Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Burning down the (vacation) house

Back when Rob and I were married, we purchased a vacation home in Big Bear, California. It was a two and a half hour drive from San Diego and we rented it out as a vacation get-away when we weren't using it ourselves. The home was awesome-- four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and new. I obsessed with decorating it perfectly and making it the most comfortable vacation home ever. I took over renting it to tenants. I promoted it on our company intranet and on Craigslist. Every Monday, I put up new ads and ran promotions and specials. I developed a rental contract, communicated with tenants, and managed all the finances associated with the home. The home paid for itself and we had many great family memories in Big Bear. One thing about Bob-- when we were on vacation, I could be assured that Bob would be a Happy Drunk. I can't think of a single moment in Big Bear that we weren't the happy family. We had lots of (boring) sex, went out to eat, shopped, went skiing, hiking... It was a very happy place for our family. Peaceful, relaxing, fun and joyful. And on Sundays when it was time to come home, Rob would take the girls to Starbucks while I scoured the home and cleaned it from top to bottom. I could have had our maid, Diane, clean the house but no one cleaned as perfectly and thoroughly as I did and I wanted the home to stay perfect.

When I left Rob, I handed him a stack of bills, the check book, and all things related to Big Bear and said "good luck." After five years of taking care of him and all our finances, I was done. I was sick and it was his turn to step away from the booze and do something adult while I started chemo.

And as one might expect, Rob mismanaged the home right into the ground. Before I left, I had rented out the house quite a bit so Rob mostly kept those tenants. And because I had posted the house on the company intranet and the ad was still up, and we had returning guests, he even managed to rent it out for some of the summer. The rentals were a portion of when I managed the home but to do what I did, it actually took some time, none of which Bob was interested in doing. Hey, let's see-- drink or run a Craigslist ad? Well that was an easy choice!

In September 2012, there was apparently some flooding in the home, which was the exact same issue that we had had a year prior. When the flooding happened earlier, we simply called out a contractor, filed an insurance claim and had it fixed. But with Rob, well, all of that was too difficult. Instead of taking care of the issue, he found a bizarre guy named John A and allowed him to move into the home free of rent in exchange for John fixing the damage.

Except everyone but Rob the Great (Alcoholic) new that this guy was a freak job. And John actually didn't know what he was doing and Rob allowed him to move into the home, foregoing ALL vacation rents, without my prior knowledge.

In December, Rob's attorney sent my attorney a letter asking for my permission to allow John to live in the home. Since Rob had already allowed John to move in, this was Rob's attempts at damage control. My answer was HELL NO. Too late! John was already in the home. A big "holy shit" for Rob. He started panicking. How to fix that mess? He got to work trying to figure that out in his alcohol-fueled brain.

A few weeks later, I got a message from John and we started communicating. Oh my was this entertaining. Rob thought John was on his side. Turns out, John was telling me everything (or at least the John version of everything). The facts as John shared them included:

-Rob was trying to sell the Big Bear home behind my back. He had John contacting real estate agents presenting himself as the owner.
-Rob drove up to Big Bear with a contract for John to sign allowing John to live in the home for free. Except John never signed the contract and when Rob realized the error, he panicked and tried to get John to hurry up and sign the contract. John refused.
-Rob filed a claim against Caltrans for the flooding, asking for $17,000 in damages. Rob kind of "forgot" to tell his attorney or mine about the pending claim. But John let me know!
-Rob then tried to get John to start paying $1,300 per month in rent in exchange for John living in the home through peak ski season. Except John refused to pay anything at all. They had an agreement, John said, that he could live there for free and now Rob was trying to change the terms. John was not too happy about that.
-John said that Rob and his co-horts (including snarky comments about the girlfriend, know it all brother, and incompetent asshole contractor they brought with them) showed up the home to assess his work. He said that none of them thought he was doing a good job and he was pissed off.
-His wife was so sick and frail and if Rob didn't leave him alone, he was going to sue Rob and me for damages.
-Rob kept demanding to come into the home but John just wasn't going to allow it anymore. Rob was harassing him! And if Rob didn't stop it, he was going to sue Rob and me. (Um, hello, Freak, I didn't allow you into my home but feel free to sue Rob!)
-Rob was threatening to shut off their utilities and his wife was sick and he was doing all this work and he was going to sue Rob and I for damages and all his work if I didn't stop Rob from shutting off the utilities
-And when Rob was getting ready to list our home for sale with the realtor behind my back. John called to give me the warning. "The realtor is coming tomorrow to put a lockbox on the house!"

So I called the realtor and told him that he'd better not be listing my home for sale and then demanded he turn over every single email between Rob and him. At first he denied he had anything. Right, how dumb did this guy think I was? So on second thought, he sent me many emails between the two of them and they were rather entertaining. Enough that if we ever went to court, Rob had put himself into a rather fabulous hole.

More from John. Your husband is a DRUNK, he said. "I feel so sorry for you! Every time I see him he smells of vodka and beer. I will help you Liz if you help me. I don't have anywhere to go and my wife is so sick and your husband is an alcoholic! How did you live with him so long? I will help you in court, Liz, if you help me." Except I didn't want or need John's help. He obviously thought I was really incredibly dumb and easily intimidated, of which I am the polar opposite.

At one point, John forwarded an email that Rob sent to John where Rob wanted the two of them to collaborate so they could protect each other from me in case I sued both of them. Sweet. Classic Rob. Liar, manipulator. Keep it up. While Rob thought that so many people were a huge fan of his, one thing I was learning fast is that Rob's biggest fan was himself. Most everyone else loved him for a good time but rolled their eyes and talked behind his back. Everyone (but apparently me) realized that he was full of shit most of the time. Looking back, being married to this guy was rather embarrassing. I cannot believe I covered up for this fraud. Anyhow, I digress...

Oh my, the texts and phone calls and forwarded emails from John were entertaining. He was clearly emotionally unstable and got by in life by crying and deceiving and taking. Most of the time, he sounded more drunk than Rob and his emails and texts were so nonsensical that I seriously doubt he had more than an eighth grade education. How Rob ever hooked up with this guy and believed anything he said, and then allowed him to move into our home, was truly unbelievable. Rob had to have been incredibly drunk to have thought John to be an upstanding guy. (Eventually, Rob had to legally evict John, never to be heard from again.)

And then the fun really began. Rob had to cancel all of the rents that he had collected for the busy holiday season and refund over $10 thousand and not rent it to anyone else during peak ski season. One of the tenants in particular contacted me and then threatened to sue Rob. Another tenant contacted me. Rob had told the tenant that it was my fault that Rob had to cancel the rents. The tenant was threatening to sue me. Um, right, sorry but I had no knowledge of renting a home to you and my husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic) lied to you about it being my fault that your vacation plans were cancelled at the last minute. And then Rob went on vacation, leaving in his wake pissed off would-be tenants, a freak job living in the home who refused to pay rent, and chaos all around. Heck, he needed a VACATION so he could get DRUNK a lot and leave everyone else holding the bag. Yep, he frittered away a good $25 thousand dollars over a three month period alone, not to mention rents before and after peak season.

It was bizarre. When Rob's attorney contacted mine demanding that I allow Rob to take over the sale of the home and back off, my answer was "are you flippin' kidding me? Truly, Rob blamed me for creating the whole mess and if I would just cooperate with allowing Rob to continue managing and selling the home, it would all be perfect. I laughed my ass off. The answer was fuck no.

As it turns out, the home went into foreclosure. A beautiful home that was paying for itself went up in flames. As did our family, the marriage, the father of the children-- all of it gone. Just like that. In a haze of alcohol, neglect, selfishness and incompetence.

And this is the insanity of life with an alcoholic. Volatile, bizarre, nonsensical, and tragic. Ludicrous actually.

My mom's article on Myeloma Crowd: A view of myeloma from a caregiver's perspective

A view of myeloma from a caregiver’s perspective

A view of myeloma from a caregiver’s perspective

by Jackie Smith
January 6, 2012 was a day that changed our family’s lives,  especially the life of our 43 -year-old daughter, as  she was diagnosed with  myeloma.   Her marriage collapsed at the same time, which made the whole situation extremely sad and demanding.

Since she could not count on her husband’s support, my husband and I decided to move her and her two daughters from San  Diego, California  to our home in Utah. Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is a very reputable  institution with great history in the treatment of this disease.   Their protocol for many myeloma patients is called the “tandem treatment” which is two stem-cell  transplants.  It was an arduous process which required patience and hope.    As a mother, the pain that I experienced to see my beautiful, energetic daughter fight for her life  had to quickly give way to a strong and effective care giver.

We went through different stages,  all difficult.  All required a lot of  prayer, good  doctors, medication and luck.  For ten days we moved to a Huntsman-operated apartment (a “clean” apartment) close to the facility.  While my daughter went through her transplant,  I remained with  her to make sure  that the food she ate,  every activity she got involved in, everything she touched did  not pose a risk to her health. I also managed her many medications, which is not an easy task.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Running in the (Pouring) Rain: Myeloma Crowd raises $10k!

On Saturday, William and I joined other Myeloma supporters in Utah and we ran the Thanksgiving Point Tulip Festival Half Marathon/5k. It was super fun and very extremely wet. It poured rain. By the time we were done, we were drenched. But who cares? We had a lot of fun and, best yet, we raised $10k for the Myeloma Crowd to help support clinical trials for multiple myeloma.

The only way treatments and cures for disease are discovered is through clinical trials. Many patients do not participate in clinical trials because they don't want to get a placebo or be a guinea pig. But the reality is that if you participate in a clinical trial, you're getting the best treatment available or the next wave of "best" treatments. And oftentimes, patients don't participate in a clinical trial because there insurance won't cover the cost of treatment or the patient cannot afford to travel to where the clinical trial is taking place. Raising funds to support clinical trials is essential.

A few days prior, Jenny and I met with a professor at BYU to discuss getting an intern to help with the Myeloma Crowd efforts. To that end, we are giving a presentation to his students next week about multiple myeloma, how we were diagnosed, how the disease is treated, and our efforts to help find treatments and cures. We are crossing our fingers that we get some help!

And a few days before that, I had a very long chat with Senator Lee's (R-UT) office. Several weeks prior, I had called Senator Lee's office to discuss Obamacare. It took awhile because it was something the PR director wanted to discuss in depth with Senator Lee before she called me back. We spent close to an hour on the phone. It was a spirited debate but I sincerely appreciated her time. I am not a fan of Senator Lee. In fact, I have told people that if I ran into him at, say, an airport, it would be hard for me not to spit in his face. I find him arrogant and an obstructionist. But after the call with his PR director, I've slightly softened my stance. Yes, he wants a full repeal of Obamacare. But he proposes that Obamacare be phased out as a new/better plan is phased in. He recognizes that Obamacare cannot be repealed with nothing to replace it immediately. In my opinion, however, Obamacare is going nowhere and the Republicans should start helping to make it better and helping those who can't seem to navigate it instead of more political posturing. Such is politics.

Divorced Moms column: Hey Tori: Here is a Lesson You Failed to Learn

My latest Divorced Moms column is out! I will write forever about how important it is to select a partner of good character. Because if you knowingly select a mate who has major character flaws, then you deserve the asshole you've selected. Trust me, I've lived the Hell and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. In Tori's case, it's infidelity. Here goes...

Hey Tori: Here is a Lesson You Failed to Learn
by Lizzy Smith                    
April 28, 2014
tori spelling.jpgLet me paint a scenario. You’re married and there are no serious problems in your marriage. You fly off to, say, Toronto, for a business trip. While there, you meet a guy you find incredibly handsome and you’re drawn to him. Thing is, he’s married with a young son. Oh, right, and you’ve got a husband at home waiting for you. Oh well, hormones can’t be controlled and you have an affair. Turns out, you fall for him. Hard. You two are in love and you both leave your spouses and eventually marry. Several years later, and after four children, you find out your hubby is cheating on you. You’re hurt, devastated and feel betrayed. It is painful beyond belief. You’re not eating or sleeping. Your children are confused. Where’s daddy? Why is mommy acting so strange and sad?

But, while this whole thing is awful, should you be surprised? And how sorry should your friends really feel for you? You destroyed the man’s prior family (and your own), after all. Truth is, most of your friends (behind your back) felt sorry for the spouses you both ditched and the pain you caused them (not to mention the pain inflicted on the innocent child left behind). 

This is the story of actors Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott. And so many, many other couples. You probably know some yourself. Maybe you’ve even found yourself in a similar situation.

Keep reading...

Friday, April 25, 2014

Divorced Moms column: Drama, Illness, Alcohol, Abuse & Police. The Day We Separated

My latest Divorced Moms column!

Drama, Illness, Alcohol, Abuse & Police. The Day We Separated.
by Lizzy Smith
April 24, 2014
Fotolia_1727740_XS.jpgJanuary 2, 2012 is a day I will never forget. I woke up early because I had early morning medical appointments scheduled for a good chunk of the day. While getting routine lab work done, my doctor had noticed alarming abnormalities. He had ordered follow-up tests. I was terrified and filled with dread.

I had arranged for the girls to go to a friends’ house to hang out. My husband, Rob, wanted to run a bunch of errands. I asked him to drop the girls off on his way out and, in response, he exploded into a temper tantrum. “I just want to leave and get things done!” he screamed in only the way Rob can. (Truth was, numero uno “errand” was a stop by a bar.)

“Well, I think my medical tests are more important, don’t you?” I was an emotional and nervous wreck and left the house. I was beyond caring what his needs were.

Keep reading...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cure Panel Talk Radio Recap: Interview with Dr McCarthy of Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Yesterday, I was part of the Cure Panel Talk Radio show featuring Dr. McCarthy, Director of the Blood & Marrow Transplant Program at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and a Professor of Oncology. Dr McCarthy offered a fascinating view on clinical trial data to select best treatment options for myeloma patients. Participating in clinical trials is critical for cancer patients. It is the way new drugs and treatments (and cures!) are developed. Without patient participation, advances cannot be made. Thankfully, myeloma has realized more advancements in the treatment of the disease than any other cancer. Clinical trials feature the latest (or even better) treatments available. Oftentimes, insurance will cover the cost of treatment. Even more often, clinical trial drugs and testing are free to the participant. Clinical trials are not about placebos or about making guinea pigs out of patients.

And thank you to my amazing fellow myeloma warriors and fellow panelists Gary Petersen, Cindy Chmielewski and Jack Aiello. While I wouldn't wish cancer on ANYONE, there are amazing blessings that have come from my illness. Meeting such incredible people is one of them.

To listen to the recap, click here:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dear Tori: When you marry an asshole, you now have an asshole for a husband

Dear Tori Spelling,

I've loved you since you were a child. I watched your guest spots on The Love Boat and Vegas and, of course, the original Beverly Hills 90210. I don't think I missed a single episode of that show over ten years. But when you met Dean, you were both married to other people. On location, you both started up an affair, then when you got home, informed your respective spouses that you were in love with someone else, and left them. You both destroyed two families. In Dean's case, he had two children with his wife at the time, but your desire to be with a guy you loved trumped children and vows and families. I was so disappointed. Because, in my humble opinion, you just don't wreck a home. You do not insert yourself in the middle of someone else's family. EVER. You wait until the marriage is OVER before you go after someone else's spouse.

And now after four children, you are devastated that Dean has cheated on you. You don't know if you can trust him. Your children are hurt. You are angry and feel betrayed. And surprised.

For real?

Let's see... You married a cheater. Did you really think that the cheater you married would all of a sudden change for you? Are you flippin' serious? You married a cheater and your husband is, well, he's a CHEATER. And you knew it. And you deserve it. Sucks? Yep. Surprising? HELL NO.

People don't change their stripes because they are all of a sudden in a new relationship. Many relationships end because two people change in different directions. There can be a loss of commitment. Boredom comes in. Priorities change. You can fall out of love. ... You get the picture.

And then other relationships end because one has a pathological problem. Like an addict. Or a cheater. Or an abuser. Those people are who they are and the only way they will ever change is with hardcore therapy. And without major therapy over a long sustained period of time, they're just who they are. Period.

So when you marry a cheater, or an alcoholic, or an addict, or someone who physically abuses others, or a sociopath... Well, that's what you get. And if you knowingly enter into a relationship with someone like this, you DESERVE IT.

Best of luck. I feel so sorry for your children AND for the children Dean fathered with his first ex wife. Shame on both of you.


Two new articles published by yours truly!

My latest articles are right here!

From Divorced Moms...

12 Fun Books to Read This Summer
by Lizzy Smith 
April 21, 2014
Fotolia_55973889_XS.jpgWith summer fast approaching, it’s time to pick out some great books and get lost in them. Summer reads, in my opinion, must be page turners, highly entertaining and not require too much brainpower. Here are my 12 favorites:

The Glass Castle by Jeanne Walls
This is one of my favorite books of all time. It is one woman’s memoire of growing up with three siblings in a deeply dysfunctional family. Jeanne’s parents were brilliant but incredibly dangerous parents who moved the family from one adventure to the next in such locations as Nevada, Arizona and, finally, West Virginia. The book will leave you stunned, angry, and hopeful. One thing is guaranteed—you won’t be able to put this book down, nor will you ever forget the story.

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
The movie was so dumb that there are just no words. But the book is hilarious. I read this book on an airplane and couldn’t stop laughing at loud. I think my seatmates thought I was nuts. The whole series is actually very funny.

Keep reading...

From Myeloma Crowd...

Tales From Dex-Ambien Road

Tales From Dex-Ambien Road

by Lizzy Smith

When I was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in January 2012, my treating oncologist prescribed 100 mg of Dex every day for 10 days, then 5 days off, then repeat. I didn’t understand it then but I felt awful. I felt like I was floating when I walked. My heart raced. I often felt dazed. When people spoke to me, I felt like they were speaking through a tunnel.

When I selected my myeloma doctor, he cut my Dex dose down dramatically. It helped. Still, Dex made me, at times, a monster. I would drive down the street and if someone appeared to have cut me off, it was all I could do not to chase the driver down and start screaming. The four letter words just flowed from my tongue effortlessly. Arguing with my insurance company over coverage or co-pays were, well, let’s just say “heated.” My poor children. I could be incredibly snarky. I started making them call me “Mommy Dearest” because I could turn into a raging mean person. And, to make matters worse, my meanness all seemed perfectly reasonable to me. My mom finally called my attention to it.

Keep reading...

Monday, April 21, 2014

An Easter to forget

Easter is my favorite time of year. And I had all kinds of plans for our Easter Sunday. We were going to sleep in a bit, let the kids search for goodies from the Easter Bunny, then hit up mass at St Madeline's, followed by brunch. Why mass for this Mormon girl? Because I find Easter services at Mormon churches typically disappointing and pathetic.

Anyhow, none if it happened. It was all sort of a disaster.

First, Siena was so excited about Easter, that she woke up at 5:00 AM ready to search for Easter eggs. Oh my gosh. After searching for eggs, she then had a total meltdown afterwards because she was tired and cranky. Ugh.

My parents went to The Spoken Word at Temple Square and wanted to meet up for brunch in Salt Lake. But because they were done so early, they couldn't make the brunch reservation that I made at Market Street Grill. William couldn't go at all-- he had shoulder surgery earlier in the week and he was sick and uncomfortable. So the girls and I picked up my brother, Ryan, and we met at Little America and had brunch there. It wasn't very good but it was very expensive. Hotel brunches on Easter? I don't recommend.

And then my dad and I just got into it. I try to avoid talking about anything related to Mormonism with him but sometimes it just happens. The conversation started out innocent enough. I talked about how much I loved Holy Week and my dad asked where I get my sources for information related to Holy Week. And because I get none of my sources from the official Mormon church, it just wasn't ok, in his opinion. And in my opinion, the Mormon church leaves everything so basic that, well, I wouldn't learn much about Holy Week from official church literature and pubs.

Which makes me anti-Mormon, if you ask my dad.

Which makes me like the church less and less because of what they've done to my dad. The ultimate defender of the faith. Is this what the Mormon church does to its True Believers? I'm not happy about it.

So after a heated debate, I finally just left brunch with the girls. We went to St Madelines but mass didn't start for two more hours and I was exhausted because Siena woke up so dang flippin early. So we went home, took a nap, William made grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner, I got Siena in bed before 8PM, and watched Mad Men.

And there was my favorite holiday of the year. It sort of sucked.

It's a new week and I'll kick it off by... spending an hour on the phone with my Utah attorney! That's ok, I actually love my Utah attorney. Just moving forward-- with one lawsuit after the next. Keeps things rather entertaining. As soon as I'm able, I'll share details.

I'm just in a "mood." I realize that this is the longest stretch I've gone without a real vacation in... well... decades. And I'm so dang tired of the routine. I'm tired of school, homework, early bedtimes for the girls, helping with homework, homework, and homework. I'm tired of getting the girls to school, driving carpool, making lunches, making breakfasts, getting up early... I NEED A BREAK!!! Five more weeks til school is over and we are on a plane for Italy. I try to savor every day but I just can't wait for school to be done done done!

Happy Monday! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Divorced Moms column: 35 things that make me swoon

My latest Divorced Moms column is out! Enjoy.

I'm Obsessed! 35 Things That Make Me Swoon
by Lizzy Smith 
April 17, 2014
There are some things in life that make me weak in the knees. Seemingly insignificant, they bring me much joy, make me smile, and feel peaceful or excited. A few weeks ago, I started carrying around a notebook and making my list. I could probably keep going but I'll stop and share. Because today is a great day and I'm only focusing on the positive. Perhaps tomorrow Snarky Lizzy will return.

Exploring new places
spring break.jpg
I love going to places I haven't been before. Just this past week was Spring Break and we discovered new parks in our own backyard. Fun!

House of Cards
 house of cards.jpg
I am completely obsessed with this Netflix series. My mom and I watched the entire two seasons in less than two weeks. Kevin Spacy and Robin Wright are phenomenal. Ruthless and shocking. The writing is superb, the character development fascinating, and the story line never predictable. Plus, it's set in Washington, DC and all about politics. Which brings me to my next obsession…

Claire Underwood’s style
 claire underwood.png
I wish I had the cash to dress just like Claire from House of Cards. Polished and tailored; impeccable taste. Her shoes and dresses make me swoon. Her hairstyle makes me (almost) long for the days that I had really short hair. Bummer I can’t afford to splurge on endless Theory shirts, Laboutin boots, and Burberry coats. But a girl can dream, no?

Surprise gifts
On Sunday, a very special man (named William) in my life surprised me with beautiful earrings. It was so unexpected! It wasn’t about the earrings (well, it sort of is—they’re my favorite, that’s how pretty they are), but about the thoughtfulness.

Keep reading...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cure Panel recap - Interview with Mayo Clinic's Dr Fonseca

On Monday, I was a panelist on Cure Panel Talk Radio where Dr Fonseca of Mayo Clinic discussed high risk Multiple Myeloma and its treatments. I actually met with Dr Fonseca in August 2012. He was my fourth opinion. At the time, I was seriously considering not doing my second transplant. My hair was growing back and I was healing from the first transplant. I really like Dr Fonseca and it's nice to have the connection when doing the show.

My question on the show was about maintenance therapy for high risk. Since my tandem stem cell transplants, my high risk markers are no longer detectable and, please God, don't let them ever reappear. But what would he recommend as far as maintenance therapy? During our appointment at Mayo, he said that if I was his patient, I wouldn't do the second transplant but I would do two years of maintenance therapy, which is no cakewalk. My new oncologist, Dr A, says maintenance therapy no more than 24 months. Dr Fonseca said that maintenance therapy for high risk could sometimes go on indefinitely if there was a residual amount of myeloma or more, but probably not if in full remission.

The survival stats for high risk haven't increased enough over the past few years and that must get better. A lot of new treatments and drugs in the pipeline, that is very promising.

To listen to the radio show recap, click here:

Our Spring Break diary

Last week was Spring Break. We had originally planned to drive up to South Dakota and see Mt Rushmore but the weather was terrible so we cancelled the trip. I was bummed because the rest of our summer is so scheduled and busy that we won't have another chance for a long time. So how to fill in the time? We did fun things from home...

Day 1: Trampoline Park - The girls and their friends jumped at the indoor trampoline park for hours while William and I went shopping. Afterwards, we went out for pizza.

Day 2: Roller Skating - I dropped the girls off for four hours and had time to myself. Whooohoo! I should have scheduled a massage and facial but instead, I hit the shops. I found gorgeous brown go go boots that were originally $695 that were "almost free." It almost made the whole "not going to South Dakota" thing worthwhile. Later we went to a movie and gorged on popcorn.

Day 3: This Is The Place Park - We spent the entire day at the This Is The Place Park. I love it there! It's right across the street from the Hogle Zoo and it has spectacular views.

Day 4: Clinic Appointment - It was my Aridia injection day plus my general chemo injection so I was at clinic for almost six hours total. I actually don't mind it too much. I took my book and laptop, got some lunch, and sat back and relaxed. While I was at clinic, Morgan and Siena were off hanging out with their friends.

Day 5: Zoo - Since we have zoo passes, it's always a no-brainer to go hang with the wild animals for the day. Plus we get out in the fresh air, which makes me a very happy camper.

Day 6: Hockey Game! I haven't been to a hockey game in years and this was fun and different.

On Sunday, I taught Sunday School to five year olds. We talked about Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, the role of women in Jesus' ministry, and the Easter Bunny. We also talked for about three minutes about baptism, which was supposed to be our topic of the day. Unlike other nice Mormon girls, I go off topic all the time and talk about whatever I feel like. It usually works better for the little ones.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lizzy in the news

My articles have been picked up a few new (and exciting!) places!

Maria Shriver
By Divorced Moms / A Woman's Experience /

An Interview With My (Very Smart) Teen Daughter: What I Learned

This article by Lizzy Smilez originally appeared at

Girls and middle school are a bad mix. They can be so vicious and catty to each other that it boggles the mind. I remember those years all too well and, yikes. And now that I have a teen daughter of my own (and another on her heels), just watching her try to navigate these difficult years gives me nightmares. I’m doing my best to crawl inside her head and understand what’s going on in there so I can be a better mom. How do I motivate her, help her, support her, and keep her safe?

In general, we are really close. We talk a lot, spend loads of time together, and I try to listen. I do my best not to lecture and preach. I want her to know that, no matter what, I will always be her biggest ally, fan and champion.

Keep reading...

Your Tango

Women, Watch Out: 5 Types Of Men That Are Bad News
By , Lizzy Smith
couple on a date           
Is it important to avoid men who are trouble?
The obvious answer is yes! For me, re-entering the dating scene after I split from my husband was quite the experience. I fell hard and fast for my first boyfriend. When we broke up and I had time to reflect on "us", I realized he was none of the things I was looking for to begin with. In fact, he had some pretty big flags (see below). How did I let that happen?

Lizzy, 46
I love my hair, now that it’s back after chemo and two stem cell transplants.

Latest Divorced Moms column is out! My Ex is Like John Edwards!

My latest article on Divorced Moms is ready for your reading pleasure. Enjoy! I don't usually post comments to my articles because you readers can find them but I'm making an exception. After reading, here's what one posted.

First of all, you look great.  You came through and he's still a loser.  Second, he's going to hell.  I don't know if I believe in heaven or hell, but if there is one, he will be there with Hitler, serial killers, etc. to play with.  Third, if it turns out that there is reincarnation, he will be a cockroach.  He is a bad, bad person and doesn't appear to have many redeeming qualities.  He's going to end up alone.  Hope your girls are okay.

My Ex is Like Former Pres Candidate John Edwards. Only worse.
by Lizzy Smith                     
April 14, 2014
john edwards.jpgI just read an article about John Edwards, the former Presidential candidate and US Senator. Bunny Melon, a weatlhy donor to his campaign, died and the family refused him entry to the funeral. This man makes my skin crawl. Seriously, is there a bigger asshole in the entire world than him? The answer is yes (but I’ll get to that part in a bit). Let’s talk more about John first.

In case you missed it, John’s wife, Elizabeth, had breast cancer and eventually died from the disease. It came out prior to her death that he had an affair with Reille Hunter and had fathered a child. (No need to discuss this bitch who had an affair with a married man whose wife was sick.) John claimed the affair and pregnancy happened while Elizabeth was in remission. At least John stood by Elizabeth during her horrible treatments and supported her through the end, I guess. Does that make him a good guy? Of course not-- pretty much everyone agrees that he's a complete and total asshole.

But Rob the Great (Alcoholic) is worse
But my ex husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic), can run circles around John Edwards when it comes to the asshole factor. Keep reading... 

Friday, April 11, 2014

It's gettin' mighty judgmental in Mormonville

I live in glorious Utah County, home of the most conservative Mormon population on the planet. While much of the time, this is a fabulous thing, sometimes it's not. The Mormon church sponsors Girl's Camp every summer. Stakes (several Mormon congregations wrap up to a stake) organize a five day retreat for girls age 13 to 18. Morgan went two years ago here in Utah. Last summer, she went to Girls Camp in Long Beach with my BFF's daughter, Devynn. And this year, Morgan has decided she won't be going at all. We'll actually be in Europe during Girls Camp but she wouldn't go if she could. The drama between girls of this age is just ridiculous. And in Utah, the drama caused by nonsensical "standards" is just out of control and, in my opinion, downright stupid. So we opt out. These standards include the dangers of showing a kneecap or shoulder or, heaven forbid, having a second ear piercing. Are you flippin' kidding me?

So I have a few Girls Camp stories told to me by other girls in our neighborhood.

  • N went to Girls Camp last year. They were all sleeping in tents and N went to shower and when she started making her way back to her tent, she could hear the girls in the tent next to hers talking about her. She sat down outside the tent and just listened to them. They said things like she was a bad example because she had an extra ear piercing. She didn't go to Sacrament meeting often enough (Sacrament meeting is the main meeting, equivalent to Mass) so she shouldn't be at Girls Camp. Oh, gosh, girls, how about church is for everyone, not just the (self righteous) people? How about a second ear piercing has absolutely nothing to do with character and behavior? Needless to say, N isn't going to Girls Camp this summer. To her face, these girls are super nice. They even drop off brownies and cookies and the like all the time. They stop by her house almost weekly to see if she needs a ride to Young Women's activities. But behind her back, it's a whole other story. The Bishop lives across the street. His daughter is one of the ringleaders of this gaggle of girls that talk behind N's back. But yet she goes over to N's house in the mornings before school and changes out of the tops and shorts she leaves the house wearing in favor of something she likes better but doesn't pass the standards of her very conservative parents. Wow-- in a few years I wonder what else this girl will be doing behind her parents' backs if she isn't doing it already. 
  • C went to girls camp a day after it started. Prior to that, she was on a family vacation at the beach where she Instagramed photos of herself wearing a two-piece swimsuit. When she got to girls camp and got to her assigned tent, the girls had staged and intervention of sorts. They were gravely concerned over her swimsuit and reminded C that she was being a very bad example and on the road to apostasy. C left the tent for a while to calm down. When she returned, several of the girls had moved out of the tent, refusing to sleep in the same place as C. C called her mom to get her immediately because she wasn't about to stay another minute with those girls.
  • D went to girls camp and one of the girls is a true Mean Girl who has targeted D. The entire week was spent talking behind D's back, ignoring her and, when no one was looking, pointing fingers at D, laughing at her, and making those "knowing looks" between the other girls. D isn't going either.

Really? Is this what the (well meaning) Young Women's advisors are teaching these girls? Girls across the country and across faiths and backgrounds can be evil. It is a tough age and girls are a nightmare. But when you're teaching endlessly to judge each other based on (in my opinion) things that are so unimportant in the grand scheme of things, it really isn't helpful. Instead of talking about the Big Stuff, like cyber safety, abuse, the dangers of drugs and alcohol, teen sex, bullying, they spend oodles of time talking about dress codes. If only the biggest thing that I, as a parent, need to worry about it shorts that don't hit the kneecap. I mean, seriously, WTF.

I discussed this with one of our Young Women's advisors. She said, "Well, one things leads to bigger things." Um, no.... For real? I mean please tell me where these people come from? If there is something extreme, like a 14 year old girl who is wearing hoochie shorts, has 10 ear piercings and loads of tattoos and only wears dark goth clothing, then maybe there s something else Very Big goig on with that child and someone should try to find out what. Is she being abused, bullied, struggling with depression... what? It's not about "that girl is so unrighteous let's SHUN HER."

About a year ago, our stake hosted a Standards Night on a Tuesday eve for the young women and their mothers at the Stake Center, Sunday dress required. Morgan and I showed up a few minutes late and had to sit in the second row in front of the speaker, which had we sat anywhere else, I would have walked out 20 minutes into the whole thing. Instead of talking about all kinds of "standards", it was a one hour forty minute lecture on the church's version of "modesty." It was horrifying, long and totally inappropriate. Some of the highlights of this train wreck:

1. A video of boys just off their mission where they were asked such doozies as "What do you think of a girl who dresses immodestly" and "Would you date a girl who doesn't dress modestly?" and "What would you like to tell a girl about how she should dress?" I kid you not. I think my mouth was hitting the floor. Offensive, no? If my girls ever dated one of these self righteous boys, I would have her kidnapped and sent to a convent in Italy for five years. What parents are raising boys with such a mindset that they'd even participate in an interview like this?
2. A woman who sobbed through a good portion of her presentation as she described finding a modest prom dress for her daughter and then, thanks to her prayers to God, was able to find the exact same matching shoes online. "Girls," she cried. "The Lord wants you to look modest and beautiful and God provided a direct answer to my prayers to help my daughter dress modestly." I wanted to slap this woman. So let's see... first STOP sniveling. Second, God cares more about your daughter's shoes than, say, the children in the Ivory Coast who are being kidnapped from their families (oftentimes after their families are murdered or had their arms chopped off), given loads of drugs and a machine gun and told to go kill other people in the war for... who knows why they're fighting...? And third, your physical appearance is of the utmost concern to God because Jesus taught that during his ministry... ? Holy flipping hell.
3. Another woman talked about how skinny jeans and any pants with embellishments on the pockets were immodest and they shouldn't be wearing them. Thanks, Lady, for making that decision for ME, the mother. And thanks for telling all these girls that half of their mothers are little hussies because we wear skinny jeans. I mean, seriously, what right does this woman have to make authoritative statements about that anyway, I mean, if that's her OPINION, hey to each their own, but say that!
4. A man talked about how they didn't watch beach volleyball on TV because those women dressed way to immodestly and they just didn't need to see it. They also stopped getting the Victoria's Secret catalog in their home because it just wasn't appropriate either.

It went on and on and on. Morgan and I were kicking each other under the pews. Add to that, I was hungry and the AC vent was right above my head and I was FREEZING. If it wasn't for the fact that it was so dang cold I would've thought we were sitting in Hell.

I know the Mormon church means well. The way you present yourself to the world conveys a huge message. If you want to convey that you're a girl looking for a good time, there's ways to dress accordingly. If you want to convey that you're troubled, you can do that, too. How about teaching those messages? Dressing appropriately for the occasion and for your body type. Besides, "modesty" encompasses a whole lot more than kneecaps and shoulders, duh. But somehow, in this wacky culture, that's what it has boiled down to.

When it comes to church activities, hey, it's their club and they get to set the rules. If there's a dress code, no problem, Communicate what that is and make no apologies, no excuses, and no exceptions if you want. But beyond that, the church does NOT get to try and dictate what my daughters or, even worse, what I wear. That's MY job as their parent and I do NOT appreciate the overstepping of bounds.

My dad, bless his heart, is as conservative Mormon as they come. When we first moved to Utah and we were living with them, my dad and I were going to walk to my uncle's home, which is about five blocks away. I was wearing denim shorts that hit my knee and a sleeveless top that actually came up almost to my collarbone. Did I mention it was, like, 150 degrees outside? My dad asked that I get a sweater and wear it before we left the house because I was showing (gasp) my shoulders. Um, let's get this straight,, not only no, but Hell No. I made a decision that second that I didn't care one twit what my neighbors thought about my clothing choices, or the clothes that my daughters wore. While I hardly dress like a hooker, I do wear shorts that are far shorter than the knee and I wear tank tops and sleeveless sundresses almost every day. And so do my daughters. I have no idea if I offend my neighbors but if I do, it really isn't my problem.

I wish that there was far more time spent (and believing) that the most important things to teach in church are Christ-like attributes, like love, kindness, acceptance and forgiveness. And to teach of Christ's ministry and other stories from the Bible. Teaching how to be good people-- honesty and morals, repentance and FORGIVENESS. To foster a welcoming community.

A few days ago, William and I took the girls to the This is The Place park. It is an area where the Mormon pioneers settled in Salt Lake City. Those people were amazing. Talk about having each other's backs. They had a very tough journey to get to Salt Lake and when they did, the support they had for one another was unimaginable. Total love, acceptance, and support. Resilient, strong, faithful. I wish we were more of that Mormon and less of some of the stuff I sometimes see out here. Well, I can't change that, I can only strive for teaching my daughters by example something different. (Eek-- after reading this post, I suppose I'm being really judgmental myself. Well, touché. See? I own my faults!)

I love Utah, I really do. But there's a few things that I find so completely nuts and harmful that I cannot and will not be silent about it. And this is one of them. These modesty lessons I find so completely harmful that I'm going to harp on it. Maybe if a few saner voices start speaking up, it'll help. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Myeloma Crowd article: 10 Great Side Effects From Chemo Treatments

My latest article for the site. I love pitching in for this amazing effort that links the myeloma community with important resources and information. If you haven't visited the site yet, be sure to check it out!
10 Great Side Effects from Chemo Treatments
By Lizzy Smith
I am on a quest to try and find the positive in even the most challenging of situations. Let’s see if I can find ten positive things about chemotherapy (besides the whole “it’ll save my life hopefully” thing). This won’t be easy but I think I can do it!
Shaving Moratorium: Hair loss is one of the most traumatic side effects of chemo. But for several months, I didn’t need to shave my legs. I had nice smooth legs without having to work for it.

Wig Shopping: Most of us don’t enjoy wearing wigs but going to the wig shop and trying on new hairstyles was actually pretty fun. I was amazed at how different I looked just by having a different hairstyle or color. I literally looked like a different person in a second. And with wigs, I was totally in control of how I looked. (Funny side story: I had one wig that was a short bob and another that was long and straight. I usually wore my long wig. One day, I picked up my daughter’s friend wearing my long hair. After a few hours, I switched to the shorter wig before going to work out. When the friend saw me, she asked my daughter who I was. She didn’t recognize me at all. I had to explain why I had long hair one minute and short the next. I said that I sometimes wore hair extensions.)

Keep reading...

My latest Divorced Moms column: 15 Ways I'm Living My Authentic Life

My latest Divorced Moms column!

15 Promises To Myself: My Pact for Living A Happier Life
April 10, 2014
by Lizzy Smith 
I am sitting on my deck enjoying spectacular weather. It has inspired me to make a list of how I wish to live my life. It’s my pledge to myself. I haven’t mastered everything here. In fact I’m failing miserably in some areas. This is definitely a work in progress but at least I’m trying.

I will travel
Traveling is expensive but worth every penny. Every time I go somewhere new, I am reminded of how very big and diverse this world is, how different we all are, and how blessed I am. I appreciate life in new ways when I travel and it changes me as a person, sometimes in profound ways. I take my children with me on most trips because I want to raise them to be intellectually curious with a big view of the world. This is what makes life interesting and what makes people, in my opinion, interesting, too.

I will not be in a stagnant relationship
When one is married, I believe that it’s important to do everything possible to make it work. That said, sometimes it’s time to pull the plug. I pray for the wisdom in knowing when a relationship can’t (and shouldn’t) be saved and the strength to walk away when it gets to that point.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Can you be friends with your ex? And is it wise? The answer is in my latest Divorced Moms column!

My latest Divorced Mom column is out!

Can You Be Friends With Your Ex? And Is It Wise?
by Lizzy Smilez                    
April 08, 2014
Fotolia_58252544_XS.jpgEarlier today, I exchanged text messages with my former step daughter, Kelly. I like her very much and respect her opinion. She might be 25 years my junior but in many respects, she's smarter. (By the way, a big shout out to Kelly's mother- and my former nemises- who raised her; she did a fantastic job.) Anyhow, Kelly mentioned her ex boyfriend.

“You’re back together?” I asked.

“We’re friends,” she responded.

Hmmm... yes, friends with the ex.

Which got me to thinking about my experiences with exes. Before I met and married my (now ex) husband, Rob, I had a boyfriend named Dan. We dated for ten months and when we broke up, I was completely done with our romance. I had no bad feelings towards him—we just didn’t work out. I still loved him very much, just not in "that" way. We spent so much time together and he was one of my closest friends and I felt no need to change any of that. The feeling was mutual. Seriously, if someone had paid me loads of money to maintain our former relationship, I wouldn't. But I did, however, want us to continue our deep friendship.

Keep reading... 

Monday, April 7, 2014


On Friday, my friend and fellow myeloma warrior, Jenny, and I met a new friend, Carol, for lunch. We connected with Carol via the Facebook page. She, too, is a myeloma warrior and is treated at Huntsman. She is awesome and forging ties that bind us in fighting this terrible disease is always a blessing. Blessings that come from cancer? Yes, there are so many that I've lost count. And meeting Carol is one of them.

We started talking clothes and spring and shopping. "How the heck did I become an American Fork, Utah mom?" I lamented. "I look in my closet and it's filled with boring Old Navy stuff. That is just not 'me' and it all has to go."

Not to disparage Old Navy. I do like their skinny jeans. They rock and are so comfy and inexpensive. When I first fled my husband and moved from San Diego to Utah, I took whatever clothes could fit into trash bags and moved. One day I was at the bank and I looked at myself in a big mirror. Holy hell, I looked homeless. I was wearing sweats that were way too big for me (I had dropped some serious weight), my hair was lifeless (it was getting ready to fall out, thanks to the awful meds and chemo I was taking), I donned a big huge sweatshirt and Ugg slippers. I went to Walmart and Old Navy and stocked up on all the basics. But before getting sick, in my prior life before getting sick, I shopped differently. Conservative but definitely no housemom here. But inadvertently, that's what I had become. Not that there's anything wrong with that but darnit, how the heck did I get so boring?

I needed a serious pick me up and a change in everything. I felt it in my gut and as much as I tried, I couldn't stop myself from purging and engaging in some serious retail therapy. I told Carol and Jenny at lunch, "Hey, I've been through hell and back and I deserve it."

I started my purge a few weeks ago. Four enormous trash bags went to Goodwill. But I didn't go far enough. I did a second and third purge. Two more trash bags. Gone. Good riddance. The Lizzy Smilez brand is fun, fresh, whimsical, upbeat and a hopeful yet fearless warrior. Take no prisoners. A little vintage, a lot Mad Men, classic, and a little funk in between.

After purging, thinking through the Lizzy brand, the scary/fun part began. I shopped. Oh boy did I shop. The damage is: 27 tops, 1 pair of jeans, nine pairs of shorts, four casual skirts, two cocktail dresses (one in orange and one in white), eight casual summer dresses, four pairs of sandals, a red throw that I can wrap myself up in on the airplane to Venice to stay warm (I am not wearing sweats and a sweatshirt on the plane!), and a deliciously beautiful blazer in this fabric that makes me want to melt. Yikes. I feel a little guilty with the indulgence but not really. (Remember, I went through hell and back so I deserve this.) I feel a little hung over, to be honest, but without the pesky calories and throwing up/making a fool of myself/terrorizing others part. I can't wait for hot weather. I can't wait for the major change in season. I'm excited about sun and warm, hikes in the canyon, long walks along the river... I'm counting the minutes until Venice and GREECE and Turkey and Switzerland and Croatia. Strolling along Lake Como with big hat, and bright yellow ballet flats. Sigh. It's not about the clothes (ok, it sort of is) but it's about the newness.

Two more weeks until Easter. Less than two weeks until Morgan's 14th birthday. Less than seven weeks until we are Venice bound. This week is Spring Break so we can stay up late every night. I love shattering routines. I love different. I love not knowing what's next but figuring it out along the way.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Now this is kinda gutsy

I grew up in a tiny town in California. I hated it. In high school, I counted the days before I could escape and go live somewhere bigger, more cosmopolitan, and have a more exciting life. I dreamed of exploring the world.

When I graduated from high school, I moved to Utah for college. I went to BYU in Provo for a few years before getting kicked out for partying. It was fine because I didn't want to be there anyway. I transferred to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. One day I was walking through the English building a saw a flyer taped on the wall. It was for paid internships in Washington, DC. I still had another year before I graduated but I knew that's what I was going to do next.

I partied like a rock star at BYU. That didn't go so well but I did have fun. My grades were a disaster. One semester, my cumulative gpa was a 1.67. When I finally got to the University of Utah, I was actually ready to study, go to class and graduate. I graduated with a 3.6.

A few months before graduation, I applied for that paid internship and got accepted by the Committee for Education Funding, which was on Capitol Hill. I was to report for work on the Tuesday after Labor Day. I was really excited. One warm afternoon a couple months prior, my roommate, Becky, and I were basking in the sun in our back yard. "Becky, you're a nurse and you can get a job anywhere. Why don't you move to DC with me?"

"Ok," she said. Just like that. "But only if you come with me to Europe."

"Deal." We purchased plane tickets to Paris that very afternoon and I went to the Post Office and got my passport.

In mid August, Becky and I packed up as much as we could in our two cars and we departed for Washington, DC. We had no idea where we would live or exactly how it would all work out but we were going to figure it out along the way. My parents were helping me drive my car and Becky's ex boyfriend, Dan, was helping her drive hers. This was my first big road trip and I was ecstatic to visit all kinds of new states.

This was our last night in Salt Lake City. Dan is on the far right in the white T-shirt. He helped us drive across the country. Emmy is in the front. She moved to Washington, DC, too. She remains one of my best friends on the planet.

We spent our first night on the road in Ogalala, Nebraska. The next day, we got all the way to Cincinnati, Ohio. We stayed at a very nice Marriott and the next day, we went to Kings Island and road rollercoasters. To this day, I've never been on such insane rides. We stayed another night at the Marriott and then spent another day on the road before arriving at another Marriott near the Dulles Airport, which is about 18 miles outside of DC. After a good night's rest, we drove Dan and my parents to Union Station so they could start heading back to Utah. Union Station is located next to the Capitol and Supreme Court. It was the first time I had ever been there. I will never forget how awestruck I was by the city. While Becky drove, I was hanging out of the window taking photos. "These buildings are HUGE!" I almost shouted. The power of the city reverberating through my bones. My heart was pounding and I was just stunned and excited all at the same time.

Becky and I had just one day to "recover" from our long drive across the country before we left our cars at the Dulles Airport Marriott and boarded a flight for Paris. I had never been to Europe either. We spent the next three weeks Eurorailing from Paris to Munich, Zurich, Salzburg, Rome, Nice, Luxumbourg, and Geneva. I flew back to Washington, DC a week earlier than Becky. My friend, Emmy, met me at the airport and drove me to her brother's house. (Emmy was in town for a few days finding an apartment and job before flying back to Salt Lake City to pack up. She moved to DC a month later.) I literally had no home and no idea what to do next. Emmy's brother graciously allowed me to stay at his apartment for a week until Becky would get back.

Becky and I in Paris!


The very next day, I needed to report to my first day on the job at my internship. I didn't even know where I was going or what I should wear. I dug through my suitcase in my car and picked out a skirt and top and, jetlagged, found my way to a metro station, parked my car and got out. I asked someone how I should get to Capitol Hill. Where in Capitol Hill? he asked. Because there are several stops. I didn't know how to answer. Any stop, I responded. I picked Union Station, since that's the only area I knew in DC and when I finally got there, I hailed a taxi and gave the driver the address for my internship. He dropped me off at the front door.

And that's how I started my first day on the job. Jet lagged, homeless, alone, with piles of laundry and no idea what to do next. But that was ok, the adventure was worth it all.

With fellow interns meeting with Senator Byrd of West Virginia. He was one of the most powerful men in Congress, chairing the Appropriations Committee. His office was huge and beautiful with an large fireplace. I loved it. Almost as exciting as hangin' with Senator Byrd was spending time with Congressman Sonny Bono before he died in a skiing accident.

A week later, Becky got back from Paris and I picked her up at the airport. We went directly to look for an apartment. We had no time to waste-- we had to have a home! We heard that Alexandria, Virginia was a good and safe place to live and it was just four miles from Capitol Hill where I was working. Sounded good to us! We picked the first place we toured-- a small one bedroom unfurnished apartment in a gated community with a great community center and pool. We slept on the floor with a few blankets that we had shoved into our cars on the move out. A few days later, we went to Ikea and bought a bed, futon, a bookshelf, a couple of bar stools, and a TV stand. It was a start.

Emmy and I at the Vietnam Wall. In this photo, we were at the outdoor concert on the mall during the festivities of Clinton's inauguration. Notable performers included Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin. It was jam packed with people, very cold, but very fun.

Such was the start of my seven years in Washington, DC. While there, I had a great career. I finished my internship and got my first real job at Chemical Manufacturers Association as a Staff Assistant. I was there for a year before I got my dream job at the National Rifle Association as an Event Services Coordinator. I was promoted a few times and earned a very good income. I bought more furniture, went back to Europe a couple times, and met lots of friends. I went to Clinton's Inaugural Ball and had so much fun purchasing my first real cocktail dress. I attended the Clinton Impeachment Hearings in Congress. I attended a beautiful ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House. And I spent loads of time exploring the underground passages that connected the Capitol from the House and Senate Office Buildings. I loved every minute of my time in DC (minus the traffic and weather).

I took this selfie at the Clinton Inaugural Ball in January 1993. Herbie Hancock and Tony Bennett were the main performers. Some of the celebrities at the ball included Bill Cosby, Geena Davis and Jim Belushi.

We went to New York City countless times while living in Washington, DC. It was just a four hour road trip. We always stayed at the Marriott attached the World Trade Center, which fell on 9/11.

After Becky and I fulfilled our one-year lease on our little apartment, we went our separate ways. Becky got married and I met my friend, Amy (blowing out candles on her birthday cake). We rented a very cute townhouse in Alexandria and lived there for almost three years. I actually started buying real furniture!

My second trip to Europe. After I had a real job and a real income, traveling became a passion. Here I am in Windsor, England in March 1997. There are few things that I love more than hopping on a plane and exploring someplace new. Especially if it's historic and I can learn something, too.

I never would have had any of those experiences if I had allowed myself to be intimidated by the unknown. Because the unknown can be scary. I just did it-- with full confidence that I would be able to figure it all out in some way or another. The adventure was worth it all.

I think that willingness to just go for it has served me well in my fight against Myeloma and leaving my abusive marriage. I didn't know how it would all shake out. I just closed my eyes, said a prayer, and pressed forward. Gutsy? Absolutely. And fearless. And full of hope.