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.

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.

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. 

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).

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/

When Did I Get Old?

This morning I woke up a little before 7am, just like clockwork.  No alarm needed.  I got out of bed, let the dogs out, opened up the chicken coop and made my way back into bed.  It’s Sunday.  I wanted to sleep in.  I should have known better.  After an hour of laying in bed watching the morning news, I decided going back to sleep wasn’t going to happen.  So, I got up, made my bed and headed straight for the coffee pot. 

As I waited for my coffee to brew, I reached up into my medicine cabinet and took my multivitamin.  After I enjoyed my morning brew, I got dressed and headed to the gym.  80 minutes later (today was cardio day) I headed back home.  When I got home it was time to take my daily pill.  I reached back into the medicine cabinet.  I started prepping dinner, had some chicken chores outside to take care of, vacuumed and dusted the house.  At this point it was only 1pm.  I figured with nothing left on my agenda, I’d jump in the shower.  I headed to the bathroom to take a shower when halfway there I remembered that I have a lumbar injection tomorrow morning.  At that point I smiled.  Then laughed out loud.  It was also when I realized – I’m a 60-year-old woman.  When did this happen? 

Let me take you back to Friday.  Friday, my dad and I went to a Morehead City Marlins game.  It was a father-daughter date night.  On the way to the field dad told me he tried looking up someone on Facebook and he said, “They must not be a Facebook user.”  I replied back, “Yeah, this younger generation doesn’t really use Facebook.  They are more of Snapchat and Instagram users.”  My dad started laughing and repeated my, “This younger generation” in a mocking way.  Laughing, I looked at him and said, “Seriously, dad, I can admit I am not young anymore.  But my generation is probably the last that uses Facebook for social media and connections.” 

Fast forward 15 minutes when we pulled into the Michael’s parking lot.  I needed something from inside.  Dad turned off the truck and followed me in.  I went straight to the yarn aisle.  I was there no more than 3 minutes when I hear my dad yelling, “Hey old lady, hurry up and pick out your yarn.”

Well, there you go ladies and gentlemen:  My 65-year-old dad called me old.  And he got quite the kick out of it. 

Then, on Saturday, while I was at a friend’s house, her daughter wanted to show me the redecorating she was doing in her room.  We went up to her room and asked my opinion on a few things.  She sleeps on a twin bed and was trying to figure out what to do when she had guests sleep over.  As I was giving her some ideas, she looked at her loveseat, chair and ottoman she got from me a few months back and said, “Or they could just sleep here.”  The look I gave her must have warranted an explanation because she just stared at me when I finally replied, “Well, you are young.  Young people can sleep anywhere.  But there is no way I would be comfortable there.  My back would be killing me.”  After that comment I had to laugh at myself.  “Wow.  I just said that.  I’m old!”

So here I am.  35 years old.  I take daily multivitamins.  I workout every day despite chronic back problems.  And for this I purchased a $3,000 Tempur-Pedic mattress 3 years ago and receive regular injections in my back.  I go to bed around 9pm every night.  And I’ve recently started crocheting.  Personally, I think I am trendy, hip and fashionable.  But I’ve come to discover, if you call yourself “hip” you are probably old. 

Hi.  My name’s Anne.  I’m not as young as I used to be.  When did this happen?

Talking to Strangers

I’ve recently watched a TED Talk – Why You Should Talk To Strangers – presented by Kio Stark.  I’ve never heard of her before, but the title of the short video was enough to pique my interest.  She was encouraging people to talk to strangers.  Her reason:  When you talk to strangers, you are telling them “I see you there.”  And when you look at talking to strangers in that way, she says you develop a genuine emotional connection with someone.

Fear not – this blog is NOT a recap of the video I watched. If anything, I’d much prefer you watch it for yourself.  However, as I watched and listened, it made me smile thinking about how fortunate I am to live in the south.  Here in the south, there is no such thing as a stranger.  Us southerners can pretty much talk to anyone, at any time, for any reason.  While it may not be some in-depth, life-changing conversation, where life-long friendships are formed, sparking up a conversation with someone you don’t know is more like an unwritten, southern hospitality rule.  There might as well be signs on I95 southbound stating – Last chance to turn around if small talk isn’t your cup of tea.  (And by tea, I obviously mean sweat tea.)

I’m reminded of a time when this small-town girl from eastern North Carolina traveled all the way up to Harrisburg, PA, for work.  – Spoiler alert, that small-town girl is me. –  A few of my colleagues and I decided that before we checked into our hotel for the evening we would go out and grab some food.  We found a bar and grill a few miles from our hotel, walked in and decided to sit at the bar.  It was one of those oval shaped bars that no matter where you sat, you could see everyone.  As I was looking at the menu, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat.  About the same time, I saw meal after meal being delivered to my fellow bar sitters.  Naturally, the southern girl in me started asking everyone sitting around the bar what they were eating because it looked so good and being from out of town I was hoping they could give me some recommendations.

At that very moment you could have heard a pin drop.  You should have seen the looks on their faces.  They glared at me in disbelief.  I have never felt so unwelcomed in my entire life.  The bartender walked over to me and gave me some recommendations. 

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

No wonder you don’t hear the phrase: northern hospitality.

So next time you happen to have a few minutes in your day, and you’re willing to look up from your phone for more than 5 minutes, spark up a conversation with a stranger. Maybe they’ve been feeling lonely or just seem to think nobody takes notice of them. And then you come along, a pure stranger to them, making note of their existence by exchanging a few friendly words and maybe even a laugh or two. This could be all that they need in order to feel noticed.