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Valentine's Day

Here's a link to my blog post, an anniversary/Valentine's tribute to my husband:
http://ahipstory.blogspot.com/2013/02/on-love.html

Tell someone you love them today. Sure, the commercialism is overblown, but I cannot have a problem with a day that encourages people to just love each other.

xo, HVD!

M

Jan. 17th, 2013

One of my best friends told me last night that her father is now in Hospice care. He, like my dad, has a host of respiratory issues and heart disease. He was in and out of the hospital for a while around Thanksgiving. My friend and her family spent part of Christmas in the hospital by his bedside. Things at one point were on the up and up; he was moved from the hospital to a rehab center, all breathing and feeding tubes removed. Recently, he took a turn for the worse and decided that he no longer wanted to be "poked and prodded and tubed" (as friend put it) and so he is in the hospice unit getting comfort care for the rest of his days.

I am so sad for her. We are both daddy's girls (I was long before I became that way by default when I lost my mom) and despite her attempt to sound upbeat on the phone, I know she is devastated. I know she doesn't want to watch him suffer anymore, but she's also going to be totally wrecked. Unlike me, she is not one to really show sad emotions; I saw her cry once about a year ago, talking about her dad. I had been talking about my dad and asked about hers, and at that time he was fading. It was the first time I'd seen that kind of raw emotion from her. She's strong. She's clearly put up a wall. I did the same thing when mom died. I need to find a way to tell her that if she needs to just be a wreck, she can be a wreck with me.

Naturally, this has me thinking about my own father. He has some sort of issue that lands him in the hospital just about quarterly. Yesterday he called to say he got a good report from his cardiologist after the last stent they put in. He may need to sleep with an oxygen tank/cannula because he has sleep apnea. They measured his sleeping heart rate and sometimes it gets as low as 40. This has been my fear; that he'll go to bed and never wake up. I suppose of all the ways to go, that'd be the best, but I dread the day I walk into his apartment and find him.

I know we are supposed to outlive our parents. That's the way it works (unless you're my maternal grandmother, who outlived two of her 3 children before she died at age 97). Still, it's not easy. I know it won't be for her. I'll do my best to be there, and she has a wonderful husband who is there for her too. But it has made me think about my dad and how short time really is.

Please call/email/hug your parents for me today, and tell everyone you love them.

Grumblings

Before I send the wrong impression, a disclaimer: I love my dad, and I am lucky to have him. I am glad he moved closer, and I know it was the right thing. /end disclaimer

But yesterday, he pissed me off so much. A little back story: The 29th of October was the 14 year anniversary of my mother's death. Its always a hard day for me and for my dad and brother too. We all deal with it in our own ways but it kind of sours Halloween a bit. So yesterday dad and I are in the car heading to Auburn for appointment. He begins his usual story-telling ways and I calmly listen. Somehow the subject of my brother comes up. My brother, for those that don't know, has autism and OCD. He's very high-functioning but has struggled his whole life, particularly in his childhood, tweens and teens because Autism was relatively unknown. Long story short, for many years before and after mom's death, dad had a very hard time dealing with my brother and his diagnosis and was sometimes verbally and (very very rarely) physically abusive to my brother. He refused to see that Steve was sick and my mom stood by helplessly as my dad belittled and screamed at my brother. Fast-forward to yesterday's car ride. Dad starts talking about how he used to work at Pineland Center, where they take care of kids with mental disabilities, and that's why he was "so good with my brother because he had the practice." He goes on to start subtle putting my mother down (which he does more often than not) saying "she didn't understand but I had to keep telling her. And now she wouldn't be x, y, z blah blah." First of all, this is a load of garbage. My dad was more or less awful to Steve growing up, and it took Steve moving out of the house and me giving dad an ultimatum when I got older for dad to switch gears to acceptance and support. Second, bad mouthing his dead wife in front of his daughter so close to the anniversary of her death is so disrespectful.

He has this way about him; I think its just how he is. He builds himself up by putting others down, pointing out their faults, etc. Almost every time he talks about my mother, its telling me some story about a time she did something stupid, or didn't understand something, or when he had to come to her rescue, etc. He's perfectly nice about it, but its always pointing out her shortcomings. For years, he's said nicer things about my friends than he has said to me (still does; last week: "I bet you wish you had a nice thin figure like Aimee) and I put up with it because he's my dad and its not worth fighting over, and I know it is his coping/defense mechanism. We've had this conversation before but it never goes anywhere. It makes me worry about how he'll come off to the new people he meets at his new apartment building. During yesterday's car ride, he also said some really degrading things about nurses he used to work with and referred to a black man as a "negroid." And that wasn't even the worst of it.

We've got a major generational and cultural gap, but as a wise friend of mine told me today, it can't all be blamed on that. Its hard for me to realize that he may inherently be racist/sexist. He's never mean, and he seems to always be well-meaning, and the bad-mouthing is just how copes with things. But its really hard to handle, especially this time of year. its not worth it to try and change him- he's 73. He's made a lot of progress in dealing with my brother and his illness and other things but it just makes me so mad sometimes.

To vent a moment

Last night at the office we had a very interesting seminar that examined our collective results of the Predictive Index survey. It was largely fascinating; we learned a lot about ourselves, each other, and our work style. http://www.piworldwide.com/Products/Predictive-Index-System.aspx I had to take it as part of my hiring process, and my results did not surprise me too much. It indicated above average patience and extroversion (glaringly accurate) and under-average dominance (linked to risk-taking, self confidence, assertiveness) and slightly above average formality.

What surprised me was the dominance/self-confidence part. The host of the seminar who specializes in analyzing the results explained that I was patient and helpful and laid-back (all true). He mentioned that I take time on tasks so as to be thorough and I may ask a lot of questions (since I am not a big risk taker) which is also spot-on. He said though, that I may be lacking in self confidence. At first, I was like, "no way, not true, I love myself, etc etc" but as I think about it, it may be partly true. In my day to day life, I think my confidence is pretty high; I have important leadership roles in my church and the Diocese, I am in a stable, healthy relationship, well-educated, etc. I do however, second guess myself and my decisions sometimes, but most often at work. Part of this, sad but true, is lack of confidence sure, but its also what I feel to be, a lack of proper training.

Working in the financial aid offices at USM and UNE has been both remarkably similar and wildly different. Similar in the fact that its the same ends/purpose, and for the most part, the same means to get there. Federal regulations are the same, and policy and procedures are similar. The biggest difference I have noticed so far is in the training. When I started at USM, I had 2+ weeks of comprehensive training; sitting with each specialist for at least a couple hours watching, learning, and then doing. USM gave me the financial aid foundation I needed to get the job at UNE. When I started here at UNE, I had about 2 days of training and was sort of left to "figure it out as I go." In regards to some things, that approach would work for me. When dealing with strict federal guidelines and millions of dollars however, I need to know exactly what to do and exactly what is expected of me. I don't need full, narrative directions. Give me a step-by-step clear and concise list and I will get you results quickly and accurately.

As a result of last night's seminar, I learned that my supervisor and I have different styles, which may be the reason for what I perceive as a lack of understanding. I feel as though when I have a question, she's either not hearing me, I'm not being clear, or both. I also think there's some assuming on her part; meaning, she's assumed I don't know what I am doing for x,y,z reason (usually its because of my age people assume this) and gives me an answer that isn't helpful. She was described as exceedingly formal and much less patient than I am, so how do we meet in the middle? The consultant said she is the type that is by the book; the kind that knows all the rules, expects others to follow the rules, and has deep knowledge in her subject areas. Is it bad that this, to me, does not seem accurate? There have been instances where I ask a question based on what I read in the federal regulations that she shrugs off as my misunderstanding, when in fact, I feel she has misunderstood. Its immensely frustrating.

The folks in the office I was most aligned with I felt made sense, because we get along well and are so similar. There are a bunch of different styles in our office, though the consultant assured us we are suited to working well together as a team. I wonder: am I the only one who feels this way? My assertiveness and confidence is too low for me to dare to ask (ha). Sometimes I get caught up in "oh well I am the youngest and so and so is my superior and has seniority so I will just keep my mouth shut because it has gotten me into trouble before." That's a hard mindset for me to break, even at 25. At what age will people take me seriously? At what age will I feel comfortable in my own skin/surroundings/workplace?

Thankful

I read an article this morning that moved me to tears. For reference, this is the article http://www.sunjournal.com/national/story/1089626 and it in many ways, hit home for me.

When I was growing up, we had very little (or so I thought). I never had the "right clothes" and my parents were on food stamps and we never vacationed. In my under 16 year-old brain my family was poor. I knew that my best Christmas presents were because of the church giving tree (though it wasn't until my teens that I figured it out) and I used to secretly wish I could afford the Gap and Abercrombie clothes people at school wore. I was conviced we were the poorest of the poor. What I failed to realize until just about graduation, was that we had it pretty good. We always had food, never had to stay in a shelter, and my brother and I we clothed and clean. I had material things I loved and friends and family I loved more. I had an epic imagination; I'm thinking of all the crazy stuff we did erotophobic.

Reading these stories makes me ashamed of the way I was thinking. Just because my brother and I lacked some of the material possessions and income of people around us, I assumed we were in the worst situation possible. How wrong was I? I mean, I know we were not "well-off" in many respects; we lived off my dad's SS income and mom was gone. I had to work two jobs from age 16 through college and sometimes had to help with bills and buy my own toiletries. I didn't have a cell phone til I started driving, let alone my own car to drive. But for the most part, I can recall being happy. Like, really, really happy. Once I got over the feeling of being "without' I started to recognize what it was I did have. We had food, a roof over our head, a car that worked and people around us that loved and supported us.

As an adult now, there are days where I think "man I am so poor" when I am paying bill after bill (curse you, student loans!) and wish I had more. Then something like this story will pop up and make me remember that I have it good. Ethan and I are happy, with a nice new car and a gorgeous apartment in the city and food always on the table and occasional nights out. I have a stable job with benefits and so does Ethan. We are better off than a large chunk of the population, and I am ashamed of those times I have thought I was "poor." Our society is so consumer driven that all of us constantly wish we had the latest and greatest gadget or device or toy. I try to remember that I can't have everything and I still have more than most people. Its humbling. I am going to try even harder to be grateful for everything I have, and take nothing for granted (even in those times were I feel really down and out).

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Ladies and gentlemen

Ethan and I will be getting married on September 8, 2012, unless for planning reasons, that date doesn't work. We are so excited, and are truly blessed to have found each other! :)

I registered at www.theknot.com, so I guess I'm a real bride-to-be. We're going to plan something pretty low-key, but its going to be amazing and beautiful.

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2011

 Today is day four of 2011. Wait..what? Another year gone by, and I am feeling pretty ready for it. 2010 was quite a year. What's the word I am looking for...it was transformative. I learned a lot about myself. I severed ties. Met a man and fell in love. Made new friends; watched some friendships fizzle out. Got my hip fixed. 

Every year, we all make resolutions. And almost instantly, our motivation fades. I've decided to do away with the word "resolution" this year. I don't want to just resolve to do something-  I actually want to do things. This year, I have goals. At the end of 2010, I read a book called "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. It was somewhat life-changing. She illustrates a year of increasing happiness; trials and tribulations of changing and adding behaviors. I've taken some of what she put forth in the book and come up with measurable goals for 2010. 

1. Visit Facebook only once a day during the 8-4:30 work day. Its such a great tool in some respects, but a huge distraction most often. This will help me to really be more engaged in my work. In free moments, when I feel tempted to visit FB, I'll read the news instead. Current events are important. 
2. Write one letter/card a month and snail-mail it. I have friends/family scattered across the country. Things like this and Facebook help keep people connected,but there's something really satisfying and refreshing about getting something in the mail that isn't junk or bills, and not just at Christmas time. 

3. Save enough money for 6 months worth of expenses. If you haven't discovered www.mint.com, you should. It helps you manage your finances and to set goals. My parents never really had savings, and I know how important it is. "Experts" say its important to have a minimum of 6 months worth of expenses in cash saved away. I'm not quite there yet, but I did some substantial saving in 2010, and I plan to really work at it in 2011. 

4. Eat at least one fruit and one veggie every day. I know you need like, 5 servings of each. I eat pretty well, but I either have all fruit or all veggie days by accident. And its usually apples and carrots or cucumbers. I need to shake it up more. Rather than "get in shape" or "eat better" this gives me something to really focus on. One and one a day will likely lead to more! 

What are your goals?

Happy New Year!

Maria

Autumn

It seems as though I am doing quarterly updates that fall (pun intended) in line with the seasons. With the omni-presence of Facebook, this thing seems almost unnecessary. Still, it functions well as its intended, purpose; a journal. So, allow me to express the following.

For the most part, I am in a really good place. I am head-over heels in love with an amazing man. I'm living in the city (read: Portland, ME) and loving it. I have a full-time job, great benefits, a car that works (that I'm sharing with E). Sugery to get my hip fixed is on track, and I think I've figured out a few culprits of my stomach troubles (goodbye, hormonal BC). I have amazing friends and family and an active life in my church and the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. Life is good.

What's hard is, the lack of money. I know the economy is tough for everyone, but its hard for me too, and it makes it difficult to enjoy the pleasures of life (above) when there's this dark money-cloud hanging over me. Since the divorce, I've been playing catch-up on finances, and a lot has changed. I was going to quit my salaried job, move to Worcester and get a masters degree in English. Then, my confidence wavered, my hip started to hurt more, I was getting sick often, and I didn't have any savings with which to afford moving, so I made the decision to defer admission and take care of myself physically and financially. The problem was, my position at work was due to be filled and there was no way to get it back. Luckily, I was able to transition to the Portland office, to remain employed, but my salary went down. Go figure. I shouldn't complain; I'm still employed, still have great benes, but its been a frustrating transition process.

So now I am in an interesting place. I like my job (for the most part) but its not something I want to do forever. Financial aid is really frustrating. I love the higher education setting, I just want to take the federal money piece out of it. My salary is significantly less, and I'm even more on the edge of just barely paying my bills. I just don't feel fulfilled by my job. I want to do something that I am excited to get out of bed and do (don't we all?!) and I'd like to have the money to feel sustainable. And here's the kicker:

I am not sure I want to go to grad school. And, if I do go, I'm not sure I want a Masters in English anymore.

Everyone keeps asking me; when are you going to go to school? The fall? Next spring. I always rattle off something about not being sure yet, and waiting for hip surgery is a good excuse, but what I really want to say is; I'm not sure I am going to go at all. The people I have said that to (with the exception of a few) always have this look of disappointment on their face, a lot of the reason why I don't say anything. Before I spend the money on school, moving, etc, I want to have a better "gut feeling" about it. As the prospect of getting an MA from Clark was closer and closer, I got more and more hesitant and unsure. I kept thinking; "maybe I don't want to do this. People have speculated that its because of Ethan; that I am not going to school because of him. This is both true and false. Its false in that, I was ready to go, and he supported me. I wasn't about to sacrifice myself to make someone else happy again; I'd done it for years. But its true because, well, I love him. And the idea of a long-distance relationship scares the tar out of me. I don't want to leave him, our apartment, or really, Portland, for that matter. And so what? Isn't life really just all about love? /end rant

So at the moment, I am going to work and start thinking about what I want down the road. I know first and foremost, I want a family. This brings eyerolls from people too because I am "so young" and I have "tons of life ahead of me" and a co-worker said "don't ruin your dreams with having kids early." My dream is to have a family. Everything else is a means to reach that dream. Ugh, this is a rant for another day.

Right now I am working on making extra cash through babysitting, and tutoring (check out my www.sittercity.com profile and my tutoring ad on craigslist!). Ethan and I have really cut costs; we don't have cable, his parents graciously pay car insurance and our cell bill. We eat on the cheap, and use CFLs. We both called and had our student loan payments forgiven til February (as a financial aid professional, this was hugely embarrassing and difficult for me, but less so than going into default, which is always a no-no). I've lived off much less, so I can make this work. Ethan and I live by this lyric: Even if we ain't got money, I'm so in love with you honey / everything is gonna be alright.

Educationally speaking, I am considering options. I really like higher ed, and would love to work in advising/admissions or student life. I can take classes for free at USM, and I am considering maybe taking classes towards one of the organizational leadership degrees. But I'm just not sure at this point. And I just keep telling myself that its okay that I've changed my mind, and that I don't know yet. I'm also looking into professional organizing/time management work. I really, really like doing that kind of thing, and there are organizations out there (National Association of Professional Organizers, etc). I could work for myself (how wonderful!) and really be doing something I love. We'll see where that takes me.

Surgery on my bad hip is coming (www.ahipstory.blogspot.com) and that will put my mind a bit more at ease. I asked for a raise at work (we'll see) and I've picked up some babysitting gigs. Things are looking up. There's still some uncertainty re: money, school, life-plan, but I'm trying to just...go with the flow.

Update

Oh June! Here's what you need to know:

-Deferred grad school one year. Need to get surgery on my hips and save some money/pay off debt. Tough decision to make, but it feels like the right one. Staying in Portland, loving the city and banking some dollars (bonus!).

-August 1st I am beginning work at the USM Portland campus. A less stressful position, and also within walking distance from home (bonus! goodbye, thunder thighs!).

-Developed a pre-ulcer/acid-reflux stomach issue. Barfed at least once a week for about a month. Medications are helping now. Thanks, stress and heredity! Lost 10 pounds because of this (bonus!).

-My beloved Pontiac Sunfire, lovingly known as Frances, was assaulted and is now totaled. A drunk handicapped person slammed into her when she was parked and ruined her. Ethan's car and our neighbor's truck were also damaged. I received enough money to pay off her loan, plus $1700.  And I have no more car payment (bonus!)

-Living in Portland! Getting very city-savvy and loving it. Silly's is my favorite. I crave a Bee's Knees shake every day!

-I have the best friends in the whole world. We're all spread out, but it still works!

-I have fallen in love, and that's the best part of all of this. Despite the stress in my life of late, I have found a man who keeps me grounded, who gives me what I need and makes me happy. I can't remember the last time I felt anything close to this feeling, and its fantastic! We've been together less than 6 months, but sometimes, you just know.

Sunshine-y update

Spring is in the air. It hasn't snowed (anything measurable) in weeks which is rare for Maine. Day time temperatures are approaching 60 degrees. Two weekends ago I went to Ferry beach and walked it and saw all the little (and big) doggies out to play. It was so refreshing. I cannot wait for the moment when everything turns green again.

I got accepted to Clark University for grad school. Full scholarship too. Not so sure about moving back to Worcester, but Clark is an amazing school and its very hard to say no to a free ride. I am waiting to hear from Brown (any day now) and BU (not sure of decision ETA). Got rejected from UConn, but didn't want to go there anyway. I am so excited and also terrified! I've had my professional brain on for so long I am nervous to get back into school mode. I hope I can transition smoothly. Its very bitter sweet. There are people and places I am going to miss.  Daddy is here, and my big brother (who turns 30 this 4th of July ). I'm on a bunch of committees at church that I am sad to leave. I have a great circle of friends here that I love and will miss (thank goodness for planes, trains, automobiles and Facebook).

The most amazing thing recently is the man that I met. I thought I had sworn off relationships. I was doing the casual dating/sex thing and loving it. I told myself I didn't want a boyfriend here because I was going to move away for school and didn't want anything to hold me back. And then Ethan stumbled into my life. We met at a bar (I know, I know) and we instantly clicked. That first night I could have talked to him all night. That was a month ago yesterday. Right around the 3rd, we decided to make things "official" and I couldn't be happier. He makes me feel beautiful and smart. He's 34- 10.5 years older than me, and its absolutely perfect. I've heard whispers from people who think that's a large gap. I must say that the age difference is not even palpable, unless we make cultural references ( then we just laugh about them. Like when I say " that song reminds me of middle school" and he says "I was a sophomore in college when that came out). His maturity is what matters. I don't have to teach him how to be in a relationship. He has a bachelor pad, but not a gross one. He loves his momma more than anyone and is very close with his family. He treats me with respect, as an equal. It helps too that he's so handsome we can barely stop touching each other. Its only been a month, but it feels like a lifetime (in a good way). My lease in Kbunk is up in April and I'm moving in with him. It saves us both money (which is important, as I am moving to Worcester soon). I'm there every day/night these days anyway. The thought of it doesn't even scare me at all. I have to hold onto that.

Shortly after my split from my now ex-husband, I made a for-real list of things I do and don't want in a partner. Ethan fits that list TO THE LETTER. I hadn't even been looking, and he dropped into my life so unexpectedly. We joke a lot about "all those old people being right" that "it just happens. When you're not looking and you least expect it." I feel so blessed and so lucky.

School? He totally wants me to go. He's so proud of me. Its not something we bring up a lot because it makes us sad. But we do know that I am going and we are going to make it work. The program at Clark and BU is 1 year. Brown is just around 2. We'll find a way to make it work. I feel like we have to. Our feelings grow stronger every day! 

Long story short: My life is so so good right now. I feel extremely blessed and lucky and happy. I'm the happiest I've been in a long time.


'Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth "you owe me." Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky' -Hafiz a Persian poet of the 1300s