KikiBlogAneurysm

Shit just got real: my brain aneurysm

It’s been weeks since the docs told me about my little bubble brain. They didn’t use those exact words, but I prefer a sugary colloquialism over the actual medical diagnosis: “Intracranial Aneurysm.”

What started out as a personal quest to get to the bottom of my twelve-day migraine (landing me in the ER twice) ended up being the very beginning of a new adventure: discovering, learning about and living with this ticking time bomb.

brain%20aneurysmTruth? I thought a brain aneurysm was a stroke. But after a crash course with a couple of top-notch neurosurgeons, I now know better. I learned that an aneurysm of the brain is a weakened area of a blood vessel. If it ruptures, this causes bleeding in the brain – which is called hemorrhagic stroke. Roughly fifty percent of people will die immediately, the other half, brain-damaged.

If. Rupture. Stroke. And, scene.

If. Those two letters joined at the hip have been a storm cloud hovering above me since my diagnosis. It’s one of those words that, when on automatic replay is guaranteed to heighten anxiety, perpetuate insomnia and toss you around in a cyclone of worry and fear.

Everybody has their Ifs. If they finished college, saved more money, accepted a job offer, stayed in touch more…the list is endless.

KikiMollyThe only If in my world lately relates to my old stripper-self twenty years ago.

As most forty-something’s do, I reflect on my irresponsible past whenever my present self is faced with something that could have been avoided. It wasn’t until incriminating photos surfaced from old friends on Facebook that I realized how much I used to smoke (as a bladder cancer survivor at 36, the weight of regret when seeing my cocky ass holding a martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other is suffocating).

My memory of the nine years I worked as a stripper is a kaleidoscope of VIP rooms and debauchery, which seems cool. But stare long enough at the shine, and reality will find a way to blind you.

I’ve been assured by the professionals that the string of cocaine and alcohol binges in my twenties is not the cause of my new-found brain aneurysm. They tell me in fact, that if I had this little fucker back then, I wouldn’t even be here – another casualty of addiction.

Still, I wonder. If The Universe is trying to get my attention, she has. Her sense of humor isn’t lost on me, either.

As someone who has struggled with depression I know well, the cinderblocks of despair and hopelessness. A few years back, in the thick of one particularly dark spell, I was paralyzed and obsessed with the fantasy of taking my life. Google was my accomplice; every hyperlink, another turn down the rabbit hole of options in which to do so.

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This brain aneurysm scares the shit out of me. The Ifs are immeasurable. If it ruptures. If I need brain surgery. If I die. I’m living in a constant reminder to breathe, and try to let go of things that are out of my control.

It’s an odd and embarrassing feeling to admit fantasies of wanting to die. But if this aneurysm is teaching me anything, it’s that I can honestly say, I’m not ready.

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A lesson in Weird

Years ago in the mid-nineties when my niece was around seven years old, we passed a book store during one of our special one-on-one days. I loved hanging out with Sydney (still do) – especially since my sister and I couldn’t be more different.

My older sister Laurie is the left brain, practical, problem-solving thinker. Me? I marinate in my right-brain-ness; satiating on the creative, fanatical, finger-painted wonder that is my messy life. You want neat, tidy, brilliant, finance-managing and scary-smart logic? Laurie is your gal (I’m in awe of her brain, actually). I’ll be in the music aisle dancing to Earth Wind and Fire, swinging my unkept auburn locks while my overly-priced-candle burns away – wondering where all my money went.

When it comes to the thinkers and feelers of the world, no one is any better or worse than the other – we’re all just wired differently. It’s actually pretty great, once we get past our “my way or the highway” vibe.

Two polar opposite sisters in a dysfunctional family always makes for some interesting dinner table talks; and proved surprisingly educational when it was just my sister’s daughter and me on this particular day.

“Eeew, she’s so weird.” Sydney was referring to a magazine cover photo of Gwen Stefani in the window, in all her blue-haired, bedazzle-faced glory.

“I know. So cool!” I exclaim.GS

Tossing me a look as if my own head of hair was blue, she continued.

“You think it’s cool?”

“I do!”  By the look on Syd’s face I  knew my words needed back-up. “She dances to the beat of her own drum. She blazes her own trail, not caring what anyone thinks of her style. She’s expressing her creative side. So cool.”

“Yea, but it’s weird.”

“But weird is good.”

I could tell she was trying to wrap her young head around my words, and I appreciated the fact that she was trying to expand her mind. But for a kid, the possibility that being different is actually cool is way too foreign.

When we’re young, all we want to do is fit in. If you were different, you were weird. And weird is another word for YOU’RE NOT ONE OF US, which translates to, YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH, leaving our wounded hearts to believe I’M NOT LOVABLE. Dangerous territory and not one I was capable of tackling within the space of light-hearted hang time during a stroll through the mall.

“Okay…” Her inflection sang to the tune of “if you say so, Crazy Auntie!”

We both smiled and continued on to the movie theater.

It’s been over a decade and I cannot tell you the name of the movie we saw that day, but for some reason our Stefani exchange stays with me. Is it because my Dalai Lama-Obi Wan Kenobi teachings were so brilliant that it’s impossible to forget such wisdom? Probably.

But more than likely, my explaining to a young girl on the verge of her teen years that it’s ok to be weird helped shine light on my own insecurities.

As a young woman in her 20s with scars on her face, PTSD from sexual abuse, who chose the stripper pole over a college campus, I needed all self-esteem boosters I could get.

So thank you Sydney (and Gwen). More than you’ll ever know – and just by explaining how great it is to be unique – you helped me embrace my own weird – and reminded me just how cool it really is.

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Universal, Part II

Most people think it’s just the addicts who get lost in their own web. As a follow-up to my recent post about seeking validation, here’s another excerpt from my forthcoming book that may shift your perception.

Or not.

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CoverIt’s true that addicts have a brain disease. That’s why our actions are so insane when we aren’t in some type of recovery. I’m not a 12-stepper myself (and carry no judgment with people who are), but I’m taking the steps to recognize my shit, and am trying my best to stay on a healthy track.

You may or may not have the disease of addiction. But isn’t it true we all – at some point in our lives – have tried to mask our pain with something?

It used to really piss me off that I was different. That I couldn’t just party like everyone else. Sometimes it still does.

But the more I work on my book, the easier it is to see, we’re not that different, all of us. None of us are immune to the longing of laughter, and a desire to evolve with whole and happy hearts.

It just takes some of us longer to get there.

* * *

Here’s the part where you tell me: addict or not – what have you done to mask your pain? Please share in the comments below. As always, being anonymous is an option. Your words may just help someone. At the very least, it helps us all realize we are not alone.

With love and gratitude,

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A safe kind of high: My unexpected relapse

You would think after fifteen years, my memories of “rolling” and free-falling inside myself would be strung together on a distant, blurry line, for which I am older and wiser living clear on the other side. For the most part, this is true.

I can’t remember my last night taking Molly (we called it ecstasy, or “X”), but it’s been so long, my cravings are nearly non-existent. There are times when I allow myself to enjoy a memory or two – and those flashes in my mind are always wrapped in a glittery bow of reckless abandon, stitched together with youth and frivolity. These warm and fuzzy emotions are always balanced by the harsh realization that thanks to a solid five-year, six-pill-a-day habit, my brain is now permanently damaged. My docs and I have a good thing going now, with regular maintenance of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) therapy. It’s a pain in the Continue reading

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Universal

I’m working hard on the book and wanted to share a little piece that I think translates far beyond the tip stage.

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Walking away from the stripping world was just the beginning in a life-long journey to find my worth.

I’m still learning.

But you don’t need a history of dancing naked on stage, addiction or abuse to come full circle. Every one of us has a story.

This is the part where you tell me – what was something you did that made yourself believe you were worthy of love and belonging?

How do you find your worth?

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Music and Chair Shows: Reflections of a retired stripper

Navigating six-inch heels on stage with smoke in your face takes practice. Sporting a smile while dancing to Me So Horny in those heels, and you’ll need cocktail.

One of the unique challenges I faced during my ten-year career as a stripper was pretending to like certain types of music. Like suffering through a bad date, you realize something isn’t your taste but you smile politely and muddle through.

A typical Saturday night set on the main stage was shared with three other women, each providing the DJ with very specific song requests. I was always the Enigma or Nine Inch Nails girl with an occasional PJ Harvey thrown in for good measure. Pair that up with the Bel Biv Devoe and Naughty by Nature chicks and let the muddling ensue. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate a little Ice Cube with my INXS; I just didn’t feel sexy dancing on stage with them. I always felt like an extra on MTV’s Beach House.

My personal taste in music was a bit more edgy and alternative than what was played on mainstream radio. In classic narcissistic fashion, I took full credit for introducing the local Continue reading

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Six Degrees of CPK

Christine Macdonald:

In case you missed it. My first “real job”, away from stripping – and the friends who helped me more than they’ll ever know.

Originally posted on Christine Macdonald:

Sometimes it takes going home again to realize a part of you never really left.

As a child of addiction and a recovering party-girl myself, I’ve often said I suffer from arrested development. This is an abnormal state in which development has stopped prematurely – usually around the age when those mind-altering chemicals take over the brain. I don’t use the term lightly (side note: Arrested Development is one of my favorite television shows), but more as a barometer for my maturity. A reminder to be gentle on my heart when life throws lessons my way. It takes a lot to overcome addiction and even more strength to grow up. We’re all still learning – still growing. Some of us just take a little longer to get caught up.

I started taking drugs when I was fourteen. By my late twenties I was so burned out I decided to make…

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The Customer is Always Trite

Customers of strip clubs are like used cars in auto malls – there’s always a variety of inventory, and each wishes you would ride them.

The majority of this hodgepodge of horny were harmless, lonely men. Not surprisingly, I describe my old stripper-self the exact same way. Perhaps both ends of the stage simply wanted an escape. Always making for an interesting adventure, the different characters in the audience would never disappoint. Allow me to paint you a picture of just a few.

The College Guy

This type of customer was a classic example of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. On second thought, they were more like boys in men’s clothing. At first glance, I’d think he’s young and clean-cut, so I would rest easy working my way up to them on the stage. Once positioned and face-to-face with the darlin’ scholars, I’d smile, dance a little, and lift my garter for them to place a tip. More often than not, College Guy smiled, kept staring at my ta-tas, but made no attempt to fetch their wallet. At this moment any stripper realizes, College Guy is a euphemism for Poor Guy – not to be confused with Cheap Guy, who is much lower on the stripper-tolerant scale.

If College Guy really liked you, (and you had patience) you could get a dollar bill from him after about four songs (that’s about 20 minutes, people). It was a lot of work for a buck, but you had to respect a guy for squeezing in mid-terms with strip-bars, not to mention fitting in a stripper tip on a Raman noodle budget.

Drug Dealer Dude

Steadfastly calm and rarely perched directly under the lights on the stage, Drug Dealer Dude was a subtle and loyal fixture within the walls of stripper debauchery. Although neatly tucked in the shadows, spotting them in the club was never hard. Drug Dealer Dudes were usually surrounded by a bevy of beauties donning not much more than a g-string and smile. Count me in as one of the gals in line to schmooze for some mind-altering merchandise.

In 1990’s Waikiki, the hot substances in the skin trade were cocaine and MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine), commonly known as Ecstasy, “E” or “X” (now, called “Molly”). Occasionally you’d smell pot back stage, but the real action was in pills and powder.

Always the consummate salesmen, Drug Dealer Dudes were a blast to hang out with, but not Continue reading

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High. School.

If you’re new to my page, let me get you up to speed. I’m a 44-year-old recovering hot mess who, from 1987 to 1996, used to grab her ankles on the stripper stage in Waikiki, where I grew up. I survived some pretty major shit as a kid and am writing a book about how it all comes together – after everything fell apart.

My main squeeze was Blow, but I had a torrid affair with Ecstasy after our introduction on my 21st birthday, and for a solid five years, I was in love with both. Booze was always my back-burner bitch, and every now and then Acid and Shrumes crashed the party. But Cocaine – from the moment I snorted my first line at fourteen – she was The One.

You may be wondering how a freshman in high school could even get their hands on drugs. Trust me. It ‘aint hard. At least, it wasn’t in the 80s. But I gotta say, with the current drugs of choice coming straight from mom and dad’s medicine cabinet these days, I can’t imagine accessibility being a huge deal.

But how could a parent not know?

Parents don’t see what they don’t want to believe. It’s the Holy Grail of addiction for a kid: we know you think you know, and with every turn of your blind eye, we delve deeper into our addiction. Of course, not every high schooler who pops a pill, smokes a joint, slams a beer or even tries blow is an addict. But so what? Isn’t even one kid who uses too many? And let’s get real – there are shitloads of kids getting high. Not buying it? Here’s a free sample of some raw facts:

“Recent research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reveals that drug use among teens has reached epidemic levels: a staggering ONE out of every THREE teenagers meets the medical criteria for addiction.” Kristen Johnston – SLAM

That little nugget of Scary is a direct quote from SLAM (Sobriety, Learning and Motivation), an organization actress and author Kristen Johnston started five years ago, which assists New York City’s youth in recovery.

The deeper I dig into my own personal story, with every chapter that unfolds within the safety of my words as I write this book, the more I’m realizing – what a gift Kristen and SLAM is to our kids and families today.

I can’t help but wonder how different my own path would’ve been, had I been part of a sober high school.

But regret is an allergy for us addicts – if we allow ourselves even a taste – we break out in shame. And life is fucking hard enough without having to disinfect our past. So we move forward, one day at a Goddamned time, navigating around the land mines of blame.

But someone is to blame.

Every addict has their own story, so there’s no way we can blanket the world with one giant finger-pointing party. The bottom line is, once your child is in trouble, in the immediate sense, it really doesn’t matter how they got there (ok, it does, but you’ll have plenty of time to figure that out during Family Week).

The hooks of addiction are sharp and unmerciful, and they don’t need a reason to puncture, they just need the skin. And when it comes to our children, SLAM (and every sober high school in the country) is the greatest armor we have.

I’m not a therapist, interventionist, doctor or specialist – but what I can tell you is teenage addiction (and depression) is REAL. If you need more proof, here’s a poem I wrote, high on cocaine in 1983. I was fifteen.

~

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If you’re wondering whether your teen (or anyone you know) is an addict, TheFix.com is a great source of information.

For more information on Kristen’s sober high school, SLAM, please visit their website www.slamnyc.org.

To read Kristen’s personal story, pick up her book GUTS (I dare you not to laugh through tears). Here’s my review.

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Jellyfish

His name was Duke. A delicious, twenty-something tall drink of London with dirty blonde hair, emerald eyes and sun-kissed abs. I usually dug the Mario’s and Antonio’s of the world, but with Duke, I made an exception. He was the precursor to David Beckham, only without the tanorexic Spice wife, four kids and bank roll. I’m not even sure he played soccer – football – whatever. But that accent. The cocky attitude. As soon as he said my name, I was all in.

As if his royal dreamyness wasn’t enough, he was the hottest new waiter at the club. If he wasn’t already shagging my friend, he would’ve been perfect. Fucking hot guys. Always gay or married.

Duke and Maddie weren’t technically married, but they shacked up just days after they met. She chose “Madison” as her stage name, honoring her mid-western roots, and if possible, was even more stunning than her English prince. It’s fascinating to watch two beautiful freaks of nature meet for the first time. It’s like they know – they’re born with winning lottery genes – but only really appreciate it when locking eyes with fellow ticket holders. So annoying. Even more so, when they end up being really cool. I wanted my aesthetically gifted friends to be assholes, just so I could hate them.

But I adored Maddie and Duke. And as much as I lusted after his piping hot, witty, heavily accented bounce-a-quarter-able-ass, I never broke the Stripper Sisterhood code of: Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Fellow Pole Dancer’s Penis.

So we became tight friends. I looked up to Maddie, who was a couple of years older and Continue reading

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Mea Culpa: Confessions of a Baby Sister

A fancy, edited version is featured on Salon.
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No bride expects her maid of honor to be high on drugs on the big day – especially when it’s her younger sister in the supporting role.
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After church, photographs, and the limousine ride, we arrived at the reception. Between greeting the guests, gift giving and more photo sessions, I found a pocket of time to slip away to meet my dealer in the hotel lobby.
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Armed with a half gram of cocaine, I locked myself in the bathroom stall. Lifting my strapless, floor-length bridesmaid dress, I straddled the back of the toilet with my dyed-to-match pastel pumps. I held my over-teased, Aquanet sprayed hair with one hand, and snorted through a rolled up dollar bill with the other.
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Within seconds, my heartbeat kicked up a notch, and the music echoing through the hall began to thump a little louder. The subtle vibration of the metal stall reminded me where I was, but I wasn’t in a hurry. As long as I heard music, I knew I had time.
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A couple more lines, pantyhose adjustment, and lip-gloss reapplication later, and I was ready to head back. Before reaching the door, I cursed the fluorescent lighting framing the mirror, surveyed my nostrils, and wiped away any evidence of my secret.
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Stepping closer toward the ballroom, I couldn’t escape thoughts of my upcoming toast.  I was brewing with cocaine confidence, but still had no idea what I was going to say. I just knew I had to say something.
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At 18, I had little life experience, so mom served up a crash course in maid of honor etiquette the night before the wedding. My toast was to be light-hearted and personal – a trip down relationship lane about my sister and new brother-in-law.
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“Just share a nice story about them.”
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The problem was, I didn’t really have any stories, nice or otherwise. Short of all the pre-wedding hullabaloo, my sister and I barely spoke.
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“Okay” I agreed.
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The ballroom was packed. When my time came to toast the happy couple, my eyes wrestled with the spotlight, and landed on Continue reading
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Don’t I know you? (excerpt)

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1990 – Club Femme Nu – Waikiki

The balls of my feet were throbbing. Carrying me away from the center stage, was the crescendo of applause. Beads of sweat tickled the small of my back, and the coke-fueled adrenaline thumping inside my chest served as a reminder I was still alive.

As soon as I reached the edge of the stage, I kicked off my six-inch stilettos, welcoming the release of my suffocating toes.

I grabbed the bills from my garter, threw them on the floor, making a pile in the seam dividing the main stage and Plexiglass wall of the shower stage. After exchanging non-verbal assurances that my stash was safely guarded by my favorite bouncer, Tuli,  I stepped in to the stall, and turned on the water. Waving a smile to the audience, I wiggled the pins and needles out of my toes on the cold, wet tile.

The shower stage always drew in a big  crowd. A nude chick, sudsing up with wet hair, strutting up and down a jet stream runway – what’s not to love?

Deana followed my set, and I loved her taste in music, which meant I’d have a ball performing my wet-n-wild show – while she worked the room on the center stage. I threw her a smile, nodding in appreciation as Faith No More blasted from the vibrating speakers. We both mouthed the words to the crowd:

“You want it all, but you can’t have it… It’s in your face, but you can’t grab it!”

It was always fun teasing customers, but even better when I dug the music.

Receiving tips in the shower show was a little different from collecting them on the main (dry) stage. Customers loved slapping the bills on our wet bodies. Never one to disappoint, I always bent over, ass in air, allowing their spanks with every bill. The guys took such pleasure in sneaking a ‘touch’, while I welcomed their money. Some girls hated the spank-tips, but I didn’t mind. As long as Continue reading

Musical memory: who was your first concert?

Musical memory: who was your first concert?

There’s something about being in the presence of live music that provides such a gift. As audience members, we allow ourselves to get lost within the melody, riding the waves of each instrument, feeling the energy as it seeps into our blood. With every drum beat, guitar riff, base line and lyric – we soak it all in. What’s theirs is suddenly ours, wrapping around our hearts, moving our bodies to the beat of extraordinary creation. Live music is so raw and real, never duplicated in the exact way you experience it, which is what makes living in the moment, and sharing performances of your favorite musicians priceless.

It doesn’t matter if the venue is small (my favorite), or the size of a football field, the energy among audience members is palpable – even before anyone steps foot on stage. And when they do – when the space is illuminated and that very first sound fills the air, we all feel it – the collective first musical kiss. Our knees get weak and butterflies turn to thunderous applause and cheers.

On the heels of a Billy Idol reference regarding last week’s post (with those crazy 80s photos), I thought this would be a fun question to answer.

Who was the first person (band) you saw in concert?

I’ll go first.

The first (supervised, with my mom) performance I saw was Stevie Wonder, at age 13 in 1982. He rocked that piano out like no one’s business; so much so, at one point, he actually fell off his piano chair. He quickly recovered, and finished the show with the most insane rendition of “Boogie On Reggae Woman” I ever heard. To this day, I can’t keep still when hearing that tune.

My first (unsupervised) concert was a triple threat of musical goodness: Cheap Trick, who opened for The Police, who opened for Continue reading

An obsessive, bionic, Japanese speaking snoop?

An obsessive, bionic, Japanese speaking snoop?

1992 (24 yrs old) Donna (left) and me (right) on Halloween in the dressing room. Note the poster of Eric on the door.

On the heels of gal pal Dalai Lina’s post today, I’m going to share five things about myself that you don’t know – then ask you to share a little about YOU.

Here’s me:

1)

In 1992, I was obsessed with The Real World (season one)‘s Eric Nies (notice him on the dressing room door behind me). Obsessed. He was hot, fun and totally unattainable, just the type of man I liked.

After The Real World wrapped, Eric parlayed his 15 minutes into a “VJ” (video jockey) role on MTV.  When a contest to guest host with Eric for a week was announced, I quickly entered. The rules stated we could enter as many times as we liked, so that’s exactly what I did. I hand wrote thousands of post cards and mailed them to the MTV corporate offices in New York. Convinced I would win, I drove around the island dropping off hundreds of entries in different post boxes, thinking I had a better chance of winning if the mail was spread out. I had all the dancers in the club filling out these post cards during their time off stage.

I didn’t win, but it was an incredible display of my tenacity and passion; not to mention a lesson in life being incredibly unfair.

2)

In the third grade, I was a bit of a track star in school. When a fellow classmate asked me “how can you run so fast?”, I couldn’t help myself. I told her I was bionic. Her mouth gasped open, and to prove my lie, I said “watch this…” and proceeded to walk up to the hand-powered, wall mounted pencil sharpener and grinded that pencil within an inch of its life. She promised to keep my secret under wraps and was thrilled to know a real-life Bionic Woman.

3)

I’m left-handed, but do everything else with my right hand. I’m also dyslexic and have the worst hand writing known to man. I should have been a serial killer. Or a doctor.

4)

I speak Japanese. When you grow up in Hawaii, the second language is Japanese, so it makes sense. Thanks to a summer job at Häagen-Dazs in Waikiki, I still know how to say “A dollar sixty-nine”, “big cone, or small cone?”, and “I’ll be with you in a moment”.

Years later in Northern California, I worked as a store manager at Ann Taylor. When a group of Japanese tourists walked in the store, I greeted them and chatted a little in Japanese to them. They were stunned!

Angela and me. Love the Milli Vanilli shorts.

5)

I’m a recovering snoop. When Robert and I lived together, I snooped all the time. You’d think the fact he was a drug dealer would’ve scared me, but I didn’t care. I wanted to catch him in the cheating act, because I knew he was playing around, and I thought if I had proof, it’d help me leave him.

When I discovered a love letter and photo from a stunning blonde, Angela, I immediately phoned the number she left. After introducing myself, Angela invited me for a drink and I curiously accepted. We learned a TON about Robert and decided to confront him together. Later that night, you could’ve knocked him over with a feather when he came home to see Angela and I sitting on the couch, hamming it up.

I kicked Robert out and Angela moved in. It was the beginning of a life long friendship, and I consider her to be one of the most amazing women I know.

It’s been years since I’ve played detective. When you surround yourself with people you love and trust, there really is no need to invade someones personal space. My motto is, if I feel like I should be checking your phone or emails, I shouldn’t be dating you in the first place.

So there you have it. Five random facts about me that you didn’t know.

Can you think of any you’d like to share about YOU?

Happiness For Sale?

Happiness For Sale?

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It’s what we all work for. What we need to provide for our families. Not having enough keeps us awake, and having too much is a dream. We take it for granted, disrespect it, even gamble with it. And these days, it doesn’t come easy.
 
When I was a stripper, I made great money. I lived large in a luxury high-rise apartment sporting panoramic views of Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean. Waikiki was the backdrop to a lifestyle I milked with every VIP pass and full moon limousine ride. I took taxis everywhere, enjoyed monthly facials, weekly massages with manicures, and hundred-dollar haircuts.
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I wasn’t kidding about the limo rides. I had a driver named James (his real name) on retainer for monthly full moon excursions around the island. My friends could set their watches by James pulling up to the club at 4:00 am, and in addition to a handful of strays (lucky tourists; right place, right time), my friends and I would sip champagne and act every bit the Rock Star Stripper Posse until sunrise. James was paid well and never complained once about standing by while we skinny dipped in the warm glow of the Hawaiian sunrise. Go figure.
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But I still wasn’t happy.
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Did I have blissful moments wrapped in laughter and comfort? Yes. Was my life one big party, full of excess and adventure? You betcha. I was also living on a hamster wheel full of denial, self-loathing and warped sense of security; my drug use perpetuating the mastery of camouflage.
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No amount of money would change the fact that even I wasn’t fully aware of how far I was falling.
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The older I get, the more I find myself nodding in agreement to age-old phrases like “you get what you pay for” and “money doesn’t buy happiness.” But back then, far be it for my twenty-something brain to realize – you really do and, it really doesn’t.
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Here’s the thing about clichés – they exist because there’s considerable weight to their words.
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When I was raking it in, I really did get what I paid for. I welcomed a life of escape and fascination, not realizing then that I was forking over top dollars to anesthetize my pain. I was able to numb myself from what I needed to work through by creating chaos of grand proportions.
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Ten years in to my rock star lifestyle, I realized something. I was creating more darkness with my unhealthy choices, which then compounded to the pile of shit I already needed to deal with.

Nothing was going to make me happy, if I wasn’t happy with myself.

There is a woman I see at the office every day, and she is never without a smile. Sometimes I catch her humming a tune or even whistling as she pulls her cleaning supply cart. We greet one another with a smile in the ladies room as she refills the paper towels. She is a lovely reminder that you don’t need wealth to be happy.

As for me, I live paycheck to paycheck now. There’s nothing fancy about my home, and I certainly haven’t hung out in a limo for a while. I see a therapist regularly and she’s helping me on my journey to my most authentic self (how very Oprah). I am working through my childhood traumas and learning to love everything about me, flaws and all  – because that’s what’s real.

Sure, I wish my purse strings weren’t as tight these days, and I kick myself for not saving my stripper money. But my life is progressing exactly how it’s supposed to. I am still here after two overdoses, not to mention countless choices I’ve made to put myself in harm’s way. My guardian angel is the coolest, and I owe her at least seven of my lives. And when you think of it, you just can’t put a price tag on that.

“Money alone isn’t enough to bring happiness . . . happiness is when you’re actually truly ok with losing everything you have.” ~ Tony Hsieh