A+ Autobiography

When Mark asked me to move in with him, I packed a bag and we skipped off into a spectacular sunset. Just kidding. We packed up my entire life, hired movers to load the largest U-Haul available, and hit the road eastbound during traffic hour. The sun was setting behind us and the rest of our lives lay before us. Trite, but true. I was excited, smitten, anxious, and hopeful.


Naturally, I’d over packed. Refusing to part with necessities – things like my pink spaghetti strainer, taco griddle, Z Gallerie sofa, dining set, and numerous other things that Mark had duplicates of – we were hauling things across country that we’d never even use. They would sit in boxes and under sheets in an overpriced storage unit in the city. But having before hit a dead end on shacked up road, I worried about donating this stuff. I really couldn’t stomach the idea of having to, once again, buy dishes, televisions, and bath towels should Mark or I declare the same sentiment published in the Terre Haute in 1851, “Go West, young (wo)man, go west.” I’m fully aware of how faithless this sounds. I suppose, in a way, my home goods were my security blanket.

Since shacking up, Mark and I have lived in one condo and three houses in four different cities. In other words, we’re professional packers and expert movers. Thanks for always confirming my address, dear friends. But more importantly, with each move, Mark and I felt increasingly confident that we’ll go many places together, but I won’t ever go back to Arizona alone. While I didn’t fully feel like a Florida girl, I was unequivocally Mark’s girl. Yet, I continued to haul my security blanket from place-to-place.

That all changed with two pink lines.

Being pregnant with my first child has changed my life. I’m sure all moms say this. It’s metamorphic to say the very least. For me, it instantly rooted me to Florida, to my stepchildren, and more so to my husband than I thought possible. I no longer felt like an outsider. Three positive pregnancy tests and boom, I became a bonafide member of this family, and a Sunshine State local. What’s more, I felt foolish for dragging my security blanket around all these years.

Unpacking was liberating, and a little embarrassing. Did I really keep spices? Toothpicks? Oh, hello pizza cutter. Lucky timing because we had recently thrown ours out by mistake. Again. And by we, I mean Mark. He has a habit of leaving them in the pizza box, but I don’t hustle him too hard because I’m grateful he takes out the trash. Marriage goals achieved. I very proudly created a Goodwill box and with each donated item, felt glad to be seriously hooking someone up. I imagined some 20-something-year-old girl happily loading her cart with my martini shaker, champagne flutes, frying pans, icecream scooper, and that pink strainer.

Shedding my security blanket brought me peace and satisfaction. Imagine me, triumphantly clapping my hands together as if wiping away a hard day’s work. However, all my generous donating also brought me to the determination that there are some things I’ll always keep. Some material things are memories worth holding on to. Yes, I hoard sentimental items. Shamelessly. If I can hold an item in my hand and it brings me back to a smile or a story that defines me, it stays.


Before leaving Phoenix over four years ago, we stopped by my mom’s house for a hug and a few essentials she no longer wished to store, but I would never dream of parting with: my Barbie house and limo, photo albums from cheer, slumber parties, and dances, schoolwork and textbooks, trophies, ribbons, sashes, and prom dresses. While my stepdaughters confiscated all my Barbie stuff the moment we became roomies, everything else was and will continue to be safely stored. Except for this gem; this one was too good to keep all to myself.


Autobiography of Jamie Lee Murdick

Written in Mrs. Dobt’s fourth grade class

Quail Run Elementary, Phoenix, Arizona

Grade earned = A+

Part I

Age 0:   

     My name is Jamie Murdick. I was born on Friday at 3:33 pm. The date was September 28th, 1984. I weighed 5 lbs. 8 oz. When I was born I had air bubbles around my heart and lungs. The doctors were afraid that if one of them popped it would put a hole in my heart or lungs. They put me on oxygen and air-vacked me to a hospital that cared for sick newborn babies. My parents were worried sick! They came to visit me every day, and stayed the whole time. Three days later the bubbles dissolved and my parents were able to take me home. I was very lucky!

Age 1:

     I weighed 22 lbs., because I was so tall. My family and I moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Littleton, Colorado. Six months later we moved to Tucson, Arizona.

Age 2:

     My family and I moved to Cave Creek, Arizona. We lived with my grandparents who had a three-story house and a nice pool. Over Christmas break my family and I drove to Michigan to see my dad’s parents.

Age 3:

     My parents bought a house in Phoenix, Arizona. I invited Cortney Schwartz to my birthday party. Cortney and I are really good friends, so are our moms.

Age 4:

     My dad got a job in Palm Springs, California. My mom and I did not go with him, but we visited every other week. We would sometimes go to Disneyland and Sea World. We had fun!

Age 5:

     My family and I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. My dad got a job to build a golf course there. We went to the Excalibur Hotel and Casino and I won a sword! My friend’s brother stepped in an ant pile. I felt sorry for him. 

Age 6:

     My family and I moved to Newport Beach, California. I went to kindergarten there. My dad was there building a golf course on the beach. It was a great year!

Part II

Age 7:

     We moved back to Phoenix and I entered the first grade at Quail Run Elementary School. My teacher was really nice, but my P.E teacher was the greatest! Her name was Miss Stone. Then she got married and her new name changed to Mrs. Dobt. My little brother was born!

Age 8:

     The summer before I entered second grade I flew back to Michigan to see my Grandma and Grandpa. I had a great time visiting everyone there. My second grade teacher was Mrs. Larson.

Age 9:

     Third grade was easy. My teacher was Mrs. McCutchan. She was very nice.

Age 10:

     In fourth grade my teacher was Mrs. Dobt, and she was really cool! She let us listen to music while we worked. Math got a little bit harder, but I managed to get good grades. Some of my favorite friends were in my class. Amber Fulbright, Tesa Fisher, and Cortney Schwartz just to name a few.

Age 11:

     My mom and I started doing some really heavy duty cleaning on the house. My dad worked on the front and back yards. Once again we were on the move. It will be my little brother A.J.’s first time.

Age 12:

     We ended up moving to Hawaii. We bought a house right on the beach. My dad got a job there, and he was making big bucks every week. For my sixth grade teacher, I had Mr. Robinson He was really mean! I always liked watching T.V. on the huge screen T.V., and playing basketball in an airconditioned room. You wouldn’t believe how big my house was!

Part III

Age 13:

     My mom signed me up for drama classes. I really enjoyed them. I missed my friends more and more, but I made many new ones.

Age 14:

     When I was in the eighth grade I worked at the beach after school. I wasn’t a lifeguard, but I worked in the lifeguard office. My mom got a job working with dolphins. She loved it!

Age 15:

     In the summer I flew back to Phoenix to visit all my friends. I was so happy to see them! I spent most of my time with relatives. I told all my friends I would see them soon. I flew back to Hawaii and started high school.

Age 16:

     On my sixteenth birthday I got a forest green convertible Porsche, with a black top. The car had a phone with two different lines. I loved it! It was really cool!

Age 17:

     In the eleventh grade I made cheer. Prom was coming and I didn’t have a date yet. There was nothing to worry about, because it was only Tuesday and Prom was on Saturday night. That Tuesday I was asked out by Steven Seford. I said yes! He was the most popular guy in the 11thgrade. Prom was great! A couple of weeks later his true personality came out, what a loser. I guess that the most popular guys aren’t always the best.

Age 18:

     Yes, I finally made it to being a senior! I was still a cheerleader, and have been in drama classes since I was 13. The only sad thing is I don’t have a boyfriend. My last prom in high school is coming up, and I have to get a date.  A guy named Johnathan Lesha asked me to go out. I said yes gladly. We had a great time at the prom. Johnathan was so sweet!

Part IV

Age 19:

     I decided that I wanted to go to Paris, France for college. I took French so I could communicate with others there. That summer, Cortney and Tesa flew to Paris to see me. Amber couldn’t come, but she promised she would next summer.

Age 20:

     My second year of college was a blast! Over Christmas break I traveled all around Europe. I brought back many souvenirs and antiques.

Age 21:

     In my third year in college I was rehearsing for a play when a woman named Louise Flesher asked me if I was ever interested in doing some professional acting or modeling. I told her that I’ve wanted to be a famous actress since I was a little girl. She handed me a card with her phone number on it and told me to call her soon.

Age 22:

     It was the year I was to graduate from college. I couldn’t wait to start acting professionally, so I called Louise Flesher. She was so happy to hear from me. Before I knew it I was in a commercial, a T.V. show, and I was going to star in my first movie. Later that year I graduated with a major in Performing Arts, and a minor in Education.

Age 23:

     I married a wonderful Frenchman who was an international lawyer. Later that year we had a baby boy named Ryan. We all moved to the United States and bought a house in Beverly Hills, California and another in New York City.

Age 24:

     It was the year 2008 and flying cars were invented. The best movie of the year was called “Deep Trouble.” I starred in the film as a mermaid. It was one creepy movie nobody ever forgot about.

Part V

Age 25:

     I switched to the William Moris Talent Agency. Our second child was born. A beautiful baby girl named Mara.

Age 26:

     We spent four months in our house in New York so I could star on Broadway in the musical “Freedom.” I was the leading lady.  I had to sing a lot, but I had no problem with it.

Age 27:

     My third child was born. Her name was Miranda. By this time, Ryan was 4 and Mara was 2-years-old.

Age 28:

     My husband, my children, and I all took a cruise ship to Hawaii to see my parents. The kids loved the beach and playing with the dolphins. We all had a blast! We stayed for four months, then we set sail for Hollywood.

Age 29:

     I starred in the movie of a lifetime called “Friends.” It was about two women who were completely different, but somehow they become the best of friends forever. Siskel and Ebert gave it 4 thumbs up.

Age 30:

     As I sit at a table with many people surrounding me, a man on a microphone speaks. He says, “the Academy Award for the year 2014 goes to the best actress of all time for her performance in the movie “Friends,” her name is JAMIE MURDICK!” I cried my way up onto the stage to collect my Oscar. I thanked everyone in every way who got me here today!   

Well, the good news is that, in reality, life went on beyond 30. Is Mrs. Dobt partially to blame for my complex with turning 30? Written when I was 10, two thirds of this is total fantasy. But I’m not sure which is funnier. The real life details I chose to feature: city-hopping, ant piles, and smartly sucking up to my teacher? Or that I thought we’d move to Hawaii, cars would fly, and I’d have the ability to sing well enough that it earned me income?

Thankfully, my real life outshines the fantasy above.  In reality, I’m not famous and I’m not that rich, but I am well traveled, educated, and happy. I married an All-American man of Belgian ancestry whom knows basic French – so my crystal ball wasn’t that cloudy after all. My Belgian great grandmother would be pleased. Plus, he takes me on much more posh vacays than cruises. In a way, I do have three kids. I get to enjoy and nurture my stepchildren, yet I didn’t have to dedicate my twenties to them. Talk about a win-win. Kid me was in fast forward; she wanted to do life too quickly. In real life, I deliberately waited until my thirties to marry and procreate. In my late teens, I somehow knew that taking the long route around the game board of life was what was best. Along the way, I’ve graduated college with an Emmy; chosen careers with unique small businesses that eventually and fatefully led me to Mark; ran in the rain down the streets of London; kissed under the Eiffel Tower; partied until noon in Vegas; met a U.S. President; taken koala selfies in Sydney, and witnessed the sunrising over The Bush while on safari. I’ve taken the time to enjoy my life.  And much to my relief – from the pink spaghetti strainer to the two pink lines on my first pregnancy test – it’s more fulfilling and amusing than I predicted it to be.

And so today, on my 34thbirthday, I’ll channel inventive 10-year-old me and gander a guess at what this year will bring:

Age 34:

            I’ve officially joined the mom club! Of all the (fashionable) hats I’ve worn, this one is my fave. My son, Bradley Phoenix, is healthy and makes us so happy. He likes to squeeze my fingers tightly and, thankfully, is a really good sleeper. He’s already quite the jet-setter. He doesn’t make a big fuss on planes and doesn’t mind all the selfies when sightseeing. Business is booming! I’m really proud of my husband, Mark. He’s working so hard and closing lots of deals. The kids all have straight A’s, and Tyler got his first girlfriend! But the best news of all: we’re expecting another baby! Baby Coppens Arriving December 2019!

What’s the saying? “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars?” Might as well go for it. Who knows, maybe my reality will, once again, be better than fantasy. Time will tell.

Becoming Bradley

What’s in a name? Shakespeare’s Juliet famously persuades “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” She was love sick, but she wasn’t wrong. Had the rose been named, say, pickle, it still would have been just as beautiful, and easy on the eyes, nose, and fingertips. Likewise, Romeo still would have been a looker had he been called Herbert. But let’s be real, a graceful name helps to make giving and receiving this ethereal flower – or dating a hunk – all the more romantic and extraordinary. Even pregnant and generally famished, I’d rather receive a bouquet of roses than pickles. I know several parents who proudly gave their daughters the middle name Rose. Bottom line, words are powerful and names matter.

When I was 28 weeks pregnant, you were the size of a butternut squash, and your father had exhausted more veto power than I ever could have imagined, we finally named you: Bradley Phoenix Coppens. Never Brad, always Bradley. Your friends and future girlfriends will challenge this – which will, admittedly, annoy me – but your parents will always honor your true name. Your initials are BPC, which I like because it rhymes, and I’m cheeky like that. One day, likely when you’re learning to write your name, you’ll wonder why we named you Bradley Phoenix. You may think: ordinary name, city in the desert, but it’s really so much more than that.  Sweet son, here’s the story of how you became you:

First things first, you needed a first name. As I’m sure you’ve gathered, your dad is particular and forward thinking. In the age of baby name lists saturated with exotic spellings of normal words, nicknames, unisex names, fruits – yes, fruits – and random adjectives, your dad appreciated tradition. He wanted to provide you with a strong name, one where the spelling and origin would never be pondered or judged. He had the foresight to consider that you may become President of the United States or the CEO of a fortune 500 company, which you likely launched, so not only should your name look stately on letterhead, but it needed to be respectable, too. Can citizens or a workforce really get behind a guy named Cloud, Kourage or Cabbage? Your dad thought not.

Shortly after my dentist diagnosed me with pregnancy gingivitis and swollen feet three times their usual size was my new normal, I finally got on your dad’s wavelength. It was like my entire body was oozing with you, yet you had no name other than “baby boy.” It was time to get serious, not to mention monogramming. I presented: Luke, Scott, and Brooks. To which he replied: “Luke Skywalker? No. Scott? Hate it. Brooks? As in Brooks Brothers? Nope.” Veto abuser.

In truth, your dad named you. When I finally urged him to be serious and tell me what names he’s always liked, he very easily offered Bradley, not Brad – reason number 633 that your dad and I were meant to be. He explained that he had wanted to name your brother Bradley, which I thought was particularly profound for such an unsentimental guy like your dad. It became quite evident to me that he’s been waiting to give you this name. He’s been waiting for you. I didn’t reveal it to him just then, but you became Bradley that instant.

On to Phoenix. If you ask me, middle names are of value. They add wholeness to a person’s identity, and if thoughtfully arranged, regality in this basic world. Plus, they’re handy when being disciplined and on marriage invitations, too. I see future me over enunciating your entire name when I’ve busted you sneaking snacks as a kid or out the back door as a teen. The beauty of it will help me cope with the reality that you’re acting like a young, fun me. Karma. Your dad’s a two-name man, and even he agrees that his monogrammed accessories fall short. He’s the type of dad who strives to give his children so much more than he ever had. Names included. But as you’ll learn, your mama is a clever girl and life is like a game of chess. You see, your dad chose your first name, so I automatically got to choose your middle name. Checkmate.

View More: http://briandersonphotos.pass.us/jamiecoppens

While your dad plans ahead for total domination in the corporate or political scene, I said to myself, “What if he becomes an actor or musician? His name has to sound strong, and be unique without being weird.” The hunt was on. I plucked ideas from my baby name list in the notes section of my iPhone. I clicked through baby name lists online. My eyes laser focused on scrolling TV and movie credits. I googled what famous people name their kids and what’s trending in other countries. I considered family names and charming southern ones, too. And then it hit me. I will not give you your first or last name; your middle name was my single shot at giving you a piece of me. A total narcissist would give you their own name, but like I said, initials matter. And while I do have my fair share of obsessions, myself is not one of them. Cancel the hunt. Inspiration was what I needed. Enter nostalgia – my favorite pastime.

Phoenix came to me in a dream. Just kidding. I was swimming with your Gigi and sisters, well, treading water – you’ll eventually accept this about me. But back to you, back to Phoenix. Gigi adored it, naturally. Your sisters thought it sounded cool and weren’t the least bit surprised because they know how much I love my roots. Bradley, when I fly home to Arizona, I cry. When I leave, I cry. Not necessarily because I’m sad, but because Phoenix is – in the cheesiest, yet most honest revelation – my heart. Like so many others who just simply exist where they reside, I didn’t truly realize my affection for Arizona until I left her.

For me, it’s the smell of the desert after the rains or in the dead of night; the sound of the wind rustling bits of desert floor across smooth asphalt; and the colors of the sunrise. Don’t even get me started on the sunsets. They’re the best in the world – and I’ve trotted this globe. When I was a kid, I would watch the sun set behind a mountain and was almost certain that if I just walked to the other side, I’d find it in jammies fast asleep. I’ve closed my eyes and swayed to a rain dance, played barefoot in monsoons, romped through the desert chasing dust storms, pool crashed most of the resorts, and never stopped marveling at the blooming palo verde trees – as yellow and green as brand new Crayola crayons. When a saguaro cactus blooms, you stop and pay attention. If you’re like me, you take a photo. Drive the Loop 101 with me and I’ll bet you I comment on how the mountains look today. Ask your Auntie Jennifer and she’ll tell you I’ve always been like that. Perhaps I’ve been enamored with the Valley of the Sun all along.

Phoenix is where the patriarch of my family, your Great Grandpa Bud, pretended to be your Great Grandma Connie’s date because his friend was too chicken to meet her parents. It might have been the universe’s grandest gesture of all time, because that friend never did get another date and Grandpa and Grandma went on to have a family of four children, 10 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren – you make 20. Yes, you have a big family. Here’s a tip from Mommy: Don’t be last in line for the gravy at Thanksgiving or you’re not getting any gravy on Thanksgiving. Sweetheart, it’s every man for himself.

Picturesque Arizona, a backdrop for the “Wild West,” is the backbone of who I am. Like the desert, I’m a tumbleweed of mystery, color, solitude, tranquility, and passion that’s – at once – calculated and reckless. Frankly, if it hadn’t been for your daddy wrangling my heart, I don’t think I would have ever left that place in the sun. My heart’s home has traveled from Phoenix to daddy, and now, with you, back to Phoenix. In me, Phoenix elicits pride, adoration, and heritage.  You already entice much of the same, and we haven’t even been formally introduced. Some say that over the span of your existence, I will give you “my everything,” and you will become “my world.” I have a feeling they’re right. So to begin, I will give you a middle name that means everything to me, a middle name that represents something special in this wide world. Phoenix. I hope you like it. Or can at least appreciate how much thought went into it. Your name is how you meet the world before it has the chance to get to know you. If nothing else, I’ve teed up a nice icebreaking conversation with future employers and girlfriends. Look at me, being a mom and a wingman. I’ve totally got this. You’ve totally got this.

Earlier, I said that words are powerful and names matter. Scratch that, names are meaningful. Your name is meaningful. But nice try, Juliet. You almost had me going there, Shakespeare. Romeo was a Montague, and you are a Coppens. Bradley Phoenix Coppens.