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“Write What You Know” by Matt Rozsa

This literary aphorism may have been penned by Mark Twain, but it could have very easily been said by Cady McClain, the daytime television star (All My Children, As The World Turns, The Young and the Restless) whose memoirs, Murdering My Youth, were released on Amazon in April. Unlike many similar books published by public figures, Cady does not use this as an opportunity to indulge in celebrity gossip or promote future projects in her career. Instead she confronts a number of themes that forever simmer beneath the surface of her story – child abuse, the entertainment industry’s exploitation of young stars, female objectification – that, when they do bubble up, scald everything they touch.

While Cady isn’t the first writer to touch upon many of these subjects, her book is unique because of the degree to which it illuminates the whole by coming to an understanding of a small part. She doesn’t set out to preach or globalize her individual experiences, but simply to tell her story. It just so happens that, in the process of taking us on her own journey through memories that have “allowed me to negotiate this collective awfulness that we must sometimes call existence,” she winds up offering insights that will help her readers do the same thing.

​Take, for instance, this passage from the close of her book, where she summarizes the long-term effects of child abuse on its victims. Although lengthy, it deserves to be quoted in full:

“Adults from abusive homes do not easily trust others. We are very sensitive to criticism and have little confidence in ourselves. Our internal world generally vacillates between despair and rage. Joy peeks out sometimes with the help of alcohol or drugs, but it’s not a real joy—it’s a simulated one. It is a joy that can only exist because something is blocking the pain. Even in that state of manufactured aliveness, we are easily influenced by the ideas of others. We feel like freaks. We fear our own needs. We look to others: lovers, husbands, children, to help us change our lives or ourselves, and when they cannot we despair.”

There are many incidents of abuse to which Cady is referring here. The most heinous among them, of course, was the sexual abuse perpetrated by her father, who molested her when she was eight years old. This was naturally a formative event in Cady’s life, and she traces her evolving attempts to cope with the trauma – from confusion and defensiveness as a little girl and betrayal by her therapist to her struggles with her sexuality as a teenager and adult – with admirable candor. These sections are often uncomfortable to read (as they should be), but they are among the most courageous of her book.

​Beyond that is the abuse experienced by a little girl who was denied her own childhood. It is here that the dark side of a life spent in show business is drawn into starkest relief. We see Cady experience a grueling work schedule (and never get to keep the money earned from it), labor every day to support her emotionally unstable mother (both as a child and then, after she receives a breast cancer diagnosis, during her adulthood), and miss out on the fundamental developmental experiences that make childhood so wonderful. Even as she describes the upsides of this lifestyle – her ability to escape into the worlds of the fictional characters she got to play, to reach out to others who are as lonely as herself – one can’t shake the sense that, as such puts it so well, “Once youth is sacrificed to the movie gods, it cannot be returned.”

​Yet even many of the people most responsible for Cady’s childhood suffering aren’t robbed of all sympathy. Particularly poignant is Cady’s account of her mother’s heartbreaking ordeal after being abandoned by her father for a younger, more attractive woman. At one point, after her mother had assaulted her father’s mistress with keys in a blind rage, Cady recalls that “as my mother stood defeated and un-chosen, I had a deep pang of compassion for her. It was awful to see her so humiliated… fat and shaking and covered with blood and tears.”

​It is impossible to read this without juxtaposing it with the conditions Cady describes in show business, where women find their value inextricably tied to their beauty and are so often reduced to “shark chum.” The social standards that objectify women, which had left Cady’s mother broken and alone, had also helped Cady carve out a substantial career for herself – and yet also left her, if not broken and alone, then certainly wounded and struggling to come to grips with the meaning behind her scars.

​As the themes of child abuse and female objectification writhe and coil throughout Cady’s narrative, the importance of Twain’s earlier quote becomes clear: The story in Murdering My Youth may be specific to Cady, but its relevance is universal. Anyone who has been abused by their parents or other loved ones, regardless of the exact nature of that abuse, can understand what Cady means when she says “We feel like freaks. We fear our own needs.” No woman alive today can be insensitive to Cady’s determination, as well as that of her mother, to be viewed as a human being instead of the sum of her physical parts.

​When Twain urged authors to write what they knew, it was because he understood that the most meaningful stories are the ones that come directly from our own hearts. Murdering My Youth, ripped from the soul of its author, is exactly what he had in mind.

To learn more about Matt Rozsa and read more of his articles, click HERE Continue reading “Write What You Know” by Matt Rozsa

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My Interview with Entertainment Tonight

I am so pleased to be able to share some of my story with the broader public via the generosity of the people at ET and the warmth and kindness of Cameron Matthison.  If you missed the interview on air, here it is in it’s longer version.

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Roles in an Alcoholic Family

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 4.30.44 PMI grew up in an alcoholic family system.  The illness in my family effected all who were in it, or around it.  It took me years to recover.  To this day, my recovery is a practice, a never ending series of decisions and growing awarenesses.

I have learned that alcoholism is only one face of addiction.  There are many things to have addictive relationships with: anger, sex, shopping, food, exercise, TV, sugar, drugs, pills, work, gambling, even the internet!  Here is a good definition of addiction from Psychology Today.  In effect, addiction is a compulsive reaction to stressors, a need to take action rather than deal with or “feel through” the feeling that is bothering you.

Typically, an addict will deny their behavior because they feel it is essential to their surviving whatever stress they feel. Addiction is compulsive and yet cunning. It is important to note that being an addict doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a person who has something to overcome. So many of today’s heroes are people who have overcome great obstacles!

In order to help myself overcome what I experienced growing up, I find it is very helpful to continue to look at the behavior and emotions around alcoholism/addiction, as well as its effect on those around it.

The following is attributed to a book that is, unfortunately, no longer available by M. Davis, called “Surviving An Alcoholic Family.” I find it a very clear description of the roles we are often assigned in a family struggling with alcoholism/addiction. If you recognize yourself in one of these roles, please do not feel ashamed or hurt by it. You are also not a bad person, but someone who is seeking wisdom and happiness! Those who seek are those who want to find!

Awareness is always the first step toward healing.

The Alcoholic

- other family members revolve around this person
- likely to be experiencing quite a bit of pain and shame even though they may not see it as the result of excessive alcohol or drug use
- as things get worse, the alcoholic is faced with increasing feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy, fear, and loneliness
- develop a number of defenses to hide their shame and guilt – may include irrational anger, charm, rigidity, grandiosity, perfectionism, social withdrawal, hostility, and depression
- project blame or responsibility for their problems onto others including family members who take on unhealthy roles in order to survive


- children of alcoholics feel guilty for their failure to save their parents from the effects of alcohol

- “The alcoholic parent is not satisfied with his own childhood, he wants yours too… When the father vanishes into alcohol, the son/daughter lingers and lingers, searching for a lost part of him/herself.”

Codependent/Enabler/Caretaker
- steps up and takes control if the alcoholic loses power
- enabling is anything that protects the chemically dependent person from the consequences of their actions
- spouse often takes on the role, but children and siblings can also be enablers (multigenerational alcoholic families will sometimes designate a child in this role, a sign of more serious pathology)
- tends to everyone’s needs in the family
- loses sense of self in tasks of a domestic nature
- never takes the time to assess his/her own needs and feelings
- person never gains what they need most in order to get better: insight
- never are confronted with the facts that would drive home the point: drugs or alcohol are destroying their lives and their family
- as long as the enabler and the chemically dependent family members play their game of mutual self-deception, things never get better – they get worse
- others cannot bond with the caretaker due to the bustle of activity
Caretaker’s purpose: to maintain appropriate appearances to the outside world.

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Hero
- high achiever; takes focus off the alcoholic because of his/her success; perfectionist; feels inadequate; compulsive; can become a workaholic
- alcoholic bestows this role onto the individual whose accomplishments compensate for the alcoholic’s behavior
- often the oldest child who may see more of the family’s situation and feels responsible for fixing the family pain
- child excels in academics, athletics, music or theatre
- gets self worth from being “special”
- rest of family also gets self worth (“we can’t be that bad if one of us is successful”) – his/her deeds assure the family that their definition is more than alcohol
- hero does not receive attention for anything besides an achievement; therefore, inner needs are not met
- he/she loses the ability to feel satisfied by whatever feat he/she has manifested
- as things get worse, the hero is driven to higher and higher levels of achievement. No level of super responsible, perfectionist, over achievement can remove the hero’s internalized feelings of inadequacy, pain, and confusion
- many others grow up to become workaholics and live under constant stress as they work in the service of others seeking approval for their extraordinary effort
- they often end up distancing themselves from their family of origin
- interestingly, many family heroes grow to marry alcoholics and become enablers
Hero’s purpose: to raise the esteem of the family.

Scapegoat
- goes against rules; acts out to take the focus off the alcoholic; feels hurt & guilt; because of behavior, can bring help to family
- lightening rod for family pain and stress
- direct message is that they are responsible for the family’s chaos
- family assigns all ills to the person who harbors this role, e.g. “Mom would not drink so much if (Scapegoat’s name) were not always in trouble.”
- in reality the misbehavior of the Scapegoat serves to distract and provide some relief from the stress of chemical dependency
- child has issues with authority figures as well as negative consequences with the law, school and home
- on the inside the child is a mass of frozen feelings of anger and pain
- may show self-pity, strong identification with peer values, defiance, and hostility or even suicidal gestures
- this role may seem strange in purpose. However, if there were no scapegoat, all other roles would dismantle. He/she allows others a pretense of control
- alcohol is not identified as an issue – often, the scapegoat is identified as ‘The Problem.’
Scrapegoat’s purpose: puts the focus away from alcohol thereby allowing the alcoholic to continue drinking.

Mascot/Cheerleader/Clown
- uses humor to lighten difficult family situations; feels fear; others see him/her as being immature; limited by bringing humor to all situations even if inappropriate
- this individual most popular in the family; brings fun and humour into the family
- learn to work hard at getting attention and making people laugh especially when the anger and tension of substance use are dangerously high
- often named a class clown in school; frequently demonstrates poor timing for the comic relief; most people don’t take this child seriously
- often hyperactive, charmers, or cute
- inside, they feel lonely knowing no one really knows the real person behind the clown’s mask
- may grow up unable to express deep feelings of compassion
- may put themselves down often as well as cover up their pain with humour
- accepts laughter as approval, but the humor serves to hide inner painful feelings
- the laughter prevents healing rather than produces it
Mascot’s purpose: to provide levity to the family; to relieve stress and tension by distracting everyone.
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Lost Child
- no connection to family; brings relief to family by not bringing attention to the family; feels lonely; does not learn communication and relationship skills
- has much in common with scapegoat – neither feels very important
- disappears from the activity of the family
- sees much more than is vocalized
- reinforced for causing no problems
- build quiet lives on the edges of family life and are seldom considered in family decisions
- they hide their hurt and pain by losing themselves in the solitary world of short-term pleasure including excessive TV, reading, listening to music, drugs, object love, eating and fantasy
- favorite places for the lost child are in front of the T.V. as well as in his/her room
- due to the sedentary lifestyle, a lost child tends to have issues with weight
- as adults they feel confused and inadequate in relationships
- may end up as quiet loners with a host of secondary issues such as: sexuality problems, weight problems, excessive materialism, or heavy involvement in fantasy
Lost child’s purpose: does not place added demands on the family system; he/she is low maintenance.

In my experience, it is easy to fall into more than one of these categories. Sometimes I was “the scapegoat” in my home of birth, other times “the mascot,” and other times “the hero.” As I moved into having adult relationships, I was often an “enabler,” while feeling like “the lost child” within myself.

Now I know that I do not need to be any one of these things. There is a greater role I must BE: that of my authentic self. If I sense that I am falling into a role, or having one put upon me, I can recognize that this is only an old, familiar system, and I do not have to play the part that is being thrust upon me. Nor do I have to react or respond to any accusations. I know who I am, and I know what the truth is, for me.

I hope this blog has been of some insight or help for those of you struggling with similar upbringings or issues.

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Love,

Cady

 

 

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Kindness

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 10.27.52 AMYesterday, I was on set talking to Peter Bergman and one of the Y&R directors, Owen Renfroe, about a kiss that was to occur at a particular part of a scene. It is my belief that there are all kinds of kisses. Some are passionate, some are full of love, and some come out of compassion and kindness.

Kindness gets a bad rap sometimes. It can be equated with weakness. One of my favorite sayings is, “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness” because sometimes it takes an enormous amount of strength to be kind, especially to someone that hurt you. Kindness can be  a courageous act.

Peter got excited about this concept and shared with us a really lovely college convocation speech by the author George Saunders. You can read it in full HERE but here is a little starter.

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Now, the million-dollar question: What’s our problem? Why aren’t we kinder?

Why aren’t we kinder? What is it in our culture that has suddenly equated cruelness with honesty? I don’t think we’ve always been this way. I don’t think we’ve always been a culture filled with violence, bullying, and self-interest. I don’t even really believe it is in our nature to be mean. I think we’ve simply made it into a habit.

There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf — seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.

Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

I think Kindness can become a habit, just like meanness. And it’s fruits are far more bountiful. In our scene, it made my character feel more loved, and as if she might be able to trust a man once more and is helping her make her own generosity grow. In my own life, my husband Jon’s kindness has made me feel just the same way.

Forgive and be kind. Forgive and be kind. Or at least… strive to be kind.

You never know what another person is battling with inside themselves.

 

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A Nose Knows

 

The nose has it.
The nose has it.

This morning I discovered that quite a few people do a google search on my nose. This totally cracks me up. Why in the heck are some people obsessed with a nose that is not “average?”

My nose has been called everything from a “beak” to “stately,” pretty much right to my face. Trust me, I am aware that my shnoz projects past the usual sniffer. I used to joke when I was a teenager that I had a “Judd Nelson” nose, and could stick a big martini olive inside each nostril without an issue.

The fact is, I have inherited my dad’s nose, which had quite a bulb on the end, and got bigger as he aged. Not exactly something to look forward to, but considering I don’t drink as much as he did, there is a chance I might escape the dreaded honker. Then again, I might not.  What to do, what to do…

Many a time I have looked in the mirror and adjusted my nose with my fingers to see what I would look like with a smaller nose, or at least smaller nostrils. I can see it would make a nice difference, but once you go under the knife… there’s no going back.

Oh yes... I see the resemblance.
Oh yes… I see the resemblance.

 

Then this happened: a fellow (with a rather large proboscis) who worked in the building I was living in (in NYC)  told me said he remembered watching me in my early days on AMC. He told me he liked my character because I had a big nose, like him. He said seeing me on TV made him feel better about HIS nose.

I mean… how could I get a nose job after that??

My nose seems to make a statement, and whether or not you like that statement… well, that’s up to you.  But I think I get some credit for having never cut off my nose to spite my face. Yes, I would look more like your average pretty lady with smaller nostrils, that’s for certain, but then I wouldn’t look like “me.”

Might as well roll with it and love the big nose!

inspiration

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Choices

Georgia O'Keefe quoteEvery day, all day, I feel the choices I have to make dogging me: Am I going to be in fear or faith today? Am I going to be strong, or give in and finish the last of that bottle of white wine with a bag of peanut M&M’s?

Sometimes I make choices out of discomfort: because I am afraid of what other’s think of me, because I want to be liked, or because I am not feeling good about myself. I don’t like how I feel when I make choices from this place of self-doubt. It always feels like I am not accepting my vulnerability, which is a real part of who I am. Fragility is not the same as weakness.

When I’m feeling particularly challenged, I try to call up what my self-created “inner wise woman” would say. I imagine her wearing lots of beads and interesting prints, with long grey hair wrapped up in a bun, or over her shoulder in a braid.

She says to me, “Everyone is afraid, most of the time. Try and remember this.  The greatest gift you can give yourself is the companionship of people wiser than yourself. Seek them out. Lean on their wisdom. And be kind–they came by it hard, just like you.”

Since I released my book into the world, people have asked me, “How did you do it? How did you liberate yourself from all that inner turmoil?” I have been thinking about it for some time now, and I think I can say, it was a choice. I chose to fight. I chose to believe that I deserved better. I chose to believe that I was strong enough to get through whatever pain I was feeling to get to the other side.

It’s a small thing, a choice, in the moment, but very powerful.

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“Murdering My Youth” and Y&R

You might not believe it, but it’s a totally BIZARRE coincidence that I am both releasing my book, “Murdering My Youth,” publicly, and having my first air day on Y&R TOMORROW, April 16th. I assure you, I planned to release the book in March, and then one hundred and one things got in the way. When I was able to get down to the nitty gritty of dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” it took far longer than I anticipated. Then Michael Logan asked when it would be ready and I forced myself to set a date. Which I missed. Then it just happened that his article and my release date coincided. Magical, weird, wonderful… and SCARY!

Yes, being on Y&R has been a whirlwind: great writing, incredible actors, an amazing directing and producing team… it’s really a dream come true. And let’s not forget the fantastic Peter Bergman, who has been my sherpa, so to speak, helping me get into the groove of the studio et al. I count my blessings every single day.

As for the book: I am offering a better price on my website (order form below or just email me at blueglitterfish@aol.com) for those who want an autographed copy, or just want it cheaper.  It may take me an extra day or two getting to you, but it will cost $9.99 plus shipping from me. I have to ask a bit more on Amazon and Create Space since they take such a big bite out of the price (I see 5 bucks from the $15.25) however, you will be able to buy the ebook version there, which I can’t provide, and the book itself will probably get to you much faster.

I must warn you: the book is intense. It is also FUNNY, (as they say, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Fart, and you fart alone”) but I don’t want to sugar coat it. It’s my story of my upbringing and it’s a real one. I won’t blame you if the book is not for you, (I’ve thrown one or two books across the room, myself) but I DO hope you check out Y&R if you haven’t already! I’m having a BALL and I think the story is wonderful. Good, old-fashioned, daytime DRAMA!

Yea SOAPS!

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My Book: “Murdering My Youth”

cover design by Andre Provedel, photo by Courtney Lindberg

Cover design by Andre Provedel, Photo by Courtney Lindberg
Cover design by Andre Provedel, Photo by Courtney Lindberg

I just had the honor of being interviewed by Michael Logan for TV Guide. Look for his article in the April 21st issue!

In the article you will find out that my book, Murdering My Youth, is being released April 15th.

You will be able to buy it through my website or on Amazon. I am doing my best to make sure it is at a reasonable price as things are still tough out there.

If you would like to pre-order or have a signed copy write to me at blueglitterfish@aol.com or use the contact form below.  I will contact you to arrange payment and shipping.

Thank you in advance for your support of this book.  A warning: it is a fast read but not a light one. Issues of child abuse, death, trauma, and grief are dealt with in detail. Yes, there is humor, and sometimes there is strong language but I do not mean to offend, minimize, or sensationalize. My hope is that in sharing my story those who can relate will feel less shame, those who once judged will feel more compassion, and those who suffer in silence will consider reaching out for help.

 

 

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The Young and The Restless: Day One

The Young and the RestlessWhere to begin… let’s start with how INCREDIBLY LUCKY I feel to have been asked to come and work on this amazing show.  The people are so nice, the sets are awesome, the writing is fantastic… I could go on and on…

I got up at 5:30 AM this morning (yowsa!) and after my new routine of hot water and lemon first thing in the morning (really, don’t knock it ’till you try it) I drove to CBS Television City, which is right next to The Grove.  (When I was a kid it was only the Farmers Market.  Now when I say that people ask “Which one?” as if I mean an outdoor fruit and vegetable market!)  I drove into the Fairfax entrance and got my parking pass from the guard pinching myself to make sure it was all real.

Then I found my way up to the hair and makeup room where the lovely and talented Kathy Jones graced me with a face for television.  The first person I can remember (hello, no caffeine) coming up to me is Amelia Heinle, who was on All My Kids but also on Loving back in the day.  The Loving studio was right across the hall from AMC, so we got to see a lot of one another for a few years, waving across a crowded hallway!

Well, as you might have imagined, she was absolutely lovely.  It was so nice to see her.  I know she’s playing “Victoria,” “Billy’s” wife (for you who have not yet tuned in to the glories of Y&R my character, “Kelly,” had a one night stand with “Billy” and screwed up their marriage) so she and I will get to glare at each other now and then… or rather, she will glare and me and I will cower appropriately.

Then I met the delightful David Tom, who is the brother of Heather Tom and such a nice guy.  Of course we laughed at his character’s terrible luck these days!

Suddenly, Peter Bergman flew into the dressing room and said, “Cady McClain!” swooping in to give me two big smooches! (Friendly ones, of course!) It was SO nice to see him after all these years… I think the last time was in 2004, when I was in Los Angeles for something-or-other.  I reminded him what he said to me then.

“Cady McClain!  You always land on your feet!”

I just loved that.  Never forgot it.

We were soon all called down to the set to get dry blocking.  The director today was Casey Childs, from All My Children.  We knocked out his excellent blocking in a jiffy… and oh, I also got to see Kristoff St. John, who I have run into 100 times at various events, ever since we were kids… you know, back when the earth was cooling.  SUCH a nice guy.  He likes to give a lot of razz to one of the stage managers, Herbie, who is as cute as his name.

Peter was nice enough to fill me in on some of the details of “Kelly” and “Jack’s” history.  I knew a fair amount from the producers and writers, but those little details that can only come from a fellow actor were so helpful.  Then I had to tromp back up to hair and makeup to get my hair more fabulous, and then to my dressing room where, voila, my costume was awaiting me.

Back at AMC and ATWT (As the World Turns) we always had to pick up and return our costumes so I gotta say, I was feeling pretty damn fancy.

After I was all dolled up, Peter and I had some time to do some catching up about old pals we both knew and remembered fondly, as well as the wonderful examples actors like David Canary and James Mitchell set for us. We both felt so lucky to experience those golden days.

Soon we were called down to the set and I got an RF mike, which is a microphone that is attached to your body via a wire.  It really helps when you are deep in a set where the booms (microphones on a long pole attached to a stand) can’t reach you.  We had a very nice dress rehearsal and then some notes and then recorded our scenes for you all to watch!  I don’t want to tell you too much about this process, but let’s just say it is GREAT to work with PETER and DAVID!  Such PROS!  I LOVE THAT!

Oh and they did a really nice thing for me: the stage manager announced my name to everyone and they all applauded to welcome me to the show.  I mean, seriously.  I don’t know if I’ve ever had that!  WOW.

I had fun, what can I say?  It felt soooo good to be acting again. Sometimes acting can be exhausting, but I don’t think that’s going to happen here.  I think this is going to be a very fulfilling experience. I am so looking forward to sharing it all with you.

Thank you so much for the lovely and supportive comments on Twitter and FB.  You really lifted me up today, and I appreciate that so much.

 

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Inspiration

It may be too simplistic to put it this way, but I have been through a thing or two. Because of what I experienced I had to dig deep to find words of wisdom by which to live.  Fortunately, there is a lot of wisdom out there!  I thought today I would share with you some of what has been helpful for me.

I have carried this pamphlet around with me for about twenty years.  Even if you are not an “ACOA” aka the adult child of an alcoholic parent, it’s not hard to relate.  What they call “dysfunction” is something many families can relate to, whether the grandfather was a rage-aholic, or ones mother was a control freak, or someone you love is trying to recover from an addiction.

I hope it is useful to you today.  I wish you a day full of gentleness toward yourself and others.

ACOA Bill of RIghts

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