That's What She Said

Episode 77: Visiting with Monica Bullington of Bloomington, IL and her story, “Nacho Love.”

Monica Bullington gestures mid-story
                                    SSPP ep. 77 MONICA BULLINGTON

Monica Bullington of Bloomington-Normal is in the podcast studio with Jenette and Kerry to discuss her story, "Nacho Love" where she takes the audience on her journey of growth, relationship and forgiveness.

ANNOUNCER 00:00 Raising women's voices. One story at a time.
Welcome to The She Said Project Podcast.

[Music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]
This has been an amazing season of The She Said Project Podcast where Jenette and Kerry in the studio have gotten to hang out and chat with some really incredible women who have braved the microphone for one night only onstage in a performance of That's What She Said, Kerry, how are you doing today?
KERRY ROSSOW 00:43  Fabulous, fabulous. And I love the podcast so much. Because you get to know these women, you get to just fall in love with them. And then poof, the show's over. And everybody goes back to real life. And so I love the podcast, like asking all the like, so what's up now?
JENETTE  00:58  You get the story behind the story.
KERRY  01:00  Yep
JENETTE  01:00 It's become kind of an urban legend. It's become a thing at rehearsals when we cast a new show. And the women are working really hard on finding their stories for the final performance. And then they have to leave stuff out, right? Because there's only so much time they get on stage. They can't share the whole story. And it's become kind of a phrase that's been growing in the SheSaid-i-sphere, save it for the podcast, we'll talk about it on the podcast. [laughing]  Because there is so much more that we could talk about. One of our recent producers said this to me, she said, you know, we kept the stories nice and short, because we want to leave the audience wanting more. And that is a great way to look at it.
KERRY  01:34 I agree. I love the 'save it for the podcast.' And then the people who have a raunchier story or something with curse words that we don't allow in the show. It's great because it's like, oh, okay, save that. Because you can drop all of that when we're on the podcast.
JENETTE  01:47  We still have editing technology we can we can believe them out if I need to.
KERRY  01:51  She's looking at me right now. And they bleep me all the time.
JENETTE 01:54  You know who we don't have to bleep out though? Our amazing guest today. She nailed her story. It had laughter It had tears. We were on the edge of our seats. And you got to know this woman, the charming, insightful, adorable, kind and yet feisty. And maybe a little bit raunchy side of Monica Bullington who was onstage in That's What She Said not too too long ago in Bloomington Normal. Monica, are you on the line with us?
MONICA BULLINGTON  02:22  Hello, friends.
JENETTE  02:24  Welcome to The She Said Project Podcast.
MONICA  02:27  Thank you. And I didn't know you were offering cuss words because I'm very fluent. At get your edit button writing,
JENETTE  02:37  Monica got herself a little bit of a reputation with her cast. Every time there was a text message that went through the group. If it had some dirty words, it was probably Monica.
KERRY  02:48 Odds are high, that's Monica. That is awesome.
MONICA  02:50  That's something I wasn't  aware of till it was pointed out at me. But I don't have children. I don't have to edit myself very much in life. So I don't.
KERRY  02:59  I have four kiddos and I work in education. So I have to be filtered all the time. And so when I am not in one of those atmospheres, then it's just been bottled up. And then I just have to like, let them all out.
JENETTE  03:11  I feel like She Said is your outlet sometimes...
MONICA  03:11  I see.
KERRY  03:14  It really is no more knock knock jokes. Like let's get right to it.
JENETTE  03:17  So Monica, let's dive right in. The story you shared on stage was very personal as they tend to be but it had to do with your relationship with your parents and some unique dynamics of your family. Do you want to share with our listeners a little bit about what you chose to share?
MONICA  03:33  Yeah, I grew up in a bit of a chaotic household. My father was an alcoholic for most of my life actually had to text my sister and ask her one day when I was writing this, like, Was he an alcoholic my whole life? And she was like, Yeah, I was like, Oh, I really, I didn't know. It was normal to me. And it took some time to realize that. So part of the story is about learning how to cope with that. And then part of the story is also my mom passed away when I was 23. It's been a rough time. And I had certain ways of dealing with that. That led me down a great career, but also kept me from exploring a lot of issues with my past. I honestly thought that most of my quote/unquote issues was because my mom died when I was 23. And I never looked past that. And then all of a sudden, I realized, oh, there's all of that stuff with your dad before that, that maybe you should look at too. And that got me down a whole rabbit hole and the story came out of that.
JENETTE  04:38  I have to agree. You used this opportunity as a chance to dive deeper and reflect on who you are today and what got you there. So let's not keep our listeners waiting any longer. Let's go ahead and listen to the recording of your story because I think this is going to give them some insight. Please enjoy this performance by Monica Bullington onstage and That's What She Said Bloomington Normal 2023 with her story, Nacho Love. 

MONICA BULLINGTON  05:03  So I know we all think that our parents are like the most embarrassing people on the planet. But I'm going to tell you about my dad, and then we can all agree that I'm right. [laughter] So growing up, my dad loved when we had friends over because he loves feeding people. So a roomful of kids playing Mario Kart was a goldmine for him. And his favorite thing to feed us kids nachos, but not the kind of nachos you guys are probably thinking of. You're probably picturing whole sized tortilla chips. Fresh hot queso, maybe some salsa, guacamole? No, no, no, no.
05:45  My dad made his with whatever crumbs were left at the bottom of whatever bag of chips he found. Usually stale Doritos. Sometimes sour cream and onion. Then he'd sprinkle some shredded cheese on top and microwave it. And if we were really lucky, he's scrape the mold off of some sour cream and put that on top. Off, not the mold on it.
06:11  Okay. My friends, by the way, thought this was awesome. I thought it was more mortifying. But it wasn't just because of the nachos. See, my dad also loves Hawaiian shirts, and short shorts. Yep, So picture this. I'm hanging out with my friends and incomes my dad wearing a mostly, if not completely unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, classic dad New Balance shoes, and homemade Daisy Dukes. But the most stressful part of this situation was actually the fact that he was always drunk. And when I saw him come in, all I could see was a drunken embarrassment. And by the ninth grade, I had completely perfected the dad go away whine. But somehow, despite the staggered saunter, the weird clothes and the shit eating grin on his face my friends never seemed to realize he was drunk. They just thought he was really goofy. And beyond my social mortification, his drinking caused a lot of problems at our house growing up. And by the time I was in high school, my mom's patience with those drinking was wearing thin, increasing the fighting and the tension. And unfortunately, for me, both my sisters who used to shield me from all this chaos had moved out. So it was just me, my parents, and the yelling. And most of my memories of being in high school at home were actually of hiding from my screaming parents, or consoling my mom who seemed to have more drama in her life and her teenage daughter. So I went to school and stayed there as much as possible to avoid them. And between theater and speech team in the newspaper, I was able to avoid them most nights and weekends. But this also became a way of getting attention.
08:20  Because you have to go to your kids plays, right? And you can't be screaming at each other in the middle of one. Every morning on show nights, I would plead with my dad, please don't drink tonight. And every night he would tell me he wouldn't. But what I failed to account for is that you don't stop being an alcoholic just because your kid is in a play that night. And yet every single time every single time I would think this, this is going to be the night he shows up sober. It was never that night.
08:58  And the worst thing in the whole world was trying to find my parents after the show. And seeing his tell tale signs of drunkenness. That red face and sloppy posture evoked so much rage, mostly disappointment. Those nights always ended with me crying and my mom yelling at my dad for not being able to be sober. I think I naively thought that if I could show him how great I was that he would feel like he had enough in the world. And he didn't need alcohol. winning awards and performing were my way of saying look down. Everyone else sees how great I am. Why don't you know?
09:49  Not surprisingly, my parents divorced as soon as I went away to college, leaving neither of them with much money. Now my dad he's always been cheap so his life I don't really change much. But my mom, she had expensive tastes that she could not sustain on her own. So she rotated between asking my dad, her new boyfriend, my sisters, and her student loan dependent daughter for money.
10:19  While I was at school, my friends were getting credit cards from their parents, and I was writing checks to my mom. guilty if I ever thought about saying no. It shouldn't have surprised me that when she died a few years later, in 2012, she still didn't have any money. But it was at this moment that I realized how much she was depending on her boyfriend to pay her bills. And this devastated me. This turned me into a complete freak about money. I was so afraid of turning out like my mom, just making decisions based on what a man could buy me. So this, coupled with my underlying need for praise and attention, is what turned me into such a high producing realtor.
11:11  I filled the voids in my life with work, because I needed the money and the awards to feel safe and loved. My workaholic tendencies eventually led me to burnout. But burnout sounds like a quaint phrase right? And it kind of sounds like I just died peacefully in my sleep. But burnout feels like a hot high speed car chase. You know the ones you see in the movie with way more flips and flames than necessary. Slowly, I've recovered. But in my recovery, I found myself annoyed at how much my burnout was digging up all of the stuff from my past. And suddenly, I had to add work through daddy issues to my to do list. I was knee deep in my 200 self help books when I read the quote, forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past. Man did that hit, because I'll tell you I sure do. Like blaming my parents for everything. And forgiving them means becoming responsible for myself. I'm just not sure I'm ready to adult that hard guys.
12:34  But what do I actually have to forgive my parents for? At first I thought it was for not loving me enough to have their shit together. But after I thought about it, I knew we were always loved, albeit not always the ways that we wanted. I may not have gotten all the pats on the back that I craved. But I did get a hell of a lot of nachos. And I even have this ring. This ring that my sister had made after my mom died. But the engraving inside that says always loved.
13:17  See, I'm not sure I'm ready to forgive my parents for all of their parental sins. But this is about me moving forward. And in order for me to move forward, I do have to forgive them. For one thing. Being human, for being imperfect people just trying to do their best while raising three girls and fighting through all of the bullshit that their parents gave them. I had to forgive them for having their own problems. Problems that sometimes clouded but never erase the fact I was always loved. [applause]  

JENETTE  14:10  I mean, I will never look at another plate of nachos the same way again. After experiencing that story with you what a unique memory. Like so specific but yet it was so significant for you in your childhood in your upbringing, relating your dad to these moments when you had friends over and you know, serving the nachos. What what brought that up? What brought that memory up for you?
MONICA  14:33 I think because this summer as I was writing it or last time or whatever I was learning about the situation and it reminded me when I was learning about it as I like in the moment grappling with understanding my dad was different. I thought it was normal and so just took me back there. Like when I first was kind of learning that things were were different and it happened a lot I mean, he told me he was obviously drunk all the time. And I always have friends over. You would think if I was so embarrassed, I wouldn't bring people over. But the other parts of alcoholic dad, he can't drive you places. So I guess the alternative was I brought people to my house and didn't know that he was as embarrassing as it was, I guess.
KERRY  15:20  And your story I loved the way you delivered it. Something that speaks to me always is to say hard things. It's easier for people to hear it if you're laughing first. So a lot of times speakers, I feel like oh, they're my new BFF Oh, I love them. And I felt like you were one of my sisters, because we all love to deliver really hard things while we're belly laughing. Yeah. And so I loved your approach of mixing the two things of you were really funny. Yeah. And then it really sort of made it easy to deliver some hard shares.
MONICA  15:53  Yeah, I think that's the role of the youngest child as you grow up, all I wanted to do is make my sisters laugh. Like, that's my number one goal in life is if I can make them laugh, like, I'm thrilled. So I've just been born with, like, I learned, I guess how to make people laugh and get attention that way. That was one of my, my attention getting skills.
JENETTE  16:19  Yeah, it also served as a as a defense mechanism, you know, it served as your protection, almost to negate what was really going on behind the scenes. And as I got to know you more, you certainly went down this long path of self discovery and self help, and you read a lot of books, I love that you shared kind of the journey in your story of realizing your role and your parents role. And the only way for you to move forward was through forgiveness.
MONICA  16:47  Yeah, I remember exactly where I was when I was reading that, and what the listeners may not realize, like I was building a new business as I was writing the script. So I was already digging in my path to build this new consulting business to help people with burnout. So it required me to look back. So I was already like, kind of poking around back there. That's why I think the timing was so great for us is because I was already kind of knee deep and like what's going on back there. So it was really helpful to have an audience and my sisters and like she said, sisters have kind of like bouncing some of these like, feelings and stuff. But I was in my backyard reading that quote, and just be like, ah, gosh, yeah, you know, like, that means I have to do something about this now. And, but then also kind of the relief that was like, I get to do something about this now. Like, I think I can move forward like this was great, great.
KERRY  17:48  Well, two things. How do you feel looking back on it now? What kind of impacted telling that have and then what was the reaction from your loved ones?
MONICA  17:57  I love it, I had a background in speech. And so I used to hide from my family by giving eight minute speeches. And now I'm giving an eight minute speech to talk about how like, it was very meta for me. It really felt like it was kind of like closing a circle there. And it felt really complete. And then I really loved that I could use those skills that I learned and that difficult time to express how that was a difficult time, my oldest sister was in the audience. And I thought I told her what that was about, oh, no, I probably kept it kind of vague on purpose. Because, you know, I, I'm a theatre person I like to, you know, have a moment. And she missed half of Sonia's after because she had to go to the bathroom because her like face was falling off. Yeah, she's very short reaction. But I think the hard part was sisters, and family members is my experience was the same, but so different. Because I'm 10 years younger than Emily. And I'm four years younger than Christina. So like, for them to hear these things that I was going through, they were like, No, it wasn't that bad. I was like, well, not when you are around, but times changed. And when you know, when things were at its worst, it was very different than what you experienced. And think that made them feel bad and bad for me that I had to go through that kind of alone, because they were they were out of the house by that and they deserved to move on with their lives and build their futures. But I was still kind of stuck there waiting it out.
KERRY  19:28 Everybody just sort of paying the tab in their own way.
JENETTE  19:31  Yeah, you shared that when they lived at home, they were kind of a buffer for you. And when they were gone, obviously you were the only one there to handle the relationship with your parents. And so of course, it was going to change the dynamics and make it more intense. And I loved how you owned your theater moment. You know, like, look at me that you took the stage for attention, but that's what any kid would have done. You know, in that situation.
MONICA  19:55 Yeah, you try one thing and you get a little like, oh, that kind of work. To like, what else can I do? You know, and when you're as sick as my dad was, he couldn't. And I see that now. And I have a lot of empathy for what he went through. But he couldn't see me in the ways that he wanted to. And it wasn't, you know, a fault of his. And I understand that. And we're building a better relationship. He's actually been sober for the last, I think it's been nine year eight or nine years since the fall 2015. Right. It's I got my real estate license. Actually, I know exactly what it was. So we've been able to rebuild the different sorts of relationships since then, which has been pretty cool.
JENETTE  20:37 That's amazing. I loved that
MONICA  20:39 He quit cold turkey, which really annoyed me
JENETTE  20:43 I do remember you sharing that, because why is it that he can do it now? And he couldn't do it then when you needed it?
MONICA  20:49 Yeah, but you know, you have to be ready for yourself in that moment. And he eventually got himself to that place. And I'm super proud of him. And we're, yeah, we're figuring out a new, new dynamic here...still
JENETTE  21:03 But I think the theme that you shared that every single person can relate to, was that moment when you realize your parents are human. Right? Yeah. And doesn't matter if you know, if they are alcoholics or have any complicated situation. But there is a humbling moment, you know, a depressing moment. There's a moment when you're an adult, and you realize, oh, yes, they are human, too. And we have to offer them the same grace that we would any other relationship that we have as adults in this world. And like you said, I don't know that, you know, we're already do adult that hard.
MONICA  21:43 Yeah, you know, it's so funny to see like, now as an adult and see friends, I have problems and the advice, I would give them the way that we treat them. And you're like, Oh, of course, I would treat you with such you know, humanity and respect and stuff like that. But your parents, you just expect the world of them. And it's almost not fair that we set them up. They were our lives for too long to expect so much out of them.
JENETTE  22:07 Yeah, but you feel it really hard when they can't deliver anything, take you down some interesting paths, for sure. Let's talk for a second. So you didn't go into too much detail. But I'd love to share with our listeners, that piece of your journey where you discovered, you know that your mom was so reliant on her relationships, for financial support. And it sent you off on a journey where you had to become the best and the most successful. And not everybody knows that you were awarded realtor of the year in the Bloomington Normal community because of the work that you put in. And then what happened? There was a moment, somewhere between then and now were, you realize that that wasn't what you needed. success and joy. They were not the same thing, right?
MONICA  22:49 Yeah, after my mom passed, we found out she had no money, she was worth more dead than alive. And I hate to say that, but that's like, a fact. or life insurance was worth more than any money she had in her bank account, which still was not much her boyfriend paid her rent, and she was waiting for him to leave his wife. And he just kept saying it's going to happen, it's going to happen. And my mom died with this hope that she was going to be with this man some day and it never happened. And that, frankly, pissed me off. I became a huge producer. And I got a lot of attention. And I got a lot of money. And I just was like, Okay, I'm safe in my little bubble here. And I'll just take care of myself because no man is ever going to do that. And I'm married to an attorney and I was like your money. It's not enough. It's not good enough. I need my own just feel safe. And so that took a lot of time to kind of undo. The whole turning point was in the fall of 2001. When I won realtor of the year. I was like, Whoa, crap. What do I do now? Like, I don't want to get better than this. Like I was selling close to 50 houses every year I worked from the minute I woke up to the minute I went to bed I ruined every movie night my husband and I ever tried to have it was no thank you. And I didn't know why I was trying so hard. And then just a couple months are with the 10 year anniversary of my mom's death. And that was when I really was starting to hit some things together. My burnout keeps getting brought up when I think of this grief over my mom like how are these things related? Why am I such an overachiever? And why does it always kind of circle back to my mom. And I posted on Facebook and had amazing conversations with people just being really real. I think that's why so so comfortable in the she said atmosphere it's because I got used to saying ugly stuff out there because it connected me in more ways than I ever got connected to people tried to be the best, most perfect person and now I'm like obsessed with it and I'm like, do you want to hear the time I shit my pants like I'll tell you we're gonna be friends. Just call me up, we'll talk because that just gets you so much further in life.
KERRY  25:05 Oh, that's awesome.
MONICA  25:08  You didn't know I was going there. Bet you didn't see that coming.
KERRY  25:11 I did not know.
JENETTE  25:12 We love women who are willing to go there to be quite honest, because this world is not as pretty as this picture that we're constantly painting for each other. It is awkward and gross, and silly and weird. And we love women who embrace that. So thanks for bringing it but what came out of this for you that was so beautiful is you took your struggle and emerged with a coaching business to help others prevent this type of burnout? How has that been going for you?
MONICA  25:41 Oh, my gosh, every day is a new lesson like it's you have to constantly be pivoting. So what I learned was, I wanted everything to be perfect. And then I realized I just had to start. And my first iteration of a business was his real estate focus, and advertise. But this isn't right. But I had tried and I learned so then I was able to make tweek after tweek after tweak to like, got it to what actually inspired the hell out of me, I was like that, you know, but I, I didn't know that I had to go through all of these drafts. And usually, I'm the type of person that those drafts stay under lock and key, no one sees the draft, you see the finished product that is perfect. And I tried something new this time. And I feel so much better to the stress level, like a bajillion times lower when I can just try something out loud, and learn from it and go. So I've been making a lot of great connections, especially with a lot of your health geneticists, they do some great connections at the she said conference. So now I'm trying to get in front of as many business owners, I offer burnout, recovery coaching, but really, I would love to get in front of it, where we can prevent it, and work with companies and actually do the work before they get to the point of burnout. But that's hard to do. Because it's everywhere right now.
JENETTE  27:10 Well, I don't know any university that offers a degree in burnout management. But I love that you're tackling this because I mean, it was probably prevalent before, but post COVID Oh, my gosh, burnout is so high, and there isn't a system, there isn't a method, you know, to get out of it or figure it out once it's gone too far. No one's doing that work. And so I think that's really exciting.
KERRY  27:33 Well, I'm really interested, as you're talking, I'm fascinated by this. And I'm wondering if there's sort of this connection between all of these facets in your own puzzle connecting it thinking so many women in our generation have seen our mothers or grandmothers who did not have financial independence, and the fallout from that. And so then we become that's not going to be me. We work work, work, work, work, work, and gotta be the best gotta be the best gotta be the best. And then that leads to burnout. Yeah, I'm wondering if those things are connected.
MONICA  28:02 What I'm finding is so much of a person's past, I was in a way that how much of the stuff from my childhood causes the burnout, I kind of say it's like a wound, like you had a wound on your arm, and you put a bandaid on it. And that might be figuring out your time management and clearing your schedule and stuff like that. But it doesn't help you figure out why did you get hurt in the first place. And it certainly doesn't stop you from getting hurt. That gives you the moment to pause and breathe. But you really need to figure out why you got hurt in the first place so you can stop getting hurt. And that's kind of where a lot of my work comes from is like looking in the past to figure out why are you accepting the circumstances? And why are you promoting this colorful culture and living this life? And so that's where I've been figured out this year.
JENETTE  28:52 It's certainly a service I think that is well needed in our communities these days. So thank you for for you taking these risks and diving into your own story. You're only going to help other women other people find their own peace and find their own burnout prevention. That's what we try to do at That's What She Said give women a safe space to discover these stories where they can dig a little deeper they can get ahead of the story. Maybe they can put some antiseptic on the wound a little bit. You know, and you certainly dove in from day one. I didn't tell you Kerry but like Monica, the very first time we got together, her overachiever was showing a little bit you know, she came with a perfect draft ready to roll. It was so good.
MONICA  29:33 It's not the overachiever, it's honestly I think the years of having done this in high school like I mean, I didn't get a lot of awards and like went through state and nationals and stuff. So I attributed to like I just have some technical skills. For a good okay, yeah, and yeah, a little obsessive like perfectionist.. the cherry on top.
JENETTE  29:57 Well, thank you for bringing all your technical skills and talents to That's What She Said. That's all the time we have for today's episode but Monica, thank you for spending some time with us for revisiting your story and the story behind the story which is what we love to dive into and explore. We're here to share stories on a greater platform so more women can learn more women can learn how to prevent burnout and be like Monica
KERRY  30:20  Be like Monica bumper stickers coming soon.
JENETTE  30:24  Our new bumper sticker, thanks everyone for joining us today on The She Said Project Podcast
KERRY  30:24  Over and out


[Music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]

ANNOUNCER 30:25 Thank you for listening to The She Said Project Podcast in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in the podcast for the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That’s What She Said, LLC. For more information on our live shows go to [url=][/url]
This podcast was made possible with support from Carle and Health Alliance and presented by Sterling Wealth Management, empowering women to live their best lives.

JENETTE  31:21  Woohoo, we just got you a new slogan, girl!


Monica Bullington of Bloomington-Normal is in the podcast studio with Jenette and Kerry to discuss her story, "Nacho Love" where she takes the audience on her journey of growth, relationship and forgiveness.

The She Said Project Podcast is recorded in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in this podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That's What She Said, LLC. Learn more at