Ok, I promised to start blogging about my journey after the stage right? Well, I thought I'd first introduce you to myself, the real me, give you an idea of my history. If you have an idea of where I came from, it might help "explain" a little something about who I am today! You know, the girl with NO filter who wears her heart on her sleeve, loves to help people, but can be a bit judgmental when people aren't willing to help themselves (you know..."life's hard, get a helmet") Plus, really..it's quite funny (tragic really...but you can't make this shit up so it actually becomes kinda funny).
I have to preface all of this by saying I don't have many memories of my childhood. I'm guessing my body's way of protecting me from something, but what I do remember is vivid. My stories are how I remember them, others in my family might dispute them, but hey...if I remember them a certain way there's a reason for it I'm sure!
Ok, where to start? I was born April 11, 1973 in Baltimore, MD (Johns Hopkins Hospital...my first brush with greatness right ? LOL) to Brenda and Robert (Bob) Warnke. My mom was 16 when she had me, my dad was 7 years older. Mom dropped out of HS at 15, Dad was a former Marine and a Vietnam Vet. I was 2 weeks late and had some issue with my digestive track so I had to stay in the hospital for 2 weeks. I always say they "fixed" it too well because I haven't stopped eating since.
**Interesting tidbit...years ago my mom gave me a bag full of letters and pictures from when I was a baby and very young. Amongst those letters were some from my dad to my mom discussing how I was going to be an abortion. Well, maybe she didn't look at the letters before she gave them to me, or maybe she did...but damn...I guess I should be grateful that little plan didn't pan out!
Shortly after I was born we moved to Florida where my dad's mom grand mother lived (my grandmother and great-grandmother). We lived there til I was 1. We lived on a canal...there were alligators in the canal...there was some incident where an alligator came into the yard and ate our dog who was just trying to protect her puppies. I've heard a story told that my dad shot the alligator and got in some trouble for it...but that story I'm not 100% certain of. We moved back to Maryland sometime when I was 1 or 2 years old. My parents split when I was 2.
Now, I'm sure you didn't think this little teenage love story was going to continue did you? No....of course not. You see, I'm sure Vietnam fucked my dad up or he was fucked up before he went, but he was an alcoholic and had a little temper. My mom, well I'm not sure exactly when her alcohol and drug use started, but it's been going on as long as I remember.
After my parents split most of what I remember are a bunch of random boyfriends, I think we lived with a few. I remember one having a tiger (yeah...I SWEAR I remember this...could be made up to protect me from something??) and another had a pug dog that used to chase me around. We lived in some shady joints, there were rats, I remember that. We lived with my cousin and her mom for a bit too...I think we all lived with rats in that place.
Somewhere in this time period I was dropped off to live with my grandparents - my saving grace - while "mom went to get her life together." You see, she had gotten herself into a coke addiction. I remember coke parties. I remember lots of people snorting coke (they called it nose medicine but I knew better even at that young age). They even took pictures of each other snorting coke. I remember a story of my mom embezzling money from the place where she worked as a secretary to support her addiction. My mom was also a go-go dancer (not stripper) and I guess childcare was scarce because she used to take me with her to the bar (there will be a theme here...wait just a minute). I remember my cousin and I dancing in the bar as kids. I've always considered myself quite the dancing queen...guess that's where I got it from...early childhood training.
Now remember I said there was a theme? Well you see, my dad I guess got me on the weekends sometimes (not regularly) and I remember him picking me up with his girlfriend, Linda, and taking me where? Yep, to the bar. Anyone else that grew up in the 70s go to the bar with their parents? Well, it seemed completely normal to me so I guess I thought everyone did it.
***Interesting tidbit ...I had my first bar brawl around the age of 5. Dad took me to the bar, I'm drinking my coke with a cherry in it. Dad asks me if I'd like another cherry...and yeah, of course I do because I'm a kid (IN A BAR!). Well the bartender said he had to buy another coke for me to get another cherry and next thing I know, dad's picking me up and putting me up on the bar...glasses go flying...then I guess fists go flying and the next thing I know I'm sitting on the front stoop of the bar with his girlfriend while the fight goes on inside.
***Extra interesting tidbit...this woman, Linda? Well fast forward about 32 years and low and behold I find out I have a brother and his mother's name was Linda, and he found me on Facebook!
Ok...moving on. My grand-parents wanted their daughter and grand-daughter to have a decent place to live, so they gave us their house in Jessup to live in while they went to live in a mobile home. My mom met my step-dad, Tony, when I was 5. Things seemed to be a bit more normal (whatever the hell normal is...I really do not know). I think the coke stopped, but there was definitely marijuana...but really does anyone care about smoking a little reefer in the 70s? Nah.....again...totally normal right? This is where my memories get really sketchy.....don't remember much from 5 til maybe the middle school/high school timeframe except that my mom's coke addiction was replaced with alcohol and my step-dad was an alcoholic as well...both got progressively worse throughout my childhood years.
***Interesting tidbit...There was this one night that my mom and Tony were smoking a little something in the bong and my grand-parents decided to stop by. Since I was so small, they figured I could quickly hide the bong under the kitchen table...so that's exactly what I did. It's totally normal to ask your 5 yo to carry a bong under the kitchen table right?
***Interesting tidbit...So once, when I got a little older and quite self-righteous about "don't do drugs" I found my step-dad's pot stash in a baggy in his underwear drawer and flushed it down the toilet....let's just say I got grounded for that. How exaxctly do you explain you are grounded for flushing your parent's illegal drugs down the toilet?
Fast forward to middle school. My mom and step-dad had twins when I was 12 yo. My half-sisters. Oh I loved those little girls, they were so stinking cute. Of course, I was a built in baby-sitter for them so I eventually didn't like that so much as I grew up and went to HS. But I still tried to do things with them and hang out. We weren't close because we were so far apart in age. We've become closer as adults, which I really appreciate, but still not that really close bond that other sisters may have. But they have each other.
I started working when I was 11 babysitting for neighborhood families. My grand-parents bought me a horse when I was 12 - he was a retired track pony we got for $100 - I boarded him at a neighbors farm and babysat for them to pay for it. We didn't have much money growing up, in fact in my middle and high-school years we were on WIC and food stamps. So I had to pay my own way. I earned money for chores and was paid handsomely for my report cards from my grandparents so I put all of that money toward caring for my horse. When I was 14 I went to live with my grandparents for the summer in Chincoteague, VA where I got my first real job as a dish washer at Bill's Seafood restaurant. I worked and sent money home for my horse. When I came back for the school year, I got a job at Blob's Park as a dishwasher and continued working there until I was old enough to work elsewhere. From there I worked in fast food, retail and a grocery store. But I worked and worked and worked. I paid my own bills, I bought my own car, I did most things on my own with little support from my parents.
***Interesting tidbit....speaking of work. Not only did I work outside the house to make money, but this girl knew about hard work from a very young age. I was a latch-key kid who had to learn how to take care of myself from a very young age. As soon as I was tall enough I was mowing the yard (push mower...big yard), scrubbing the floors on my hands and knees (apparently we didn't believe in mops), doing dishes by hand, we never had a dishwasher...oh wait...yes we did..it was me. Mucking stalls and caring for my horse...lots of manual labor.
In high school I was in gifted and talented classes, got mostly straight A's, was a cheerleader, on the student government and yearbook staff. I was quite the little goody two-shoes student. All the teachers loved me....in fact this was true of my entire school career. I loved to please people and loved the attention. Remember, I'm the child of an alcoholic...several of them...we are people pleasers and perfectionists. Unfortunately, there was a dark side to my "perfect child" persona. I became so desperate for attention in HS that I was quite promiscuous....I'll spare you the details on this one...but really all I wanted was someone to love me....sigh...blah blah blah....carry on.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I didn't keep in touch much with my dad as I got older. I spent most of my summers in FL while I was younger, but the older I got the less I went down there. He was struck with brain cancer and fought it for 7 years. I remember several summers with him in the hospital and other summers with he and my grandmother drunker than skunks and driving me all over the everglades of FL (there is really nothing more exciting as a child then sitting in the back of a car with drunk drivers...really...quite the wild ride). My dad died when I was 14. I went to the funeral, I was presented with his flag from his military service and it is displayed proudly on my mantel today.
Once I finally graduated from HS, of course I couldn't wait to get out of the house. So I went off to college at U of Md in College Park. But remember how I had been working and paying my own bills all through HS? Well I still had bills, still had to work and pay my own way through school. So while I lived on campus, I was the only kid that had to go off to work every day at the grocery store. My bills got higher and higher (all those damned credit cards they offer you on campus) and eventually I moved off campus and into a townhouse with my cousin and another roommate...then eventually quit school all together. I thought it was a good idea to just work since I really couldn't swing working 2 jobs, paying rent, bills, etc and going to school. Plus I got hooked up with some questionable boyfriends doing questionable things and well...those things got outta hand sometimes and blah blah blah...not one of my prouder moments.
Oh yeah, and then there was the fact that my mother and step father were splitting up. You see, my step dad went through rehab, and came home to my mom whom was still drinking, which made is rehabilitation unsuccessful...so he went back to drinking and she kicked him out...well really just kicked him next door to the in-law apartment on the side of our house. My sisters were still very young and I did worry about them a lot. I felt a lot of guilt that I wasn't there to "fix things" and "take care of them." At some point my mother got hooked up with some old friend of hers who convinced her to try crack....then the two of them decided to wipe out the bank account and take off to Florida. Left my step dad to care for my sisters, all while he was "trying" to get clean...but ultimately failed. Eventually, my grandmother in Florida kicked my mother out and sent her back up to Maryland on the bus where I guess "she found God" and stopped smoking crack.
***In case you are counting...this is addiction #3 for my mother (cocaine, alcohol, now crack) yeah...there's a pattern here. Mom addict, dad alcoholic, step-dad alcoholic, paternal grandmother alcoholic.
So I worked and worked. Full-time and part-time and even went back to community college a few times while working 2 jobs. But still never finished school. I had a few, ok a lot, of failed relationships....I mean it's not like I had a great role model for relationships right? I realized at some point that my life was spinning out of control...and I didn't like not having control (I'm a control freak) and I couldn't do it anymore. I put myself into therapy (this is the first of several times). OMG it felt so good to get it all out, to have someone validate why I was feeling so freaking nuts!
Shortly thereafter, at the age of 21 (doesn't all of that above seem like a lot more than 21 years worth of crazy??), I met my first husband. He is the one that introduced me to the gym and working out with weights and took me to my first bodybuilding competition (BodyRock at Bowie State University) with Monica Brant. Yep...early twenties, when figure was first coming on the scene. I fell in LOVE with the gym. I got my PT cert, starting teaching spinning and kick-boxing. I loved how my body changed when I lifted weights. We got married when I was 24 (toooooo young)...we grew apart, things weren't fantastic and we wanted different things out of life. So at the age of 29 I was getting divorced. But that love of the gym stuck with me!
I met the love of my life (actually we knew each other while we were both still married to our previous spouses) and we got married and had a baby and lived happily ever after....right? Well....mostly! I got him out of his basement (where he would work out with a 6 pack of beer) and into the gym, and we had a great time working out together. Shortly after our son was born, I had to "diet" for the first time in my life to lose the 50 lbs I gained while preggo. I did the Bill Phillip's Body for Life challenge and in 12 weeks I lost 17 lbs. At that point, I decided to do my first competition and Eric decided to join me. We competed for the first time in 2005 when our son was 18 mos old. We got hooked!
Remember all that addiction in my family...well it never really skips a generation, I just chose a different addiction. A healthier one right? Well I guess you could say that. Except when you take it to the extreme and you let it take over your life, an addiction by any other name is still an addiction whether you fool yourself into calling it healthy or not. If it becomes your identity and controls your life...it's a problem. In the last 8 years since we started this whole bodybuilding lifestyle, we've discovered that our son has some "high (not special) needs" and struggles with things that require special attention...OUR attention. Things with my mother got significantly worse when she chose her next addiction....prescription pain meds...which ended in a possible attempt to end her life with sleeping pills, me trying to help her by getting her into rehab...paying it on my own dime...her leaving rehab that same night and me finally saying I couldn't deal with that any longer. I had to say good-bye to that negativity in my life (don't worry the therapist said this was totally ok for me to do). So we haven't spoken for years except for this past family Christmas where I did get a "fuck you" out of her...well I guess that's something right?
Oh yeah...and I started coaching about 6 years ago when my coach and mentor, Mary Bell, decided to move to the west coast. She asked me to take on the coaching role here on the east coast for Center Stage Figures. This is where I found my passion and my calling in life. See, I always knew I wanted to help people, remember, I'm the adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA...I've even been to meetings!!!) and we fix shit, we are people pleasers...this is what we do! We are everything to everybody and do it all! Yup, that's me! I was meant to be a coach. I was put on this earth to inspire people and to mentor. Being an inspiration to others was what gave me life, it's what I live for, it is MY DRUG OF CHOICE! I know what I'm meant to do in this life, it is my passion. I also know that being a great wife and mom, the things I never had in my life, are my priority and I want to live each day being the best I can be in that area. That's why I chose to leave the stage and to hang up my heels. I realized, I can't really do it ALL like I thought I could...at least not do it ALL well.
Whew....is anyone even still with me on this long ass blog? If you are, thank you! I swear the rest won't be this long. But I had to get this out. I want you all to know where I came from, so it might help you understand where I'm going. I'm about to write the next chapter of my life (the first 40 years have been....let's just say....unique) and I hope you'll follow along with me. Hang on...gonna be a wild ride!
p.s. I have to mention that the reality is, I should've been a statistic, I shouldn't be here to be an inspiration, a coach, a wife and a mom. The reason I am not, what I owe my entire life to is the love of my maternal grand-parents. Without their presence in my life, I would not be where I am today. As tragic as my childhood was, they were always there to pick up the pieces and get me through. They showed me that life can be different. It is with their love and guidance alone that I've managed to get this far in life. For that, I am eternally grateful.