What do you expect me to do with a half finished coloring sheet of a squirrel? Should I hang their construction paper diagram of a plant on my wall? I don’t want the name tag that hung on their desk.  This person grew in my uterus and gave me stretch marks for days. I will never forget his or her name.  Listen, I barely have enough room in my house for their shoes which are actually a necessity.  No matter how many times I organize the footwear it inevitably ends up in a pile in the corner of the room. These kids come out of the building hunched over trying to carry their weight in garbage.  So, let’s cut out the middle man – which is me – and get rid of this stuff at school.  Recycle it. Throw it away. I don’t care.

All Rise!

I thrive on spontaneity.  I’m not as spontaneous as the woman who flashed her breasts  when the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. Her parents must be so proud. I often plan road trips days or even hours in advance. When I found out the New York Yankees were playing in Toronto last Wednesday I scouted several websites for tickets that morning.  I found three seats in section 113, Row 1 – which is in right field – for just $30 a pop.  People pay five times that for an dose of Botox. At least that’s what I have heard.

I scooped up the tickets faster than President Trump can misspell a word in a tweet. My kids squealed with delight when I revealed the surprise. Then, since we don’t live in Facebook’s parallel universe, they continued bickering.

I am always nervous when I cross the border. You would think I am smuggling drugs into Canada. The worst thing I have in my car is an old gummy bear and a few smashed fish crackers under the backseat.  My daughter tried inning after inning to get a baseball from Aaron Judge. He throws a practice ball out to the crowd every inning. Let’s just say her glass was half full. “I’m never going to get one.” I tried to be the optimistic mom, but deep down I didn’t think it would happen either.

I was wrong. Her dream came true at the bottom of the 8th when Judge tossed her the ball.  It bounced, in what felt like slow motion, missed my daughter’s glove, hit the edge of her seat and landed in the row directly behind us. A man in his late 30’s picked it up like he made the game winning play in the World Series. I whipped my head around and shot him a glare that light wood on fire.  In this case, it was the “if you don’t give my daughter that ball I will beat you down” look.  It took him two seconds to fork the ball over. In all seriousness, we were sitting with a great group of people who were rooting for my daughter the entire day and erupted when she finally got the ball in her hands.  My daughter was so happy she began to cry.

 

Judge also threw a ball to my 11-year-old son. His face lit up. Judge smiled back and pointed at him. There are players who don’t even pass a glance when young fans shout their name. I have been to a number of games and Aaron Judge is always a class act.  He has said in interviews he wouldn’t be a Yankee if it wasn’t for his mother, Patty.  Among other things, he said, she taught him “how to treat people.” She should be proud.

 

 

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We all know Kate Spade

You can hear me every morning on the radio – often cracking jokes; although many fall flat. I have been told my laugh is both contagious and annoying.  I am the first one to message or call a friend to cheer them up. I tell my children daily to count their blessings and not to let negative people bring them down. You can scroll through social media and see photographs of me smiling and laughing.  There are shots on vacation. However, you will never see a picture of my feet in front of a pool or ocean. When did people decide it was a good idea to put hammer toes and bunions in their travel albums?  I have snapshots making silly faces with my kids or celebrating their major milestones and photographs with friends on “girls night.”

I worked as a TV news reporter for a decade.  I started as an associate producer which is basically a paid intern. Unlike a Kardashian, I worked my way up the old fashioned way; with hard work.  I stood in front of the camera during live broadcasts maintaining my composure on air even during the most chaotic times.  For the past three years I have worked in talk radio.

I have also struggled with depression most of my life.  It started in college, I had random bouts of sadness.  There was no logical explanation.  It wasn’t something you could turn on and off.  I woke up crying. A good friend suggested I see the doctor who prescribed medication that drastically improved my symptoms, but nothing can cure the illness. It is an illness. Depression is often caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. I have had dark days where I have had to force myself to get out of bed.  Imagine feeling anxious, scared and tired at the same time.  You want to be alone, but don’t want to be lonely. The best thing I have done for myself was to get out of denial. I see a therapist regularly and am constantly working on me. I am no longer ashamed to take medication.  I workout to get natural endorphins.  Full disclosure: I also exercise so I don’t end up on a reality show on TLC.  I’m not wealthy, but I have a nice house and car. My children are healthy. I don’t want to be sad. Nobody wants to be sad.

After the suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade, her brother-in-law talked about what a great sense of humor she had.  She was known for her whimsical designs.  Friends described her as happy-go-lucky.  She was all of those things.  She also struggled with mental illness. According to reports, she didn’t want to get help because of what it would do to her brand. It is time to address the elephant in the room. We need to remove the negative stigma associated with mental health.  It will save lives. Kate Spade did not kill herself.  Depression killed her. From the outside looking in Kate Spade had everything.  Yet, she was in utter despair. She was not alone.  I am Kate Spade.  You may not realize it, but I bet you know a Kate Spade, too.

 

 

My Memorable Trip to Mississippi

Sixteen years ago I felt like a hero.  I registered to be a bone marrow donor and got the call. I was a match.  I could help save the life of a 4-year-old boy.  It felt like I had won the lottery.  Yes, my idea of winning big is having a giant needle inserted in my bone. I wish they would have warned me that I would be lying face down, bare assed in front of a surgical team during the procedure. I would have ordered Buns of Steel. I don’t know if I would have worked out, but I would have ordered it. Actually, the feeling was greater than anything money could buy.  I had a purpose.  I’m not sharing this story to garner praise. I’m no saint. I mock adults who wear Tigger sweatshirts and occasionally snub Salvation Army bell ringers at Christmas. I’ve found it’s best not to make eye contact. I usually pretend to be looking for my keys. If I gave money every time I left a store I would be broke.

I walked out of that hospital feeling like a million bucks. I knew the recipient was a child; a toddler. He was going to live because of me. I was his angel. It turned out I was wrong and he would be mine. That sweet baby boy passed away in the arms of his loving parents. I struggled with his death for a very long time. I still do.

It was policy not to share the recipients information without permission. So, I tracked down his parents on the internet.  It wasn’t easy. This was back in the day of dial-up internet when you couldn’t talk on the phone and use a computer at the same time. Any teenagers reading this just had their minds blown.

The only thing I knew was the child was treated at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.  I  found several articles including one about a fundraiser in Desoto County, Mississippi  for a little boy named Shae who needed a bone marrow transplant.  I kept searching and found Shae’s obituary.  The dates matched.  It was him.  The only address I could find was for Shae’s grandparents.  I mailed them a letter. I don’t recall exactly what it said other than I am sorry.  I was sorry their baby’s body rejected my bone marrow. I was sorry I couldn’t help them. I was sorry I would never get to meet sweet Shae.   Most people would have filed a restraining order. This family did the opposite, embraced and thanked me.  I received a note of gratitude every year on the anniversary of the day I donated. I did not feel worthy.  In the 15 years that followed we talked on the phone, sent text messages and communicated on social media.  I named my daughter Vivienne Shae.  Year after year they expressed a great desire to meet me.  I struggled with the idea of it.  I wasn’t ready to come face to face with them.  Then, recently Shae’s father, Todd, was diagnosed with Familial Pulmonary Fibrosis.  It is basically a condition where his lungs harden. He is on a list for a double transplant.  On March 25th, their church family held a fundraiser for Todd.  I saw the event posted on Facebook and knew it was time.  I booked a flight and hotel.  I contacted his sister to let her know I was coming.  I opted not to tell Todd and his wife in case plans fell through.

I arrived at the church on Saturday when the event was in progress.  Todd’s sister escorted me inside to Shae’s mother, Dawn. She covered her face with her hands and began to weep.

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Then, she brought me to Todd. We embraced and cried.

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Dawn’s father, a burly southern man, wearing a cowboy shirt and blue jeans could barely speak.  He managed to get out a few words.  “For 16 years I had on my bucket list to meet you. I didn’t know how I would make that happen, but I knew I would.”

One by one members of their family, wiping tears, hugged and thanked me.  I still don’t feel worthy, but I love this family and my angel named Shae.

Register to be a bone marrow donor: https://bethematch.org/

I am back! Well, I never left, but I have been slacking in the blogging department. It could have something to do with being a working mother of three children ages 7, 9 and 17.  I am not good at family planning.

The funny thing about children is they insist on eating everyday. The author of “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” left out that chapter. Children also create messes and laundry. So, to avoid ending up on a TLC Reality Show I spend free time cleaning. However,  I am working on new blog posts and will upload soon for your reading pleasure. Writing about life is cheaper than therapy.  In the meantime, you can hear me daily on a morning radio talk show.  I work with the legendary broadcaster Brother Wease.

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You can listen on iHeartRadio.  CLICK HERE:  Radio951.com

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I am also on Facebook and Twitter. Once I figure out how to use Snapchat I will post things there, too.

 

Deanna 

Purpose

I walked away from Justin Bieber’s concert last night with mixed feelings. I purchased tickets one hour before the show at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. My 6-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son were smiling the second the pop star took the stage. Bieber was not. He had a blank look on his face. In fact, he showed little emotion during the show. I don’t think he cracked a smile through the first four songs. He seemed to put little effort into the dance routines. It didn’t seem intentional. He looked exhausted. He sat on a couch and sang a few songs with an acoustic guitar, but much of the show was singing along to a track. At times, he didn’t even bother to lip sync. It was almost as if he forgot where he was. The Canadian singer has made headlines regularly since he was discovered on YouTube. Recently, though, Bieber has attracted attention for some bizarre behavior. He was photographed roaming shoeless around Boston. Then, in late March Bieber announced he would cancel meet and greets at his concerts. “The pressure of meeting people’s expectations of what I’m supposed to be is so much for me to handle and a lot on my shoulders. Never want to disappoint but I feel I would rather give you guys the show and my albums as promised,” Bieber said. At one point during last night’s show Bieber started to give a heartfelt speech “Everyone is going through something,” he said before being interupted by a fan who told him his shoe was untied. He knelt on the stage, tied the lace and lost his train of thought. He couldn’t get it back. The audience squealed when he stopped talking and the music started playing. We were about to hear another billboard hit. Bieber appeared frustrated as he walked up the stage. Overall, it was an entertaining show. There were some spectacular special effects and incredible backup dancers. There is no denying Bieber is talented. I am not ashamed to admit I enjoy his music. I heard countless teenagers raving as they walked out of the arena. My children were on cloud nine. I purchased the tickets one hour before the show and scored incredible seats. They danced along, cheered and laughed. It brought me such joy to see them that happy. At the same time, I was bothered by the show. It’s not because Bieber was a lazy, arrogant pop star. I saw a kid on stage who is unraveling and, as a mother, I wanted to hug him. He is traveling from city to city with his “Purpose Tour,” but seems to be struggling to find his own purpose despite ‘having it all.’