Meet Audrey from Barking Mad
Blog Name: Barking Mad, Magnificently Flawed
What are you barking mad about?
“Barking Mad” is a British euphemism for insanity or craziness. My husband is British and I had lived over in the UK before and after we were married. I’d hear the phrase during the course of conversation or on British television, and it always made me giggle. When Gareth married me in 2003, he became step-father to three teenagers who all eventually came to live with us full time. Our house was always filled with their friends and there was never a shortage of teenage shenanigans going on. Every once in a while I’d hear my husband utter, “You’ve got to be barking mad if you think you’re going to get away with that!”
What do you love most about blogging?
There are a lot of things I love about blogging. The things I enjoy most have changed over the almost decade I’ve been publishing stories from my life, for public consumption. I’ve been writing stories all of my life, and professionally for almost 15 years. I love the art of telling a story. I can do that in a different way via my blog.
Most of all though I love the connection with other people – the close bonds I’ve formed and in some cases the deep, almost familial friendships I’ve developed with both the community of bloggers and my audience. I literally have a couple of lifelines out there that have helped me keep my head above water when I thought I was going to drown due to debilitating depression. So yeah, I guess it’s the connection to, and with others. It’s always been the connection. I’m most grateful for the opportunities that have come my way, because of how connected people feel to me, whether it’s been the chance to write for Woman’s Day magazine, or be a part of an incredible ground-breaking Emmy-nominated HBO mini-series, “Weight of the Nation.” Those happened directly as a result of the stories I’ve shared about my life and struggles via Barking Mad.
What’s the worst part about blogging?
I think that “connection” I mentioned earlier? Well that connection can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes people feel the connection allows them a level of judgment that I don’t even allow those closest to me. Part of the allure of blogging is the fact that we are willing to put so much out there that maybe someone else wouldn’t share. That can be both a blessing and a curse, especially when it comes to blogging. We either tell a story and include too many personal details, or alternately, don’t tell every single thing about our lives which leaves room for certain groups of people to fill in those blanks themselves, often erroneously, and to come to completely false conclusions.
Why do you blog?
Why do I blog? Most of all because I love to write. It’s been a passion of mine since I was a really little girl. Blogging gives me a platform to share my stories with others, share bits and pieces of my life – parts of my life that I never thought I’d survive. If only one person reads it and goes away feeling like perhaps they can crawl out of depression, or that there is in fact life after the death of a child, then I feel like I’ve done something good. Of course I think there’s a certain level of narcissism involved in personal storytelling in such a public way. I completely admit that I am, to a degree, a narcissist. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say there’s a little narcissist in anyone who publicly blogs on a personal level.
Does your family read your blog? Ever get in trouble because of it?
I could write a book about some of the consequences of writing stories about my past, when it comes to family reaction. In a word, yes, I’ve gotten into trouble with my older kids. Well maybe not gotten into trouble in the truest sense of the phrase, but they weren’t real pleased with me when I shared some rather intimately humiliating issues that their father and I went through while we were married.
I’ve started chronicling what happened after my divorce from their father in my “Emotional Fat” series and what happened after my son Josh died which led to my eventual nervous breakdown and me leaving the marriage and letting their father have physical custody. I think they would have appreciated a “heads up” of sorts . . . just to let them know what I was going to be sharing. I’ve also made the mistake a lot of us make, especially those of us who tend to use our blogs as platforms to advocate for things we believe in.
I shared the explicit details of something that happened to my youngest daughter, because in the heat of the moment, I was so angry and so hurt for her. At the end of the day though, it wasn’t my story to share. I went about it in entirely the wrong fashion. I didn’t “get in trouble” in the traditional sense of the term, but I was eviscerated on certain message boards and forums. It certainly gave me pause for thought and I realized my blog wasn’t the place to seek justice for my child. Sometimes we all cross lines we shouldn’t when it comes to life experiences, and this was one of those times. I learned that just because I can, doesn’t always mean I should.
Your husband’s from the UK. There must be a great story behind your dating. Share!
My husband Gareth is from the south coast of England . . . Portsmouth. We were matched via our respective schools’ pen-friends pen-pal program. This was way back in 1982 before e-mail or any sort of instant communication. I’d had pen-pals from Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, and Norway. All of them were girls, as was the norm. Girls weren’t typically matched with boys at all. It was a mistake that Gareth and I ended up matched. A mistake that ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me.
No matter where I was in my life, my disastrous first marriage, death of my two-year-old son, subsequent divorce, nervous breakdown and the misadventures that followed that (including an absolutely horrible albeit very brief second marriage), and my adventures going to college as an adult and beginning a career in radio broadcasting, he was there through everything. His letters and cards, which eventually turned into emails and chats, and everything in between, formed the foundation for what we have now.
In 2002 while I was living in the Columbus, OH area and on the air at WCOL, Gareth let me know he was coming to the US for another holiday. He’d been here several times before, usually traveling as an escort to his elderly father, visiting various airshows all over the country. This time he was flying solo and he wanted to see the east coast, in particular New England, which I had always boasted about.
I wasn’t native to New England, but knew I’d end up there one of these days, so I spent most of my own vacations and holidays in Maine. At first Gareth asked me if I’d like to have dinner with him while he was here. Eventually that morphed into asking me to accompany him while on holiday, and show him some of my favorite places on the east coast, and then the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. A week before he arrived, I’d finished a consulting project I’d been working on and was tiring of my gig at WCOL and was just restless. I think Gareth sensed that. We’d been talking almost every day and had even moved to speaking on the phone, which – let me tell you, was amazing! His voice is incredible and he has a beautiful accent. Sadly I don’t notice it so much any more, but those first few conversations just melted me.
Gareth asked me if I wanted to come spend some time in the UK, travel around Europe a bit. While there was a definite personal and a surface intimacy of sorts between us, there was no romantic pressure. I think he knew I’d been struggling a little bit between working so much and dealing with a few issues with my children and their father. Instinctively I knew that accepting his offer to travel back to the UK with him was the right thing to do. That was in October of 2002. While we were visiting the Portland Headlight in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and I was staring out at my beloved indigo Atlantic ocean, under the watchful beam of the lighthouse, I knew, I knew from the tips of my toes to the top of my head, that Gareth was the one.
On New Year’s Eve, sitting in a beautiful London park, Gareth got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I traveled back to the US and spent the next nearly year planning our wedding which took place on Lake Arrowhead in the beautiful mountains in southern California.
You write about some incredibly personal and difficult topics. How are you able to put yourself out there like that?
Writing has always been cathartic for me. Sometimes I use it as a means of purging – perhaps even going so far as to ask for absolution for past transgressions. I mentioned earlier that when I share something intensely personal, like my struggle with morbid obesity, or the loss of my son, or even coming close to taking my own life in 2008 – and then write about coming through all of that, and in response, get an email from someone just saying thank you,or letting me know they’ve been there and it gets better, or they let me know that they sort of feel like if I’ve done it, they can too? Those things right there? It makes me feel like I’ve done the right thing.
While we form mental images of the people who read what we share with the public, especially those who have come to have a continuing rapport with us via not only our blogs, but through email, Twitter, and Facebook, in reality, they remain faceless. Oh sure, there are a lot of us who have met members in the community we’ve grown close to, and people from our respective and shared audiences, but again, in the broadest sense, a lot of the people who read our blogs are sort of just faceless beings. Sometimes it’s easier to share with those people because we don’t see the immediate reaction, or judgement. A lot of the time it just feels better to get it all out.
Oh sure, I could do it via a private Word document or a locked blog, but I think between the narcissism that’s inherent with personal blogging, and the sense of community and connection, that’s why I do it.
What’s the toughest post you’ve ever written?
One of the hardest posts I’ve ever written was I am THAT Mom.
When you lose a child, the loss is not only this gaping wound that never stops bleeding, and leaves an ugly painful scar, but it sort of sets you apart from others. In the past, I’ve equated it with feeling a little like Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s symbolic novel, “The Scarlet Letter.” I know that sounds a little lofty, but if you think about it, the allegory isn’t really that far off. Hester was forced to wear a huge scarlet A at all times, so that all those she came in contact with would know she was an adulterer. No one wanted to be her.
When you bury a child, as thick as the sympathy is, you can almost feel the thoughts of other mothers around you, saying, “I am so glad that’s not me. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go on. This happens to other people, not me. I don’t ever want to be THAT mom.” The loss permeates your entire life. While times have changes and adultery is fairly common and we no longer shame those who find themselves in Hester’s circumstances, you never ever escape the loss of a child. It makes you different in an uncomfortable way. The pity is sometimes really hard to take.
When I wrote that post I wanted to try and articulate what it was like to be marked in the most painful way possible. I wanted to try and let others know a little of what it was like to look into the forever closed eyes of your two year old and wonder if you’re ever going to be able to come back from that.
The post was hard to write because I dug into a still painful wound. I never really grieved Josh right after he died. I mean, I cried, oh the tears I cried. But then I just stopped. I had twins who were 6 months old at the time and I had to make sure they didn’t die. Then I eventually had another child and now had to make sure I didn’t let something happen to him, too. Eventually it all became too much and I shut down emotionally and physically. Writing about all of that and publicly acknowledging that I was THAT mom, helped begin the process of moving forward . . . helped me realize that I had moved forward, although at the time I didn’t realize it.
How has blogging affected your life?
Blogging has made me an international celebrity! No, I’m just kidding. Blogging has added layers to my life that didn’t exist prior to me sharing these stories, publicly. I’ve met some incredible people who have become family to me, and in the course of writing, I’ve grown up. I’ve been called out several times, and I’m grateful for that too, because in the course of listening to what people were saying, I recognized areas of my life I needed to address.
Blogging has also opened doors for me that I’m not sure I would have even had the courage to step through, let alone pursue. I’ve been given opportunities that have helped pull my family away from the brink of financial disaster, I’ve learned from others who have been there and back, I’ve been enlightened, educated, angered, amused, but most of all, I think I’ve become a better writer, and a more compassionate human being, in part because of blogging.
What’s the most embarrassing post you’ve ever written?
Right off the top of my head I’m going to have to say that the most embarrassing post I’ve ever written had to be the one about getting my hair caught in the vacuum cleaner. I live tweeted the entire thing, and let’s just say that eventually First Responders were involved.
If you could have anyone in the world write a guest post for your blog, who would it be?
I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to ask the late Queen Elizabeth I to write a post for me. I’m quite the anglophile and love everything Elizabethan. I know, I know, it’s not Jesus or John Lennon, but for me, Elizabeth I was beautiful, brilliant, strong, and very much human. She erred. She wasn’t perfect. However, she was enigmatic and left a legacy which not only changed the face of England, but the world as well. Her life was this incredibly rich tapestry of people, events, adventure and intrigue and I’d love for her to share her personal perspective on a modern blog like mine.
And be sure to tell Audrey that Andrew from Mommy’s Busy, Go Ask Daddy sent ya!