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61 Hours

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A weekend get-away, one that has been in the works for 15 years. My dear friend, who I met with my 6 week old newborn in my arms, and I have been planning a girl’s weekend forever. Each year we have found a reason to cancel…”Oh, let’s go…wait- I’ve got soccer for one of the kids…Oh wait, that’s my husband’s trip to Seattle….Let’s try again next year.” It’s been postponed long enough and so this year- we bit the bullet. I bought plane tickets and she booked a hotel and we headed off to Vermont.

At first I thought- wow- 72 hours away- an entire weekend. In fact- I left my house at 7:15am Friday morning and was due to arrive back at my home by 8:15pm on Sunday night. A mere, 61 hours, but boy were we going to make the most of it. (and of that time we would only spend 51 1/2 hours together)

She met me at the small New England airport just outside of security- we embraced and we were off and running. She had packed a cooler of goodies- hummus, carrots, yogurt, pretzels. We ate lunch as we drove up and talked as if we’d seen each other the day before. My friend and I have talked on the phone at least once a week (if not more) for the past 15+ years. We have laughed and cried and taken each other through life’s trials and tribulations but in person we’ve seen each other less than 20 times. It’s incredible how our friendship sustains us both.

See back when we met, in a small New England new mommy group- she had a baby with food allergies (took a while to diagnose him) and I had a baby with seizures. We were the moms with the “extra baggage” and although we did make some other friends in the group- there was something to be said for “getting it” when we had a medical crisis that other moms just didn’t understand. That bond has never broken as we have been challenged with medical issues and diagnoses throughout the years. This trip was going to cement our friendship into the next part of our lives and it surely did.

We arrived in Woodstock, Vermont at around 3pm and checked into our quaint hotel. Two lovely four poster queen sized beds, a lovely view of the wintery river out the back and access to all of downtown just steps from our door. We quickly settled in and got our walking shoes on and we walked all around the area. Past beautiful old New England churches, covered bridges, babbling brooks, and adorable shops. We walked around for quite a while and the sun began to come out and the afternoon sky looked lovely. We decided it was time to venture to Quechee, Vermont (pronounced kwee-chee).

Quechee, Vermont is just about a 13 minute drive from Woodstock and it has one of the most beautiful Gorges I have ever seen. It’s the last weekend of March in Vermont so there is still snow on the ground and the ice melt is starting. The Quechee Trail was covered in ice but that didn’t stop us. Two middle-aged gals walking in nothing but sneakers ventured up the steps to the icy walk. We hugged the edge, grabbed onto the chain link fence and off we went. Thankfully it was a warmish day so we were able to dig into some of the ice, and other times it was every woman for herself. We laughed so hard at times, we giggled and I’ll spare my friend the hysterical photos of her looking as if she was ice skating down the middle of the path. We made it down to view an incredible waterfall over the dam. It was an icy path of fun memories.

Once in Quechee, you have to visit the Simon Pearce flagship store. You can witness glass blowing demonstrations- actually- it’s just where they work. The artisans make the glass with a viewing area that you can watch. It’s their job, they are making the glassware that is upstairs for purchase and it’s mesmerizing to watch. It was just about sunset then and we ventured outside to take pictures of the covered bridge and the waterfall just by the store which was formerly a mill. It was beautiful. We still couldn’t believe we were there, together, visiting. We could have been in Antartica in a tent and we would have been equally happy- our friendship is what we traveled for- the scenery was just a bonus.

We walked around a bit and then drove back to Woodstock where we had dinner at Bentley’s- we are glad we did as it’s closing this April after being open since 1976. We sat inside the quaint bar/pub style restaurant and ordered artisan salads. They were delicious and we ended our meal with Irish whiskey in hot apple cider. It warmed our souls, our spirits and we are both lightweights as we do not drink often so we were giggly “girls” by the time we left the bar (and we only had one!). We had parked our car at the Shire so we walked back and laughed and just had a lovely end to a perfect day.

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Saturday morning, I was up at 4am. I’m not sure why, well I do. I have a teenager whose cycle I am synced with, so when she has PMS- poof 24 hrs later (in my state of peri-menopause) I get my period. So at 4am, away from home- kaboom. Oh well, since I was up and my girlfriend was still snoozing peacefully- I found a way to not wake her up. Crack the bathroom door open with the light on, sit in the open closet and read my book I had brought. So for three hours I read and it was glorious- even on the floor of the hotel closet just outside it’s bathroom. I was in heaven.

After we both got up and got ready to go we were off to the “Skinny Pancake” a Vermont Creperie. It was so good. I had the Ultimate Vegetarian Gluten Free Crepe. It was so good and had just enough Vermont cheddar cheese to make my soul sing. We ate, we drank really good coffee and we just sat and talked for gosh- at least 2 hours. It was awesome. After our amazing breakfast we decided it was time to drive to Barnard, VT. where my husband’s grandfather had built a house.

Upon arrival to Gill’s road, a long dirt road, we drove as far as we could. We had discovered the night before that the house was up for sale again (my husband’s family sold it about a decade ago). At the bottom of the long driveway was a realtor’s sign and then about a 2-3 foot snowpack. It was a hike from here. We both, still only in sneakers (next time pack boots for VT regardless of the time of year), hiked up the slippery, snowy driveway. At the top we overlooked horse pastures, hundreds of acres and the original contemporary house built by John’s grandfather back in the ’60’s. It really hadn’t changed a bit. I recall coming up when we were dating, sitting in front of the huge stone fireplace and feeling so warm and in love. I remember playing in the snow like a kid with my husband when we were in our late 20’s. I remember this area so well. John even got my engagement ring made by N.T. Ferro’s, the local Woodstock jeweler.

We walked around the property, took photos for nostalgia and carefully hiked back down. On our way out of Gill’s road we stopped at the Windward Cemetery (the house was called Windward) and I paid respects to my mother-in-law’s parents who are buried there. It was bittersweet. The house is for sale for far more than any of us could afford but it would be so wonderful to have it back in the family again, but that is what memories are for- remembering and being able to cherish all the time we did have there.

On the way back to Woodstock we stopped at the Barnard General Store and popped in to check it out. I was able to grab a few painted postcards of the store to send to my in-laws and spoke to the woman at the counter, thanking her for the flags that were at the Windward Cemetery- she knew just who to thank for them so it was nice to at least acknowledge that people were caring for a Veteran’s grave. I know it meant a lot to John that I found out who took care of it for them, the American Legion volunteers in the area. We grabbed some blueberries while there and headed back to the hotel and dried off and proceeded to have an oatmeal lunch. Native New Englanders- we knew how to have fun but also conserve our spending money. Those blueberries and oatmeal were delicious!

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The rest of the day we walked around town, went into all the shops that we’d walked by on Friday and we just wandered. It was so great to have a weekend with no expectations, no agenda, no required activities. We simply went where we wanted to, walked a ton (we are both looking to get more active, fit and healthy) and talked the entire time. Once we got back to the hotel in the evening we did some yoga to relax and just hung out. We ventured out a while later in the dark and drove to the Green Mountain Horse Association where my girlfriend had shown horses as a teen. It was fun that we both had memories in the area. We saw the horse rings and the barns and saw some old haunts she’d been too. We landed at the Worthy Kitchen for dinner- an eclectic dinner place with signature cocktails. We clinked glasses, ordered some delicious food and wandered back to our hotel.

Sunday we rose to a home-made oatmeal breakfast and we packed up to head home. We stopped this time on the way back at the Simon Pearce Outlet store in Windsor, Vermont and that is where we purchased some gifts. I got John some Vermont whisky stones and a Whisky glass. It’s our 18th Anniversary this year and I thought it would make a great gift. We saw amazing glass blowing artisans and enjoyed watching them make glass blown trees. It was beautiful. We had plenty of time to get to the airport in Connecticut that I was flying out of so we opted to ditch the highway and go the back roads and how lucky we were. We stopped at the Putney diner and had salads and chatted some more. Our adventure was almost over.

We arrived at Bradley International Airport (a tiny airport) and I was thru Security and waving to my friend in no time flat. It was 4:30pm and my flight was due to leave at 6:30pm. Time to read for me. Little did I know I’d be at the airport til 10:30pm. United never alerted it’s passengers to any delays. Folks were raring to get on board when they realized in fact there was no plane in the jetway. The ticker above the gate (with no humans in sight) flashed “delayed, 7:48pm departure.” Not bad I suppose so I read some more and people watched. Soon after it changed to 10:31pm and we all checked our United app which still stated we were leaving on time at 6:30pm. Until you checked “flight status” did you begin to see that the plane to take us to Chicago was in fact still in Chicago- fuel and mechanical issues. Eventually we found out they had to get a brand new plane and after having dinner at the airport and doing some last minute “shopping” we were off. I landed after midnight and came home and walked into the house at 1am.

I was greeted by my daughter shouting from upstairs “Welcome home MOM! I have a bloody nose…” And that is how my adventure ended. What a great trip away with a friend and what a snap back into reality when I arrived back into the house. No matter what- I’ll have memories to last a life time and a friend who I will cherish more now than ever before.

And in the end my 61 hours door to door trip turned into a 66 hour door to door trip with my flight delay. It’s amazing how much we got done in such a short time.

 

 

 

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Getting Away

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Time for yourself is important. I’ve been waiting for 15 years to go on this girl’s weekend. My friend, who I met in new mom/baby group and I have said “Oh let’s get away for a weekend” for 15 years now. This year, 2019- we are doing it and I can’t even believe it’s happening. In fact, I’m getting on a plane in about 3 1/2 hrs. I haven’t even showered yet. I got up, had breakfast, and am sipping on coffee and I decided, I have to write and so here I am.

I used to write every single day and since I stopped my part time job in November I really have only written sporadically. I think that’s so sad and wrong for the reasons that I stopped. I felt no value if I wasn’t “working” but the reality is I wasn’t even working that much but society at large felt much better about me when I was “working.”

For years my fellow female friends and male friends and just people in general will ask me, “So what do you do for work?” I will stumble and try and answer but really? For five long years I homeschooled my kids and if that isn’t work then “whatever” is what I will tell people. But in 2017 (fall) the kids returned to school and it took about a 6 month transition before I felt I could start working and then I did. And when I did- folks started treating me differently, as if I was more valuable. Like “Oh great- you must feel so much better now that you are working,” and “Doesn’t it make you feel good to contribute?”

I now take issue with that. I do work hard every single day. I am taxi, and chauffer to 3 kids and so many activities that I cannot even count. I am at heart a writer and I have 3 books in the works and if I can get out of this writers block, I’d be writing for hours each day. I also do all the house hold stuff and cook dinner ever night. Not to say that full time working folks don’t do the same, but I can assure you that a lot of the folks I know have a cleaning service, or get take-out more than we do, or somehow compensate for the fact they are gone working all day long. And that is OK but don’t value me less than them. Just stop doing it, ok?

I haven’t told everyone that I am no longer working and when I do I get “oh sorry, I hope you find something soon,” and “wow you must be so bored!” BORED- no I am not bored. I am up daily at 5:45am and then get the first kid off to school at 6:35am, then the second off at 7:25 am and the third at 7:55am. The taxi begins again at 2:35pm and goes often til 5pm depending on the kid. That’s what you get when you don’t live on the bus route. I suppose if I worked full time I could hire a bus, but that’s not in our budget right now.

What I can tell you is that I need some “me time” and I haven’t wanted to spend the money on myself because well, I am NOT working. But as I write this as it had been intended to be a “girl’s weekend” post, I realize that in fact- I am worthy of going away because I work damn hard.

I volunteer hours that most people work. I volunteer for Scouts and do their Advancement as well as website, facebook, and about 8 other administrative jobs within the organization. I also volunteer to help fundraising for the local high school and jr. high as well. I am doing some sort of volunteer job daily. I even found a great organization I just discovered this week where I think I can squeeze in one morning a week.

I think I have to rethink my “working” situation. I’m fortunate enough that I can opt to volunteer and I think that is what I will do. I will write as I really need to finish these books I’m writing. I will blog, it’s what I do and I will volunteer and I will stop telling myself that I “don’t work” because that is what others tell me.

So this weekend, this 72 hrs where I’ll be gone (actually it’s only 59 hours I will be physically gone from the house) I am going to enjoy my well deserved break. I’m going to connect with a friend who I have talked to more than I have seen in my life. And most importantly I’m going to have FUN! I plan to “putz” (drive and wander and pop into places and shop and eat and drive some more) and talk with my gal-pal and just remember that as women, our jobs as mothers, and caregivers, and workers in and out of the house are equally important. My friend works and she doesn’t think less of me and I have to remind myself to get everyone else out of my head.

So I’m getting away and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it!

What do I want to be when I grow up?

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I’m 46 years old. I should know what I want to be when I grow up but lately I’ve been waking up not knowing. I went to college later in life- at age 29 I graduated- and I got a degree in Anthropology and African American Studies. To be honest at the time- I went back to school I was simply looking to get a Batchelor’s degree and fast. I had an Associates degree and knew that if I had a 4 year degree I could get a better paying job. I had intended to go back and get a Masters of Education after a few years of working but husband and kids- that didn’t pan out.

I don’t regret going to college but I regret rushing through it. I had gone to Community College when I was only 15 1/2- I quit high school due to extended absences from illness and since they would not matriculate me- I was not doing 9th grade for 3rd time. I had missed over 50 days of school Freshman year and again in Sophomore year (Pneumonias and bronchitis plagued me). So I left and went to the local Community College where they happily took my parents money in exchange for me attending and I loved it. I just essentially used it to “finish highschool” so when I went to a 4 year school 10 years later-I had NO clue what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I knew I had limited funds and had to pay myself so I asked the registrar “What can I get done in 18 months? for the lowest cost…” and that is how I ended up with my major/minor. I loved the education, I loved the learning but in the end I graduated doing the same exact desk job I did before. I just worked at the college I had attended vs locally and because of that and the commute into the city I actually ended up getting paid less. I had to use my “extra money” to pay for commuter rail passes and expensive city lunches. I went to college and honestly got no benefit except that I met my husband while I was there.

I didn’t have internet at home- this was back in the dark ages- 1998/1999 and I didn’t have a huge dating pool of guys from my small town in Massachusetts so I put an online dating ad one day while I was at work, on lunch. I would happily arrive 10 min early to work to check my messages and in the 1998-1999 school year I dated 45 people. Dated is sort of the word for it. I had 45 blind dates, of which about 6 were more than one date. But on June 5, 1999 I went on my last blind date and #45 is who I am now married to and I am grateful for that.

I graduated in 1999 and began working as an Admin for one of the Deans of the college. It was a rewarding job and fun but it was boring after about a year. I was far too skilled to continue doing the job but on paper had no real skills to do anything else. Sure, I could go back to school and get my Masters but who could afford that? Not me. So I focused on myself and went to work like a drone. My husband and I got married and began having kids and I put school and work on the back burner. My husband made enough money to support us and we talked and I really wanted to be the day to day person raising our kids and since they had medical issues after they were born it was decided. I would stay home.

I stayed home until 2010 when I began working part time at the kids school. I was so passionate because I had truly wanted to be a teacher. I was looking forward to it and realized with a 4-year degree I could pass the MTELS and teach while I got a Masters Degree in Education. I was hooked. But my plans were derailed when we discovered our youngest son was allergic to the school building and the mold found within it. It was not bad enough for them to do any real remediation but it was bad enough that my son couldn’t enter the building and thus I began my 5+ year journey homeschooling our 3 children. I became a teacher, just not the way I had planned.

So that “teaching job” ended about 18 months ago as my kids decided to go back to school. Meanwhile we’ve moved a few times- Watertown, MA, Wellesley, MA, Littleton, MA, Shirley, MA, Seattle, WA, Somerset, MA, and now we are in Palatine, IL. We’ve been busy. Job changes and we’d move. That is all over a 20 year span mind you but still- it was a lot of moving. I had a part time job for a bit and now I’m stuck with “What do I want to be when I grow up?” again. I really don’t know.

I love to write and have written a book,  Continue to Live and Flourish, a Guide to Surviving it AllI really enjoyed writing it but it hasn’t done superbly well. I self-published it and it’s a personal accounting of my life and although it’s a good representation of who I am, it’s not going to be a show-stopper in terms of sales. I have in the works a YA fiction novel based on my life but taken back quite a few years. It’s full of family drama, a teenager who is depressed and suicidal and about how she makes a friend and he helps her realize her worth and she seeks therapy and gets better and her life becomes whole again. That is really my story except I haven’t found that “thing” yet that I want to do with my life. Unless it is writing in which case I’m doing “my thing” right now.

As much as I have been a successful student, wife, mother and “teacher”, I feel like I am a failure because I don’t do anything right now that people can put their hands on and say “Wow- you did that!?” Maybe I don’t need that sort of recognition but I feel a bit empty not having an answer for “What do you do for work? Now that your kids are back to school and all.” What do you say to that?

While I figure all of that out I can assure you that I have a good life. To be honest, I do not know how folks work full time and raise their kids. No judgement, I just can’t fathom it. I am up in the morning at 5:45am 6 days a week. I rise-get coffee and begin packing lunches, fixing breakfasts and driving 3 kids to school at 3 different times. Thankfully this year I’m involved in a carpool so some days I only have to drive twice! That’s just mornings, afternoons- forget about it- I should just don a taxi hat. I am in the car some days from 2:30pm to 5pm non stop back and forth to the house- and occasionally 20 min waiting for someone outside a violin lesson. And that doesn’t include the evening activities which thankfully we have reduced to 2 nights a week and occasionally more- most of the “more” is me attending Booster meetings and PTA meetings and Scout meetings. I’m tired and I do not have a full time job.

What I’d love to do is feel fulfilled. I want to feel like my “job” is good enough and maybe that is just a “me talking” thing vs. how the world views me. I know plenty of people that think it’s enough that I am attempting to be an author and a writer and that I have a family and a husband who travels and that I have to maintain the household or we’d all die without paid help. Maybe that is enough. Heck if you had to hire a driver/nanny to take the kids hither and fro you’d be broke by days end. John goes to work at 7am and his home by 6pm- he’d never be able to do any of the carting around. Maybe what I do is enough and I can stop here, but somewhere deep inside I know there is more.

Do I go back to school at 46 and get that Masters? But now in what? Teaching has changed so much I’m not sure I want to do that. Social Work? Therapist? I don’t know. All I know is I still have time to figure it out. And why not? Hopes and dreams have no age limit. Wanting a full life is a dream we should all have and strive for. For now- I’ll go and get my writers hat on and try to figure out how my 2 main characters figure out middle school and high school. I have to make it relevant to today so I am using some of the kids stories of their experiences to make it more realistic to today. Back in 1980’s when I was in both middle and high school there were no cell phones, no social media and none of the tech we have today. Makes me glad I went to school then to be honest.

So for now, I’ll leave you to figure out “What I want to be when I grow up.”

Everyone gets sick and Mom still has to power through it….

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Winter (weather wise vs actual winter) colds and flus are the worst. This year my oldest, Quinn, will now be known as ‘Patient Zero.” Quinn fell ill with cough and fever a few weeks before Thanksgiving but it got really bad the Sunday before so we went to the walk-in and he got antibiotics and was well by Thanksgiving day. Sadly he passed his germs to his Dad who is still hacking, who during the night literally hacked and spit on my face (he was asleep so I can forgive him) and then I got it and then of course Mommy loving on 2 younger kids -and POOF- the whole family is down with this bug.

Coughing, hacking, and fever. The school district we are in gives you off Thanksgiving week for K-8th grade so my kids were off and due to the cold coming the Sunday after Thanksgiving they missed all last week. Pediatrician wouldn’t give them antibiotics even though the rest of us were on them. I simply had to call my doctor as she knew darn well that Mom doesn’t get a day off and I had no way to care for them and come in. She listened to me hack and I was on the road to wellness. At our 2nd pediatrician appointment for last week the doc agreed to give them antibiotics but only after the youngest, Cole, was diagnosed with Pneumonia. Holy Cow.

Today is Monday December 3rd and although we should be rejoicing and I should be making a birthday cake I am writing this and Cole is still home exhausted from the Pneumonia bug. Meghan, the 14 yr old Birthday girl is at school and will probably come home exhausted and having a TON of work to make-up. Both kids have worked tirelessly on their homework all week but some of it didn’t get done and it just is what it is. When you are sick and tired and you can’t get off the couch you sometimes can’t get all your homework done. So instead of making a cake- request was a marble cake- I thankfully found a pre-made Snow Man decorated one (super cute) and had the bakery add her name and Happy Birthday.  No, it will not be the best Birthday cake she’s ever had but we can still light candles and sing Happy Birthday and celebrate.

In all of this- where do I fall in the roster of being cared for? Apparently bottom of the list, even below the dog. Someone has to let her out- someone has to feed her. Someone has to do the laundry, change the sick sheets and clean the house. That someone was/is me. I am so grateful to my doctor- I was only sick for 4 days and she gave me the zpak- I felt a lot better 2 days later and was able to do all the “stuff” that one does to take care of the rest of them and keep the house afloat. But now that the worst is over- who is going to take care of me? ME apparently.

So I sit here, resting and sipping my coffee and writing to all of you. Mom’s- you can’t afford to get sick because if you do- you still have to be the Mom regardless. The only saving grace was that I got sick after Thanksgiving and after I’d made the Turkey soup. I swear I ate soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner after I got sick and it helped. It made me feel like my mom was there taking care of me as she would make me soup when I was sick as a kid.

So take good care of yourself. Take your daily vitamins and your immune boosters and make soup and wrap yourself up in a blanket and go watch a movie and take care of yourself. Because when they all go down you are the only one who is going to save the day- at least in my house that’s how it works.

I will say in my husband’s defense- that if he wasn’t sick he would have totally bought me some soup!

Dogs and how they make your life better

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Our first dog was Lucky. He was a large black dog – a mixed Rhodesian Ridgeback (he had the distintive ridge in the hair on his back) and a Polish Hunting dog. He was a rescue we got when we lived in Littleton, MA. He went everywhere with us and he was such a wonderful dog. He even moved across country with a 9 month old baby, Quinn, and a pregnant me. I threw up most of the way across the country and he sat in his soft crate in the rear of the minivan and he got to see the beauty of the northern United States as we ventured across stopping many, many times along the way. Lucky was an amazing dog. He brought joy to our first home and to our new marriage. He was fun and easy to walk and he loved to run. He would chase the turkeys in the open forest behind our home. He was such a good dog.

Lucky was 1 year and 1/2 when we adopted him and when Quinn was 15 months old the docs said his congestion and up all night (we had Meghan by then) was due to his dog allergy. We were devastated and found Lucky a marvelous home on one of the islands just outside of Seattle (where we had moved to). A few months after we re-homed Lucky we discovered in fact Quinn was not allergic and that was a hard time. We really missed him but with 2 babies and a small yard we weren’t prepared for another dog.

Fast forward to 2010. John had a bit of a health issue and needed some PT to get back to walking fully and I went on the local adoption sites and found a wonderful dog and we picked him up in Connecticut. This is after we’d moved back to Massachusetts from Seattle a few years prior. Tyke was also about 18 months ( I wonder if all shelter dogs are just tagged to be that age) and he was a lovely dog. He helped John walk in lieu of affordable PT and he was such a loved companion. He loved the kids and enjoyed sitting on the couch with them, being pet often and also running in our large back yard.

We had Tyke for 5 years. He loved to walk and play and especially loved the snow. He came with us to Illinois when we got relocated her for work in 2013. He sadly died in 2015 from Leptospirosis from a raccoon latrine that had been on the roof of our rental home. The huge pile of poop would get dissolved some each rain storm and the runoff went onto our patio where Tyke licked it up every time. We had no idea till he was diagnosed and we asked our landlord to send over a roof guy and he discovered the huge pile of raccoon feces. Tyke left our hearts broken. We would wait another year to get a dog.

A year later – 2016- we got Scout- a lovely dog (18 months old)  from our local shelter. He was so fun and happy and one day about 6 weeks after we got him he couldn’t walk and refused to eat. We brought him to the ER and he had a fungal infection probably brewing since before he had been adopted and he passed away within 24 hrs.  Even though we only had Scout for less than 2 months we loved him. I guess for him, we were his only home as he was a stray they had found in Tennessee before he got trucked to Illinois. All of our pets have left a paw print on our hearts.

By this time we have 3 kids- Quinn knew and bonded with Lucky, Tyke and Scout. Meghan and Cole had only known Tyke and Scout. We were crushed when Scout died and then a few weeks later the shelter who we had alerted to Scout’s death- gave us another dog, Snickers. Snickers was a lovely 18 month old (see a pattern here) dog from the same shelter we got Scout from. She was lively, smaller than all our other dogs but still a solid, 50 lbs. She loved to go on walks and we knew she was young so we’d better get her trained.

Snickers was a bit of a shy and nervous pup and so we paid $600 for a trainer to come and help us get her comfortable around dogs and people. We even brought her to a local doggie daycare. She would run around with the “pack” of dogs and sleep over if we had to go out of town.  Snickers is how I stayed fit. We would walk 2-4 miles a day and she loved every minute of it. She loved to chase squirrels and look at birds and talk to our neighbors. She was shy and quiet most of the time but she sure loved to cuddle with the kids.

Snickers loved her life with us about about 11 months after we’d adopted her she began to stop eating and her stomach was bloated. Snickers had a tumor on her spleen and the vets were perplexed as such a tumor never happens to young dogs. They re-aged her to age 7-9yrs old. WHAT??? Apparently younger acting dogs can get aged to whatever the shelter feels will make them more adoptable. To this day we have no idea now how old any of our dogs actually were.

Snickers sadly passed away early December 2017 and as much as I wanted another dog, my husband was clear “no more dogs!” And so that was that. I would occasionally ask or even beg for another dog with the loving hugs from my daughter “Dad please!!” and still “NO- we don’t have good luck with getting healthy dogs, so NO!”

Well now it’s November 2018 and just last week a friend texted my husband telling him that they had decided to re-home their dog, Rosie. Rosie is a 17 month (but this time we know for sure!) Australian Cattle Dog/Retriever mix. She was adopted from the dogs from Hurricane Harvey when she was just 5 months old. She is a lovely dog and the only reason they have to give her up is because their new grand-baby is allergic to dogs and what grandparents want to not be able to have their grandchildren over to visit, especially when they live nearby.

So in less than 24 hours we told them we would happily take Rosie and give her a loving home and the bonus of being able to see her first owners anytime they wanted. Today is the day we get to take her home. We get to see our friends, who we haven’t seen for a while. We get to meet Rosie’s aunt who walked her while our friends were at work (I think we have to pass Rosie’s aunt’s test for being a good family first). I cannot wait.

We are currently going through another health concern and frankly I have put on 15 lbs of extra weight since Snickers passed away. Walking a dog is so easy and required. Walking myself is not required and thus I don’t go as often as I should. I know that dogs are not the ultimate fix but for our family Rosie just might be. The kids love to snuggle, we hear she’s a good at cuddling. John and I love to walk a dog- so that will get us both fit in no time and Meghan well she just as she aptly screamed at me “I JUST NEED A DOG IN MY LIFE!”

So Rosie- I know you’ll miss your Mom and Dad but I also know you’ll just love Quinn, Meghan and Cole and all the balls they will toss to you and all the walks John and I will give you. We’ve invited your parents to come to see the Super bowl and we know you’ll love to see them again. Meanwhile- prepare yourself for some fun. Did your Dad tell you that I used to make a living making dog biscuits? I bet he doesn’t even know. You are in for a treat.

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DIPG- a cancer that doesn’t care

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DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) is a terrible cancer that takes every single child that is diagnosed. It does not discriminate and it usually takes children in the prime of their childhood. It’s horrible. The Cure Starts Now states “DIPG affects the pons portion of the brainstem, rendering nervous system function impossible. Symptoms include double vision, inability to close the eyelids completely, dropping one side of the face, and difficulty chewing and swallowing. Unfortunately these symptoms usually worsen rapidly because the tumor is rapidly growing.”

My friends daughter, Selina, died this month of DIPG at the young and vibrant age of 10. Sadly since she turned 10 she was essentially immobile and unable to communicate verbally (although she sure did let you know what she wanted with grunts or blinking or nodding). She could not eat all her favorite foods, or dance, or play with her friends as she used to. She was diagnosed in February 2018 and died on October 15, 2018. She was living a completely normal carefree life until February vacation in Massachusetts where she lived and all of a sudden she had some significant neurological symptoms and within 24 hours she was diagnosed with DIPG.

I have had friends with kids with cancer before, most often Leukemia, and all of them have survived. I knew this was different. From the day they shared the diagnosis we knew that Selina wouldn’t make it. That just didn’t seem fair. I have 3 kids. My friend has 3 kids. Why her child? Why not mine? I still do not understand. The grace and courage my friend’s family has shown me is phenomenal and unimaginable to me. I haven’t been able to call her yet since Selina’s passing because I know that she is surrounded by love and support right now. I will wait til things calm down and talk to her. Meanwhile I have done all I can to share information about DIPG, donate to DIPG and share Selina’s story. From a go-fund me account that was created early on to fundraisers locally and far away, the Oehmen family has seen the support of community and maybe this is what this piece is all about.

The local radio station Fun 107 heard about Selina’s story and they heard that her parents had bought her Ed Sheeran tickets and they arranged for VIP passes so she could meet him. Ed Sheeran’s music helped Selina find peace and it was on in the home 24/7 to keep Selina happy and to inspire the family. See more about the trip to see Ed Sheeran here.  Selina touched so many lives and it was so devastating when we learned she had passed away. Her obituary was touching and meaningful and gave people opportunities to donate in her name.

I will always hold Selina and the entire Oehmen family in my heart. I met Michelle just a year or so after we moved to the town of Somerset. She was loud, funny and became a good friend. We went to a book club together with our mutual friend, Tina, who has been a true rock for Michelle and the family taking care of her boys and supporting the family as needed. Tina’s daughter, Erin, has been the most amazing friend to Selina before and during her battle with DIPG. I have felt helpless being half way across the country as we moved from Somerset, MA in 2013.

I’m not sure why Selina’s story has moved me so much. I truly struggle with it on a daily basis. I think it’s partially survivors guilt, as it could easily have been one of my kids and cancer is unfair. I think part of it is because our kids mean so much to me I cannot imagine losing one and I cannot fathom how Michelle and Ken are keeping going right now. And I feel guilty that I am not there. No matter what- that’s not important. What is important is that DIPG is cured and if it is then many other cancers can be cured as well.

Did you know that only 4% of all cancer research funding goes to Pediatric cancer and then DIPG only gets a small percentage of that funding? If you want to make a difference and help please donate to The Cure Starts Now today.

You are not alone

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This week has been hard for me, a survivor of sexual assault. I wrote a book which includes the experience I had and a bunch of other things I’ve survived from. I firmly believe that going to therapy and treating the PTSD that I developed with EMDR saved my life. I also believe the support of friends and family and at the time especially my boyfriend (now husband) saved me.

This week has seen a 221% spike in calls to the RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) on the day of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony.  I am not here to be political. Nope. What I am going to say is that a survivor should be listened to and heard and believed. That’s it. I tried to tell while hospitalized in 1986 (I think that was the year) and nobody heard me. It was turned around and I stopped trying to tell anyone til I was 18 yrs old. When I was 18, I had already quit high school and was at the local community college finishing up my Associates degree (I had gone to college at 16) and I told one of my classmates- this guy I had a crush on. That did not go well. It went well in the sense that this guy listened, heard and believed me but when he realized that I told him because I was a young girl and he was 27- he removed himself from the situation because prior to that he had no idea how old I was and didn’t want to damage me even more. Thank you Steve, I will never forget your kindness.

You are not alone. No matter when you were assaulted, who assaulted you, how severe the assault was (how is that even a thing? if you were assaulted you were assaulted and it was wrong and it was severe to you) I believe you. I hear you and you are NOT alone.

Life is very hard. I have chosen to turn the bad into good and I wrote a book. I believe firmly that anyone can Continue to Live and Flourish despite anything bad that has happened to you. I believe that if you heal thru therapy and continue to give yourself the space you need to feel safe that you can do anything in life you choose to do.

I could relate to Dr. Ford when she said she was afraid at times and was claustrophobic. I can’t close the bathroom door when I use the restroom. I can if people are over but my kids are over the fact that if they find me- the door will be open- they just avoid eye contact. Our master bath has this weird door to a shower/toilet “room” and I took the door off the hinges. That means our “bathroom” in our master has no door. I can’t wait to renovate it this coming Spring 2019 so we can finally have some privacy but there will be no door to a tight space. There will be a door to an open and spacious bathroom. See I can close doors to open spaces/larger spaces but I have a hard time closing a door to a small half bath type room. I get it.

Every survivor needs to be heard but what I want to do is change the conversation and ensure that my sons and my daughter both know about consent and it’s not very hard to teach actually. When my youngest was 9 years old we found this great video about consent from the UK. The video compares a cup of tea with sex. It is animated and easy for kids and adults of all ages to understand. You can never force anyone to have a cup of tea and thus cannot force them to have sex. It goes on to several scenarios. It’s really awesome. So this week when my son (age 12) asked me about what was on the news he said to me “Mom did that man not see the tea video?” I laughed and told him that when I grew up the internet and videos like this were not available to people. “Well at least it’s available now and nobody should not know about consent if they watch it!” That’s the thing folks, we need to teach our children.

My 13 1/2 year old daughter knows self defense from Karate. She knows that you don’t go anywhere without a friend even to the bathroom if you are at an event and that you should not go to an event if there are no parents home. Does this mean she will not do any of the above no. Do my sons know the same thing, yes. Do my sons know to respect others and their space? Yes. The other thing kids need to learn about is drinking and to try it at home first. I’m not suggesting we line up our teens and give them a beer but if we make our dining room tables the places to talk about life and their friends and what is really going on and you find out they are aware of friends that drink then your kid should sit down at the table (if you feel ok with this) and try alcohol. I know my parents let me and it made me realize after the 3rd wine cooler at age 16 that alcohol was not for me. I couldn’t walk straight, I couldn’t make proper decisions. It held me off from drinking too much my entire life. Obviously do what you feel is best as a parent and certainly do not offer alcohol to anyone else’s kids but kids need to understand what it does to their judgement and you do not want them to find out at the first party they attend.

Our society needs to go back in time and have manners. Our men need to ask our women permission to hold their hand and to ask to kiss them and vice versa. Our kids need to understand that love is love and love feels good. Domestic abuse occurs within teen age relationships and that is not ok. I am probably hyper focused on the teenage aspect of things because I have 3 of them in my house, right now. I worry.  But I know no matter what they will be ok.

If you are a survivor and you need help this week, call the RAINN hotline . They can help you. Back in 1999- I called, several years after the assault and got a referral to a local support group. Through that group I found my therapist and I saw her thru 2001 and it was an amazing experience, albeit hard. I healed and began the journey to Continue to Live and Flourish despite it all and I have.