My first kiss

I have noticed lately that Facebook has been asking me a lot of questions.  They say they wanted to help people get to know me.  I find that humorous because I totally overshare on Facebook.

Most of the questions are benign.

Like,

In case anyone was wondering-

1) Too many to quote but anything from Love Actually, 10 Things I Hate About You and Mean Girls will do the job.
2) Hoodies and mugs from places I travel, especially Starbucks You Are Here mugs
3)  No

And then Facebook thinks I should tell people about my first kiss.

Excuse me, Facebook?  That’s kind of personal, eh?

My first kiss was not exciting but this question felt like it crosses so many boundaries.

After I was done being put off by the nosiness of Facebook, I decided to share my first kiss on my WordPress blog.  Because WordPress didn’t press me for the information.  (See what I did there?  The pun was intended).

But yeah, my first kiss.

I was a late bloomer.  I was a shy teenager, at least when it came to boys.  I had very little confidence.  I did not have a boyfriend in high school or most of college.  Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and give my younger self a pep talk to increase her confidence.  But she will eventually get some confidence, though it will take years.

Anyway, it was a Saturday night during my sophomore year in college, meaning it was 1998 or 1999.  I was wearing overalls that I bought at Wal-Mart and my hair was in a ponytail as I let a friend do a box perm (also bought at Wal-Mart) on my hair in the dorm bathroom and all it did was create a frizzy mess.  So my hair was in a ponytail that whole year.

I wish I had a picture.

You may be reading this and cringing.  Or laughing.  Trust me, I am cringing and laughing as I write this.  I wish I could back in time and along with the pep talk, I wish I could give my younger self a lesson in style.  Because 20 year old Kerry has her assets at their best, she just didn’t know how to accentuate that.  And that there are more options of places to shop at than Wal-Mart.

Where was I?

Right.

Saturday night, sophomore year, 1998-1999ish, overalls and bad perm.  I was chatting with a guy named Dave in my friends dorm room.  I don’t remember his last name (or maybe I never knew it) but it began with an “S”.   He was a friend of a friend and he didn’t attend college.

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We were alone.   Maybe it was 1999 and everyone else was just partying like it was 1999.  It was one of the few nights that someone did not pull the fire alarm which usually happened at least four times a week in my dorm.  I spent many Maine winter nights outside freezing while waiting for the fire department to let us back in.  Eventually we learned to just go to Dunkin Donuts when this happened.

The caffeine never bothered me anyway.

Frozen

This Dave guy and I were talking.

I remembered we had identical cars.  We both drove green 1998 Saturns.

(I miss Mean Green.  Drove that car for 10 years and 240,000 miles.  Even took it out to Indiana at around 219,000 miles when it was leaking some sort of fluid.  Probably not the best idea but the car got me back to Maine before she was retired.)

Where was I?  I keep getting distracted.

Right.

Saturday night, sophomore year, 1998-1999ish, overalls and bad perm, etc.

So this Dave guy that drives an identical Saturn as me and doesn’t go to my school kissed me.

It was not exciting.  Actually it was very anti-climatic.

I saw where this was going.  I did not wait a long time to just be some hookup on campus.

A voice inside me told me that I at least deserved dinner.  Heck, I probably would have settled for one of those stir-fry sandwiches made by Scary Gary from the Crack Shack.  (Okay, it was called the Snack Shack and there was a guy named Gary and everyone, and I mean everyone, called him Scary Gary.  I may have called him that to his face when I was drunk one night.  I am sure I wasn’t the first.  Or the last.)

I wish I had a picture.  I wish smartphones and Facebook existed back then.

But maybe 20 year old Kerry was more of a bad-ass than I give her credit for.  She was not desperate for male attention.  After all these years of thinking she had low self esteem, maybe she knew her worth all along.

I told this Dave guy that we needed to get to know each other better.  Dave verbalized his understanding.

He had nowhere to sleep that night.  I made him sleep on the floor on the flip and f*ck.  (Which is now in my old bedroom at my parents house).

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Flip and F*ck- mine was green. A staple in any 1990’s college dorm room.

He snored.  Loudly.

Dave and I never went on a date.  I continued to wear those overalls and I never got another perm.  I didn’t kiss another guy until my senior year in college.  And that guy did think I deserved dinner.  And I liked Pizza Hut Pan Pizza.  And then we saw 101 Dalmations.

Okay, I still do like Pizza Hut Pan Pizza…occasionally.  But  now I would not be impressed if I was taken there on a first date.

Eventually that relationship ran it’s course.  It was evident that this guy did not ever want to get married.

Looking back, I can see a lot of red flags and problems but my younger self had to learn for herself.

A little over two and a half years into that relationship, 24 year old Kerry listened to a voice that told her that she deserved to be happy.

So she broke it off.

Oh and if you are wondering, their first kiss was not exciting either.  No fireworks in that relationship.

I began to get involved in politics and met many new friends.  One friend was like an older brother to me.  One time we were driving to a political event and this friend was trying to give me dating pointers.  One thing he said to me was that if a guy took me to a chain restaurant on the first date, then there shouldn’t be a second date.

At first my friend’s advice seemed harsh but then it made sense to 27ish-year old Kerry.   I mean, her college boyfriend took her to Pizza Hut and there was zero passion in this relationship.

It took several years and several frogs but I did eventually meet a special man.  A man who thought I was worth steak dinner.  And fancy Italian dinner.  And quality dinner of many different cuisines.

The relationship with that man had so much passion.  No anti-climatic kisses.

For eight years, that man loved me.  We were married for four of those years.

For eight years, that man worked so hard to give me, and later our daughter, the world.

It took awhile to find him and I had to kiss some frogs but I am thankful for the love he showed me.  For thinking I was worth it.  For setting the bar high on any man that might come after him.

I don’t know what the future holds but at least, thanks to Bryon, I can go into it knowing what love is and not to settle for anything less than what I deserve.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #8

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for some good vibrations gratitude!

This is what I am thankful for this week.

  1.  Gymnastics.  Every week my daughters attends gymnastics class and it is the only night she goes right down to bed.  Every other night she is hyper and jumping on the bed.  (I was the same way and I know this is payback).  Facebook reminded me today that my daughter started gymnastics one year ago.  It is amazing to see all that she has learned.

2. Movie dates.  One of my best friends and I decided we wanted to do something last weekend.  I decided to check the movie listings and I saw that Padington 2 was playing.  I made a comment that we hadn’t seen the first Padington and my friend asked me if it really mattered.  Then I felt silly.

The kids did great in the movie.  It was the first non-animated movie they had seen in the theater.  The movie was enjoyable.  And boy, Hugh Grant has gotten old.

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3.  Birthday parties.  My daughter was invited to a classmates birthday party.  It’s amazing to see her grow into her own personality and make friends.

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4.  My online widow friends.  Some of my coolest friends live in my phone.  In fact, one of those friends wrote a blog post about it.  I love my “in real life” friends but sometimes I need to let off steam with people who understand those things that only widows understand.

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5.  Happy Memories.  Facebook shared this memory with me.  I have to smile when I think about what a great man Bryon was and how lucky I am to have memories like these.

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What are you thankful for this week?

A January trip to Maine

I don’t know exactly when I met my friend Andy.  I actually met him because I was friends with his wife.  I met his wife (I am going to call her The Scallop Divers Wife because I try not to use living people’s names in my blog) in 2004 when I joined the woman’s council at St. Joe’s Catholic Church in Ellsworth, Maine.  I only know it was 2004 because I had another friend that I became friends volunteering for a certain political candidate and she noticed that we both went to 11 am Mass.  My political friend and I decided to join the woman council and we both became friends with The Scallop Divers Wife.  I probably met Andy at a church function or maybe I met him at his house.

I used to enjoys visits to Andy’s house.  I could count on funny stories and lively political discussion.  Periodically I would house and dog sit when they went away.

I moved away from Maine in 2009 because Bryon and I had been dating a year and things were serious.  I always wanted Bryon and Andy to meet.  I know they would have gotten along. Also, Bryon had dreams of being on Deadliest Catch and I told him I could get him on a fishing boat on the Maine Coast.

But sadly, the visit never materialized.

Then Andy got sick.  Cancer.  He was given a six months to live.

Like Bryon, Andy fought.  He turned a 6 months life sentence into three years.

Shortly after Bryon passed, Andy’s niece passed in a car accident and he and his family traveled to Vermont for the funeral.  It was about three hours away but I made the trip to see them the day before the funeral.  I knew I had to make this trip because I didn’t know how much longer Andy would be here and I didn’t want to have any regrets.  I knew that this might be the last chance I got to see Andy.  After Bryon died, all the regrets I heard were from people who said they wished they knew him better.  No one said they regretted visiting him.

During that visit, Andy and I didn’t know what to say to each other but it wasn’t awkward.  I remember him being kind to my daughter who was two at the time.  He was too weak to socialize and I spent the afternoon catching up with The Scallop Divers Wife.  She gave me a lesson on cooking lobster and they sent me back to New York with some Maine lobster.

Andy and I had a few conversations on Facebook Messenger.  He said it was hard to read my blog because he knew his wife was going to be going through the same thing.  I admit that it was hard to discuss death with a dying man.  I wondered if Bryon had similar thoughts.  I will never know because Bryon couldn’t speak.

Around Thanksgiving I got the news that Andy’s cancer had spread to his brain.  We had a Facebook Messenger conversation.  He told me he wasn’t ready to die, his sons were so young.  I really didn’t know what to say.  It ended up being our last conversation.

In the beginning of December, I found out that there was nothing more that could be done and Andy would be going to Hospice.  Luckily he was able to go home.  My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife.  I remembered the pure agony of waiting for your husband to die.  I only had 24 hours of that agony from the “there’s nothing more we can do” conversation (though for me the words were “your husbands heart is going to stop beating today”)  and my friend’s agony was open ended.

When I found out Andy was going to Hospice, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to his funeral.  I work in oncology data and I know many patients don’t last long in Hospice.  I was out of personal time at work for the year.  I was beside myself thinking that I wouldn’t be able to go to Maine and be there for the funeral.  I remember who showed up to pay their respects when Bryon died and I wouldn’t get to be one of those supporters for my friend.    I decided that if I was meant to be there, it would all work out.

But I was also nervous that this was up in the air because this would be the first funeral I would attend since Bryon’s.  That is a huge first for any widow.  I have a tendency to obsess about things that potentially give me anxiety.  But there was no doubt that I would work through it to be there for my friend but I was having a hard time channeling this nervous energy.

Andy’s family got one more Christmas with him and he passed on December 28, 2017.

I confirmed with my manager at work at my personal time for 2018 become effective at the New Year and then I made arrangements to go to Maine for the funeral.  Ironically my parents were in Albany so their trip was cut short but they were fine with it because I was bringing my daughter to Maine and they got to spend time with her there.

And my daughter likes playing play-doh with her Grammy.

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Play-doh at Grammy and Pappy’s House

I went to the wake (I guess outside New England they call it a viewing?) to pay my respects and visit with The Scallop Divers Wife.  I didn’t stay long because I didn’t recognize anyone else and I knew The Scallop Divers Wife was busy greeting people.  It’s a long night.

I ended up grabbing dinner with another good friend.

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Finn’s Irish Pub- Ellsworth, ME

I forgot to take a pic of us together, but here is a pic from us last summer at my best friends wedding.  This was also in Maine but it was much, much warmer.

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Williams Pond, ME, July 2017

The following morning I made the 45 minute drive to Bar Harbor for Andy’s funeral.

On the drive I was thinking about how I have been widowed long enough that I am not the newest young widow in my circle of friends.  Time has a way of slapping you in the face like that.

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Trenton, Maine

Andy was a well-liked guy and the church was full.

I tend to think I am invincible when it comes to funerals.  I attribute it to my Boston Irish upbringing.

I will mention something important.  It was during Andy’s funeral that I realized that despite being angry at God that I want a Catholic funeral when I die.  It’s how my grandparents went out.  It’s how my uncles went out.  It’s how Bryon went out.  And while God might be a hateful jerk who took my husband from me, I am not going to let him take something from me that is part of my heritage.  Andy and I had had several conversations where he challenged my current views on God. I tended to get angry at the other 99.9% of the people who did that, Andy got a pass.  It’s hard to stay mad at him and I also wasn’t going to argue with a dying man about God.  But as the realization about my own mortality hit me, I just said to myself, “Well played, Andy.  Well played.”

I was fine until the moment the funeral started.  Seeing The Scallop Divers Wife have to walk down after the coffin.  I had walked in 5 funerals before Bryon (three grandparents and two uncles) and nothing can prepare you for that moment for when it’s your spouse.  My heart ached for The Scallop Divers Wife and three sons.  I felt shaky during the processional and I asked Bryon to be with me (something I don’t tend to do.  I figure he comes and goes when he feels like it) and suddenly I had my Boston Irish composure back.  I don’t doubt for a second that he was there with me.

Though The Scallop Divers Wife wins the award for being the strongest.  She got up and gave a beautiful eulogy.  I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

I had asked The Scallop Divers Wife if she was okay if I wrote this post.  She said she was curious about reading it from my point of view.  I hope I don’t disappoint her because I don’t remember the details.  I was a jumble of emotions that day and my account is likely to come across as self-absorbed.  No widow(er) means to be self absorbs.  We just have lots of emotions to sort out.  And once we get those emotions sorted out, we hit another widow milestone and it brings up a whole new batch of feelings.

The Scallop Divers Wife is my friend and I hope she will be through the rest of our lives We will always be bonded by the fact that we are young widows.  I am far enough into my widowhood journey (17 months and 5 days) to know that the funeral is like a wedding.  Both are important days but while a wedding is just one day of a marriage, the funeral is just one day in the life without a loved one.

And just like our wedding day, we will remember our husbands funeral for the rest of our lives.

Andy’s Obituary

Andy’s appearance on the Steven Colbert Show

Public Service Anouncement: A widow’s rant

You have heard that someone has died.

It makes you sad.

You think about some fond memories with the deceased.

You may want to write about these lovely memories on Facebook and add a picture.

But for the love of all that is Holy, don’t post anything on social media until the next of kin has made the death public.

While the post may come with good intentions, it is actually one of the most disrespectful things you can do to a grieving person.

This is like births and engagements.  The ones who are the most affected get to share the news.

The next of kin, which is usually the spouse, parents, child or sibling of the deceased has a lot of do before the death is made public.  They have to notify all the other family members and close friends of the death.  And if someone posts about the death before it is made public, then those family members and close friends may hear about the death first on Facebook.

How would you feel if you found out about your aunts death on Facebook?

So please, please, please, save your social media condolences until after the next of kin has shared the news.

Your post will be appreciated.  I was worried that I was only going to remember Bryon as he was in the ICU.  Once I made his death public, Facebook was showered with memories and pictures of him.  After spending five months sitting beside him in the ICU, I was instantly reminded that he was a man who was full of life and I was relieved that that was how he was remembered.

Your post will be appreciated.

But please.

Wait until the death has been made public.

 

Truth, lies and authenticity.

The widow fog is gone.

Chaos is all around.

Reality is becoming clearer each day,

Differentiating between truth and deception.

If friendships are real,

Or ever were real.

And who may be using her or just tearing her down.

Searching for authenticity,

Differentiating between what is real and what is fake.

The widow fog is gone,

Making way for a storm.

Not a dangerous, tragic storm,

But just a lot of noise.

Noise.

Projections.

Lies.

Assumptions.

Deceptions.

Phoniness.

So much of it over small stuff.

The widow is not uncaring.

It’s just hard to care about the things that don’t matter,

Especially after losing someone that meant so much.

Her world fell apart.

People may have forgotten.

She can’t make people really understand,

Especially if they don’t want to.

The widow knows that life is short.

She yearns for the authentic.

True love, true friendship,

True emotions and deep meanings.

But she knows that once this noise clears,

There will be goodness, truthfulness and happiness.

She will be focused on striving toward an authentic existence.

A special thank you

WordPress alerted me that today is my one year anniversary.

I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks.

Thank you.

For reading.

For being there for me.

For supporting me.

For being my friend.

For letting me pour my heart out to you.

Thank you.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #7

I fell of the gratitude wagon so I decided to bring Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday back for 2018!

1)  Taco Tuesday with one of my besties.  We got a chance to catch up after the holidays.  She is such a positive person and I always feel better about myself after spending time with her.

The ground beef recipe for the taco fillings came from The Homesick Texan Cookbook.  I discovered her blog while I was reorganizing my Pinterest boards during those long months when I was sitting at Bryon’s bedside.  I highly recommend her blog and her cookbooks.

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2) I am thankful to be back at the gym after my bout with bronchitis last month and I am thankful for the support of the trainers and from my friends that attend the same class.

3) I am thankful for the warm weather we have been having this week.  The temp reached 49 today and it is expected to get to 57 tomorrow.  This feels so good after we had below zero temperatures last week.

4)  I am also thankful that my daughter and I got to enjoy these bunny tracks before they melted away.

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5)  I am thankful that I get the privilege to see my daughter grow and learn each day.   Little by little, she is growing into the person that she will be become and I am excited to see who she becomes.

Lessons learned: 17 months into widowhood

New Years Eve 2016, Bryon and I stayed in.  We figured it would have been too hard to get a baby-sitter that night.  Bryon made Beef Wellington.  I never got my kiss that night because I looked over at him at 11:53pm and he was snoring in his chair.

Life was good.  We had our routine.  Our jobs were going well and things were going well at home.  Our daughter was 16 months old and Bryon loved playing with her.

Bryon was preparing for weight loss surgery.  I decided that I was going to get healthy alongside Bryon and I started Couch to 5k and I was going to run a half marathon in the fall.

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In Feb 2016, we went on our last cruise with a few days in Florida beforehand.  We went to the Tampa Zoo and we spent the day at Epcot with my cousin and her husband and we had dinner with Bryon’s Godmother and her family.  On our cruise we visited Bryon’s two favorite ports, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.  We had a few fancy dinners on our last cruise and those were probably our last date nights.

In March Bryon had his weight loss surgery and it went well.  Bryon’s recovery started off well.  He was looking forward to being cleared to re-institute solid food and being cleared to exercise.  He wanted to start Couch to 5k and wanted to run a 5k.  We were looking forward to the rest of our lives.

Then in an instant everything changed.

Bryon was critically ill in the ICU where he clung to his life for 5 months.

For 5 months I was exhausted and ran on adrenaline and caffeine, desperately pleading to God to heal Bryon.  At the beginning of August, I had him transferred to New York City and for two weeks, things were starting to look up.

Until his body started to shut down.

On August 20, 2016 I was told that Bryon’s heart was going to stop beating.

He died the next morning.

For the following month, I was in total shock.  That shock turned into fog.  That heavy fog stayed for six months and then began to lift.  I started noticing things about how I felt and how I was treated.

The fog has slowly been lifting.

I was a happily married wife and mother of a one year old and now I am a 39-year-old widowed mother of a three year old.   Sometimes it feels like I was living my old life yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago.

I feel that the fog is gone.  I feel like my present is a combination of that moment on every episode of Saved by the Bell where the chaos is ensuing and Mr. Belding comes in and says “Hey, hey, hey!  What is going on  here?” and that episode of How I Met Your Mother when the glass kept shattering.

I have spent the last 22 months thinking.  Thinking about so many things.

Things I have thought about over the last 22 months.  (Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list)

My Marriage with Bryon.
How does his death affect our daughter?  She won’t remember him.
The meaning of life.
My life from beginning to present.
Tacos.
What happens after we die?
My relationship with God.
How do I want to spend my remaining years?
The fact that I need to watch all those episodes of This Is Us on my DVR.
The Fuller House storyline and the fact that John Stamos is still hot after all these years.
What do I want out of life?
Can I ever love again?
What have I learned from all of this?
How can I make this horrible event positive?
My relationships.

I have decided to share with you some of the lessons I have learned so far.  These lessons aren’t in any particular order. This is from my current perspective and may change after I spend more time thinking.

1)  Grief takes time and can’t be rushed.

2) Only YOU know what’s best for YOU.  Most people don’t have a clue what you need.

3) It is up to you to decide when you or if you are ready to live again.

4) You can’t change how people treat you.  You can only change how you respond and set boundaries.

5) People will project their feelings onto you.  Don’t take it personally.  If someone is tearing you down, it is likely that they are the ones who are insecure and they tear you down to make themselves feel better.

6) Be open to others but beware of their intentions.  People are not always who they project themselves to be.

7) Love yourself.  You deserve it.

8) Surround yourself with loving, supportive people.  Life is too short to be around toxic people.

9) There is always beauty in this world.  You just need to make sure your blinders aren’t on.

10) People generally mean well.  They don’t mean to say painful things.  They are just products of a society that doesn’t know how to handle death and grief.

On living and dying

I received some very sad news this morning.  A friend of mine back home had been battling Stage IV cancer for a couple of years now and there isn’t anymore that can be done.  He will be going to Hospice.

My heart is heavy knowing what is in store for his wife and children.  While no two situations are exactly alike, I have a better understanding than most.

So if you are reading this and you are healthy, please be grateful.  Be grateful for the health of those around you.

Because life is temporary.  

And so are we.  

Someday you are going to die.
I am going to die.

Everyone close to us is going to die.  

Please take time to appreciate those in your life.  

Hold on tight to those who matter.

Don’t waste time on those who are toxic.

Please, please, please don’t live with regrets.

We always think we have more time.  

Except we don’t always have more time.

If there is something you want to do, do it.  If you don’t have the means, find a way to make the means.  If you don’t have the time, find the time.  But do it.  Or at least do something that is a step in that direction.  They say that you don’t regret the things you do, you are more likely to regret the things you didn’t do.

You are here.  

You are breathing.

You need to live.  To do.  To think.  To create.  To love.

Be passionate.

So while you are here, please, please, please make today count.

50 long years

50 years.

That is how long I can potentially be on this Earth.  That is if I live to my 90’s like both of my grandmothers.

50 long years.

I don’t know how I am going to do it.

To fill up all those years.

I went from being a person with her life planned out to being a person who is merely existing.

I am obviously still here for a reason.

And I want to see my daughter grow up and meet my grandchildren and maybe even my great-grandchildren.

My daughter (age 3) told me that she is going to be a mother when she grows up and that she is going to have four children.

So I guess that means for every theatrical temper tantrum I have to deal with, she will get it back times four.

Karma can be a beautiful thing.

But it is all going to be delightful as long as my daughter gets an education first.

People used to ask me why I was bothering with a second degree because I was married to a lawyer.  I always said that if something should- God forbid- happen to Bryon, I need to be able to support myself and my family.

I used to say that but I never thought it would actually be my reality.

But here I am.  Surviving?  Existing? Keeping my head above water?  Waiting to live again?

Without direction.  Lost.  Anxious.

Bryon is not here to solve all my problems.  He is not here to tell me that everything is going to be okay.

No idea what the future holds.

I have lost my faith.  In God.  In the Universe.

The future feels bleak and empty.

Scared to be lonely.

Scared to let someone else in.

Scared that I will be unhappy.

Scared that I won’t be able enough for my daughter.

Scared that I will always be sad.

Scared that I won’t make the best of my remaining years.

This is my life now.

For the next 50 long years.