Sunday, February 4, 2018

Tat Tales

Every tattoo has a story to tell.  What's yours? I love to hear why someone chose their tattoos. Is there a special meaning? Did you choose it just because you just felt like it in the moment? Had you planned it for a while first? How old were you? Who were you with? Would you go back and change anything about it?

I got my first tattoo when I was 18 and graduating high school. My mom took me. It's a rose on my ankle.  I had always wanted a rose because I admired my Aunt's rose tattoo.  She is classy and elegant, but the small rose that can only be seen in the summer at the beach, let's the world know that she is a little bit of a badass.  I thought I would get the rose on my hip like she did. But, when I got to the tattoo studio I wanted it on my ankle so I could actually see it.

I don't remember that first tattoo hurting very much, but that was 24 years ago so it might have.
I do remember taking care of it like that was my most important job that summer. I put sunscreen on it and stayed out of chlorine and and the sun so that my fuscia rose wouldn't fade.

Over the years, it has faded a bit.  It's been there so long, I don't even remember I have it, unless someone points it out. It is a mark of my age because so many women of my generation have a very similar tattoo in the same exact spot.

My next tattoo was when I was 20.  I had a fake tattoo that I loved of a Moon and a shooting star.
One night I was just finishing my waitressing shift and a coworker and I were talking about tattoos.
We both had one and wanted another one.  She had heard of a new place that opened and so we stopped by after work.  Should have been my first red flag when it was open late at night.
But, we were 20.  I showed the guy the picture of what I wanted and he then he redrew it with his own spin on things. SO the yellow moon with a sweet face that I wanted turned out to be a blue moon with a wicked grin and a shooting start that looked like the head of a snail.
It was on my hip and it burned!!

I couldn't really see it because of my fat roll from my stomach.  So for the next 20 years I only saw it when I was at the beach or reminded by someone noticing it.  I disliked it greatly and waited patiently for it to fade.  It never did.

So when I turned 40 I finally went to get it redone.
I had the moon joined by a sun and the shooting star covered.
It's better, but still not like the first picture I had of it.

At 41 I got my next one.  My Feather on my foot.  I LOVE my feather.
It is perfectly proportioned on my foot and looks amazing when I wear heels.
I was very drawn to getting a feather. Everywhere I went, I saw feathers.  I ended up reading an article about feathers being signs from Heaven and how Native Americans believe that feathers symbolize the spirit of those that passed.  I am sure it is no coincidence that the feather idea came into my mind shortly after my father passed away.

Last year, I turned 42 and went on "Spring Break" to visit the Wild One when he was living in Atlanta.  We had a fantastic time sightseeing and hanging out.  We had dinner across the street from a Tattoo Shop.  I had been "Pinning" wrist tattoos for months. I knew exactly what I wanted - a Phoenix.

So we took a walk over the the shop and decided to get new tattoos.
Mine turned out exactly how I wanted it to be drawn, a Phoenix with butterfly elements. Curvy Wings. It was slightly larger than I had originally planned, but when they put the mock up on I loved it so much I decided to go with the larger size. It's also a little lower on my wrist than I originally wanted.

It's more of an inner-arm tattoo, which I have since realized, is some sort of game-changer when it comes to tattoos for women. After I got it, I started to notice wrist and inner arm tats everywhere I went.  I really like them. But, I also noticed this was my first tattoo that had some negative feedback from others -  loved ones and strangers alike.

It seems like maybe hip, ankle or foot tattoos are more socially acceptable for women or maybe just easier to cover up. But, the wrist or inner forearm seems to make a different sort of statement. I am not really sure what statement people think it makes, but something that is markedly different than other placements.

I was surprised at the negative response in some instances when I first got it. It seems to be a love/hate tattoo.  People either really hate it and say something rude about it or they love it and comment on the artwork or the meaning.   One person said it looked "disgusting." Maybe because it's more visible that my others and has a darker ink? Or maybe the association of the Spring Break connection?  One person said it was "completely badass."

The comments have faded as the ink has faded a bit. With bracelets on it's barely visible.  Anyway, I find it to be beautiful and I've learned over the years that I care less and less what other people think in general.   The people that get it-  are My People.

When I look at my Phoenix I am reminded of the challenges I moved past in these few years.  Challenges with my babies' births, miscarriages, divorce, my dad dying, MS diagnosis, break ups.
Rise up from the flames. Learn life lessons. Move on. Be Better than Before.

Last summer, I went back to Atlanta. The Wild One and I were hanging out.  I had not been thinking of a another tattoo.  But, that day I had an image come to my mind of 2 butterflies facing each other.   So we decided to go back to the Tattoo Shop. I tried to find something similar on Pinterest. When I told the artist about the butterflies,  he drew it exactly like the image I saw in my mind.

The spot that looked perfect for it was on my lower back. I had always avoided the Tramp Stamp Trend, but that particular tattoo just fit in that spot so perfectly.  Hurt like HELLLLLLLL though. I kept asking if he was almost done. He said, nope and it doesn't make it go any faster when you ask.

Butterflies are New Life and I feel like I am always starting over, again and again. Each new chapter of life is a new beginning.

Not many people see that one.  I can't even really see it, so I forget it's there most of the time.
But, my daughter saw it one day right after I got it.  She loved it! She promised not to tell my mother because even at 43 I still hear flack from her, especially about "inking up" my body.
So Bella thinks it's special that she knows about it.

She told me that when she turns 18 she wants us to get matching Unicorns!
I am definitely up for that!

In the meantime, I have been contemplating a tiny behind the ear tattoo next.
Pinterest pinning time!

"No RAGRETS!  Not Even One Letter??"

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

I got home tonight and my Ex-Husband, Oz, was at my house with the kids and a salesman from a roofing company.  And that is not even the weirdest part of the story.  Over the weekend Oz and Dorothy were at a Wedding Expo and they entered to win home improvement services.  They don't own a home, but they know I do and that my home has a hole in the roof that squirrels have been moving into.   So, they entered to win me a new roof. Or at least an estimate on one that I can finance (still not the most awkward part of the story.)

So Roof Sales Man arrives while I was out with my friend and Oz was here with the kids.  Roof Sales Man goes through his speech on roof stuff with Oz.  Then I arrive.  He assumes that I am Oz's wife because that makes sense. But, I don't realize it at first.

After, he looks around he comes back inside to meet with us and says he needs to schedule another appointment and when are we available etc. etc.

As he tries to talk about the pros of going with a more expensive shingle, he starts using all his sales tactics... he wonders how long do we expect them to last?
He is looking at me and wants to know how long will we plan to be in the house.
Well...who knows?? It was a starter home ...but here we are 14 years later.  So...

Then he says, so how long have you known each other?  Well...about 16 years.

"WOW!" he says, "so what's the secret to a happy marriage?"

Ummm...Divorce?!


Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Way We Woo- Amended Version

 When you write about the people you've had a relationship with, there is always another side to consider.  Sometimes those Exes have a thing or two to add to the story.  Sometimes they have a perspective of their own. Only once before did I have an Ex ask for me to amend a post.  That was the whole Skinny Jeans Debacle with Oz. But,  I recently wrote a post called the Art of Wooing.  And The Wild One had a few things to add.  And so here goes....

The back story is:
I had been "on again/off again" with - The Wild One-  for the majority of the last 3 years.  We have broken up 15 times.  I would love to say that is an exaggeration. But, it's not.  So...it is what it is.  Months ago was the break up that felt like the most final of all the break ups.




Recently...

 I have been struggling with a Squirrel problem for what feels like years. EVERY damn winter the squirrels move into my attic.

Oz has helped me keep it under control with setting traps each winter.

But, the pesky bastards have gotten more brazen.  They dug a bigger hole into the roof of my back porch. They invited their friends to join them.

I found handling the situation professionally was expensive and beyond my single mom budget.  So my nephew helped me and patched up the hole with some boards.  Temporarily fixed!

This winter when the squirrels moved in,  a friend suggested a guy he knows that could patch the hole in the roof.

So, Carpenter Guy shows up and says he will get back to me with an estimate. And...nothing.  Didn't hear from him. In the meantime it snows. A lot. Finally, he texts and says he will stop by.  He doesn't.

It snows more. Lots more.
The squirrels get louder, a lot louder.

This past week I was doing laundry in my basement and heard the squirrels scurrying loudly through the walls.  I FREAKED OUT!!!

Oz said he would get some more traps.  But, stated that obviously the hole needs repairing.  I needed someone that could legit help repair it.

I was desperate and panicking.  The exterminators were hundreds of dollars. Carpenters charge hundreds and then some. Two weeks after Christmas- the most expensive holiday in the life of any parent - is NOT the time for this type of issue.
Also, no one was immediately available to run over to rescue my family from the Squirrel Invasion.

I knew it was time to ask for help so... I called The Wild One.

Thankfully he called back.

As soon as I heard his voice,  I knew it would be ok.
He assured me he would take a look at it and repair it enough to keep squirrels out until I can get someone to fix it permanently in the warmer weather.

I was worried to tell the kids about The Wild One arriving, I was worried to tell Oz who was also on his way over.  But, they all agreed...It was the right call because The Wild One can fix anything.

When The Wild One arrived, I felt like my entire body exhaled.
All of the fear I had about the squirrels coming into the house, the worry over what mold might be growing in the hole they made on my back porch, the snow piled on the roof and water damage, the stress over how to fix it, how much it would cost, all of it...just lifted.

I hadn't realized how much stress I felt until I let it go.

And so knee deep in snow, The Wild One dug out the ladder from under a snowpile in my yard and got on the roof to assess the situation.

Then he began cutting into the ceiling on the porch and out came large squirrel nests.  So much gross insulation, feathers, sticks and shit poured out onto him.

He turned and looked at me, and said...  I hope you will remember this the next time you decide to trash talk me.


And there it was..

Having to face reality. Nothing happens in a bubble.

I have said things. Things that were true. Things I was angry and hurt about. Things that I would say to his face. Some of those things I chose to tell someone that knows him.

Well...

The old saying - don't burn your bridges-  is true.  You never know when you break up with someone when your paths might cross again. Or when you might need them to hunt squirrels for you.

As he continued patching up the squirrels' destruction with sheets of metal, he mentioned having read my blog post.

 Uh-oh.

Which one do you mean??  (because depending on the answer the conversation can go from discussion to shit-show in about a minute!)

He says...The Wooing one.

Oh! Ok good. Not confrontational at all. Right?!

Well... it definitely opened up an interesting discussion..and gave me a new perspective.

The point of that post was that Wooing comes in different forms.  He says he thinks that post needs an Amendment added because he felt like I glossed over Wooing that didn't involve flowers or jewelry and only briefly mentioned any other kind of Wooing.

Actions and service are forms of Wooing that are very powerful and valuable, but he didn't feel like I understood that type of Wooing.    When I asked him why he thinks Actions are a great way to Woo, he said he feels that acts of service are long lasting and unique to the needs of the individual.  He said that the things he does to help with projects are longer lasting that flowers.  And that he chooses to do those things to make me happy and make life easier.

I really do value those efforts! I used to joke that doing House Projects was the #2 Reason I loved him.  (Reason #1 isn't really printable)
But, it wasn't a joke.  Those projects made me feel safe and cared for.

He didn't just clean out the garage, but also built a bike rack that helps keep it clean and organized on regular basis.



There were times he cleaned my kids' bedrooms and built a bed for my daughter. It was an amazing difference!



He taught me how to organize my kitchen cabinets and bedroom drawers and closets.  And keep my bill piles straight, something I really struggled with.


And one of the times he Wooed me (and my neighbor) was when he chainsawed trees down in the backyard for me.


Over the years, he has fixed cars for me, my mom, and my nephew.  He vented my dryer to the outside to make the house safer.
He taught my boys how to put new tires and brakes on their bikes.



When I was first diagnosed with MS he drove me to doctor appointments and helped me navigate IVs and injections.

So I guess when it comes to writing about Exes, it is not something that is always summed up in short sentence, or a funny paragraph.

I am very fortunate that I also have Oz. He helps with so many things for me and for the kids!



Recently, it was VERY entertaining to see OZ and The Wild One team up to hunt squirrels together.
The Wild One tried handle the squirrel issue with sling shots, pellet guns and tools.  Oz tried to handle it with traps and peanut butter because he has had success with it in the past.

But, it is about more than which method will eventually rid the attic of squirrels.

 It is about these two people that my life has intertwined with.  Two people that are so important to me in very different ways.  They are exact opposites in everything,  including the ways they Woo.
But, when it comes down to it, they are there for me in immeasurable ways.  And I appreciate it SO much, even when it seems like I don't!

I hope this story ends up with less squirrels soon!! To be continued...




















Monday, January 1, 2018

Meeting My Match

When my dating profile needed a makeover, who did I ask for help? Ummm...My Exes and their girlfriends.  2017 was a Year of Lessons for me. And one thing I learned is that if I want to meet a King, I can't keep playing with the Jesters.  So if I am going to get serious about meeting Mr. Right I need some reinforcements.

I'm not a major fan of online dating, but it seems a
likely way to meet potential Mr. Right(s), so I have dabbled with it over the past few years.  I have met some doozies. One guy wore shoes that looked like gloves, but for your feet. Another had a sketchy Italian accent that came and went depending on his mood.

One guy was HOT, like super duper H.O.T.  He smelled so good. Like if Heaven smelled Sexy and you could bottle it, that would be his scent.  He had a French accent and was tall.
He said all the right things.  Too right.  I was skeptical.  He was too well dressed and too damn sexy. He had to be up to something.  The more I got to know him, I started to notice his smooth talk included some red flags.  He started to use the language of one of my infamous Exes. He said he had "side jobs" that kept him busy.  Hmmm...I knew from past experiences that "side job" is double talk for "side bitch."  And then there was the excuse of "my phone broke."
Classic Fuckboy line.  So I stopped responding to texts and then his true colors flared.
First, he was persistent, then angry, then insulting.
Then he contacted me from one of his THREE other profiles!!! So Charlie, Pierre and Mr. Sincere
were blocked.

But, online dating isn't all things made of nightmares.  A few years ago, when I had first tried online dating, I did meet one nice guy, R.  We dated for while and he was awesome! The relationship didn't last, but our friendship has.  He is someone that I trust with the most important people in my life - my children.  Thankfully, he has become part of our village and often babysits for my Goofballs.  They have come to really care about and respect him.  We all value his opinion, which is always dead honest - even if you don't like it!  So of course, when I was thinking of revamping my dating profile I asked for his advice.  His girlfriend is a good friend of mine and I introduced them! Turns out I am an amazing matchmaker!! They're a great couple!  Now I just need to show good judgment in finding my own match.

As expected, R. was honest and said the picture I chose for my profile wasn't flattering, He said it didn't look like my face somehow.

A professional Dating Advice Giver/Matchmaker had said the same thing. She has said it needed to appeal more to men.  R. agreed.

So, it seemed I maybe needed to show more cleavage.  And somehow fix my face to look like my face.

Basically,  I needed a new photo.

So...I spoke with an expert. My Ex-Husband, Oz. He's an Artist and a Photographer.  Turns out, he and his Fiance had some time to spare and they helped me with a photo session.

Nope...nothin' weird about that.

Anyhoo - I figured over the past 15 years Oz has captured me at my Best and Worst. He's documented my happiest of times like my Wedding Day, me seeing my babies faces for the first time, me celebrating a decade of holidays.  He's captured my saddest days of miscarriages and losing my father. He has caught the candid, off-guard moments that are truly me in my every day life.  And he has been witness to my ugliest moments that I try to never let the world see and has thankfully not photographed them.

So who better to try to help me get my face to look like my face?

But, in the end it was actually Oz's fiancé Dorothy that took the picture that felt most like the Me that I see.

She was gracious enough to help Oz with the photo shoot.  And she helped with artistic suggestions like lighting, poses etc.

We tried shots of me sitting, standing, smiling, not smiling.  Far away, close up. It was quite the process.  Nothing felt right.

We even staged of few of me trying to make reading somehow look sexy since it's one of my only hobbies!!

When the kids needed tending too, Oz went to help.  Dorothy shot a few pictures that ended up being the best of the bunch. They had an angle that showed me looking my best.

Oz captured a few great ones too, like me laughing! I don't know how many dates it would get me, but he voted for the laughing shot as my main profile picture.  Not sure if the King that I plan to meet would click on that though! SO I had to overrule him.

As we start 2018, I am reflecting on how very important my family is. And how friends have become family to me.  Anyone that is truly the right Match for me will need to know and care about these people that have become my village. Might as well let them all help me find him!






Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Art of Wooing

Wooing.  Everyone has a different definition of what counts as romance.  So Wooing is not a "one type fits all" kind of thing. Over the years I have learned that romance is as unique as each person. It is often a reflection of personality and symbolic of the relationship itself.

My first example of Wooing was from my parents.  My Dad loved to surprise my mom with flowers, jewelry etc.  He was a bit over the top to say the least! He never bought just one dozen of roses - nope, he would buy 4! Once, he arrived home with an entire pick up truck filled with mums! It was hilarious and crazy and SO him!! My mom however likes simple and would have been happy with a single hand-picked rose, so it it made it even funnier to see how their extremely opposite personalities interacted. It worked for them! During the 40 years of their marriage, he continued to Woo her!

One boyfriend from my teen years was a Woo-er.  His Wooing strategies ranged from showing off his BMX bike tricks to filling my room with roses and balloons to surprise me on my birthday.  He wrote me cards and gave me his class ring (which he got in trouble for from his mom and she came to my house and took it back!)  But, I was young. Though I liked the Wooing, he wasn't The One.   Years later we reconnected and he still had his Wooing down to a science with flowers and cards and candy and stuffed animals to brighten my day and he loved to cook me meals and show off his culinary skills.   It was fun! But, he was STILL not The One. So I moved on.  Even more years later, after I was married and had children, he tried to reconnect with me and sent poems... from prison. Still wasn't The One.

I've always loved Grand Gestures. Probably because I grew up watching General Hospital and too many 80s Rom-Coms.  But, the Grand Gestures make the romance feel alive for me!  I like the Wooing.

My ex-husband was a Master of Grand Gestures and Wooing.  When we were dating he brought flowers, painted pictures for me, wrote me a song, brought me to see the Lion King with front row seats and took me on an impromptu Road Trip to Disney.  Romance was alive and fun! Even through almost a decade of marriage he marked every anniversary with flowers and jewelry or other fun and thoughtful surprises.  The letters and cards were always my favorite. They meant the most in the end.  Words of love.

Dating since Divorce has been a whole new adventure in Wooing.

I am not sure if it is because it is different decade now, or because I am older, or if it is that I am meeting people that are not my "typical type," but how I perceive romance has changed.

At first, when I began dating again, I gravitated towards more of the same- traditional yet artsy men. Woo-ers.  One taught my class a song and serenaded me. Swoon!!!
Another one spent time getting to know my BFFs - the way to my heart!
One showed up with Orchids and planned fun dates because he liked my energy!

Then there were the Non-Traditional Woo-ers I've met along the way.  That's when my idea of romance evolved.  I used to think romance had to do only with pretty things like flowers, perfume, candles or teddy bears.

But, I started to see that men Woo in all different ways.  Some might build a shelf for my classroom, clean out my garage, put new brakes on my car, plunge a clogged toilet or sit in a hospital bed holding me for days.

Others might make really great egg sandwiches.

Then there are ones that try to Woo in a more... hands on way.  One person I briefly dated offered to lick parts that never occurred to me might be lickable.  I politely declined the offer, but kudos for going all in for the Wooing!

One gave me a gift that was so ridiculous it made me realize how ridiculous our whole relationship had gotten.

Wooing can really be symbolic of the type of relationship two people are developing.  Maybe it's Traditional with dinners, flowers, candlelight.  Maybe it's Extreme with bungee jumping and home makeover projects. Maybe it's Adventurous with Road Trips and exploring everything in all kinds of ways. Or maybe it is just fun and ridiculous and a distraction that you eventually outgrow.  Or maybe it is a mix of it all and you grow old together enjoying life.

"In the end, the love you take ~ is equal to the love you make."







Monday, October 30, 2017

Happiness Is Like A Brick

According to my BFF/Guru, happiness is like a brick. One evening at Happy Hour, we talked about how the flat part of the brick is like the shit pile of real life and happiness is the teeny-tiny space of stuff holding it together. But, that didn't sound NEARLY as inspirational as we needed it to be. So, over wine and apps, we had a further discussion about how when you are used to the highs and lows of life's ups and downs, you can easily get so desensitized to the chaos and noise. When it is finally quiet you don't know what to do. Happiness can be like a brick because life can be flat for a while before getting to the little blips in between that brings excitement.   In the content moments of life there can be confusion. Quiet can quickly be perceived as boring.  But, when you let yourself sit, and take in the quiet you start to realize it is actually contentment and that quiet life can be quite enjoyable.  When you start to take out the negative energy of toxic people and start to say no to things that used to feel like obligations, you start to have time to just BE.  Day to day life can feel monotonous, routine can seem like it's stifling- it can seem flat...until you start to see the possibility it brings.  When life is predictable you can be in a better place to make decisions.  When you are not constantly in survival or crisis mode, you can calmly assess situations and discern which path to take.  That brings a whole new level of opportunities.  You can start choose a new hobby, read a new book, visit a new place, meet new people, have new relationships, truly explore all of your options.  Quiet brings time to discern.  And every once in a while on the path there is a blip of excitement.  If you keep going long enough you will get to it, you will.  Every brick ends and a new one begins. Happiness is there, in the small spaces in between. In what holds it all together. Sometimes you just have to get through the shit piles to get to it.


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.

Well...
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.

Ummm...
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

Home...is 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.