Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Wild One

 I always wonder ~ for what reasons do we meet the people we do? When a friend showed me a picture of the Wild One I was definitely interested. The first time I saw him in person he was sitting on my friend's front porch and I felt an instant attraction. After chatting with him, I thought he felt a connection too. But, I wasn't sure until he walked me to my car and asked if I wanted to go out some time. Over the next few months I had a lot of fun getting to know him better.

The Wild One is very different from anyone I have dated before. I usually go for musicians or artists. Sensitive souls. Talented, but not necessarily handy around the house.  But, the Wild One is a complete Alpha Male.  He is strong and brave and does crazy stuff. He is an adrenaline junkie.  He thinks nothing of skydiving out of a perfectly good airplane or driving a race car at top speed. He planned dates that included off road exploring through the countryside and go-carting. I never knew exactly what to expect.

The Wild One is quite handy, he can fix just about anything.  If a furnace isn't working he replaces it, if a pipe is leaking he finds the source of the problem and takes care of it.  When he visited me, he wondered why the oven door was on my kitchen floor. I explained to him that it had been there for months, I had broken it off trying to clean it.  Three people had tried to fix it but insisted it was impossible and broken beyond repair. It had been suggested I replace the oven. But, it wasn't in the budget. Obviously I don't cook much anyway since it had been broken for months. Well, the Wild One took a look at it and had it fixed in less than 10 minutes. Another time, he helped me move furniture in my classroom at the beginning of the school year. He noticed that I had a lot of books and workbooks that were all different sizes and nowhere to store them. So he took some measurements and the next day he built a shelf perfectly tailored to those books. He built it with his own two hands and no directions. He didn't need google. Or Siri.  (FYI that is NOT a dig at anyone specific. So please don't send me hate emails.)

It had been a joke in my family that I tend to go for guys that have similar personalities to my mom. Funny, nurturing, a little bit of a worrier.

But, the Wild One reminds me of how my father was. Crazy, stubborn, determined, fixer of all things, generous, protective.  I knew when I was with The Wild One I didn't have to worry. He was a complete badass. A bear crossed his path and he didn't even panic.

My mom didn't know exactly what to do with the Wild One's personality. The first time she met him he was drinking at a picnic and in rare form and telling his stories! He kept refilling my red solo cup. She was horrified. One time he visited her house and he let her know that he had peed in the bushes in the front yard.  She couldn't get over it. She just kept saying, "I don't understand it. Why would he pee in the yard? We have indoor plumbing!  Who does that??"

But, despite his outrageousness, the Wild One would take care of things. He was definitely the "man" in the relationship.  Which gave me the freedom to be the woman that I felt like being. I could relax and let him handle lifting heavy objects, reaching top shelves.  I didn't have to stress when he drove. Although it felt reckless because of the speed or the condition of the roads, I knew it was safe because he had the ability to handle it.  I didn't have the constant need for an imaginary brake like I normally would.

The Wild One was not afraid of fire.  Literally. He was a volunteer firefighter.  But, also figuratively.  I didn't have to worry that the fire of my personality would overtake him.  I felt inherently that he was strong and that my temper and passionate nature wouldn't scare him.  Weaker men have tried to douse that fire by watering it down.  But, the Wild One didn't blink an eye.  He wasn't water. He was stone.

I have not laughed as much or shared more of who I am with someone in a relationship quite like that before.  We had an insane amount of chemistry.  Despite being jaded from past experiences, I felt like I could trust and explore and feel alive again.

And though I knew better, I absolutely fell 100% in love with his dog. I knew the attachment would only hurt when the relationship ended. After divorce the future is not a clearcut thing. For me, a single mother with 3 kids, the future is like looking at a black screen. I know what I feel in the moment. But, I can't see one second beyond today.  I like to be entertained. I like to have fun. I even like getting to know someone and sharing thoughts and fears and hopes and daring to dream. But, the future is not on the screen. I can't see it. Or feel it.  It is just the here and now.  So falling in love with a person's dog was not part of the plan. I honestly do not even like dogs.  But, that crazy, untrained mutt took a piece of my heart.

I believe that each person comes into our lives for a reason and sometimes it is not the reason you initially thought. Though the Wild One was not for the long run, it was a good experience. It was an opportunity to explore the dating after divorce world a little more. And a great distraction as I grieved the loss of my father.  Each person that enters my life is someone to learn from. The Wild One sure did have a lot to teach me. Most lessons were enlightening and very entertaining. Some were not so much fun.  But, in the end there is always a new beginning.
Next chapter...









Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Time for Dying

When my Dad told me in August that he was stopping chemo treatments, what we refer to as Deathwatch 2014 began. I didn't realize that he would be dead 3 weeks later.  He had been fighting Lymphoma for 3 years with radiation and chemo treatments putting him in and out of remission over that time. This summer it was obvious that the treatments were poisoning him and taking it's toll.  Even his doctors said it was his sheer will to live that  was keeping him alive because the treatments were only doing so much.

One night I was there helping him while my Mom was at work.  He was agitated because his balance was off and the muscles in his legs had weakened because of the chemo.  He didn't want me to help him, so he insisted on dragging himself down the hallway using his walker and then pretty much flinging himself into bed without my assistance.  I walked near him anyway and he said, "So you are determined to help, right?"  Yep. I pretty much got my stubborn gene from him so he really shouldn't have been surprised.

When I left that night I knew.  He didn't seem as resolved as he had before.  He had 5 more days to go before his next treatment and it didn't feel like he was gearing up like he had been for the past few months.

He told my mother later that night and the rest of us the next day that he was not going to do any more chemo.  We all understood and agreed he had put in more than a fair share of effort to fight.  We knew that he only did it for us to begin with, the past 3 years he survived for my mom and our family.  Now we had to let him do what he needed to.

So Deathwatch 2014 began.

In my mind it was going to take months for tumors to grow and death to happen.

But, in reality…it was fast.

The kids and I spent as much time as possible with him over the next couple of weeks.  My aunts and good friends of our family stayed with us over those next few weeks helping with everything from cooking meals to supporting us emotionally to even caring for my Dad when he would allow it.

His strength deteriorated rapidly, but still I was thinking there would be more months to go.

The last week of August he told me that he was going to live to the celebrate my sons' birthdays on Labor Day and then that was it.  He said he was at peace with it and not to be upset.

I was thinking oh ok Dad. Sounds like a plan.

Well…he made it to the birthday party on September 1st. Thanks to our good friends he was able to be transported with his wheelchair to the park where we celebrated.

Then he went home and slept.  And never really woke up fully conscious again after that.

Hospice started the next morning.  He stayed mostly asleep.  When he did wake up he wasn't really talking much.  But, he was still getting his point across that he didn't want help and would try walking on his own.  The nurses had a difficult time moving him because his strength was surprising despite all the weight he had lost. They expected him to be weak and frail but he was really like the hulk with his super human strength so they couldn't lift him.  Eventually we had to request all male nurses to help with lifting. Thankfully he ended up with 3 amazing men that were able to care for him and assist him so he was able to stay home to die in peace like he wanted.

The 10 days after the birthday party are a bit of a blur.  Mostly I stayed at my parent's house with my aunts and our friends that were helping out. Our support system was amazing! My good friends took turns staying with my children and getting them to school. My boss and coworkers were absolutely fantastic about covering my class and caring for my students and children so that I could be there for my Dad's last days.

SO we sat. and sat. and waited. We ate and talked and told stories. My Dad stayed mostly unconscious.

One friend suggested that this Deathwatch process was an "Italian Family Thing."  I am not sure about that because I have talked with other friends that have big families that had similar experiences.  But, in speaking to others I have realized, it is not a common practice.  It may even be a bit crazy.

But, I don't mind being crazy.  It was worth it to pause every aspect of life. Especially because he woke up one night and everyone was there visiting and he was clear minded and when he saw me he said, "awww I love you!"

Relatives showed up to say goodbye, friends from all eras of my Dad's life came to visit. Cousins we hadn't seen in months were there with food. It was like a family reunion.  People chatted and shared stories of their time with my Dad.  Nurses and physical therapists that had worked with him over the past 3 years stopped by to say goodbye.  Everyone had their own stories.

We sat around him while he peacefully slept and shared with each other how he touched our lives in so many ways.  And we ate. And we laughed.

Through it all I couldn't help thinking what am amazing tribute it was to the life he lived that friends didn't wait until he was dead to pay respects.  They had been there throughout his life, stood by him in the 3 years he fought to survive and in his dying days did not abandon him or our family.

It says a lot about how he lived.  I can think of a million stories of my Dad reaching out to others.  There was one Christmas he had a coworker down on her luck.  We went with him and waited in the car as he dropped off a tree, gifts and groceries to surprise that family.

Too many stories like that to count.  But, he loved helping others and his generosity was his greatest attribute.  It was obvious in the faces of the people that loved him that he meant a lot to their lives.

Even the nurses that met him during that last week were affected by him.  He was UNCONSCIOUS when they met him, but they each said what a gentle soul he had, what a good man he was.  They worked around the clock to ensure that he had a dignified and peaceful death.

One nurse, Bob, spent a few days with us. I felt like I knew him forever.  He told us that his shortest assignment had been a few hours and longest had been 6 days.  Hmmmm….considering it was Day 4 of Bob with us,  I was wishing my Mom hadn't asked that question.  When Bob said goodbye after that shift I knew he was not expecting to see my Dad alive again.

On the morning of September 11th, Dad's nurse Godwin showed up.  That is when my mother knew.  It would be that day.  It would be Dad's last day.  She had to run an errand. We stayed out only exactly long enough to do what needed to be done and then we took shifts all day being with my Dad. She didn't want him alone for a minute.  My aunts stayed and our good friends were there too.  The house was quiet all day.  The only sound was Dad's playlist of songs coming from his iPad.  It was background music of all his favorite songs.  We would be talking or doing something and Depserado would come on and all of a sudden we would all be in tears.

Around 3:30 my mom wanted to take a shower so it was my shift to be with Dad.  I had my laptop and I was looking at Facebook and listening to his music.  When I heard In My LIfe by the Beatles play off his iPad, I just lost it. It finally it me that it wasn't going to be months. It was within hours and he was no longer going to be alive.

And then the power went out.

I freaked out a little  bit.  His oxygen tank was beeping and I thought he was dead. I walked over and touched his arm and nearly jumped out of skin when he took a breath.

We realized a fuse had just blown out when my Mom plugged in her hair dryer. We all laughed.

A few minutes later, Godwin came in and told me he was going to get my Dad bathed and dressed. So I went to talk and watch TV with my aunts.

When Godwin came out to get me, I knew.  I walked back into my Dad's room and he was lying there so peacefully.  My Mom was holding his hand.  He was gone.

Those few minutes were quiet.  It settled in a little.

Then a flurry of action happened. Family and friends and hospice nurses and a social worker arrived.
We waited for my brother to get there so he could have some time too.

At 7 pm Bob showed up.  It would have been his 7th Day.  No one had called him. When he walked through the door, the look on his face broke my heart.

He made a joke and said that when he drove up to the house and saw all the cars he thought, "Who died?"   Then he looked at me and said, "too soon?"  No. It was perfect. My Dad would have gotten a kick out of it.  It broke the tension!

Dinner was made, funeral directors were called. The house was full of people, of love.

The next few days we made memorial arrangements and picture collages and told more stories and celebrated his life through services and moments together.

Then the next day I went back to work.  And life went on. and on.

The next thing I knew it was Thanksgiving. He wasn't there to cook. To laugh. To wash all the dishes.
And it hit me.  Death is forever.

But, it was just a moment on Thanksgiving.  We had family and friends and the kids around so I was distracted.  That wasn't the hardest part.

For me the difficulty is the rest of the time, not the holiday.  My Dad was a part of my daily life. I would go there after work with my kids for dinner 2-3 times a week and Sundays.  Always Sundays.  And he did my laundry. I would drop it off on Friday nights and pick it up on Sundays washed and ironed for the week. Even when he could barely walk he had a washer and dryer put into his bedroom and would still do my laundry.  When I told him he didn't have to. He would day, "I'm not dead yet!"

I called him for everything. EVERY THING.  He fixed my cars, replaced batteries in my smoke detectors, painted my kitchen, cleaned my house, babysat the kids, cooked meals,  and as my friend Meeghan loves to remind me - I called him to unclog toilets.

Sometimes I dream about him.  He always looks healthy and his hair has grown back and he is happy.  In my dream one time, he told me to buy new cordless phones and to make sure I buy Panasonic ones.

I know that there is a purpose for everything under Heaven. And there is a time to die. And everyone loses people they love. And everything happens for a reason. Etc. Etc. Etc.   But, seriously -  it sucks!














Monday, November 10, 2014

Welcome to the Family

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



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who ARE You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Where the Hell am I ??!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panic!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

The D-Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, July 19, 2014

The List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Umm…seriously?!
Needless to say,  it was an eye opening experience to see my List on paper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




















Sunday, June 22, 2014

~Broken Gurus ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 5, 2014

Like Everyone Else? No Way!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait. What???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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