Monday, October 16, 2017

Officially Love~Not Just a Crock of Shit

I recently Officiated my cousin's wedding ceremony. It took an online license and some soul searching, but I pulled it together. I learned a lot about love along the way.  Last winter, when my cousin first asked me about being the Officiant, I was surprised and so honored!

We got started with planning right away and realized it took about 5 minutes for me to be ordained online. I had the background experience of working in ministry related job for many years before I became a teacher.  I had helped plan weddings, funerals and Sunday services.  I just had never actually performed the ceremonies before.

After the "ordination" there wasn't much to do until closer to the wedding.

Then, this summer I began to think about the ceremony and interview the Bride and Groom about their love story in preparation for the Big Day.

As the wedding got closer I took a look online to be sure I had followed all the correct formats in writing the ceremony.

It went something like this...

Welcome guests...ok check
Intention...state intention of Bride and Groom to get married...ok check

All good so far...I've totally got this!

Reflection...give a short, personal reflection on love and marriage...
OH Shit!

That's where I hit a major roadblock. Or maybe it was writer's block? Or a WALL?...whatever it was...was not good.

Love?! Marriage?!!
What could I possibly say about that?? I was coming out of Round 15 in the cycle of on and off again relationship with a lying cheater.

But, I thought I would give it a shot.

I started with thinking...Love and marriage are great. Hope for a happily ever after but, be smart and have your own bank account and your name on everything. Be prepared for anything because people can turn out to be lying assholes that will rip your heart out.

this wasn't going as planned.

I needed to STOP and find inspiration...FAST!

I started to reflect...What do I believe about love other than it is a crock of shit?
There must be something...

Then it hit me...I HAVE known love.
I was raised by a couple that truly loved each other.
My parents!
Ok, I was on a good track now.  My father was an amazing man and he loved my mother like she was the Queen of his Universe.  And she loved him.  My Dad always said, "You stay for love."
40 years of ups and downs and no matter what ~ they loved each other.

Once I got on a roll thinking, I realized I have been loved like that too. I was married to an amazing man.  I  knew what it felt like to have someone love me like I was their world. I thought about how I felt on my wedding day.  That feeling that love can fix it all. THAT was good.  Believing that love exists, that it can bind 2 people forever.  It CAN happen. Maybe our marriage ended in divorce and I have had some shitty experiences since then,  but LOVE still binds our amazing little family. We created that, we nurture that.

Next, I thought about my Aunt and Uncle -the Bride's Parents. YES!! They have True Love! They met when they were 6!! For God's sake -of course!!! Love has kept them together through all these years.

I was in such a freaking good place at this point. For a couple days I started interviewing random strangers and asking how they found love. What was the secret of their marriage?  I used to do this on regular basis when I was in college. I'd forgotten how many great love stories there are out in the world.

And of course...the story of the Bride and Groom turned out to be the best love story for their Big Day.

And so the Reflection went like this...

We are here today because of Love.
We have all heard of love at first sight.
Some believe it exists, some do not.
And some people
like E and A
cannot agree on who saw the other first
that fateful day  8 years ago
when they met on the beach.  

Did he  see her first  as she believes?
Or  did she him first  as he believes?
That remains a mystery…
but they do in fact agree that the first look they exchanged started it all!

When A approached E and asked her out,
she decided to take a risk.
She said yes
and the rest as they say is history.  

That yes, that risk
brings us here 8 years later.

When I asked A what he loves about E, he had so many fantastic things to say.
But, one thing he said stands out most
He said
She loves me with all of my stuff.

THAT is real love.  Not just accepting what someone brings to the relationship, not loving someone in spite of it, but loving them BECAUSE of it.
THAT is Unconditional love.

Romantic movies and songs always focus on meeting someone and falling in love.

But, TRUE love is in the the day to day.
It is “the experience of loving for the long haul.”

THAT is the kind of love that A and E share for one another.
Their love started from a day at the beach and spanned long distances.
As they built a foundation for their relationship, changed locations, and created a Home ...
They strengthened their unconditional love.

They’ve decided to declare that love and make a commitment to one another today.

We are here to celebrate that commitment with them.

So I was reminded that True Love does exist. It is all around us, if we just look for it.
And then... my Ex-Husband Oz helped me practice the ceremony until it was just right. Because that is LOVE in it's own dysFUNctional way!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Home it a place or a feeling or a person?  For families of Divorce, it can be a very confusing word. When Oz and I fell apart, I clung to the idea that my children needed a home. I needed to provide a physical place of shelter for people to live.  Having been a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM) for the 6 years previous to The Divorce, the weight of that responsibility felt overwhelming.  Where would I work? How would we live? WHERE would we live? But, it all fell into place and I quickly got a job and kept my house.

During the divorce proceedings I was adamant that my children have a Home Base and not be shuffled around like nomads.  We came to an agreement that the house the children and I lived in would be Home Base. Oz visited them here in the place they lived. He would take them for awhile and return them here.

I lived here with them. But, it didn't feel like HOME to me. It was a place in which we each parented people on our days.  It was a place for the children and I to eat and sleep. The routines stayed the same and the children had stability.  Life moved along with days turning to months and eventually years.

At one point, I woke up and realized we needed to make the house into a home again. I had to start feeling like I lived there with my family even though that image had now changed from what I had thought my life would be. I always pictured Home to have a mother and a father living together in it.  I had to revision!

So, I started clearing out junk. Then, I decorated a bit more. Repainted, reorganized. Eventually, it started to feel like I was Home. We had dinners at the table, we had family and friends over. We stopped just existing in the house we slept in. We started to live in a Home again.

During this process, Oz set up his new home.  His Emerald Palace was a city apartment.  Different than our tiny house. New and shiny to the kids.  They liked to go visit "Daddy's house." They had a tent set up for a long time that they shared when they slept there. They thought it was so cool! The blinds are floor to ceiling and a remote controls them. Very cool!

For a long while, this worked.  The children and I continued developing a sense of Home in the house we lived in.  Oz visited.  The children visited Oz's "place" as they would often call it.

Over time, Oz met Dorothy.  Slowly, she was introduced to the children.  Introduced to me.
She would stop in to see the kids and Oz at his place or they might meet out for part of his days with the kids.  After a long while, she started to spend days with all of them on most of their visits.  Then days turned into a night here or there.  Then a short vacation for all of them together. Eventually, she moved in to Oz's place. She visited the Home the children and I live in more often. She spent time here with them.

Dorothy became part of Oz's life, part of my children's lives and part of my life over the past 3 years.

This Spring,  Oz and Dorothy got engaged and my children started referring to Oz's place as "our Home with Daddy and Dorothy" or they would say "we are going to our home with Daddy now."
The language began changing. The idea of HOME began to evolve.

I credit Dorothy with this seamless transition into my children's lives and hearts. She stood back and let them get to know her. She earned their respect. She earned mine. She didn't force any of us to like her. She didn't try to convince us.  She just lived as who she is and soon we all realized how impossible it would be to NOT like her (even when I might have tried.)

She slowly got to know the kids, what they like, what they are interested in and what they care about.

She shares in their love of legos and quickly became the boys Go To Person for Lego projects.  She set up a cool lego building station at their house. She sifted through the zillions of lego pieces thrown around our play room and the organized them into bags and matched them with instructions and helped them build.

She shows joy for my daughter's love of American Girl Dolls.  She dug out her own AG doll, Molly from her childhood days and enthusiastically plays with Isabella.  They make necklaces and bracelets from beads and pasta, they sew pillows, they created their own line of lip balm.

The children enjoy their time at their Home with Daddy and Dorothy largely in part because Dorothy goes out of her way to make them feel special. FEELing at Home is an important part of BEing at home.

One afternoon, they came back from Oz's place,  grumbling because Dorothy had gone out for an hour without them.  Isabella was very grumpy about it.  When I asked her why, she told me that Dorothy said she was going to the mall to return something and would be right back. But it took AN HOUR! I reminded the children that the mall was a 20 minute drive in each direction. Which means Dorothy had to be RUNNING through the Mall to make it back to them as quickly as she did and they should give her a break.  Bella was not convinced.

One of my sons (Vincenzo) told me that Bella sat by her dollhouse waiting for Dorothy for nearly the entire time, but finally gave up and took a nap.  Apparently, when Dorothy returned she offered to play dolls with Bella.  But, Bella told her no. She wasn't going to play with her because she was angry still. (OMG I was horrified to hear the bratty tale!)

I asked him why they were so upset about her going out.  He said it just wasn't fun without her.  He said they needed her there because she always comes up with great things to do.
I reminded all 3 of the children that once in a while adults need a break too.  And it was ONE HOUR!!!   Seriously people!!

This summer, they all went on a long vacation together. When Oz and Dorothy returned the kids after 9 days and several hours stuck in traffic- I asked if they were tired. Dorothy looked exhausted.  They all did.  But, she very graciously said no and that they'd had a fantastic vacation. She told me all of the great behaviors the kids showed to each other and to her family.  I was so proud and so relieved.

To hear her talk proudly about the children made an incredible impact on me.

It had been my worst nightmare when I got divorced, to think that another woman would come into my children's lives and be the abusive and scary, EVIL Stepmother that Disney spends millions of dollars to create stories about.  I feared they would never feel like a family again and that they would be pushed out of their father's life by a faceless, nameless person.

To my great joy, I have discovered how blessed our family is to have Dorothy in it.
HOME has a new meaning for my children now.   Instead of being pushed out, they were brought in.
They are creating new traditions, setting up an additional Home Base and enjoying being cared for by their now larger village of loving and supportive people.

When they returned from vacation they told me that they have new grandparents now, Dorothy's parents.  They were so well cared for and loved by her family.  The felt at Home. This was their second summer trip with them and they made traditions that they are already looking forward to for next year!

This week I was thinking about how it takes a village to create a sense of Home...
The children and I have been cleaning rooms and closets and organizing etc.
I finished Isabella's room, but the boys told me not to worry about doing their room because Dorothy would do it.  They said she likes to organize and donate things!

That really made me realize that HOME is about the people in our lives.  My children are comfortable in our Home and they know that Oz and Dorothy are comfortable here too.  They know that we all help each other out.  They thought nothing of the fact Dorothy would come over and clean their room.  They were right too! She did come over and organized the closet and drawers neater than ever before. So maybe that  comfort and acceptance and inclusion is what makes it FEEL like Home?

Five years ago I NEVER would have pictured feeling thankful that my children have another woman in their lives in a parenting role.  I also would not have believed that I would have that woman visit my house on a regular basis and feel comfortable with her doing dishes and helping with laundry and cleaning out the boys' closet and drawers.

With anyone else I would have felt self-conscious or judged because I can't always keep up with the messes and chores and organizing. I would have worried that someone thought I was not capable or not a good mom.  But, with Dorothy she has become part of the family. She has created an extension of Home for my children.  So I have realized it is ok to accept help and to let someone with the energy and enthusiasm and love for my children to give a hand when it is needed.

Maybe Home doesn't have to be a certain person, place or feeling? Maybe it's what you make it?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Finding Balance

I've learned a lot this year since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and most of it has led me to realize... I still have a lot to learn. First thing I figured out ~ I was in denial. Then, I learned I had to make a lot of decisions that I was not equipped for and that I really didn't feel like dealing with. So denial was easier. But, there came a point where I had to at the bare minimum seek out medical advice because the MS was causing Optic Neuritis (blurry vision) and I kind of needed to see. So I went to a highly recommended MS Specialist in the area.  I also made an appointment with a Naturopath that was recommended to me.  At that point, I was confused and not really wanting to hear ANYTHING about MS.  Just felt like I should make appointments because it seemed like the thing to do.

Last year, when this all began, Oz and The Wild One heard I was going to get advice from a Naturopath and they both freaked out and begged me not to go to a "witch doctor."  They really, really wanted me to see a traditional doctor and get real medicine and be treated and be fine.  Since they could not be more opposite from each other I was pretty shocked that they were on the same page. So I took their advice, along with the advice of medical professionals that said I should go traditional. And I did.

But, in the back of mind I thought ~ I will probably go with the Naturopath's advice too ~ because there is nothing that motivates me to dig my heels in like a man (or 2) telling me not to.
So at that point I knew I would pursue ALL avenues of treatments.

I tried not to talk to many people about MS at first. Everyone had a story. Scary, awful, stories. Hopeful, uplifting stories.  But too many stories. Too much info, too many choices, too much.

So I hid myself in a cocoon. I went traditional and started taking injectable meds.
It had it's pros and cons.

In the meantime, I also pursued Natural treatments.
For about 9 months I took the injectable meds AND went for colonics, started to be more aware of the diet I ate. Apparently, gluten, sugar and dairy aggravate autoimmune disease like nobody's business!
I took supplements and protein shakes.

Then just lived my day to day life.
I was basically unaffected for months.

But, like clockwork every 4.5 months the relapses were happening. Despite being on the traditional meds. Despite any dietary changes I was making, etc.

One day around the 4.5 month mark the vision in one eye just gets blurry. Then it causes a fogginess in my head and dizziness starts. It's full on flare up within a day and the only treatment to settle it down is a 5 day course of high dose IV steroids. They usually work.  Sometime I have to follow up with a couple weeks of oral steroids too. Then it returns to normal again.

Over the summer I had a severe allergic reaction to the injectable meds I had been taking.  Apparently it happens. It was scary as hell!! And the other recommend meds sounded awful and the side effects sounded awful.  So I decided to hold off on choosing new traditional daily meds.

I immediately had a flare up after having to stop the med.  4.5 months almost to the day. The eyes again. More steroids.

Recovered and back to regular life in couple weeks time.

I decided at that point , around September, to go full force into the Natural Treatment and see what I can do without traditional meds for awhile.

SO I began I stricter diet of trying to really stay away from the gluten, sugar, diary, yeast, etc. Autoimmune Paleo.  Basically fruit, veggies, and lean protein.
I continued with supplements of every single thing that you can imagine might help. Vitamins, minerals, probiotics, etc, etc.
I started weekly acupuncture and hypnosis.
It was life changing!

The combination of the foods calming my nervous system and the meditation and hypnosis calming my brain have led to more energy, more conviction in what is right for my life and a side effect of it all had been some weight loss.
I have felt great!!

However, just like clockwork at the 4.5 month mark the flare up started and the vision went blurry again about 2 weeks ago. UGH!

So I for the 4th time this year, I started the IV med treatment. I am so thankful there is treatment.
The treatments get done at home. A nurse comes and hooks up the IV for me and then daily I drip the meds myself.

The first few times it happened it was terrifying. I didn't know what I was doing. It was nerve-wrecking trying to figure out how to administer the meds and manage the side effects steroids. The Wild One was here for the other 3 times this year and walked me through it and helped me get the meds started up and the IVs out at the end.

But, this treatment cycle I was on my own.
And it was ok!
I did it!! I hooked it all up. I unhooked it all.
I didn't need help, I didn't need to make any calls for advice.
The IV was not too bad to rip out at the end either.

But, I was worried to miss work and I had Super Hulk Steroid strength as a side effect of the meds. So I over-did it.
I went to work and exhausted myself. Then I couldn't sleep so I cleaned linen closets and my bedroom and then the kids bedrooms. This house hadn't been so organized in 11 years!

Then I started cooking. I made meal after meal until our bellies, fridge and freezer were overfull.

And then I crashed.

And not surprisingly the treatment didn't work. The symptoms got worse.

So I had to start another 5 day course of IV meds this week.
Oh shit! I was not expecting that.

So this time I have had to rest. Really rest. NO work, NO major housework.

It didn't helped that weather delayed the nurse getting here.
Then it took 2 nurses ~ 10 attempts to start an IV.     WTF?!!!!
The only place left to get one in was the crease near my elbow.
So it's sort of forced me to have to rest it.Which had turned out to be a good thing. Forcing me to sit still a bit more because I can't lift much.

I have learned many lessons lately.  And these last couple of weeks have given me time to reflect..

ONE- I am NOT sick. I am not a condition or a disease. I have a diagnosis for symptoms that sometimes act up.

TWO- It is about balance. Traditional medicine is not bad, I just have to find the right combination of meds and trust the doctor I have chosen to be my advocate. I really need to put effort into researching and get moving on a decision for the long term soon.

THREE- Natural Medicine is ESSENTIAL for me.  Autoimmune Diet is amazing and makes me feel good. My stomach is not bloated, my energy is up, my body feels good even when my eye is blurry.
I notice the foggy feeling appears worse when I eat sugar or dairy. I notice I feel better when I drink a ton of water and eat things that calm my body.

FOUR- Cooking is fun! I actually like it. WHO KNEW?!!

FIVE- Grocery shopping does not have to be my nightmare. I can pick fun, colorful, yummy foods.The staff at the grocery stores are helpful and great about telling me how to cook the things I buy. Love it!

SIX- Hypnosis and meditation are changing my life! I can see the things I want for my future now. And the things I do not want anymore.  Toxic people and habits are are ok to leave and it feels good to start over.

SEVEN- an organized house feels good.

EIGHT-Air diffusers and essential oils are my new favorite thing!

NINE- massages, acupuncture and reflexology are miracles!

TEN- my family and friends are the best support system I could ever ask for.
I have received so much love and help with the kids and company and check ins.

I am stronger than I have been been in a long time.

An MS diagnosis does not make me weak.

It certainly motivates me to seek more education about living well. It also helps me feel inspired to be my best self.

Fruits, vegetables, steroids, all of it ~ leading me to where I need to be going.
Grateful there are options!
Grateful that today was the last day of the IV and it's out!
Back to regular life tomorrow hopefully!

I have met some great people that have shared their stories about Autoimmune Healing.
So glad I am finally in a place where I can hear those stories and not feel overwhelmed.

I am glad I got my head out of my ass and started to realize there is a whole world of information out there.

I don't need to take it all in at once or ever, but I am glad it is available. Learning is good!
Finding my balance in life...yet another chapter.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Nothings

When you willing participate in a dead end relationship, you know for certain one will eventually end.  When you are not the Wife, the Baby Mama or on the track to building a future with someone it is inevitable.  It may take 2.5 years, but eventually it ends. Even if you have a great time together and laugh more than you ever have with anyone, even if your lives become intertwined and your families create bonds. Even if you love his children and yours love him.  Even if you love his father and he helps take care of you and your children. Even if you spend nearly all of your free time together.  If you are not on the same path, it is essentially a Nothing relationship.

A Nothing relationship can be mutually beneficial in many ways. Many ways.  Some ways are practical, company, comfort, distractions, fun, entertainment.  Some ways are helpful like setting up better filing systems and taking care of cleaning and repair projects around the house. Having a different perspective on things, being with someone with a different kind of life experience can really teach you new things.

But, at some point The Nothings hit a crossroads. They have to decide to stay together or venture off independently.  And sometimes they venture off and try to find a better fit.  But, then they get back together. Sometimes this happens...oh 8 -10 times in 2 years. Each time much like the first.  Starts off great in the first few weeks. Missing each other makes the appreciation stronger. The attraction and chemistry is stronger than ever.

So the pattern continues and The Nothings try to build a relationship that works.  It does for awhile. Still knowing this is not the person we will be with in the future.  It is not the right fit, not the person I want to raise children with. But in the meantime, I WAS raising children with him. My children are influenced by him. My son dresses up for him for career day. My daughter is attached.  His son is one of my most favorite children on the planet and his enthusiasm and love of music is contagious!! His daughter is smart and strong and teaches me and my children that working hard and being independent is valuable!  His youngest child is a snuggle bug impossible not to love.

And yet...The Nothings return to the place of deciding. What's next? We went season by season.  Sledding in the winter, biking in the spring and summer, distractions. Cleaning projects, road trips, binging tv shows, grocery shopping, day to to life.

Eventually it came to the end of the road.  There was Nothing left but negotiating the furniture that would stay or go.  Kitchen and living room tables stay, outdoor equipment goes.

Starting over again. Not as difficult as Divorce because my children, my house, my job are all my own this time around.  But, harder in some ways.  That chemistry connection was off the charts and tied us to The Nothingness for a long time.  It is difficult to let go of.

Not difficult to let go of...the wondering, the what ifs, the extra laundry, the extra stress. The Nothingness.

So yesterday, after a 2 month separation, the last of the Nothingness went out.  The final stuff is removed from the garage. The extra bed and stuff in storage began to feel like a scene from the Tell Tale Heart (according to Oz.)  It was like the guy in the POE poem that felt like he heard a beating heart and started ripping up floor boards and it was just a watch.  The extra stuff felt like that this week. I needed it out. Time enough had passed. When it went out the door it felt like a relief. I could breath again.

However, the true wisdom came from my children.  When I told them back in December about the break up and the moving out of things in our house, they said, "Ok."

Umm...that's it??

Should not have asked...

One of my sons said, "I didn't like how he talked to you. He was grumpy and you are happy. You need happy."

My beautiful, strong Baby Doll said, "It wasn't a good relationship anyway."

And so that summed it up.  I can NEVER go back to Nothingness. They are always watching, listening and learning.

I am stronger than I have felt in a long time. My babies give me the strength to want more, to be better.
I am ready for SOMETHING, something real. Something meaningful.
I am awake now and when I look around I realize I have IT. I have this beautiful family. I have these people that love me, that I love.
I have my mom, my friends. They have been my pillars of support in all of this.
I have my aunts and cousins that are just surrounding me with love.
It felt good to have closure, to say no regrets, no hard feelings. Just it is what it is. It's all ok.
And now onto the next chapter.
That's the great thing about life.
There is always another chapter unfolding...

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Snowman Sext - A Seasonal Warning

If your boyfriend is in the shower and his phone happens to be near you and he happens to receive a text from another woman that says, "Do you wanna build a snowman?"... be worried. Very worried.  That simple statement and cute snowman icon may seem innocent, but let me assure you IT IS NOT.  That woman does not want to play in the snow and have hot cocoa with your man.  Well, actually she might.  But, afterwards she plans to f**k him.  He knows it. He likes it. It is probably not the first time. He definitely encouraged her to feel comfortable enough to think of sending a Snowman Sext.  So follow that gut instinct that makes you feel sick to your stomach when you read the text. Be smart. Google it.  When you find the definition in the Urban Dictionary, send him packing.  Let him build snowmen with whoever he wants.  He never was good enough for you anyway. Let him go, let him go.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Guy Stuff

Growing up my Dad and my Poppy always took care of all the fixing and lifting and "guy stuff." Now that they aren't around, I realize my children and I have lots to learn! As a single mom raising 3 "not so little anymore" children, I have started to think about how I did a lot of watching and not a lot of doing for many years when it came to house projects, home repairs, and car maintenance. My Dad took care of basically everything!

I remember being about 5 years old and going with him on Sundays to my Gram and Poppy's house to watch him work on cars. Once in awhile I handed him tools and stuff, but I didn't really learn how to take care of the problems myself. Now I really wish I paid more attention to the oil changes and tires fixes, etc.

As I got older I became so accustomed to my Dad or Poppy doing the major fixes around the house that it never occurred to me that I needed to learn it for myself. Even when I got married, my Dad and my ex-father-in-law would take care of repairs at the house for me and Oz. We called one of them for whatever came up - tiles needing caulking, mold in the bathroom, broken furnace, toilet clogs. ETC!

Over the years, Poppy died, then I got divorced, then my Dad died.  The next thing I know I am a homeowner without the know how.

I have been very fortunate lately that the Wild One helps me with House Projects.
As time has gone on, I find that my kids are very interested in everything he does when he is working on  projects.  Vincenzo has said more than once that "he's better to watch than TV."

The Wild One and his Dad "Mr. Fix It"  helped the kids repair their bikes over the summer.  They learned how to put new tire tubes on, fix chains, check brakes, and adjusts seats.   They also got to watch the Wild One and Mr. Fix It work on a go-cart!  My boys were very interested in it all!

And not surprisingly my daughter was right there in the mix, taking mental notes, and turning out to the be one of the strongest helpers. She also complains the least about the work! She quickly figured out that the wrenches had numbers and went in order by size. She was great at finding them and then putting them away again. She was also very excited to be in charge of holding the drill when cup holders got put on the bikes!

Watching the kids so excited to learn new things reminded me of being little and watching my Dad and Poppy in that garage so many year ago. How much fun I had when they let me help. How special it felt to hang out with them and how strong I thought they were! I loved the smell of the garage and the car oil. I loved how my Dad and Poppy both had the strongest biceps of anyone I knew. My Dad would let me hang on his arm to do chin ups.  It cracked me up that he could lift me up like that. They would argue and yell at each other almost the entire time, but you could tell they enjoyed working together on a project.

My kids felt that same feeling the day they got to help with "guy stuff."  It is not that I could not have done it. Women fix bikes and go carts. I could have looked it up online, watched a You Tube video and fumbled my way through it.  Of course.   But, there is such a difference to learn from someone that KNOWS what they are doing.  That hands on experience for the kids was priceless! To be able to touch grease, use tools, and smell the gas from a motor creates a memory.

They still remember my Dad pretty clearly.  The boy especially got to spend time helping him with small projects when he was still healthy.  They got to see him in his glory days!
As he got sick, he was home more and spent tons of quality time with the kids. When he wasn't up for major projects, he still kept the kids busy and Isabella learned to bake cookies with him and make smoothies.

It has been a learning curve for sure over the last 4 years of being on my own. In survival mode for the first 3 years, I just thought about how I needed to work and get food on the table for the kids and keep the bills paid. But, in the last year I have found that the crisis fog has lifted and our new normal is not half bad. We have great people in our lives, my kids are happy and for the most part I hold things together pretty well.  I have been able to move into the next mode now that the I have emerged past the crisis phase.  I can see family vacations being possible again and the house feels more manageable. We ride bikes together.  We enjoy life.

But, I won't say I have done it without help.  It felt good to sit in the sun on that warm, summer afternoon and just enjoy the experience of the kids learning to do new things.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In sickness and in health and …divorce.

Who would be the most likely candidate to call for help with injecting myself with meds 3 times a week? Umm…my ex-husband?  If you think that is weird- you aren't alone. It started back in January when I knew I would need meds to help with my newly diagnosed MS treatment.  The pharmacy provided a visiting nurse to come out to train me to do the injections. I had used injectable meds years ago to help with pregnancy related complications when I had The Goofballs, so I was not concerned. In fact, when the nurse called to schedule a visit, I basically told her I already knew what I was doing so she didn't need to bother. But, it was policy and blah, blah. SO I scheduled an appointment for her to come to my house.

I didn't give it much thought, but the day before she arrived, the Wild One mentioned that maybe I could video the teaching session so that if I needed help, he or my mom could know what to do. It seemed like a good idea.  Oz was going to be at my house that evening with the kids so I asked him if he would video. He agreed.

When the nurse called to confirm the "training" she told us videoing was not allowed but that there was info and video on the med website blah, blah.  Something like that.

But, she said most people have someone there to be trained to help if needed so if I had someone that could come over that would be great.

When I told Oz there was not video allowed, he said he would still sit through the training class with me and help if needed.

When I introduced my ex-husband to the visiting nurse, she said that was a first for her to have Exes being trained together.

Yeah, I guess it is a bit unconventional.

The class was the longest hour ever, she gave me so much information and paperwork and techniques that I never thought I could keep it all straight. I suddenly felt very overwhelmed.  I quickly found that the "auto jet" injector that is supposed to help make things easier is in fact a pain in the ass and difficult to operate!

I did the very first injection with the nurse there and only messed up a little. But, when I tried on my own in the days following I knicked myself with the needle and wasted more than one shot.

Luckily Oz was patient and and really payed attention to the class.  He did a MUCH better job with the shots that I did.

SO I set up the injection schedule for the 3 days a week Oz is at my house to visit  the kids already. The nurse said most people did Monday, Wednesday and Friday and she thought that I should do that instead.  I stopped just short of telling her to go fuck herself. Then made the schedule I wanted.

I figured for the first week or  2 it would help if Oz could assist.

And then…6 months went by.

Oz went on vacation in early July and that is when it fully hit me that he has been giving me 98% of my shots since January.

The injection sites are rotated arms, legs, hips and stomach. Really the stomach is the only spot I can do without help. I had to stop using my legs because the injection sites would swell up and hurt for a week.The meds burn my skin so the arms hurt like hell!  And I can't reach my hips very well.  But, the excessive fat in my stomach makes it a perfect place for the meds, too fat to feel the burn!

I have talked to other people with MS that have a relative assist them as needed with injections. Or some that have even gone off the meds because the burning at the injection site is awful or the swelling gets to be a bit much.  I haven't met anyone yet that has an Ex help them though and when they ask me about my "support person" they get a really puzzled look.

Even people that know us well have had an odd look when they try to process that Oz is the one that helps me.   I know, I get it. I even agree that it's funny! We are not above the Dr. Oz jokes!

But, I am thankful for the support system I have.

The Wild One has also been great about helping me with the shots when Oz isn't here or our schedules change, etc.  He does a fantastic job with it!

 Even Oz's girlfriend Dorothy is great about entertaining the kids when she is here so Oz can help me.

All in all the system has worked well. But, I know I can't take for granted that my ex-husband or anyone is going to be committed to helping give me meds forever. This isn't a temporary thing. I think in the beginning I thought it was.  Like it would just go away or stop being MS. Or something.
But, it is finally sinking in that this condition is permanent.

At some point I have to stop needing an assist. I have to find techniques that work without relying on someone else.

But, in the meantime I am so very grateful that Oz has stepped up and helped so much! It really put things in perspective and has given me a new outlook as we co-parent together. When he needs flexibility in his schedule or asks me to consult on a parenting issue, I am much more aware of the fact that I am dealing with a person who cares about me and my family and my health. Instead of looking for a fight or thinking he has an ulterior motive every time he speaks, I have come to appreciate that he is a good and thoughtful person. He goes above and beyond his co-parenting duties by helping me even though he doesn't have to. It is good for the kids to see we work together still when it comes to the things that matter.

Despite Divorce we still maintain a family unit that functions, even if it looks a little crazy from the outside.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Something Else

Sometimes it takes temporarily losing vision in one eye to realize that some of your friendships have really grown into what is more like family.  Over  this past Thanksgiving, I wasn't feeling well.  I had a blasting headache and my left eye hurt and was a little blurry.  I had convinced myself it was a sinus infection.  But, my good friend Bethel had suggested I call my doctor before the holiday in case it was something else.  I called and said I felt like maybe I had a sinus infection starting up and they told me the first opening they had was in 3 weeks.  So I continued on with holiday plans. My children were with Oz the night before Thanksgiving so I met up with friends at a local pub to see a band.  The headache persisted and the blurriness seemed worse, but I attributed it to the loud music and lights.  After a couple chocolate martinis….well the blurriness didn't seem that bad.

On Thanksgiving Day, I wore my glasses because my eye hurt too much to put my contact in.  The headache persisted, but family and friends had me laughing enough that it didn't bother me too much.

On Black Friday, the vision was noticeably blurrier.  I mentioned it to Bethel again and she convinced me to get an eye doctor to check it out since my regular doctor's office wasn't open.

I had now self-diagnosed the problem to be a sinus infection that had been aggravated by a ripped contact.

But, the eye doctor said my contact and eye were not ripped.  She said there was swelling behind my eye and she gave me steroid eye drops and said to see my regular doctor on Monday.

That Saturday, lights were bothering my eye.  I met a friend for breakfast and could barely see out of the left eye.

I felt my sinus infection getting much be worse and thought I needed an antibiotic so I went to a walk-in clinic.  The person that checked me out said my eye was definitely swollen. Continue to use the eye drops, take an antibiotic for my sinuses and see my own doctor on Monday.

By Sunday vision was now brown in the left eye and so blurry I wasn't sure I could really see out of it.

I decided if the antibiotics had not worked by Monday afternoon, I would see a doctor after work.

When Bethel heard that, she COMPLETELY advised against that idea of waiting and going to work.  She and her husband called me.  He is an APRN and he said I should go to the emergency room because blurry vision is nothing to mess with it.

I didn't want to go to the emergency room because who would watch the kids, the copay was too high, the wait would be too long and about 10 other excuses I came up with.

But, Bethel's husband had made his point clear - blurry vision is serious.  I should NOT go to work. I should call my doctor and say I need to be seen immediately.

Since everything was very brown and blurry at this point and my head was aching bad. I thought I should listen to advice of my friends and called my boss to say I would not be in for Monday.

Monday morning once I got the kids off to school I called my doctor and explained the weekend events.  They said to come in immediately.

I thought it was great because I could get a stronger antibiotic for my sinus infection.

However, when I got there ~ the doctor restated what Bethel had been saying for days...  IT WAS NOT A SINUS INFECTION!

 I sort of heard her say that and still thought I would drive myself home and schedule the MRI she suggested for some point in time.

The doctor looked at me like I had lost my mind.  Since I could barely see her, I ignored her sideways glance.  Then she spoke to me like I was an idiot and she very slowly let me know…It is NOT …a sinus are NOT driving yourself out of here…you will go right now for an MRI …I will be in touch with you as soon as I have the results.

I did NOT want to hear that. So I stayed in denial, but called my mom for a ride.
She took me to get the MRI.

The whole time I was in that Tunnel of Hell getting my brain scanned I was thinking- "I hope it really is just a sinus infection."

Because the alternatives were scary as Hell!
And… I am a single parent of 3 small children ...and I work full time…. and I have a classroom full of children that I teach. .. they need me.

I did not have time for something more.

Alas, it was something more.

 But, thank GOD it was not a tumor like I had subconsciously been fearing.  My doctor said vision loss could mean a lot of things,  and she definitely had not been smiling when she heard my father had died of Lymphoma in his brain.

So when she called to tell me to come to the Emergency Room immediately because she thought I had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) I was taken by surprise.  Because in my thoughts the MRI was supposed to rule out a tumor, not find something else.

It was supposed to be a sinus infection!

MS?!! What was that?  Shit! I had not really considered something ELSE. Something long-term else.

My friend drove me to the ER and my brother aka "Loser" and his wife met me there.    "Loser" and  our other friend "Lou" are my friends from my college years.  Once back in 1993 we saw a scene from Ace Ventura Pet Detective where Jim Cary said, "Loser" in such a funny way that we have been calling each other that for 23 years! In college, people even thought Tammy's name was really Lucy because I called her Lou. She calls me Lou too! We're a Loser Club and proud of it.

Anyway, that ER visit began a 3 day hospital stay that included bloodwork, MRIs, and Lumbar Punctures to rule out MS.

Or as it turns out…rule it in.

My diagnosis was Optic Neuristis caused by MS.  As months have gone by I have started to learn what the Hell that is and what it means. I learned it's manageable and treatment exists and my nerves calmed. It's not that bad. It could have been so much worse.

But during that 3 days in the hospital and days following, I realized I have the most amazing friends and family and that I am so very blessed!

As soon as the doctor said I would have to be admitted, Loser disappeared for a few minutes.  When he came back I asked what he had been doing. I thought maybe he was getting ready to go home. But, he said he had been ensuring that I would have a private room and he asked for a cot to be brought in so he could set up camp to keep me company.  I didn't want him to be inconvenienced.  But, he insisted he was staying.

I have to admit I was so relieved! I didn't realize until that minute how scared I felt.  A million thoughts were racing through my mind and so many unknowns and all I could think was, "OMG, I am completely alone in this world. Who will take care of me and the kids if there is something wrong?"

I have always felt like getting divorced is like free falling off a cliff without a parachute and you just never know if you will land in one piece.  Having something wrong with my health while raising 3 kids on my own was one of my worst fears.

But, I should have known better. My family and friends rallied and I was FAR from alone!

When I was transferred from the ER to a regular room, Loser already had a cot set up. And about 5 minutes after settling in my mother and 2 aunts came in.  It was 10:30 pm and they were dressed in cute, comfy clothes with scarves and their purses. I couldn't help cracking up! My favorite ladies were there to rescue me! I had tried to avoid inconveniencing my mom or anyone, but they were there because they wanted to be.  I was so grateful to see them!

Loser stayed over and we talked and talked until we finally slept.  We always laugh in any situation so it was great and took my mind off of everything. We met in college while Loser was on the "Student Patrol." He was wearing his fluorescent security jacket and telling people what to do. At first I thought he was bossy and opinionated.  When I go tho know him I realized, he IS bossy and opinionated AND one the most loving and generous human being on the planet! He is loyal and dependable and has never, ever let me down.  My family loves too, so much in fact that they adopted him a few years ago.  Now I have 2 amazing and crazy brothers.

The next morning, Lou showed and camped out for the day.  I couldn't believe it!  I had met Lou my first day of freshman year in college.  She walked into my dorm room and saw me sitting alone and said, "Hi, do you want to be my friend?"  I am always thankful I said yes!! She is my BFF and has stood by me for life.

A little while later, Bethel showed up! I met Bethel my first weekend at college also.  We became instant friends and eventually roommates.  We have always had a ton in common and have not run out of things to talk about yet in 23 years! We spend hours on the phone and quite frankly Bethel has saved my sanity on more than one occasion over the years! She is an incredible friend and if  she was charging by the hour, I would owe her about a zillion dollars for therapy.

It was like a mini-reunion! My Soul Sisters stayed with me throughout the day of testing and bloodwork and made the day entertaining.   Loser checked in and out on us all day and had us laughing.  He even stopped by while I was in the MRI and the x-ray teach told me how lucky I was to have such a protective brother! SO true.

Throughout those days in the hospital and then while recovering at home, I had much to be thankful for!  My eyesight came back 100%!! And my "Big, Fat Italian Family" and so many friends rallied around me.

For only the third time in my 41 years of life, my mother was scheduled to go away on a trip.   I wanted her to go. She needed a vacation. I was really fine. But, she as worried.

Fortunately, she works in the hospital and Loser, Lou and Bethel stopped to see her and reassured her that I would be fine and they would stand by me and take care of me.  With their encouragement she felt comfortable keeping her plans.

And my friends kept their word!

Many others helped out too.  My cousin stayed at my house to take care of the kids overnight for days, my coworkers called, stopped by to visit and took great care of my kids and students
at school.  Another one of my cousins visited and checked on me each day and my other brother stopped by to  keep me company.  Even neighbors reached out. I  had so many phone calls, texts, emails and get well cards! People dropped off food, drove me to doctor appointments and even helped me administer meds I needed at home.  Oz jumped in to help to by staying with the kids and helping me get adjusted.

MS is a thing I will figure out about as I go. It's treatable.  I'm sure there will be some learning curves ahead. But, now I know I will be ok no matter what because my kids and I have our "Village."  Our family. Our friends that have become family over the years too. The way it all works out is really something else!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Wisdom from my Baby Doll

Dating with a family of young children can have some challenges. I have learned some lessons over the past year, some more than once. My children have learned too. It always amazes me just how smart they are and how much they understand. Dating with a family is interesting. For starters, everyone has an opinion. My kids are each so different and have their own interests and concerns and things that they like or dislike about people. They also have hectic schedules and live with me full-time which gives planning a date a whole new meaning. Especially when dating someone with their own young children.
Between coordinating time and going through the clearance levels of all co-parents/Exes involved and then actually finding a day, time and activity that works for everyone. Well... you arrive at the moment and there is the reality of actually managing a crew of small children with only 2 adults.

Finding someone that's good with Netflix and take-out dinner works well for me and the schedule of my little ones.  When we do go out with the whole Crew my children like the fun activities like go-carting, bumper boats, or long drives in the country.

But, along with the fun times there are struggles too.  Those are the times that I tried to protect them from. I worry about them getting attached to a man that might not be around long term. But at the same time they are with me all the time so they are going to meet people that I care about. And sometimes they will care about those people too. Sometimes arguments happen and/or relationships end. Children are aware of it all no matter how hard you try to shield them.

One of my friends told me her Ex gets concerned when she introduces her daughter to a boyfriend because he doesn't want her to learn that men leave.


But, the reality is people leave sometimes. And...Single Moms date. Women with children have the right to have people in our lives, but with that right comes great responsibility.  Our children deserve honesty. There is a fine line between not introducing a new person because it is too soon and outright lying to children when a relationship is ongoing.

I try to balance it. They have only known one person that I have dated since I've been divorced. He has been in and out of our lives over the past year and a half. They know him enough to care. But, not so well that he is part of their daily lives.

The difficult part of dating as a family is that you are trusting someone with your childrens' hearts. When the relationship ends it affects them.

Since I have known the Wild One, we have taken "breaks" a few times.

Sometimes it affects the kids and sometimes they barely notice.  It depends on the degree of the incident  that caused the Time Out and the duration it lasts.

 The last time we were on a "break" in the early Fall, my kids didn't get to say goodbye to him or his children. We didn't see him for a month.  At first, I didn't mention it. I just let him fade out. My sons didn't seem to notice that we hadn't seen him in a while. Although one of them asked about his son on a regular basis.

But, Isabella is a little different. I was worried because she seemed to get more attached. She liked to have dinner with us when he visited, she thinks he's funny and looked forward to spending time with his children. One time Bella asked to call him to say goodnight, but it went to voicemail and she was too shy to leave a message.  After that, she never asked again.

When I first started having him around the kids, I had tried not to encourage any type of dependency on him. I didn't want the kids to think we needed him or had to count on him for anything. Despite that effort to assure everyone of my independence and capability,  my boys started to think that anything that goes wrong around the house we would just call him and he would fix it. Which was true, but I didn't want them to think there was no other way for me to handle things on my own.

Over time, I began to realize it is ok to need someone and to rely on them. As I came to that conclusion and became more comfortable asking for help when I needed it, my children opened up too.

At one point right before our "Autumn Break,"  the Wild One had made Isabella a promise. Trouble had been brewing in our relationship and I was afraid he would break his promise to her.   He told her he was going to to build her something for her birthday and even showed her the designs he had drawn. She was excited about it.

But, a few weeks before her birthday we took a break and the promise broke too.
When I told her that she was not going to get the gift that had been discussed, she handled it very well.
She was helping me scrub the tub at the time.  She just shrugged and said, "Well we have other friends that love us and that's what matters."   Smart little lady!  She just scrubbed away any disappointment she may have been feeling.

He had called and offered to fulfill his birthday promise to her, but in the moment I was being stubborn and refused his offer.  I wasn't ready at that moment to let him back in.

Eventually the Autumn Break ended and The Wild One has been back in our lives.  Isabella was more cautious this time around. She took longer to warm back up to him.  She still thinks he is funny and still loves when his kids visit.  But, she wasn't seeking him out like she did before.

She is wise beyond her years and instinctually knows to protect her heart.  It bothers me that she is learning this lesson so young.  It amazes me how children really learn what to expect from people based on their actions.  The old saying is true…actions speak louder than words.  The more the Wild One shows he is reliable, the more my children accept that he is. But, with caution.

Recently the Wild One made it up to Isabella by going out of his way to do something very thoughtful for her.  She was very appreciative of his effort. The next day, she was struggling with assembling something and decided she would leave it to the side to ask for his help next time she saw him.

 Faith in someone is a beautiful thing to see restored! However, it makes it all the more heartbreaking when the relationship ends.

Life lessons are tough. Dating with a family involved is tough.  Trusting people is tough.  But it can be worth it!  New people add new ideas, new opportunities, new experiences.

People do leave, relationships end. People argue and sometimes see life differently. There might not be a happily ever after every time. Maybe it is not about protecting children from that idea that makes them better?  Maybe it is about  teaching them how to be resilient that makes them stronger? I want them to know that caring about someone is worth taking a risk. I don't want them to be afraid to love and to trust and to enjoy the people around them.

Maybe it's a good lesson, maybe not.

Either way I am going save money for when they all grow up and need therapy and blame me for everything that ever went wrong in their lives just in case.