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Alone But For a Blankey and Stuffed Animal – Starting Over, 11-18/19-04

by LauraBelle

For two years of Starting Over we have watched Josie grow from a freightened young pregnant girl to a mature sure-of-herself mother with a fantastic future ahead for both her and her young daughter, Chloe. She has brought out the maternal side in all of us, both for Chloe and Josie. Every graduate has left her mark on the house upon their graduation, but with Josie and Chloe, there will always be an indelible mark letting us know she was part of the process, and the process became part of her.

Josie’s graduation starts with the surprise of five of her roommates from the first Starting Over house – Amy, Hailey, Lynnell, Susan, and Rain. The new and old roommates mix together and discuss their goals and what it’s like living in the house. Rain doesn’t understand Kim from Denver eating cornbread and milk, saying that’s a country thing, and Hailey sympathizes with Jennifer’s feeling of being attacked at the Board of Review.

Rhonda enters and holds a group meeting with the Season One roommates and Josie. We are brought up to speed quickly on how everyone has been doing. Lynnell is crocheting twenty-four/seven and selling her items on her website, The L Chain. Amy has a website as well, offering her expert travel advise. Susan continues in her blossoming relationship with her birth father, and has even opened herself up to love and gone on a few dates. One of Hailey’s biggest changes has been to quit smoking, and she also has received her coaching license, leading to some offers to coach soccer teams. Rain feels like she’s backsliding a little. After being perpetually behind financially, Rain moved back to South Bend, Indiana with her mother and is driving a bus.

While the first season’s roommates are busy catching up, the Sisterhood that consists of Iyanla, Jennifer, Kim and Towanda hold a meeting. Kim and Jennifer discuss their upcoming trip to visit their estranged family members in Denver. Towanda has some sad news to share. She emailed her father to let him know she would be calling him to discuss their estrangement. He replied to her that he doesn’t wish for her to call. Her worst fear has come to be. Iyanla sympathizes with her and offers her a very comforting hug. Later, Iyanla says this is the most open she has seen Towanda.

Rhonda asks these women if they see a change in Josie. Susan says she had hoped to find a happier Josie, and is glad she has found just that. Lynnell adds that Josie seems to have become much more mature in the Starting Over house the second time around. The new and old roommates mix together and discuss their goals and what it’s like living in the house. Rain doesn’t understand Kim from Denver eating cornbread and milk, saying that’s a country thing, and Hailey sympathizes with Jennifer’s feeling of being attacked at the Board of Review.

All the roommates past and present are going out to dinner to celebrate Josie’s graduation. first they make a stop at a costume shop and pick up feather boas, scarves, hats, gloves and sunglasses to have their party in style. Over dinner, Amy realizes Josie is putting on a brave face, but is scared of what the future will hold with her and Chloe on their own.

Back at the house, as everyone is settling back in, Josie notices Chloe, who must have been left with a sitter during dinner, is having difficulty breathing. She and Towanda run the shower, hoping the steam will clear her out, but she is still breathing difficultly. Towanda calls 911, and all past and present roommates follow along to wait for the ambulance. After Josie and Chloe are rushed away, the remaining roommates say a prayer for Josie and Chloe, led by Cassie.

Josie and Chloe return home later with the news that Chloe just had a viral infection. Rain seems to think Josie overreacted, but that’s nothing new for Rain. Same old Rain. In fact, Rain asks to meet with Iyanla about her fear that she is backsliding. Iyanla basically tells her not to worry about it; she’s doing the best she can, and just needs to accept that. She further explains to Rain, that since she asked to see Iyanla, she must feel she possesses something Rain doesn’t. Rain says yes, that she thinks Iyanla has better tools at her disposal to get through it. Iyanla faces her, and asks Rain to suck it right out of her that tool she needs. Rain appears to feel better after this.

The next morning Rhonda arrives for one last group meeting with Josie, this time with the Season Two roommates. Josie goes through a quick explanation of the night before with Chloe being taken to the Emergency Room. Josie says she was glad to have so many people that cared about her to help calm her down, as she doesn’t know what she would do if she had been on her own.

Everyone discusses the changes they have seen in Josie. Towanda has seen a a lot of growth, and Kim knows she can’t work out conflict with anyone else other than Josie, so feels that is helping her. Sommer knows they are similar, so it helps her know that if Josie can do it, so can she. The plasma screen is revealed to show all Josie’s steps have been filled. The other roommates all express their sadness at Chloe leaving their lives that day as well. Today Chloe will get a little makeover, with Cassie, who is trying to heal after giving her own child up for adoption eighteen years ago, and Josie shopping for a new wardrobe for Chloe.

A photographer visits the house to take pictures of the Season Two roommates with Josie and Chloe. Especially endearing are the ones with each individual roommate holding Chloe on their own. Towanda, especially, is expressing sadness at having to lose seeing Chloe daily. She shared a room with Josie and Chloe, and has felt at times that Chloe was her own.

The moment finally arrives, and everyone is gathered around the pool for Josie’s graduation ceremony. Everyone expresses wishes silently and sets a candle afloat into the pool for this. Most are wishing for love and happiness for her. As Josie enters, her current roommates look said, her ex-roommates look joyful. Rhonda gives a speech reminding everyone of the many bad and good moments Josie had in both Starting Over houses. In the end, she says she consider it an honor to have been Josie’s life coach, honored to have been on the journey with her, and tells Josie “it’s been nothing but a pure joy and pleasure in her life to have you in my life.”

Susan takes the podium and congratulates her for being the person they know she is, and the mother that she will be. Her wish for Josie is for her to have the family that she deserves, because she does indeed deserve that. She switches places with Amy who shares that there is a gift that Josie has given her, that Amy learned to always keep her heart open after Josie had left the house the first time. Kim moves up to the podium and says when Josie first walked into the house, Kim saw herself twenty years earlier. She further explains that now that she has her own empty nest, she wants Josie to cherish every single moment of it. At the podium, Jennifer says there’s been times she thought she could never love her more, and times she thought she really hated her, until she realized the things she hated about Josie were the things Jennifer hated about herself. She tells Josie she hopes she finds the love she deserves and wants and that she will always be there for her. Conspicuously missing is Towanda who remains seated with a plastic grin on her face, making everyone realize how difficult it is for her to say goodbye to Josie and Chloe.

Dr. Stan shares that he feels as the only man in the house that he needs to share the burden for all the men that have hurt Josie in her life, he then pauses to hold back his tears, and says he would be proud to be her father. That one right there brings tears to my eyes just typing it up. I haven’t always understood or liked Dr. Stan, but that moment changed it all for me. He truly understands what she needs and empathizes with her plight. Iyanla tells Josie that every woman that has held, nutured or loved a baby wants Josie to succeed. She tells her she isn’t alone, and is surruonded by a sisterhood of women to support her.

Josie comes to the front, repeats the Starting Over oath, and is awarded a fourteen-day course back in California for animal training, and travel and housing arrangements for that. Chloe is being awarded all the furniture, childproofing materials, and toys she enjoyed while in the Starting Over house. Through tears a very confident Josie tells everyone she feels so blessed to be a part of all their lives. She never thought she would have so many people that cared about her. She promises to never forget them and always keep in touch. She says, “it was hard, it was rough, and by God it hurt sometimes … But I did it, I graduated.” She adds that her wish is for all them to never forget who they are inside.

She says a tearful goodbye to Iyanla, Dr. Stan and the Starting Over roommates from the first house. Alone, Josie makes a wish for herself and puts her own candle into the pool. She moves inside, and Rhonda presents Chloe with a silver rattle for her own little graduation. She also presents a framed picture of Chloe that she wants Josie to leave as her gift for the house, so everyone will always remember the special part Chloe became in all their lives.

Everyone goes outside to wait to bid Josie and Chloe goodbye, as she places the picture on top of the fireplace mantle. She bids a final goodbye to Rhonda, collects her things, and walks out to say her final goodbyes. Sommer says she thinks of Josie as a sister. Jennifer says the one thing she’ll miss is all the fun they had. Towanda says the thing she’ll miss is all the late night talks they had, and the vulnerable side she got to see then that no one else did. Josie and Chloe get into the limo and drive away. All that’s left is an empty, calm pool with lit candles.

Kim and Towanda walk into the room Towanda, Josie and Chloe shared and find Chloe’s blankey and stuffed animal. Everyone wonders whether it was left accidently, or on purpose, so that Towanda could have those reminders. Later, Towanda crawls into bed alone, clutching the blankey and pink animal.

I think Starting Over was the best thing for Josie and young Chloe. Both of them starting their lives off on the right track now. Josie learned to be a mom and a woman, and Chloe learned to be loved by many, something Josie never found herself until entering the house.

I welcome questions and comments at LauraBelle@realityshack.com

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