Camera_LensI¬†married really young. Way too young. I was a kid myself¬†at eighteen, and¬†having my first son¬†by age eighteen and my youngest at twenty was a disaster. I mean, really.¬†How does a child bring up a child? But, that’s exactly what I was trying like hell to do.

My marriage went south fast, but I stayed in the trenches because I thought it was the only option out there for me. Fifteen long, mostly hard years later, I got up the nerve to think that maybe, just maybe, there was something better out there in the world for me. I deserved it and was going to go after it. Finally.

Dating was wonderful – some of the best days of my life. I worked hard as a single mom and was proud of my two sons. They’d¬†weathered the family break-up in their own way, sometimes In full-blown rebellion, other times telling me I had made a good decision-¬†that they wished I had¬†made the cut sooner.¬†The deep¬†hurt showed in their young eyes more often then not, though, something this mother did not miss.

So, later, nine years into the dating scene,¬†I met another guy. I fell in love and even though all the warning signs¬†were there – a gazillion red lights flashing in front of my face¬†– I took the plunge. Again. ¬†I turned¬†thirty eight, and the¬†rose-colored glasses were firmly in place.¬†Years¬†passed¬†before I accepted the fact that I’d married a gambler.

A few more passed before I could admit¬†the¬†harsh truth –¬†we had lost everything. I had worked two and three jobs at a time¬†to pay bills. I¬†had sold all of my jewelry,¬†family heirlooms even,¬†to save the house.

He had known this the entire time,¬†had watched me struggle, while he’d¬†spent his after business hours in the darkness of¬†casinos and betting parlors. While he’d wasted¬†paychecks that could have helped us get ahead, instead of putting us further into debt.

When we finally sat together and I told him¬†I just couldn’t take it anymore –¬†that I had loved him with my whole heart, blahblahblah, he’d started to cry. ” I know,” he’d stammered, “and that is what makes this so hard…because I don’t dislike you.”

I stopped breathing. I put my tear-stained face in my hands while I listened to his words again. How nice. He didn’t dislike me. Seriously? What did that even mean? I didn’t dislike avocado, or winter, or salmon. He didn’t dislike me? Really?

I guess that was the last straw. It broke this camel’s back.¬†Fifteen years of bailing him out, trying to save a second marriage. Now, clearly on my own again.

I was fifty by now. Half a century and now done with taking care of other people Рsilly boys who think they are men РI was just done. I was going to concentrate on me for a change. Probably for the first time ever.

I worked hard, I played harder. I decided to pursue my love of photography and travel. I attended some workshops, determined to be the best student I could be, trying to learn as much as I possibly could along the way. I¬†had some success with stock photography, am published in local magazines¬†that liked my style of writing, as well as the photo essays I’ve submitted alongside¬†any article for consideration.

And, now, fast forward. At fifty six, I’m on my way to Ireland¬†in October. I am¬†on assignment for a world-wide travel magazine. My article and images will appear in Springtime of 2015. Amazing.

I kick myself when I look at the years behind me Рthe only good things are wound around the lives of my sons, my lovable boys who are now grown and on their own.

I pinch myself when I look at the years ahead. I am excited. I am traveling with the Canon, sometimes alone¬†and sometimes with friends. I feel like my whole life is ahead of me. I feel like fifty-six is the new thirty. I feel like the pages in my book have only just begun turning. I have a new pen and clean paper. I¬†feel that whatever I write now,¬†will be the most important thing I’ve yet to say.

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