Dear WalMart Family

An open letter to my WalMart coworkers:

I have worked in this store for just over a year, and for WalMart just shy of five. I know most of you don’t really know me, and that’s entirely my own fault. I’m kind of a loner. I don’t smile much. And I’m definitely a little strange. People like me don’t seek out other people. We just do our own thing and go about our lives. And that’s unfortunate. I regret not building any sort of friendships or connections during my time here. That is not to say, however, that I don’t have any parting wisdom to share.

Love your job

Even on the days that you hate it, love your job, and thank the good Lord you have a job. God has blessed me beyond words with steady employment. God has always provided for my family, and now, He is blessing me again with this opportunity to devote more time to being a mommy and (soon) a wife. Most importantly, He is blessing me with an opportunity to devote more time to Him! Yet, even while I trusted God to answer my prayers, I knew there was a chance that what I wanted for me wasn’t the same as what God had in store for me. If things didn’t work out the way they had and I had to hang in there a little longer, would it do anyone any good to be miserable with what I have?

Love your coworkers

We might not all share the same beliefs and opinions. We might not all be good team players. We might not all handle pressure with a cool head.

But we are all in this together.

Gossiping and bickering and acting petty helps no one and hinders everyone.

Love your neighbors as you would love yourself.

Love your manager

I’ve worked every position in retail from seasonal to store manager. Every job has its good and its bad. Your manager isn’t out to get you. In fact, they want you to own your job and be the best at it. They want you to want to come to work and to give all you can. Sometimes it might seem like they’re just picking on you or they don’t like you, but their jobs aren’t easy. So much is riding on their shoulders! Cut them some slack. Have a little empathy. Be forgiving and patient. At the end of the day, they want everyone to succeed.

Love yourself!

God created you in His image, so love yourself, because you are beautifully and wonderfully made! He also made us human, so we are not infallible. Forgive yourself for your faults and let them go. Don’t let a bad 5 minutes turn into a bad 8 hours. Do your best and be proud of what you’ve done.

Most importantly, give thanks

In all things, give thanks! Even when things are going down hill. I have learned that, even when you can’t see Him working, He is working, and boy does He have a plan for you! But God doesn’t work for us! God is self-employed! His plan is for us to glorify Him. So in all things, thank God!

I haven’t enjoyed every day of work, but I have enjoyed working. I will miss this place, and I will miss these people, but God is writing a new chapter in my story. I am so excited for whatever He has in store. I wish all of you the very best. It was truly a pleasure!

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In Ruins

Today had so much potential.

Everything was wrong from the start. I was awake, even before my daughter came to wake me up at 4 am. The migraine that is always there when I wake up was at full force. I was wide awake, and still I snapped at her to go back to bed and not to come into my room until the sun was up. It wasn’t her fault. She was given a task and was just following orders.

I got out of bed on my own accord less than an hour later. I took two fioricets, and I didn’t even count the number of ibuprofen I poured into my hand. By seven, when the sun was finally up, and Bri came again to wake me, the headache was still there. I got up, though.

Bri did exactly as she was told, with minimum resistance from the boys. I made coffee and cereal. I took more aspirin. I told myself “this is going to be a good day. It’s going to be fine.”

Almost as soon as we got to Table Rock, the kids began asking to have our picnic. It wasn’t even lunch time, so I said “no”. Immediately, my already short fuse was being ignited. It was just one thing after the other. A trip all the way up 5,927 stairs to the bathroom. One child who doesn’t want to go in the water, and another that just keeps shouting for me to look at her. What if I look away and this one runs off? Jerry has his hands full with the other one. Then it’s back to “don’t throw sand.” “Don’t run off that far.” Then it’s “don’t climb on me”. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

If I’m honest with myself, I really wanted to have fun today. I wanted the kids to have fun, but I wanted to relax. Instead, I quickly descended into this murky pit of nagging and lecturing because nobody was behaving the way I expected them to.

So we left.

The dagger in my gut was twisted by watching this family, laughing, eating watermelon, actually enjoying their time together on our way out. How is that possible? I wanted that. That’s how today was supposed to be. Instead, it felt like five minutes of letting the kids play before I lost my shit completely and we had to leave.

I cried the entire way home. My head still hurts like nobody’s business, in spite of literally 20 more ibuprofen, and I feel defeated.

How do I get that? What that other family had… you know, that happy together thing? That letting the kids be kids thing? That not giving a shit that your child is probably behaving like an undignified little savage and still enjoying your day thing? How do I get passed this need to have strict discipline where everyone adheres to the rules and falls in line and does exactly what I tell them to do? How do parents parent without that need to keep their children in constant control?

I feel awful.

I don’t know how to get passed this idea that it’s bad parenting to let your kids have choices and freedom if they don’t do everything you tell them to do. What else is discipline?

I just feel like I’m the kind of parent who will never have any kind of handle on grace or patience. I will never get anywhere with any of them. They will always just see me as the lady that makes their food, and does their laundry, and yells a lot.

Today was supposed to be a good day.

For once, I just want my expectations and reality to work together.

Dangerous Prayers

The fall of 2014 was a turbulent time for me, but God forges diamonds under pressure. I don’t think I’ve ever heard God speak in my life, but I heard him then, loud and clear. He led me to a little church in Lyman, and He taught me many things through the words and actions of many people. The biggest lessons I learned, however, came out of the mouth of the pastor of that little church. There are two in particular that are relevant to today’s post.

1) Be careful what you pray for, because you might just get it, and it won’t be what you thought it was.

2) Sometimes the devil wraps up his evil deeds to look like blessings so that he can wreak havoc on your life.

There are two prayers I believe you shouldn’t ever pray unless you are fully prepared for God to throw out all the stops when it comes to shaping you and testing you. Never pray for patience. You will not magically wake up with the patience of a saint. Instead, you will break your foot in the dumbest, must unbelievable way possible, and spend months trying to just live your life like a normal person.

Or so I’ve heard.

You should also never pray for His will to be done, unless you’re fully prepared for the possibility of your will and His will being two completely different things. I made that mistake in a huge way, and it has cost Jerry dearly.

You see, this film project was never supposed to be anything more than just a project. It turned into a big deal pretty quickly. We thought it was God opening a door. Now I’m not so sure exactly whose hand was on the doorknob. Until March, everything seemed to be coming together just right. Then things were said, stuff was misconstrued, and filming came to an abrupt halt. We thought we found the root of the problem, but we were wrong.

Privately, I was asked to convince Jerry to make a decision regarding the film that I knew he didn’t want to make. My loyalty him won, and, instead of convincing him, I told him that I was asked to convince him. He was unsure. I told him to pray about it. I prayed too, but, instead of praying for the success of the film, I prayed “thy will be done”.

Needless to say, the film is cancelled, and boy have some people’s true colors been revealed. We are both incredibly hurt by the lack of empathy, the complete disregard for professionalism, and the invasion of his personal life, for the sake of one person’s reputation.

Never mind the fact that Jerry’s name is on the line here, too.

Maybe all of this was a clever rouse created by the devil just to try and tear us apart.

Maybe this was God making diamonds out of coal.

Maybe I prayed the hard prayers, and we just have to learn to follow God’s path for us without question.

I can’t help but feel guilty, however, for praying a prayer that lead to all of this falling apart.

Discontent

In 2014, it was estimated that 1 out of 20 women, aged 20 and under, would terminate an unwanted pregnancy. In 2002, I was that 1, and it was a decision that would plague me with feelings of guilt and regret for rest of my life. I don’t expect anyone to understand the fear I had in my heart back then. I couldn’t go home, and if I didn’t make that choice, would I still have a place to live? I had never been on my own before, and I was incredibly naive about how the world worked.

Later, I would find myself married and desperately wanting a child without it ever seeming to happen. We weren’t actively trying… but we weren’t actively preventing it, either. After nearly a decade, and late into my twenties, I was certain that I was being punished for what I had done.

I would never have an actual family because I wasted my one and only chance.

When my daughter finally came along, I was overjoyed, and I thought I was finally going to have the family of my dreams. Unfortunately, life never goes according to plan. My marriage ended in a sudden burst of lies and infidelity. I wanted white picket fences, and he wanted something younger and thinner.

As I look back, I realize that I was more devastated by the loss of a dream than I was by the loss of a husband. I knew he’d cheated before. I chose to look the other way. I pressed forward, choosing to keep my head down and focus on my daughter.

Living my life as a single parent of an only child wasn’t as difficult as it could have been. Despite his indiscretions, her father has always been there for her. But having adults in her life hasn’t made her childhood less lonely. Ever since she could talk, my daughter has asked for a baby sister. I’ve told her numerous times that that isn’t up to me. I didn’t expect to ever find myself in a relationship again, least of all one that would lead to another marriage. It was unlikely she would ever have siblings.

As fate would have it, I met somebody amazing… and he already had children!

I must admit, trying to blend a family has had many difficult moments. Combining different parenting tactics and discipline methods leads to disagreements. And, as it turns out, siblings don’t need to be related at all to be rivals. There is also this unexpected emotional detachment that I struggle with… it’s this mutual knowledge that I’m neither their mother, nor are they my children. It’s this feeling that there will never be a connection or any kind of understanding between us like I have with my daughter. On one hand, I know that the inability to be respectful or to follow directions has nothing to do with me. Bri struggles with that at times, but I can’t help to feel like I’m failing on some level, and that the lack of a biological connection has a deep impact.

It doesn’t help that I am constantly being asked by coworkers and acquaintances when I’m going to have another. People seem to expect this whole “Yours, Mine, and Ours” scenario to play out exactly like in the movies.

The deeply cynical part of me wants to reply with “well God only let me have two, and I killed the first one, so no. I don’t deserve another one.” Just for salt in the wound, I got to experience two more that didn’t last. At least God sees fit to make sure my back is to my child now whenever she asks for a baby sister, and He keeps my throat from closing up whenever someone says “you should have another one.” As if it’s my choice.

If I could just figure out how to get our little mix-matched family to feel cohesive, then maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much when people ask me when the next one is coming. Or maybe people could just stay in their own lane and stop asking.

I’m just so frustrated!

I have an amazing fiancé, and I love his children. I just think sometimes that they see me as an obnoxious live-in babysitter, and that it will always be this way. We don’t have any kind of bond. It’s discouraging.

I don’t know why I continue to have expectations that children that aren’t mine will respect me when my own doesn’t actually respect me. And I guess it wouldn’t normally be such a big deal, except it’s Mother’s Day, and I feel like I’m failing.

The house is a mess.

The kids are being loud.

My voice is actually raspy from the nagging, fussing, and pleading for good behavior. I would saw off my left leg just for them to be nice to each other and have some kind of obedience.

I feel overwhelmed and depressed, and I just can’t find the energy or the desire to pick myself up and take care of things like I’m supposed to.

What’s the point anyway? I’ll just have to do it all again later anyway.

Word To Your Mother

I bought groceries today. I know that sounds insignificant, but considering how tired I am basically all the time, it’s kind of a big deal. Besides, we were out of cereal, and all three kids will be here this weekend. I’m pretty excited that I purchased a couple cans of those pop&fresh cinnamon rolls for Sunday for breakfast, but it didn’t occur to me that Sunday is, in fact, Mother’s Day.

“Wait. You’re making breakfast on Mother’s Day?” One of my friends was surprised at this revelation. I know breakfast in bed sounds amazing, but let’s be realistic for just a second here. I’ve been single for 5/7 of the Mother’s Days since becoming a mother. My daughter is just now old enough to really understand it as a regularly occurring holiday. It really is just another Sunday. She will bring me something adorable she made at school. I will treasure it endlessly. And we’ll go to church.

And that will be the end of it.

“I told Jerry that he scheduled filming on Mother’s Day.” Same friend. Still flabbergasted.

Also duly noted. Everyone’s fine with it, besides…

I’m not the actual mother of any of his children.

Why on earth should he or would he honor me for that?

I’m just “dad’s fiancé”.

I don’t expect his boys to ever call me “mom” or even consider me worthy of such a title. In fact, I would be fine if they would just keep their room clean and keep the shouting to a minimum. I’m barely a good mother to my biological child. I don’t know why anyone would think I deserve recognition for helping keep their children alive. I’m just winging this. I honestly have no idea what I’m doing. At this point, attempting to make me feel special on Mother’s Day would be like giving me a participation trophy.

“You’re not very good at this, and you yell a lot, but you are trying, so here’s some flowers.”

I’m good thanks. All I want on Sunday is for everyone to get up at a reasonable time so we can go to church, and for the kids to behave while Jerry films whichever scene we are filming that day. You can keep your flowers and mimosas and breakfast in bed. I don’t mind making breakfast on Mother’s Day. I’m not the kind of mother you celebrate anyway.

On second thought, I’ll take the mimosas. You can keep the rest.

This Life is Just a Rough Draft

I haven’t written anything in months… not for myself, anyway. What can I say? So much of this year has been one new and unexpected experience after another. I could never have foreseen myself involved in the film industry in any fashion, and yet, here I sit in my car with a finished script in my lap. The weirdness of it all is oddly coincidental in retrospect. Some time ago, I sat in my English 101 class, watching “Rocky” while my professor made claims about how it was one of the best written scripts of all time. Unbeknownst to me, I would find myself eventually sitting at the kitchen table, being given a copy of that same screenplay as an example for writing my first script. And even after writing my first one, I definitely had no idea I would write a longer, more impactful one in less than a year. And yet, here we are.. deep in the filming process with serious investors and prominent players in the industry watching with keen interest as we piece together a dream into reality.

And yet, still, I am unsettled and wary. This isn’t exactly my dream. And it certainly is not for the faint of heart. While our esteemed director continuously praises God for wins and successes, I watch and worry over silent and unmentioned failures and struggles. There are so many facets to this process that go unnoticed from the outside. This is an expensive and time consuming process. It isn’t easy on a family, and it weighs constantly on my spirit.

I try to carry this burden in silence, because I know that Jerry has a lot on his plate right now. He is trying to establish a business, make a film, and build a legacy. I’m just trying to keep it together. I’m torn somewhere between being an adequate business partner and giving as much support as I can, and being a good mother and future-spouse. I often question if I’m doing enough or if my priorities are in the right place, and sometimes I battle with myself that it isn’t really my priorities that are the problem.

There have been so many times during this journey when I’ve let my inherent selfishness win out of loneliness and desperation to be the center of attention. I know that it’s wrong, and it often leads me down a path of self destructive thoughts: I’m helpless in this entire process. I’m in the way. I’m causing drama. I’m screwing up.

Nobody said this would be easy. I have no idea why I keep thinking otherwise.

Jerry said to me yesterday that he spent some time talking to God. He said that he knew what he was meant for, but that he needed a road map.

I feel like I don’t even have a destination, and it’s wearing me down in a way that I’m having trouble keeping to myself. I am in desperate need of something, anything really, to just show me that I have an actual purpose in all of this, and that I’m not just someone’s backup.

I don’t feel needed or useful. And those are two of the things I crave most in life.

I feel like a paycheck and a babysitter, and a chef and a maid.

And I know without a shadow of a doubt that those are not true, that I’m more than that and that I’m valued… but the feeling is still there and nothing I do can shake it.

A Trucker’s Tale

I had a lot of fun with the last photo blog I posted, and I thought it would be a great idea to try it again. This time, however, I thought it would be fun to follow Murdock throughout his day.

Then I remembered that I have my own job that I’m financially obligated to return to on a daily basis. So I asked Murdock to entertain one of my wild hairs, and supply me with pictures of his day, but without context. It would be up to me to fill in the blanks. If you know Murdock, then you know that any opportunity he has to use a camera (or camera phone) he is happy to oblige. He did not disappoint.

I don’t think it’s necessary to state here that Murdock is a truck driver by trade. I have driven him to work a few times, but every time I’ve dropped him off, his truck was outside. I can only assume his truck was being fueled up in this shot, unless the company he drives for has a special garage reserved only for their best drivers. Of course Murdock would have VIP parking.

It’s been a while since I got to call Murdock early in the morning, but I used to all the time, and I would always ask if he got his coffee. Neither of us are casual coffee drinkers, but Murdock, especially, needs a steady supply. I’m not sure exactly where he was delivering to in this shot, but it’s obvious that he knows the man on the forklift. I suspect that the forklift operator is one of Murdock’s many connections. He knows lots of people who also know lots of, usually, important and prominent people. Mr. Forklift Operator probably has connections to President Trump and Steven Spielberg.

I’ve never gotten to ride with Murdock. I want to one day. Maybe then he can show me what all of these buttons do. I’m fairly certain at least one turns his semi into a rocket ship and another is for the ejection seats.

Murdock insists that I work harder than he does. He is constantly getting in and out of his truck to unhook and hook up trailers, turn in paperwork, cleaning out trailers, and dozens of other things that can’t compare to my retail job. He is by far the hardest working man that I know, and he is genuinely good at what he does.

I have a knack for calling right when Murdock has to unhook a trailer. I’m pretty confident this is what he was doing when he took this shot. I’m sure he perfectly backed one of these trailers up to the dock in record time, gave himself a pat on the back, and drank some more coffee.

He even smoked a celebratory cigarette.

Murdock has been driving for a long time. I know that he hates it. I would give anything for him to be in a studio and behind a camera instead of on the open road. In spite of that, I’m a little jealous that he has these moments of quiet, open road while I’m stuck in a building dealing with actual people.

I am equally envious of views like this. This is everything I love about the South. You can drive a mile or two in almost any direction and find farmland. It’s a peaceful break in the urban waves. It’s a reminder that the kind of life we want to have is still there.

Murdock always tells me “I’m at my second home” when he goes to Sandy Springs, but whenever he says he’s going to Michelin, I assume he’s going to Greenville. He probably delivered a ton of pallets of rubber strips or something tire related.

I can only assume this is part of a loading dock or something. If it is, how in the world is it so clean??? Where’s the scuff marks and scratches from less skilled drivers backing in too hard?

He was probably dropping a trailer somewhere else at this point. It looks like some sort of chemical plant. Murdock probably also knows tons of important people here, too.

Did I mention how amazing he is at his job? He parallel parked this big truck like it was nothing. I can’t even park straight in a normal parking spot! And he wonders why I always hand him my keys when we are going somewhere…

Apparently he had his truck converted to rubber materials while at Michelin. I’m sure this will make his tight turns so much easier. Why he hasn’t bragged about this at all is beyond me.

I love Murdock’s perspective of things. When he takes a photo, he is able to give it meaning. This one, for me, causes a sense of nostalgia. This one is one of my favorites.

I will always argue that he works hard. He doesn’t belong on the highway, and I feel at ease when his hands are holding mine instead of a steering wheel.

I’m not sure if he dropped this trailer there or if that’s where he found it. I would like to imagine he didn’t know what to do with it, so he casually ditched it in an empty lot so he could go home sooner. “This is fine,” he would say, with a shrug, and drive away as if nothing happened. “Nothing to see here, guys!”

He probably gets tired of holding this. I’m pretty sure he was almost done with his day at this point, ready to drop his last trailer, turn in his paperwork, and clock out.

Safety first. No “Jerry Alarms” here. That’s an inside joke. In all seriousness, I’m glad he’s safe at work. It means I’m worrying for no reason, and that’s somehow relieving.

I’m almost certain this is what the trailer hookups look like. I think he’s talked about it enough that I don’t have to see it to recognize it. I could be wrong. It could be some high tech top secret something only truck drivers know about.

I hate it when it rains while he’s on the road. Driver’s around here seem to forget everything the moment the sky turns gray. Murdock is amazing at what he does, but he can’t control what other people do.

I was excited to receive this photo. Either the interior of his truck underwent a sudden transformation, or that’s the dash of his car.

Murdock isn’t always home before the sun sets. I am glad when he is, but there are times when I’ve gone to bed well before he can even think about calling it a night. Any day that he can call it a day while it is actually still day time is a good day.

I should note that my favorite part about this photo-blog was how enthusiastic Murdock was about contributing to it. His willingness to not only indulge my creative whims, but to endure my oddities is truly a gift. I can’t imagine my life without this man. I also can’t wait until he can fully devote his time to filmmaking instead of dodging bad drivers and navigating narrow roads. Until then, if you’re driving near one of these guys, give them some room. One of ’em’s mine, and I want him home in one piece.