Monday, November 10, 2014

Welcome to the Family

So once upon a time, 11 years ago I stood on an altar and bet my life on forever. Before God, my family and 150 witnesses I promised to love someone for eternity.  That lasted about 9.5 years. win some, you lose some. But, before it was War of the Roses and the flames of Hell engulfed us and turned us into jaded skeletons of our former selves, there was a time that Oz and I actually liked each other. I dare even say loved.  We were young, naive and beyond dorky.  Sometimes it is fun to look back at the video we made to play at our wedding (like on our ex-anniversary) and see how it all began.   From the days before Oz became Oz and I became The Wicked Witch.  We were just a couple of dorks thinking about growing old together. I look at that person that I was and laugh. And cry. My God I was so innocent. We were 2 idiots.  But, we had so much fun together.  I sometimes wonder, how could I have wasted a decade of my life?  Then I remember I left that marriage with a Master's Degree and 3 children. It wasn't all bad.  And I watch our video: Girl Meets Boy: Welcome to the Family and think that maybe taking a chance on LOVE wasn't stupid, it was a life experience that in the end I am glad I have.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who ARE You?

This Fall has brought on an identity crisis for me. I had to change the name I use professionally and it caused some inner turmoil. The schools I have worked at had a culture that allowed teachers to go by their title and first names. I have been Ms. Carrie since I worked at my first teaching job in 1998. My friend Ms. Meeghan and I worked together at school and still refer to each other as our teacher names!   I took a 15 year hiatus from teaching and went off to explore the world of Campus Ministry and eventually became a stay at home mom. 

When I ventured back into the teaching world again I went back to the school I had started at. I was once again known as Ms. Carrie in my teaching profession. I moved schools last year, but we kept the same tradition. I was grateful to only be known by my first name because it was a major life decision on whether or not to keep my married last name or go back to my maiden name after the divorce. 

 I kept the married name because it made life easier. My kids have the name and it was a lot cheaper and less of a hassle than having to change my license and blah, blah.  I figured I never use that name anyway. Since I don't have to use it at work, the only time I really need to use a last name is my signature. As long as I don't have to say that name out loud why not keep it? Well…I was short sighted as usual.  

So this year policy changed. We now use our last names at school. It was decided by majority vote that it would be more professional  Needless to say, I not only disagreed with this sentiment, but I very loudly protested it.  I was outvoted by a landslide. And so it was decided in one swooping disastrous second that I would be referred to with the same title and last name as Oz's mother.  I didn't enjoy anyone calling me Mrs. X when I was that person. Now that I am NOT that, I enjoy that even less.  So I have modified it to Ms. X.  

Apparently the Ms. is a very big deal. I have had parents ask me to clarify. Students pronounce it Miss and other adults assume Mrs.  Especially since my children attend the same school and have that last name.  I feel that it advertises that I am a Divorced Woman. There is no way to clarify Ms. with 3 kids having that name without it screaming Single Mama.  It shouldn't matter. It truly does not affect my day what anyone thinks about the fact that I may or may not be married.  But, it does feel like an intrusion into my personal life. An unnecessary bit of info that strangers do not need. Going by Ms. Carrie gave me a persona that was relatable without having to get specific. The Ms. in front of my name gave reassurance to those that need it that I was being addressed respectfully by their children, but it gave me the sense of boundary that they did not need to know my marital status or failings.  

In the beginning of the transition this name change disturbed me. Greatly!  In fact, I held out until the very first day of school before I allowed anyone even my coworkers to refer to me as Ms. X.  In the weeks between The Vote and school starting I even considered changing my last name.  I debated should I change back to my maiden name?  But, that name didn't feel right either. I am no longer that person. My maiden name is a difficult last name to say and spell.  Not helpful when working with young students.  

I also debated going with a brand new last name.  I had first contemplated that idea when the divorce was finalized because the court will let you change your name that day for free.  I desperately wanted to  take a new name. I wanted a fresh start. I was really entertaining the idea of becoming Caralina Zaccara. Taking on the last name of my favorite soap character Johnny Zaccara from General Hospital and a much more Italian sounding first name.  My friend Beth had talked me out of it because she said the divorce combined with the new name would for sure have people thinking I had some kind of a breakdown. I thought it was good advice so I took it. 

But, before school started this year I revisited the idea.  My mother of course thought it was nuts. I would have no family tree, etc. etc. 

When I told Oz about my distress he said that he was giving me his last name because it belonged to the kids and I could just have it. I didn't have to be Mrs. anything. It was my kids family name. That made sense. 

But, the deciding factor was when Oz said that if I did decide to become Ms. Zaccarra he couldn't wait to tell people that I lost my mind.  I would NEVER give him that satisfaction!

I started the school year as Ms. X and the first time I had to introduce myself to parents and students it was difficult. I kept forgetting and even mispronounced it a couple times.  My students still know me as Ms. Carrie and very often still call me that. But, as the weeks have gone on they remember more and more to say Ms. X and I am beginning to actually remember to respond to it.  It doesn't sound so weird anymore. I don't over pronounce the Ms. as much and laugh when I say the X.  Only 3 or 4 unfortunate souls have referred to me as MRS. X.  They were quickly corrected and on went life.

At the end of the day maybe a name is just a name?  

The choices I have made in life are what they are. Whatever gets reflected in my name is not as important as the fact that I have 3 beautiful children who share that name. They are happy and healthy. End of story. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Where the Hell am I ??!!

Why would I need a GPS when I have an ex-husband with an iPhone? I'm usually pretty good with directions and finding my way around. However, there are those times when map quest sends me on a wild goose chase or I have taken a wrong turn and realized I am no where near my destination. In those situations I try to trust my gut instinct and follow the road that "looks" right. When all else fails I call Oz in a panic and he talks me through until I find my way. He can usually plug into google maps the street info that I think is correct and help me figure out the path I need to get on to arrive at my destination. Something I can probably do with my own phone but haven't figured out yet how to. Although Oz does mention on every occasion that I should probably try figuring out that map app.

Recently, I was with a co-worker trying to find a conference that we were attending. It was in Oz's area of the world and the location seemed familiar. My friend's navigation system and our googled directions were telling us we had arrived at our location but it was NOT there!

We drove around in circles and we were running very late. So I texted Oz. I knew he was at work nearby. He called me and asked what car I was in, I described it to him and he said he saw us and talked us through until we drove around construction site detours  and we finally arrived at the correct building which happened to be next door to his school.

As I settled into my conference seat, the thought occurred to me that in a matter of minutes Oz was able to look out a random window in his school building and find me on a crowded street in our state's capital city in a car that was not my own. The amazingness of that did not escape me!

I also call him during air travel. On a trip this summer I realized I had not been on a plane in 8 years and they are much smaller than I remembered. When my friend Sara and I arrived we were seated in the VERY last seat in the back of the plane by the bathroom. I started having a mild anxiety attack and felt claustrophobic like I had been shoved into an MRI machine. Sara was in a bit of a panic too because she hadn't traveled in awhile.

I didn't want to show just how nervous I was, so I texted Oz.  He reassured us both that the last seat on the airplane was the safest. We relaxed during take off and were basically ok.

On the ride back home we ran into some flight issues. The first flight couldn't take off because it was too heavy for the hot weather and it would affect the gas mileage.  So we circled forever until they decided to remove 6 passengers.  I texted Oz and he said he was sure this was a routine thing.  Not to worry.

We changed flights halfway across the country. The second flight was a brand new jet. Very exciting!
Except that we circled on the tarmac for a LONG time and then the pilot came on to announce there was an issue with the maintenance system.


 Luckily this new fancy jet included charging plugs for my iPhone. So... I called Oz. I was freaking out that our plane was going to crash.

He reasoned that my plane was probably not going to crash land- especially since I was NOT actually in the air.  Good point!

Within a few minutes the pilot got on the speaker to say all was fine. Crisis averted!

The man sitting next to me said, "so your husband is calm in a crisis?"  I explained that he was calm (usually), but my EX-husband.  He said that his ex-wife would be glad if the plane went down with him on it. I told him that it did not calm my nerves AT ALL to know that information.

I will admit it's weird. I have been working on being more independent and for the most part I am making progress. But, there is no road map for post divorce relationships. However, there is a road map app that I seriously need to figure out.

Before this starts sounding like a sentimental bunch of crap please know that I am a realist.  I know why Oz still bothers to take my calls even though it annoys him.  The bottom line is - child care is NOT cheap.  Oz always says, "get home safely, I need you to take care of my kids."   I would be VERY expensive to replace!

Friday, August 22, 2014

The D-Team

My neighbor is a very classy, wise Divorcee. Her motto is: Live a good life! She shared some wisdom with me on how to do that. She said that there are two things a divorced woman needs: Romance and a Handy Man. And those two things do not necessarily have to be from the same person. Another divorced friend of mine completely agrees.  She said it is never smart to rely on one man for all things. After all they are human. It puts everyone at a disadvantage to expect one person to be all things and can result in resentments. So it is smarter to separate romance and household needs.

This made perfect sense to me, especially since dating is it's own shit show! So I took my neighbor's and my friend's advice and set dating aside as it's own category and took inventory of household needs.  I noticed my neighbors Team of people included: Lawn Guy and Restaurant Owner Guy.  Taking care of the yard and having an awesome breakfast are important, so this Team helps make her week easier.

I borrowed Lawn Guy from my neighbor because mowing and whatever else goes into yard work does not fit into my schedule of working full-time and taking care of 3 kids. I also decided my Team would include Deli Guy because egg sandwiches are very important to my mental health and Carpenter Guy to help with painting and projects.  Luckily, Carpenter Guy has also turned out to be an amazing babysitter that my kids love.  Thankfully, my Uncle lives nearby and is great with plumbing, painting and fixing stuff too.

My Divorce Team basically got me through the school year while I was teaching my First Graders and focusing on starting up a new school.

This summer I had to make a few adjustments because Deli Guy turned out to be a hot mess. So I have now switched to my neighbor's Restaurant Owner Guy for my egg sandwiches. There is a lot less drama that way and the toasted rolls are yummy!

Fortunately I have Lawn Guy's number on speed dial because the past couple of weeks I have been on vacation from work and realized that my back yard needed some major help.

I went out there one afternoon and took a look around and realized that the table was still set from when I had company visit in July of 2013!! Basically right after that visit I started at the new school and never looked back. I hadn't even stepped in my yard since last summer. It looked like the apocalypse happened. Tree branches were down from the winter storms, leaves were still there from last Fall.
I looked around and thought, " are you f-ing kidding me right now?! This is your yard?"

At first I thought, no problem I am a strong, independent woman. I have a few hours and leaf blower I can fix this.  But, in the end I only managed to rip up what was left of the lawn and there were moldy leaves and worms flying everywhere. It was beyond disgusting and not feeling very productive.
I thought, "are you f-ing kidding me right now?!"

I came to the realization that a strong, independent woman knows how to admit there may be more qualified people to handle certain things.

I texted Lawn Guy and he showed up with a crew. They removed one of the playscapes, 2 wagons, a picnic table and grill and loads of branches, leaves and misc. shit.  They also cut down down the bushes and overgrown stuff back there.

It looks much better! Not good. But, better.  Of course without all the mess I can now see that the entire house and foundation need to be painted. UGH!

All in all it is smart to have a Team of people around when you need them. It makes the upkeep of a household less overwhelming. It is just that it is a never-ending thing. There is always something broken, needing to be painted or replaced and taken care of. I have been very spoiled over the years to have had my Dad around to do all of these things and not have to worry. Now that he is sick, I am realizing just how underprepared I am to handle household chores.  I feel a little better knowing that if something major is wrong I now have a few people to call.

Although, yesterday my engine light came on in my car and I realized I now need to find Mechanic Guy.  My Dad always handled all the car related issues too.  He taught me enough to know that the coolant was low and the oil was too.  So I was able to replace those. While I was at the gas station doing that Cowboy Hat Wearing Guy stopped to see if I needed help.  I let him take a look to be sure I wasn't blowing up the engine.  The kids thought it was cool that we met a real life Cowboy.  But, unfortunately, it didn't make the engine light go off or the air conditioner come back on. So now on to finding a Mechanic...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The List

Do you have a list of certain qualities you are looking for in a perspective relationship? Most people do. Even if they don't admit it.  I hear a lot of people say they don't have a "type." In fact, I say that too. But, recently I realized I do have a type.  And a List.

My good friend and Guru, Tammy, is big on lists. She writes them for all kinds of purposes.  We try to get together monthly with some of our friends from the college days for what we like to call a "Loser Convention."  It's not that we feel we are losers in the sense of being failures. But, Loser is the nickname we gave each other nearly 20 years ago when we watched Ace Ventura and could not stop laughing at the way Jim Carrey said, "Loser!" So the nickname was born and stayed for decades between me and Tammy and our friend Ryan. We have added Losers to our crew as the years have gone on. It is a special title bestowed on the worthy, like Crazy Cousin and some of our other friends.

At our monthly Loser Conventions, held at the finest pub in the area, we discuss and attempt to solve all the worlds problems. But, mostly we make fun of each other and talk about sex. Not much has changed in 20 years.

Tammy brings her little black notebook and we write lists.  THE LIST of course is the one where we name qualities we want in a future date/romantic partner.  Now THE LIST is not a new idea. I remember being in high school and my friend Stephanie and I would spend hours developing our Lists. We were very specific. One time our list had about 100 qualities on it ranging from white teeth to speaking English at home to driving a 1968 Mustang. Needless to say not many teen boys had all 100 qualities and sadly none had the Mustang.

In my extensive research over the years I have realized there are different types of Lists. And Lists can help you recognize that you go for different types of people.

So in January for our New Year's Resolutions, Tammy had all of us Losers write new Lists of what we are looking for. I hadn't needed a List in about 11.5 years so I found it difficult at first to start the brainstorming process. But, I eventually got a few qualities written with some help from chocolate martinis.

Here is The List I developed that night. (The martinis may have influenced this a little)

The List of Qualities I find Important in a Man...
1.) Chemistry/Sexiness/Romance  (all equally important)
2.) A job $$
3.) Broadway Shows and movies
4.) Chicken Parm
5. )Musical or Artistic Talent
6.) Tall/Full
7.) Fun

Needless to say,  it was an eye opening experience to see my List on paper.

In my 20's when I was dating to find "marriage material" and someone to have children with, my List was more extensive and included things like: trust, honesty, respect, spirituality, calm in a crisis, stable, dependable, emotionally available, mature, financially responsible, believes in truelove. Blah, blah.  
I should have just titled that List: Person That Does Not Exist on Earth.

Dating after Divorce is different obviously. There is no pressure in it and it is much more entertaining.

Being married for a decade, I hadn't paid much attention to the men in the world around me. So I started seeing people in a whole new light all of a sudden. Men were suddenly everywhere. Their wedding bands or lack thereof became glaring.  I had no gauge for age or expectations or intentions.  So the first time post-divorce that I met someone that sparked an interest I was taken off guard.  I learned that you never know who you will connect with.

Also, it was shocking to realize I do have a type. I kept thinking there is no common factor in the men I tend to be attracted to over the years. They are different heights, weights, races, their accents vary, they have very different jobs, etc.  But, I had an "aha moment" when it became clear that I go for guys that are entertaining.  They tend to be charismatic and I am drawn to that type like a magnet!

I also seem to go for workaholics, but I guess when I put "job" as my #2 quality I can't be surprised.

There are two types of Lists: The Short List and The Long List.
The Short List tends to include things like: nice smile, honest, loves life.
The Long List gets into specifics like: stays up until 10 pm on weeknights, eats pasta, likes wolves, reads 3 books a year or more, has a plan for life, etc.

The thing that I have found to be true in my research is the people with The Short List tend to be happily married for many, many years.

The people with The Long List tend to be single because no one really lives up to everything on The List.  Or they are divorced because….no one really lives up to everything on The List.

So I leave you with these thoughts…is it important to have a List? Even if you don't have a written List, do you mentally check someone against a certain expectation in your mind? Do you have a Short List or a Long List?

How has your List worked for you or against you in finding love? Inquiring minds want to know!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

~Broken Gurus ~

My two Gurus broke up. I am once again faced with the reality that love can't fix everything. It's heartbreaking all around. Tammy and Brian are what I refer to as Soul Mates.  I have been friends with Tammy for over 20 years. She met Brian two years ago through a friend. Shortly after they started dating he introduced himself and told me that he was going to be a keeper because "he can put down the thunder." I knew then that Tammy had met her match. They are so similar that it is almost as if they are the male and female form of one soul. They share the same high energy and love for life.They are one of the craziest, funniest couples I know. Their chemistry is off the charts.

I have often wondered- Is there really truelove? Does it exist outside of fairy tales? If it does exist, what does it look like? Over the years I have only known two couples that I believe have TRUE love. This couple was one of them.  I saw it. But, it's always easier to see it when you are just an observer. It seems that often the two people in the relationship can't see past their own insecurities enough to realize that their match is looking at them like they are the Sun at the center of the universe. It is so obvious when they are together that he just loves her so much. The way that he looks at her and talks about her shows it. He is loving to her kids and supportive of everything she juggles in her personal and professional life. She loves him so much too and not just because she appreciates his muscles and impeccable grooming, although that is what she will say if you ask her.

In the beginning of their relationship, I didn't hang out with Tammy and Brian as often as I do now.  Life was different two years ago because I was still entrenched in the Stay at Home Mom life and in an almost decade long marriage. A lifetime ago it seems now. Back then, I would see them every few weeks or months and always laughed and enjoyed their company and could tell they were well suited. Tammy looked happier than I had seen her in years! Brian seemed like a really nice guy.

It wasn't until the shit hit the fan in my life and my marriage crumbled that I realized how strong they were as a couple and how essential their friendship would be to saving me from a nervous breakdown.

When I showed up on Tammy's doorstep in pieces one afternoon, she and Brian took me in. At first, they were disbelieving like everyone else. They tried talking me into going home and working it out. Then it set in. There was no going back. So Tammy started mixing the chocolate martinis. My friend Shannon showed up and Brian joined us at the table. Tammy and Brian have both been divorced and Shan's parents are divorced so she had that perspective. That afternoon turned into a friendship cementing moment. Nothing bonds a group of friends together like a collective emotional breakdown. Brian said he felt like it was a "freaking Oprah episode."  We all cried. Then we laughed. Then I panicked and my mind raced in circles.

The reality was I had made the fatal mistake that Tammy had warned me about. I let a man own me. I lived in his house, I drove his car, my debit card was connected to his bank account. Thankfully Tammy never said, I told you so.  I was on the edge and about to find out how the thin the line was between love and hate. I couldn't help thinking I would lose everything. My worst fear was what if I lost my kids? Without a job or a place to live would I lose them?

Brian was the voice of reason. He assured me that he had been divorced twice. He said during his second divorce he sat in the court room and watched 20 divorces be processed and the mothers NEVER lost custody of their kids. He said I had to stop the irrational thoughts and keep myself focused. He said the Stay at Home Mothers in the state we live in are the Elite and that I would leave my marriage with my children and everything I needed to raise them.

I felt so much better after that because I knew he was speaking from experience. He also told me that  he remembered the day his marriage fell apart and he drove away.  His little girl sat on the front porch waving to him and he felt like driving off a bridge. He told me to be compassionate to my husband because he was the one that was going to lose his family life. Be kind, take the high road he said.  Over the months and months that followed those words would come back to me as we negotiated our divorce. In the back of my mind I kept hearing Brian say that I would be fine, the kids would be fine. Be compassionate.

In the end my fears amounted to nothing more than my own paranoia because Oz and I worked through our shit in the best way possible and he never, ever made me feel like he would not take care of the kids or me. In fact I ended up with the house, the car, the kids and all the debt that goes along with it. Life is good!  The advice Brian and Tammy gave me helped me stay sane. I think it helped us get through a tough time without making it worse than it had to be.

From that point on, Tammy and Brian have become my Divorce Gurus. I have relied on them for advice and wisdom regarding co-parenting, rebuilding my life, and learning how to be single again.

The great thing about hanging out with your good friend and her boyfriend is that the guy becomes like  one of the girls, but can still give you the male perspective. He knows all of your secrets because you either forget he is not one of the girls and tell him or your friend tells him everything you confide in her. Either way he knows. He knows you and all your crazy shit. Because he is in love with your friend, you don't care that he knows you are crazy. He sees you without your make-up, in your fat pants, crying until your face is covered in snot. And you don't care. He knows the real you and all of your shit, so he gives you honest opinions. Even when you don't ask.

In the beginning of my New Life, Brian would tell me I would be difficult to date because I am a "paranoid." Which means I fear crazy, stalker, psychos that might come near my children. I only want them to meet men that I know for sure have been finger printed and background checked (it makes the dating pool very small.)

Tammy and Brian decided they were brave enough to take on helping me navigate the Single World after a decade of being out of the game. They had no idea how challenging it would be.

Tammy told me I needed tighter jeans.
Brian told me to stop wearing turtlenecks to the beach and start putting "the big guns" on display with v-neck shirts. We shopped and shopped and revamped my wardrobe.
Then they started encouraging (really more like forcing) me to go out. We went to restaurants and bars and met up with friends and just made socializing part of my New Life.

Prior to the divorce my social life consisted of drinking decaf coffee at the preschool playgroups. I had spent so many years trying to get pregnant or being pregnant that I almost completely gave up alcohol and caffeine. I had to build back up a tolerance to alcohol. Tammy encouraged me to pick a drink and stick to it. We tried all different places and crowds including country line dancing, beaches, music events. One thing my Gurus know about is entertainment.

I am not their only protégée.  They have a couple other single friends that need to work on their social skills.  So sometimes we would meet up with them. My Gurus seriously could start a business helping out the singles.

As the year went on I got stronger. I worked, I tried to eat a smidge healthier. I found some babysitters that are essential to my mental health. I got out more.

But, I was not quite ready to step out of my comfort zone.  My Gurus tried to get me to break out of my shyness. They would even line it up so all I had to do was say hello or smile at someone new.

Tammy and Brian are skilled Hunters in the Dating Game. The are both very flirtatious and friendly.  It is in their nature to meet and greet every person in a 10 mile radius of themselves. I could not be more opposite. It makes it interesting. Especially when we are out and they are scanning a room or area for a prospective guy for me. What ends up happening is that they zone in on a guy, they make eye contact and start to reel him in for a conversation. The next thing you know the guys is so confused because he can't remember how he got into the conversation and he can't tell if Tammy or Brian or both want to have sex with him. It's hilarious!

Brian is what Tammy refers to as a "cockblocker."  He has a Magic Mike body type and is the epitome of an Alpha Male. No man is going to walk up to chat with any woman near Brian. Even when we go out with a group of 4 or 5 women and just Brian, there is no doubt that men are not taking a chance to approach any of us.  He doesn't do it on purpose and he can't understand why we think it, but it's true. But,  I love to hang out with them.We usually laugh so much my face hurts.   It's very entertaining, but has not actually helped me to meet men.

They have helped me with dating in other ways though like getting my confidence built back up and giving me advice on what to wear and ideas of where to go etc. They also motivate me to eat healthier and once even got me to exercise.

They were very proud of me when I finally went out on my first date. Although they have not been shy to show their disappointment in how awkward I was. I tried not to tell them some of my less than fine dating moments, but they are relentless and you can't keep anything from them. They laughed and mocked me for a long time.  They tried to prep me better for future dates, but I do sometimes still  manage to disappointment them. (Those stories are for another day though.)

Basically Brian told me not to play with puppies. Stick with the big dogs because they know how to bring it.  Tammy tells me not take any shit and there are plenty of fish in the sea so if they can't tow the line keep moving. I try to keep all of the metaphors straight and make good choices. But, sometimes…I don't.

A few months ago Brian said he was proud of me because I am finally done being the divorced woman and now I am just single again.  He said he was sick of me being broken. I guess that means I am better. I take that as a high compliment.

Of course they both think I have a lot more work to do. Brian told me the other day that I have to set high standards. But, don't be so picky.  (I still have to figure out what the hell that means.)

Unfortunately, now that Gurus have broken up it's sink or swim time. I have to take what they have taught me and start to apply it on my own.

I feel a little like a 5 year old when their parents split up.
When trouble seemed to be brewing between Tammy and Brian over the winter and they had a separation, I was devastated. I felt like I was going through divorce all over again. Our routine of starting Saturdays with Bloody Marys and Martinis was going to change. So would the Saturday afternoons of appetizers, laughter and more martinis. Of course, Tammy and I would still hang out on Saturdays. We would shop and laugh and eat and drink. But, we couldn't help feeling something was missing. The stability of the known was gone. It was once again unchartered territory. Tammy was back on the single scene which was interesting.  There is nothing like watching a Master at work.

But, I was secretly hoping they would reunite and live happily ever after. I had a difficult time accepting the break up. I ate a ton of chocolate chip cooke dough ice cream and mourned the loss of Hope.  If they couldn't make it work, then how could I ever believe in finding love again?

They did end up reuniting  after a few weeks. I was so happy for them. And for me. Hope was restored!  There are couples that fight for love!!

 But, in the end truelove does not fix it all. Life still happens. They broke up again a few weeks ago and this time feels more permanent. It is not all about finding truelove. It is about finding love and then figuring out if it's worth it. Sometimes it is. Sometimes people can overcome anything together. They can come out of a rough patch stronger than ever.

But, when is enough, enough?  When can't love fix it? When is it time to move on from it all? Do even soul mates end up apart?

They are both awesome and loving people. I hope that they will both move forward in life and hopefully find future happiness. But, I can't help holding on to hope. That tiniest bit of hope that they will work it out, that true love will prevail.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Like Everyone Else? No Way!

I look at my little boy and wonder how did he get so grown up? Sometimes I forget what he went through to get here. Sometimes I think why aren't you reading like everyone else? Why don't you follow directions like everyone else? Why are you Break Dancing in choir rehearsal instead of standing quietly like everyone else? Why don't you try to blend in like everyone else? Then I remember…he isn't like everyone else. And that is what I love most about him. He is my Light!

It is so easy to forget how it all began; to just get caught up in the day to day routine of life. But, every once in awhile I will see a picture or a video of Luccio as a baby and I remember. Usually it is fond memories of his first smile and his silly baby laugh that was so adorable you couldn't help laughing with him.

But, other memories are not so pleasant and when they hit me out of nowhere I feel like I am back in that moment as if it had just happened.

 I remember being in the hospital at 30 weeks pregnant. It was August of 2006. I had been inpatient on the Maternity Floor since that June. I had been in pre term labor and was on hospital bed rest. But, that day I had an ultrasound scheduled. I was dressed up in a cute maternity outfit, a cream colored shirt and beautiful teal and cream print skirt. It was my first time wearing anything other than pajamas and comfy clothes in months. I even had on a necklace. And shoes! I was so excited to be getting into a wheelchair and getting out of my room! I had my hair and make-up done and was ready to see my babies on the screen. I loved ultrasounds. Seeing that my babies were moving and growing reassured me and helped me get through the weeks of staring at the hospital walls.  I had many, many ultrasounds. But, it never got old to see those babies swimming around.

My doctor was the best Maternal Fetal Specialist I could have asked for. He had kept my boys alive up to that 30 week point and I felt confident I would make it a few more weeks. I saw him every morning on rounds for weeks and weeks. I trusted him, he was my advisor. My Yoda. I began referring to him as Winston, but never to his face.

Anyway, on that ultrasound day, Winston was doing his usual quiet thing where he would scan my belly and look pensive while he took measurements. I had learned by that point not to interrupt him. I waited for him to say everything looked great so I could exhale. But he said nothing. Sometimes he did that.   But, then I saw a flicker across his face. It was just a quick flash of something. I felt my stomach clench. I asked him what was wrong. He didn't say anything. But, his eyes glanced away for a second and I knew it was something. Something bad.  My heart started to race. I asked him what he saw and he said, "there's a shadow."

A shadow?? I had no idea what that meant, but in my gut I knew it would alter our lives. From that moment on "the shadow" would mean something.

Winston said the shadow was on Baby B's head. He started saying things like MRI, followup scans, encephele, meningecele, amniocentesis.

Bottom Line: There might be a hole in Baby B's skull. Or a tumor.

All of a sudden the room felt small, so very small. Oz and my mother were there and asking Winston some questions and trying to look at me with reassuring smiles. I could see that they were trying really hard to not look as freaked out and panicked as they really felt. But, my head got fuzzy and I couldn't hear them anymore and all I could concentrate on was the walls felt like they were squeezing me and I couldn't breathe.

Somehow I got back to my room and I remember seeing my Nurse's face. She knew. She had heard. I was sobbing so hard I could barely take a breath. She helped me back into my bed. I put pajamas on and swore I would never wear that freakin' cream colored shirt again.

The next few days blurred together. Everyone was buzzing. Tests were scheduled. I was put into an MRI at one point. But, I got so claustrophobic I couldn't stay in there. My belly was touching the top of the machine and every time the babies moved or my stomach contracted it would feel like I was stuck in there. I knew I had to do the test. Every test I did was one less test they would do on my baby when he was born. So my Nurse brought me valium, Oz got into the machine with me and held my head reassuring me I was still at the edge of the tube and could get out at any time. I made it through the MRI.

Next was the amnio. A Resident worked under Winston's guidance and stuck a giant needle into my belly to get a sample of amniotic fluid from both Baby A and Baby B.  The sample from Baby B came up with blood so Winston took over. In the end, the test results took 2 weeks to come back. The results showed both babies had normal chromosomes and were boys. But, the bad sample from Baby B made it impossible to tell anything further.

Winston and the rest of the staff started putting together a plan. The MRI has showed a Neural Tube Defect, a hole in Baby B's skull. There was talk of possible brain matter floating around. No one could be sure what was happening until the babies were born. The goal was to stay pregnant as long as possible and get Baby A out alive.

Wait. What???

That snapped me out of my dazed and crazed state. My Mama instincts kicked in and I demanded clarification. I wanted everyone on the same page that the goal was to have both of my babies stay alive. Period. Everyone nodded, but Winston said that we were at the point that if Baby A was in jeopardy decisions would be made to save him.

The Mama Bear came flying out at everyone around me. I decided there would be no more fear in me. They were not A and B.  We had already named them and we knew from their positions which one was which. Baby A was Vincenzo and Baby B was Luccio. BOTH were coming home alive and I would not hear otherwise. So I took all of the medical advice into consideration.

Then I got on the phone and had my friend Sister Mary Anthony come and visit. She brought St. Anthony oil to rub all over the my belly. She contacted all of the Sisters of her Order to pray for my babies. There were nuns up and down the East Coast, in Texas and in Poland praying for those boys daily. My friend gave me a St. Gerard medal and a piece of St. Gerard's cloth to pin to me. Another friend brought a handkerchief from the Shrine of St. Gerard the Patron of Difficult Pregnancies. My neighbors added the babies to their prayer lists at their churches. My friends from my Campus Ministry days were storming the heavens with their prayers too.

I didn't know if it was blind faith or just complete denial, but I started getting everything in order to deliver babies that would eventually make it home and I wouldn't hear otherwise. Oz and our families started painting the room for the babies and putting up cribs.

My mom, aunts and friends came to my hospital room and gave me a Baby Shower. We opened adorable clothes and beautiful blankets and started planning.

At night I would talk to the babies and sing silly songs or read books and they would move and kick and flip around. My stomach looked like aliens were in there. I knew they could hear me. I had no doubt that both boys were the smartest babies EVER! I knew they would be ok. They had to be.
 I was finally at 32 weeks. In the home stretch. If they were born at that point there was a high chance they would come out breathing. I felt like I could relax a little bit.

Then one morning Winston came in to tell me that they may have to transfer me to another hospital to deliver because they could not find a pediatric neurosurgeon to be there when Luccio was born. I couldn't leave Winston, my Nurses and the room that had become my safe haven for the past 10 weeks.  There had to be another option. I needed to deliver these babies at "The Mecca," I knew they had the highest level NICU in the state. I had held on for weeks.  I wasn't leaving in the final moments and chancing less than exceptional care for my boys.

Winston coordinated with the neurosurgeon on staff. He said if the hole in the skull was skin covered Luccio could be stabilized at "The Mecca" and then transferred days later if needed to a pediatric surgeon at another hospital. Winston also explained that if there were complications after the birth and Luccio had to be transferred in an emergency I would not be able to go with him.

So that was the goal: stay pregnant as long as possible and pray that the opening in Luccio's skull was skin covered.

The only problem was the surgeon from "The Mecca" was away on vacation for the week and wouldn't be back until the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Well…on the Friday of Labor Day weekend I woke up feeling sick. I decided to lay low for the day and not mention it to the Residents or Winston when they came by on rounds. I was not delivering before that surgeon came back. I had made it to 32 weeks and 5 days. I certainly could make it through the weekend. I did not want to risk delivering and having Luccio transported to a different hospital without me. So I waited out the day and hoped to feel better.

But, late in the afternoon the Cleaning Lady came in and noticed something was wrong. I told her not to spray anything because I was nauseous and had a headache. She ended up telling a Nurse and then all Hell broke loose. My blood pressure was very elevated and it looked like my pre-eclampsia that had been brewing finally spiked. Winston said to call Oz and the grandparents because the babies needed to be delivered immediately.

So through Friday night traffic on a holiday weekend everyone sped their way to the hospital. But, two other emergencies came in and Winston got called away. I was in a panic to think I would have to deliver without him. But, Dr. F had been following my case all the way through and he assured me he would stay with me the entire time and promised to tell me the second Luccio was out if the hole in his head was skin covered. I trusted him.  He did a quick ultrasound and I could see Vincenzo sucking his thumb and Luccio put his hand up and it looked like he was waving. I knew I didn't have a choice. It was time to deliver. So I went into the operating room.

They pulled Vincenzo out first. I held my breath praying he would be ok. I heard him cry and they said he was breathing! I was so thankful.  Two minutes later they pulled Luccio out. His amniotic sac was still in tact so they had to pop it. (I have read that Native Americans think this type of rare occurrence is good luck.) As soon as Dr. F had him out he shouted- it's skin covered!  We all breathed a sigh of relief.

We still had no idea what it would mean in the days to come, but for the immediate moment it meant he could be stabilized and then we could figure out the next step. Luccio was having respiratory distress and had to be put on a vent so they took him to the NICU right away.

Vincenzo weighed 3 pounds 14 oz.  and Luccio weighed 4 pounds and 14 ounces.  Luccio was one of the bigger babies in the NICU.  He was a tough little guy right from the start.

The days, weeks and months that followed included many hospitals and doctors and surgeries and follow ups. But, Luccio trooped on through all of it. He earned the nickname The Bear. He was cuddly and adorable, but feisty. He is the strongest little boy I have ever known. He always had a good attitude and happy smile and the doctors and nurses loved him. He never complained or cried after his surgeries. He developed a bit slower than his peers but still reached all of his milestones like walking, talking and running. He made so much progress and once he took off nothing slowed him down.

Now that he is in First Grade it is becoming more obvious that he is going to have to work harder than most of his peers when it comes to Reading. He struggles with remembering sight words and memorizing things. But, he loves book sand stories and is very creative and inquisitive.

Today he rode his bike without training wheels for the first time!

Luccio is a loving person and brings his Light with him wherever he goes. He is so funny! And quirky! I cannot imagine life without that Little Bear!

 I thank God every single day for all 3 of my beautiful babies.

I am so very grateful that my Bear is not like everyone else. He is his own unique, hilarious self. He had enough strength to get himself into this world and survive brain surgeries and all of his challenges. If it takes him a little while to learn how to read or he breaks into dance more than his friends, so what? I am convinced his amazing soul is what got him this far and I know he will eventually get where he needs to be on his own terms.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

So What's Your Plan??

Every Saturday when I stop in to get breakfast, Deli Guy asks me, "What's your plan?"  Most weeks  I tell him I don't know. He thinks I am playing with him. But, the truth is I sometimes have no freaking idea what I am doing. He usually means my plan for the day, like immediately after leaving the deli what will I do. It is a simple question. There should be a simple answer.  I don't always know. Often my plan is ~ make it through the work week without getting fired, make sure I keep the kids fed and clean and exhale on Friday. Say goodbye to the kids on Saturday morning as they leave with their Dad. Then get breakfast at the deli. End of plan.

Deli Guy seems so disappointed when I don't have a plan to share. Sometimes I am tempted to make one up. But, I don't.  Sometimes he will suggest- are you going shopping? getting your nails done? Taking a road trip? Those sound like good ideas and sometimes I incorporate them into my day.  However, in general after I eat breakfast I usually get in my car and then figure it out from there. It depends on my mood, who is around to hang out with, what events I must attend, what I can skip, etc.  Sometimes I do have something planned, but don't feel like doing whatever it is. So plans change.

Now that it has been months and months of no plan,  Deli Guy is starting to wonder not only what will I do when I walk out the door of the building, but what will I do with my life?

Who knows?!

Is it important to have a plan?

I used to think there was a significance to it. I mean a Life Plan seemed like a big deal in my 20s.  I
planned to find The One, get married, have babies, buy a McMansion, travel the world, hopefully have a meaningful career, live happily ever after. I checked a few things off the list so far. More traveling is still in my plan. I am convinced (maybe naively) that happily ever after exists so it's still part of the plan.

And….some things you just cannot plan for.

There is a quote floating around that I love, "Tell God your plan and he will laugh." So true!
Really does anyone have a plan? Even if you do, does it matter? Life can change in an instant and so what was the whole point of the plan?

I do feel like a loose plan for the general living of life has some meaning. Like my "5 year plan" is to survive the day to day, keep my house and make sure my kids can stay in the same school, hopefully not drown in debt, don't screw the kids up too much and pray that somehow they stay awesome.  Also, discover the people, places and things that inspire me to live life to the fullest. That seems like a good plan. I have 4 more years to see if I achieve those lofty goals.

Beyond that? God only knows.

Plans are different after Divorce. Also, life changes after you watch a parent battle Cancer in the their brain. I have learned that nothing is forever. Nothing is set in stone. Life is ever changing and fluid. No contract can protect you. There are no guarantees.

That is not necessarily a bad thing.

Most of the time I feel like I took a flying leap off a very high cliff and I have been falling through the air with no landing in sight. Perpetually free falling is exhausting and knowing there is no safety net is scary.

But, there is freedom in not having a set plan. When it's not exhausting and scary, developing a new plan is exciting and fun. Who knows where it will lead.

I started my Saturday trips to the deli to escape my house after the apocalypse of my personal life. It was to get out from where disaster had struck, to avoid the inevitable arguments that came with close proximity.  After, the dust had settled and life regained a new sense of normalcy I realized I liked the deli and the staff is insightful. Much cheaper than therapy and the coffee is incredible.

It cracks me up that Deli Guy still thinks I have an amazing Master Plan hidden within me somewhere. At least I appear to be someone that knows what the hell I am going to do with my life. It gives me hope that maybe I do.

I may not have a fully developed plan together yet, but I have a motto: Hope Floats Bitch!
The rest we will have to see about...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Takin' out the Trash

Divorced people arguing is similar to a dog chasing it's own tail; you go round and round in circles, but never actually make any progress. Despite an amicable divorce, Oz and I can debate pretty much anything. Last month, our son had surgery. While we sat in the waiting room we watched Good Morning America. Seemed harmless enough. One of the hosts was being given a party. I thought it seemed like a baby shower since the balloons were pink, blue and white. Oz thought it was a wedding shower because of the white balloons. I noticed a gift basket being presented to her with baby bottles in it. But, Oz insisted it must be for a wedding because he watches the show and I don't and he had heard that the woman was getting married. In the end, it was revealed that she had in fact gotten married over the weekend AND had announced her pregnancy. SO we were both right.
And then…we debated the age of one of the guests Jenna Bush. I thought she looked older, Oz thought younger. I felt her make-up and hairstyle aged her. And on and on until Oz looked it up on google and revealed her age was younger than I thought.  Score one for Oz.

Next, we got into whether or not Bruno Mars was actually playing the drums live during the Super Bowl. At that point, the woman sitting next to us spoke up. The poor soul had been trapped in a tiny waiting room with us. She said, "Wow, I can't wait to see who wins this round."  OMG! I was so embarrassed for us.

The thing is no one wins. It just keeps going. I informed her that there would be no winner, but in the end one of us would leave because we are divorced. She seemed surprised. A lot of people are surprised to find that we are divorced.  She revealed to us that she wished she could get divorced too. I highly recommended it to her. Her poor husband was undergoing surgery while we discussed her running away and never looking back.

But, that is divorced fighting. Circular. The topic can be anything. The results are always the same. There is no winner. It is not much different than married fighting, except it always ends with one person leaving.

Unlike married fighting, there is nothing sacred about it. You don't have to be on your best behavior. There are no rules like "don't go to bed angry." There is nothing to protect either person from the unleashing of built up resentment and anger.  You just dump it all out and pray the other person loves your children enough to not destroy you.

It seems at first like divorce fighting is easier than married fighting because you know how it ends. But, it is actually worse.  You have to work twice as hard to resolve issues and you have more to lose because nothing ties you. There is no contract. It is null and void.  Yet, you are bound to the children you have created and their lives can and will be destroyed by your actions against either parent. So for their mental health you work it out. You resolve issues. You move the fuck on.

No matter what we fight about we have managed to smooth things over enough to have a peaceful life. No one has any extra energy to stay angry and what would be the point of it anyway? So in everyone's best interest things get let go. Rehashed several times over and over and brought up many months down the road in a conversation completely unrelated to the actual issue.  But, let go for all intents and purposes so that everyone can live daily life without being dragged down.

One thing that has not changed is that Oz takes out the trash at my house. By Divine providence, one of "his nights" with the kids also falls on "garbage night." So after the kids go to sleep he takes out the trash as he leaves. I am more than thrilled with this arrangement. Growing up the trash was always my brother's chore and when he moved out my Dad took care of it. After I got married that was Oz's job and one that I do not want to take over. The first week on my own I had to drag the trash out and I hated it. Not that I am not capable. Just don't love it. So Vincenzo took over helping out. I reminded Oz that "garbage night" was still the same and that technically his children make most of the garbage so it is really helping them when he takes it out.  Eventually after a couple weeks, Oz took over again.

It is a simple act - taking the trash out. But, the symbolism is there. Despite our differences, our inability to make forever work, there is something sacred about the family we have created. There is a stability in knowing we will do what needs to be done to ensure our children have good lives.

Only once in the past year and a half he told me to take out my own fucking garbage.  Most times the trash is quietly put out to the curb on his way out, I acknowledge it with a thank you as often as possible.

There are other times (like after one of our more heated arguments that occur monthly or every other month) I might receive a text messaged picture of my overflowing trash can. A subtle reminder from Oz.  The line is thin, tread carefully or take out your own trash! Or it can be a sign of forgiveness for something I have said or done. Or a peace offering from him for whatever I have found fault with at any given moment. Either way that blue can sitting out at the curb on Garbage Night equals Peacefulness. There is nothing more valuable to a divorced family than Peacefulness.