My story of overcoming stupid: “You mean I’m not stupid?’ ‘No, and you’re related to famous people!”

emondsYesterday I was posting things about the Hearst Castle, so I decided to share my story with you. I didn't always know I was related to famous people....and honestly it doesn't do much for you on an external level. But wanted to share as it might inspire someone out there.

I grew up in your average middle class home, I lived in a decent home in a decent neighborhood and went to private school. One could say to a degree I was sheltered from the real world being at a school where kids never cussed, and everyone did what they were told to do. But at about age twelve my parents took us to Disneyland to tell us they were getting a divorce. That was the day my romantic bubble of what I thought I could depend on broke.

By Junior High I was stepping into my first public school and I saw things I never knew existed. We moved into a tiny apartment which wasn’t that great. The floor was slanted because the building was leaning, I shared a room with my sister for the first time and we did laundry in a laundry room down the hall. That was fine until the day we found some weirdo going through our clothes.

We later moved to a small house in a poor part of town. My mom was doing her best for us at the time and it was hard for her to find a job. Sometimes I just remember being hungry. We started to sew our own clothes instead of buy them. I started to hang out with the wrong kids, make really bad decisions, I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and hung out with friends who lived on the streets. One of those friends was murdered because she got into prostitution.

You could say for all purposes my life went south and I was miserable. But I believe it was those tough times that actually put a fight in me for something more. Just having a nice house you could lose wasn’t enough for me and having no stability even though you work hard wasn’t worth it.

On top of that I had a lot of trouble in school when I was young. I had dyslexia and I was told I would never amount to anything, that I was scary stupid. I was lucky enough to attend a private school when I was young that helped me to overcome it, I learned to read and write and over the years my scary dumb IQ became a genius IQ in those same areas due to my hard work. As an adult I continued to fight a communication disability but was told to overcome it I needed to do public speaking. So for about eight years that’s what I did even though I struggled, until once again the switch would flip and would master it.

These hardships put a drive in me to be something more than average. I was used to people telling me “you can’t” and it drove me to prove them wrong. When I went to college I still didn’t know that I was smart, I actually thought I was really stupid…that was until I took an IQ test.

I remember calling my dad up and telling him I found out I wasn’t stupid. He said, “I know you aren’t I have an IQ of 140 and you are from a long line of really successful people.” I remember thinking, “What? Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this?” He then went on to tell me who we were related to and what they accomplished.

We have the Apperson family, they invented the very first car (not Ford). Then you have my second cousin who was one of the engineers who created the bar code scanner. Jimmy Doolittle, war hero (he used to come pick my Grandma up in his airplane and fly her around). Then we have William Randolph Hearst who really in many ways is the father of media.  Then we have the first family that settled the Dallas Texas area, the Parkers, which is something to be proud of if you live in Texas. There have been a number of movies made about each of these families. Then one day my mother tells me her aunt dated President Ronald Reagan. What? Like why doesn’t anyone mention these things?

So my dad was helping me realize that first of all I wasn’t stupid and second of all I had some DNA to live up to. Later he got his DNA tested and although he was pretty passionate about knowing history I like to think he was doing it to help me discover that I was a winner in life. So we got the results and then discovered we were also related to Warren Buffett, Jimmy Buffett, Leo Tolstoy, and Alexander Hamilton (his face is on the $10 bill).


6265508267_a1f01f0dd0_bSo as any smart person would do I started to investigate some of this heritage! I started with the Hearst’s and soon discovered that they used to let family come and stay at the castle. What? So I had access to a castle my entire life and nobody ever told me? Yes, I know I was beside myself. I mean what little girl doesn’t dream of having a castle? I talked to a cousin who runs the property and he said the plumbing is bad now so you can’t stay overnight. Bummer. But I do get to visit and I could probably hold an event there if I ever found a reason to.

So fast forward, I then connected with my family in Texas many of whom are pretty amazing. Some friends with the likes of former President Bush and others in the “who’s who” category. And all of them are extremely sweet! I got to attend a family gathering at Baylor College a few months back because one of my cousins wrote a book about the family and was sharing it. There in a glass case I got to see Indian arrow heads that had killed my Great x4 Grandfather and letters from others like Jonathan Austin to my family. If you have ever seen the movies: Dances with wolves, The Searchers, The Hanging Tree and a zillion other movies and books you know my family history.

It is interesting to be related to just one of these individuals but that long list was quite interesting. Then I discovered there are all these things to be a member of, the DAR, Friends of Hearst Castle, First Family, you name it there is a club for just being born. Then all these really important people are in these clubs (and that is not intimidating at all). There is a whole other level of responsibility I wasn’t quite ready for.

Walking through this process allowed me to not just realize that I had the ability to become something greater than I imagined but that I now had something to live up to or maybe I didn’t maybe that was just now an unnecessary pressure. But the fact that from a young age I wanted to be something besides what everyone told me I was, I pushed myself.

I went on to publish three books, create several businesses and a nonprofit and work for a Big 4 for seven years, as you all know. But I feel like I am only getting started. I remember the day I met an actual prince at work but that is a whole other blog.

When I go home, my parents still live in a small one traffic light town. A very small home and a modest life. We aren’t a rich family when it comes to money, but we are when it comes to love.

Here is what I have learned through this process. You don’t need to be related to anyone famous to be smart or succeed, or to belong, what you really need is fight and willingness to learn. You just can’t give up and you can’t stop learning. In some ways I look up to people who have gone before and think how could I ever even come close to achieving what they have?

I learned some of this from my ancestor’s. Not all of them succeeded. I mean my Great x4 Grandfather came from Chicago, left his son there and then was murdered once he got to Texas. William Hearst although looked down on by many and they made the movie Citizen Cane after him, was responsible for promoting Billy Graham and making him known. He actually became a Christian right before he died. We all have failures and successes…life is never just one big success.

I don’t know what challenge you are facing, maybe you weren’t born into favorable conditions. Maybe you have failed more times than you can count. Maybe you can relate with my story of overcoming and becoming more than you thought was possible. But remember in all the achievement’s that exist nobody just succeeds all of the time, we all fail and everything takes work. The most successful people failed first and no matter who you are, where you are born, how rich or poor you are there is still hope for you to become all that you are called to be.


Here are some photos of those I mention in this blog!


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