Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Beginnings

When you are young, you make decisions without thinking about the future, that you hope you never regret, and that your parents advise against.

Please tell me I'm not alone; that I'm not the only one. Not up for a confession? It's OK - I know you were there too.

If you've read any of this blog in the past seventeen months, you know that this time frame has been a long, and often hard personal journey. I've shared pieces of it with you:  anniversaries, special occasions, being my own pest control, and dipping my toes and perhaps a foot into the dating world. There are things I haven't shared, some posts in draft form, like crying in a bubble bath, and things that just sit in my head. 

For eighteen months, I've been working on me. Yes, eighteen, as one of the last arguments I had with Ghon was about this topic. I had no idea who I was anymore.  At 19 years old, I started dating Ghon. Ghon needed constant attention and I was willing to provide. My experiences dating prior were limited, and here, finally, was a guy who gave me attention back. I was hooked. It took him about a month to tell me he loved me. It took me two more to repeat it. From that point on, my world revolved around him. Until we had kids. At that point, my world was infinitely tied to Ghon and the kids. So much, that I could only be defined in ways that involved them. I had no idea who I was anymore.  I mentioned much about this in a previous post.

I can't entirely remember what I liked to do or what I did before kids. That was nine years ago! I can't remember what Ghon and I did for fun when we dated. That was over twenty years ago! At 19, I can hardly say I knew really who I was. Married at 23, I can barely say I knew who I was. I never really found out.

What I do remember, is that slowly, I adopted his plans, his dreams, supported his goals. I had few goals over the last 22 years. Some I did achieve, some I longed for and died off in pursuit of Ghon's goals, some, just fizzled off.  I never really knew what I wanted out of life. As a psych major understanding Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, this is an issue! I will never reach self-actualization if I don't know what I want!

Ghon told me eons ago, that his plan was to retire in Rapid City, SD and he didn't care if I came along or not, that's where he was going to live. Well, I loved him, so I went along with it. That changed of course when we bought the farmhouse. Death in the Shenandoah Valley became the new plan. We'd argued about the house, I think he deep down knew that farm and country life is not what I wanted. I admitted that too - it was not. But being with him was what I wanted. Seeing him excited, made me happy, and that while yes, living in a big old farmhouse was never my dream, as I had few, it did become one to an extent. There were aspects of the house I loved and couldn't wait execute in the remodel and live with.

While I've had 17 months to start working on me, the first 12 or so were mainly an adjustment to life as a widow and single parent. I made some small changes, but really, the work has really begun in the last 4-5 months. I've recognized that I've had some significant losses in my life, but the 3 biggest losses have had the biggest impact on who I am and who I am becoming. There is still work to do. But I've made amazing progress.

My first attempt at a relationship and developing a friendship during my work deployment have been two immensely helpful experiences in my growth. Both reminded me that it's OK to be comfortable and confident in who I am. That I need not follow the path I did at 19, and forget about who I am to suit the needs and desires of someone else. My opinions matter, my thoughts matter, and if they don't mesh with yours it's OK.  I want to learn about the opinions, thoughts, hobbies, activities and well EVERYTHING about people not only because I am genuinely interested in a person, but it helps ME know what I like, don't like or might want to try.  I had this same epiphany in the aforementioned post. I have nothing to prove to anyone at this point in my life. I am who I am and while much will stay the same, I will continue to evolve. As I reflect now, a month after my deployment, I'm pretty darn happy that I didn't compromise me at all.  There were definitely times I pushed myself WAY out of my comfort zone so I could experience more, but that's where growth occurs, right? They were things I wanted to do, but was afraid to do. Six months or two years ago, they were things I never would have done out of fear, no matter how much I would have wanted to do them. Being true to yourself is the shit. 

In the long run, this philosophy of being me, having nothing to prove and being confident may help me earn the respect, trust, and love of a man who is confident enough with his own self to not be intimidated by me. Or, it could seal my fate and I'll be single forever. 

Dear Lord, let there be a man out there strong enough to handle me and care for me. And let him not only exist, but let us find each other. And if we are found but to dense to know it or afraid to admit it - knock some sense into us? Amen!

Deployment also made me realize just how much I long for the city. I made brief mention of this in a post almost a year ago. Visiting Baltimore or DC energizes me. I was so excited this summer to tour New York City for the first time. I couldn’t wait to go back. I did for a day trip a week later, and want to go back again. I haven't had my fill.  Walking around downtown Reno in casual conversation with a co-worker, with no real direction, looping block after block, taking in the city and enough time to get to know each other where we moved from coworkers to friends, was a perfect evening. Yet it was as sat in my room one night in my pajamas, feet propped up on the window, watching the cars on the interstate and lights of the neighboring casinos that I realized just how much I missed the city, or at least a good sized suburb. Another friend, hearing me talk about my time in Carson City, told me "You realized again that you were a city girl didn't you?"  Well damn. I certainly did.  And before I probably even put it together, the next message came. "It's not who you are [farm girl]. I think someone is finding herself."

Reminds me of when I stayed at my sister-in-law's house. Since it is so quiet where I live in Winchester, she forewarned me of car noise at night, thinking it would keep me up.  I slept like a log that night - the noise was the same I had outside my bedroom window growing up.

As I've been reflecting on this, and drafting this post, I found it quite ironic that Facebook provided this memory.

No, the city never left me. I left it. Not to say it's all been bad, and I haven't learned a lot being in a less than urban environment. It's just not me.

Also ironic as I've been trying slowly to convince the kids that we should rehome our chickens and turn the coop into a massive playhouse! What?! 

I've also come to terms with another aspect of my life or should I say, death, as it relates to my location. Death in the Shenandoah Valley is not my plan.  I do not want to live my entire life in Winchester nor will I be the third Mrs./Ms. Eckley to die in this farmhouse. Some of you may need to pick your chin up and recover from shock. Yes, there are things about this house that I will miss. But they are things. I have some memories, but the memories that were supposed to be made here were not mine alone. I like having space and privacy, I like hearing the creek and tree frogs, and I love the stars at night. But I'd love a place where the kids can play with friends outside, where playdates don't have to be scheduled and they can actually learn and be successful at riding a bike. As for the creek and frogs - I have an app to cover that. 

Let me make it clear. Yes, I plan to leave the farmhouse.

So where am I going to go? Today, I have no idea. But I'm already working on figuring that out. While part of me says "ohhh New York City!", the rest of me, the majority of me knows I need someplace warmer. I'm always cold. I need a warmer climate. I need sunshine. Above even a trip into a city, the number 1 thing that brings me instant energy and makes me feel, well, whole, is the sun. When I go out to walk (something else I can't do at my house easily), I will often close my eyes and face the sun. Sounds a little weird perhaps, but I can feel the sun's energy and warmth travel through me, re-energizing me. I need warmth. It's not quite the same, but perhaps the same principle when talking energy transfer, that a good strong hug can give you. 

I have a list of cities and states that are acceptable to me temperature wise, and have started some cross referencing to cost of living and crime rates. A little more work to do there, and I'll start factoring in likelihood of natural disasters (side effect of my job and desire to not be near any of it!). Then, the fun will begin as I plan trips to get a feeling for all the locations to narrow the list even more. I survived a move from Maryland to Virginia when I never thought I'd leave Maryland. I got this now. 

Now what does any of this have to do with decisions I made when I was young? Whether I knowingly did or not, I sacrificed who I was and what I thought I wanted to be for the approval, affection, and comfort of others. Beyond that, I at times, sacrificed my happiness for the happiness of others. Today, seeing people I care about be happy or contributing to that happiness continues to make me happy - but it is not going to replace the happy I'll get doing my own thing. And yes, quite often my own thing may be doing stuff to make other people happy. But there's a difference now.

Want me to do something I don't want to so you can be happy - no, that won't make me happy. Remember, I control my happy. You will not make me sad. You will not make me happy. It's my choice on how I respond to your actions. Sure, the things someone might do for me might "make me" happy - but it's because I chose to find joy in those things. [Note: next time I get sad about someone or something, can someone remind me about this happy choice? I'm still working on the sad thing. I'm much better about being happy. Thanks!]

It's not like the life I led didn't work for me or that it was all bad.  I really do try to learn from all of my experiences, at least now. But being my age and not really knowing what you want out of life and living "alone" for the first time in your adult life - that was and occasionally is a little scary. I'm not in my 20s, but in some ways, feel like I'm living part of those years over, the way they should have been. Well, except I have kids. I've seen myself approach new experiences with an almost child-like sense of wonder and amusement. I've had at least one person tell me that I'm like a kid, and I own it (I even mentioned it once!). There are parts of the world that I'm experiencing for the first time or the first time through my own eyes and open mind. It's been interesting and exhilarating to say the least. 

I have a bucket list. I have a start on a country life exit plan. I continue to control my happy.  I am continuing to take care of myself, living the life I want, and learning every single day. I continue to raise my kids to be healthy in mind and body, kind and caring, and knowing how important it is to do what makes them happy, and not what anyone else, me included, tells them should make them happy. 

With every end, there is a new beginning. As with every death; an end - there is life; a beginning. It's been a long time coming. As I died a wife, I was reborn a widow. Both will always be part of me. But I'm proud of my new beginning and am excited to see how far I continue to grow as Kim/Kimmy/Mom. 

[If you are super observant...you'll also notice a change here on the blog. kudos to you if you did notice. It's another new beginning, that I'll be tweaking a bit in the future.]

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


When I applied for a position with FEMA in 2016, I had to acknowledge that at any time, I could be deployed to a different location to support the FEMA mission. Typically, this would be a disaster location, or an office location close to a disaster. Not a problem; Ghon was about to become a stay at home Dad, and if I ever had to go, I could.  I would eventually interview for two different positions, and have an offer pending when Ghon died. A few weeks later, a counter off came. The next day, an offer came for the second position I interviewed for, just four days before his death.

Obviously, I accepted a position, but was pretty worried about needing to ever deploy. Although FEMA responds to many different types of events and disasters, hurricane season is typically the busiest time of year for my department, and heaviest in need of deployable assets. Assets meaning bodies. I had to leave the kids behind for two weeks (but home on the weekend) for orientation and it wasn’t until the end of the 2016 hurricane season that I’d joined. Extremely low deployment chance.

Likewise, with the work I do, the opportunity or need for me to deploy is small. I didn’t have a lot to worry about, and therefore, I didn’t.

Until Hurricane Harvey hit.

A very generic request was sent to likely everyone in FEMA – can you deploy for 30 days to assist with recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey. Like a grade school love note, I had to choose yes, or no. After a quick chat with division leadership, I chose no. Some friends and coworkers said yes. Within a week, they were off to training then off to Houston.

Then Hurricane Irma hit. I was a wreck, worrying about friends and family living in Florida in her path. I volunteered to answer phone calls, taking registrations for assistance from disaster survivors. I worked close to sixty hours a week, supporting the recovery mission however I could. I supported those in my division working even longer hours by bringing in snacks – keeping everyone well fed and heavily carbed up!

I had been long prepping the kids that at some point, Mom may have to go help. It was my job, and just like we do with anyone, anywhere, we help people. We talked about the hurricanes and what survivors were dealing with and how we were lucky to have the things we did. We talked about what would happen if Mom had to leave.

Despite the initial feeling of NO, I can’t deploy, I slowly felt otherwise. I had to go. I felt called and compelled to go. When a request came for people with a certification I hold to volunteer to potentially deploy, I added my name to the list. I reached out to several people, looking for an opportunity to deploy. It’s hard to explain, but I knew I needed to go. I wanted a deployment experience and despite anxiety in leaving the kids behind, I just knew I needed to go help.

Friday, September 13, I received an email. It was time – could I complete a deployment in Carson City, Nevada. Say what? Things weren’t necessarily slowing down in Texas, but more people were going to or already in Florida. I thought for sure I was headed to the Sunshine State. But no, Nevada. I was going to help hurricane survivors from Nevada. I responded that I could go and a few hours later, a phone call confirmed my availability and scheduling. I was to get on a plane to Nevada on Sunday and report to my temporary duty station on Monday.

I’m a planner, and knowing that I could be deployed and was actively trying, I’d been doing lots of prep work. I had stocked the freezer full of food the kids would eat: chicken fingers and nuggets, fish sticks, waffles. I made 14 meals of tacos, taco soup, spaghetti, chicken alfredo and put them in the freezer. I loaded their meal accounts for school breakfasts and lunches. I secured a sitter and a host of friends to play support and back-up roles. I shared everyone’s phone numbers. I grabbed as much as I could for the kids’ joint birthday party with our friend that I was about to miss, and offered up my house as planned.

Sunday afternoon, I was on my way to the airport for my first deployment. Just two days after the phone call. That’s how it works – we are called and we go. Nearly twelve hours later, I was in my hotel in Lake Tahoe. Six hours later, I was at my job site.

Thirty days later, I have completed my deployment and am on the airplane home. (But by the time I'm publishing this...it's more like 38ish...)

I’m not going to tell you all about the work I did in Carson City. I will tell you that despite some challenges, not mine or mine alone, that there is some good coming about in Carson. A new call center was stood up with little notice, hiring done, training completed and there are now more people providing disaster survivors connections to the help they need. Whether it be taking registration calls for help, answering calls about cases, or completing reviews of cases, the team in Nevada is doing it. And I amazingly was a part of it.

Deployment for me was a wonderful experience. I know not everyone has the same experience had, nor are they all good. The work I was there to do and the location were much different than many people are accustomed to. You would never see me in any picture on the news about recovery efforts or the perceived lack thereof.  I wanted a deployment so I could help and so I could learn. In the end, I do feel like I helped. It may have a few degrees of separation from my tasks to impact on a survivor, but I can find that connection. The things I learned and the contacts I made added so much to the experience.

In no particular order, these are the things that will stay with me after this deployment.

1.      I learned more about my function and use of my certification. I was able to put to use a certification that I spent many hours training for and haven’t been able to use day-to-day at my regular position. It was because of this certification that I was sent to Carson City, and although the need for that role requires a longer term assignment than I could give, I learned a bit about the functions and from people in similar positions. I was also blessed to have someone I could call a mentor that was not afraid to teach me things. Sandy was encouraging and supportive and I couldn’t have asked for a better Contracting Officer to learn from.

2.      What it feels like to be valued. My first few days, things were slow. Not for the center itself, but there was a bit of transition still, people needed to figure out who I was and why I was there and I needed to understand the requirements of my position. Once my section chief figured out my abilities and willingness to learn, I was given a variety of tasks. There were times I identified a problem and ran with it, making it my personal mission to help create a solution. And when I say run with it, I marched myself all around the office and requested meetings, set up agendas and plans to not just present an issue – but to suggest and get people talking about solutions and taking action. I was thanked often for the work I did, much above and beyond my position. It’s just what I do, but it was great to feel appreciated and respected.

3.      Always do the right thing. Of course, I knew this going in and try to always do the right thing anyway. But my commitment to doing the right thing helped co-workers know who they were dealing with. I stood up for those being mistreated. I didn’t tolerate disrespect, and when processes were not being followed that could ultimately impact me and my position, I let it be known that it was not going to happen that way. Sitting in a room full of men and telling them all that I was there for two more weeks and during my time they were going to things the right way, as I said, and they just had to deal with it – was empowering. Not just because I pushed an issue; but because they recognized that I was not a pushover, I knew what I was talking about, and I earned respect. But that moment also began a campaign to keep me longer than a standard 30 day deployment.

4.      I needed a break. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and I missed my kids. I talked to them almost every single day – I think we only missed 3 days. But being away was a mom-cation. I didn’t have to make my bed, I didn’t have to cook. I took short breaks during the work day just to walk around outside and feel the sun. I still made time to exercise, I explored new places on my day off or in an hour in the evening. I spent a majority of the first two weeks to myself. It was good for me to push myself out of my comfort zone in many ways and help continue to discover what I like to do, who I am, and what I want from life. If you know me well enough, you know I’m always on the go. This was a chance for me to slow down a tiny bit, despite the hectic and long days and still trying to do a lot while I was there. OK, maybe I didn’t slow down. The one night I didn’t have plans or anything to do I went stir crazy. But I otherwise filled my down time with things I wanted to do, with things I wanted to see, and people I wanted to be with. I listened to live music - from hip-hop to blues, saw fireworks, took hikes, danced, ate food I haven’t had in ages, tried many new foods, shopped for me and others, watched the sun rise and set, exercised, read, colored, shared a bottle of wine with a new friend, took my first Uber ride, lost a little and won a little money playing roulette, had a lesson in craps, got a tattoo, and stared at the city lights. In short, I had fun. Even when I was working, I had fun. A lot of fun. All of this also reinforced the fact that I miss city life.

5.      The people. The people I met and those I got to know will always stay with me. Many of the people I met there work deployments regularly. Some hadn’t been home in months, some for over a year. Some would be there a short time like me, some knew they’d be extended. Others were pulled from our location to go support new disaster locations. I now know a variety of people with different skill sets that came together from locations across the country to work toward a common goal. Some will certainly stick with me more than others. Saying goodbye was harder than I imagined it would be. I suppose I left an impression on them, and they on me. I did become close to one person there, something I never expected. We walked, we talked, we shared meals, drinks, stories of our past and hopes for our futures. I know I will miss him the most for sure, and already do. 

I've heard a lot of stories about deployments. Some people love to deploy, others do not. Seems a bit like a rite of passage. Although my deployment was somewhat atypical, created a little havoc at home for the kids and may have made things a little crazy for those taking care of the kids, I am thankful for the experience. I learned a lot about FEMA and my position, the continued resiliency of my kids, the generosity of my friends for helping take care of the kids, how to have fun again, how to make new friends, and how to just be me.

Who would have thought? Hurricanes in Texas and Florida would put me in Nevada to further find myself. Was that what the calling I felt was for - momcation? Meeting new people and creating new relationships? Was it to fill that professional need? These are questions I can't answer. Whatever the reason, I am glad it happened.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

On Dating

…Until death do us part

The vow we made almost 17 years before his death. As quick as the filing of the death certificate, I’m now single for the first time in 21 years.

While married, we’d discussed remarriage in the event we ever split up, or more often, if one of us died. Are we the only ones that talked about these things?

Ghon often said he’d never remarry. He’d been married once, twice, and if I were to leave or die, I couldn’t be replaced. He wouldn’t do it again. I argued that he would, and it’d be relatively quickly. He’d never been without a girlfriend/fiancé/wife for more than, well, maybe 36-48 hours since his first divorce. Even before his marriage, he jumped from one girl to another, sometimes admittedly, he had multiple girlfriends.

I always said I’d never remarry. My opinion was been there done that, especially if we’d ever divorce. Why go through that all over again? I could see myself being set in my ways. Ghon would of course tell me I would, and more importantly, should. He didn’t think I should be alone. He even named a mutual friend of ours that he would approve of me marrying!

The first thing Jonathan asked me after I told him that yes, his Daddy died (Genevieve told him first!), was if I was going to get remarried. I remember thinking, “WHOAH!” I told him I really didn’t think so, but what did he think about it. His response was yes, because he didn’t have a dad. Then he quickly changed his mind, because he didn’t want my name to change.

At my first primary care visit following Ghon’s death, about four months after, my doctor made the connection between the death of one of his patients (Ghon) and me. We talked for a few moments about what happened, then why I was there, then near the end of my exam, he asked if I was going to get remarried! Slow down, Doc! I couldn’t believe he’d ask that – then tell me I should. How about you let me process what’s happened? How about you let me get through this first year? How about you let me figure out who the hell I am without Ghon, however long that takes, before we talk dating, OK?

After I got my memorial tattoo with Ghon’s ashes, and later a second tattoo that has many elements in memory of Ghon, including the pattern of his wedding band, I was told that the tattoos sealed the deal that I’d never remarry. I was taken aback and perhaps even offended. Certainly, I wasn’t entertaining the idea of dating. I’m not thinking about marriage. But I couldn’t fathom why having my relationship memorialized would prevent me from dating or marriage.

It wasn’t long after this conversation that Jonathan slammed me with it again, but this time, Genevieve was there to encourage him. He asked me again about dating, and told me I should because I need an adult to talk to.

Another primary care doctor visit and after checking in on any health concerns, he asks if I’m dating. When I said no, he told me I was a young attractive woman and I should go find a man. But not one in Winchester, look out toward Northern VA so I didn’t find a redneck. I guess he didn’t know Ghon that well, and that a well-visit really checks on all well-being.

There have been iterations of this post, or at least parts of it, in the making for months. I have countless notes, half written posts, or short quips about interactions I've had with people since Ghon died about the potential for me to date. It’s interesting to see how time changes perspective.

In the last few months, I've noticed something I'm not sure I ever thought would happen. Different times, different places, different situations and different tactics employed. If it has happened in the past, I can't say I've noticed until now. Men were paying attention and showing interest in me. Am I acting differently? Has the unspoken period of 'respect the widow' been lifted? This is just, well, weird. And maybe a little exciting.

After a while, I did start to think about dating. Over the last 14 months there have been times the idea absolutely terrified me, nauseated me and overwhelmed me. Recently however, there have been times that I wish I did have a date once and a while. Someone to go out with me when I want to dress up or feel particularly pretty or confident.

I’ve had mixed reactions from friends regarding me and dating. They vary from "you are awesome, go date, find someone to love and appreciate you!" to "no one will want to date/marry you" (yes, really) to "oh, (insert dramatic pause) you aren't thinking about dating already are you?"  Let me tell ya, I've had all those thoughts myself, but never at the same time I hear them from friends and acquaintances. 

Yes, I am awesome, and I don't need a man to tell me that. But it's pretty nice to hear. It would be nice to have someone, an adult someone, to talk about my day with. To just kick back and relax with. Someone that appreciates me for me.

And yes, no one will want to date me because, well, I'm becoming more and more independent. I don't need a man to open jars or carry heavy things. No one will want to date me because my kids keep me so busy, I'm almost always unavailable. While I’m independent, I do also think I can be a touch needy, and who is going to want that? No one will want to date me because they won’t know I want to date because I don't go out to meet guys that need dates. (Go ahead and read that again if you need to.) I don't have single friends and I'm not going out alone. It's a vicious cycle and as an over-thinker, I will over think every scenario.

Have I already started to think about dating? Yes. Yes I have. If you think I should spend the rest of my life alone purely because my husband died, well, you can stop reading my blog. Am I looking to replace him? Find someone like him? No. There is no replacement, there is no one just like him. How do I know I'm ready? I tested the water and felt no guilt.

Few people know that I have actually spent a lot of time talking to and occasionally hanging out with one person. The best part of our relationship is just what Jonathan said; it’s great to have an adult to talk to. (Maybe I should just take all my dating advice from him?) He encourages me to keep figuring out what I like, what I want, and basically who I am. He challenges my way of thinking, introduces me to new things, and isn’t afraid to hear my point of view. We share our experiences, fears, and maybe a few plans and dreams for the future. He compliments me, helps me (whether I admit I need help or not), and does little things that mean a lot. There is a lot we have in common; and many things we don’t.  

Despite this, if you shook the magic 8 ball and asked about our future, it would probably come back with “try again later.” Most days, a romantic relationship doesn’t seem to be always be in the cards for us, timing often working against us, and that is OK. We gave dating in a more traditional sense a try for a very short time (I think it holds the record for my shortest relationship ever – talk about an ego killer at the time), but it just didn’t work. Regardless of any future potential for more, the main thing is that I still have an incredible friend in my life who isn’t afraid to hear me talk about Ghon, thinks I should date lots of guys until I find one as amazing as me, and vows to run off any losers I do try to date in the future. If we are both old and single, we have laid out some basic retirement plans together.

I can't really imagine him not being part of my world right now. I wouldn't trade his friendship in for anything. It was due to our friendship that I even began to see the possibility of loving someone else again. And because I know he reads my blog, and will understand this – 🌟🌞, I JUST love you. Thank you for being you and tolerating me.

Now let me back up and note that I’m not soliciting marriage proposals here. I still don’t know if I ever actually want to be married again. I would however, like to find someone that I can share my limited free time with. The kids and myself will always come first. But sometimes, I just need adult interaction and well, I’d like it to be a guy. This is also not a solicitation for sex. M’kay? Sometimes a girl just wants to be in a man’s company and maybe get some cuddles.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, as I’ve continued to learn more about who I am and what I want as a single parent, single woman, and though I don’t like to admit it, a middle-aged single woman, I want someone to do stuff with. Someone that shares some of the same interests as me. Someone that may not like what I want to do,  but is still willing to go somewhere with me because I want to – and would ask me to go with them to someplace maybe I would not be regularly into. Why? Because we enjoy not just the company, but the company of each other. I’d like more of that encouragement, support, thought-provoking conversation, and someone to share my day with and in time, maybe someone to grow old with. I don’t want to be a third wheel, I don’t want to be a pity invite, and I don’t want to be a crazy old cat lady when I get older. I don’t need to be anyone’s top priority; but a priority would be nice.  Balance.  I crave balance.

I mentioned before the book about moving from we to me. It suggested I identify what I want in a future partner and after a few quick thoughts, I came to two conclusions. He either did not exist, or, he was going to have some other serious issues, like being a serial killer or something if he wasn’t already married.  Back to the drawing board.

Qualifications for dating me:

1.     You must like kids. My kids are a little crazy, a lot of fun, and are my world. They had a dad; you don’t have to be him. You will never be him. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be a role model, play Xbox, play catch, watch their sporting events, maybe watch them when they are sick, and support and guide them as they grow. If you’re in it for the long haul – you have to appreciate and respect them, as I’d expect them to do for you. Not only must you like my kids, you will need to respect my relationship with my biggest kid, my stepson. Our relationship did not die when his father did; if anything, we grew closer. If you thought your days of seeking a father’s approval for dating a girl were over, think again. He’s not my father, but I seek and respect his opinions. He is one of my trusted guides as I consider dating.

2.     Honesty and respect are key for me. Do not lie to me. Do not lie by omission. If you do, there is no trust. No trust means no future. I’ve had my trust violated in the past, so bear with me as I learn to trust again. Respect me, my feelings, my opinions, and my decisions. Respect that I’ve been married and I will talk about my deceased husband. Respect my time. If you regularly can’t keep commitments, I am not likely the girl for you. I enjoy spontaneity, and can do some things on a whim, but life with kids means I schedule, a lot. If I’m making time for you, it’s more disruptive to cancel plans that it can be to make them.

3.     Like music. Like live music. Go see shows with me, on any scale.

4.     Have a life; but appreciate sharing it with me. If there is something I want to do different in a relationship, it’s being comfortable doing my own thing, having a partner that is comfortable doing their own thing, and doing many more things together. You are probably going to be close to my age – so I hope you have your own interests and hobbies. I don’t want to change you or them, nor do I want to change me or mine. I want my life to be enhanced, enriched, and more fulfilling as a result of a relationship.

5.     Make me laugh.

I have several well-meaning friends tell me that I deserve someone great and fabulous, that I have so much to offer, I’m a great person, never settle. It makes me wonder then why haven’t I found someone to spend even a little of my time with.

I also know that I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to meeting people.

I’m not into hanging out at bars, and certainly wouldn’t go alone. I’m not asking any of my married friends to go hang out at a bar on a Friday night with me. One, it’s that third-wheel thing again, and two, I could care less about drinking. I think I’m approachable, but then again, maybe I’m not. Once I know you, I’ll talk your ear off. Until then, I’m not the best at starting conversations with strangers, even in a professional/networking environment. The whole idea makes me uncomfortable. I don’t go out much, because, again, I don’t have anyone to go out with.

And no, at least not at this point in time, am I not interested in any online dating sites.

I’ve come to realize unless a guy is a single parent with a kid in the same extracurricular activities as my kids or potentially at work; I’m never going to meet him. Unless I already have and just don’t know it. As much as I’d like to find someone to do stuff with, I also find the idea of dating a little exhausting.  I’m not looking for potential blind dates out of this post, or a bunch of “hey you should meet my brother/cousin/friend” either. I’m a firm believer in when the timing is right, and the person is right, even if right for a period of time, our paths will cross. Until then, I'll be working, mom-ing, and listening to my music. And maybe shopping for a red dress

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


I am a woman;
filled with childlike naivety,
red, purple, blue and black. 

I am a mother and caregiver;
a protector,
rarely a risk taker.

I am a friend;
shy and awkward at first,
loud, loyal, and slightly obnoxious ‘til the end.

I am a giver;
a reluctant taker,
providing what I can, when I can, when I want.

I am a manager of things;
a list maker,
a planner planning more spontaneity. 

I am a widow;
an emotional person,
searching for me in a world of we.

I am a musicophile;
listening on repeat,
finding life, meaning, and purpose in someone else's words and a wicked beat.

I am a loner;
valuing time to myself, for myself,
struggling with being alone.

I am a fighter;
standing up for what I believe in,
defending those that deserve it.

I am a believer;
in God, karma, attraction, the innate good in others,
in myself.

I am the sea goat;
practical, responsible, independent,
stubborn, and often fearful.

I am not cookie cutter;
uniquely defined,
constantly evolving my shape.

I am strong;
I am awesome;
I am fierce;
I am enough;
I am me, undefined.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Control of My Happy

The last two weeks have been pretty exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting.

Fretting over the possible sighting of a grey hair and a long faded home dye job, I contemplated coloring my hair. Coloring requires upkeep. Upkeep requires time and money. As with most people, when I have one, I don’t always have excess of the other.

The fun began with a sassy new demi-permanent dye job. Red, copper and a little purple. I wanted something different, something fun, but not entirely outrageous for work. I mean, I already push boundaries wearing leggings and black lipstick, I didn’t want to come in with unicorn hair. Since it is demi-permanent and already fading, I have my next appointment set in five weeks. We’ll see what direction the color goes; I leave a lot up to my stylist.

Two days later, I was off to the Total Package Tour that I mentioned in an earlier post. BoyzIIMen, Paula Abdul, NKOTB. What a great show with a great friend. Followed by the car adventure the next day.

That's me touching Donnie Wahlberg!
Hello, Jordan Knight!

Four days after the concert, after nearly three months of searching, I bought a car! I did a lot of research and had a few friends also help with the research and provide advice. Test drove cars on two days, negotiated then purchased on the third. This is huge for me. Thanks to the employee pricing benefit Ghon had while working at Carmax, we did buy a couple vehicles that we didn’t necessarily need. Like my Yukon. At one point, we had 2 drivers in the house and 5 vehicles. His truck, his Le Mans, my Camry, my Yukon, and an old Corolla that he used to commute in while Linda was abroad at school. Otherwise, and thereafter, we ran cars to the ground. To go shopping for a car when my KIA was still in decent shape was not the norm for me. But, I’d already put a ton of miles on it the two years we owned it, it was worth less than I owed and the kids and I really did need something bigger. I traded it in, gave a hefty down payment, and am now the owner of a 2016 Honda CRV.  It’s a little different for me to now have sole (well, joint considering banks) ownership of, or maybe sole indebtedness, of a car and a mortgage. Just me, myself, and I. Who’s a big kid now?

Meet Diana! (As in Diana Prince)

I could have spent more time car shopping, but the next family adventure was at hand. Vacation! Road trip!!

Saturday, July 1, the kids and I set off on our first vacation. Last summer, we did a 1 day, 2 night trip to Rehobeth Beach but otherwise, no vacation. I took them to Reno in October, so I guess that counts too, but when the kids think vacation, they think summer. We packed late Friday and a little Saturday morning. Typical for my packing, I over packed my clothes, just to be sure I had plenty of options. I packed the kids bag just right, allowing one extra “just in case” outfit. When I loaded the car Saturday morning, I was somewhat impressed. One bag for me. One bag for both of them. One collapsible cooler bag for food and drinks for the ride. A tote with enough snacks to last the entire trip (and it did!). And another small bag for all my tablet, charging cords, and maps. Each kid had one small backpack of their car stuff.  If I’d had the KIA still, the back would have been full. I had room to spare! Lots of room!  Something was very different about this trip. Very different; and I’m not talking cargo space or Ghon.

Ready to go!

I was taking the kids to New York City and Boston. I didn’t make a packing list. I didn’t have a hard itinerary, aside from our tickets to see the Statue of Liberty. I make lists. I plan. This time; I had mental notes, a transit app on my phone and goals. Goals that were not all met. To an extent, I gave up control again and tried to go with the flow. We left Saturday morning, maybe half an hour later than I’d liked, but I had no steadfast plans for that evening that required specific timing. Get to the hotel, get into the city, go to Coney Island. Eat dinner at Nathan’s, walk the Brooklyn Bridge, ride the Wonder Wheel. Two of these things did not happen, and it was still a good night. We had a safe drive to our hotel. I fretted over getting into the city since we stayed in Secaucus, NJ. I looked at three transit maps, and couldn’t believe that once I made it to the Port Authority Bus terminal, it would take over 90 minutes to get to Coney Island. I felt fear creeping in over me about taking the NYC Subway. I can drive in Baltimore. I Metro through DC. Suddenly, I felt less like a city girl and more like a country bumpkin. Intimidated by the thought. Maybe it would be easier to just stay at the hotel that night. No. No, no, no. This was Coney Island night. Not a hard plan, but the best day to accomplish these wish list sights. We threw our sneakers on and left.

The bus ride was OK. We ate cupcakes from Carlos’ Bakery. I found the Subway. It took me FOREVER to get three subway passes. Found the right platform. Track work. Change trains. Nearly two hours after we left the hotel, we made it to Brooklyn. We ate our hot dogs. We did not walk the bridge, we did not ride the Wonder Wheel because it was closed. We did walk around the boardwalk and eat gelato. We did make it safely back to the hotel. It was a good evening.

For the majority of our time in New York, we made use of one of the hop on – hop off tour buses. Again, for Sunday, very little agenda. We hopped on and off, visited many locations, and to keep happy kids, worked in a pizza lunch – and eventually a pizza dinner, a trip to Dylan’s Candy Bar, M&Ms World, and we took a horse and carriage ride around part of Central Park. Monday, we saw a few more sights from the bus, then visited the Statue of Liberty. I bought tickets in advance and we had access to the pedestal, which was pretty awesome. Quick stop at Ellis Island, back to the bus, to Manhattan, eat more pizza, to the hotel for our car and we were off to our friend’s house in New Hampshire!

Grant's Tomb

July 4, we attended the Amherst, NH parade and watched our friends Hazel and John ride in the bicycle parade! After some down time at their house, moms and kids headed to Boston. Melissa and I both carried backpacks with us that day and once we attempted to enter the esplanade, found out that no backpacks were allowed! Next adventure – find a bag we could take in! We walked around the gardens, just missed a swan boat ride, bought some souvenir bags then ate at the bar/restaurant where the TV Show Cheers was filmed. Back to the esplanade and we worked our way in and watched the Boston Pops! Now this didn’t mean a ton to the kids, but for me, this was pretty cool. Especially when I found out there were additional live performances by Melissa Etheredge, Leslie Odom, Jr, and Andy Grammar! Very cool!! Following the show we switched spots and watched fireworks!
Me and Melissa
Jonathan, Genevieve, Hazel and John

The crew in Boston!

Andy Grammer and the Boston Pops!

My favorite things include chocolate, live music and fireworks. I was with friends, eating chocolate ice cream during a concert that was followed by fireworks. It was a great night.

July 5th was the long ride home. Quick stops for bathroom breaks and gas and we made great time. I did so well with the packing for this trip, despite no plan or list, that I had everything unloaded, put away, and laundry done in the first hour we were home! Not only that, I repacked the kids who were leaving the next morning to go camping with my dad for 4 days!

Insert a couple days of work and cleaning the house up, purging more stuff, a trip to a salt cave for a little relaxation, and a visit from a friend on Saturday afternoon. That night, off to Baltimore to stay with my best friend Melissa. The next day, it was a girls trip back to New York with her daughter Rylee and my friend Amanda to see Kinky Boots on Broadway. Brendon Urie from Panic! At the Disco, one of my favorite bands, was starring in the show for a limited run, so we went to see the show while he was performing. The show was phenomenal! Following the show, we hung out by the stage door and was able to get autographs and photos of many of the cast members, including all the leads. THIS INCLUDES BRENDON URIE! (Insert ultimate fangirling here.)  A great day with friends. Only downside, was not getting home til almost 2am!!

Me, Melissa, Amanda

If only....
J. Harrison Ghee - Lola

OMFG BRENDON URIE!!! - Charlie Price

Self explanatory - See that B? BRENDON URIE!!

The euphoria of getting that close to BRENDON URIE and driving through the city with the top down. :)
I thought briefly about this, and Facebook of course gave me a reminder, that this time last year, I was three weeks out from losing Ghon. Existing in complete fog. Barely functioning and not knowing how to accomplish much of anything. A year later, I feel like I’m living. New hair. New car. Two concerts with 7 different performers. A Broadway show. Two trips to New York City and a trip to Boston. All of this, much of it with two kids, in just barely over two weeks. Sure, I might be a little tired. But I’m having a great time.

There is one thing that is a guarantee in life: you will die. Yep. No denying it. You will not always know when it’s coming. You may have a long time. You may not. The people you love, whether by choice or death,  may not be with you forever. You may be the one left behind. It’s that control thing again – you cannot always control when you die. Likewise, there is no timetable for when a grieving person should live again, or not be sad, or not be angry. By living my life, I AM moving on. It’s what you should do. You meaning everyone, not just those in a grief situation. Some people think that’s a bad thing. Hogwash. You are alive. Be alive. Insert a million ways to say it; eat dessert first! Live each day/moment like it’s your last. Make a bucket list and do it!

While we can’t control death, what you and I can control is our emotion and reaction. I navigate a world of emotions on a regular basis. I chose which ones I allow to take hold. Occasionally there are some I don’t care for some that breakthrough for a bit. I give them their moment, as they are here for a reason, acknowledge the feeling, and if it’s one I’m not comfortable with, I change it. During a conversation with Melissa (NY trip not Boston trip, LOL), when I was running through a myriad of emotions and confusion, her words to me were “I just want you to be happy.”

Happy. Yep. I deserve that. My kids deserve that. You, reader that is still here with me, you deserve to be happy. Happy isn’t forgetting my past or being specific, Ghon. Forgetting him would be the opposite. Happy, is acknowledging and remembering the good times we had. Happy is moving on and living my life as it exists now and as I chose to make it.  Happy is thinking of all the things I want to see and do, and learn about myself and others and doing them. Happy is not letting negativity rule my world. Happy is saying F-off to naysayers and doing what I want to do for a change. I’m a big girl now. Happy is seeing my kids have experiences that I didn’t have or didn’t think they would have. Happy is getting a break once and a while from them; but not too long because my house gets too quiet and I get into weird non-happy emotional places and miss them. Happy is knowing that I like a noisier house. Happy is having friends stop by and help kick the silence out. Happy is having friends to chicken-sit for you so you can live outside the house. Happy is going to New York City. Happy is knowing I will be going back; happier would be knowing when! Happy is feeling the sun on my face. Happy is having friends that care, dark chocolate, live music and seeing fireworks. Happy will be getting more than 4 hours of sleep tonight.

While it’s fun and even necessary to give up a little control and learn to roll with the punches once and a while, like having no plans in the city or ditching your backpack so you can make Bostonians feel better, I will always maintain some control. Control over my happy.

With that, I leave you with a request and a question. If you are part of my happy or contribute to my happy, please keep it that way. And tell me, what makes you happy? I want you to be happy too. Comment below!!

BTW - Blog comments on the blog post also make me happy. So do it!