Category Archives: personal stories

Finding the Person I Used to Be, The Final Outcome (for now!)

The day eventually arrived, and I was about to board a plane to New Orleans, alone.  I remember that day clearly because I was so glad to say good bye to my husband, and yet my heart ached when I said good bye to my kids.  The amount of guilt I felt in leaving them could have filled my house, and yet I knew in my head that I was doing the right thing.  It’s always the worst right before I leave for the airport  (its still that way to this day), but once I’m in the car it’s as though I’ve switched gears in my head and the “mom” part of me is put away on a shelf for later.

The entire way from security to the gate at the airport I kept looking around me as though I’d forgotten something – that’s another issue when you’ve had small children – I’m convinced that for the rest of my life, if they aren’t with me I’ll feel as though I’ve left something behind.  Once I got on the plane though, I felt settled.  Even a bit peaceful!  I don’t think I’d had the opportunity to read without someone interrupting me since before I got married – and as a result I’m pretty sure I finished an entire book on the flight to New Orleans.  (I’m a quick reader!)

Once I’d landed in New Orleans, I had another small worry – and that was finding a way to the Hotel Monaco.  I hadn’t wanted to rent a car or anything since I wasn’t going to be really going anywhere aside from the hotel, but I knew this meant I’d have to get a taxi for the 20 minute drive.  I’d never hailed a taxi alone before, which is ridiculous when I think back on it.  The thing is, since I’m from Southern California, there’s really not a lot of opportunity to take a taxi.  My little area of the world is easily a good 1 and a half hours from downtown Los Angeles OR downtown San Diego, and so that means I’m really in the suburbs.  Taxis aren’t really plentiful here, and as a result I am used to driving.   In any case, I hailed my cab (it was evening when I landed) and got myself to the hotel.  At this point, I can’t remember if I was the first to arrive in our room – I was sharing a room with another committee member in New Orleans that I’d grown close to – and I seem to think she’d gotten there first and either left me the key at the front desk, or I’d called her and she met me in the room.  Regardless, my biggest memory of my first night in New Orleans was finally meeting a fellow Duranie in real life!  To understand how I felt, I need to give you yet another small glimpse into my life at home.

I know I’ve mentioned I’m from Orange County California.  I live in a fairly new area, and I would say that a majority of the moms in my neighborhood are your basic stay-at-home PTA/soccer moms.   They are apt to drive luxury SUV’s, wear Ugg boots and (at the time of this story) Juicy Couture tracksuits, and hair extensions.  I, on the other hand, am not.  Yes, I do (did) have blonde hair, but that’s about where the similarity ends.  I always felt out of place when standing next to my fellow OC Moms, because while they’d be talking about volunteering in class or the latest PTA functions or Starbucks gossip – I would be thinking about getting home to read the Duran Duran boards, or chatting with my online friends.   My life as a Duranie, especially at this point in my life – was kept well under wraps.  I didn’t share any of that with my PTA mom friends, and while they would take joy in handling a class party or being the mom chosen to paint scenery for plays – I would run from that sort of thing screaming!  Don’t get me wrong, I did my “mom” duty – I was even a girl scout leader for my daughters Brownie troop, but I did that mainly for her, and as soon as I could offload that duty, I did!  It’s just not my thing.  I’m not the mom who played Barney or Preschool music CD’s in her car…I’m the mom who played(s) Duran Duran.  My kids knew the words to Planet Earth before they learned their ABC’s, and I’m not kidding.  🙂    All of that aside, I was also desperately lonely.  None of my friends here are into Duran Duran.  My husband doesn’t mind them, but there is something very odd and unsettling about attending a Duran Duran concert with him in tow.  I mean, how does one yell “I LOVE YOU ROGER!!” when their husband is right there within earshot?!?  It takes a little bit of the fun out of it at times.  I always wanted a female friend that I could giggle with, or commiserate over the lack of tour dates and so forth.  Which brings me back to that fateful meeting…

As soon as I saw JTDuran standing there (that’s her screenname), I knew we’d be friends forever.  We are very different in many, many ways – but there’s something very comforting about that.  At that point, she was very much the unsettled side of myself – the side that I wanted to get in touch with, but was almost afraid of setting loose from her cage.  🙂  She’ll say and do things that I would only dream of, and I still envy her to this day at times.  We’ve stayed friends since that weekend, and I have no doubt that we always will.  Along with JTDuran, we had several others in our room with us that weekend, and in every case, as I met each one I realized that I’d been given such a wonderful gift.  No longer was I alone out on a limb.

The main thing I want to convey from that weekend isn’t the story of the actual weekend, as it turns out.  It was a great time, absolutely.  I don’t think I’ve ever spent as much time talking and laughing as I did then.  I learned a lot about Duran Duran, and I learned a lot about the fan community in general, and all of that was amazing.  The thing is, none of that is really the story.  The STORY, is finding myself again.

I don’t think I’d truly been comfortable in my own skin since I was in middle school, to be honest.  That’s an odd statement just because of the fact that middle school is about as unfriendly of a place as you’ll ever be, and yet during that time I think I was the most “myself” I’ve ever been.  My friends during that time were all huge Duran Duran fans, and while I had many other aspects to my character and personality – I’d be crazy not to admit that being a fan was a huge part of it.  The friends I had at that time gave me the comfort and space to just be myself, and I did.  In high school, we drifted apart, I gained a boyfriend or two, and things just changed.  I still loved the band, but that part of me was kind of put up on a shelf for later, so to speak.  After that, I never really found friends who had the same love for them that I did, so I learned to just keep that part quiet – and as is the case when you ignore anything that makes you a part of who you really are – I think you become someone else, as though you’re playing a part in a play.  That convention weekend reminded me of who I really was.  I had the comfort of being able to talk all about the band without getting sideways glances from anyone, because let’s face it – they were all understanding exactly what I was saying!

One of the best things to come out of that weekend, and there were really plenty – was that I met some of my closest friends ever.  One of those friends is my writing partner, Amanda.  I’d exchanged posts with her on www.duranduranfans.com – but I really didn’t know much about her until that Saturday night of the convention.  The committee had planned a dance party – complete with dinner and videos, and it was great fun.  I think we all could have continued to dancing to every single song in the band’s catalog – but eventually the party ended, and a bunch of us decided to continue out after the party, and so we did.  Somehow we ended our evening at Howl at the Moon on Bourbon Street singing Rio.  Wow.  That must have been quite a site (and sound).  I can only imagine, and I still don’t know what in the hell I was thinking getting up on stage like that.  Insanity.  I remember Amanda that night because she was wearing these really cute boots with a heel that would have killed me.  I could barely walk in my own flat shoes much less navigate a heel, not to mention the pain involved.  Regardless, that night began our friendship, and touring has never been the same since.  (then again, at that point, I’d never even gone to a show with friends!!  Another story for another blog!)  Amanda is the one person I call with an Official Duranie Alert – and I can always count on her sharing my exuberance, my frustration, and my flat out annoyance at times over whatever the band has done, is going to do, or never finishes to my satisfaction.  😀   While my husband will say “Why do you even care?”  Amanda will say “What the hell is the problem with that stupid band?”  (or something similar)  It’s a beautiful friendship and was well worth the wait to find!

I would have never guessed that at the age of 33 I’d have rediscovered part of my personality again.  It’s not really that I’ve changed so much here at home, though.  I’m still mom, I’m still married (a miracle given some of the crazy things I’ve requested from my husband over the years), and I’m still a stage mom for my oldest when I have no other choice (it’s my least favorite chore – right up there with cooking!).  In addition to all of that though, there’s another facet of me that I’m still polishing and perfecting from time to time.  It’s the part of me that I really don’t “share” with my family, but it’s every bit as important because it’s who I am.  It’s really nice to have the sense of accomplishment that came with planning and carrying out the convention, and it’s shown me that yes, it’s OK that I have interests that don’t have anything to do with my husband or my children.  Even my husband has grown used to the idea that Duran Duran and I are kind of a package deal.  He rolls his eyes a lot, and I’ve learned where his line of tolerance is. (although I do try to cross it often just to keep things interesting!)

We’ve never had another convention since that first one in 2004, at least not one that I’ve been a part of or planned, and perhaps that window has been shut for me as far as being the planner goes.  It’s a lot of work, and while I would gladly help to see another one take place, I could never put the time in now that I did before. I’ve moved on to other projects with every bit as much determination, however.  This blog is part of that, and although I admit there are some days when I can’t even put a sentence together much less come up with a decent topic, it’s been good for me as a person.  If I’ve learned anything from all of this – it’s to encourage my children, my girls most of all, not to leave themselves behind once they are married or are moms.  It’s important to have balance, and that’s something I intend to continue.

-R

Finding the person I Used to Be, Part II

As the convention planning continued to chug along, I grew more and more excited by the prospect of going to meet all of these people I’d been working with for the last several months.  Interestingly enough, throughout all of the planning, I hadn’t considered the idea that although I’d committed heart and soul to bringing the convention from an idea to a reality, there wasn’t much of a chance that I would be able to attend…at least not without creating World War III in my house.  At this point, I’d never traveled by myself anywhere, aside from a trip home to see my parents when we lived in Chicago.  I knew that I very much wanted to go to the convention, but the idea of talking to Walt about the idea of spending my (his) hard-earned salary to go on a trip…by myself to meet people I’d never truly spoken to…sounded like it would be as much fun as going and volunteering for a root canal.  So I did what anyone else would have done in my position would have:  I planned to go, and figured I’d deal with my husband later.  Priorities, people!  My husband, however, is a very smart man.  He picks up on the small things…he picks up on the omissions of word, the missing details…and the fact that I was on the planning committee for a convention dedicated to fans of the band I loved best in the world.  He definitely noticed I’d forgotten to mention that I was planning to attend.

It wasn’t that long into the planning process when, one night after I’d excited relayed the details behind the committee’s decision to have the convention in New Orleans, and the hotel we’d chosen, (Hotel Monaco, sadly which after our convention was badly damaged during Katrina and never reopened)  my husband looked pointedly at me and asked the question I’d been dreading:  “You’re not actually thinking that you’re going to this thing, are you Rhonda?”

After a couple deep breaths, I explained that I really WAS hoping to go – but only if he thought we could do it.  It’s very tough for me to go anywhere these days, but back in 2004, it was even tougher!   We had two young children at that point, my husband had just been laid off by one company and hired by another…and I’d have to find some way to get the kids to and from school along with having someone watch them while my husband was working during the day.  I was determined though, and while it was very, very clear that I was walking a fine line with my husband, he didn’t say no.  That said, it didn’t make home life any easier.   My husband just didn’t understand my fascination with not only message boards, but working so hard at planning a convention even though I wasn’t being paid.  I guess that to me, my “payment” was the enjoyment I received from feeling as though I was part of a group.  I loved the fact that I was working, so to speak, with other adults.  Once again I have to say that there was something very desirable about having this be one thing that was all for me.  I didn’t have to share the message boards, the friends I was making, or the convention planning with anyone….but on the same token I loved talking about everything I was doing, even though I knew that to some extent, the very things I enjoyed doing were putting quite a wedge between my husband and myself.  I suppose at the time I just felt that the sacrifice was worth it.  I needed this for me.

It was with great joy that I was able to go back to the planning committee and give my own personal commitment for attending the convention.  I couldn’t imagine doing all of the work and not being able to go and see how it came out for myself, so I was thrilled by that respect.  On the other hand, however, I was nervous, if not downright scared.   First of all, up until that point, I’d never left my two children for more than a day to go somewhere by myself.  My husband and I had taken vacations without the kids before, but only for a couple of days, and as I said – we were together.  I kind of felt selfish for wanting the time to myself, and especially when I thought about the fact that it wasn’t just an overnighter to go to a MOMS Club event or a scrapbooking convention or something that pertained to being a mom.  No, this was solely MY thing.  I couldn’t even justify a good reason for my attendance other than saying that I really wanted to go!   I suppose I really shouldn’t have felt as though I had to justify my reasons for going, but that’s never been the way our family has worked.  My husband comes and goes as he needs for work, never giving me more than day or two notice of his travels – and most of the time it’s a LOT less – which completely annoys me, but he always says the magic words…”It’s my job.”  Somehow that’s supposed to make it all OK.  I’m not sure that it ever really does, but it’s the life I lead.  I make it work.   I don’t work for a salary outside of the home, so therefore none of my travel is ever really necessary or justified (don’t get me started about traveling for the sake of book research…that comes MUCH later.)  So, as time passed I worried about every last thing that needed to be accomplished while I was gone, and I have to say – I had a lot of sleepless nights during the summer before I went to the convention.  I tried very hard to make myself sound “cool” online and not talk about my worries behind leaving my kids, but I knew that in order for my marriage to stay on the same even keel I was used to, I had to make sure everything ran as smooth as silk in my absence.

to be continued tomorrow….

Finding the Person I Used to Be

As you all are reading the blog today – I’ll be on a short vacation.  My husband and I are taking a long weekend for ourselves, sans children, up in Napa Valley.  Napa is probably my very favorite place on earth.  Yes, I thoroughly enjoy wine and so it’s my own personal version of what Disneyland should really be like, but it’s also a place for my husband and I to dream about what kind of life we’d like to have at some point after he retires and our children are grown (we would love to own our own wine bar), and I can’t help but love the beauty of the area.  So, I’m pre-writing this blog for posting while I’m gone, and I’m crossing my fingers that major news doesn’t erupt – because I will be happily sipping wine somewhere in the valley without my cell phone!  

Since we started the blog, we’ve had several requests for some of our own personal stories to be posted.  I’ll admit that at first, I scoffed at the idea mainly because that wasn’t the real purpose behind the blog.  We wanted the blog to be about the news of the day/week/etc and how we see it from a fan perspective. It seemed to be a bit more like gushing to post our own personal stories.  That said, from time to time – we’ll go ahead and post what we feel we can share.  In the case of me, my stories are far and few in between, really.  I’m no different than most other fans – I’ve seen them at concerts, never truly met them in person aside from a signing – and I’ve mostly just heard things from lucky friends who have had much better opportunities!  
With that in mind, my first story is about the first time I really had “in real life” experience with the fan community.  In 2004, I was a lurker on duranduran.com in the fan forum.  Once in a great while I would post, but mostly I read the posts and kept to myself.  Another fan had created her own website dedicated to Duran Duran and a message board forum to go with it, and wanted people to check out the functionality of the boards.  I felt I had nothing to lose – so I went over to the board. (duranduranfans.com – still in existence today)  I liked what I saw, and I especially felt comfortable because at the time it was a small board (in population) and I could post without being ridiculed or judged.  As time wore on, I found myself coming to the board more and more often.  It was a friendly place and plenty of new people seemed to be posting as time passed.  Not long after joining the board, a fellow poster brought up the idea of organizing our own fan convention.  I have to say that at the time it seemed like a very daunting task, but I was curious as to how it could be done, and I was excited by the prospect of meeting new people – especially new people who loved Duran Duran.  So, I agreed to help out.  I’m really not sure how it all got accomplished – I think the person who was in charge (I am omitting names on purpose) put her heart and soul into making sure the convention became a reality and that probably made all of the difference, but we came up with a time, city, venue and plenty of activities to keep people interested.  
In the meantime, my home life was slowly unraveling around me.  My husband, who is truly not an obsessive fan about anything other than his career, wasn’t thrilled about my sudden interest in a fan community.  I suppose that to him, it all happened overnight.  One day I was happy to be a mom and housewife, and the next – I was spending all of my “free” time online planning a convention with people I’d never met.  There were many “talks” of the time he felt I was wasting online, and it got to the point where I felt my husband was more like a father or a jailer than he was a partner.  There was concern that I was pouring money into making the convention happen (which I was not.  I never spent one single penny on planning the convention beyond the electricity to run our computer or the internet connection), and even more concern that I had virtually NO idea with whom I was trading posts with online.  The discussions we had regarding the convention, the fan community, and my involvement went on for many months (years) beyond the convention….and remained a bone of contention for quite some time. 
You would think (and really, you really would think!!) that the tension at home with my husband would have made me pause and reconsider my involvement.  At what point does it all become “not worth it”?  I suppose that for me, it has come very close many times.  The truth is, I needed to plan that convention.  When my husband and I first married, within months we were moving to Chicago – and certainly not by my choice.  I think from then on, I felt as though my life were not completely my own.  Then when we became pregnant with our oldest and it was agreed that I would give up my job to stay at home with her (which at the time was the soundest decision that could have been made given the time requirements of my job at the time), I think I felt like I’d completely lost my own will, my own purpose.  For anyone who has been a mom before of a human child (as opposed to puppies, kitties, etc.) – they are pretty darn demanding.  It no longer matters whether YOU are sick, or YOU are tired – it’s all about the baby.  My goodness, you even lose your own name when you have a child – instead of being called the name you’ve had since birth, you’re suddenly given the generic name of “mom”.  Don’t get me wrong, being a mom is beautiful, and the bond between a mom and child is something that can be truly amazing.  That said, there are real tradeoffs with becoming a mom, and it’s part of my story. Between a baby and a husband who travels constantly for work, it became very clear that my purpose was to handle the house and the child.  I know I could have gone back to work – but I also know that it would have been a nightmare.   So my career became being a mom, and somewhere along the line I forgot all about Rhonda and who she was.  Planning the convention was a step in the direction of finding that self I’d left behind.
….to be continued…