March 9, 2017

Life's Blessings

Life changes without our is our attitude that determines the ride.
This was one of my daddy's favorite sayings. Maybe not always- I certainly got my stubbornness from him- my ability to hold a grudge- my ability to be a hard-headed jackass...all proudly from my daddy. But in recent years, he had my mom put this quote on their refrigerator to remind him that life can change and the only part that is truly up to us is how we handle it.

A few ago, I was looking for a new job. Photography used to be my love- but I was totally resenting it more and more with each click of my shutter. I wanted something completely different.

" your restaurant hiring? Maybe I could just wait tables at lunch...even though I've never done that before," I said to my best gay friend #ofalltime.

"I do NOT see you slinging food, need to work at a law firm or something. Heels and pencils skirts- not aprons," he said with all the attitude you would expect. #obxdiva

At the time, I didn't even know any attorneys...except for one whose family I'd photographed a couple years earlier. I was trying to handle my own divorce- with only google as my counsel. Apparently, my diva thought this imaginary law-job was just going to fall from the sky.
Always trust your gay...they have crystal balls. #punintended 
In the blink of an eye, I was shopping for said pencil skirts and heels for my new position at a law firm. (I'm still not sure if it was my photography skills or my hip hop knowledge that landed me the position!)

"Like you needed any reason to perfect your arguing..." my sweet mama told me, while shopping.
"My point exactly, dear."

So life changed...and it was an exciting and welcomed change. I learned how to walk in heels again- I learned that getting myself out of a speeding ticket has nothing to do with crying- and I learned how to get divorced, with the help of my bossman. (The speeding & divorce part...not walking in heels.)

"I'm so proud of you, have a career now. Well...another career," Daddy said one day, when he dropped off pimento and cheese to me at work.

After he passed away, I would stand in the spot that he said those words to me, close my eyes and see him standing there. I would hear him say those words, clear as a bell. Something about seeing him walk into the door at my office, made it tough to make the move to a new office.

Last month, my boss opened his own firm in Kitty Hawk. The first morning I drove to our new place of business, I took the beach road. Daddy always told me it was just as fast- and I, for once, wasn't in a huge hurry. I got to the Kitty Hawk line and could see the ocean- it was calm and breathtaking. I turned the radio up and heard Chris Stapleton's voice bellowing out a song that always seems to play when I am already thinking about my daddy. {Daddy Don't Pray Anymore}

As I rounded the curve by the Kitty Hawk Pier, I got chills as a memory struck me. My Daddy spent summers in Kitty Hawk when he was little. His grandparents had a house in Southern Shores- one of the only houses there back then. I wiped away the tears I had tried desperately to fight back as I thought of a young Don Spencer, running in the on the shoreline...telling stories with his grandparents.

Our attitude definitely determines our ride. My new office is filled with memories of my daddy that I bring with me each day. And my rides to work? Well, they're filled with ocean views and chats with my favorite angel. #blessingsindisguise 

February 28, 2017

Ready, Set, A(ddi)CTION

Addiction. Heroin. Overdose.

Three words that swirl around in conversation in today's world- but somehow don't rock our youth the way they should.

We always spoke candidly about addiction in my house when I was growing up. My cousin was and is an addict. Looking back, I'm so thankful that addiction wasn't brushed under the rug in my family. Learning the ugly truths and reality of it at a young age scared me to death. I was a total band geek, but the seeing first hand how drugs ruined lives killed any curiosity I might've had.

Today, kids aren't afraid of anything. Society tells us not to punish them- let them get their feelings hurt or God forbid, let them lose at something. Our children are growing up thinking that anything they do can be undone and that nothing they do is ever really wrong. That, my friends, is bullshit.

Kids today aren't just smoking pot by the tennis courts- they are skipping school and shooting heroin in hotel rooms...and dying. There is no 'undo' when you die. This is real life and real death. This is happening right now and I feel like most parents are completely ignoring the giant, purple elephant in the room.

My child would never do that...

God bless. I hope not. But if we don't talk about these issues with our babies- they won't know the real truth about addiction. Hell, maybe we all need to be educated a bit on addiction.

Allow me to enlighten and horrify you, all at the same time...

A young girl I've known since she was around 11 years old is now a 19 year old heroin addict. Her name is Emerson Gardner. She has overdosed a half-dozen times- the most recent time almost dying. It took three Narcan shots to bring her back.

I argue with myself over the use of Narcan. Yes, it saves lives and that is incredible. If it was my baby laying there overdosing, I would want sell my soul to the devil to save her. But how many times can you push 'undo'? 

Once discharged from the hospital, Emerson went back to her dealer, purchased more heroin and shot up, yet again. Today her current routine is to wake up, get high, go about her day, get high, then go to bed. More often than not, she sleeps all day and stays up all night getting high.

In answering my questions, Emerson hopes young kids and curious adults will hear her story and understand how serious this drug is. She wants to help others...but she isn't ready to help herself. {Maybe reading her own story in my words will help her, too.}

"I started with just snorting pills when I was about 14, but as I started doing it more and more, I slowly started getting introduced to more and more people who then introduced me to heroin... it was cheaper & easier to get... I switched from snorting to shooting 5 days before my 15th birthday. I remember it like it was yesterday"

My heart stopped. When I was 15, I was scared to put eyeliner on my waterline, much less a needle into my body! 

When Emerson was 16, she lost her father. But admittedly, this only gave her one more excuse to go further down the heroin rabbit hole.

Now I know what you're thinking. Well, she lost her father...what was her home life like? How did she grow up? And again...this wouldn't happen to my child because I'm not raising them like that,

But I can promise you- you are. Addiction doesn't discriminate- it can choose your son, your sister or your neighborhood best friend. This young girl didn't grow up all that different that I did. {Except she was a cheerleader and I was a band nerd.} Emerson didn't want for much but wasn't a trust fund child either. She grew up with a loving mother who instilled a work ethic in all of her children. A mother who was there at her kids' games, teacher conferences, etc. She was there for them when they needed her. Emerson had a horse- she played sports- did well in school...she was the girl next door- who is addicted to heroin. To look at her, even during her second or third year as an addict, if you didn't know you wouldn't have had a clue that this beautiful, curly haired teenager was putting needles into her veins and filling her body with poison.

What is her mother doing now? Has she tried to get her help?

She is doing everything she can to save her daughter's life. The problem with addicts is that unless he or she wants saving...there is almost nothing we can do to help them. We can provide them with knowledge- provide them with detox and rehab- but unless they want it and are willing to fight for it not against it, it won't work.

Emerson says she wants help- but can't handle the withdraws. However, she has had help. She has been in detox/rehab programs and gotten through the withdraws but still couldn't kick heroin out of her life. Her mother provided a car for her to work and return to school. {She recently allowed her dealer access to her car in exchange for heroin- he totaled it.} Her mother put her on a weekly budget- to make it that much more difficult for her to make the purchase. But again- if the addict doesn't want to quit, they won' matter how many roadblocks we toss in their path. 

What can we do?

Truly, I have no idea. But talking about it is a start. #talkittodeath 

It doesn't matter how old your babies are- communication is a beautiful thing. {Your children are not to young. This poison is in our middle schools, not just high school.} Teach your babies about the scary, scary truths. Put a face on addiction and help them to understand that one time, one try can ruin the rest of their lives.

My hope is to help at least one person. Maybe reading this will help one addict realize that they can fight this...or maybe it will help one parent realize they need to talk with their children about addiction...or maybe it will deter one teenager from trying a drug their friends have been using. 

Please take a moment & talk about addiction with your family- don't let this topic get brushed under the rug! 

February 9, 2017

Stitches & Giggles

{Disclaimer: If you don't like talking about gross stuff & stitches, skip this one}

I know that is an odd way to start a post- but I don't want to make anyone pass out at their desk. I'm far from squeamish. Growing up, I always accompanied my animals, big and small, into surgery. I was once thrilled to aid an ER doctor in draining a cyst on my dad's back. (Seriously, if you're squirming now- stop reading.) I've helped stitch, passed the scalpel & uttered the words "Oh my God, her bone is totally exposed!" without flinching. 

With that said, it is no surprise that I actually googled how to remove a knot behind my knee myself. I know, I know...all ten of you just panicked. This knot has been around for about 12 years. When I first went to the doctor, it was biopsied to death and doctors were a little unsure of what it was, except that it was NOT cancerous. I had been kicked in this particular leg a handful of times, so I truly didn't have much feeling in the 'knot' area. Scar tissue? Sebaceous cyst? A combination of the two? At that time, no doctor wanted to remove it for whatever reason. 

For years, it didn't bother me. Granted, a few years after it moved into my life, I became a mommy- so my focus was definitely not on myself. Cut to {pun intended} a few months ago when I started training for the half-marathon...and it started feeling weird so off to the doctor I went.

"It's a cyst...we can get you an appointment to get that out- no problem at all!" the doctor said.

The appointment was made and a few weeks later- it was removal day. I purposely wore a long dress, so I wouldn't have to put on an awful gown- knowing it would be about 10 below in the office. The doctor came in & I began chatting it up. #giftofgab

"So can I sit up and watch you cut it out?!" I asked...probably too excitedly.

"Um, sure..." he said.

"I googled how to do it myself. I figured if you couldn't get me in, I could probably just pop that sucker out on my own!" I giggled, realizing that I was not only making the doctor really uncomfortable, but I was doing exactly what my dad would do in such situations. 

He didn't reply...or laugh. This guy has no personality.

"Okay, I've numbed the area. You shouldn't feel anything but if you do, please let me know," he said, as he put the scalpel to my skin.

"OH MY GOD!" I yelped, "Just kidding...don't feel a thing," I said with a very proud smile on my face.

Again, he did not think I was funny. But I knew that my daddy was laughing his tail off because that is exactly what he would've done.

January 23, 2017

Only in Wanchese

"I'm going for a run, honey!"

"I really don't like you running at least take Tuff with you," my sweet husband told me.

Mind you, Tuff is far from the definition of his name. He is 70lbs worth of white lab snuggles. So I chuckled to myself when it was suggested that I bring him along.

It was a quiet night. Missy Elliott and I were totally flipping it and reversing it when out of nowhere, a chocolate lab appears. I jump out of my skin because naturally, I didn't hear him coming. #thanksdrdre Tuff, being startled by my squeal...barked, scared himself and dove in between my legs.

The chocolate lab seemed harmless. He was wagging his tail and very excited to see company at 9 something at night. I tried to shoo him away so we could carry on...right about the time that Tuff decided he must defend his mother's honor & jumped at said chocolate lab. As luck would have it, I also went flying towards the chocolate lab, since at some point, the leash had gotten wrapped around my legs. I landed head first, feet and legs in the air, in the middle of the lab-argument. #fantastic

They both stopped and looked at me wide-eyed. Tuff braced for impact, knowing he was getting ready to get in big trouble. However, I couldn't sufficiently scold him because not only was I tangled in the leash, but I was also tangled my dang headphone cord. I looked like a calf that had been roped in a rodeo!

I finally got to my feet and the damn chocolate lab was still there...bouncing like bunny rabbit, I'm assuming singing "where are we going?! what are we doing?! are you my mommy?!" Again, I tried to shoo him...nothing. I picked up a stick & threw it, thinking he would chase it. No, he jumped up and caught it midair. #impressive Finally, I decided we would just run for it, assuming that eventually he would get tired of running and stop.

Except labs never get tired...of anything...ever.

He ran all the way home with us, trying to race/play with Tuff the entire time. When we strolled into the driveway, he joined "So this is where we live...cooooool!" I yelled go home- and off he went.

My upper body certainly wishes I would've thought of that sooner. Shew! Next time, I'll opt for my pepper spray instead of my lab! #thanksbabe

January 22, 2017

Nothing Runs Like A Deere, But I Try!

I watched the posts rolling in the day of the Outer Banks Marathon. I was particularly excited to see one special runner cross the finish line and post a photo with her mama. She ran for her daddy, who she lost the year before to cancer.

A few days later, I sent her a message...

I'm so proud of you! You inspired me...maybe next year I will run with you!

She replied, "Yes!! FYI there is a half in April!"

I looked up the Flying Pirate online immediately. Although I've started 'couch to 5k' about 10 times and quit when it got tough, something in me was really excited about trying again...and you know, trying for 13.1 miles and not just a little over 3.

April 23...I read it and started to cry. I started typing my reply...

I just googled's the first anniversary of Daddy's diagnosis. It's meant to be!

She replied, "Perfect! We will run in your daddy's honor!"

I knew I would have to start training soon- otherwise, I would never make it. The next weekend I broke out my running shoes and hit the pavement. I ran to the end of my road and back- running one minute, walking the next and so was a little less than 2 miles and I cussed, when I wasn't gasping for air, the entire 30 minutes. My lungs hurt. I felt like I was going to cough up a blood clot and possibly die. At one point I looked at the sky, in true Fred Sanford form and whispered, "I might see ya soon, Daddy!" 

When I made it home, I collapsed on the couch and didn't move for the rest of the day. As the shock wore off, so did the pain that I thought I was in. My muscles forgave me and I realized something...I did it. I took the first step and nothing bad happened. 

The next morning I got up and did it again. This time, trying some of the breathing tips I read about during my post-run couch-coma, I didn't think I was going to die...not one single time.

That was in November and I'm still going strong. I alternate using the Couch to 5k app with other apps for running. (Couch to 5k builds you up from walk/run to running. Each day you run a little more, walk a little less.) When one run seems rough, I do that same run again the next day. I started not only tolerating my runs, but enjoying them...even looking forward and depending on them!

I never thought I would be a 'runner' (granted I run slower than a turtle in peanut butter) but I think I am. It resets my mind and gives me peace. I have found that I need my runs more than I need coffee in the morning. (And that is saying something.) I don't stick with just mornings or just evenings- I switch back and forth. Sometimes, if I have a really stressful day, I do both...not for my body or for training, necessarily, but for my sanity and the safety of others. 

Knowing that I'm running for my daddy gave me the drive to try it, again- and stick with it this time. In the still of my early morning and late evening meetings with the asphalt, I feel his spirit with me. I hear him telling me to take it easy, bud...but don't give up. 

So Don Deere...on April 23 I'm going to do my best to run like a deere. ;-)