JANUARY 25, 2020: “His Wish For Her” …

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MY WISH

“I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow and each road leads you where you wanna go. And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose, I hope you choose the one that means the most to you. And if one door opens to another door closed, I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window. If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile. But more than anything, more than anything … My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to. Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small. You never need to carry more than you can hold. And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too. Yeah, this, is my wish. I hope you never look back, but you never forget all the ones who love you in the place you live. I hope you always forgive, and you never regret and you help somebody every chance you get. Oh, you find God’s grace, in every mistake and always give more than you take.But more than anything, yeah, more than anything … My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to. Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small. You never need to carry more than you can hold. And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too. Yeah, this, is my wish.” ~ Rascal Flatts

Today was one of the most bittersweet of my journey thus far … her first high school interview, a day that Zack and I had been dreaming of for years. If you knew him at all you knew how important her education was to him and that it was the initial source of inspiration for the lifestyle he was determined to give us. He wanted her to have every “thing” and opportunity he never had as a child and wasn’t going to let anything stop him from laying the world at her feet. It was no secret that it was my husband and not her “real dad” who single-handedly paid for every cent of her primary education at St. Mark’s. I fondly recall the very day this journey began …

We were freshly married and still living in our little apartment in Fairview when first grade finally arrived. Since our address fed into in a public school with less than favorable stats and Christian had been privileged with a private education Zack and I assumed that her dad would be on board with affording her the same opportunity and thus willing to split the cost with us, which, not gonna lie, at that juncture was going to be a stretch. Especially inasmuch that my “wedding gift” to him was: Me, a little girl, a recent stay at one of the most exclusive psychiatric facilities in the world, $35K of unsecured debt, a car we couldn’t afford, a mental health resume about 62 pages long, a less than supportive family that all but despised if not cursed the day he was born, and oh yah, I wasn’t exactly what one would call “employable” then. YET WITHOUT HESITATION HE STEPPED UP TO THE ENTIRE PLATE FOR HER! Go figure, I’ve digressed. The day I called her dad to ask what he thought about sending her to St. Mark’s like her big brother, with a knife through my heart and a shot heard ’round the world his verbatim response was this:

“Nope. Not happening. Guess you should have thought about that before you left here. Your gravy train is over honey, so why don’t you let the moron pay for it (then he literally laughed out loud). Have fun explaining to her one day why she couldn’t go to private school like her brother. Good job mom! Good job!” 

I was stunned by his callous response! What in the actual HELL? “MY gravy train?” THIS WASN’T ABOUT ME! IT WAS ABOUT HER! How could he be so cruel as to punish her just to punish me? DON’T get me wrong, by no means am I saying that public school is a punishment. I have always been of the mindset that an education is only as good as the student himself and a truly good student can and will flourish in any school setting, be it public, private or home. That’s not what this post is about and hopefully you understand where my heart and mind are in this regard. When I called Zack to tell him what her dad had said he was outraged in every sense of the word. “Let the moron pay for it? Really? He said that? Okay then, I WILL, just watch me! I’ll take care of EVERYTHING and he can ride his selfish gravy train straight to Hell!” It was in that moment that my husband’s relentless fire was fueled with a determination like nothing I’d ever seen before:

“Catherine, I can do this! I’ll empty out my savings. I’ll get a second job. Whatever I have to do, I’ll do it. If I have to sell my soul to the Devil, she’ll have EVERYTHING Christian had. EVERYTHING I never had. She’s GOING to St. Mark’s and she’s GOING to Catholic high school. Trust me, SHE’S GOING!”

When he got home that night, he explained how he planned to handle things for the first year and assured me that by the second grade he’d have the rest figured out. Then this is what he did: HE EMPTIED OUT HIS LIFETIME FITNESS CENTER 401K TO PAY FOR HER FIRST YEAR’S TUITION! The very 401K he’d been faithfully contributing to with the specific intention of eventually buying himself that brand new car he’d always wanted. Yes, he did that for her. My husband. Her “stepdad”. HE DID THAT! The rest is merely history and many of you have good sense about everything he ended up “doing for us” in just under ten years flat. And please do not mistake this post as braggard. If you know me at all you know damn good and well that I have never forgotten how this story began: With sterling silver James Avery wedding bands, a tiny one-bedroom apartment and nothing but a pocket full of dreams.

Yes, today was bittersweet. I’ve thought crying so many times since waking up to the cold, hard reality that he’s not here to revel in the triumph, pride and joy of “this day” he’d worked for, dreamt of and looked forward to since the day she bounced into his life, but I didn’t want to rain on her parade. Despite the impossible strength she very clearly recognizes in my process and recovery, the road to her process and recovery from the trauma that was his ironic and tragic parting gift to her is still so long ahead. There’s an unspoken rule between the two of us right now: She knows I’m okay, and that she’s going to be okay, but for her sake alone my darker days, tears and moments are best spent in private. At the end of the day however, as I sit with all this emotion, I am once again comforted in this peace: He was with us today! He’s with us every day. Knowing the God Who’s hands are wrapped around my heart like I do? The actual reality is not as “cold and hard” as I first thought. He is reveling in the triumph, pride and joy of “this day” he made happen for her; He’s simply watching it from “the next room”. Good night everyone.

 

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Sig

SEPTEMBER 25, 2019: “Things That Matter” …

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I remember this post so well. We closed our eyes that night feeling so grateful for all the ways we had learned the very hard way which “things” mattered, and which did not. The bittersweet irony is that today the principal behind this post still rings true, and in fact, resonates even louder. On “August 22nd at just before midnight” he had every “thing” a man could ever want and had positioned us such that not a single dream was out of reach. But as you can see, no number of “things” could fill the gaping hole in his heart left by “the thing” that gave birth to him that he ultimately ended up drowning in. It’s a sad and sobering truth. “Things” are nice, I’m not gonna lie, and as of this moment I too have more than an abundance of “things” in my possession. BUT I WOULD GIVE IT ALL AWAY IN A SECOND IF I COULD GO BACK AND CHANGE THE WAY OUR STORY ENDED! I’ve said it before and will say it again: I could have lived in that little apartment in Fairview with him forever … that’s how much he meant to me. It wasn’t about all the “things” we got; it was about the life we made. The heart, soul, love and devotion he put into everything he did for us without any strings or conditions for the first time in my entire existence. No amount of money in the world can buy such a treasure as that. It was priceless. 

Sig

FEBRUARY 27, 2019: “No Reins” …

no reinsTen years ago in the midst of a mental health crisis and major life crossroad I had a job driving Ford truck trades from Dallas to the surrounding states as a “dealer valet”. So many days alone on the road just driving, crying, laughing, praying, talking to myself and God. I’d stop in as many small towns that I could along the way in the quietest corners of “anywhere but home” and find small cafes where I’d just sit with some coffee, listening, observing and absorbing as much “outside my bubble” stimuli I could find. That job was one of the best things I’ve ever done, had or enjoyed, and I swear that I wouldn’t be here right now if not for it.

Back then I was a rocker kind of girl and had never heard of a Rascal or a Flat, so I fondly remember the day I was driving I40 to Yukon, Oklahoma in a decked out, jacked up Ford F-550 and this song came on the radio that I’d never heard before, “No Reins”. Meanwhile, yes, there were actually horses running in a field alongside the highway, and yes, I do believe that God set that very moment up as the catalyst for the beginning of “me” and everything I am today. Rascal Flatts pretty much wrote the soundtrack to my life by the way and I just say it enough!

So here I am a decade later, eternally thankful for the countless tears shed in those trucks that allowed me to let it hurt so I could begin the bittersweet process of moving on stronger, wiser and ALIVE despite the many broken roads I’d been down and sometimes still have to travel. But now whenever I hear “No Reins” I get butterflies as I dream of all the possibilities for our daughter’s future. It reminds me that despite the words in the song where she’s “learning how to let go” and making the choice of “her”, which was clearly me back then, maybe now the song can apply to Gia going forward for much brighter reasons.

Williamson and I are determined to build our girl into a mentally strong, confident, healthy woman who will never wonder “who am I” and have to run away and be all alone to save her own soul the way that I did way back then. She’ll live her life on her own terms, no one else’s, NO REINS, and I will fight for her to have that freedom until I’m buried and gone. Unless of course she finds a man like Zack who is lucky enough to capture her mustang heart and run along side her for the ride of both their lives and never stop unconditionally loving, honoring and cherishing all the beautiful perfection she will surely bring into his world (and all of her imperfections as well). And by the way, I have been praying for this boy, wherever in the world be may already be, since the day that she was born. God is good, so I know he’ll find her eventually, and when that day comes I do believe that this crazy circle my life has been going in will finally be complete, and, I will be a very happy momma.

Sig

SEPTEMBER 21, 2018: “Take Me There” …

Fountain… when it’s been 3,760 days since you had your “life epiphany” in a very tiny village on a hilltop in France and you’re finally headed there with the love of your life to show him the exactly where you were standing when it happened. This day of the tour is exactly why he brought me here and I literally have butterflies in my stomach! Everything in my heart and life changed instantly and I am so thankful he wants to see the place I’ve been telling him about for nine long years!

TAKE ME THERE

“There’s a place in your heart nobody’s been. Take me there. Things nobody knows, not even your friends. Take me there. Tell me ’bout your mama, your daddy, your hometown, show me around. I wanna see it all, don’t leave anything out. I wanna know everything about you then. And I wanna go down every road you’ve been. Where your hopes and dreams and wishes live. Where you keep the rest of your life hid. I wanna know the girl behind that pretty stare. Take me there. Your first real kiss, your first true love. You were scared, show me where you learned about life, spent your summer nights. Without a care. I wanna roll down Main Street, the back roads. Like you did when you were a kid. What made you who you are? Tell me what your story is.” ~ Rascal Flatts

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Sig

NOVEMBER 16, 2015: “The Boot Camp That Made Me UNSTOPPABLE” …

Boot CampThis morning while I was boxing up the remnants of “The Frog & The Butterfly” festivities, I came across a forgotten note that our daughter Gia had written, unbeknownst to us, evidently in preparation for the possibility that she, as my “Maid Of Honor”, would have to give a speech at the reception. When a friend of ours had informed her that she may indeed have to “say a little something”, she was super excited and evidently more than par to the task. However, as you can imagine, with all of the fast-paced excitement and shennanigans that morning, some of our plans went awry, and her speech never did happen. Meanwhile, I found the note at the bottom of the little bag she had with her at the venue, and although I am so overwhelmingly disappointed that she never got to actually have her special moment that day, I now feel it is imperative that I share with you all what she wrote. Keep in mind that a week or so before she had come to me one afternoon with a barrage of “boot camp questions”, i.e., “Mommy, so what did they did to you in there?” “What exactly happened? Did it hurt? Did you cry? Was it scary? Was it fun? Did they make you run or do jumping jacks? Since it’s called boot camp, were they dressed like soldiers?” Lol. And also, “Who exactly are the main people from Boot Camp, and are they going to be there on Sunday I hope? I always hear you talking about Jim and Elizabeth, and I know who Miss Dana is, and Mr. Mike, and the pretty lady at dinner with the baby at Mr. Mike’s house. But who else? Can you tell me their names?” I answered all her questions to the best of my ability, knowing NOTHING of this written speech until this morning (and I am typing it as-is, verbatim, misspellings and all) …

“I don’t even know where to start. My mom has done soo much, to make shure her kids are happy, healthy, and most of all, loved. She is a hard worker, a great wife, an the absolute BEST mom. And when God put me on this earth, I must of been a very lucky baby to be put in the care and loving arms of my mom. Shes brave, loving, kind, sweet, forgiving, and always, always has warm loveing open arms to catch you if you fall. My mom is always there when you need her and even when you don’t. She comforts me when I am scared, gives me hugs when im sad, and helps me if I don’t understand. She has inspired me to be the best girl I can be and theres probably no one here in this room but me that knows what my mom and dad have gone through together. If my mom thought for just one minute, that me and Zack (my dad) didn’t click or absolutely love each other she wouldn’t have married him. But I loved him and I still love him to this day. My dad who even though he is my step dad he doesn’t call me his step daughter, he just calls me his daughter, nothing else no “step” is allowed. Even to his friends he says my “daugther”, my “daughter”, and before all of this happened, before she met my dad she was always sad. Then she whent to this thing called bootcamp and no one knows what they did to her in there but it was a miracle. So her bootcamp family, Jim carrol, and Elizabeth Carrol, david bishop, dana hamman, Jhon hoback, and all her bootcamp family, so many I can’t even name them all, all played a big part in the women my mom is today. So thank you all and mom I know you wont always be able to protect me but I want you to know I will always be your little girl. I love you momy. Thank you.”

So, with that, please be blessed today and walk upright and proud in all that you do, give, and fight for on behalf of all the broken people who have walked through your doors (many who don’t even know they are broken, and even more who don’t take it seriously) in an attempt to make this effed up, crazy world that we live in a little bit nicer place, one “boot camper” at a time. If ever any of you find a shred of doubt within your hearts as to whether the work you are doing is “real or not real”, please read, then re-read this note and know that it came straight from the heart of an innocent little 10-year old girl whose still pure heart doesn’t quite know how to “not call it like she sees it”. And trust me, SHE’S SEEN IT! She is neither a celebrity, nor a paid spokesperson, and quite frankly still doesn’t know from Adam (or if she does know, doesn’t care) that Mommy’s “boot camp family” is now on TV. She’s just a kid who watched her “very sad” Mommy walked out the door to something called boot camp where a bunch of total strangers helped her come home four days later very HAPPY AND CHANGED and our lives have never been the same since! I have thanked you all before, and attempted to credit you at every possible turn with not just my personal testimony of words, but with a life well-lived that is living proof with which to credit you. Before I walked into that place that one fateful Wednesday seven years ago, I was anything but a “brave, loving, kind, sweet, forgiving, and always, always has warm loveing open arms to catch you if you fall” kind of girl. Well, scratch that. I was and always HAVE been that girl, it just took bunch of hearts like yours to help me pull my head out of my butt once and for all so that I could get the hell out of my own way and begin to LIVE! I love you all, and you know that. But the words right here from my daughter? The most POWERFUL “Life Enrichment Boot Camp” testimony of all! THIS HERE FOLKS IS REAL FOKS, and “real” means everything to me these days! Her precious words are as authentic as it gets. Thank you for everything you’ve given me and all the things THIS little boot camp “survivor by default” is going to be as a result of the women you helped her momma become! This “boot camp thing” made me freaking UNSTOPPABLE! That is all.

Sig

NOVEMBER 20, 2012: “The Little Bag That Was Meant To Be Opened” …

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“What is something I’m thankful for”? Okay so I’m a bit of a neat freak. Some call it “OCD”. I can organize things, thoughts and even people RIGHT out of my life when necessary, which, by the way, is NOT something that I am proud of. To the contrary, I tend to compartmentalize things I don’t \know what to do with into neat little piles of oblivion that rest either in my own mind or, as in the case of “the bag that was in a bag that was in a bag inside a bag”, has, at times, been my greatest downfall.

Sunday I was on the highest shelf in my tiny, temporary closet rooting around looking for something. A few unzips into an old gym bag I had used to contain all the other bags I didn’t want to get rid of yet didn’t know what else to do with and I was inside a smaller bag that belonged to Mitch. I had completely forgotten to remember that it had been inside my “bag of bags” for going on 13 years. Slipped my hand in to grab the first thing I saw and found myself giggling as I remembered the conversation we’d had about it on the day he had finally decided it was time for me to have some of space in his drawers and closets.

“Baby, THIS right here is your new best friend! Why, you ask? Because she’s MY best friend! Why is THAT you ask? Because, when the hair looks good, Daddy is happy, and when Daddy is happy, you’ll be happy! She gets the center drawer right here … but you get ALL the rest!” It’s TOO damn bad that I can’t “type” the deep, drawn, sexy French-Cajun boy inflections that were his voice, and also TOO damn bad that I can’t “type” how he was standing there in the bathroom that morning holding that damned blow dryer in his hands! Mitch was all about “the stance” and there was just “that way that he stood” when he was talking about something that was important to him – kinda like, back leg straight, one hip up, other leg crooked out in front. Nah, words aren’t doing it justice. Anyhow, I digress. There are still pieces of his hair caught in the back of it, and the cord was STILL wrapped around the handle and tucked in “just this way”, because that’s how he always did it. OMG, he was so OCD! We were so much alike for so many reasons. There was something sweet and often unspoken about all the ways we understood one another.

So this is what I am thankful for: I am thankful that I have grown, recovered, survived and “moved on” just enough so that I can now open some of my old bags of thoughts and laugh, not cry. Time truly can heal all wounds, and yes, there is a reason that God never lets us forget the memories He knows we’re gonna need and even sometimes smile and laugh about before it’s all said and done no matter how much we beg and plead for Him to just “erase them all from our mind” when they hurt too much to remember!

Sig

NOVEMBER 1, 2010: “Every Day For The Rest Of Our Lives” …

 

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EVERY DAY

“You could’ve bowed out gracefully, but you didn’t.  You knew enough to know to leave well enough alone, but you wouldn’t.  I drive myself crazy tryin’ to stay out of my own way. The messes that I make, but my secrets are so safe.  The only one who gets me, yeah, you get me – It’s amazing to me how every day, every day, every day you save my life. I come around all broken down and crowded out and you’re comfort. Sometimes the place I go is so deep and dark and desperate I don’t know, I don’t know how every day, every day, every day you save my life. I swear, I don’t know if I’m comin’ or goin’, but you always say something without even knowin’ that I’m hangin’ on to your words with all of my might and it’s alright, yeah, I’m alright for one more night. Every day you save my life.– Rascall Flatts

“Zack & Cat’s First Wedding”

Monday, November 1, 2010 … 8:15pm … In David & Lisa Bishop’s Media Room

Sig

APRIL 23, 2009: “There’s Nothing Like This” …

IMG_8381Dear Zack,

Okay so hi it’s me, your very best friend in the whole entire world, writing you this letter from deep inside this Level One fucking psychiatric hospital I am all locked up in. Remember me? Oh good then. So, how you doin’?

So let’s see. Um, this place is not at all what I thought it would be. Actually, I’m not quite sure what I thought, but whatever it was, this is SO not it. There are about 80 people here right now. Half boys, half girls. Um, yah, the “red tag boys” are all sex addicts. Ten of them, ages about 22 to 65. Creepy much? Of the women, um, let’s see. About 20 alcoholics, 10 drug addicts, 6 sexually traumatized by their fathers and/or grandfathers … oh, 4 sex addicted women. There are a fair amount, actually, 95%, that are being so beyond medicated that they’re walking around in a fucking daze. Then there’s me. As far as I know at this point I’m the only person here who is not being medicated with mental stuff. They have me taking some throat stuff to strengthen the tissues in my throat, which, by the way, is beyond fucked again. I was told by the staff physician this morning that since I am now on my second round of esophageal issues, especially being so close, that it is only a matter of time if I don’t stop this that I could really end up with cancer. They found something called a “Barret’s Ring” yesterday which from what I can decipher is a light pink tissue somewhere near the top of my throat which are basically pre-cancerous cells. That was pretty fucking scary news and of course, I have no internet access, so I can’t even Google to see if this is serious or not. The doctor says I will need to have this addressed when I get home. Other than that, I’m in good shape. My EKG came back today and was within normal range, although I did have a slight arrythmia again. They’re trying to say that it could be due to a lack of potassium, I think they said, because I’ve not been eating well lately. They’re gonna scan me every week that I’m here to monitor it.

Anyhoo … So how’s my Zack? Exceedingly well I hope. Gosh, I so know that with your ADD you can’t have a 19-page long letter. But, but, but I have so much to fucking say. So, I don’t want to dwell too much on you, or my feelings for you. And truthfully, I have been able to somewhat put you out of my mind since I’ve been here. Except for something that has kind of been happening here. Well, let me explain. So, this place I am at is somewhat of a “ranch” style complex. We are in the middle of a dessert-type landscape but surrounded by an absolutely gorgeous mountain range. Right below our facility is a horse ranch that is not associated with The Meadows. Every day, several times, I walk to the back side of this one building so that as I’m looking over the railing, I watch the horses directly below. So now, this ranch has three large “pens” in the center which is divided into three equal parts. Looking down, all you see is the overall “square” of the pen, which is probably a half an acre in diameter, and within the square you can barely see the two fences that run down the middle and thus divide the square into 3 equal parts. Within each of the three parts are many different horses, all divided. So the first day I was here and coherent, I found the back ledge of the building and stood out there watching the penned horses for what seemed like forever. The middle pen and the right pen side … There are these two horses, one in each pen. I watched them very closely and noticed, very quickly, that they are in love with each other. Very much so. All day long, every day, whenever I go out there to stand and watch them … they are closely bonded and inseparable. They just stand there all day, right beside each other, but the fence separates them. They nuzzle, and talk, touch noses. Often they’ll run up and down the length of the fence together and “play”. They are happy together but separate. You can clearly see that these two creatures were made just for each other, but their “circumstances” have them in their own separate spaces. Oh my God, Zack, they won’t even leave each other to eat or drink for too long. As soon as they are both evidently desperate to eat, they walk away for as short a time as they can then hit the fence together as soon as their legs can get them there. It’s so fucking beautiful. It’s so fucking sad. It’s you and me. Well, at least that’s how I see it. There are really no words to describe how profound this experience has been for me. I guess you’d have to see it to understand. So then, Z, between “the horses” and your shirt, yah, so I guess I do think about you every single day then.

Well Baby Boy, guess it’s that time. Don’t want to bombard you with way too many words. It’s so not fucking fair to you at all. I’m about to go back out to the horses now. Who knows, maybe those two new friends of mine, Oh my God, those two magnificent creatures, will somehow show me the way to how exactly I’m going to have to let you go one day, and give you to someone else. That’s not to say, for the record, that I believe in any way that you are mine to give. I do not wish to own or “possess” you in any way, shape, or form. I’m speaking of what matters in my heart … you know, I knowthat kind of “giving you away”!

So, I love you Zack. Always. Cat

Sig