Separated By Death, Together By Love On This Father’s Day

A few weeks leading up to Father’s Day I begin feeling the anxiety that goes along with it as this day quickly approaches.  My restless mind would love to sleep the day away but it, and my heart, won’t allow me to do that without acknowledging the first man who ever loved me.

As I sat down to write my annual Father’s Day message in honor of him, I wondered what I could possibly say that hasn’t already been said over the last 17 years without him.  I have opened my computer several times over the last few days to begin.  A few times I immediately closed it.  Then, I’d open it back up and write for a bit, but find myself having to stop just to breathe.  The struggle of this day is still very real.

I think about family, friends, and colleagues who are facing their very first Father’s Day without him.  My heart literally breaks for each.  I began to reflect on my first without him and how difficult it was; only to realize that the 17th is really no different from the 1st.  Truth is I still struggle with letting go of having to let go.  How does a daughter ever let go of the one man that taught her what unconditional love was and how to love herself unconditionally?  It’s impossible.

As I sent a few messages to a few friends that I knew would be struggling today, I attempted to give them words of love and encouragement because I’ve been there and I know how important that is.  I get frustrated when I think about how great I am at giving advice on how to get through a day like this, and how difficult it is for me to carry out that advice on my own.  Two of the things that I stress to anyone going through this is to speak of them often; they hear you AND to focus on the beautiful memories you’ve made over the years with him and not the fact that he’s gone.  It’s still a work in progress.

I always feel cheated when I think about him passing at the age of 58.  I used to get outright angry but a very wise person told me to stop focusing on the very short amount of years that he walked this earth and to focus on where he and I walked together during my 29 beautiful years with him.  Some days that’s easier said than done but today is the day that I feel so strongly about climbing up to the highest mountain top and screaming from the top of my lungs all of the things that this great man was.

A good father is someone who puts his family first, someone who treats his wife with the utmost respect and as an equal, and someone, who no matter how tall he stands, his children will look up to.  A man they look up to for being the standard of what a man should be, and the example of who they should desire to be,  It wasn’t until I got older that I grew to understand how high he would set the bar of what being a good father was all about.  And for as long as I can remember, this is exactly who my father was, ALL OF THE TIME.  He never wavered.  The sacrifices that he made for our family were many but he would say that the rise was worth every single one of them.

My dad was not a man of few words.  It’s what I loved most about him, and well, I guess I earned it honestly.  He was a talker and an amazing storyteller.  His jokes were the best and his timing always impeccable.  He was hysterical and generally happy in nature.  He was a businessman whom I learned a great deal from in my formidable years.  He was kind, and gentle.  A disciplinarian.  And incredibly selfless.  He was always positive and the most encouraging man I’ve ever known.  He supported me and my two siblings in every way because he taught us that there were NO limits to what we could accomplish in our lifetime.  He was wise; a brilliant man.   He was successful in so many aspects of his life, yet he’d never boast, because he was also a very humbled man.  Well, he would boast but only about how proud he was of his children.  My brother and I didn’t really know this until his and my little sister’s funerals.  We were repeatedly approached with stories about him and how much he loved us and how proud he was of each of us.  He was a man of pride but always willing to put it away for the well-being of his family when needed.  He was ex-military; a hero both on the battlefield and off.  He was warm and welcoming; always had a smile on his face.  He was the hardest worker I’ve ever known and at the end of a long day, he was present.  My siblings and I were taught about having a strong work ethic.  It was instilled in us.  He was a man that grew up having nothing, not even a father, and made sure that his wife and children had everything.  He was a man of honor; trustworthy and loyal.  He was a great teacher.  He had a love of History and Politics; I earned that honestly as well.  He was so talented and he’s the reason for my love of music.  He was a God-fearing man who taught me not to question God’s will or the plans he had in store for me and that with him at the center of my life I’d never be alone.  He was an incredible role model.  An amazing husband, father, uncle, brother, and friend. He was loving AND he was loved.

My memories of him are nothing short of amazing.  I speak of his belief in me often.  I have him to thank for my belief in myself.  I remember this because it was the most important gift that he had ever given to me.  One that long after he’s gone keeps me going.  Every child should be so lucky.

When I think of him I think Vicks VaporRub.  He’d rub an entire bottle of Vicks on our chests and  backs until we were feeling better.  A selfless man who would give me the last bite of any meal no matter how hungry he was.  I know it got under his skin but he just smiled.  He looked forward to my dance recitals and giving me flowers on stage, and football games on Friday nights to watch me cheer and my brother play.  Vacations were important to him, as was Geography.  Because of that I’m a world traveler.  I loved reading his writings.   He’s the reason I’m a writer, a singer, a musician. He’s the reason I’m a dreamer.  I have memories of him in the kitchen.  He loved to cook.  And his midnight snacks were the best.  He’s the only dad I know that would gladly bounce out of bed at 4 am to watch me flip the score on Pac-Man.  He would happily rub or scratch my back upon request, which was almost every night, and then brush our hair at bedtime.  If I close my eyes and drift far enough away I can still hear his sweet serenades and laughter.  It was contagious.  I drove my family crazy with my extreme love of pets.  I’d take in strays of all kinds, a killdee bird that I would nurse back to health, etc…  No matter how many times I heard, “No, no more pets” it was never really a NO.  I remember how competitive he was.  I loved it!!!  Some of my greatest memories were of him driving me all over the state of Louisiana for All-District and All-State competitions, and his presence at auditions and plays. I can’t remember one time when he wasn’t there.  I remember his excitement in surprising me with my first car at 15.  He was the dad that was a cheerleader during my biggest moments, and my savior, who much like Christ, picked me up and carried me at my lowest.  And when I was almost 21, in a moment that would prove that I needed him more than I ever would in my entire lifetime, he was there to fix what had been broken so many years before.

I could never list everything that this man has done for me or given to me, but I hope that those of you whom have taken the time to read this, have a better understanding of who he was to me and why I have never taken that lightly.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for giving me exactly what I needed.  A man to show me what a man is supposed to be and what life was all about.  A man that gave so much to those he loved and never expected or asked for anything in return.  I’m incredibly thankful for his life lessons and more so for taking his responsibilities as a father and husband so seriously.  We were the fortunate ones.

Blessings may not always come when we want them, but they are always there right when we need them.  God knew exactly what he was doing when he put this man in charge of mine and my siblings lives.

For all of you who know your blessings in the department of fatherhood, and if your dad is still around, I hope that you take the time to verbalize or put into writing what he means to you.  I wish I had done this more often.

For those of you whose fathers are sick or you fear a final Father’s Day with him, take advantage of the time that you have left.  Life is so short and when you look back, time lost will be your single biggest regret.  But it doesn’t have to be.

To all of you whose fathers are no longer walking this earth, I encourage you to focus on the wonderful memories you made with him over the years, however long that may have been.  Write those memories down and share them with your children or your family and friends.  They deserve to know who he was.

To the world he was a dad, but to me he was the whole world.  I cannot put into words how much I love and miss this man every single day.

And to the many men in my life that give us reason to celebrate this day, especially my brother, and a few others that I am so blessed to have in my life on a daily basis…..Happy Father’s Day!!!  New Dads, take advantage of the gift that has been bestowed upon you.  Love them, and nurture them with all of your might.

Much Love,

~Jillian~

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The 15th Anniversary of 9/11…Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September Day?

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“Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.  These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.  America was targeted for attack because we are the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.  And NO ONE will keep that light from shining.” ~ President George W. Bush

The 15 year anniversary of 9/11 is known to many as one of the darkest days in U.S. history.

As I began writing something in memory of the 15 year anniversary of 9/11, I thought, ‘what do you say that hasn’t already been said?’  We’ve had 15 years to process this unbelievable attack on American soil and what that day means to us.  This day means so many things to me.  I know that is true for many of us.  Each of us has a story that day.  A story that will forever in time, stand still.  

I’m not going to start off with the morning of September 11, 2001.  I must tell of the earlier stories in 2001 so that I may better explain my thoughts and feelings leading up to and on the morning of 9/11.  

So, I’m going to start with the morning of February 6, 2001.  At 5 am, my home phone began ringing.  My husband at the time worked in the ER at a local hospital here in Nashville, so I automatically assumed that it was the ER Department needing him to come in early that morning.  As he quickly rolled over and looked at the phone he said to me, “Hey, it’s your Mom & Dad, you need to brace yourself.”  I knew exactly what he meant. My Dad had a 15 year heart ailment, having suffered his most recent heart attack just 7 months earlier, so he assumed that we were about to be delivered the news that I feared for sometime.  I sprang from my bed like a jack-in-the-box and immediately began pacing the floor.  He answered the phone and confusingly said, “What? Shay? What happened?” Shay was my younger sister and best friend.  Immediately my heart sunk as I continued to pace between the bedroom and the bathroom, occasionally sneaking a glimpse of him on the phone, as though he wouldn’t see me.  After my father shared the news with him, he asked to speak with me.  My entire body was trembling. I took hold of that phone and said, “Dad?” to which he replied, “Honey, I need for you to sit down.”  He paused.  “Shay was killed in a terrible car accident last night.  We don’t know all of the specifics yet, we just know that she’s gone.  I’m so sorry.  I know how much you loved her. We all did.”  I don’t remember the rest of that conversation nor do I recall speaking to my mother.  But I remember the uncontrollable screaming. Screaming so loud that my  10 year old came rushing through the bedroom door in an absolute panic.  I won’t get into the rest of the story but I will say that on that morning I literally felt the crushing of my heart.  For the next several hours, I would gasp for several minutes before finally being able to catch my next breath.  The life had been sucked out of me.  I had suffered loss before but this was the first of an immediate family member.  THIS was different.

I spent the next several weeks trying to pull myself together.  That wouldn’t come for almost six years.  And truth is, 15 years later and there are days where I still struggle. On the morning that I received the news about my little sister, I knew that not only would my life never be the same but I, my whole being, would never be the same.  I would wake up each morning giving all I had to face the next day.  It was difficult.  I was consumed by the fact that she was gone.  I was consumed with facts of how she was taken from us.  I was consumed with worry over how my parents were going to survive this, telling many friends and family that her death was going to kill them.  

I remember thinking how someone’s entire world could change in a minute, just one thing could stop it spinning. I did what I could but I wasn’t good at it.  Each day was forced and the only thing that kept me waking each morning was my only 10 year old son at the time.

The next several weeks I did what I could to help my parents.  Returning home a few times to help take care of things that I didn’t want my parents to have to deal with.  They had just buried their youngest daughter beneath the surface of the earth.  And that was enough.  During that time, I spoke often to my parents and my brother.  Making sure that everyone was okay.  Praying that everyone was handling it much better than I had.  I felt everyone, including my parents, were being exceptionally strong for me.  I cried daily and lived through the pain of it silently for the most part but they knew the toll that it had taken on me.  

On Friday evening, March 16, 2001, at about 8 p.m. my phone began to ring.  The caller ID displayed a hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana.  With no preconceived notions at all, I took the call.  My mother was on the other of the line.  In a very calm voice she said to me, “Your father suffered a stroke and we are at the hospital in New Orleans.”  I questioned that since my family lived approximately 2 hours from there and there were several hospitals much closer to where they lived. I asked to speak with him but my mother went on to say that he was in ICU for observation and I would have to call him the next day. I learned that night that my dad had actually suffered a stroke the day before, just outside of his office. Mom rushed him to the small town local hospital where my brother met them at the entrance of the ER. After several scans and a series of testing, he was released after having been diagnosed with “vertigo”.  They didn’t call me that day because I was still reeling over the death of my sister and they thought it best to spare me from a scare that turned out to be just vertigo.  BUT, early the next morning, my father woke feeling just as bad as he had the day before.  He asked my mother to drive him to a hospital in New Orleans.  I spoke to him and my mom both several times in the days to follow but I was very concerned.

Six days later and exactly 6 weeks to the day that we buried my little sister, my father passed away about 5-10 minutes after hanging up the phone with me.  The call that evening came from my brother.  I will never forget his screams that night and his desperation in immediately asking to speak with my husband.  I handed the phone to him, but not without first calling my brother “psycho”, and as he placed the phone between his ear and shoulder, with his arms crossed in a way that I considered to be odd, he slowly turned to look at me.  The last thing that I remember was walking out the front door of my home and up the street.  I didn’t know where I was going but I didn’t get far.  I collapsed in the front yard of a neighbor just three doors down.  Once I came to, and was hit with the reality of what had just happened that same feeling of my heart crushing quickly returned. I honestly didn’t think that I was going to survive this one.  How could it be?  I had convinced myself, that even though my father had been sick over the years, he was going to be fine.  He was safe.  We just buried Shay.  There was no way possible that God was going to take half of my family away from me, or from any of us, in just six weeks.  I once again won’t go into the rest of this story, but for the second time in 6 weeks I had the wind knocked out of my sails. So much so, that those sails would never sail again.

Over the next 6 months, the struggles that my mom, brother and I would endure were overwhelming at times.  Our world shattered twice that year only weeks apart.  

On the morning of September 11, 2001, just as with every night since hearing the news of Shay’s death, I had gotten very little sleep. It was a typical start to the day. I got my son to school, headed to the office, while trying to convince myself that I could get through the day.  I arrived early.  My boss was sitting in his office having his morning coffee.  So, I joined him.  Talking business, laughing over a few things that had happened over the weekend.  He even asked how I was doing.  I told him that I was struggling that morning. We spoke about it for a while because he knew that talking about it made me feel better. He happened to have the television on in his office that morning.  Our conversation was abruptly disrupted as shots of the plane hitting the first World Trade Center were flashing across the screen.  We sat there, completely stunned and totally unprepared for the report of another plane striking the 2nd tower just moments later.  

Thoughts that morning started just as they did each day, of my Dad and sister.  And of my family.  The moment I saw the first tower had been hit, my thoughts immediately turned to those that had just lost their lives.  Both in that plane and in that building.  I began thinking about the families and the terrible news they would be given that day.  All things that I had just recently gone through.  The feeling of my heart crushing returned once again. Minutes later, I was taken back by now it was all of these people in 2 planes and 2 buildings!  I was in complete shock as was the rest of the country watching the story unfold.  

By this time, several people had crowded into the office where we sat, as new spread quickly across the office building.  After the 2nd plane struck, it was quickly announced that it was no coincidence and it was believed to be a terrorist attack.  I was in disbelief.  I thought, “not on American soil.”  I never even questioned the possibility of that as I had always felt safe in this country and knew us to be well protected.  We had the CIA, Homeland Security, and a military that was force to be reckoned with. Not anyone could get to us.  And certainly not cause harm and devastation of this magnitude.  As the reports continued rolling in and the coverage of the towers, with smoke rising from them, was now on every channel, my concerns grew.  I was inwardly screaming, “OMG the people in those planes and on the floors of the building in which they slammed into!  OMG the families of those individuals!  OMG New York!  OMG Terrorist?!?!!?”  And then, with a vision that still haunts me to this day, the first tower came crashing down.  And then the second.  We then began hearing reports of a strike on the Pentagon, and another US Flight 93 crashing into a field in Pennsylvania. And once again, I’ll never forget the screams of the people or the gasps taken by the news anchors reporting the events of that morning. I’ll never forget the pandemonium that ensued that day in that beloved city.  I felt like I was reliving the same pain, and going through the same motions of Feb 6th and March 21st.  I couldn’t shake the loss.  I couldn’t shake the feeling of knowing what all of those people would soon be facing.

I began pacing, just as I did the morning I got the call about my little sister.  I’d sit down for a moment to watch more of the footage.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I was lost and I was scared.  I was trying to process that thousands, and no one knew for sure at the time but one could assume, had just been killed on American soil.  

The tears falling down my face, with the strike each key, are as big as the tears I shed that day.  Just as I had on Feb 6th and March 21st.  I watched for a few minutes longer but I had to leave the office.  I needed to get to my son.  I needed to wrap my arms around him and know that he was safe.  I needed him to know that I was safe.  I needed to call the hospital and make sure that my husband was safe.  I needed to call home and make sure that my mom, brother and his family were all okay.  I needed to call other family members and friends.  I just needed to know that everyone was okay.  I wasn’t okay, I hadn’t been for 6 months.  I was safe but I wasn’t okay.  And now thousands in New York City weren’t okay either, many more families weren’t okay…an entire nation was no longer okay.

I picked my son up from school and rushed home, where I would spend the next several days glued to the television.  There were a lot of things that day, and over the course of the next several days, that I wish I could have just unseen.  But I couldn’t.  Life as this entire nation knew it was over, and America would never be the same.  And it wasn’t. 

Years later I went to work for a company in Weehawken, NJ which is just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.  To hear those colleagues of mine share their stories of that day, most of whom watched both towers fall from the windows of their offices, was heart wrenching.  My boss who was scheduled to return the following day but was delayed, due to all airports being shut down because of the attacks and planes being hijacked to carry out those attacks, explained his feelings on the flight into the city a few mornings later.  He had flown in and out of that city for decades, each time admiring the incredible skyline that NYC has to offer.  This time, as the plane made its final descend, he stared out of window of the plane, weeping uncontrollably at the view of where the twin towers that once stood so tall, no longer stood at all, and the entire landscape and skyline of the city was forever changed with billowing smoke still covering much of the city.  I don’t think that I spoke with one person on any of my trips to New York where someone wasn’t directly affected by the attacks and losses that day.  The stories of unity and heroic acts of kindness and humanity sent chills down my spine.  While New York took a beating that morning, I think that it’s safe to say that every single American shared in their pain. I read somewhere that someone said on THAT morning, an entire nation became a neighborhood and all Americans became New Yorkers.  And that is exactly what happened.

As I cried a river today watching the memorials on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I realized that today was NO different than the anniversary of 9/11 in years 01’-15’. I shared my own tragic stories to set the stage on where I was mentally when tragedy struck this country.  I was so broken.  I am still broken.  Today, I cry in memory of a broken nation.  I cry in memory of the loss of thousands of Americans.  I cry for their families and friends, who today, struggle more than any of us.  I cry for all of the first responders who lost their lives trying to save others.  I cry for all of the fallen police officers and firemen. Today, I cry for children who lost parents on that day.  Some on whom weren’t even born at the time.  Those children never even had the opportunity to meet their fathers. I cry for those lost in battles fought in distant lands.  All heroes.  Paying for the price of freedom with a life.  I cry over the impact that it has had on this country and the citizens of this country.  I cry over the tolerance of the actions bestowed upon this nation that day which has been shoved down our throats.  And yes, I cry over my Dad and my sister.  While not anyone knows what the future holds, 2001 to date, was the absolute worst year of my entire life.  My losses will always be connected to those of 9/11.  It was the year that God did indeed give me more than I could handle.  

What 9/11 means to me…

It was 1 of 4 of the most devastating events in my life to hit me, and in only 7 months.  I started the grieving process all over again that day.  It was the 3rd time that my world changed in a minute. Because one thing stopped its spinning.  It is a moment that I’ll never forget where I was, or what I was doing for as long as I live. I often think of 9/11 and compare it to that of the days where an entire nation was affected, such as the assassination of JFK, or Pearl Harbor. For the first time in my life, I felt like I knew what others were feeling during those times. Times that I’ve only read about in history or through documentaries and cinema.

9/11 was a loss of epic proportions. A magnitude so big that it took me years to wrap my head around it.  The lives….clearly the biggest loss.

9/11 was a loss in sense of security.  I’m not sure that I will ever fully regain that.  

9/11 was a loss of freedom.  Americans lost many liberties that day.  More than anyone is willing to admit.  We also suffered a massive economic loss, far too much to mention.

9/11 was a moment where a nation rallied together, united over a national tragedy.  A day where more respect was shown to each other, to this country and to all, to our flag, 

9/11 Is a day that my 10 year will have memories of but wasn’t quite old enough to understand the scope of what had just happened and how it would change the country forever.  It wasn’t until I saw the 2nd plane hit and the towers crumbled that the gravity of the situation really hit me.  It’s a day that I will spend the rest of my life making sure that my little one, not born for another 3 years after the attacks, has a full understanding of what happened that day, why it happened that, what was lost, and the importance of never forgetting 9/11.

9/11 is a day that caused me to look at our neighboring countries, my fellow citizens, every immigrant that I encountered, and even my own government very differently.  

9/11 is a day that I realized just how deep my patriotism, for this country, ran.  It was a day that I began flying that flag higher and prouder than ever before.  It was a day that I mourned the losses of so many, and a day that on each anniversary I will continue to mourn.  

9/11 to me is a day of reckoning.  It’s a reminder of why we should love one another, why we should stand in honor of the flag and the national anthem, why we should respect each other, especially our men and women in uniform…Police, Fireman and our military.  

9/11 was proof that we are not guaranteed tomorrow.  It was also proof that we as citizens, and a nation, were no longer considered “untouchables”.

I look at the world differently because of 9/11/01.  It casts a shadow on the cultural consciousness of Americans.  How could it not?  I still struggle to make sense of such a senseless act, and fifteen years hasn’t lightened the burden that every single American felt on that day.  The shockwaves across this country were tremendous.  We still experience shockwaves with each passing anniversary, as we are reminded by the many images of that horrific day.  But no one will forget.  Not ever.  

God Bless you NYC.  God Bless the victims and their families, and all of the heroes of 9/11. God Bless America and all of those who have fought for her and for our freedoms, whom have served with honor and died with dignity, and for those who continue this fight.

May you all find peace in knowing that 9/11 will NEVER be forgotten!

Where were you when the world stopped turning?  I would love to hear your stories. How were you affected and what impact did 9/11 make on you?

#remember911 #godblessamerica #redwhiteandblue

Much love,

~Jillian~

Happy Father’s Day!

As I sat down to write my annual tribute to my father on the most appropriate day of the year, I found this year to be difficult.  Not because I had run out of things to say about him or to thank him for, but because when you least expect it, recognition of this special day and another year without him seeps through and those thoughts and memories hit you so hard that writing it all down literally sucks the life out of you. Knowing that when we write, we give shape to experiences so that nothing ever dies, I still was not convinced that I could get through this one or even find the words.  Part of my struggle is not wanting to write something sad.  I got over that quickly and decided that I would just write honestly. Today is a sad day for me.

Memories are reinforced through conversation but talking about my father on Father’s Day with anyone, or Father’s Day in general, is unbearable for me.  I did manage to text those that are so dear to me and wish them a special day.  I’m blessed to have many dear friends that are wonderful fathers, but only one comes so close to that of my own father that it’s scary.  I know that it is so unfair to not want to share in this day with those still here and so deserving of it, but it is what it is.  For now anyway.  This is where our differences play out.  This is my own dysfunction and I own it.

A few things happened over the course of the day that really put things into perspective and gave me the courage to write it all down….a few words were written and spoken that confirmed the importance of carrying out a tribute to the first man that I ever loved and the only man to teach me how any man, after him, should love me. I wasn’t always great at believing that I was worthy of it but it wasn’t because he hadn’t done his job.

Father’s Day is one big, exhausting cycle for me.  I woke up this morning, wayyy too early, in an attempt to get to an 8 am baseball game.  On a Sunday!  On Father’s Day!

For me, Father’s Day is a mindset. As soon as my eyes opened, I was well aware of what day it was because I’ve spent several days leading up to it; preparing for it. I’m my biggest cheerleader on this day.  I can do this!  I can wake up, drag myself out of bed, make the most of this very difficult day, think good thoughts and wallow in the memories of him that I hold so dear to my heart.  And yes, I can even manage to put a smile on my face as I read the most precious and heart felt Father’s Day Facebook tributes to those fathers still here, written by the sweetest friends and family. AND… I do smile. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t envious, or hurting.  I’d also be lying if I said that the only thing that I truly didn’t want to do is to sleep right through this day. Just skip over it so I can escape the pain of it all. While every Father’s Day post touches my heart in some way, it is the tributes to those that have passed on that sit with me and cause time to stand still.  It is with those that I relate to most.  WHY?  Why do I relate to those most?  I had my father for 29 years and there is an abundance of wonderful memories.  So, WHY is it that I focus more on the last 15 years without him?  Self-frustration sets in.  My mind wants one thing but my heart feels another.  How do you get past that?  I suppose I’m still learning.

On my drive to the game I had so many thoughts running through my mind.  So many that I felt I need to lasso them all up and perhaps that would stop the madness of it all.  I cranked up the radio in hopes of drowning them out.  I thought to myself, “ok, this is my 15th year without him, it shouldn’t be this tough.  It should get a little bit easier each year.”  I cranked the music up louder.  Today, nothing, not even music, was going to relieve me of those thoughts.  I sat at the game and I watched.  But I wasn’t really there.  It was like watching a game in real time while the world around me was moving in slow motion.  I began thinking about what he’s missing out on. Like this baseball game.  All the milestones over the course of the last 15 years began to set in.  As did anger.  Who still gets angry after 15 years?  Part of me feels like it’s a very normal thing and that not everyone processes things in the same way, so this must be okay or acceptable.  Another part of me is screaming on the inside “GET HELP!!!!”.  I fed into it for a bit but I knew that if I didn’t pull myself out of it quickly, that I would return home and do all of the things that I had, just hours ago, cheered myself out of or into doing.  After realizing that I was merely going through the motions of feeling sorry for myself, I began to pray.  Prayer is the only thing strong enough to pull you out of something like that.  And it reminded me of a moment with my Dad.

One of the more profound moments of my life was a conversation with my him about thanking God for all that we have instead of constantly asking for more.  I was going through a rough period in my life and I told him that I had been praying, begging for answers.  He said, “You’re doing a whole lot of asking.  Do you ever thank him for the many gifts you’ve been given?”  The answer was NO that day.  The answer is still NO on some days.  He went on, “And sometimes he answers us but we choose to ignore it because the answer we are given is not the answer we’re wanting to hear.”  Again today, I found myself doing the same thing that he had called me out on all those years ago.  This morning I was asking him for more strength and for grace.  I thought of that conversation and I knew that I should have been thanking him for the 29 years that he had given me with my Dad instead of the 15 years that I feel I’ve lost with him.  And so I did.  In the next few moments I began to fell better. The burden of it all wasn’t quite as heavy. I spoke to Dad for a while. Something I hadn’t done in quite sometime.  I speak about him often but not to him. I began to think about what I would say to him if here were with us today. There were so many things.  None of which hadn’t already be said.  Except for one thing that I would soon come to understand.

On my drive home I pondered what I was going to say in my tribute to him. I needed to finish it up.  It’s something I take seriously.  I had already written some of it but I wasn’t close to being finished. When I returned home, as I scrolled through my FB feed I read a post written by a dear friend wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all and THEN the following words, as penned by her, that completely stopped me in my tracks.  It read, “My father’s legacy?  Being the first man to ever break his daughter’s heart. ~GA”  I thought, “WOW!”  I felt instant pain as I read those words.  I reached out to her immediately.  Probably because I felt I needed to after reading such a painful statement but also, because I needed to hear those words at that very moment and to thank her for that.  It was at that moment that I realized I had no idea what that felt like.  A wonderful thing for me, not so much for her. An awful thing for her. I was trapped between those two feelings for a bit.

On Father’s Day we are always caught up with thoughts of our own fathers.  As we should be.  Sure we stop to recognize any fathers that we know but I have never stopped and considered the children of the fathers that weren’t there and what this day means to them.  I needed to hear these words from her today.  I didn’t need one more great thing to say about my father, but through her own pain, she unknowingly gave that to me. She reminded me just how powerful the act of remembering someone could be, and should be.

Today I celebrate my Dad’s life and who he was as a father. I celebrate 29 years of blessings that I had with him.  A man that didn’t really have a father figure in his life, not one that set the bar on what being a father is all about anyway, but made a commitment to be the best father he could be and followed through with it.  If he were here today, I’d thank him for THAT.  And for all of the things that I have thanked him for over the years and each year since he’s been gone, but today, I’d thank him for just being there.  For his commitment to fatherhood.  As a parent, and with a fast-paced life, I know that this isn’t always easy. It couldn’t have been for them.  He was a very hard worker.  He worked equally as hard on us kids.  At the end of a very long day it was my Dad that would come in and do homework with my little sister, help me with anything that I may have needed help with, threw football in the yard with my brother or coached our softball and football teams growing up.  He was the dad that would take you out to the tennis courts at midnight and make you practice because you had taken a beating on the courts earlier that day, or in a hotel room making you sing a song over and over (at least 500 times) in preparation for the biggest of auditions.  He was present for everything.  In my 29 years with him, I can’t remember one time where he wasn’t present. With 3 children I’m not even sure how that was even possible, but he did it.  And he did it with a smile on his face.  My friend also reminded me that he was not only a Dad to us but he was there for each of our friends which was an incredibly special thing to hear on this day. He made them feel special. Many came to him for advice over the years.  Some of that we learned at his funeral.  I think that I can speak for both of my siblings when I say that we took all of that for granted.  By the time I woke up, or grew up and was mature enough and willing to admit it….it was too late. Looking back…this man defined fatherhood.  It did not define him.  It didn’t just give him the title of father and tell him what a father was supposed to do. He took what that word meant and he beasted it.  He far surpassed that definition.

So, in answer to my own question as to why I focus on the 15 years without him instead of the 29 I had with him?  The 29 years were easy.  They were good.  The last 15 have been incredibly trying. When I allow myself to take in who he was; and to have to live without that for one day much less 15 years, it’s a jagged pill to swallow.  Why shouldn’t it be difficult?  I hope in time that I come to accept that instead of getting frustrated with myself for justifiably feeling this way.  Because he was ALL of these things, getting over it is not an easy feat.  I hope this helps all of those struggling with this as well.

Through all of my sadness, I wish him a very Happy Heavenly Father’s Day.  This man crosses my mind hundreds of times over the course of a day.  I can’t even put into words how much I miss him.  The same for my little sister.  I am blessed to have had him as my father and as an example of all things.  He’s the only many in my life to never have let me down.  Shoes that could never be filled no matter how hard anyone ever tries.

I will work harder on remembering to thank God for giving him to me for 29, very short, years. That’s going to take some time but I’ll get there.  I still feel cheated.  Who am I kidding?  I will always feel cheated.  Surely, I’m not the only person on the planet that feels this way.  I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again, “No little girl should ever have to be without her father. Not ever.”

Happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing fathers just like him, and the mothers that had to wear both hats.  My thoughts are with those who struggle with the absence of their own fathers today or those whom have struggled with that absence their entire lives. Those that I will never overlook again.  You are loved.  Thoughts are with the step-fathers who “stepped” up and took on a role that isn’t always the easiest.  I was reminded last night there there are fathers out there who face this day with loss of their own.  Those who sit and wonder about what they have missed out on with a child that has gone before them.  It is also with those that are just a year or two, or five, into learning what it’s like to be without him on this special day.  It is with those that have just suffered this loss only weeks ago. I’m praying for you my friend.

It is said that in death, a part of you dies and goes with them.  They are not alone.  Just as you are not alone because they are here in spirit.  But today, it’s the hardest concept of all to grasp because you feel so alone.  It is then that you realize the importance of keeping their memory and spirit alive.  May we all have the courage to do so.  Even on the toughest of days.

Father’s Day…the only day of the year that I am truly overwhelmed by my thoughts, where at moments I’m at a loss for words, yet I scramble to write every bit of them down. Because it matters.  Even if it’s one big jumbled mess.  It matters.  And then….tomorrow is just another day.  Still without him. But not as nearly as tough as yesterday.

“Home Is Where The Heart Is” : In honor of my father and his dear brother.

A new meaning to “home is where the heart is” and most days it’s a struggle living without it. 14 years ago today, the first man that I ever loved drifted from this world. Not one single day has been the same since nor does one single day pass without a thousand thoughts of him. We are told repeatedly that life goes on…And so it does. BUT, grief never ends. Mine hasn’t. Probably because no little girl should ever have to be without her daddy. No matter the age. I look around and see or hear so many things that remind me of him, from a great comedy to music right down to the little hands of his grandson that he’s never known to the distinct mannerisms of my oldest, so much so, that it’s as though my Dad is standing right there in the room. Some things make me laugh, many things make me smile but many more cause me to fight back tears like seeing my brother, very seldom, having a conversation about him while fighting back his own. It’s a strange day for me today as have been the last few weeks. Today my family says goodbye to my Dad’s sweet brother but I find comfort in knowing that they are finally reunited. What a reunion that will be! RIP Uncle D and to you Dad, RIP (return if possible) as well, even if only in my dreams. I want to thank him for not telling me how to live my life but for living his so gracefully and graciously while making a profound impact in doing so and for letting me be witness to that. And THAT is the greatest lesson that we will ever teach our children. He set the bar on setting examples. If someone were to ask me what the greatest gift that he ever gave to me was, that would be easy to answer. He believed in me. Because of that, my limits were far beyond just the sky. I was blessed with the best Dad in the world…a true visionary, an intelligent, generous, kind, gentle, extremely funny and God loving man. He is the most incredible memory maker that ever lived beside ole’ Walt Disney himself. The one thing in common between a father and daughter is that, to each other, they are his/her strength AND their strongest weakness. He was my protector, he was my friend, he was my #1 fan, he is my hero. I love you Dad and I miss you more today than yesterday.

“Her family was a relay team racing toward Tomorrowland, but her father died, and in their shock they kept losing the baton.” ~ Stacy Bierlein

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The Big Pay Off

What a day it has been…indeed the big pay off.  I’m not talking about monetarily, although that too will be greatly rewarding. I’m talking about that moment when something that you’ve been working so hard on comes to fruition.  That moment when the blood that has poured from your fingertips that is the creative process, the sweat that was the refusal of ever giving up and the tears that are the roller coaster of emotions ALL PAYS OFF!!!  That moment when you realize that what you were doing had a real purpose and that purpose is validated.  That moment when you realize that every single day, week, month, year, every single late night, early morning, loss of time or moments in time, every fight, every struggle, every tear, every moment of self doubt, every moment of wanting to give up, that entire roller coaster ride…was absolutely worth it. Today was THAT day.

My team and I were notified that the contracts for a television show, that was 2.5 years in the making, were finalized. Today was a major triumph for me and the entire team that has been working tirelessly to make this dream a reality.  Anyone that has done this before, and trust me when I say that I have a new found appreciation for this part of the industry and business, knows that this is a very difficult feat in and of itself.  It’s one of the toughest projects I’ve ever worked on in my life.  It’s also one of the largest gambles I’ve ever taken.  And in slow motion we rolled the dice, and as though they would never stop tumbling, it ever so slowly comes to a rest and it’s a WIN!  I know that there are many factors in making something of this size and caliber happen but I speak all too often about the importance in surrounding yourself with good people.  People that you can trust, people that will be completely honest with you, people with the same work ethic and most importantly that will work with the same integrity in which you personally take pride in.  While it took a lot to bring this project to life, I am certain that these things are the very reasons that made the impossible possible. I am so proud of this team of individuals that gave it their all.  During a process like this things aren’t always going your way.  You must choose your battles and you must have dedication, whether it’s going your way or not, you must commit.  There are good days and there are bad days.  I want to thank each of them for their dedication and commitment to this project.  I want to thank the executives for believing in us.  Everyone knows that it all starts with someone believing in you and the willingness to take a chance on you.  This has been an incredible journey, one with many lessons along the way.  I wouldn’t have wanted to travel it with anyone else.  What a ride!!!!  I look forward to what the next few months have in store for us and now the real work begins.

My emotions have been all over the place today.  I am excited beyond measure.  I am reminded of all that it took to get here and all that it took from me and out of me on a personal level.  I’m good with that.  That’s part of the commitment.  I am reminded that I am not the only one that committed to this. My cup runneth over from the amount of love and support from my family and friends. There are a few that gave or gave up an awful lot for me and now is my time to acknowledge that. They have been very patient, much more than I, they have been understanding and every single day they continued to give me words of encouragement that kept me going.  I have ONCE again been reminded of God’s plan for me and that I am always on his time. It will never be my time. I think I’m coming around to understanding that but I will always have a lack of patience.  I’ll blame that on the Aries in me.  I am reminded that hard work always prevails.  I am reminded that if I can see it, if I believe it then I can indeed achieve it.  Thank God for making me a dreamer.  The greatest part of today was being able to share this with my family, the toughest part was my not being able to pick up the phone to share the news with my Dad and Charlie.  Besides my boys these men were my #1 fans for life.  I miss them greatly and I hope that they are both witness to all of the amazing things happening in my life.  I would literally have done anything for one more conversation with each of them today.  I am reminded that there will always be that little girl inside of me that longs to make my family and friends proud.  Especially my children.  On a daily basis I deal with the fear of leaving this world and not leaving something behind to my children.  Again, not monetarily but a legacy.  Something that I’ve created that will make them proud. Something that will give my work a face or a name. Something that will make them smile long after I’m gone knowing that I, in someway, left my mark on this world and a mark on their hearts.

I’ve been holding my breath for two and a half years.  Today…I can breathe again.  But only for a moment.

~Jillian~

I am thankful for my faith, my team, the vision.

2014 Year In Review

2014 Year In Review

Wow!  What a year!!!  As I sit here listening to a large crowd in Nashville bringing in the New Year just outside of my window, the tears are falling. Every year at this time I sit back and reflect on the year come and gone.  Sure I look at my year in review as a whole but I tend to assess it in 3 ways…personally, professionally and spiritually.  As I attempt to define or sum it up in only a few words, I find it impossible.

Personally –  The first thing that came to mind was the baseball accident that my little one had on October 28, 2013.  It was a Monday.  It is a day that I will never forget and one that would change our lives forever.  It would change the way that I viewed the game of baseball. While he recovered much quicker than we had expected and that we were told by the doctors, we entered 2014 not really knowing the extent of the long term damage.  Daily, then weekly visits to the eye doctor is what the first part of 2014 brought.  Under the best care of both Gage’s Dad and the team of doctors this little boy prevailed.  I speak of my blessings so often but this was one of the biggest blessings of my life…his healing.  That incident brought about a fear inside of me that I never knew existed.  The fear of the game. Accidents happen but the fear of watching the game and holding your breath every time the ball is heading towards him is tough.  I don’t think THAT part of it will ever go away and all that I can do is continue to pray for his safety.  We are so proud of his strength during such a difficult time, for the love he showed in being more concerned about us than himself and for his positive attitude.  We are forever grateful.

While the year started out with so much uncertainty there was still so much to be thankful for.  My oldest, just 23 years old, graduated from college with an MBA!!!  The pride alone that I walk with when I think of this amazing young man cannot be explained so I won’t even try.  Of everything that I’ve ever done in my life…HE reminds me that HE is one of two things that I got right.  To prove just how big of a roller coaster life can be, on this day of celebration and just moments after his graduation, my mother was involved in a car accident.  She sustained some pretty bad injuries that she unfortunately is still suffering with today but I am so thankful that she is still here with us. My Mom is still the strongest woman that I know. With that I am reminded to cherish life and my loved ones for at any moment any of it can be taken from you.

2014 was THE year of substantial loss.  So many!  I’ve lost 4 aunts and uncles since Aug 13’, 3 were my Dad’s siblings with the 4th being (the spouse of his sister) just as recent as Christmas Eve. I still can’t wrap my head around all of it.  The year began with 2 very big losses of dear friends and colleagues in the music business. The list grew tremendously with the loss of childhood friends, a college roommate of my son’s that was only 23 years old and the little brother of one of my best friends being amongst the hardest.  I witnessed friends losing children knowing that I will never come to understand this and numerous friends that lost parents.  With each loss it takes me back to that of my own.  None of it is easy and at the news of each I’ve learned that my sympathy and the empathy for others going through this or any type of struggle will always be very obvious and present inside of me.  I prayed for this to go away for years because I didn’t want to carry the burden or the pain of it all but I’ve learned to embrace it.  With that I’ve tried to help others.  I don’t want to forget about those who have suffered losses over the last few years, however many that may be, that are still struggling.  One of my dearest childhood friends who suffered the loss of her mother almost 3 years ago and family of my nephew that we lost just a year and a half ago face it daily and both remain at the forefront of my thoughts.  I’ve learned that FAITH & TIME are the only things that will get you through.

Many friends were struck with illness or have continued their fight.  It is hard to watch and I am praying for their healing.

To those of you that mean so very much to me…you were not forgotten this year.  My focus has been my career because that’s just the way it is.  I committed.  Thank you for standing beside me through it all even when I didn’t deserve it.  The kind things done, words of encouragement and support in so many ways are so greatly appreciated even when it seems I’m not listening or too selfish to care.  It is important to me that each of you knows that nothing has gone unnoticed or will ever be forgotten.  Things will get back to normal and when they do we will celebrate together.

I’ve reconnected with old friends from years past and have made new ones that I feel have been in my life for the duration of it. 2014 has not allowed me much time, actually not any, to spend with my friends or my loved ones but I still think of each of them often.  I will work harder on taking time to do this.  I won’t make any promises that I can’t keep but let my intentions to make a greater effort be noted. There are a few friends that I simply could not live without.  You know who you are.  One in particular who is my lifesaver! I definitely haven’t said how much they all mean to me, not enough anyway, but my life is better for just having known each of them.  I also haven’t thanked them enough, recognized them enough or done anything enough but I do promise to make it up to each of you.

This year goes down as the worst year in history of “ME” time.   I will be making a greater effort at this as well.  Exercise, longer hot baths and massages are at the top of my list.

The only “ME” time that I’ve had this year was that of a canoe trip that I took with my boys.  I’ve learned that I will ALWAYS be a city girl and should NEVER be on the water or nature in general for any reason.  The snake encounters almost cost me my life and I, on a 13 mile track of river with very few rapids, managed to suffer a shoulder injury.  I am still suffering from the shoulder injury but the snake encounters were far worse.  The power of my vocal chords are still in check.  I also managed to shut down the river, ahead of and behind me.  Apparently screaming isn’t that of a good thing on the water?  A snake need never get between a mother and her child.  I also learned that snakes ARE aggressive.

Did I mention that I have the two most amazing children in the world?  Every single thing that I do and every single day, while much time has been lost this year due to my work schedule, is absolutely devoted to them.  I’ve learned that I will never stop trying to make my children proud of me.  As parents…we shouldn’t.  Oh, and my boys are the two funniest individuals that I have ever known.  They deserve their own reality shows.

Not everything in life can be perfect.  I still have a strong dislike for birthdays, the aging process, hype (when there is clearly nothing to hype up) and let’s not forget cooking. I. Can’t. Do. It.  And I’m ok with that.  The burns that I suffer on each attempt and the fear of that following 8 hours when the chance of food poisoning kicks in isn’t worth it either.  I’m a southern girl and absolute football fanatic.  My language was way more colorful during this years games.  It was not a great year for my Saints/Titans OR LSU teams!!!  We take this very seriously.  Looking for a bigger 2015!!!!

In November while having a conversation with Leonard Marshall he asked me, “What made you get out of Franklin the small town that we grew up in?”  I quickly answered, “just that…the small town.”  The opportunity just wasn’t there for the plans that I had for my life.  I took a few detours but he forced me to think about where I had come from and how I got here.  Such words of encouragement and support poured out of him.  What an inspiration he is on going out there and making things happen and never forgetting where you came from. Reminders…we all need them from time to time.

Random notes to sum up my year personally, things I’ve learned AND learned about myself…I will NEVER stop missing my Dad, Shay, Charlie & Trey and the pain will ALWAYS exist.  As hard as I try to get on a routine in order to help the most awful of sleep habits or lack thereof, I will never succeed.  This is the ONLY thing that I will not succeed at.  My mind will NEVER shut off so I just need to give it up. My drive and determination will never fail me.  My God will never fail me.  I will forever want and need more than 24 hours in a day with longer nights.  Longer winters would be great too.  I will continue to question my sanity in what I choose to do in this crazy music business but I will also continue to do it.  Makes sense right?  There is still nothing that I can’t do that I put my mind to.  I am an extreme introvert, I’ve accepted it.  I will rid my life of Gardetto’s Special Request Garlic and Rye chips because it’s for the best or I WILL die.  Music, TV, Books and more Music, I live it.  Trust is earned.  I don’t trust many.  I am apparently very bossy but I know what I want.  I am always on a mission.  There’s got to be a name for this…MISSION ?  I love the term “RAM ON.”  To the person that coined it…you are genius and I do not give you enough credit.  My zero tolerance for stupidity will never cease.  I can only laugh that at things that are actually FUNNY.  My fake laugh sucks which is very disappointing after having worked on that for years. I’ve also worked on many different laughs.  Fake smile…can’t do that either.  I will never laugh harder than I do with a few of my colleagues…you know who you are.  To those same colleagues…the fights are as equally worth it. I’m terrible at small talk.  Who knew? I’m chalking this up to the insanity that is my mind that refuses to shut down and doesn’t allow me to think on the level of small talk.  For now anyway.  I have a love/hate relationship with technology.  I am extremely private yet I feel the need to blog.  I will speak my mind and do so with honesty. Passion simply exists inside of you…it is not something that you must work on or will get better at.

Professionally – The year started out with a bang when a TV show created by myself, my business partner and one of my dearest friends and colleagues was picked up by a major production company.  I won’t get into the deets on any of that because I can’t but I will say that we’ve spent the better part of the year focused and working on this project with them.  We are surrounded by an amazing team of people and I am looking forward to what the new year holds. I couldn’t have done this without my co-creators and I am so thankful to have them in my life. With that said, we have several new shows in the works and projects that we are currently working on.  This is why I need more than 24 hours in a day!!!!!  It’s been a roller coaster. Some days there are struggles but every day is a blessing.  Next tattoo? 😉

Songwriting…it’s as simple as…I LOVE IT!!!  Music is my life, it is a gift and I am so thankful to be one of the chosen ones. Music came into my life because of the abuse in my life.  I will never understand abuse itself. The fact that I refused to let it define me eternally and that I choose to help others through my own experience is very freeing.  Putting words on paper and turning it into a song is just as freeing.  I will not ever take any of it for granted.  I am so excited to share my new material with everyone!  2015 will be a year of studio work, production sets and more song writing.  I appreciate my co-writers.  Each of them.  What we do is not easy.  They are amongst the most talented in the industry and not only do I get to share in the creative collaboration with them but I learn something from every single writing session.  I am a very lucky girl!!!  I must thank each of them for being a part of that.  I was limited this year because of all of the other projects that took front and center but I am so pleased with the songs of 2014.  I’m hoping to get more write time in this year but what I hope for and what my schedule actually allows are two very different things.  This year…I’ve also learned the meaning of PATIENCE!!!!

I will never be able to thank my Dad enough for his role in promotion of self-growth as an individual and in my music.  He will never know the gift that he gave to me nor the impact that he’s had on my life.  What I wouldn’t do for him to be here today!!!

I must thank my little one for the many “hooks” he’s given me this year.  10 years old!!!  We wrote a song together for his music class. There will never be a better co-writer.  The only elementary school in the world that has a songwriting class.  I love it!!! We are DCA blessed!!!

I had the opportunity to work with so many new and up and coming artists!!!  The talent is incredible and life-long friendships were forged along the way.  I look forward to an amazing 2015 with each of you.

My dream of a children’s book is no longer just a dream.  The process has taken much longer than expected but I am so thrilled.  Mark, thank you!  Without you bringing these characters to life, this book wouldn’t be what it is.  As will all of my projects the ideas get bigger and bigger.  We added a few tools, got some major endorsements, found a wonderful organization to give some of the proceeds to when ready and well, it’s going to be a great year of giving back!!!

There were many meetings and sessions that I had where I literally had to take a step back and ask myself, “Is this really happening?” Yes, yes it was.

The music business will continue to stump me, amuse me, excite me and inspire me.  So will the people in it.  Both good and bad wherever they fit into the first statement.  Loyalty, work ethic and integrity will always be of great importance to me. Thank you to my team!!!  This year was a year of lessons.  God closes every door that you should not walk through.  You can knock, they may answer and even invite you in but he is the only one that will save you from what’s truly behind that door. Trust in him and know that it is always for the best.

Also, just so I never have to say this again because it’s a battle that I cannot fight alone, country music has changed. Deal with it.  Appreciate the art and craft of songwriting, the creative process.  Bashing today’s music will not change anything.  Also, it will not get you any business.  If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it.  If you don’t like it, please also don’t try to be part of the process.  It’s the toughest job in the world.  I hope that 2015 brings about a year of LESS feelings of entitlement.  Especially to the music!!!

There are accomplishments that I am super proud of and there are things that will never be good enough.  I’m working on this too!!!!

Spiritually – I have never felt the presence of God working in my life nor the presence of the devil lurking as a means of distracting me from what I was supposed to be focused on more than I have this year.  Because of that my faith is stronger than ever. There were moments, and there will be many more, where I thought I was going to just break but he always caught me.  It is him that picks me up, it is him that dusts me off and it is him that gives me the courage to try, try again.  Through him all things are possible and I simply cannot do it alone.

In ending I will say this…it does my heart so much good to reflect upon the good and bad that each year brings.  It’s worth every smile and every single tear that has fallen.  I don’t do New Year’s resolutions because I’m smart enough to know that I’m setting myself up for failure and I’m not very good at failure.  In 2015 I will do better, I will work even harder, I will love more, I will say it more, I will forgive more but still not forget, I will give more and I will BE MORE!!!  I am going to accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what will be.  Until God opens the next door, and he has opened so many doors for me this year, I will praise him in the hallway.  Today I have 365 new days with 365 new chances.  It is the year of the RAM so I’m already off to a good start.  Welcome 2015!!!  And in the words of my little one…”I’m going at it like a BOSS”!!!

Oh and one more thing…I will never get over the fact that I am not the creator of 3-D Lash Mascara OR the Candy Club!!!  I cannot be more serious about this, hence, the reason that I will do better in 2015.

Happy New Year!!! May you all have a happy, safe and most prosperous New Year!!!  Much love.

Write On,

~Jillian~

GOALS, COMMITMENT & SACRIFICE…..get you some!!!!!!

“One day she realized that she was the only one who could live HER life.  So she decided to stop worrying about what other people thought and start following her own path.  She never looked back.”  ~ Anna Taylor ~

Thank you Anna!  Exactly!  Since July 1, 2011 after the death of my dear friend, mentor and producer, who was like a father to me, I made a decision to move forward with many things in regards to my music career and my life.  The main reason…I made a promise to him on his death bed that I would do so.  The second reason….I knew that it was going to make me happy and it was way over due.  So many things that I had put off for quite sometime.  After the losses of my Dad and Sister in 01′ I was completely lost.  Loss really puts things into perspective.  At the time I thought that focusing on anything other than my family was extremely selfish of me and the wrong thing to do.  So, I put my career up on the shelf for about a year and a half before getting a call from my producer saying that it was time for me to jump back in.  He thought that if I didn’t do it now then I most likely never would.  I needed to think on that for a while.  I knew that I missed it, I considered how my family would feel about it and deep down in my heart I knew that it was exactly what I needed to, if for anything else, to find myself once again. It WAS the reason that we relocated to Nashville in 98′, it was what my husband and I, at the time, had given everything up for (family, friends, jobs, our home, food…good ole’ cajun cuisine) and it was what my only son at the time had given up so many of his own extra and co-curricular activities for in order to support me in pursing this dream.  After Charlie (my mentor) died, I was determined to make good on my promise to him.  He said to me, “You do your part here on earth and my promise to you is that I will handle mine from the other side.”  I couldn’t quite grasp that at the time but I know now that he wasn’t kidding.  He’s had his hand all over my career and based on that alone I consider myself very fortunate.  So, again, in July 11′ I made the decision to move forward but it wasn’t until April 12′ when I took a full leap never looking BACK and most certainly never looking DOWN.  This decision was an easy decision because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.  This decision was also a very difficult one because I was scared.  There were so many fears that I would have to face and conquer.  Failure being the biggest. Second biggest was change.  Time changes everything.  Time had changed me.  My losses had changed me.  Was I ever going to jump back into these shark infested waters that is the music industry and be ME again?  Could I?

After a failed marriage, while extremely difficult, I became OK with it because I realized that some things are indeed for the best.  Yes, I had failed….it would not be the first time but I refused to fail at anything else again.  Ever.  By taking on this attitude I placed an immense amount of pressure on myself but I felt that in order to succeed this type of attitude was necessary.  This was the music business…where dreams die every single day and the ratio of success is completely against you…most thought that I was crazy re-entering it with the attitude that I would NOT FAIL only because everyone knows how difficult the industry is but I was determined. If I was going in, then all that I had was going in with me.  Having been there before I still never expected how tough the next 3 years would be.  Loss of time with my children was the toughest.  I felt as though my family and friends, the adults in my life, no matter who they were, should understand my decision, respect it and support it. Along the way, some have and many haven’t. My children who were hit the hardest by this decision have been the most understanding and respectful supporters in my life. I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t times where I didn’t feel resentment from them but it would have been crazy for me to expect them not to miss the moments that we once shared and had so many of.  It would be crazy for me not to miss all of those things as well but as a family we made a decision that this is what we all wanted for me to be doing and ultimately what I would be doing for us as a family.  For the most part, the boys and I have chosen to suck it up.  At times I get down on myself as a parent because of how hard I’m working and some of the important events, right down to a baseball game, that I miss out on because of my work schedule but this all goes along with the choices that we made.  It doesn’t make it any easier.  I’ve pondered quite often how my children have handled this whole situation and have transitioned far better than that of the adults in my life.  The stress that has been put on me by certain adults be it family, friends….loved ones has been ridiculous at times and one of the most frustrating things I’ve had to face.  I can’t help but feel that if I’VE given up more than ANYONE (besides my children because they’re children), especially the time with my kids, in order to make all of this happen, why would I have to hear from ANYONE about how hard I’m working, how little time I take for myself (I’ve never had balance, and while I long for it, it’s always been an issue because of my work ethic alone), about how little time I make for family, friends…loved ones, how I need to come home more often, I need to go out more often, just MORE of everything, except WORK?  Let me just say that I miss some of these things and these people greatly.  However, my time is limited.  Let me also say that those that truly love, respect and support my decision will be standing at the end of my successes, the rest will not.  I am completely over hearing anything about any of it from anyone.  If my children and I, who have clearly suffered the biggest loss here, are dealing with it then quite frankly so does EVERYONE else.  I didn’t only make a promise to Charlie Craig that day.  I made a promise to my children, my family, to my friends….my loved ones that day.  I would succeed and I would make them proud.  The only way to do that, especially in this business, it to COMMIT and to SACRIFICE. I will not answer to anyone about the commitment nor the sacrifices that I’ve made.  I intend to make good on my promise to Charlie just as I intend to make good on the promises to my friends, family…loved ones.  Right now I’m feeling like everyone needs to suck it up, just as we have.  Believe me when I say that it takes a lot to get me to this point.  STOP the sulking and support me like YOU promised that YOU would DO!!!!!  I’M doing MY part!!!!!  A person can only take so much of it and putting that kind of pressure on anyone that is clearly on a mission to make things happen in the toughest industry in the world is the most selfish and unfair thing that I can think of.  So, to those that want so much of my time, to those that think that I need to return home more often, think I need to take more time for myself or my boys, think I need to live my life a little more by getting out (and I could not possibly care any less about this one thing) and to those that think that I need to stop working so hard….I will do ALL of these things when my job here is done. NOTHING GETS DONE WHEN YOU STOP WORKING SO HARD. NOTHING!!!!!!!  If I am OK with the way that things are for me right now then nothing else, whether I struggle with it from time to time or not, matters…especially when there are so many reasons behind why I do what I do besides it being my passion.  Work ethic…I guess I don’t understand anyone not getting THAT or the fact that it is so unappreciated.  I have said all of these things because of recent issues or conversations and for the ones that are so immature that they cannot look past the BIG picture here in what I am trying to do. Because my work is a priority right now does not mean that YOU won’t be a priority again when that work is done.  Bottom line is…I know what I need to do to get things done and none of it will ever get done by slacking in any way.  I’VE NEVER BEEN A SLACKER.  And yes, this means not even taking some ME time.  I don’t have it!!!!  It’s hard at times for me but I’ve set some pretty big goals for myself.  It should be tough.  If it was easy I’d have to rethink some things because I’m probably doing it wrong.  Nothing worth something comes by easily.  FACT!!!  There is only ONE of ME!!!  My parents taught me about sacrifice. Over the course of my life they made many of their own in order to succeed and in order to give to me and my siblings everything they never had. They weren’t there for every event but they were for most.  My Dad worked all the time yet at the end of the day while my mother was taking care of things around the house he found the time and energy to make sure that school work or whatever needed to be done with us was done.  If I lost a tennis match that day then I was out at the tennis courts at 11 pm with my Dad working on what didn’t work for me earlier that day!  Not my idea…his. Same thing applied to my brother and football.  What one parent couldn’t do the other would take care of.  I never questioned how hard my Dad worked because that too was all I had ever known.  I understood just as my own children do now.  My parents taught me understanding, they taught me respect and they most certainly taught me what support was all about.  I don’t think that they had to ever teach me the understanding of why he worked so hard.  That was a given to me and probably my true struggle in trying to comprehend why it wouldn’t be a given to anyone else in the same situation, whatever the situation.

I read an article on yesterday that a dear friend of mine posted and I have never read something so closely depicting who I am and why. I’ll consider this article a God send or maybe a God wink saying that it’s OK to work this hard, it is OK to have goals, it is OK to commit and it is OK to sacrifice it all in doing so.  THIS IS ONLY TEMPORARY.  I live by this.  I eat, sleep and breathe it and most of it comes naturally because it is ALL I’ve ever known.  I hope that anyone that feels so put out or left out by my decision to commit to my work reads this and has a better understanding of where I am right now at this point in my life because I will no longer tolerate any nonsense or anything that is somehow put out there to discourage me or pressure me in any way.  Period.  This is me, this is why and that it that!!!!!!  You can choose to be there NOW, or you most likely won’t be THEN.  I’m good either way.  And btw, I expect these same 5 things from my children and NONE of it will EVER be questioned or not supported or any pressure placed on either of them for doing exactly what we should all be making an attempt to do in our lives.  I will continue to chase my dreams as so to pass them NOT just catch them and I will not hear anything for doing so!!!  GOALS…set them, reach them….whatever it takes!!!!!!!!!!!  And THEN, set more!!!!!!

In an article about billionaire, Mark Cuban, the 5 things below are things that he too lives by and I somehow couldn’t ever find a way to explain it.  HE does and does so, brilliantly.  HARD WORK….IT IS THE ONLY WAY!!!!  This says it all…

1. “Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it away from you.”

Life is temporary. Work is temporary. One day, you will be incredibly successful at whatever you choose to do with your life. While that day may be difficult to imagine right now, start fighting for your future.

You may not have a job, internship or college major about which you are crazy, but with everything you do, maintain the mindset that what you have could end or be taken away from you at any time. There will always be someone who is willing to work harder than you, so you should always give your best effort.

This mentality will keep you on your toes and will ultimately help you grow.


2. “It’s not in the dreaming, it’s in the doing.”

Growing up, we are repeatedly told to dream big, to never stop dreaming and to believe in our dreams. However, we are not told enough that dreams are accomplished by taking action.

Dreams are merely thoughts; the doing is more powerful than the dreaming. The doing is what changes the world and impacts people in unforeseen ways.

Dream of being a physical therapist; apply to physical therapy school and go from there. Dream of being a politician; get involved in local campaigns and work your way up. Dream of being a writer; apply to Elite Daily and start writing.

We have more control over the “doing” than we give ourselves credit. If you spend all of your time dreaming, you will never grant yourself the opportunity to see what you are truly capable of accomplishing.


3. “Doesn’t matter if the glass is half-empty or half-full. All that matters is that you are the one pouring the water.”

No matter how troublesome life can become, you are in control of your emotions, decisions and outlooks on situations. Try not to dwell on how empty or full your life, or the lives of others, might be. Believing that you have control over how much water is poured into the glass of life is a powerful skill.

How you react to not getting the perfect internship, a friend’s betrayal or a loved one’s death can make the glass seem pretty empty; however, you get to decide how much water is poured.


4. “Wherever I see people doing something the way it’s always been done, the way it’s ‘supposed’ to be done, following the same old trends, well, that’s just a big red flag to me to go look somewhere else.”

Life can get repetitive, consistent and complacent. Falling into a life or workplace of complacency is dangerous. Seek opportunities and take risks that are out of your comfort zone. Work for a company that is constantly changing, growing and evolving.

Surround yourself with people who are bold and do not follow paths already created. Do not be afraid to look at opportunities in life that are different, offbeat or even a little weird.

We are trained to interpret “different” as a negative, when in reality, different jobs and opportunities often provide for the greatest potential for us to thrive as individuals. Life is too short for us to live in fear of being different. Be whom you want to be and don’t worry about the haters.


5. “Every no gets me closer to a yes.”

The word “no” leads many of us to see it as a failure. “No” comes in different forms: the test you just failed, the interview that didn’t lead to a job and the person who tells you “you can’t.” We look at that “no” often enough to never go near it again.

“No” does not mean defeat, however. It is an opportunity to get closer to the “yes” for which you are searching. Do not let the “nos” of life impact your goals.

“Nos” are part of your story, and if you keep working hard, they will lead to many “yeses,” which often turn out to be better than the opportunities for which the “nos” would have provided.

Dreamers

Today I am reminded of how dreams come and go.  I see moving trucks full of dreamers coming into Nashville every single day in hopes of seeing their names up in lights someday and those that are leaving town because the reality of reaching that dream seems so far out of reach or unattainable that they had no other choice.  It takes me back to the Summer of  98′, reminiscing of my move to Nashville from South Louisiana…the excitement, the fear and that I was actually going through with it and not just talking about it as so many of us do and just as I did for years.  I hated leaving home because of my family and friends (and the food) but this was my dream and the opportunity of a lifetime.  Indeed a very happy time in my life.  As I pass each moving truck I can’t help but notice every single passenger and wonder about their story to the point of feeling the urge to flag them down and ask “Coming or Going and Why?”  As I size up each passenger I’m convinced that by only a quick glimpse I can tell if they’re singer or songwriter.  I guess I’ve been around the business long enough now that it’s as if we’re our own nationality.  Flashes of what their stories may be begin to run through my mind.  I always look at their faces…their faces alone tell a story.  Are they sad, crying, grinning ear to ear or do they appear to be so far away from here, so deep into thought that they’re unaware of anything and everything surrounding them? Whatever it is…my emotions take over.  However it is they appear to me I can’t help but feel happy or sad for them.  I immediately attempt to put myself in their shoes.  Crazy right?  When I think of how it may be a simple story of a job relocation or maybe even just a change of scenery I can’t help but feel foolish in even letting my own mind wander to that “possibly” very far off place. Then again, it may not be that very far off at all.

To any dreamer coming to this town to fulfill their dreams I want to say “Good for You, I admire your courage and determination in doing so and that these things and work ethic are the only things that will get you there, yet still, there are no guarantees.  To those that have some how fallen along the way, that once again find the courage to get into that moving truck with only their belongings and what’s left of their pride…NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER QUIT DREAMING!!!  Life IS indeed NOT about finding yourself but about creating yourself wherever or whatever that may be. 

Each day I wake up and I think about what it is that I’m going to go out there and do TODAY that will not only make me successful, something that will change the world or my life and that of my loved ones, something that will make an impact on others but that will also continue to make me happy.  There are a few obvious things such as continuing to work hard or remaining focused on the goals set forth for myself but two things stand out above all…..to just create, to just dream big.  

Just as John Lennon did, I will continue to believe in dreams, in everything until it is disproved.  I too will believe in fairies, in myths, in dragons even if only in my mind.  May we all believe!!!

Today I am thankful for being a dreamer, I am thankful for the gift of music and to my Dad for giving me the gift of both.

And on a side note…while I consider myself an inventor, a creator of many things…I woke this morning completely pissed off that I didn’t create 3D Lash Mascara or Como phone app.  That is all.  Today…I will think harder and I will dream bigger.

Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth. 

~Bradley Whitford~

 

Perfect Timing

Do any of you ever think about that ONE thing that someone says to you over the course of the day that you really needed to hear and how it is usually at the most perfect time?  It causes you to stop and think or say to yourself or them, “I really needed to hear that”?  I experienced that just this evening and thought that I would talk about it because it was just too good not to share.  The jest of it….we all get exhausted from working so hard at times.  Here lately, it’s quite often for me.  There’s no on/off button for work ethic especially where there are deadlines to meet or the biggest of goals set where “not reaching them” is an option or acceptable. Most know this about me and many worry about the toll that it may take on me physically (especially my mother) but I never really stop or slow down to consider it.  Not until it’s brought to my attention, I get sick because I’m run down or something like today is said to me that really makes me ponder.  We all know someone like this or we know it to be true about ourselves but still….we can’t help ourselves and we can’t help them…it’s what was is instilled in some of us by our parents or grandparents and most likely we actually don’t mind it and love the feeling of accomplishment. This was an incredible story shared with me by a dear friend and some serious food for thought. So the story goes:

An older logger was asked one day by one of the new young hands, “Why do you only load three logs on your wagon that can clearly carry six logs like many of the other logging outfits do daily?” He continued, “You have the very best team of mules of all the loggers.” The elder gentleman stated without hesitation, “Son take notice of the number of logs each month that I deliver to the mill versus the total from any of the other loggers. Watch how I treat my team of mules and notice their years of service to me compared to the ragged worn beasts of those who burden their team with too heavy a load. On days the overloaded wagons are broken or stuck in the mud, I continue with my three logs and unload as scheduled daily. Last but not least I am content with hauling three logs because of the peace of mind I receive knowing that I can haul three more tomorrow. I could haul more but will have to buy a new wagon sooner, replace my mules after a short service, and will have to nurse myself every night so as to be able to work the next day.”  At that moment the young man beamed with this knowledge and realized that to overburden your team has costs that he never could have seen alone. So always take into consideration the load you attempt to carry. What costs are you failing to see?

So true!!!  Common sense right?  I guess not for THIS girl.  I will not ever forget this story nor this dear friend’s words of concern about putting such pressure on myself.  Any company leaders out there…you should have high expectations of your employees but understand the importance of what this message says.  Any work-a-holics out there such as myself (wether self-employed or not) should know that we’re no good to anyone OR ourselves if we push it to the brink of complete and utter exhaustion. By the time it gets to this point you’re beneficial to no one and certainly not to that of your own health.  Do I need to mention getting burnt out as well?  As I type this I can’t help but think how great I am at giving advice but how bad I am at taking my own or that of others.  I’m going to work on this.  I hope anyone out there that needed to hear this does too!!!  The moral…unnatural amounts of work produces stress rather than true production.  

Today I am thankful for “perfect timing” of “great advice” for you can only dream when you are awake (literally).  I am thankful for brilliant ideas, the opportunity to work with such visionaries and I am thankful for the best business partner and business planners on the planet!!!!!!   

 

Traveling In The Right Direction and Oh So Thankful

For the last 2 days I’ve had so many thoughts running through my mind.  So much to the point that I wasn’t quite sure what I even wanted to blog about so I chose not to.  Those that know me well know that discussing any topic or sharing my thoughts is NEVER an issue for me. There are days where it’s been an awesome day and you can’t wait to share it with those closest to you…your family, friends, colleagues and if exciting enough maybe even the world. There are days that are just so bad where you’re seemingly mad at the world that nothing, no matter how hard you try, is worth writing down because it only wreaks of negativity.  Who wants to be that guy?  Then there are those days where so much has happened (be it good or bad) that it literally silences you. Maybe it’s because you’re completely overwhelmed, maybe you need time to process your thoughts or in some cases maybe you’re just at a loss for words.  I’m still unsure as to where I fit in in any of these scenarios.

In my business I consider myself very fortunate to be surrounded by some of the most brilliant minds that I’ve ever known.  Many make me think outside of the box, some push me beyond what I feel my limits may be or help me to recognize that I have no limits and others make me look at the bigger picture of things forcing me to see both the good and bad in any situation or circumstance. Many times we ARE indeed way too close to the forest to see the trees.    

In a conversation with one of my colleagues and dear friends I was able to sort through some of my thoughts.  During this conversation she reiterated to me of some of what I already knew…the importance of surrounding myself with good people and to stop trying to figure others out that aren’t quite wired like me because I’d never come to understand it.  None of us are perfect, I get that.  I still can’t help but to question certain things at times.  Most of us going through anything in life, again be it good or bad, never stop to look around at all our blessings or even give thanks. Guilty!!!  I have been abundantly blessed.  I’ve had the same highs and lows that each of us experience, some better, some worse but when I stop and take a quick glance of the big picture that is my life, the highs far outweigh the lows and the road I traveled to get to where I am today was absolutely in the right direction.  And my little sister would always tell me that I had no sense of direction or if so it was terrible.  Ha!  At times I feel like the odd man out by not choosing to travel the road of least resistance and because of that I got here by the hardest, however, I’m not quite convinced of it. There is a reason for every intersection in life, a reason for every single person that enters/exits our lives and recognition of that is pretty empowering.  I can question many things but every single moment along that road had to be crossed.  Truth is….there is no easy walk to freedom and that is exactly why I continue to find myself at the corner of FAITH and SUCCESS. This isn’t an either/or OR hmm which way do I go situation.  I must travel one in order to travel the other.  Along both I’m going to encounter some pretty steep hills, the lowest of valleys, the most majestic of mountains that once crossed there’s simply no stopping me and let us not forget each and every face along the way…the ones we’d love to see again…the ones that we are straight up thankful for crossing on a that road and not in a dark alley, those that attempted to take us through that valley hoping that we’d simply disappear into the darkness and the ones that not only approached that steep hill just beside us and rode that mountain to the top but that when needed gave me a push in an effort to reach the top!!!  While all encounters are equally as important because there are lessons to be learned along the way, I choose to surround myself with the latter. These are the ones that encourage you, that motivate you, they push you when needed and will pick you up and carry you when you think you can’t possibly travel any further….your true colleagues or friends, your family.

In that same conversation my colleague said to me that with most of her clients there is one thing that she has them do every single day.  She had mentioned this before but I hadn’t thought much more about it other than it was a great idea.  You see guys, the entertainment industry on any level can be brutal and it is sometimes easy to lose sight of all that is good when there are so many odds against you.  She has each one of them write down 3 things that they’re thankful or grateful for each day.  I’ll take you guys back to my “brilliant” comment at the start of this blog as this is exactly what I meant.  We should all make an attempt to do this.  By doing so it allows us to put things into perspective and to openly see both sides of things happening in our lives.  Everything DOES happen for a reason. Sometimes we can’t grasp why, sometimes we have a complete understanding (right at that very moment or eventually come to understand) and sometimes we will never know or understand why.  That’s always the worst part of reason.  I thought that this would be another great exercise in addition to my blogging so it only makes sense to start here.  Today I am thankful for the very wise words of this colleague and the fact that she chooses to share her wisdom with me.  I am thankful for the colleagues that have helped me get to where I am both personally and professionally. EVERY DAY I am thankful for my children for they are the reason that I wake each morning. Now, what are YOU thankful for TODAY?  Annnd………GO!!!

Special shoutout to one colleague!!!  Your taking time out of your very busy schedule today for my son, your patience, guidance and your kind words are greatly appreciated.  Thank you!!!! ❤