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.





Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Nothings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Umm...that's it??

Should not have asked...

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

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

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

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