An Open Letter To Andy Dick

Dear Andy,

I haven’t really watched Dancing With The Stars since The Voice began airing. Despite my love and devotion to TV, there are only so many hours on Monday and Tuesday nights. Even the promise of Tristan and Maks was not enough to lure me away from Blake and Adam.

The only reason I even tuned into the first episode of this season was to see HotSean! Lowe strut his stuff. The Dose of Reality is a The Bachelor friendly environment, and I had to see if HotSean! would be a show stopper or a dud in the dancing department. I didn’t even know who else would be on the show this season.

I have to admit, as I watched Tom Bergeron introduce all of the new cast, I groaned when your name was announced and you walked down the steps with your partner Sharna. I’m not proud of that now, but it’s true.

You see, I remember seeing you on News Radio. You were funny. That whole show was great. But I also remember many, many accounts of you doing horrible things in real life. Things that made me disgusted.

You seemed to have a penchant for eccentric and bizarre behavior. You’ve exposed yourself in public several times. It’s been reported you’ve groped numerous women against their wishes. I remember reading you were forcibly removed from the set of Jimmy Kimmel Live! for being inappropriate with one of his other guests.

I’m sure your behavior was fueled by addiction issues, because I also know that you have had a very serious problem with drugs and alcohol for a number of years. You’ve been arrested for driving under the influence and for disorderly behavior, among other things. I don’t know how many times you’ve been in and out of rehab, but I know it’s more than once or twice.

The thought of you on the show made me uncomfortable. I wondered what the producers were thinking.

Andy

 

 

Well, I found out. Something happened that I didn’t expect as I watched that first night. I was re-introduced to you–the real you.

 

 

 

Before they showed your rehearsal footage you came right out and admitted that you’d had a terrible couple of decades, lost everything, and hit rock bottom. You were sober now and working really hard on that. You just put it all out there.

And then, things didn’t go well in practice that first week. The foxtrot was proving to be difficult and discouraging. You hit a breaking point. You kind of slid down the wall and began sobbing. You said you just didn’t want to let Sharna down.

Andy, that vulnerability really touched me. You see, I know you have kids. I know you’ve probably let your family down in ways that are hard for me to fathom. You’ve undoubtedly hurt many people over the years. You seem to be sincerely sorry for the pain you’ve caused. You don’t want to let *anyone* down any more. This left you sobbing in the practice room.

It left me sobbing in my den as I watched, too. Because Andy, we’ve all been there in one way or another. Sure we don’t all have a problem with drugs and alcohol, but we all have our things…our issues…that shame and humiliate us. Whether it’s our weight, financial irresponsibility, broken relationships, or unsuccessful careers, we are all grappling with something. We all struggle, and sometimes we all fall short.

But watching you, Andy, has been inspiring. Despite the very public failures of your past, you are out there trying. You’re still working on your sobriety and doing all you can do to heal the damage you’ve caused over the years. You haven’t given up.

It takes real courage to get back up and try again when you’ve been knocked down. It can feel futile. It’s scary to think you might fail other people (or yourself) again.  It’s difficult, sometimes, to stop berating yourself for past mistakes. But you have to in order to move forward, make amends, and have a future.

And if you can do that, Andy, maybe I can, too. If you haven’t given up in spite of all of the obstacles in front of you, maybe it’s not too late for me to keep trying. Maybe it’s never too late for any of us to keep trying.

So I’ve been tuning in to Dancing With The Stars every week. It’s not for the shirtless muscular chests or the awesome dancing, although both are on display. It’s not due to a devotion to HotSean! or the hope of catching a glimpse of Tristan. It’s for you, Andy. I want to see you shine. I want to see you succeed.

I felt a real sense of triumph as you danced the Viennese waltz you dedicated to your daughter a few weeks ago. You wanted to put all of yourself into this dance to show your love. You’re not a fantastic dancer, but that doesn’t matter. The dance was absolutely beautiful.  *You* are absolutely beautiful.

I hope you don’t ever give up. I pray this time it’s different for you. But, if you get knocked down again, I hope you find the strength somewhere to get back up and keep trying.

I’m rooting for you, Andy. I’m rooting for all of us.

Sincerely,

Lisa

 

Open Letter To Jessica Simpson…Again

Dear Jessica,

Miss me? It has been a few months since I last wrote you, and I will say that I take full credit for sending you into labor with your baby girl. I mean sure, it might have been a coincidence that I posted my letter and then next thing you know the headlines screamed, “Jessica Finally Gives Birth”, but I like to think it was my letter.

Anyhow, enough about me, let’s talk about you.

I saw you on Katie the other day where you showed the picture of your totally adorable (her thighs are too much!) Maxwell sporting her yellow bikini. I immediately smiled and thought to myself, “Oh my goodness, that baby, her rolls, her squishy thighs….”. You get my point. I know a cute baby when I see one, and you, my friend (can I call you that yet? I like to think we are friends now) have one very cute baby!

Seriously, her thighs, oh my Gosh!

Imagine my shock when the interwebs blew up because you dared to put your baby in and then show a picture of her wearing a bikini. Ummm, what? Since when are babies relegated to wet suits and one piece bathing attire? Did I miss a memo?

I am here to tell you Jessica that I am with you on this one sister (okay, sister may be taking it too far. I’ll stick with friend). Turns out we have more in common than I might have originally thought.

See, I once put my baby in a bikini and dared to take a picture of it. Thankfully for me, I was unknown at that time, so no one took to Twitter to blast me for my attempt at soft child pornography or whatever other nonsense they are saying about your picture. In fact, if I remember correctly everyone I sent the picture to wrote back with laughter and smiles and references to fat baby thighs. And no, they were not in fact calling my baby fat, thus subjecting her to a lifetime of ridicule and therapy for her healthy dose of thighs. That is what they would have done with a picture of ME in a bikini! Ha, ha, ha, just jokes Jess, just jokes!

Because I am a big believer in women validating other women, I am taking to my blog once again to give you a confidence boost. You show off that baby all you want! Don’t feel an ounce of guilt or judgement because your sweet girl can rock a yellow bikini far better than any of the rest of us could ever hope to! In solidarity with you I am going full public display with my own daughter’s bikini past. I hope the world can take two cute babies in two piece bathing suits mere days apart. ;)

Bikinis and crotchet go together like well, babies and bikinis!

You can count on me, Jessica. I am here for you. Real moms protect each other. Real moms stand up for one another. Real moms belong to a club that haters on the internet just wish they could join.

Now go snuggle that baby of yours!

Love,

Ashley

 

The Ugly Truth

Today I am welcoming a guest to The Dose of Reality. AnnMarie writes one of my favorite blogs Tidbits from the Queen of Chaos. Since I began reading and loving her blog, we have become online friends, and our friendship goes beyond reading and commenting on each other’s blog at this point. When I realized that she had a story to tell, but did not feel comfortable telling it on her own blog, I invited her to share it here.

All summer long, I have suffered from writer’s block. All of my thoughts are tangled up in the anxiety of thoughts that surround one thing: My mother-in-law is back in town. I know I am not the only one who has in-law issues and what better place to work through it than on The Dose of Reality. It doesn’t get more real than this. I can’t make this stuff up.

There were obvious differences from the beginning. A different language, different religion, different values. One thing the same: Love for L. He had never brought a girl home before. Never dated anyone long enough. Maybe she thought I was a passing phase. L is an only child. His father passed away when we were 23 (she remarried three years later and I will forever be grateful to her husband). Maybe those are the reasons.

It’s been 23 years. I feel suffocated. I feel dread. I feel angry. I feel in constant flight or fight mode and I’m sad that we each can’t be the kind of person both of us need. I wanted a mother-in-law who loved me for who I was. I wanted one who knew her place and stayed there. She wanted a daughter-in-law who put her first. She wants to be close. She says it in every single conversation. I wish I could let the years of hurt wash away and I could forget. I would have loved to have been close…to have another person in my life who I could love who would love me too. Someone who would play with my kids and just love them. I’m from a big family…we know how to let people in and love them. For some reason, even from the beginning, it’s been a struggle.

L lived an hour away from me so I would spend the night. I slept in the make-shift family room but it was always freezing. When I told L, he switched with me. His mom said the next morning, “I don’t want L to sleep in that room. It gets cold and I don’t want him to get sick.” 

But it was fine if I got pneumonia.

“I picked L up from daycare and he ran to me all muddy to give me a hug and it was the funniest thing. I had to run from him so he wouldn’t ruin my fur coat.” She thought this was a hilarious story to share.

It probably did nothing for our relationship that I told her that was the worst story ever.

Upon hearing that L and I got engaged, she hugged me and said, “Well, at least we know each others’ faults.”

No, “Welcome to the family” or “Congratulations.” Who says that?

L and I were dancing in the kitchen a year before our wedding day. She came out and asked what we were doing. We said, ”A year from now, we are going to be married.” She ran from the room crying, “It’s too soon. It’s too soon.” 

We had been together for 7 years before we got married. In what world is that too soon?

When I had my oldest son she said, “I know the mistakes I made with L and I won’t make the same ones with N.”

I didn’t have kids so she could fix the mistakes she thinks she made with her own child. The relationship between a mother and a son and a grandmother and a grandson should by their very nature be different.

For years she would give me back gifts that I bought for her. When I asked her why, she replied, “I like things with designer labels in them.”

It didn’t matter that I was a stay at home mom with three kids (at the time) and designer labels are expensive.

After my daughter threw a fit, she looked at my daughter and said, “You get that from your mom. Your dad never did that.”

Again, who says that?

“We need to always be close.” This is said after every single conversation. Being close is something that happens over time and it is a give and take. It doesn’t happen just because someone says it. This is usually accompanied with, “We need to talk more. You need to call me more.” It’s also usually said when I finally do make the effort to call.

We spend the whole conversation talking about how I never call.

She has told the older kids that some things are just for them to know and they don’t have to share it with me. I think it is pretty ballsy of her to even say that to them. Some things said under those pretenses:

“Your mom doesn’t like to come here because she gets jealous of your dad’s and my relationship.”

“You need more culture in your lives.”

“For some reason, your mom doesn’t want us to see you guys.”

They of course do tell me because they know that we have NO secrets.

Some of the zingers that stand out over the years:

“You’d be so pretty if you wore some make-up.”

“You are in Boca now…enough with the T-shirts.”

Some instances that have caused major rifts in our relationship:

For our wedding, she picked out a white dress with a veil. I told L that as the mother of the groom she couldn’t wear white. She responded with, “So noooo one else can wear white. Juuuust you?”

She proceeded to buy the same dress as my mom when the lady showed her my mom’s and still tried to have a black veil made. As if she were in mourning, I guess. L talked her out of the veil.

When our first son was born, it was traumatic. He had to be in the NICU for a week and when we finally could bring him home, she called L and demanded he help her husband out of a jam on that day. Since it was the day his son was coming home from the hospital, he told her he couldn’t but was just the beginning of the tug of war between L having to choose between her needs and his family’s needs.

My mother-in-law and her husband moved to Florida for the winter months which has really been a blessing. When they came back that first year, she said, “The kids get to see your parents all winter, in the summer it is our time.”

I quickly told her that it wasn’t my parents fault that she doesn’t see the kids all winter so they aren’t going to be punished all summer. It’s been a constant battle with her wanting us to drop everything when they get back.

When I was going through IVF to get pregnant with Rocco and then when I was pregnant with him, she drove me crazy with the constant need to see the kids and not understanding that N was playing on a tournament team and then playing football. When Rocco died, she didn’t come in for the memorial. She just wasn’t there. Maybe she wanted to and L said no. She caused me so much anxiety and I was already at the brink of a breakdown that it’s possible. When G was born, she didn’t come in. By that time it was a relief.

She calls N her “Golden Boy” which would be fine, except I have three other children. Somehow I am not sure they appreciate their grandmother picking only one of them to favor.

Some of the differences between us:

She has admitted to being materialistic. I think she might be proud of the fact that she has nice things and can afford the finer things in life. That is great but we have four kids, two of whom have a chronic, life-threatening illness. I don’t need to hear about a country club that costs $45,000 a year when we are trying to raise money to find a cure for CF or we are paying hundreds of dollars a month in copays.

She is Bloomingdales and I am Target.

She is architectural tours and I am the zoo.

She is French food and I am Lou Malnati’s pizza.

I just wish she knew her audience when we are having a conversation.

Over the years, we’ve had many discussions, letters, fights trying to bring things out in the open and mend fences so to speak. Too many to count, really. I wish I could say they made any difference. I wish I could be less real (like why can’t I plaster a smile on my face and nod yes when she is talking to me?) or less affected by this. I wish there wasn’t the immediate thought of how to avoid.

I don’t like feeling ugly, and all of these feelings make me feel ugly, but the reality is that we are two people who didn’t ask to be thrown together and in any other circumstances would not be friends. Not everyone is going to get along with everyone. It just makes it so much worse because it happens to be with my husband’s mother and my kids’ grandmother. 

They say that the in-law relationship is that of a dance and sadly, I think the time has come where I need to sit this one out.

Do you experience this kind of delicate dance with your family? How have you learned to navigate that relationship through the years? Tell me in the comments your best advice for managing difficult family relationships.

 

It Is Not Political, It Is Personal

Dear Congressman Akin,

I tend to save my open letters for pregnant celebrities who need some encouragement and love and reality TV shows who are making me mad, but you have suddenly become worthy of your own. Why you might ask? Well, I would like to share some thoughts with you regarding your statement about rape. Or rather rape that isn’t “legitimate”, as you chose to put it.

Photo Courtesy Of Think Progress

Somewhere, a girl sits alone in a hospital room going through unimaginable pain. Perhaps she went on a date with a guy she had been fantasizing about who turned out to be anything but a fantasy. And now she sits waiting on a cold hospital gurney behind a curtain to be further violated so that she can try and stop this man from ever being another woman’s fantasy date.

I wonder, Mr. Akin, if she feels less pain than the woman attacked in an alley by a stranger. Does she feel any safer because she knew her rapist? Will the doctors and nurses comfort her any less or make her feel that her rape was not legitimate because she is not bleeding from her face or picking stranger’s photos out of a police book?

If you were standing there watching her struggle with her complete loss of innocence, her complete loss of dignity, her complete loss of any control over her own body, would you somehow explain that she can’t categorize her rape as legitimate because maybe her body didn’t naturally “shut that whole thing down”?

Somehow I wonder if you saw up close and personal an actual victim of rape if you might feel differently? If maybe it would stop being contextual for you and perhaps become real?

Or what if you thought for a single moment that your words would keep a young woman in the worst moments of her life from trying to save future victims because somehow she felt less than legitimate in her claims? What would you say then?

See, I don’t know this hypothetical woman personally, but I don’t have to. I see her in the faces of my daughters, and I can’t help but pray that if they ever found themselves in this situation that no one would imply or ever even suggest that their trauma was not legitimate.

Please know, Mr. Akin, for me this letter is not political. It is personal.

Remember that words matter,

Ashley

P.S. Despite the fact that you claim a “doctor” gave you this information, when a sperm meets an egg, it doesn’t matter if it is the result of a blissful marriage union or a brutal rape, pregnancy can happen. In the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson: The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.