“Your SUCCESS isn’t DETERMINED by how LONG it took to GET there, its MEASURED by the AMBITION you HAD to MAKE the TRIP.” Cindy Daniel

Yesterday while cutting my hair at her latest salon change, Monica told me of the many things going on in her life including moving from two other salons. It’s been difficult to catch up with her but I finally did. She summed up her past year before going into the details by saying “my life could be one of those tragic novels.”

I had been (as usual) cutting my own bangs throughout this pandemic and admitted it. Cindy flips her hair over the bathroom sink and whacks it off herself. My sister is and always has been low maintenance. On the rare occasions that I do get Cindy into a hair salon she complains “I could’ve done a better job.”

My sister is still complaining about the spa day I bought her last year. “Take off my clothes? I don’t want anybody rubbing their hands all over me. My husband doesn’t even DO that. Ugh. That was awful.”

I have given up on getting my twin to enjoy a massage or nice haircut. She has no time or patience for pampering.

Last year, Monica had contacted me to marry her in Florida. I was happy for her and assumed that she was planning to marry the man she had been in a relationship with for 6 years. However, my assumption was incorrect.

“He dumped me. We were living together for three years when two weeks before school he told me he wanted to break up. I had to find another place to live and buy school clothes and supplies for my kids and had no furniture. He devastated me. I struggled emotionally and financially through that breakup and reconnected with a classmate from high school on FB. He was everything my other boyfriend wasn’t. He cared about my kids and got along with my parents. He was wonderful in every way EXCEPT I wasn’t allowed to go to his house or stay overnight. He always came to my house.”

I found this odd and immediately assumed this other guy must be married. Monica admitted she did too but not knowing where he was or being able to go to his house was based on something that didn’t involve another woman. Stay tuned.

“He was in a bike club and wasn’t allowed to have me around his house until I became what’s known as an “old lady.” They know where he is at all times and they control his life to a certain extent. One night he was staying over at my house and two guys showed up on the middle of the night and wanted to talk to him. How they knew where he was I have no idea but it made me uneasy.”

In the midst of the one year relationship with the old flame from high school, Monica’s boyfriend that gave her and her children the boot realized what he had lost and was trying to reconnect with her. I had reservations and voiced them.

“He left you high and dry and put you in a very difficult position by doing so. How can you trust him not to do so again? With this other guy, his club is always going to come first. You need to be a priority not a booty call.”

I was unaware that Monica had already moved back in with the 6 year relationship guy and had been living with him for about 3 months after giving bike club guy the boot. I was really concerned after hearing that she trusted him again. But, Monica had made demands and created a nest egg the past 3 months to prevent being caught with her pants down a second time with 2 kids. “I don’t trust him. 6 years and he hasn’t asked me to marry him yet? With the other guy even I did marry him I wasn’t allowed at his house so where was I going to live in a marriage with someone who has a secret life? He says he bought me a ring but hasn’t given it to me and I’ve got 6 years of my life invested in a relationship with him. I’m getting older. Why can’t I find someone to commit to me?”

She had a valid point. “Monica, you can buy yourself a ring. Don’t hinge your happiness on a ring. It’s a piece of metal. When I was divorcing my ex I had lost everything by leaving. It appeared I had it all. Vacation homes, country club memberships, endless shopping trips and holidays. Whatever I wanted. What I didn’t have was trust. I filed for a divorce and was talked into going back. There were loads of promises. No more affairs. No more secrets. No more drinking. He even volunteered to go to marriage counseling for his indiscretions. I went back for another 3 years of the same old shit. I then filed for a divorce a second time and stuck with it. I lost the car I couldn’t afford so I took a job selling Cadillacs that gave me a demo, free gas, health insurance and a good income. I was happy and successful and also pretending to clients and coworkers that I was happily married. I wore a wedding ring. I even had a photo of my ex happily smiling beside me placed prominently on my desk. I’m a great actress. I was there to make money. I didn’t want coworkers or clients hitting on me so I created the illusion of being happily married intentionally. My current husband bought 2 Cadillacs from me. The second Cadillac he bought he mentioned “your husband must be so proud of you.” I busted out crying and outed my own charade. I told him everything. I explained why I took the job, how I needed a car and that I was divorcing after going back a second time to try and work through my exes consistent lies and deceptions. My marriage was a failure and I was a fake. I wasn’t happily married and was actually miserably divorcing. He asked me to dinner. I invited Cindy, the twins, my nieces and my son. I gave him a trial by fire and he stuck around. Three months later, a car was delivered to the dealership with a bow. It was my dream car a black Crossfire. The note read “you don’t have to work here if you don’t want to. This car is yours. It’s in your name. No one can take it from you.” It was the greatest give anyone had ever given me. Six months later, he gave me a key. He built me a house so my son and I could move out of the apartment I had rented after divorcing my ex. He was committed to me. But real estate TANKED within a year of our marriage and he struggled to find work. He had no job skills aside from real estate or development. He lost his business and his self esteem trying to find work but he didn’t lose me. I became the breadwinner. I was floating us. Selling everything except the house to save the house while working my butt off, I was committed.

My commitment paid off. Commitment works two ways. My husband and I made it through the storm. Our marriage is stronger for it. Life isn’t easy. It’s unpredictable and messy. Can you trust him to commit to you?”

Monica thought about this and said “if he doesn’t marry me this time I’m leaving him.” She had made up her mind and asked me to marry her if her 6 year old flame ponies up to marriage. Of course I said yes with my usual reservations.

After all, trust is essential to any relationship. Transparency, loyalty and righteousness are too.

Perception isn’t reality. Cindy’s husband, Steve took on the responsibility of raising both of her children and her grandchildren. That’s commitment. My husband took on helping Cindy and Steve after real estate came back. We sold the home he built me at cost and invested the earnings. We pay cash for new cars every 2 years and move our cars among our family every 2 years. Steve drives my husbands Tundra. Cindy will be driving my husband’s Rogue. When Matthew and I buy vehicles we pass our 2 year old vehicles to our family members. We also help with finances and other things. Being in a position to give for many years now, I also take care of many friends who need help. Cindy and I both believe in giving back. One of my clients took care of her nieces and nephews after their mother was arrested. She contacted me searching for food pantries in her area. Because she hadn’t adopted the children the state wouldn’t provide assistance. For 6 months Cindy and I delivered food to her every Friday. We have many past and current clients that needed help throughout this pandemic. For many the need was food. For others the need was money to repair a car to get to work. For others the need was books they couldn’t afford to buy for coursework through school. Everyone’s needs are different. Sometimes my clients just need someone to listen or help finding assistance. I’m a mother to many. I’m the mother I never had as is Cindy. Our husbands are fathers to our children although they never had children of their own.

I’ve been contacted by numerous clients who had planned to marry inside of prisons with the good news I will be marrying them on the outside. Please be aware that I need you to contact me as soon as you hear from the parole board so I can add you to my schedule.

There are many things to be thankful for this year. Whether it’s your health or your resilience and grit to make it through this pandemic. I’m thankful that I was in a position to help many people who came to me not knowing where else to go.

I always tip Monica 100% and I always argue with her about it. Monica finally accepted my tip and told me “I’m glad you tracked me down. I wanted to call you and tell you what was going on but I know you and Cindy are so busy with clients and business or travel that I felt it would burden you. How’s Stephaney?”

Hmmm, my niece has a good job but she is still training to go out on the floor as a waitress. My son and her sister are still upset about the amount of help we have given to her without recognizing the amount of help we have given them.

“She’s doing well. I’m always trying to be hopeful. If she can stay on her medication she can finally be stable. I pray about it often. It’s so cold that when I’m in town I drive her rather than have her freezing at the bus stop. My son and her sister get agitated when they call me and I tell them I’m driving her to work. “You and Cindy buy her bus passes. Why do you continue to enable her by driving her?” The finger pointing of family members continues for Cindy and I both but we are standing firm because my son and Steph’s sister don’t have adult children. They’ve yet to learn what having an adult child or problems they couldn’t fathom occurring will bring to their lives. No one who hasn’t experienced what we have can give us advice as to how to deal with it. We’ve decided to stop allowing the consistent bitching of others in our family who don’t contribute. It’s liberating.”

I still have no idea of my family will be here to open gifts. If there will be more conflict and chaos due to opinions about my niece, I prefer to deliver gifts. It’s easier for me and Cindy both. We will be delivering food next week Monday and Tuesday so delivering gifts for family members can be worked into my schedule of food deliveries and bookings. The one thing I wish for this year is for my family to stop feuding and start getting along. One day Cindy and I won’t be here to referee the chaos.

“FAMILY is like a DEMOLITION site. Once you TEAR down a WALL someone WILL put up a FENCE.” Cindy Daniel