Kentucky Mom to Twins and More

Monday, April 8, 2019

What he would have told the 'new guy'

A friend of mine told me the other day to "quit writing sad stuff." And because he's a friend and I love and value his opinion, I'm going to try and take his advice. So, this is my attempt at some 'happy shit.'


Something recently popped up on my Facebook feed from a widow support group – an open letter, "To the future man who will date my wife" – written by a widow from the perspective of her deceased spouse. Sounds depressing right? At first it made me kind of sad. For example:


"She has an infinite capacity to love you with her whole heart and soul the way she loved me. I can promise you that to be loved by her... is heaven."… "I know that at times it will be extremely challenging to love my wife. It is hard for anyone who is dating or married to a widow... it comes with its own unique challenges."

Ok, the sentiments above are very beautiful and heartfelt, but I actually started to giggle halfway through the article. I laughed out loud thinking about how this bleeding heart tribute "from husband to new guy" regarding his wife was absolutely nowhere close to what my late husband Matthew would have ever said to any "future man" who had the balls... errr guts... to take on dating HIS wife.


And since I'm pretty knowledgeable about who my husband was and the relationship we had, I'm going to tell you straight up what a letter from my own husband would have said. It likely wouldn't have any foul language in it, because unlike me, he rarely said a swear word – he was pretty PG. I'm thinking the following admission is probably going to clear my social calendar out and scare anyone away from me for at least a good year, too.


Let me start out with where I almost spit out my oatmeal.


"I can promise you that to be loved by her is heaven."


LOL. That one is sweet, and likely true about many a wife out there. But nope. My husband's letter would have gone something like this, "Dude, being loved by Andrea might be heavenly for a bit, but if you piss her off, she will suck your will to live with one glance of her soulless, black eyes." (He used to say my dark brown eyes looked black when I was mad.)


He'd probably go on, "She is amazing at backrubs and at other things (in that department), but Lord almighty, if you make the slightest comment about that second piece of Cheesecake Factory dessert she's devouring, you may as well get comfortable with celibacy for a few months. You won't be getting any love from her then, my friend."


He probably would have definitely said, "To be loved by her is LOUD, friend. Get earplugs. She lives, laughs and breathes all loudly. She doesn't know when to close her mouth. She swears like Andrew Dice Clay. She has no tact. She will threaten grade school basketball (and soccer) referees with bloodshed if she's slightly annoyed."


He wouldn't be wrong in that admission– I have an intense love for my children and their sports endeavors and sometimes I get just a little too excited about them. And sometimes I use a lot of ...sentence enhancers to show that excitement.

Again, more chuckles when I try to envision Matthew saying, "...it will be extremely challenging to love my wife."


Lord of all things, if I know one thing, his letter instead would have read, "GOOD GOD MAN, RUN! Run while you still have time!"


My husband used to joke, "most women are a little crazy, it is just a matter of to what degree." He wasn't misogynistic by any means – don't get me wrong. But he'd not be stretching the truth to have said that I am pretty loco. Sometimes I'm over the top. Sometimes I overreact. I jump to conclusions. I let anxiety and paranoia get the best of me. I'm working on it all though, and is one of the reasons why I write.


But to tell some guy that I was "challenging"... well, that would be an understatement. I am stubborn as hell and I don't like to admit fault. It was the biggest bone of contention in our marriage for sure. How many times did I go to bed mad because something he said hurt my feelings or ticked me off, when I was probably the one who instigated in the first place? A lot. I was no good at "I'm sorry" either, so that was just fuel on the fire of unforgiven things we shoved under the rug for years.


I can just hear his heart-to-heart with a fictitious future guy, "Do not ignore her if she says, 'she's fine' and she's eating Nutella with a spoon from the jar. She wants your attention! Or quite possibly she just wants you to tell her she has the ass and pout of Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima. So no matter the chocolate shirt stains she's rockin,' just tell her!"


He'd be right. Just let me have the dessert. Matthew always knew that chocolate cheesecake cheered me up and he would drive 30 minutes to go get it for me if that's what it took on any given day.  


"Allow her to share how she is feeling."


Oh holy hell, my husband probably would have been laughing through tears at that one. He hated having a "feelings" talk. But so did I, which meant both of us spent an entire marriage not communicating our feelings all that well. And when I did get into any emotional talks, he probably would have rather been at one of his kidney biopsies.


I'm thinking he would have warned the new guy, "Ride out the 'feelings' talk as best you can, because if she stays in a good mood tonight, she might make you a shake and sit on the couch watching the game with her ice cold feet and butt next to you. Yes, her butt's as cold as a polar bear's and her toes are consistently the temperature of the Arctic Ocean... but man she makes a mean Oreo mint shake, she loves sports on tv and she is a good cuddler."


"You also get the benefits of a spouse who knows how to love someone, how to build a life together and endure unimaginable pain and come through it a new and stronger human being."


Maybe my husband might have been in agreement with the author on this one. He might have said, "While she wasn't the best at showing love, it didn't change the fact that she did love me." 


And he'd be right. 


As for the unimaginable pain of seeing him sick and dying and realizing the soul crushing truth that the father of my children was gone– well, there was no other choice for me than to emerge a "stronger human being." Was there really any other option?


"She's more beautiful, compassionate and resilient. ...She is an amazing woman. Any man who has the opportunity to love her is a blessed man."


Now this, I don't know about yet. I don't know what Matthew would have said about that one. He used to tell me I was beautiful. He even said it through laughter when I tried to squeeze into Spanx on my 35th birthday or went through that unfortunate acne phase after our son was born– I definitely didn't always feel beautiful. I wasn't always compassionate either. One night early in our marriage, he was out drinking without me and came home drunk and fell halfway down a flight of stairs. After realizing he was ok, I admit I laughed a bit and told him "it served him right." He always used to joke to our friends that I left him too long at the bottom of those stairs. 


I don't know if he would have said I'm amazing. I hold out hope that I can show him I'm at least trying. I'm mustering energy and faith in myself to keep getting up and carrying on every day for the kids. I hope I can say someday he would have said those words about me. 


He may not have said any man would be "blessed" to have me, because I'll be honest, that's a little too pious a description to use in a sentence about me. But I know with absolute certainty he would have told him that life with me won't ever be dull. We had a lot of fun over the years. And that truth doesn't make me sad. It makes me happy as shit.



Tuesday, March 5, 2019

How about we say it before it’s too late?



Luke Perry died. It’s all over the news and people’s social media feeds. And it’s sad and it seems unfair because he was so young. Yep.


But seeing all the celebrities and his friends and acquaintances all giving their condolences and sharing this outpouring of love for this guy makes me wonder. How often had they talked to Luke, reached out or got together with him? ... When was the last time they saw him to share all these feelings and love with him when he was still alive? I have a feeling I know the answer.  


Standing at my late husband's funeral receiving line over a year ago, I watched hundreds of people wait for hours to come up to me, my children, my parents, his parents and sisters—to tell us what Matthew meant to them. At first, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that they all came and waited outside in the November cold for us. But then, I got really angry that he wasn’t here to see all these people who loved him so much. 

His buddies from childhood swimming days that he hadn’t seen in 20 years that he always used to talk so fondly about, teachers from his past who told me how amazing he was in school, old coworkers who shared with me how much he influenced their lives for the better. 

I stood there thinking, “Shit! look who’s here! Look who came all the way from Texas... and look, it’s Dan and Joel and Keith and Paul from college! God he loved you guys! Hey it’s so-and-so who we haven’t seen since that concert we went to years ago!”

But it didn’t matter then. None of it mattered really because he was in a damn box behind me. He deserved to see and hear and feel all this love while he was still alive.

But this is the way it goes, right? Someone dies—unexpectedly or tragically —and everyone pours out the love, the praise, the admiration and heartfelt sentiments for the person who now can no longer hear it. It makes us feel better, but it should maybe make us try harder to do that shit right now, while we all still have air in our lungs. 

Don’t wait to tell your friends that you love them and that you admire them, adore them and would miss the hell out of them if they died. Call someone you love or miss and tell them to meet your ass for lunch, no excuses. Catch up and laugh and smile or talk about old times. 

Don’t waste another opportunity to share your heart with someone while you still have time.

This post was published March 5, 2019 here at Today Parents. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Still learning to be brave


Last weekend I was traveling through an airport and saw a guy going through security who was pale, bony thin, sitting in a wheelchair. He had no weight to his face and in his eyes I saw desperation. I knew with almost 100 percent certainty this young man was fighting cancer. I knew because in him I saw a shocking resemblance to my late husband, Matthew. He looked the same when we took that last trip to Florida to spend time with the kids at the beach. I know it was hell to go being that weak and sick, with medicines and feeding tubes and having to explain it all to airport security. He also looked that gaunt, that frail in those last several months. He, too, looked as if the life was being sucked from him by the minute. His eyes, once vibrant and beaming, also showed tired, frustrated despair. God, I remember that look. 



Weak, but still strong enough to hold our 'baby'.
I stared at this man and couldn't look away as I held back tears. I wanted so badly to tell him anything or say anything to let him know I understood his sadness and appreciated his pain. I appreciated his suffering and that he probably doesn't know it or feel it but he is fighting a noble fight. 

I didn't say anything though. I chickened out. I wasn't brave enough to interject and meddle in this stranger's life. I couldn't because it was too close to what I knew and had become accustomed to for the last couple years. 

I wanted to say something to him because I never got to say the things I needed to my own husband when he was still alive. I never got to express to him my love for how bravely he endured his fight. I got caught up in all the "doing" during that time. I was too busy worrying about the kids' schedules and logistics —practices and games, homework and dinner. I ran around here and there, errands and grocery or the pharmacy, hurrying through bath and bedtime routines each night so I could flop in bed at night and zone out or fall asleep to Mad Men episodes on Netflix. I didn't go to as many chemo appointments as I should have with him —and the ones I went to—I often changed the subject from sickness to something I saw in a magazine or I tried to make jokes with him rather than focus on our reality. I wanted to push aside that sad atmosphere and avoid talking about the grim fate that awaits people who sit in that room. I was such a coward. 

I thought I had more time. I was apparently terrible at reading the faces of all those doctors who always seemed to project a small sliver of hope that he'd beat the odds. Matthew had had numerous health scares over the course of time that were a direct result of his 1995 kidney transplant or related to the medicines he took over the years. But he always got better. Cancer was a different beast. But I kept telling myself he'd beat that too. 

I never wanted to accept that I'd run out of time. That we'd run out of time. But I did. We did.

Matthew was always the strong, sensible one, always knew what to do in every situation or how to handle things when they went awry. In 20 years, we had a shit ton of awry. But I don't ever remember a time where I doubted his ability to take care of it whether it be when our boat broke down in the middle of the Ohio River with me and the kids stranded in it; or the time his family business was in such financial distress that he chose not to take a paycheck in order to save some of his employees. He was strong in every single thing he did.

That didn't change after he got sick. Yes, he was scared. I will never forget diagnosis day when he fell to his knees in our bedroom as if being sucker punched with a fate we never imagined. I was never the strong one, never the one with any idea on what to do or where to turn. I didn't know what to say. I didn't have an answer and couldn't come up with anything positive to say or a silver lining. My heart went dark that day. I could only cry with him, there at my feet, realizing I was going to lose him.

I didn't know yet when I woke up on that Sunday before Thanksgiving 2017, and walked downstairs that morning, that I was already a widow. I didn't know the time had expired on my window to let him know how much he was loved and how brilliantly he handled being so sick for almost two years. How despite being so scared to leave us, he magnificently endured as the life was being ripped from his body each day. 

I've realized, too late, how steadfast and brave he was in the face of death. He tried every day, knowing he'd never see them to their next birthdays, to show our four children even the weakest smile. He even tried to smirk for the nurses when they took his vitals or drew blood for the umpteenth time. He nodded appreciatively to friends and strangers who said they were pulling for him. After he lost the use of his speech, he still managed to send his friends an upbeat text or message me a "love you" following his request for more morphine.
  
He clenched my hand so tightly before I went upstairs to bed the last night I saw him alive. I didn't say anything. I didn't know about the time constraint I was under at that very moment, but maybe he did. He shed no tears and he said no words. He only used quiet bravery that last night, to endure a little bit more. Which is what I will always remember. I see now—in the culmination of months and months of his suffering and miseryhe showed me what being brave really was.

I am still learning to live free of cowardice— to live bravely for as long as I have left. I'm going to hopefully show my kids, too. If only all of us on this side could be so brave in living as he was in dying, we'd all be pretty ok.

This post was originally published Feb. 26, 2019 here at Cure Magazine.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

My emotionless curse

Has anyone ever wondered if they were meant to be an emotionless human being? Like maybe showing feelings and expressing emotions just aren't your thing? That was me. Growing up and well into adulthood, I shoved feelings and hurt aside. I tried not to let things bother me or I'd act aloof or stoic about any hurt or sadness I was confronted with. I hated feeling weak. I hated looking 'sad' or seeming pathetic to others or to myself. I don't remember crying in front of anyone as an adolescent. I know I'm still the same today I try not to cry in front of friends or familyand if I do, it's a rarity. I have been described quite often as lacking feeling or at least just doing a hell of a job at hiding it. 

It's my curse.

Even now, a year and a couple months after my husband died, the tears of anger and sadness I've shed behind closed doors have all been for HIM, not me. I was mad he didn't get a fair chance against cancer. That he didn't get to see his baby graduate kindergarten. That he won't get to walk his daughters down the aisle. That he can't watch his son become a man. The anger I hold because he didn't get more than 41 years is worthy of every tear I shed for him.

But there are times that emotion shit comes at you out of nowhere and makes you 'feel.'

Inside the library the other day, I saw a young woman with a little boy probably about 2, and on her other arm she grasped a car seat holding a new baby girl. She looked exasperated as she tried to get the toddler to obey and follow her out but instead he stood defiantly blocking the checkout counter. I know her arm probably felt like it was going to fall off. I know she didn't want to raise her voice in front of these strangers waiting in line. I know she probably couldn't wait til bedtime when she could have her arms, legs and mind to herself in peace. 

I was behind her as she walked to her car and could envision her possible frustration of getting that toddler buckled in only after fumbling with the pumpkin seat with his baby sister in it first. I can guarantee she was getting ready to bust out some snacks or reach for that sippy cup probably stuck under the passenger seat. She was probably hoping the paci in the baby's mouth would hold off cries until she got home. For that brief second I was her. I remember being her. I could close my eyes and find myself standing there, just 10 years ago right here in her placealbeit with one additional baby girl car seat in my arms. 

I hurried to my car and slammed the door shut and I started to sob. There was no floodgate that could have halted the sea of sadness I felt sitting there gripping the steering wheel. I couldn't have held these tears back they were for me. I was sad that I wasn't her anymore. I wasn't that young mother who rocked her babies to sleep at night. I wasn't the woman who had a healthy husband to snuggle with in bed. I can't go back and be that me who thought she had it rough with a toddler and two newborns in her arms. I wished I could go back to being blissfully unaware that things could ever really go horribly wrong. 

I'm not trying to be sad here or get sympathy if anything y'all should laugh because as I was pulling out of the library parking lot still staring at and crying at this stranger's life, I nearly ran over an elderly lady walking to her car. Seriously, I slammed on the brakes an inch from running her down. And if you think old ladies cannot give a proper death glareI would direct you to my local library. But I was wrapped up in 'feeling.'

And those tears felt ok. It felt good to 'feel.' While it was out of sadness, it was a relief to connect with some of the hurt I've been holding onto for a long time now. I want to remember it because it means I remember what I had. What I had was good. 

It wasn't a curse today to feel that emotion. It felt more like a blessing.

This post was first published Feb. 19, 2019, here at Living the Second Act. 
This post was also published Feb. 20, 2019, here at The Widow Wears Pink. 
I remember her






Monday, February 11, 2019

A wax job, the gym and an old love story rolled into one

I got waxed today. Yes, if you are wondering details about that one let me just say, yep it's exactly what you think. Ouch. Ouch as in remember that movie where Steve Carell's character gets waxed and he yells those Kelly Clarkson obscenities? Totally accurate.

This is apparently what the single people do these days. Even single, widowed people like me. From what I understand, this is one of the many normal, routine things people do when they are 'out there.' I haven't been out there since 1998 and back then I was armed only with a cheap, pink razor, slim hips and dreamy, pre-breastfeeding boobsand it all worked like a damn charm.

But time has changed things a bit. It's a little sexier out there this time around. They do selfies and sexting and sit at certain bars to go home with people after catching a 'vibe.' They join Tinder and Bumble and other dating sites that sound Disney-like yet are so dirty you have to shower after just opening your web browser. They flirt at the gym, too. And I'm a complete moron at the gym and only know how to use a treadmill, so I got no game there. The other day someone approached me at the drinking fountain near the ab machines and started talking to me. You would have thought I was trying to do my best Elmer Fudd impersonation, because I seriously didn't know what to say let alone how to make coherent words come out of my mouth. Yep –he gone!

My twins were watching me page through a dress catalog tonight. They were pointing at and picking out all these beautiful, fancy dresses for me. I told them how mommy would be a little overdressed for cafeteria duty or my work at the preschool in any of these outfits. I just don't have anywhere to wear them, I said.

"What if you went on a date," my daughter asked. "With that guy?"

I haven't told the children I have already been on a few dates. The counselor we see told me months ago to ease them into news like this and obviously proceed with caution when I do decide to introduce them to anyone. They only know the name of someone who had been texting me lately but I never made a big deal of it around them because when and if it became nothing I wouldn't hurt or confuse them. I said he and I were probably just friends now. Mommy is not everyone's cup of tea, I say out loud, if only to realize that truth myself.

Then there's the Internet. Weeding through Internet dudes interested in a widow with four kids is not pretty y'all. Neither are they, though. Some are creepy. Some are probably married. Some only want a quick hookup and nothing more. I found myself conversing with a guy the other night whofrom his tiny online photoseemed to be quite perfect. Good looking, great job, loves The Office (that's a deal breaker y'all) and not married. We talked a while. Then I realized he was from Canada which is not close to Kentucky. Annnnnnnd that was the end of that. 

It's too hard though. It's exhausting and sometimes it's heartbreaking too. Because when you do start going out and liking someone enough to want to make out with them (Lord, do I miss a good makeout session) things usually just crash and burn or go sour. It's something I take personally that leaves me wondering about all the things I know are wrong with me. It puts me in a funk and I hate it. I hate being out here some days, sweating on a treadmill or ripping (literally) every hair from my 43-year-old body for the sake of getting a date.

I'm in the second year of widowhood now. This is it. This is normal life now. The second year is when it really starts setting in that your person isn't here and never will be again. 

I had a persona date for everything. A valentine card every year. I had a person who loved me and didn't want to leave me. (Ok, well maybe he may have wanted to leave me a couple times during 15 years, but I know he truly loved me). He loved me even when I had no makeup on. Even when I had an extra 10 pounds in these yoga pants. He loved me when I told him how much debt I racked up in college. He loved me enough to pay it off, too. He loved me despite the most horrific deal I made with a car salesman back in 1999. He loved me when I told off an asshole boss in 2001 and quit my job when I didn't have a backup plan. He even loved me when I peed during every contraction during the last hour of labor with our firstborn. In fact, he told me he loved me more then. He loved me despite my foul mouth. He loved me despite my bad Italian temper. He loved me despite all the inappropriate things I said and did.

Even when I never found time to shave (or have a beautifully manicured hoo-ha courtesy of some Kelly-Clarkson-inspired f-bombs) he still loved me. 

And I just don't know if that kind of love happens twice in a lifetime.

This post was also published Feb. 17, 2019, here at Filter Free Parents. 


Truth.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Kentucky I know...

I didn't grow up here. I was born in South Bend, Indiana and met a boy from Kentucky 20 years ago and married him. But my children are true Kentuckians. I have friends, coworkers, in-laws and neighbors who are all Kentuckians. My home is here nowI've lived longer in Kentucky than I ever did in Indiana. I consider myself a Kentuckian. Y'all has been part of my vocabulary now for a good 15 years. But before I lived here, I too, had stereotypes of what Kentucky was. I believed most of the ignorant stereotypes being perpetuated today in the media and news outlets and in comments online from strangers across the country, I'm sad to admit.

But I can honestly say none of those assumptions I had holds true to the people I've met and had the privilege of knowing here the past 20 years. My late husband was a kind and decent, tolerant man. He and his family business over the years gave tirelessly to other people and to local charitieshe hosted annual events to raise money so they could stay operationalone was an inner city art program for at-risk African American boys. It made him happy to share what he had with others and he didn't give a rat's ass what color they were either. My husband was proud to be from Kentucky. But today's explosive and volatile political climate has caused a lot of us to feel shame in saying this is our home.

We all know that no matter where you go, whichever geographical region you live inthere is always ignorance lurking somewhere. There is bigotry or racism. There is hate that breeds hate. But that doesn't mean an entire population of people deserve to be categorized and cast aside as degenerate, racist assholes.

Because the Kentucky I know is better than what they show on TV. It's better than the two-minute video snippets they post in Facebook feeds. The Kentucky I know is people sharing what they have with less fortunate. It's people I know who volunteer their time at the Parish Kitchen in Covington, talking with homeless men, no matter if they are black or white. It's parents who volunteer time at their kids' schools. It's child-less people donating their money to less fortunate city schools. It's anonymous donors who help you with tuition bills. It's the kindest neighbor you'd ever know (coincidentally a CovCath grad) who has a snow-plow coming to clear a foot of snow off a widow's driveway because she cries when she has to shovel it herself.

It's the kinship in sharing a good bourbon with friends or enjoying the absolute best fried chicken (and I'm not talking about KFC). It's realizing the magnificence of a half-ton horse that elicits camaraderie every first Saturday in May. It's the fun and fellowship in winning a basketball game and learning to accept defeat (I say learning because I am still a student at this). It's seeing beauty in a blue blade of grass. It's the farmer who gets up early to feed livestock or stays out late to bush hog a field. It's the warmth you feel in a smile from someone in church. It's pride in our family from here who fought in wars for our freedom to speak any way we wish today. It's knowing there are people here with good and loving hearts whose depth of character extend longer than any cave and wider than the Cumberland gap.

This is the Kentucky I know. I am proud to say my home is here in Kentucky. 


This post was also published Jan. 25, 2019 here at Today Parents. 


Helping daddy bush hog the family farm.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The sweetest shout-out

Last summer my friend dragged me to an outdoor concert where a Billy Joel tribute band was playing. I'm a huge Billy Joel fan, but I didn't want to go, especially to hear any junky band butcher covers of my beloved Billy. But in the spirit of saying YES to things these days, the kids and I went. As the lead singer came out and started to sing, I stopped mid-conversation to turn around and pay attention because I was blown away.

This guy not only had the stage presence and visage of Billy Joel, but he played the piano and sang just as magnificently as the Piano Man himself. The resemblance was undeniable and that is saying a lot coming from me. He engaged with the audience exactly as Billy does at his shows and even told the crowd to throw out requests. I shamelessly told my daughter to yell for him to play 'Summer, Highland Falls,' which is my favorite Billy Joel song ever. He didn't end up playing it, but I'd find out why later.

My children danced around in front of the stage all night. I kept thinking I had to meet this guy, I had to be friends with this person. Whoever he was or wherever he was from, I knew we needed to be friends. At the end of the show, I found him at the side stage and complimented him and his band for such a phenomenal show. We ended up talking a while and long story short, we became friends because how do two people obsessed with all things Billy Joel since birth NOT become friends, right?

So Mike-with-the-uncanny-resemblance-to-the-Piano-Man apologized later for not playing my song, "oh shit that was your kid who requested it!?" he said. It's one of his favorites too, he told me. There is one line that kills me every time, I told him. "For we are always what our situations hand us... It's either sadness or euphoria." It's a song that evokes a lot of emotion, and he mentioned there are times he can't get through it without getting choked up. I get it, Mike. Me too.

My life this past year since I lost my husband Matthew has been much of thatextreme highs and some really low lows. I've gone from crying on the bathroom floor some nights (because it's the only place I can shut and lock a door to keep kids out) to feeling high on a cloud because I got asked out on a date. With, like, a real live man. Grief tosses you back and forth like this and it can give you emotional whiplash sometimes. It's hard to manage how you feel some days. It's hard to put into words talking to friends. But that's when many times music can do it for you.

Many of my friends might remember how I wrote a while back about attending a Billy Joel master class concert at the University of Notre Dame in 1996. I shared how I got the microphone that night and how Billy Joel answered the questions of a giddy 20-year-old me, and even sang my name to the tune of 'Honesty.' Over the years a lot of people didn't believe that story. Including my late husband. I couldn't prove it because it happened back during the pre-cellphone camera era when we lugged 35mm cameras and sharpie markers to concerts.

A few days after I met Mike and his band, he sent something to my email. He found a bootleg recording of the entire concert that night back in January 1996. It was like being gifted a time machine. There I was, on track 9 and 10 a squeaky college kid chatting up Billy Joel and him bantering back with me and even throwing my name into the chorus of 'Honesty.' I played it over and over. I couldn't believe he found it. He said ever since he met me and heard my story he was on a mission to find it for me. I couldn't stop smiling. I laughed thinking how fun it would have been to play this for my husband. My own, "I told you so."

Mike and I keep in touch. We regularly "geek out" to Billy Joel stuff, as he says. So when I messenge him to tell him I'm sitting alone in a parking lot crying to "Until the Night" one of my favorite songs off Billy's jazz album '52nd Street' he just gets it.

Last night Mike's band was back in town. The night before, he texted me to ask if I had any requests. So I gave him my favorites 'Rosalinda's Eyes,' 'Angry Young Man,' 'Honesty' 'All For Leyna' and he even played 'The Stranger' (after I texted him on the way there because the Uber driver said to tell him to play that one). And as my girlfriend and I sat through the show with crowds of people all singing along with us, my new friend Mike gave me a shout-out before he played 'Summer, Highland Falls' just for me. I like to think it was for me, and maybe Matthew, too. Because while he was never a huge Billy Joel fan, he always liked that song.

"For we are always what our situations hand us... It's either sadness or euphoria." 

This night was definitely the latter. I'm glad I said yes that night last summer to the 'junky concert' I didn't want to go to. I think God has a way of putting people in your lives right when you need themeven if it's just to make an awesome new friend.

This blog was also published here Jan. 22, 2019, at the Widow Wears Pink.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

My birthday wish

It's my birthday.

I'm not saying how old I am anymore because they say you are only as old as you feel... and some days I feel about 67 1/2 and that's way more than I am today. But I will say that I'm getting better.

For the past few months, I've been trying to eat healthy. I have been running almost every day, even on Christmas night, when I took the dog out running in the cold after the kids had gone to bed. So I took off every last thing I had on and held in my breath and weighed myself today. I'm down 10 pounds. The person standing naked on this scale isn't anyone I'd recognize a year or two ago. In fact, she's a completely different person - yes, ok, she still cusses like a sailor and laughs loud as hell - but something inside her is different, better. And I'm not saying I'm better because I lost weight. Not at all - I'm sure under different life circumstances I could be 40 pounds heavier and possibly be happy as a clam.

But this new me feels stronger. She says YES to more things. She still has a hard time letting go of some things (including the kids' request for homemade slime and any glitter inside the house) but she's digging deeper to forgive, forget and be better. I don't know what 'better' really means, but I'm trying to figure it out.

Just before my birthday about three years ago, my late husband and I were on our last no-kid vacation together in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. It was a beautiful, tropical place where the water was so clear you could be waist deep and look down and see your toes. My toes are probably the only things that haven’t changed since then. I looked through pictures of myself from that trip and realized how painful they are to look at. I was overweight by my standards, the heaviest I'd ever been (not counting when I was enormous with twins six years prior to that). 

In the pictures, I saw myself faking a smile 
through what I know inside was pure misery. I didn't like myself back then. It was also around the time when my husband started feeling shitty - we had no clue that cancer was just around the corner waiting for us. We didn't get along great then. I snapped at the kids all the time. I fought with in-laws. I felt ugly, weak, criticized, judged, hated in every aspect of life back then. I remember after one fight asking him, "Why do you stay? Why are you still here with me?" I cringe at the thought of yelling at him how he'd be "better off without me."

In those next few months, we'd try marital counseling - again - and then things got worse after the diagnosis came. But I will always remember being in that tropical place with him, trying to get away from everything, hoping and praying something would just put us back together, put ME back together. But deciding in my mind that nothing probably ever could.  

Fast forward to now. I realized I didn't want to wait anymore for someone or some 'thing' to tell me when I can enjoy shit again or start being happy. I was done. 

I ran just over 6 miles yesterday. Without stopping. I hadn't ever run more than 2 miles in my entire life. I told myself for years I just couldn't do it. I told people my legs physically wouldn't go any more than that. It may not seem like a big deal to normal runners, but I'm not a distance runner. At all. I've been a sprinter since fourth grade, which means literally this ass puts out then gives out - a max of no more than 400 meters or so. I never had any faith in myself to even try to go more than a mile or two anyway.

So recently I've been out a couple times with someone. He's one of those glass-half-full optimists. He's a runner - a marathon runner - and he oozes determination. He's a person who doesn't do excuses either. So after he told me in so many words that all my excuses were bullshit, and that I should try and run farther, I did. Don't ask me why I waited 43 damn years to try (oops shit, yep, there's the age). But seriously don't ask me why it's taken losing my husband to want to be in better shape, to be a better mother, a better friend, a better lover (a girl can dream), a better person all around. I know I have a really long way to go, but I'm finally starting to be who I should have been with him, who I should have been for years.

I'm getting rid of those vacation pictures. I hate that person I was in them. I won't go back to her. The only pic I kept was the beach shot - that crystal blue water you can see your toes in. The toes are still the same but the rest of me is new. This girl here and now is getting so much better.

Friends, my cliché, lame-o birthday wish this year is for you to ask yourselves, what or who are you waiting to be better for?

This post was also published Jan. 9, 2019, here at Today Parents. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

When the TALK comes in the middle of aisle 8

My only son is going to be 12 this month. I never had any brothers. I know a couple things about boys his age, like the funky smells, the reclusive attitude and the ravenous appetite. But I don't know all that much about boys and puberty and their ...things... and all that. Nothing. Zero. This was supposed to be his dad's territory. Dad was supposed to take care of all this stuff.

Since dad's not here to take a swing at this, I'm on deck.

We have not yet begun to chip away at the iceberg that is The Sex Talk. I don't remember getting a talk back in the 80s when I was his age. I think one of my fifth grade friends enlightened me to where babies came from and how they got in there during recess one afternoon. I suppose it was good enough for me back then - parenting these days is wildly different. From what I've heard, if you haven't gone over Sex 101 with your kid by the time he is 9, you are likely creating some sort of uneducated sexual deviant child who may or may not become a serial killer. So I'm going in for the talk.

I bought a book for him a couple months back, "Your Changing Body" or something equally cringe-worthy. I left it on his bed one night and noticed it was on the floor under some clothes in his closet not long after. I told him, "hey, so we might have to, you know, talk about some of those things in that book sometime, ok?"

Quicker than you can say mortified, he replied, "Mom, no. Just NO."

And so it's been a big, fat NO for several months now and I haven't really forced it on him either. He kind of avoids me as I suppose any prepubescent boy avoids his overbearing and overprotective mom. He goes about school, practice and life with his buddies like normal and leaves his mom wondering what things he already has seen or what things people have already told him. I try and catch a glimpse of his reaction when he sees certain interactions on TV or hears innuendoes in songs or movies. I never know really how much this sweet boy of mine knows about it all.

I took him shopping for a new basketball the other day at the sporting good place. It's a place where I can actually get him to say more than two words to me - even if it's just "please Mom, can I get this?"
We walked the aisles together and I got a lesson in how there are indoor basketballs and outdoor basketballs and that there are certain sizes you need to play here or there. I learned about how Under Armor is obvs way better than anything with an Adidas logo on it and how he has already grown out of a $100 pair of sneakers I bought him like … three minutes ago.

After a while, we passed by a bulky, errrr… generously endowed mannequin in the men's section dressed in tight boxer briefs on our way to the checkout. He and I both looked at it. I probably looked at it a little too long. I am never one to know when to close my mouth, act natural or you know, have tact. And before I even realized it, I blurted out loud, "God, I miss your daddy."

And that's when an almost 12-year-old boy and I started laughing hysterically together in that sporting good store aisle and we couldn't stop. Walking out of that store with a boy who encapsulated on his face the sweet grin of his father's, his laughter and sense of humor too - that's when I realized we had taken the first chunk out of that iceberg. It's going to be ok. The talk will come and it'll be ok. He's not going to be a serial killer. He's going to be ok.

This post first ran January 3, 2019 here, at Her View From Home.