all roads lead to home

I bought a train ticket to go home tomorrow for a few days. Mom seems to be stable – very weak – but stable, so I feel comfortable going home for a few days. Her birthday is Monday, so I’ll return Sunday night. It is likely the last birthday we’ll spend together so I want to be here for it. While I’m gone, my brother will hold down the fort with my dad. I told myself that should anything happen while I’m gone, I should not have regrets. But it’s hard.

My therapist reinforced that I must recharge this weekend. I am a bit concerned that the kids will attempt to absorb my last bit of strength so I will need to have a chat with them about it. I think the thing that put me over the edge about going home was the photo I received from Ted last night of our dining room table split in half! Yes, the table we’ve been using for pretty much all meals, my work until I get my office set up, you name it – broke in half! Fortunately, we have his old table in the basement so that’ll serve as a temporary placeholder until we order a new one.

I compared my life balance to a pendulum. When I came to NJ, it swung towards caring for my parents. Now, it is swinging more the other way and I must tend to those needs so it somehow lands in the center….somehow….yet will it ever be centered? Again, think Sandwich Generation!

Again, thank goodness for remote work. While on the train tomorrow, I will have 3 meetings. In fact. one was just moved to it will be taking place while I am on the platform waiting for the train. Should prove interesting!

While I’m home, I will be very focused on self care and being with my family so I will zip in and out without much fanfare. And then late Sunday night, I’ll return to NJ. Honestly, the texts, phone calls, messages, etc have subsided, and that has really been helpful to me. Lots of beautiful emails and videos came in, and I was asked to share with mom. And I did, but reading them and what not was taking its toll on me. I had to go through the emotions with her every time. So, it’ll be good to have a break from that.

We got a beautiful letter from the Executive VP of American Cancer Society. It made me so proud. It spoke of all of her accomplishments and achievements over the past 40 years as a volunteer leader with them. We know we have so much more work to be done with cancer treatment and research, as she’s lying there fighting off ovarian cancer. But I remember a time where she was working on helping eliminate the sale of cigarettes to underage smokers at places like CVS and Walgreens. Now you can’t even buy them in CVS so I truly believe she has helped make a difference.

I was up this morning to give a presentation at 7:30am! So now I’m pooped. Ciao for now.

9/17/21 7pm

I’m not sure I’ll be writing much for a bit, as we’ll have the rest of our family here and I want to focus my energies there. When my writing stops supporting me, I take a break.

I just checked in on mom and she was slightly snoring, so that meant she’s sleeping deeply (I think?) so I was happy about that. My brother is back on this side of the world, and will catch up necessary rest, and drive here tomorrow with my sister-in-law. Ted and Louie are on route. I heard my poor sweet Boo Boo (my term of endearment for Louie) crying in the car, so I’m eager to get him here, running around, again like the kitten he is. I’m sure it is stressful for Ted. I told him to sing to him like I do when Nermal is in the car with me. As I type this, I can picture the kids rolling their eyes!

I’m going to work on my MBA essay tonight and get it done. It’s the last piece of the application. I know it’s crazy but I fear this is my chance to get it done without distractions. I’ve formulated what I plan to write, and reviewed it with my mom – she asked – so I think I know what I’ll write.

We had our Chinese food tonight – so good – and our dear friend brought us more chocolates (thank you, the milk chocolates are heavenly), and another friend is bringing us fresh fish he just caught. I will not go hungry! We share it all with our dear Gertrude, who arrives each evening at 8pm and helps us with mom. She has such a nurturing personality so she’s a welcome comfort to us all. Mom refused her friends today who dropped off the food. She said she didn’t want them to see her as she is. One of these friends has known her for 50+ years. She was very understanding. It’s hard, I have no doubt, for the recipients who want to see her, but are declined, it is hard. But this is mom’s choice.

More later.

9/17/21 Morning

Mom looks much weaker this morning. Her body is clearly shutting down. It’s so sad to watch. I’m trying to be strong for her. Been getting lots of emails, texts, FB messages. Some are more helpful than others. Responding to them is getting harder, as I’m still balancing my work as well, so just know I appreciate the sentiments. Thank you to the folks who are dropping off food. It’s hard to engage everyone so I’m just asking for stuff to be left on the bench next to the door. Saving what little energy I have for my folks.

Ted arrives tonight. I am literally counting down the hours until he arrives. I can hug him and cry all that I need in the privacy of our room. And Louie! That little nugget will give me such joy. Been emailing with my boss and told her that it feels good to be working in healthcare right now – that I feel like I’m making a difference – so it feels good to get in a few hours of work each day. Ok, more than a few hours, but you know what I mean.

Last night, I prepared my mom’s jewelry for her review. She asked me to bring it to her so she can point out “the good stuff.” That is SO Helaine. I like doing it because she tells me stories about the pieces – “you dad got me that for our anniversary” or “Larry and Irene made that one for me. It’s a Tiffany knockoff.” The stories are fun to hear.

And, does my mom have purses or what? Now I know where I get my love of all things leather and Coach. She has shelves upon shelves of gorgeous bags. I told her I packaged a few for myself, and I had some ideas of what to do with the rest. She liked the ideas. Mom has always encouraged me to go “shopping in her closet.” I know a few friends of hers recently came over and took many items to either wear or sell. It makes me happy to see that happening.

Ken and Marina arrive tomorrow after flying home from their trip to France. I’m so glad they did the trip. But, just as much, I’m glad they’ll be here to say their goodbyes. Last night Dad and I briefly acknowledged our time together will shift now as our group of loved ones will grow. It was good to have the time with him. He said, “We get along pretty well, don’t we?” We do. It’s nice to really enjoy the company of your parent.

More later.

9/16/21 eve

Sitting here eating my favorite treat, chocolate chip cookie dough Yasso. There’s something so good about the sweetness of the cookie dough mix with the tartness of the yogurt.

Ask, and you shall receive. our fridge and freezer is fully stocked. This family will not go hungry. We managed to have mom take one of her anti-nausea pills, and that gave her a little more of an appetite. Don’t get too excited, we’re talking three bites of soup instead of two. She really is been enjoying her peach Snapple and tomato bisque soup. Dad went out tonight to friends to break the fast for Yom Kippur.

When he goes out, I stay back with mom. Tonight, I gave her a mini manicure upon her request. She keeps asking to go through her jewelry with me, so I prepared it to review with her tomorrow. She’s been giving me her jewelry repeatedly over the last 3 1/2 years, and I’ve enjoyed wearing it very much. Whatever she needs.

I have a long meeting in the morning, so I plan to take the afternoon, unless work gets busy. I took a break today to get some things for my dad when my phone rang. It was somebody calling to make a donation. You bet I pulled over and had a lengthy conversation this with this wonderful physician. It feels good to be working during this time because it gives me normalcy. I like my job and find a rewarding. The physician that I spoke with today is a leading neurologist who specializes in epilepsy. Very important work. I feel like my job is a blessing right now as I am raising money for the hospital that does incredibly important work.

Well, I took my sleeping pill, so I’m going close my eyes and get some rest. as always, please accept my gratitude for all that is being done for us.

9/16/21 midday

It’s Yom Kippur, and in Judaism, today our fate is sealed for another year. Spent my morning and early afternoon balancing work, caring for my folks, and doing a Target run for more pjs. No clue where mine are at home. Not unpacked yet (we just moved). Got a shirt to wear under a blazer since I’m giving a presentation next week to one of the surgical teams next week. Ted will bring my blazer.

Mom is about the same, resting. When the visiting nurse was here, she confirmed we’re doing all we can.

We have Chinese food coming tomorrow, and two more friends sent me virtual gifts – M sent Dunks (coffee!!!) and A sent door dash, will come in handy. I’m digging into the food that we got yesterday. I stopped fasting years ago. Dad is headed to friends to break the fast; I’ll stay behind. Our aide Gertrude – Such a dear soul – arrives at 8pm.

All for now.

9/15/21 PM

It’s nearly 10pm. This has been the hardest day for me. I don’t want to get into the details, but it was a tough day.

I’ve been reading my blog posts to mom. She always says I’m a great writer. It’s just the easiest way I can express my thoughts. I’ve been also criticized for over sharing here and to that, I say “please, then kindly stop reading” as this is my blog & I can say whatever I want.

As Ted would say, I’m piss & vinegar tonight. I’m a relatively calm person who doesn’t anger easily but today, I’m angry and frustrated at the world. I’m angry that I was not driving fast enough for that a-hole who sped around me while getting on the GSP. I’m angry at the salesperson who picked his nose – both nostrils – and then wanted to ring up my purchase. I’m angry that I didn’t have a clean pj shirt tonight so I’m wearing a work shirt to sleep. But most of all, I’m angry I have to say goodbye.

Some family has questioned if we’ve done enough. I can’t predict the future. I am just a human stumbling through life like the rest of us. I’d like to think we did all we can. Did we? 🤷🏻‍♀️

I zoomed with my family tonight and R yelled at me to come home again and stormed off. I told him I love him and he’s in my heart, and he said, “no I’m not.” I hate to think of him suffering, but he has his mom & dad there to support him.

I’m counting down until Ted & Louie arrive. Ted and I did a virtual tour of our house for dad, and then we picked out things for him to bring me here. New clothes! Fresh pjs!

We had a visit tonight from my very close family friend whose mom died of Ovarian a few years back – she was mom’s closest friend & like a second mom. He brought over tons of food from Delicious Orchards and chocolates from his mom’s favorite candy shop. So lovely. It was so good to see him. And his wife will be bringing lox & bagels tomorrow to Break the Fast (even if I’m not fasting). Thank you dear friends.

And my kind coworker sent me Venmo for a “treat” so I told her I’ll use it at Carvel. Or, maybe I’ll put it towards dinner with Ted.

Ok. Time to turn off the brain & get some sleep. Until tomorrow.

PS woah, 500+ views since yesterday. Hello world.

9/15/21

Dad is reading to mom while I’m working in the dining room. We had a very deep discussion last night about the “afterlife” and we concluded we both want to be greeted by our loved ones no longer with us. So, I’d like to think she’ll be greeted by her parents and brother when she passes.

I had a good session with my therapist today, and we agreed I need access to my cats, who serve as my emotional support animals, so I’ve asked Ted to bring Louie with him. Mom was less than thrilled, but Dad and I convinced her she won’t interact with him. We’ll close her bedroom door, and keep him downstairs. I hope he behaves – he’s a bit of a little rascal! If it doesn’t work, Ted’ll take him home. I hope it works. We all agree Nermal should NOT come here! She’s a very temperamental cat and would not be happy in any way, shape, or form being cooped up anywhere. She rules any roost she resides in, and in this house, mom rules. Ted and I think Nermal is going to be thrilled to have her run of our house!

My therapist also asked me what I need in terms of support. In all honesty watching my mom at the end of her life sucks. I’m so incredibly drained. I don’t sleep through the night, and then I have to get back to work in the AM, while balancing everything here. It’s a tough time in my life. I’m still very sad about cancelling our wedding. Someone said to me, “Well, you’re already married, so this was just the celebration anyhow,” and of course, I wanted to pounce. Way to be insensitive. How dare I want to celebrate getting married? As a result, my interest in interacting with people right now is minimal other than what I have to do (namely work). Fortunately, my colleagues are terrific and supportive. One of them even offered to drive here from MA and support me. She’s such a gem. That’s a good friend! Just the offer was enough. Another friend was ready to send me Venmo to get a meal for us. I told her no, but just that offer was so kind.

We had a delicious dinner last night, sponsored by a friend, so that was enjoyed by Dad and me. Tonight is Erev Yom Kippur, so Dad plans to socialize with his friends. I’m not up to it, so I’ll stay home with mom until our wonderful caregiver, Gertrude, arrives for her night shift. She is truly a blessing to us. My dad expressed his concern that mom hasn’t been interested in welcoming her dear friends to visit. My hunch is that as a caregiver, she can’t provide the counsel or care she likes to give, so she spending her time with her family and reminiscing in her mind.

This morning, she told me about how my brother took ownership of caring for me as soon as I was born. He is still taking care of me 46 years later! My brother and sister-in-law are on a well-needed vacation in France, checking in multiple times a day, and riding bikes for upwards of 20 miles a day. They were in Paris previously, and will be home over the weekend. Their plan is to head to NJ shortly thereafter. We all agreed that there was no need for them to return early. “No regrets” – we’ve all agreed. I’m glad they are enjoying the French countryside and it has inspired me to begin planning our honeymoon with Ted. No surprise, but Italy is in our future!

Dad and I are discussing plans for when mom passes. He is concerned about showing his grief. I told him that the only thing that people will say is that he is human. I have no idea if I can keep it together. I was thinking of writing a eulogy now and reading to my mom for her input. She’s totally the type of person who would be ok with it. It’s like someone writing their own obit in a way. She’s been reading the obits her whole adult life – one of those people – so no doubt she has thought about her own.

Clearly lots of thoughts swirling around in my head. Many more but I have a meeting now so I must go. More later!

Sandwiches

I’m a fan. In fact, I had a delicious grilled cheese on thick fresh bread with boars head cheddar for lunch. Yum, with a Coke Zero on the side. Delish.

However, I am not a fan of being part of the Sandwich Generation. You know what that is – middled aged adults caring for kids & parents concurrently. Now that I’m a stepmom, I have a 2 kids counting on me. Granted, I’m not their biological parent, but trust me, I’m a parent. While the kids were walking home today from school, they called me. J told me about his day while R shouted in the background, “When are you coming home?”

And whimpered. It broke my heart. I told him that my parents needed me right now but I’d be home soon.

“When?” He asked.

“I don’t know yet, buddy. Why don’t we FaceTime tomorrow & you can show me how much Louie has grown?”

“Just come home.”

I texted Ted and asked him to check in on R. Tonight us “back to school night” so he (and the kids) would also see the kids’ mom, who is their other calming force.

I think I’ve described myself as feeling like that Stretch Armstrong toy from the 1970s where you could pull his arms, legs, and torso in all directions. Pretty sure my brother had one. Anyhow, you know what I mean.

I planned to take 1/2 day today from work, but somehow, at 4pm, I was still sitting in front of my laptop. I’m preparing for a big presentation next week (at 7:30am – yikes!) and planning my goals for FY22. I looked into PFMLA and sadly, I can’t afford to cut my pay that much. It’s not easy.

Did I mention I was also sick last night? 3.5 years ago I had gastric sleeve & on occasion, I still have side effects from it. No doubt the stress exacerbated it. I went to grab my Ativan today at CVS & the staff there bit my head off because I had come before I was notified it was ready. I had requested the refill yesterday. So, I left without it, afraid to return there. I asked my dad to pick it up for me. Way to go, CVS! Side note: never got any notification whether it’s ready or not. 🤷🏻‍♀️. Clearly I need it! 🥰

Anyhoooo. Time for some “The Other Two” on HBO max. Who else watches this brilliant show?

9/14/21 Update

Wow, thank you for all of the responses to yesterday’s post. I guess this is the best platform to get out the word to family & friends, so alas, here I am again. Let’s just say this family won’t go hungry as mom and dad’s friends are providing dinner for us the rest of the week – thank you! And a few people have texted about what they can do, send, etc. I talked about it with my folks and we agreed upon:

  1. Soups – namely for mom, but dad and I’ll probably eat them too! Mom likes tomato bisque, squash/pumpkin, easy to swallow.
  2. Snack foods – for dad, me, and our caregivers
  3. fruits/veggies – always welcome for dad, me, and our caregivers
  4. Food we can eat for dinner – again, for the caregivers and us

Again, please do not feel like you have to send us anything. This is only for those of you who want to. If you don’t, it’s totally ok!

It feels totally weird to tell people what to do for us. But I figured I might as well be honest and take some of the meal prep burden off of us. The other thing I’ll mention is that it’s hard on me when people say, “Let me know what I can do.” It puts the ownership on me to come up with something. As I always say, “Just do.” I’m sure whatever you choose to do will be appreciated. And again, it’s ok if you don’t “do.” Everyone has a lot going on right now with Covid, return to school, Jewish holidays, etc so it’s ok not to “do.” You can send a plant, flowers, a card, a singing telegram. We don’t have any preference. We do enjoy chocolate too. Just saying 😛

Dad is reading your cards and emails to mom. I’m sharing regards that you pass along. Again, mom is requesting very adamantly that we have no visitors and she’s not up for phone calls. This is her choice, and we respect it. I am not making an decisions for her. I ask her what she wants, and she tells me firmly, and I follow what she wants.

People often refer to me as “the rock.” It’s a blessing and a curse, because I’m a very sensitive and emotional being. So I asked Ted to come here this weekend so I have my “rock.” I imagine I’ll be here in NJ for a while.

I’m working 1/2 days this week, which helps, and I’m listening to classical music while lighting nice smelling candles, so that’s how I’m taking care of myself.

This has been a surreal 3.5 years. It really has.

9/13/21 Update

I feel like I’m juggling an unlimited set of balls in the air right now. I’m in New Jersey, helping care for my mom and support my dad, while working remotely during the end of our fiscal year (for fundraisers of nonprofits, you get me here), and missing my husband, kids, and cats. Oh, and I did I mention that when the home health aide supervisor came over to bring us the paperwork, she had Covid but didn’t know it yet. Luckily she had on a mask and we’re vaxxed, but we had to get tested and wait for our results so we couldn’t leave the house. At 6am, this morning I received two emails that both read “negative” and I leaped out of bed to tell my dad the good news.

How do you factor in self care when caring for others? Thank goodness, I am good at knowing what I need to keep myself strong when others depend on me. I googled to see where the closest paint your own pottery place is here. There is one in my parent’s town so I may do that for a break one day. And I don’t have my beading with me – another de-stressor – so I will probably run over to JoAnns to get some crafty thing to do while I’m here. Maybe I’ll try Crochet? It’s hard because I am always looking for left-handed tutorials.

Mom has declined visitors and phone calls right now. Many people have been pushing to speak with her, but she keeps telling me no. As someone who never lets on that she’s in pain, I think she’s in pain and she’s very uncomfortable. Her insides are all twisted, and she has declined most food and drink. She’s “snapped out of it” before but I don’t know if that will happen this time. Everyone keeps asking me for reassurance so I have been not talking on the phone to anyone either because I just can’t be the optimist they want me to be. I can’t stand seeing her suffer like this. I’m turning off comments because this post is a place for me to express myself.

I was just talking to a member of the clergy who is a spiritual advisor for my mom (and me). She told me I’m so incredibly strong and I’m there for everyone. I told her I wish I could be doing more for my job right now – she said, “What, are you doing the work of 7 people now instead of 10?” I guess I’m not used to doing the work of one person. I’m used to being overworked and under appreciated. Here, in this job, I have one job and feel appreciated enough.

I’m grateful that Ted is holding down the fort back home. We have the kids this week, so he’s doing the dad thing and also taking care of our cats – Nermal and our newest addition, Louie! Plus there’s the whole new house, unpacking thing.

Oh, and I did I mention we had to cancel our wedding #2? There was one email that came to us that had some reference to the invited guest being disappointed because she had “so been looking forward to it” and for some reason, I felt so much anger towards this women I don’t even know. Gee, I’m sorry I ruined your plans. I’m sure she meant absolutely no harm but one’s anger comes out in mysterious ways. She doesn’t subscribe to this blog so don’t worry – it’s not you!

As a people pleaser, I’m used to trying to make everyone happy. Now, I’m focused on my folks, and with all do respect to the world at large, I can’t make everyone happy, so now I focus on my folks and leave it at that. Mom doesn’t want to talk to anyone and I need to respect that. I am sure there are people on the receiving end who are upset or pissed or wonder why they aren’t the exception. I even had to turn down my cousin and his daughter for a call because she said, “no.” So please don’t take it personally – it isn’t personal – it’s just her choice and I have to respect her wishes. My dad is very run down and its taking its toll on him too.

What help could we use?

  1. Understand if we don’t respond to calls or texts right away. It’s hard. Plus I’m working so I am trying to juggle caring for them and working. It is not personal.
  2. We’re happy to accept food but not visitors (covid). Making meals is a nuisance as I am not a fan of cooking and dad is tired. But do not feel you need to do this.
  3. Dad is slowly making phone calls so if you leave a message, he will get back to you.
  4. We are listening to the experts – the surgeons, oncologists, nurses, and other doctors – so while we appreciate your ideas, please understand that one person ultimately makes the decisions about her body – that is mom – and I’m not going to push her to do anything.

It’s so wonderful to know how loved my mom is. I am so grateful that at the end of her life, she is surrounded by so many wonderful people who love her so much. She is in ok spirits and told me she has no regrets, and has had a great life. She is so comforted by the fact that I’m married to such a wonderful man, that we have a new (very old) house, and two rambunctious ‘tweens that we adore. And Ken has a solid marriage and life with Masha, all good. We have plans for my dad, and he will be well taken care of in life.

So at this point my greatest wish is for mom to be comfortable. I’ll deal with my thoughts on Ovarian Cancer at a later date but let me tell you – fundraising for a hospital is more important to me than ever. Thanks for reading and for your prayers.

All the news that’s fit to blog.

It’s 8/24/21. Lots of life updates.

New Home:

We moved into our house a little over a week ago, and we’re settling in, very slowly. Our house is from 1870 so there isn’t a ton of storage space, so I’m frantically trying to find places for all of my shoes, bags, and clothes. I’ve already packed up a big bag to sell/donate but it barely made a dent! Ted is busy building furniture – desks for the kids and my home office, dressers, chairs, you name it. He purchased a lawn mower and power tools. It’s official – we’re a middle aged couple with a big old house.

Once we’re settled in, this will be a great house. It’s just overwhelming right now, but I am hopeful we’ll see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Interestingly, I went for a massage this morning, and I had to explain that all of the bruises on my body were from moving. The massage therapist said that it was good that I told her, or she would have had to have reported what she saw! I told her the culprit was two cats and many moving boxes!

Nermal and Louie:

We adopted a new kitten a few weeks before we moved, so we’re a household of 6 now. Nermal is as cranky as ever, and she puts up with Louie, though she’s pissed at the world, namely because she can’t go outside. She escaped for a few hours the day after we moved in, and eventually, we coaxed her out with the promise of treats and dinner. Louie is lively, loveable, and has very sharp claws, so I have scrapes and nicks all over my arms, legs, torso, face, you name it. But he is incredibly sweet and we’re happy to have him as part of our dysfunctional family.

Wedding:

We’re still having one in October so on top of everything else, we’re planning a wedding. Yep.

Mom & Dad are moving to MA:

My folks are working on packing and purging in prep for a move to an independent living facility in MA. It’s a lot on their plate but a relief for those of us who love and care for them. It will help out my dad, and we’ll move mom’s oncology care to the hospital where I work. It’s a Harvard teaching hospital so it’s full of very capable and highly intelligent physicians and colleagues (ahem…. 🙂 )

Stress:

Mine is pretty elevated these days (hence the massage). We took off last week to move and it was anything but relaxing. I admit I am desperate for a real vacation where I can sit and do nothing. But it’s not in the cards right now. So, I’m trying to plan some self care into my daily routine – massages, manicures, etc. If you have any ideas, let me know!

That’s all for now!

…With 2 Cats in the yard….

Our house is a very, very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy ’cause of you

– Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

Ah, paints a lovely picture, doesn’t it?

Let me tell you something. It’s not that easy! I have one adult cat who hisses at our little kitten every time she sees him! I told my mom that I can understand what it’s like to have two children, and feel a bit stressed when the second one came along!

At the same time, I’m trying to navigate a very challenging job, acclimate to being a wife and stepmother, and close on a house. There is other news going on but it’s not mine to share so I’ll leave it for another blog post.

Our new kitten Louie is wonderfully active but I will tell you that there are a lot of scratches all over my body! When I bring him to the vet, will need to trim those nails so I don’t have to buy out the Neosporin at the local CVS.

This is not the picture I’ve been painting on Facebook, now is it? The truth is that I am exhausted. I am also trying to keep my plants alive… Did I mention that?

But in all seriousness, once we get over this hump, I’m going to be settling in with my wonderful husband, very sweet step kids, and adorable cats into an old house that’s situated on the lake. I really can’t complain about that. I am so incredibly grateful to have such a wonderful caring husband that I love with all of my heart.

Oh did I mention that I’m also planning the wedding with him? Good thing we have a wonderful organized event planner!

Meet Louie!

That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…

I changed my last name. I took my husband’s last name at the age of 46. Why? I joke because I want to be “Italian” since his last name is Italian…well, Sicilian if you want to be technical. But, it is one of those things that just felt like it mattered to me. We discussed it way before we got engaged, and I had time to think about it, and I realized I wanted to take his last name, and keep my maiden name as my middle name. So, I dropped the “Lee.”

It’s not easy to change your name, but it is even harder to change your middle name. Here in Massachusetts, I have to petition the court to change my middle name. It wasn’t THAT hard to change my last name – just a lot of paperwork and money exchanged – but to change my middle name, I have to ask the local court. And, the local court is still closed due to Covid, so I have to figure all this stuff out via the interwebs and google and sending smoke signals. It is not easy.

And, I had no idea I had to do this until I went to get my new driver’s license and the unfriendly, snarky woman at the counter told me I had to petition the court. Go figure. Combined with the women who greeted me, declaring, “I told my daughter to never change her name because of a man,” I tried really hard not to question my decision.

So, my new social security card has my new name on it. But, it isn’t recognized by the state I live in, so the country I live in allows me to embrace my new initials “JRB,” but to MA, I’m still just old “JLB.” My old name is a distant memory. But wait? My new license has my full new name. I’m so confused.

It is the whole concept of rules for rule’s sake. We want a tiny portion of control over your freedom.

Let’s probe deeper beyond this superficial stuff, though. Imagine changing your name at 46? It’s been my identity my whole life. And then it’s just different. It feels like a bit of betrayal to my folks. Hey, I’ve been your daughter by name my whole life, but now, I belong to someone else. It’s a bit archaic, right? But the good news is that I made this decision (along with Ted). I could have kept my last name as it was, and left it at that. But, I wanted the same last name as Ted. It was a choice – barbaric or not – it was my choice.

Anyhow, I’ll keep you posted on how that visit to court goes!

3am thoughts

It’s been a minute since I last wrote. I’ve been so busy, and I often compose posts in my head, but haven’t gotten them in writing yet. It’s 3am and I didn’t take a sleeping pill so alas, I’m awake. Plus, I was trying to open the blinds for the cat & I stepped on a plug (unplugged), and now have 2 gashes in my foot. So much for those sandals this weekend! I covered them in bandaids & ointment so here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m exhausted – at least my body is – but my mind won’t stop going. Work, marriage, kids, mortgage, weddings, registries, commitments – all swirling. Pick a topic & it’s in my head. It’s not all bad, but just all consuming.

I am listening to a podcast about the Bachelorette. You’d think that would put me to sleep, eh?

Anyhow, gonna try to get some rest! Ciao!

Husband + Wife + kids + cat + house?

Ted and I are married! Even writing that still shocks me. I have a husband. Repeat, I have a husband. It is surreal and wonderful and blissful all at once.

Our wedding day this past Saturday wasn’t picture perfect like the movies. On the contrary, it was stressful, messy, and basically, real life. But the most important thing is that our loved ones were all together, including my folks, Ted’s folks, my brother, my sister-in-law, and the kids. The kids were very stressed and overtired so they acted up all weekend but they’ve settled down now. I’m working through some of my anger about the day and it not being all that I pictured, but when it comes down to it, I got to marry my best friend and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have ended up with such a wonderful man.

Yesterday, I saw a listing for a house that I just fell in love with, so I went to see it last night and we put in an offer – Ted hasn’t even seen it yet. I give him so much credit to bid on a property unseen. With that said, he will be going tonight to see it so it’ll give us a chance to ruminate together. It is not a perfect house, but it is charming and right on a pond, which immediately brought me back to my childhood on the Navesink River.

I will admit I’m likely running on fumes at this point. I’m not sleeping well because I have so many thoughts swirling in my head – my parent’s health, the kids, my marriage, buying a house, my job, the cat’s health (she is having teeth pulled next week). I am not happy with how I looked in my wedding photos – all I see is my weight gain during Covid and feel very unhappy with myself. The joy isn’t there right now. I feel torn in so many directions and therefore, just feel stress and little happiness. This is clearly my anxiety and depression masking things, but I’m working on the tools to help myself. I have therapy, a job coach, and am working on finding a social/therapy group for people in my stage of life.

I sometimes regret writing these type of posts because then people who read these worry about me. No need to worry. I will weather this storm and come out on top as per usual. I have a toolkit to help me through it. Let me give you some examples on how I tackle things for #selfcare.

  • My dear friend invited me to a girls’ weekend. I booked my flight. Then Ted’s mom said he should join me. Rather than infringing on my friend’s weekend, I cancelled the flight and booked a weekend in Newport for the two of us. My friend understands (I hope!).
  • The kids do not understand boundaries well but they do respond well to rules. The rule is: if our bedroom door is closed, you must knock. And if we say do not come in, they can’t come in. Sometimes Ted leaves the door open accidentally when I need a few minutes of space. I know I must close the door or the kids look at it as an invitation to come in. They are very loving and snuggly, so if I’m into that, I can leave the door open. If I need time to get ready for the day, I close the door.
  • I love working from home but I don’t like being alone all day. I’ll start my work day with a quick trip to Dunkin drive through for an iced coffee so I have interaction with other people, and it helps me ignite.
  • When I’m stressed, it helps me to write. Thus, I have this blog! But I do not always want a retort so I removed the comments on this post.
  • We have a big soaker tub in this rental. I have a big bottle of bath salts and sometimes in the evening, I’ll do “tub time.” These nights are critical on the weeks when we have the kids so I have a bit of alone time (which I need desperately as part of my mental health care).
  • Mom’s health is up and down, but she’s still my mom, and I can still turn to her for support. In fact, I believe this is actually good for both of us because she can still take care of her “baby” and I can still lean on my mom (hi, mom!).
  • I have an addictive personality – it’s been food, exercise, shopping, you name it. If I feel the urge to shop, I have a few coping strategies, including wandering through the aisles of the library (it works!), adding things to my online cart and then not pressing “order,” or giving myself $20 to spend at the Dollar Tree. It’s not a perfect system but it does help.

I am human, full of flaws, and do not need to be perfect, though that perfectionism creeps up at times. “Be kind to your mind,” right?

Countdown to nuptials: 3 days to go (well, technically 2 nights and 1 day)

Today, my therapist – who I’ve been seeing for years – said, “Joanna, you’re getting married! Take a moment to appreciate that!” It’s still sinking in.

One of the twins just called me and asked if we can do a rick roll at the “fake” wedding (the one in Oct). I told him I’d consider it for the reception. Sigh. 🙂

Today was a whirlwind. I worked during the day and then went out in the evening to get things for my unofficial bachelorette night with my friends from high school, along with some inexpensive vases to load up my parent’s place with flowers. TBH, I also have some penis straws. It’s a right of passage, right? #nojudgementplease

I am exhausted, physically and mentally, from the amount of stuff I’ve been juggling. Ted and I are going to have the kids this weekend and next week, so we won’t have any “married couple” time until next Friday night, so we’re planning to go out to dinner and then we have massages scheduled for Sunday at a spa near our apartment in MA. I am super excited for a stone massage!

I should tell you that simultaneously, I am also planning the October wedding, and my mom’s friends are hosting a shower for me in NJ in June. We’ll have a virtual component as well. How very Covid of us.

It was very sweet – one of my colleagues gave me a shout out on our team meeting today and my boss (technically my boss’s boss) was confused how I recently got a dress and am getting married so soon. I explained to him that it was wedding #1 and he told me that he, too, had 2 ceremonies because he had a commitment ceremony with his now husband before gay marriage was legal. I was very touched by that comment.

It’s getting late (almost 9pm!) so time to sign off for now!

Countdown to nuptials: 4 days!

Technically it’s the end of the day on Wednesday, so it’s really three days and an evening! I wanted to document this experience.

So here I am, 46 years old, and I’m getting married. If you would ask me five years ago if this day would come, I probably would have said “no to maybe.” When Ted and I started talking about what type of wedding we would want, long before we were actually engaged, I really had to start from scratch. I realize that I never really thought this would happen.

You know how there’s some moments in your life that you just can’t forget? I remember going to Venice, and talking to my roommate about how I realized in one of the most romantic towns in all of the world that I likely was never going to have children, and I didn’t know if I’d ever get married. I did say that I wanted to take a gondola ride for the love of my life. So I need to make that happen on my honeymoon!

I want to clarify about the no children thing since I’m about to be a stepmom. I made the decision not to have biological children because I didn’t want to pass on my depression and anxiety. This is not to say that I don’t love children and I’m not thrilled to have the twins in my life.

I have many thoughts to share about my love for Ted, but I will likely write them after the wedding because I shared some of my thoughts with our officiant. All I’ll say is I feel so fortunate to have met and will be marrying such a wonderful man, father, son, brother, and friend. ❤️

Nuptuals

So change of plans. Mom’s health has been a little bit wonky, with many ups and downs, So we decided to tie the knot this weekend! Ted and I will get officially married in my parent’s living room!

We will still have our celebratory wedding in October, and re-officiate, but we will technically already be married. So much to do. I will be taking the train on Wednesday, so I imagine I’ll have time to write them and fill all of you loyal readers in on the details. Until then, happy planning!

Blogging/What’s Going on in my Life

I’ve been toiling with a blogging dilemma. 93 people are following my updates, many who know me personally and/or professionally. I love that – don’t get me wrong – but when I need a cathartic writing experience, I’ve been hesitating to post things here because I don’t want to offend or overshare or whatever else I might get called out on. As a result, I don’t have a place to write these days that feels comfortable. I’ve been toying with starting a new anonymous blog or a password protected space, but for now, I’m writing here now but with one change – I’ve removed the comments section. It isn’t that I don’t want to hear from you but I prefer that to be a private exchange between me and my reader. There is a place to send me emails on the contact page.

Ok, now that the “business” is taken care of, here is an update on life.

It’s 4/21/21 today. On April 5th, we closed on the sale of my condo, and by then, Ted and I had moved into a temporary 2 bedroom apartment in the south shore area of MA. The kids are technically with us 50% of the time, though we have had them for 2 weeks now to take on some of the time that they were with their mom as a result of the fire at Ted’s previous home. I’m not going to sugar coat it – it is really hard. Not only are Ted and I adjusting to living together, but I’m now adjusting to being a future step parent and living with 2 12-year-olds who have a tremendous amount of anxiety. I have refrained from writing about this for privacy but I’m really struggling and need a place to work out my thoughts beyond therapy. I have reached out to a few group therapy locations to supplement my individual therapy, but I haven’t found anything. If you know of any virtual groups, please write to me privately with suggestions.

When I am dealing with an overabundance of stress, my body reacts physically. I experience terrible headaches, muscle tension, and hair loss. So far, I have gotten a steroid injection to assist with some hair loss, and Ted found a great hair catcher for our shower, but I think I need to focus on more vitamins and figure out how to help prevent this.

I haven’t slept through the night in weeks, months, years? I depend on high levels of caffeine to get through the days, and as a result, I crash hard by 4pm. Or, I’m hyped up on coffee and can’t sleep. My mind ruminates, and I find myself consoling myself with snacks or time with the cat.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve accomplished some amazing things during this time – like, I paid off all of my debt. All of it. My credit score jumped way up; I feel a huge sense of pride and relief to have achieved this milestone at the age of 46. Soon, my debt will increase when we buy a new car and house, but I will be able to keep those expenses at a minimum & within my budget.

I promised myself one splurge with my home sale earnings so last evening, my friend and I went to the Louis Vuitton store in Boston, and I purchased a gorgeous oversized handbag to use for work, travel, you name it. It’s still wrapped up in the box, as I’m debating if I want to do a video on my YouTube Channel. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to start using this wearable art!

I want to assure everyone (and Ted, who reads this) that I have no doubts about my relationship with Ted. He is my future. I am namely stressed about living with the kids, and it’s not the kids either. I truly believe I would be adjust to any kids. These two kids are good boys but they need more support, and we’re working on it. I just have to make sure I create support for myself concurrently.

There are a lot of other stressors but I’ll save those for another time.

Boulder, CO

Last night I put on the news -something I rarely do these days because it is so depressing – and saw that there was a shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, CO. My nephew lives there, so I texted my brother and asked him to check in with him. He doesn’t live on that side of Boulder so he doesn’t do his grocery shopping there. He was fine. But what about those people who weren’t? A young woman who was managing the front of the store lost her life. She’s been working there, likely through Covid, and then was murdered by a senseless shooting. I just can’t wrap my brain around it. It reminds me of the hatred in this world and, without any information about the shooter, it makes me think we need to do more for mental health as well. Same song, different dance. You can’t even go into a supermarket now and feel safe. It’s crazy. I don’t have much more to write about this, but just needed to get these thoughts out.

Ouch

Everything hurts. Seriously, I must have some of the biggest knots in my muscles. Ted was working out the knots while I screamed into the pillow. Now that’s love. While I was driving home, I was afraid I was going to nod off. Stress!

Tomorrow we head to IKEA to get new beds for us & the kids. I was always planning to sell mine since it’s bulky, so we’re going to switch to a king. The kids need everything – toothpaste, brushes, deodorant, etc. We have received an outpouring of support from friends & family, and the boys’ mom’s friends & family are also sending gift cards so we’ll be able to replace the kids’ books, legos, etc. As avid readers, they go through books quickly so rebuilding their library is essential.

Ted and I had a nice Italian dinner tonight, outside, with fire pits to keep us warm. It was nice. I think we’ll enjoy this place as it’s right down the street from our new apartment. I really like the apartment. For 1100 sq feet, it feels spacious yet cozy. Each bedroom has a bathroom and I think the twins will like their space. Of course I’m most stressed about where I’ll put all of my stuff but we’ll sort it out.

Ted’s upstairs and I’m on the couch, writing. I was so fidgety. I can’t seem to settle down at night. My brain won’t stop thinking and unwind for the evening. Same thing with my body.

It’ll get better soon.

Exhaustion & Oversharing

Exhaustion

The exhaustion has kicked in. We’re still waking up in the middle of the night as I imagine both of our brains are still going, going, going. My muscles feel like they’re still moving when I lay down to sleep. My leg muscles are hard as a rock likely from stress and sitting all day working. They tremble like I’m walking, but I am laying down. It’s such a weird feeling to not be able to stop thinking or moving. I know it is temporary, though, which helps. Once we get through the next few weeks, things should settle in a bit. We’ll move out of our condo and into our apartment. See, I said “our.” Working on the whole “our” “we” thing.

I will be working from home through July, so it’s helpful to be able to throw in a load of laundry or clean out the dishwasher on a break. TBH, the condo is a hot mess right now, as we are using it as a place to air out some of Ted’s books and I’m also in the middle of packing it up. The mortgage contingency is tomorrow so that is a BIG day. My attorney hasn’t alerted me to any concerns so I am very hopeful my condo sale will go through and we will close on April 5th. Moving day is April 3rd.

Oversharing

When I was in NJ, mom made a comment about my life being an “open book.” I’ve been writing journals and diaries off and on since 3rd grade when my dad bought me a Cabbage Patch Kid journal on a business trip. I still have all of my journals, including my semester in Rome and year in London when I made a commitment to write every single day. Those were private books and private thoughts, though I have read some of them aloud to various people over the years. About 10 or so years ago, I started writing the older version of this blog, SingleSassy.com, which then became Gratitudeis.net, and finally, it’s current iteration which I felt encompassed all aspects of my life.

When mom was diagnosed with cancer nearly 3 years ago, I encouraged family and friends to read this blog for updates as responding to all of the emails, texts, and FB posts was getting exhausting (seeing a trend here!). Many of you subscribed, and 3 years later, you’re still reading. As a result, many of our friends and family are still following along on my journey. I’m flattered that you care enough or are interested enough in reading after all of this time. Writing is my catharsis, and clearly, has been since I was 8 or 9 years old. But now I grapple with the whole public/private thing. I look at it this way – this is my place to share my thoughts, fears, desires, hopes, and plans. I have carte blanche to write whatever I want about myself. When I am writing about others, I try to be responsible and respectful. If it is something really personal, I ask permission first.

My point is that my intention is not to overshare or be an “open book,” but rather, this serves as my diary or a tracking of my life. Someday, I want to write a book. I have a lot of things to say (clearly) and now I have a record of my thoughts.

I actually do not want to overshare. There is usually a reason I write what I write here or on social media. I don’t write haphazardly. For example, I posted an article on Facebook about Ted’s fire simply so his friends (and mine) would know. It wasn’t meant to exploit or seek attention. It was merely informational.

Anyhow, time to get back to work!

Day #1 of the rest of our lives

So, Ted and I live together. Done.

Last night around 4:30am I couldn’t sleep so I went downstairs to surf the web and listen to a podcast. I texted Ted an article and then I heard him walking down the stairs. He was wide awake too. I think our overloaded brains got the best of us both. So, we spent the next hour talking through stuff.

I got a tiny sense of what it’s like to live with Ted. Basically, I don’t have to be alone with my thoughts anymore. I can talk them out with him. It’s pretty amazing. I had plans for drinks tonight and then a board meeting. I had to say no to both. I’m wiped out. I’ll have dinner with Ted and then, hopefully, I’ll pass out.

I’m not happy with how it happened, but I’m happy it happened. In a few weeks we’ll move into our new home and start fresh. Then we buy a house, get married, and literally live happily ever after.

I’m good with that!

24 hours

Ted and I usually speak on the phone each night around 9pm, after the kids are asleep and we’re getting ready for bed. We can often hear the other brushing our teeth or gargling water. We say “goodnight, sleep well, and I love you.” In the morning I usually wake up to some sort of “good morning” text since he is an early riser.

This morning I set my alarm for 9:30am so I could get a full night’s rest without the “snoring or cat walking on me at 2am” as I said to Ted. Instead I awoke to my phone ringing just before 9am. I thought it was one of the bridal shops calling to confirm today’s appointments as I am in NJ visiting my folks to go dress shopping.

It wasn’t. It was Ted. I saw the missed call and immediately dialed his number, glancing at my phone which had a flurry of mixed calls and texts from Ted & one of the kids.

Ted told me there was a fire in his apartment last night. In fact, he texted me around 3:30am to mention the upstairs neighbor’s dogs were running around barking. The next text came an hour later asking me to call him when I woke up.

The kids and Ted – and his neighbor & the dogs – all got out before the fire spread. Ted’s place mostly has water damage but we don’t know yet to what extent. He was able to get a few things and he’s now at my condo, which is now our condo.

Fortunately there are a few 2 bedroom apartments available at my new complex so we’re switching to one of those. Ted and I are officially living together. We wish it wasn’t on these terms. But I’m happy I can provide a roof over his head.

Mom, dad, and I still went wedding dress shopping, and I said “yes to a dress!” It’s very pretty and I feel good in it. We purchased it at The Curvy Bride in Manalapan, NJ. That place was amazing! Gorgeous gowns, wonderful staff, and the owner was amazing – a kindred spirit.

Lots of changes in 24 hours. What have I learned? When you love someone, you take on their stresses. My heart hurts for Ted and the kids, but I will work hard to help replace items, and salvage what we can. Those three are book lovers so we will need to work on rebuilding their library. We’ll get Ted new clothes. We’ll replace their legos. Most importantly, they’re going to be ok. ❤️

Ups, ups, and some downs

Today was one of those days that really played upon my emotions. I had some good experiences, like a phone call with a friend and dinner with Ted. I dropped off my bankers checks for the deposit for my new home… As temporary as it may be, and I have a chance to meet the staff who manage the complex where I’m moving. They were a very nice group that said I can come by and visit anytime when I’m feeling lonely working from home! But they were pockets of shitty as well, if I may be so bold.

Without getting into the weeds, I will just say that the gossip mill hit me today, and it reminded me of six grade, when one of the mean girls in my class would decide to gang up on one person each day. I guess today was my day. I have low tolerance for any of that these days. I think once my mom got sick and I met Ted, my perspective on life really changed. I try not to sweat the small stuff the way I used to. I worked really hard to develop a thicker skin, but it’s tough when you’re a sensitive soul. I tend to feel very betrayed when I hear that I may be talked about behind my back. It is my Achilles’ heel… Achilles back? 🙂

Anyhow, I don’t wanna give it any more energy. I’ve vented about it to my mom and Ted, and that should be enough. I will admit that I did get home from dinner and ransacked my disarray of a linen closet for my anti-anxiety pills. I don’t take them very often, but I did decide that I needed to take one tonight to help me get a good nights sleep and not ruminate about things that I really don’t have any control over. What I do have control over is my ability to let it go. Cue the Disney music right now.

So, I said my peace, and now I get to focus on the positive. my new apartment is less than 10 minutes away from Ted’s apartment! People keep asking me why I don’t just move in with Ted. He needs to stay in his apartment because the kids go to school in that town, but he cannot have any pets. So I am moving close to him into a place that allows pets. It will be nice to be nearby! It takes us one step closer to being married. Tonight we looked at our wedding list, which I want to remind everyone is going to be rather small. We are hopeful that will be able to invite guests beyond our immediate family and close friends.

My apartment closing is April 5, and the mortgage contingency for the buyer is March 12, so that is the big day for me to determine if everything is going to go through. We started looking at some houses last weekend just to get a sense of what is out there. A lot more properties are coming on the market now, which is promising. That’s pretty much it for today’s update. I’m heading to New Jersey on Saturday to see my parents for the first time since September, and mom and I will be going to look at wedding dresses on Sunday! Very exciting!

Sidenote: if you notice a lot of typos in my posts, I’m realizing that I’m using a new iPad and I need to retrain it to understand my voice. I usually speak into the iPad to get these thoughts out, so I might miss some of the typos.