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A Pandemic Wedding Story


At the beginning of the year Jason and I set May 30, 2020, as the date for our wedding.  We didn’t want it to be too soon and we wanted it to be special as our two families were becoming one.  It would also allow just enough time to get all the paperwork in order before his retirement date on June 22.  We sent out ‘Save the Date’ cards and started planning.  Since Shortway Brewing Co. was our first date (over a year and a half ago) and our second first date (when I finally got my act together and realized I was in love with him) we thought there would be nowhere more perfect than for us to have our wedding and the reception in the Beer Garden there.  So, we locked it on. 

Jason’s daughter, Akela, and I went to David’s Bridal the last weekend in January just to look. We walked away with a wedding dress and a bridesmaids dress. The invitations were made and they were in addressed envelopes with stamps waiting to be mailed. I even set up a page on Zola.com so that I could manage all the RSVPs.  It wasn’t going to be a large wedding.  We definitely weren’t planning anything crazy or glamorous (we aren’t fancy people).  We just wanted to make sure the kids got to be a part of it.  I was looking forward to Landon walking me down the aisle (more like rock path) to my future husband.  And we wanted to make sure there was good beer and good bbq for our family and friends.  Priorities!  

February flew by and before I knew it, it was March. Just a few short months away Jason and I would be married, Akela would graduate high school, Jason would retire and we would all head up to Wisconsin as one family.

Hello COVID19. 

First came the travel ban for active duty Marines and DOD employees.  Next, schools went into virtual learning mode from home.  Then, companies began putting their non-essential employees on telework status.  Lastly, businesses started to close and the ‘Stay at Home’ order went into effect. 

Because of all this, Jason’s retirement got pushed up to June 15.  Now we were going to have less time to get my name on all the necessary paperwork.  But I was certain we’d be able to get it done.  I made sure my last day of work was May 28th so that I could focus on getting what needed to be done after the wedding.

I realized we might not be able to get an application for a marriage license because of all the closures.  I called the Register of Deeds and they said they were taking it a day at a time and they couldn’t give me any definitive answers.  And we were still more than 60 days out from the wedding (marriage applications are only good for 60 days in North Carolina).  This is the moment I went into panic mode. 

Jason had told me he didn’t care when or how we got married.  He just wanted to be married to me.  So, on the morning of Friday, March 27th (about 1030am), I called the Register of Deeds and asked if I could come in to get a marriage license (just in case).  I had a doctor appointment in New Bern that afternoon so I was already going to be up there.  They made me an appointment at 1230pm.  That was going to be plenty of time before my 2pm appointment.  I called up Jason, told him to get the paperwork he needed and that we were going to get a marriage license. 

While I was rushing to get ready, now that I knew I had to get to the Register of Deeds office in two hours, I thought I would call the Magistrates office to see if they were offering limited services. The Magistrate answered (in a not so friendly way) and told me there was only one office still doing marriages and that they perform them until dark.

Yes!  He said dark… that is NOT helpful for a person who needs an exact time!  I digress.

When I got off the phone with him, I called Jason and said, “let’s get married after my doctor appointment.”  I don’t think he believed me because I was so adamant about waiting until May 30th.  He agreed and said he’d be over soon to pick me up so we could head to New Bern. 

Now I really needed to get ready.  Like, do my make up and do something with my hair. And I did not have a lot of time to do it in.  

I needed two witnesses. I FaceTimed Roxie. We casually chatted for a minute when I asked what she was doing at about 3pm that day (it was already 11am). I asked if she would be my witness and grab Carson (her daughter) because I knew Daniel was at work. Roxie was at a loss for words. She tried saying stuff, but she kept stammering. I wish I could have recorded her reaction. It was priceless. She of course said yes. Then asked me what she should wear. I said “I don’t know” and then she asked “what are you wearing?” CRAP! I hadn’t even thought of that. She asked “What’s Jason wearing?” CRAP again! I didn’t know. I guess I should tell him to wear something nice. I called him, told him to wear jeans and a nice shirt. Easy peasy, right? I FaceTimed Roxie back and told her what Jason and I were going to wear and that I would drop her a pin of where to meet us at for the wedding after my doctor appointment.

Jason and I headed to New Bern.  We got our application. We were hungry.  We went to McDonalds (since we couldn’t go anywhere to sit and eat) and ordered chicken nuggets and sat in the car and ate. 

We arrived about 30 minutes early for my doctor appointment.  We waited at least 15 minutes when the girl behind the desk finally called my name to take me back.  Since Jason and I were the only ones in the waiting room she got a good look at us and said “Awe, you guys look so nice.  Are you doing something after this?”  I casually answered back, “yeah, we might get married.”  Her jaw dropped.  “Are you serious!?” she asked.  Yes. Yes I was.

When my appointment was over we headed straight the Magistrate’s office (and the jail… they are in the same location). Roxie and Carson texted that they were on their way.  When they arrived, Roxie gets out of the car and hands me a bouquet of beautiful hydrangeas (they were the flowers I planned to use for the May 30th wedding).  Then she handed me her nana’s handkerchief (which I totally tucked into my underwear – I didn’t have pockets!) and said I could ‘borrow’ it.  She wrapped blue string around the bouquet (my something blue), she told me Jason was my ‘something new’ and that she was my ‘something old.’  Then she went around to the back of the car and pulled out Shortway Beer from a cooler.  She said it was for the reception after. I was completely suprised. (And impressed at how she was able to pull it all together in such a short time).

Carson, me and Roxie.

It was time.  We all walked to the Magistrate, filled out papers and paid our fee.  He let us do it outside and stood about 20 feet away from us.  Roxie FaceTime her husband Daniel and our friend Kim (who was traveling to Virginia – she stopped on the side of the road to watch) and our simple, short and sweet ceremony began.  We were Mr. and Mrs. Van at approximately 3pm that afternoon. 

The Moment it Became Official.

Afterwards we went down the street to the rest stop, sat on a picnic table and drank our beer. 

Jason and I were still going to have a reception at Shortway on May 30th and I was going to wear my dress and we’d just cut out the ceremony part. We were already married so it didn’t seem necessary.  It was just going to be a celebration with our family and friends. Plan B was a go. 

Today, a month after we got married, we had to make the hard decision to cancel our reception on May 30th. There are still too many unknowns and we’d hate to make a last-minute decision and waste money.

Plan C is now in effect.  Instead of having a reception we are going to have professional pictures taken of our family, all dressed up like we would have been for the wedding on May 30th, and instead of sending out wedding invitations, we’re going to send marriage announcements. 

The pandemic may have forced our hand in changing our wedding plans.  But it definitely didn’t ruin anything.  Our wedding day was absolutely amazing.  My friend rocked it with last-minute surprise planning (which she does best) and made our day even sweeter. 

I married the man of my dreams on March 27th 2020.  It was perfect in every way. 

The Happy Couple. Married on 3/27/20 in New Bern, North Carolina.

Signed,

Mrs. Anne Van

Maybe Swearing Will Help

  • Teleworking
  • Wedding Planning
  • Job Searching
  • Resume Writing
  • Home Schooling
  • House Shopping (in Wisconsin)
  • Planning a Move
  • Packing the House
  • Need Toilet Paper
  • Jason’s Retirement
  • Running Club

The list goes on………

I am not one to complain (at least for everyone to hear!) but I’ve got A LOT going on… and the coronavirus is not making it easy for me. Yes, I know, there are people dying from this and I need to be more sensitive. I am not trying to make this all about me. So please don’t use my blog to attack me with your “medical expertise” and current stats that I can easily find on CDC.gov. My blog is my opinion and it’s a way for me to vent, without posting every gripe I have every couple of hours via Facebook along with everyone else. So here I am, looking at what needs to be accomplished over the next couple of months and coming to terms with the fact that it might not get done. At least the way I hoped for.

Believe me when I say I am a planner. Seriously, I plan out everything, with plenty of time to spare. Why? Because it’s easier and less stressful that way. Well, the coronovirus was the universe’s way of saying to me “we don’t care about your plans.” The bright side is that I am forced to sit back, and take it one day at a time. Which is something I’ve been needing to do for a long time. But damnit…. I don’t wanna! Maybe, just maybe, swearing will help!

I recieved this awesome coloring book in the mail today called, you guessed it, “Maybe Swearing Will Help.” It was from my friend Roxie. I laughed when I opened it and thought, YES – this is exactly what I need to take my focus off of everything that is no longer going to work out the way I wanted it too.

So here’s my hope for you…. consider this time a gift. A gift that you didn’t want, but can’t exchange or return. Yes, we might be missing out on watching our kids play sports, or seeing them off to school. We might not be able to have birthday celebrations at our favorite eateries or meet the girls for drinks after work. We might only be able to see our friends via FaceTime, Zoom or Skype. But when all this clears, we will go on with our lives the way we intended. We’ll go back to “not having enough time” to do certain things again or we’ll gripe about gas prices and traffic. But right now…. enjoy the unknown if you can. Because nothing is going as expected and we don’t know how long this will last.

Going Broke to Get Out of Bed

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Working for an employer that provides healthcare benefits is a top priority for many American adults.  But when you actually need to use your benefit, it could cost you an arm and a leg.  Literally. 

I’ve had chronic back pain since I was a teenager in high school.  It would only flare up every now and then and it was usually during cheerleading when I was tumbling on the gym floor at a basketball game.  By the time I was 20 I had regular appointments with a pain manager (he looked like Ray Liotta) receiving steroid shots and undergoing two procedures: discogram and nucleoplasty.  But it was OK.  I was a Tricare retiree dependent.  A $10 co-pay was about all I paid back then.

Here I am, in my mid-30s (I shudder just typing that) and I am going broke because of medical bills.  Never mind that I pay $86.15 every two weeks (or $2,239.90 a year) just to carry my medical health insurance.  Dental is separate.  Every doctor I see I have a co-pay ranging from $30 to $45 dollars.  No biggie, right?  Well, when you have chronic back pain, you have a lot of appointments hoping to find the “cure” in order to live a normal life.  And most of those appointments require the $45 co-pay because I am seeing specialists.  It didn’t seem like a problem because I was going to get an answer, we were going to fix it, and I wouldn’t need to see the doctor anymore.  Easy day! 

Ha! Nothing comes easy for me.  It’s like the universe put me on the planet to see just how much I could juggle, take on, or deal with before asking for help.  Well Almighty Universe, I’m pretty damn stubborn.  Bring it. 

Oh, he brought it!

The back pain I had in my teens and twenties has NOTHING on the chronic, quality of life sucking, pain I’ve had for the last 4 years.  When I went to my primary care manager about the pain, she put me on prednisone.  It worked for a couple months.  But before I knew it, I was back to see her.  She gave me another prednisone pack, and this time I felt no relief.  This was the start of a long, painful, and expensivel love-hate relationship with my health insurance company.  Here’s a quick look at what the last 4 years has entailed:

Primary Care Manager Referral to Orthopedic Doctor (lasted about 6 months)

  • Physical therapy
  • Nerve testing
  • X-rays
  • MRI
  • MRI with contrast
  • Steroid shots (every month)
  • Prescription for Mobic and Gabapentin

Chiropractor (lasted about 2 months)

  • Snap, crackle & pop
  • Insurance didn’t cover this.  Each visit I paid in-full.   And I was going twice a week (per the chiropractor’s advice).  The only pain relief was the day after.  It was getting too expensive to maintain.    

Orthopedic Doctor referred me to Pain Manager

  • Went to original consultation, paid co-pay, got a big fat bill (over $300) in the mail for a 15 min appointment.  The culprit? I was referred to a doctor out of network. 

Side Note #1:  I DO NOT work for the insurance company therefor I do not understand the ins and outs.  However, each pay period I make a payment to ensure I am covered.  I rely on my medical providers to ensure they are sending me to in-network providers.  Silly me.   

Side Note #2:  I received a big fat bill from the imaging center for my MRI and MRI with contrast.  Well, they were in-network, but insurance doesn’t cover it all.  I owed a little over $1,200 for the two images.  GREAT!

Side Note #3:  I called my insurance company and found an in-network pain manager.  And now I have been with his office for over 2 years.  I call him Dr. McHottie.  (just not to his face)   

In-Network Pain Manager

  • Required drug testing every year (I’ve had 2 so far) due to opioid crisis.
  • Spinal Epidural Injections – these were every 2 months unless I needed one sooner.  It was rare they lasted longer than 2 weeks.  One day, I got a phone call from the pain managers office saying my insurance company denied future injections.  Why you ask?  Because they said so.  My doctor called and tried to get them to approve me, and their compromise was approving four in a calendar year.  And at the time, I had 6 more months to go.  Oh thank you Mr. Insurance King who sits at a desk in Texas and decides what is best for me!!!!  How can I ever repay you??  Oh wait…. I am paying you. 
  • MRIs x 2 (yup, had to pay for these too)
  • Compound pain prescription (FYI – does not work at all!  Don’t waste your money.)

Side Note #4:  A year after my first drug test I received a bill from a laboratory saying I owed them $170.  That’s when I found out I had to pay for those too!  I am currently waiting for the bill of the most recent one. 

Finally, the day came that I had a follow up with Dr. McHottie (back in November) and I couldn’t hold back the tears.  I was in pain.  So.  Much.  Pain.  I was miserable.  I was in a wonderful relationship and I couldn’t enjoy life because of the pain.  Jason would have to help me out of bed.  Think of the show “My 600lb life” except I’m only 130lbs.  I couldn’t get up without help.  I was crying all the time. I was mad.  I was feeling sorry for myself.  I am in my mid-30s and was worse off than most people double my age.  Betty White could run circles around me!  I just couldn’t sit there and act like I was OK anymore.  He referred me to a French-Canadian Neurosurgeon in Greenville.  (I don’t know why I mentioned French-Canadian… maybe because it sounds cool.)

Neurosurgeon

Basically, I am told that because of my L5-S1 bone on bone blah blah blah blah… (at this point, I don’t even know anymore) there is only one thing that will fix what I have: a fusion. Great! Awesome! Let’s do it! However, because of my age they won’t do it. WTF!? Are you kidding me? If this is literally the only thing that will correct what is wrong with me than why the F#@K aren’t we scheduling a surgery date? Apparently, I would be back for another one in 10 years, and then another one, and by the time I am in my 50s I will have a bionic spine. But I was told that I would be a great candidate for the Spinal Cord Stimulator trial. He is going to refer me back to Dr. McHottie. Um, I mean, the Pain Manager. The last thing the neurosurgeon said to me was, “Oh by the way, keep working out because that’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Stay active.”

Thanks, mother fucker.  Don’t you think that I want to stay active but it’s getting harder and harder to do so?  But ok…. Thanks. 

I didn’t actually say that…… out loud anyways.  But I walked out feeling defeated and I started to cry again.  I took the day off of work to travel an hour and half to a specialist, paid my co-pay and still had zero answers.  And my bills kept coming in. 

Back to the Pain Manager

We began the process for the Spinal Cord Stimulator trial. But the key here is that my insurance company has to approve that I am a candidate for the procedure. And, this is not a fix. It only masks the pain. And guess what!? I needed ANOTHER MRI. Not just ANY MRI will do. No, I needed a thoracic MRI. I also needed a psychological examination. Both were requirements for final approval. The trial would last for 5-7 days after the operation. I wouldn’t be able to shower that entire time. And I would need to keep record of my pain. If the implant gives me 70% or more pain relief during that trial period, I can have the permanent device put in which will require ANOTHER referral back to the neurosurgeon in Greenville (an hour and a half away).

Side Note #5:  Have I mentioned that I have to use my leave in order to do all of this over the past 4 years??  Plus, as a single mom, I have to take leave for anything dealing with Landon.  Yea….

Spinal Cord Stimulator Approved!

Good news… Mr. Insurance King in Texas must have been having a good day when my claim came across his desk because I was approved for the trial. Bad news…..  I got billed the full amount for the psychological examination that was REQUIRED.  I can’t win. 

Side Note #6:  I’m in the wrong business if I could charge $760 for an hours’ worth of psychological examination.  If you’re reading this and want to go back to school…. Here ya go!  This is the profession you need to explore. 

At least I have a date for my trial in March.  I’m still in pain every single day but I’m managing.  Oh, and I have purchased reasonable shoes with comfort soles (who even am I anymore?)  As for now, I continue making monthly minimum payments and when new bills arrive I add them to the pile.  At this point, it’s comical to see how much medical debt I’ve accrued over the past 4 years.   

Side Note #7:  The only good thing about ObamaCare is that even if you only pay $25 a month, medical facilities HAVE to accept ANY kind of payment plan with zero interest.  I have taken full advantage of that.  My first MRI bill took over 2 years to pay.  *insert evil laugh here* 

When all this started, I decided to keep a log of when I make payments for medical bills/co-pays etc. So, let me put these last 4 years into perspective for you. Keep in mind this doesn’t include my yearly premium for health care coverage.

2016:  $733.96

2017:  $972.08

2018:  $1828.41

2019:  $7877.04

I might be broke, but at least I can say I’ve got my health……….

Friends, Family, BBQ and Beer

First and foremost, I need it to be known that the most amazing and wonderful human being on the planet has asked me to marry him!  I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve such a caring, selfless and loving man but boy do I thank my lucky stars EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for him.  That being said…..

I’m getting’ married, bitches!

Ok ok ok….. I might be a little over the moon excited about marrying Jason.  Just a tad bit anyways.

This is a second marriage for both of us.  We have both been divorced over 8 years (our divorces were finalized exactly 2 months apart).  We have two separate households, routines, bills, kids, responsibilities, etc.  So, having a wedding isn’t necessarily something important to either of us.  Don’t get me wrong, we are incredibly excited and cannot wait to get married.  We just aren’t flashy people. My parents spent a small fortune on my first wedding.  That was a huge waste of money.  But I was young and wanted to feel like a princess even though I didn’t feel like one in my relationship.  Well, that is definitely not the case this time around.  Jason treats me like a queen.  And because of that, all I care about in this wedding planning business is becoming Mrs. Van and spending my life with him.  And basically, you can do that at the justice of the peace.

The day Jason and I say “I do” it will be about our two families coming together as one. That is what is truly important to us. Our kids are the only people who will be standing up for us. Akela (my future daughter) is my only bridesmaid (and coincidentally will be spoiled the rest of her life because I will finally have a daughter – I digress). Landon and Brayden will stand next to Jason. In fact, Landon is walking me down the ‘aisle’ and giving me away. (I write ‘aisle’ because it’s not much of an aisle as it is more of a graveled area of approximately 10-15 steps) The only reason we are having a wedding ceremony is for the kids. They deserve to be a part of our special day. It’s tough being a kid raised by your single parent without a lot of help from the other side. (And by help, I mean guidance, mentoring, communication, etc.) So, they deserve the party.

Our wedding isn’t going to flashy or lavish.  It isn’t going to be expensive.  But it is going to be filled with friends, family, bbq and beer.

Wrapping Up 2019

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It’s the end of 2019.  Along with holiday sentiments from my friends on Facebook and Instagram there are also posts about being happy 2019 is coming to close.  For one reason or another, many people felt 2019 didn’t go their way or give them the outcome they had hoped for.  But take a moment and think about your 2019; the good, the bad, the undecided.    

I have a tendency to be one of those people who can’t wait for a “new year” because “this year is going to be different!”  Maybe it’s because I am in a better place today than I have been in quite some time, or maybe it’s because this better place I’m in has allowed me to see more clearly than I ever have before.  Either way, this might be the first time I haven’t wished for a “new year” to make my life better.  Because let’s face it – the year we write down does not hold special, magic powers.  The people we decide to be and the choices we make affect the outcomes in which we “blame” the year. And I think it’s time we recognize and admit that.

I took note of all the things (again, the good the bad and the undecided) that took place in my 2019.  In chronological order, here’s what I came up with:

  • Maxed out my student loans and had to pay out of pocket for tuition.
  • Graduated with my second bachelor’s degree.
  • Visited two states I have never been to before (Missouri and Kansas).
  • Stepped foot on my college campus for the first time ever (as a two-time undergraduate alumni). 
  • Host family for the Morehead City Marlins (again).
  • Landon started high school at my alma mater – Go Rams!
  • Ran my first (and only) half marathon.
  • Had to start paying my student loans back.
  • Started seeing a counselor.
  • I fell in love.
  • Celebrated 10 years working with MCCS.
  • Had my breast implants removed after 15 years.
  • Landon got his driving permit. 
  • Had new floors put down in my house.
  • I lost my best friend. 
  • We adopted a kitty (really, he adopted us).
  • I was a bridesmaid in a long-time friend’s wedding. 
  • Joined a running group.
  • Referred to a neurosurgeon for my back.

Obviously, more than that happened but that list just sums things up.  There was a lot of good.  There was also a heart-wrenching bad.  If 2019 taught me anything, it’s that anything CAN and WILL happen.  Regardless if you are ready for it. 

So, while I wrap up this year, instead of hoping for a better 2020 (because honestly, my 2019 was a pretty amazing year) I am going to remember the good things and use the bad things to help me get through the tough times.  The bad things, whether we like it or not, are inevitable.  I am going to move forward with the notion that your time will come when the time is ready, and we will never know when that is.  So, 2020 will be full of love, friendships and zero regrets.    

When it’s time to write 2020 instead of 2019, remember the ink that wrote the date doesn’t dictate your outcome for 2020.  You do.       

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

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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.