I took a couple days off from my 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series to believe myself near death from a ruptured ovarian cyst, but now I'm back and bring you ten people who have influenced me (the good and the bad).
1. You. I mean, how could you not be #1? You've completely changed my life. I hear this all the time from parents, from friends and family I have known before and after having children. Of course, children DO change lives. Sometimes, those changes are maybe only noticeable to those making them, though. You've changed me in ways that have made me nearly unrecognizable to those who knew me before pregnancy. And I love it. I love who I've become, who you've helped me become, and who I am still becoming because of you. Not many do. The changes they see in me are hard for them to reconcile. They see them as personal affronts to them. They're not. Because of you, I am becoming who I always should have been. I am happy with me. I am grateful to you.
2. Freddie Johnson. I typed and re-typed "the ex," "my ex-boyfriend," "my ex-fiance," "the pedophile," and a few other choice phrases, but I will not be ashamed by our past connection into not writing out his name in full. Freddie is a bad, bad man. We met when I was in my very early 20s. He was 10 years older, a fun coworker, and he loved me (or so he said). We were involved for more than two years. In that time, he was involved with someone else, as well. That person was a teenager. I was the one who found out and had to, eventually, turn him in to the very sheriff's department for which we both worked. It was humiliating. It was devastating. Investigators, our colleagues, had to dig into my personal life in a way I could've never imagined. I was shunned by those of the "good ol' boy" mentality who felt strongly that you never rat out a brother. Many of them had their own suspicions, too, I later found out. I was accused of knowing about it all along. I was accused of leaking information to the press afterward, as a way to get back at him. (I'm shaking while writing this. I knew he influenced me, but I didn't know it all affected me this much still.) The depression that followed was fairly epic. My self-worth plummeted. I became reckless, needy, and leery. Thankfully, I had the support of a precious few friends who loved me through it and their support kept me alive. May you have those types of friends in your life always.
4. Grandma Bray. Before you came along, Grandma was the only person in my life who I felt loved me and would love me no matter what. I'm far from perfect. I'm FAR from the Mormon ideal of perfection that my very religious family strives to attain. She loves me anyway. Her love is unconditional. She's the reason I understand unconditional love, it's true meaning, not just the words that have been said to me by others, and why I can give it to you. When she goes, a part of me, a part of our family, will die with her.
5. Roz Lewis. Sometimes, I feel like she and I saved each other. She believed in me. I believed in her. Together, we made a winning team, one that served to boost each other in myriad ways. She believes she couldn't have succeeded without me. I know this to be false. I believe she meant as much to me as I did to her. She believes this to be false. We may never reconcile these disagreements. That's OK. Time and geography have separated us in large part, but she is always a part of who I am.
6. Mr. Smith. Every one of those "big words" my students always complained about me using (for the record, "big" simply meant a word they'd never heard before, even if it were monosyllabic) can be attributed to Mr. Scott Smith and his 10th grade AP English class. Mrs. Hamilton is the reason I became a teacher. Mr. Smith is the reason I did a great many of the things I did in my own English classroom.
7. Debbie Lopez. One of those friends who stuck by me through the Freddie ordeal was D-Lo. She was the FIRST one to hug me when it all came crashing down. She was there to soothe me as I nearly hyperventilated in my office near the end. She is strong, she is vulnerable, she is open and she taught me, by example, that it's OK to be those things, too. She doesn't have a single clue that she'd ever be included in such a list as this. That's one of the things I love so dearly about her. Ya, when I remember even the smallest of interactions from 15 years ago...ya, that makes her one of the most influential people in my life.
8. Meg Hogenson. My best friend in high school. Neither of this has a clue how this happened, as we both intensely disliked each other at the beginning of sophomore year. By the end, we were inseparable. She was then similar to who I am now - it just took me 20 years to catch up. How crazy my narrow-minded, black-and-white, hyper-conservative brilliance must've made her, but she simply informed and let me sit with it. Like Roz, time and space have distanced us far more than I'd like, but she is always in my heart. Her voice is always in my head.
9. Dr. Bottroff and Rick Hogrefe. I'm combining two of my college public speaking professors, because, well, because it's my blog and I want to. I liked public speaking before them. I LOVED it because of them. My skills as a public speaker are 100% because of these two teachers. They critiqued, honed, pushed, and created a pretty fine public speaker (and I have no bones about saying that). Dr. Bottroff moved on before I got a chance to thank him. I kept in touch with Rick for a few years after I left school. He knows what he meant to me...I hope.
10. Your dada. If nothing else in life, the man has taught me patience. (wink...kinda) He has taught me to work through, rather than run away; that hurts can be healed, rather than left as open wounds for life; that marriage is more than just a couple goofballs who fall in love. I wouldn't be your mama without your dada. We fit. He's a pain in my butt, but we fit.
I wonder, sugar pie, who will be on your list when you're my age...