I'll Love Her Forever

Me and Julie – 2014 – Beaufort, SC

November 20th, I received news that my dear best friend Julie, had passed in her sleep.  My heart sank.  Tears began filling my eyes.  I felt sick.  There was no way it was true.  I mean, I had just talked to her the week before.  The first phone call I made was to John Paul, Julie’s son.  When I heard his voice confirm, “Miss Anne, mom died” it took everything I had to stay upright. 

I was at work when all this happened.

That was a hard, painful day.  Many people reached out to me via Facebook and text messages to make sure I knew.  Being 6 hours away from each other, Julie and I didn’t get to see each other all the time, but we talked every week.  Throughout the day I would have fits of uncontrollable crying.  Jason just held me.  Just about the time my crying would subside I’d think about how much Julie would have loved Jason and how she’d never get to meet the love of my life.  She would have surely been Team Jason – an inside sentiment between Julie and I.  When I went to bed that night, swollen-faced and puffy-eyed, all I could do was wonder if Julie was happy when she passed.  Her happiness was so important to me.  She had so much love to give to the world.  And I needed so badly to know she was happy. 

The very next day as I got into my car to leave for work a little black cat came out of nowhere and jumped onto the driver’s side floorboard.  Two very important things here:  1) I had never seen this cat before and 2) Julie had an obsession with black cats.  She had two; Codie and Storm.  And she encouraged others to adopt black cats because she worried people didn’t want them because they all looked the same.  So here I am sitting in my car the day after Julie’s passing and this black cat jumps up onto my lap and starts purring loudly.  I just sat there and watched him.  When I would pet him, his purrs got louder.  He eventually curled up in a ball and started to close his eyes.  I took a few pictures, shared on Facebook and had to get the kitty out of my car because I had to get to work.  During the drive to work I thought about Julie and her love for black cats.  My heart suddenly felt better.  I smiled thinking about Julie.  Call it Devine intervention.  Call it whatever you like.  But it was at that time I realized Julie was telling me she was happy.  She was OK.  She was where she needed to be.  Julie was with me that morning.

JuJu – November 21st

When I went home at the end of the day that black kitty was waiting for me in my garage.  I named him JuJu.  (That’s what I used to call Julie.  Landon called her Aunt JuJu.)   I had no intention on keeping the cat.  I figured he would come and go as he pleases.  Landon put down a bed for him.  The next day we bought food.  He got new dishes and a litter box.  Now he has toys and a covered cat bed all for himself.  Every morning and each evening we sit together in the garage where JuJu lays in my lap while I pet him.  Sometimes I talk to him.  Sometimes we just sit in silence. 

Many people don’t know how Julie and mines friendship began.  Julie was the Catering Manager for Traditions, the Officer Club on MCRD Parris Island.  I gave a brief and provided a lunch to the Series Commander Course Marines at Traditions and made arrangements through Julie month after month.  After a while, our work relationship turned into meeting up at Traditions on Friday nights to have a beer or two.  One of those Friday nights, Julie told me something that changed the course of our relationship.  She said something like, “So many people warned me about you and said I shouldn’t be friends with you.  Since you’re pretty, going through a divorce, skinny with big boobs everyone thinks you are bad news.  But I told them I make my own decisions.”

Side Note:  Parris Island was and still is a fish bowl!  It was such a toxic environment.  If you weren’t doing anything wrong, people gossiped about you and made terrible things up.  If you were admittedly doing wrong, everyone covered it up and acted like nothing was happening.  I had people judging me left and right.  It was a terrible time for me.  Even the people I worked with were turning their backs on me.  It was an incredibly lonely time. 

What Julie told me hurt to hear.  I started crying because I hated how mean and terrible people were.  How dare someone “warn” Julie about me.  The crazy part is the people who told her awful things about me didn’t even know me.  People had zero reason to not like me, especially if they didn’t know me.  All because she gave me a chance when most other people would have easily been swayed by someone else’s opinion, Julie was literally my only friend. 

Julie chose me.  She was the first person to ever choose me.    We’ve been inseparable ever since. 

Julie and I had a special bond.  If you can believe it, we never fought.  There was never a time in our friendship when we didn’t talk to one another because of arguments, disagreements or just because we were getting on each other’s nerves.  And if it seemed like we were getting into a heated debate, I would start tickling Julie until she would almost pee herself laughing.  One time she actually did!  And then we both laughed so hard because of it!   Julie and I had no shame. 

She brought so much joy to my life. 

I traveled to Parris Island for her memorial and to say my goodbyes.  I was asked to speak.  A Marine dressed in his blues walked me from the pew up the stage and to the microphone.  I told him without him there my legs wouldn’t have been able to hold me up.  I made it without crying. 

3 weeks later….

When I close my eyes, I can still see Julie lying motionless in her casket.  Eyes closed, arms crossed, a somber look on her face.  It makes me shudder because that was NOT the Julie I loved in any way, shape or form.  She was always smiling and laughing.  She was vibrant.  She was loving.  She was compassionate.  When I close my eyes, I want to see THAT Julie.  I know I will get there one day and that this is part of the grieving process.  Everyday I miss her.  Forever I will love her.

Life is Good

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A few weeks ago, in my blog titled Hanging up the Cape, I shared my personal experience of hitting an all-time low and sought out professional help.  Each session helped me to understand that my happiness and emotional fulfillment were within my control.

I took control of my life one piece at a time. I started with Jason.

In spring of 2018 I kept the score book for The Realini’s, a Havelock Little League baseball team, despite the fact that my son didn’t play baseball anymore.  I love baseball and since the coach and his wife are great friends (more like family) to me I dedicated my time to keeping the book.  I got to know the players and some of the parents.  There was this one parent in particular. Jason.  Every now and then we’d exchange playful banter with occasional shit talking. I mean, who doesn’t?

By the end of the season, I had figured out he was a single dad with full custody of his kids. I knew both kids from the baseball field. We ended up becoming obligatory Facebook friends. We would run into each other on base from time to time. We’d say hello, exchange small talk and then go on with our business. At some point we exchanged numbers (there’s a good chance I gave him my number first. But honestly, I can’t remember). Every couple of weeks (maybe even months) he’d send a text and I would reply back. He helped me pick up a chicken coop in September with his truck. He checked on me throughout Hurricane Florence. One day he took off work to take me to my lumbar injection appointment. Eventually, we went out to dinner and stopped by Shortway’s (a local brewery) owned by a reservist Marine, Matt and his wife, Lindsay. That Christmas Jason bought a car for his daughter and kept it in my driveway until I drove it over around midnight on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day so he could surprise her. He even drove me around to see Christmas lights (my favorite holiday tradition). But then, just like Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on eastern North Carolina, my feelings, issues, insecurities, problems, anxiety, and everything in between came to the surface and ruined everything. I put up a wall. Kept to myself. And dealt with life alone.

My counseling sessions had me thinking about Jason a lot. While I was in the waiting room for one of my sessions one afternoon, I texted Jason with a “hey you.” Knowing he would answer back (because that is the type of person Jason is) I asked him if I could take him out that weekend. Normally, I would have been too afraid to ask because I have crippling anxiety with the thought of being rejected. So, it’s always been easier to avoid any situation where I might be rejected. But I wanted to take control of my life. And that meant I needed to get over my fear of rejection. Jason said yes to the weekend date.

A few days later, when he picked me up, the moment I saw him walking towards me I knew. I threw my arms around him and kissed him. There was no denying it; I was in love.

I have so many thoughts and emotions, but I struggle to put them into words.  All I know is that if I wouldn’t have reached out for help, I wouldn’t have dealt with my inner demons and struggles.  And I wouldn’t be where I am with Jason.  Life is good. 

The End of an Era

On December 22nd, 2005, just two months after Landon’s first birthday, I had a breast augmentation in Greenville, North Carolina. 
Cost = $4,700. 

Almost 3 years later, on November 26th, 2008, the day before Thanksgiving, I underwent an implant removal and replacement (from saline to silicone) and breast lift in Savannah, Georgia. 
Cost = $7,900.

Today, October 17th, 2019, I had my implants completely removed with a breast lift in New Bern, North Carolina. 
Cost = $6,800.

When you research getting breast implants nobody tells you that they are NOT lifelong devices and it is important to have them exchanged or removed approximately every 10-15 years.  Well, my first replacement was at about 3 years. 

I remember one day I was getting out of the bathtub and drying off when I saw my reflection in the mirror.  I noticed something didn’t look right with my left implant.  I called for my then husband to come see.  I had deformity at the top of my breast.  And if you pushed on it, it felt like pushing a ziplock baggie filled with water.  Turns out, I had capsular contracture and the implant size was way too big for my body (Yes, there are many shapes, sizes, textures and fillings to consider when getting implants).

After I got my new set, I felt better.  My breasts were back to normal. 

And yes, I did cook a thanksgiving dinner the next day.  The mashed potatoes were dry because I forgot to add milk and I cooked the turkey with the bag of gizzards in it because I forgot to take it out.  To be completely honest, I don’t remember that Thanksgiving. 

In 2014 I noticed some pain in my left breast.  Some days were worse than others.  It wasn’t really bad until 2016 when my left implant felt hard.  It wouldn’t move.  I had to try and give it a deep massage in order for my skin around it to even feel comfortable and not so tight.  Those days were terrible.  That was about the time I considered getting rid of my implants.  That consideration only lasted a day.

6 months ago, in April, I had finally had enough of the pain.  But I was also incredibly unhappy with myself.  I felt completely self-conscious.  It didn’t matter what I wore, I felt like I was always trying to cover my chest.  I felt like all that people saw was the girl with the big, fake boobs.  No sports bra would completely cover me.  And running – running made them hurt even more.  But then, there’s the issue with my back.  My back pain has been terrible lately.  And I have to believe that maybe the weight on my chest is making it harder on my back.  So, with that I made an appointment and had a consultation thinking surely my insurance would cover it since I’m in pain. 

Fun Fact: Insurance DOES NOT cover implant removal if it was an elective surgery.  No matter the medical diagnoses.

Turns out, I had capsular contracture again.  Research shows that about one in six breast augmentation patients experience some degree of capsular contracture.  I was 2 for 2. 

I was given a quote that included two surgeries over a 6-month time frame with no working out in between.  It was over $11,000.  I went home in tears.  There was no way I could do that to my son.  I couldn’t take money away from our family for cosmetic reasons.  I thought about it for a week or two.  But ultimately, I couldn’t add that kind of financial burden to our already 1-income home with a mortgage and student loan bills.

Summer went by I got more and more self-conscious about myself.  I would go to stores and try on cute clothes and think “well, if I didn’t have a ginormous rack, I could wear that.”  I would leave upset.  Being a single woman, I convinced myself that men who came up to me only saw me for my chest and probably didn’t even realize I had a face.  But… I was also in a lot of pain.  I was in so much pain.  I decided I would get a second opinion. 

I am so glad I booked a consultation with Dr. Zannis and his staff.  Everyone was so wonderful.  At my initial appointment they spent at least 35 minutes with me discussing options and taking pictures and measurements.  I walked out of the office with a surgery date booked. 

If you are reading this, it means I made it out of surgery (and I’m probably enjoying my pain meds).

You might be asking yourself – Why is she sharing such a personal story with all of us?

Because ya’ll are gonna notice – Duh!

But seriously, I don’t want anyone to think I regret getting implants 14 years ago.  Even if someone would have sat me down and told me all of what I went through was a possibility I most likely wouldn’t have listened anyways.  You live.  You learn.  You go broke in the process.  At the end of the day, plastic surgery is an individual choice.  I don’t fault anyone for wanting to look or feel their best.  This was just something I had to do for me. 

Hanging Up The Cape

I’ve hung up my cape, folks.  I never realized how heavy my cape was until I took it off.  Maybe later I will have a ceremonial lighting of a candle to symbolize the burning of my cape.  Because I never EVER want to wear it, see it or think about it again. 

………… you get that there isn’t an actual cape, right? 

The cape I am referring to is the notion that I somehow convinced myself I needed to be a real-life Superwoman.  Not the crime fighting or saving babies from burning buildings kind.  I’m talking about the ‘super independent, I don’t need anyone, anything, I won’t ask for help and I can and will make it on my own and – oh by the way – while I am doing it I will put on a brave face and never show any weakness, fear or emotion nor will I allow myself to be put in a position of rejection or vulnerability.’  You know, that kind of Superwoman.   

A few weeks ago, I was NOT OK.  But you know what?  I haven’t been OK for a while.  Maybe a year or two…. Possibly more.  But the few weeks ago in which I am talking about, it was pretty bad.  Downright scary.  I don’t know what it is like to be an alcoholic who has blackouts but if I had to compare, I would have to guess it was similar to that.  I really can’t remember much from those couple of weeks.  I couldn’t focus.  I couldn’t see clearly.  I didn’t care about anything.  I stopped going to the gym.  I avoided people.  I would be driving and suddenly wonder where I was and where I was going.  That’s when I knew that I wasn’t OK.  That’s when I reached out for help. 

I used some resources I knew I had through my employer and made an appointment with a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).  I was only able to have 3 free sessions with her.  They helped immensely.  I am sure part of it was the refocusing of my brain and having someone to talk with me about things, but after the first session I felt good.  After the second session, I felt great.  At the third session, I was a different person.    

I focused on making a small change with the help of my counselor.  The results of which have made me happier than I have been in a very long time.  I am giddy to my core with how incredibly happy I am.  And it is truly a feeling I don’t think I have ever felt in my 35 years of life.

It’s time for the ‘symbolic’ burning of the cape. 

I am done being Superwoman.  

Move Over Romeo and Juliet

Rocky and Adrian, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Bonnie and Clyde, Allie and Noah.  These couples have nothing on Roxie and Daniel. 

I met Roxie three and a half years ago at work.  After a few months of getting to know her I requested her as a friend on Facebook, because that’s what you do now-a-days, right?  Well, apparently Roxie and I were not on the same page because she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be my friend.  – I was just as shocked as you are.  This winning smile, infectious personality??  Who wouldn’t want to be my friend? –   Don’t worry, I will never let her live that down.  Even on her death bed, I am going to remind her of it.  After she switched jobs and moved into the office across from me, she started warming up to me.  Actually, I believe there was something said about feeding body parts to a pig….. but anywho, soon after not only did we become Facebook friends, but we became real friends. 

I met Daniel once or twice during the first couple of months Roxie and I worked together.  He even put me in his phone as Anna Dotty.  It was at least a month until I found out and corrected him.   Then, when I foolishly decided to sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon in March of 2018, Roxie had mentioned Daniel having some friends who might be willing to train with me.  Then, it turned into Daniel helping me train.  Then, it turned into Daniel signing up for the marathon to run with me.  Then, it was every weekend early morning training on Emerald Isle or Atlantic Beach with Roxie as our personal Sherpa riding along side us with water, biofreeze, gels, gummies, towels, motivation and snapping us along the way to keep our (mostly Daniel’s) social media followers updated.  (It’s a real thing!  If you don’t follow Daniel on Snapchat, you are missing out.)

I can tell you one thing: If you’ve never trained for a marathon with someone (in my case a couple) you don’t really know them. But I still spare you the Vaseline, twizzler, peeing on the side of the road, topless in bed, laying under a tree in the middle of the road stories for another time. I’ve piqued your interest though, huh??

Roxie and Daniel have been married 23 years, but you’d swear they were newlyweds because of how in love they are.  These two do not just tolerate each other (which is something I am accustomed to seeing in long-term relationships), they aren’t just husband and wife and they don’t just go through the motions.  These two are a team.  They are partners in life.  They support and encourage each other.    You know how some couple rag on their spouse?  Maybe make fun of their cooking or bad habits?  I have never heard either of them rag each other or make each other feel bad out of fun the way many couples do.  They even do everything together.  And it’s not out of force or guilt.  They really like being together and enjoy each other’s company.  My favorite part – which might be too personal, but I am going to share it anyways (if you know Daniel, just don’t tell him I told you) but his wife still swoons over him.  I hear all the time how proud she is of him and how handsome he looks in uniform and when we are out kayaking or running, she will glance over at him and say out loud – to no one in particular – “gosh he’s sexy.”  When I watch her watch her husband and smile, I smile.  I smile because when I see them, I know there is hope for me. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want a love like Roxie and Daniel.   #relationshipgoals

So here I am, writing about this amazing couple I look up to. I have so much love and admiration for these two, very special people. Thank you, Roxie and Daniel, for being my real life Hallmark movie romance (with a whole lot of comedy and some content only suitable for mature audiences).

TGIF

It’s Friday.  The work week is over.  A long, holiday weekend is in front of me. 

Just like every other Friday (or any day in general) I come home to a house where two happy pups are wagging their tails and excited to see me. I give them some love and ask them how their day was (yes, I talk to my dogs). After that, I check on Landon, the teenager who shares the house with me, yet I seldom see him, who’s in his room online gaming with friends. Then, I go out back, say hello to my flock of chickens (again, yes, I talk to my chickens), collect eggs, feed them and give them fresh water. This right here is the highlight of my day. And, it’s the same thing. Every. Day.

Other people come home to their loved ones. Their partner in crime. Their boo. Hell, I don’t know what couples call each other anymore. I’ve been out of the game so long I’m not sure what it’s like to come home to anyone anymore. And simply put…. I’m lonely.

I wish I had someone to come home to everyday. Someone who is interested in how my day was. Someone who is as excited to see me as Toby and Parker are. (Those are my dogs by the way!) I wish I had someone to talk to about my goals and ambitions.  I wish I had someone to give me career advice.  Recently, I’ve been racking my brain about where I see myself in a year, 3 years, and beyond.  I know I’m capable of so much more career wise.  I feel like I’m in a rut. And there are days I REALLY wish I had someone to talk to about it.

I may not have a lot in life, but I have some AMAZING friends who are ALWAYS there for me. So when I say that I’m lonely, I mean that after my day is over, I want more than just my couch, a cup of coffee and Netflix to comfort me. However, my small group of friends make themselves available for me. Whenever I need them. And for this I am thankful. Not everyone has friends like this. I am truly lucky to have them in my life. Because without them, I would be more of a mess than I already am. And that’s scary to think about.

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. Hell, maybe more like the last two months. I put on a brave, confident, I’ve got everything going for me face. But there’s a reason I don’t play poker. People who know me well can see right through my so-called brave face. And they call me out on it. I am the type of person who doesn’t like to burden other people with my problems. My usual answer when asked how I am doing is “fine.” Sometimes I even switch it up and say, “I’m good.” However, in my core, in my heart, I’m not.

I’m not going to bore you with any specific details.  And I will get through whatever this funk is.  I’m a tough cookie.  Eventually, I’ll be OK.  But right now, I have a lot going on in my head.  I over think everything, I beat myself up about every little thing, and I only make things worse for myself.  Especially when I spend most of my free time at home, ignoring my phone, and staying locked up in my own little pity-filled world.  There are some changes in store for me. I have to do what is best for me. I have to learn to love myself. Flaws and all.

Please don’t take my rawness as an attempt to get attention or pity from you.  I am just being real.  I hope this serves as a reminder that everyone is facing a battle, going through a hard time, or struggling in some way, shape or form.  They may not always show it.  So be kind to everyone and smile at strangers.  Sometimes that’s exactly what someone needs, especially when they have no one to go home to.

Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

Blue Jean Jacket Cameo Boutique

Recently, “life” has been slapping me in the face. 

Go here. Do this. Make sure this gets done. Oh, wait, let’s add back pain to the mix. Don’t forget to mow your grass. You can’t miss the gym. Ok, maybe just one day. All those chickens are not going to feed themselves. Time to cheer on the Marlins and support the baseball players living with you all summer. You are out of milk, and bread, and coffee creamer – Wal-Mart is calling. Try out a new TV show on Netflix…. Next thing you know you’ve binge-watched four… you heard that right, four full TV series. Oh, and by the way, Parker needs daily medications 16 times a day for 72 weeks and since he won’t take a pill you have to hide it in a peanut butter sandwich……

OK, I may have exaggerated that last point. Except the peanut butter sandwich. That part is true.

That’s why I haven’t been blogging. (or answering texts, hanging out with friends or wishing all 800 and something Facebook friends a happy birthday even with the daily reminders on my phone).  Ooops, my bad!

Things have finally slowed down. Well, slightly.  And, I recently tried something completely out of my comfort zone.  It was – dare I say it – Fun! 

I recently starting “modeling” for a local boutique in Swansboro, North Carolina.

Cameo Boutique. 

I remember when it was a bridal store tucked away in Morehead City (I was probably 17/18 years old at the time).  I also remember when the store moved to Swansboro in the shopping center next to Taco Bell.  Then, years later…. many years later, it moved to its current location in a sweet, pale yellow, quaint ‘home’ on the edge of downtown Swansboro.  Gone are the days of a bridal boutique.  It’s a cute, fashionable, colorful, friendly and most importantly affordable boutique owned by a wonderful and sweet woman, Monica.  And she sure does have an eye for colorful styles and trendy, long-wearable fashions.

First and foremost, let me assure you I am NOT receiving a kick-back for writing this blog about Cameo Boutique.  You may have seen my personal Instagram where I tag the boutique when I am posting pictures of me wearing her items.  I mean, isn’t Instagram where you share your food, workout and clothing pics?  Hello – I am trying to keep up with the youth of America!  (ha ha)  Cameo Boutique is a small, local business which provides customer service you won’t find anywhere else.  (Trust me, I just read a Facebook post of a local business in New Bern where the owner was blatantly annoyed that a customer dared to walk into her establishment 5 minutes prior to closing and she only made the situation worse in comments in the thread by insulting other customers/people.  Because of that post, I will never go into her shop now.  I was looking forward to checking out her business.  Oh well.  But, to be kind, I will leave out the name of the new ‘junks and antique’ store in the local area.)

So, here’s to trying something new.  It’s a learning curve for me. I’m not naturally pretty – I definitely need makeup!  And my smile, eyes and poses can and will get better. 

Side Note:  I would really like to have a breast removal because I hate them!!!!!  Maybe I’ll set up a GoFundMe to have ya’ll help me get rid of these things!  – Just kidding… I would never accept a handout.  A sugar-daddy maybe.  But never a handout.  😊  I have already looked into it and my insurance won’t cover it and will be about $10,000 over the course of 6 months and 2 surgeries.  Note to all those young girls… DON’T get implants!)  I digress.

Cameo Boutique Purple Top

With constructive criticism from myself and my dear friends (whom I respect for sharing with me) I have some things to work on.  Because I want to represent the Cameo brand well.

What are you waiting on?  Go check out the boutique. 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/cameoboutiqueandformalwear/

Website:  https://shopcameo.boutique/