Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Do You!

I never considered myself to be someone who cared too much about what other people thought of me. I wouldn't conform to social "norms" and always followed whatever path I thought most appropriate for me. I'd say this is true from something as small as ignoring fashion trends and going for what's comfortable to not being afraid to stand up for what I believe to be right in a difficult situation. I would've told you I was independent and an individual and what others thought of me just didn't matter at all.

I was wrong. Very very wrong.

It wasn't until I went through some of the most difficult times of my life that I started to realize that I did in fact care about what other people thought of me. What a shocking revelation to have after the age 30! It was in coming through the darkest moments of my life that I realized I had been living for everyone else for a really long time.

I wouldn't say I did things to impact others' impression of me, but I did always strive to  put others first. I always came second. Whether it was in want or need, I would put anyone for whom I cared ahead of myself. I realized that decisions I made weren't always what I wanted and that I'd often "take one for the team" to make whomever happy. I would give up what I really wanted or needed just to bring a smile to someone else's face. I never minded doing it and I guess that's why I never thought of it as caring what others thought.

In being selfless for so long, it came as quite a shock to people when I finally put myself first and stood up for what I wanted. But, I knew what I was doing and I knew it was right for me. I truly didn't care what anyone else thought. The truth is, this is my life and I get to live it however I want. Whether that means making a million mistakes or doing everything "by the book," I get to decide what's right for me.

There are people who judged me for it for more harshly than I think is appropriate or even necessary. Does it make me upset? Everyday. Does it make me question my decision to stick to what I wanted? Never. Are there moments of pause when I wonder if I really did make the "right" decision? Of course. Are there times when I get sad and feel like life is a little more out of control than it had been? Absolutely. But then I step back and remind myself that it was right at that time and I have no regrets.

So, for anyone reading this that is afraid to finally stand up to the world and be true to yourself, I say DO IT and do it TODAY. It's not going to be easy. It's going to take courage and conviction. It might feel like you're losing control. It could hurt and you're definitely to going to cry. But DO IT. You deserve it. And, if it winds up that you're wrong and you are making a mistake, at least you tried and you should never regret that.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy Friday!

So, last night was the 2015 Wave of Light. It's a day where we honor and remember all the babies gone too soon, including my two angels, by lighting candles at 7pm local time. This gives us a full 24 hour "wave of light" to honor all of the little lives lost. While my angels are in my heart every day, October 15th is never easy. It's another of those "milestones" that tears my heart apart.

My day pretty much started with a text from my best friend Vanessa. It was a picture of the candles she was going to light: four of them, two for my angels, and two for other angels in her life. I cried. I cried as I got ready for work. I cried on my way into work. I cried at random points during the day. I felt alone and my heart was hollow. I tried my best to keep to myself so as not to draw the question: "are you okay?" I knew I'd cry. I kept busy. Hell, I didn't even mind working on data analysis because it kept me focused on something other than sadness.

Early in the afternoon our receptionist came to my desk with a beautiful arrangement of baby yellow roses, white daisies, and orange carnations. I cried again as I read the note: "Just a little something to cheer you up. Xoxo. Your person." My sister, Meredith, sent me flowers to brighten my day because she knew I'd be down. I smiled knowing I wasn't alone. For the rest of the afternoon, when I felt the tears welling in my eyes, I'd touch a daisy or smell a rose. It helped.

About an hour before I was leaving work, my boyfriend asked if I wanted to have dinner at his parents' house. My first reaction was to say no because it would be a rough night and maybe it would be best if I was alone. As I thought about it more, I thought it would be a nice distraction to be around family. His family is amazing to me and I am so thankful for their love and support. So, I said I would come to dinner as long as I could light my candles at 7 and leave them lit for at least 1 hour. That meant that no matter what time we ate/finished dinner, we were there until 8pm. He agreed. Dinner was on.

I went home and walked the dog and then drove over to his parents' house...crying almost the entire way. As soon as I walked in, I got big hugs from his dad and his mom. Presley (the dog) even came over to welcome me. Jay came up the stairs and as soon as he hugged me, I started to cry....again. I started to think maybe dinner wasn't such a great idea. We went into the computer room and he just held me while I cried some more. (At some point you have to run out of tears, right?) After a few minutes I was able to get myself together and it was time for dinner. Delicious spaghetti and meatballs. Yum. Babe is a great cook.

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Wave of Light, 2015
We finished dinner at 6:56pm and it was time to set up the candles. I took my two blue candles and placed them next to the jewelry box that my best friend Leigh bought me. It was a bridesmaid gift from her big day and has a heart with two angel wings. It's beyond special to me. I set everything up, lit my candles, and took a deep breath. The tears came pretty quickly as I thought about lighting these candles every year instead of birthday candles. It's hard and it doesn't really get easier. Jay took me outside for "fresh" air and just held me as I cried into his chest. He reminded me that he'd always be there and just hugged me and listened as I vented. Vanessa sent a picture of her lit candles and, an hour later, Meredith sent a picture of hers. (She's central time.) It was beautiful and it touched my heart. It was in those moments that I realized: no matter what I face in this life, I'll never do it alone.

Nights like last not only remind us of what we've lost, but are also great opportunities to take inventory of what we have...and appreciate and accept it all. It can be very easy for me to play the "I don't deserve to be happy game" and sabotage the happy moments in my life. I catch myself doing it but sometimes I can't stop. It's a mental game and I often lose. Last night, I fell asleep with a full heart in the arms of the man that I love. I woke up this morning and realized that I have to let myself be happy. I have a lot of love in my life and I deserve it. (That's not easy for me to accept and I don't know why so don't ask.)

I have an incredible boyfriend who loves me and gives me new reasons to fall in love every day. We don't have a perfect relationship but what we have is real. Whatever tomorrow brings, we have each other today. I have the absolute best best friends on earth. These women are willing to selflessly carry me through my darkest days, regardless of what's going on in their own lives. They support me in every way possible and love me through any and everything. Ours are bonds that can never be broken. I am truly blessed and consider myself very lucky. Not everyone has friends like I do! I love my new job and the company for which I work. It's actually a pleasure to go to work now!

While I may not have everything I wanted in this life, I do have a lot....and I'm forever grateful for all of it...even when I don't know the best ways to show it. And while I may not be perfect in my resolve to stay positive, today has been a good day. #onedayatatime

PS- While I couldn't mention each of you in this post, I do sincerely appreciate all of the love and support sent via e-mail, text, calls, and thoughts yesterday. I really do have the best friends on earth!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Good Day Turned Bad

Today was a good day at work. I love my new job and I was busy today; it went quickly and that's always a good thing! I decided it would be a good night to run some errands. I needed to pick up my birth control pills at Planned Parenthood and go get candles for this year's Wave of Light. I left work on a good note and felt good, overall, about the day.

As I approached the parking lot of PP, I noticed a group of people gathered by the entrance to the parking lot. As I got closer, I realized they were protesters and then I saw them...the signs: "Pray to End Abortion." There it was: that feeling in the pit of my stomach that literally makes me want to vomit on the spot. That knot that forms when I'm forced to admit that there are people in this world who seek only to judge through ignorance instead of act with compassion and understanding. When I'm not face-to-face with these vultures, I can ignore the world's ignorance. Unfortunately for me, we're nearing a presidential election and I'm forced to remember that there are these people in the world every single day. Ugh. The worst.

I watched as the group eyed me as I pulled into the parking lot, clearly headed to Planned Parenthood. The knot in my stomach grew bigger and tighter. I wanted so badly for one of them to say something so that I would have a reason to walk over. Instead, we just gave each other the stink eye. I went into PP and picked up my pills...just one more service that this organization has provided to me. You know one service they didn't? My abortion.

I had my abortion at a very prestigious hospital here in Philadelphia. Do you think there are protesters there right now? Nope. If this was really about the service of providing abortions, there'd be protesters outside of every clinic and every hospital, regardless of the perceived status of said medical facility. This witch-hunt against PP is absolutely disgusting. PP helped me all through college and again when I was without medical insurance. They provided me with my annual pelvic exam, my annual breast exam, and birth control options to help me manage my reproductive health as I deemed most appropriate.

Anyway, back to the original point here. Abortion, and having to face the difficult decision of having one, is very personal. Women who are forced to make this choice should be respected, supported, comforted, understood, and honored for their strength. Instead, we are most often shamed, discarded, silenced, discouraged, judged, and misunderstood. It's sad to me and it's the single most important reason that I share my story. I absolutely refuse to be shamed into silence.

Abortion is not always about an unwanted pregnancy or a young girl who just didn't know better. I was married, college educated, over 30, and desperately wanting to be a mother. Being faced with the decision of having to terminate my pregnancy is the single worst experience of my entire life and I wouldn't wish it on anyone! With that said, I am proud of my choice. I am grateful to have had a team of doctors that supported my right to choose what was best for my family and me, WITHOUT JUDGMENT. (Side note, I go to an OB-GYN affiliated with a catholic hospital and they STILL gave me all of the education and options I needed to make an informed decision.) I am forever thankful for the love and support of (most) of my friends and family while I tried, often without success, to manage my emotions through that entire month of hell. It has been 4 years since that awful September and I still breakdown, relatively often actually. Instead of birthdays and first days of school, my milestones surround due dates, national remembrance days, and the "anniversaries" of the most difficult days of my life.  But you know what? I cherish those milestones because they're mine. They're a part of my story and they will always be special to my angels and me.

So, that's how my great day ended. The only thing that made it a little better was my rolling down my window, screaming "you're all fucking dumb" and then watching the storm roll in and drench those fools in a downpour. I hope they all catch pneumonia. #EndRant

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Music is Life

How many of us have a soundtrack? You know what I mean. The list of songs that you hear that spark a memory, feeling, inspire you, give you hope, motivate you. We all have them.

For me, they change frequently and are almost completely dependent upon what else is going on in life. Yeah, I have my standard "go to" songs but then there are those that I haven't heard in  years that spark a new emotion. I'm a different me than I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, a year ago and I hear the lyrics differently. It's actually quite fascinating.

Just last night I heard a song by PINK that I haven't heard in many years. It randomly played on Spotify and immediately sparked emotions...good and bad. My first thought was about the jam sessions my best friend and I used to have in our dorm in college. We used to JAM to this song. I could even hear us singing and immediately texted her to tell her I missed her. It was awesome for that song to take me back to such happy memories. She lives too far away for us to have our frequent jam sessions, but they live in me and I cherish the memories.

On the flip side, I heard the lyrics in a different way than I did back in college. They meant something more and felt less trivial than they did back then. They made me question things. Would I ever be strong enough to say "yeah, it's like that" and stick to it. Of course those questions then led to the mind game that we all play with ourselves. You know the game. The one where you play out different scenarios in your head until you realize you've just built an entire discussion, confrontation, conversation, or whatever, that will likely never play out. Those are the games that keep me awake at night. I want to be done playing.

Anyway, I genuinely believe music can heal the soul. I'm still looking for a few tracks to add to my soundtrack. What songs make up your soundtrack?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Been 18 Years...

Quick Note: I know it has been nearly two years since I've blogged, but it's been a crazy time and my focus just wasn't here. I hope to get back into it and blog more regularly and thank you for sticking around and reading! 

Yesterday was October 4th. That means it has been 18 years since my Bubby passed away. WOW! It's crazy to think that more time in my life has passed since her death than had passed when she died. (I was 17.)

It was September 4th and I had just started my senior year at Northeast, literally just started....that day. I came home from school and my mom and her boyfriend were out. They were on a 'staycation' and were just taking day trips in and around the city. My aunt called and desperately needed to speak to my mom; she was frantic. I knew something was up but she wouldn't tell me anything. I had no idea when my mom would be home and started to get nervous. Luckily, my mom's boyfriend had to use the bathroom and they stopped home before heading to the movies. I gave my mom the message and she called my aunt. Everything changed with that phone call.

Just minutes later I was in the car, without shoes on, waiting to drive to Atlantic City. My Bubby was in the hospital, in a coma, and it didn't look good. We spent the next two weeks driving to AC pretty much every single day. We would've just stayed there but I had to be home for school. It wasn't easy but we did what we had to do to be there. After two weeks I couldn't take it anymore. My Bubby was losing weight (and not looking herself) and was still pretty much unresponsive (less the random toe twitch or hand squeeze.) I decided I didn't want to remember her that way and made the difficult decision to not visit anymore. My mom respected my decision and continued her almost daily commute without me.

I don't regret my decision. My Bubby was an incredible woman and I carry with me so many wonderful memories. I am glad that my memories do not center around her in the hospital, and instead remain focused on her on the boardwalk, the beach, or eating breakfast in the bathroom so as not to wake me in the morning. I am happy that I can still remember her laugh and see her smile. Hell, I'm even happy I remember how annoying it was when she sucked her teeth. I'll always carry with me the memories of being amazed at how she always had hot oatmeal ready for me, regardless of what time I woke up. (Yes, when I grew up and learned how to make oatmeal/keep water hot, I was  a little less impressed but still incredibly happy that something so small created such a wonderful memory.) I have a million memories that I could share but that would take all day and, truth be told, I prefer to keep them close to my heart.

Bottom line, it's been way too long since she cut my grapefruit and put my sugar packets out before a beach day. It's been way too long since she handed me $20 and told Meredith and me to "go have fun" on the boardwalk and then didn't get mad when we needed more because $20 just wasn't enough for Steel Pier AND Ripley's Believe It or Not AND pizza. It's been way too long since she packed lunches to eat on the beach, very well knowing I was going to skip lunch and just ask for a fudgesicle. It's been way too long since we sat together on the boardwalk eating ice cream at night, her her butter pecan and me, my whatever concoction I dreamed up. It's been way too long since she called me the apple of her eye and the love of her life. But you know what? With all the time that has passed since hearing that...I still feel it and know it's true.

While my Bubby hasn't been around to see me grow into adulthood, I know she's watching over me always. And while she may not have agreed with all of my decisions, I know she'd still be proud of the woman that I am and I know she'd be my biggest supporter. Being confident in that is comforting during those times when I feel alone. What gets me through it is remembering that because her spirit lives in my heart, I'm never really alone..

I love you, Bubby.

'Big Al & Till'
I hope heaven has a boardwalk and you're walking it together.

(One more side note: It still irritates me that her death records report her date of death as October 1st. It wasn't. Grrrrr)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Been a Hot Minute

Hi there!

Soooooo, I haven't blogged in what feels like FOREVER. In the past few weeks I've had a few friends ask me why I stopped blogging. I have to say, it was special to hear people missed my words. This blog started as a therapeutic tool to help me heal. It has turned into so much more and I'm grateful to all of the wonderful friends I've met through the blog site. So, hopefully this is the first of many more consistent blogs. :) I'll try not to take so much time off between entries...

Well, this year started off pretty freaking crappy. We all know what happened in December (if you don't, read this entry) and that just pushed me deep down into a dark dark place. I wasn't in a good place and had a really tough time climbing my way out. I am happy to say I'm in a good place now. I wasn't sure how or if I'd pull through, but the strength of self is amazing and I made it.

This has been the greatest summer in a really really long time. I was able to get back into the Philly music scene and I'm THRILLED to be there. I didn't realize how much I missed the original music scene until I got back in! I've discovered a few "new" local bands and I'm loving it. I also got to spend some real quality time with ALL of my best friends....specifically those that live way too far for my liking. I spent July 4th with my Leighski and the family W and then went down to FL to see NessaBear and all of her girls. I got to meet her future hubby and helped Vanessa pick the most beautiful wedding dress. It was an honor to be there for that special day. I saw New Kids on the Block TWICE in two days and Donnie Wahlberg is now following me on Twitter. Yes, I died and still check it almost daily to make sure it wasn't a dream. (Are you on Twitter? Follow me at @Champagne37!) Hubby and I went on the most extraordinary vacation to Mexico to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and we're already planning a return visit. It was absolutely incredible and we cannot wait to be back there. You can check out my review of the resort here.

Oh, did I mention that I graduated with my Master's in April? Yeah, that happened too! Now I just need a J-O-B! Know anyone who may work for a company that's actually hiring? #toughoutthere

So anyway, thank you for your patience in waiting for my triumphant return to the blogging world. I'M BACK, BABY.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Fallen Hero

Anyone who knows me knows that Chicago Fire has quickly become my favorite show on TV. The pilot episode was intense as we saw a firefighter lose is life in the line of duty. With consultants from the real Chicago Fire Department the show does a great job documenting the lives of the brothers and sisters of Chicago Firehouse 51. I think I've always had a fascination with firefighters and the idea that there are men out there that choose a profession that, by design, puts them in immediate danger every time they're called to duty.

Growing up my mom always told me that firemen were the only "civil servants" that you should want to see sitting around. We'd drive by fire houses and see the guys all sitting around a table or standing out front of the house just hanging out. I'd ask why they weren't working and she always said it was better that way because it meant that everyone would be going home to their family. As young as I was when the message started, I understood. I grew up with such a great respect for firemen and her message has been with me since I can remember.

Yesterday my hubby, my best friend, and I spent the day with Philly's 2nd Alarmers at their Annual Phillies' tailgate. It was a great time with great friends for a greater organization and we had a blast. We bought some raffle tickets with hopes of winning but only expectations of supporting the cause. Around 6:15 we checked the winning numbers and realized we won the "Fire Basket." We got a Fire Department lanyard, mug, sticker, sweatshirt, and blanket. So cool!

Little did I know that just minutes before the drawing a fire ignited in the Queen Village section of Philadelphia. As our brave PFD responded to the call of duty, we continued the party in their honor, not knowing what was happening just a few neighborhoods away from where we stood. Sadly, one of our city's bravest lost his life that night. The news coverage has been emotional as our city comes together to honor this fallen hero. I didn't know Captain Michael Goodwin but the loss still hit me. I have friends in the department and I know how strong the bond of brotherhood can be. I feel sadness for their loss, for his family's loss, and for our city's loss.

I know I can't do much but I do think it's important that we honor his memory and support his family with our gratitude, love, and prayers. The Mayor has ordered all flags be flown at half-mast for the next 30 days. I don't have a flag to fly but my Facebook profile picture will remain the PFD mourning badge for these 30 days.  It isn't much but it's something. I will continue to keep his family, our PFD, and all of our emergency responders in my thoughts and prayers.

We can never forget or take for granted the service, sacrifice, and extraordinary responsibility that fall to our firefighters. And next time I drive by a firehouse and see the men all there, safe and sound, I'll say a little prayer of thanks to whomever is watching over them keeping them safe that day and always. I ask that you do the same...