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.       

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. 

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.