WARNING: If you are related to me by blood or marriage, you have agency to stop reading now and preserve familial ties. You have researched and investigated until you have discovered my pen name. Congratulations! Now if you read something that hurts your feelings, don’t come whining to me – you have done it to yourself – because this post is brutally honest.
I don’t know exactly where to start, so I guess I’ll begin at the beginning.
I was a sickly little kid, and friends of my parents didn’t think I’d live to see my tenth birthday. No one seemed to know what was wrong with me, but I was very tiny and skinny, and always sick. Physicians call kids like me “non-thriving” children. My parents did everything known to man to fatten me up and make me healthy, but nothing seemed to work. An average breakfast for me was two pieces of bacon or two sausage links; two eggs; hash brown potatoes; pancakes, French toast, or toast with butter and jelly; and orange juice, eggnog (more calories than milk), or hot chocolate with either marshmallows or whipped cream.
The school also tried to help. The janitor cued the cooks when I walked into the cafeteria. The cooks piled the food high on my plate. The janitor stood behind me while I ate lunch, and he wouldn’t let me out of the cafeteria until I had gone back for seconds on at least one item.
Dinner at home was equally ridiculous, but I didn’t mind because I love food! I weighed 17 pounds when I began kindergarten, and 40 pounds when I entered the fifth grade. Something mysterious happened that year, and I doubled my weight, leaving the fifth grade weighing 80 pounds. My parents then told me that I could cut back on my food portions – yeah, right! My eating habits were well formed by that time. I’ve been heavy all my life — well, except for a couple of years when I left home for business college and was too broke to eat, or pay for any kind of transportation other than my two feet, thus getting plenty of exercise.
When you have a weight problem, on either end of the spectrum, either being too skinny or to heavy, self-esteem gets flushed down the toilet. I never fit in with the other kids, so I developed quite an imagination as a coping mechanism. My imagination took me to exciting places and gave me fantastic experiences. At some point, I realized that books enhanced the imagination and took my fantasy world to new heights. I wanted to grow up and write books – children’s books to be specific. Other children must share in this wonderful thing called my imagination. I coped with being an outcast by planning for the day when I could show others my world – then I would fit in. That was my dream – a life-long dream.
It was a different time then. Women didn’t always fulfill their dreams. Not because we didn’t want to, but because it was not “acceptable.” I was told “writing is not a dignified enough profession for a lady.” So I became a legal secretary. I’m not bitter about that because I had many experiences and opportunities in the legal field that I would not have had otherwise, and it allowed me to help support my family quite nicely.
Dreams don’t die easy. Once my children were raised and I was nearing the “empty nest,” I began to think that maybe it was time to fulfill that old dream. I began writing a blog. I wrote about my day-to-day feelings and experiences. I was still working full-time as a legal secretary at the time, so I took it slowly. My intension was to leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren, and to practice writing. I wanted to learn how to become a good writer, and decided “practice makes perfect.”
A funny thing happens when you begin to write your feelings about things. You write what you know and what you care about. It never occurred to me that anyone would object to my writing my opinions or feelings in my own personal blog. After all, it’s my blog, my opinions, and I live in a free country. It never occurred to me that family members would write their names into everything that I wrote. I never set out to hurt anyone, or to make anyone angry.
Rumblings began to happen in the family about my writing, but we had weathered differences of opinion before, and I was naïve enough to think that it would all blow over. The family grapevine became the gossip chain. Each time I got wind of something, I got angry because I abhor gossip. I felt “ganged up on,” and it appeared the only way I had to defend myself, was to do so in my blog.
The real problems came when my last child left home and I quit my full-time job to spend more time with my husband and get serious about my writing. I began writing articles for an on-line magazine. I wrote some very heart-felt articles about things that are very important to me; writing family history stories, dealing with the death of a loved one, the process of adopting children, and the importance of never giving up on family (to name only a few). I wrote these articles knowing that others have similar experiences, and I hoped to help others who could identify with the things I was feeling.
The article that I wrote about grieving for a loved one was very difficult for me to write because my stepson had been killed a few years before in a tragic accident. The article about never giving up on family was also a very heart-felt article which came out of many events over my lifetime. That particular article was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I received hate mail from a family member, because I had written about the family – when I actually had not written about the family. Everything in the article was written very “non-specific.” Ironic that an article about never giving up on family would eventually completely fracture my family. To make matters worse, the hate mail referenced the article about grief, twisting my words and making some extremely hurtful accusations.
Apparently, I’m not even allowed to send out happy Christmas letters without getting approval from the family first – who does that, anyway? So for the first year in our 36-year marriage, we won’t be sending out Christmas cards – which is okay, because I don’t have the time anyway. I can’t justify spending the money to mail pretty cards to “keep up with friends,” when I’m not allowed to give any news.
By the time this blowup happened, I had a network of probably 800 writers on-line. I began talking to these people and discovered that this is a very common problem. Many of them told me that they had to write under a pen name to keep peace in their families. I was depressed and angry, and ready to give up writing, but those family members closest to me (who had always been supportive of my writing) reminded me that I’m not a quitter. After a lot of thought and prayer, I began again under a pen name. I spent literally hundreds of hours recreating myself under the new persona. I began a new blog under the pen name, “Tudie Rose,” and opened a Twitter account for Tudie.
Several months past, and I thought relationships were beginning to heal. I did everything in my power to meet everyone halfway, while setting boundaries so that I wouldn’t get hurt again. I began to think that all would be well again. Remember, I believe one should never give up on family (or at least I did believe that).
One day I wrote a happy little post on the new blog, and minutes later discovered that a family member was stalking me on my new Tudie Rose Twitter account. This was the same person who had written the earlier hate mail. Just days before she began following Tudie via Twitter, she told me (in writing) that she was glad I had accepted her apology, and agreed to take the renewal of the relationship at my speed. I don’t know when in my life I have ever been so angry and hurt as I was when I discovered I was being stalked. I was flabbergasted that my right to pursue my new career had not been respected. It later became apparent that other family members had done their research, as well, and my cover was completely blown.
Again, I was ready to give up writing. I told myself that my Dad’s dreams were a red convertible and the first hot dog stand on the moon – neither of which he achieved, but he lived a good happy life. I took two days away from the computer to stew. One family member told me I was “depressed” and should seek counseling. I didn’t argue with the depressed part, but I’m not one to linger in depression; I’m one to stew for a while and then pick myself up by my bootstraps. While I was stewing, my daughter told me that she and her husband thought I should go back to my original blog because they felt it was better than the blog under Tudie Rose – which they thought was “watered down,” and “played safe.” Immediately, that hit a chord. They were so right! How did I not see that before?! I was playing it safe, always looking over my shoulder to see if my cover was going to be blown. How can a writer be true to herself if she’s not writing from her heart?
I’ve written a children’s book, and am currently writing a young adult novel. I planned to publish them under Tudie Rose. Just days ago, I signed up to write articles for another on-line magazine under my pen name. I don’t know what I’ll do now. Two days ago, I was resigned to not publishing anything at all, just writing everything for my own eyes. Today, I’m rethinking that decision. After all, don’t all Americans have the right to the “pursuit of happiness?”
God gives us all gifts, and it is our responsibility to find out what they are and use them. I was given two gifts: 1) the ability to express myself through written word; and 2) the ability to pick myself up from my bootstraps and get through any trial thrown at me.
So now that my cover was blown, the question I thought I needed to resolve in my mind was, “What price do I pay for the dream?” That’s a no-brainer since I think I’ve already paid the ultimate price – a good portion of my family. So I don’t really think that’s the question at all. Maybe the question is, “Do I really care about people who can’t support my life-long dream to be a writer? — These same people whom I have supported in everything they have ever done in their lives?” No, I don’t think that’s it either. I think the real question is, “Am I going to use my God-given talent, or will I hide it under a bushel to make life easy on myself?”
I don’t yet know the answer to that question, but I’m working on it. Maybe, just maybe, my family has some responsibility here too. Stay tuned.