This blog is for Jim Marventano's family and friends to review his status and updates while he goes through treatment for Stage IV Colon Cancer. We can beat it together!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Thanks for reading the blog, my friends. I'm going to keep it posted, but I'm done writing.  I appreciate everyone's support and friendship. Thanks for seeing Jim, me, and the kids through one heck of a journey. Embarking on new challenges isn't always easy or fun - thank you for being our cheerleaders through thick and thin.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Really cancer? WTF.

So, that's the gentle title for today's post. In the last post I mentioned that things have been a wee bit tough around here. So here's part of the story that goes with that. I've held on to this blog for a few weeks but now is the time to post it.

Really?  R.E.A.L.L.Y.? What the hell, cancer? Because...wouldn't you think that we've paid our dues to cancer because we lost Jim? I'm gonna say yes. Apparently that wasn't enough. And there's no easy way to say it. We recently found out that my sister-in-law Becky has Hodgkin's lymphoma. FUCK. Are you kidding me? Becky is married to my brother Kevin, and they have a handsome, sweet, brilliant little 18 month old boy named Darby.

Fill in the blank here...
Jim is to Kate as _____ is to Kevin.

We Fergusons tend to marry people that balance us out. People that are the missing component in our family. People that have good strong personalities and a solid head on their shoulders. Heaven knows we need it. Becky is everything to Kevin (and to the rest of our family, for that matter) that Jim was to me.

Kevin did a lot 'o livin before he met Becky. With Becky, Kevin managed to put himself through school while working full time, find a great job after he graduated, and together they have the cutest little boy to walk the streets of Kohler. (Anyone who wants to fight for that title will have to see me, his Aunt Kate.) Kevin and Becky moved to Kohler a few months ago. Ironically, they ended up moving in i.m.m.e.d.i.a.t.e.l.y. n.e.x.t. d.o.o.r. t.o. m.e. My parents bought the house next door, and then promptly contracted a case of buyer's remorse. So they offered to sell the house to Kevin and Becky if Kev could find a job. Well, Kev nailed the first job he interviewed for and started work on February 14. They opted to move to Kohler for the same reasons we all do - a better quality of life. They were in St. Paul before that, and with big city living also comes big city price tags. So here they are. Next door. I fretted that things would be awkward. And then you know what happened? Becky just flat out said to me "I don't want this to be an 'Everybody Loves Raymond' scenario." Yeeeeessssssss...Becky, you are my kind of girl.

So, here they are in Kohler. Over the last couple of years, Becky has lost significant amounts of weight. At first, we praised her for losing weight after Darby was born. Then I was annoyed as I watched her get thin and more than a wee bit jealous of her slim figure. Recently she's been fretting about the weight because it's been coming off despite her eating normally - bearing in mind that the Ferguson version of normal is 3x more than the average person. She'd been to the doctor twice in St. Paul, worried about the weight loss. Her thyroid and bloodwork tested fine. They told her her body was just leveling out after Darby's birth.

She recently decided that she was ready to try again and figure out this weight loss thing. It's been bothering her.

20 minutes into a meeting with our general doctor (a shout out to Dr. Michelle for actually listening to her), Dr. Michelle told Becky that she thought she might have some form of lymphoma and that she needed a scan and bloodwork done immediately. They are so new in town that Becky didn't even know how to get to the doctor's office, let alone hear news like that and then figure out where to go for the scan. She called my parents (who happened to be visiting) and my dad and I went to pick her up.

While at the scan, drinking the lovely contrast mixture, she looked at me and said "What are the odds that Jim moved to Kohler and got diagnosed with cancer, and now I move to Kohler and get diagnosed with cancer?" Ffffffff. I don't know. I said "The odds are pretty damn slim, Becky. Let's hope that works in our favor!" It didn't. The radiologist read the report immediately. We got on the phone with the doctor. Yes, everything appears to be consistent with lymphoma.

Becky has already had some lymph nodes removed and biopsied. And she's already met with Dr. Kumar at my beloved Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic. And she's already got her port.

The good news: Becky's bloodwork all came back completely normal. Yippee! She got her first chemo treatment on Tuesday, and they fawned all over her at the Vince. Of course they did, because they're amazing like that. I still keep hoping that maybe it's all a big mistake and that she just needs to drink more water. Or something silly like that. The success rates for Hodgkin's lymphoma are astoundingly positive. The doctor repeated many times "Becky, I need to stress that this is VERY treatable." Good. Because for heaven's sakes, she's got an adorable little boy at home that needs her...and I'm not just referring to my brother. ;-)

Unfortunately, Becky's two major encounters with cancer have included her mother, who she lost to breast cancer when Becky was only eight years old. And Jim. (The doctor said that the lymphoma is not related to Becky's family history.) Becky and Jim had a unique relationship, as adjusting to the Ferguson lifestyle requires a support group all it's own. They were fond of each other, and both of them have a keen sense of wit - apparently that's a must-have for dealing with the Ferguson clan.

I laughed and said that it's pretty scary when you're dealing with the Ferguson clan for your support network. But if there's one thing Fergusons can do, it's rally. We're mixing the Ferguson affinity for the excessive with the notorious Ferguson temper. Lymphoma? Ha! You don't have a chance around here. Becky is a Ferguson. She may have been born a Garner and raised by Siranys...but she's a Ferguson. We're like the Hotel California. You can check out but you can never leave. Poor Jim...with a good strong last name like Marventano, we still considered him a Ferguson. (I'm sure he would have begged to differ, but you couldn't tell my brothers anything else.) We are fiercely protective of our own. And Becky's got her fighting gloves on. Bring it.

I'm saddened and angry. I'm downright pissed. I thought we were done with this. It's brought up emotions and memories I'd forgotten about. The smell of chemo. Feeling guilty when I left the house for a girl's night. The emotional rollercoaster that accompanies news like this. Even sitting out on the hospital lawn, crying into the phone, talking to Jim's sister after they gave us the news. Kevin and Becky have a long summer ahead, but I don't have a single shred of doubt that they will be victorious.

I love Becky for the woman and mom that she is; for her biting wit and frank words; for her empathy and caring. I also love her for loving my brother, and allowing him to be who he is, and helping bring him to his fullest potential.

Becky, if it's any comfort, you've got the crazy, hot tempered, protective, excessive Fergusons behind you. We love you with reckless abandon because you are our family. It will be okay. You will be okay. And when we get your "No Evidence of Disease" notice, it's going to be NUTS. You belong with us like peanut butter belongs with jelly. Or, in Ferguson a bratwurst and a cold beer on a hot summer day.

We love you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

All That is Good

Lately, it seems that so many things going on around me are unjust. It's not fair. No one deserves cancer, or job loss, or other myriad problems that the people closest to me are experiencing.

After a particularly tough last month or so, I've decided to blog about what's good and just in my life. I have always maintained that one of my roles in life is to just BE fun. And HAVE fun. And experience fun with great FRIENDS. (The little girls in Rachel's class all tease me because "FUN" is my word.) I know I should be more...academic. Or cerebral. Or serious. Or grounded. Or have more convictions. Or have a better work ethic. But you know...I'm willing to leave that to other people. Of course there are times and places for things; but I prefer to rest on a lighter note than most people. I am generally a very happy person.

So here are the things that I believe are good and right going on around me that I haven't paid attention to lately:
1. My brother and sister-in-law moved in immediately next door to me. This is a golden opportunity for me to develop a better relationship with them, and with my nephew Darby. It's not like Kev and I weren't close, but he's always had his life and I've had mine...and we just dealt with our own lives. Here we are, in what is possibly the cutest town in the United States. We're living in a Norman Rockwell painting of backyard barbecues, tons of kids, beautiful tree-lined streets, and adorable little 1920's houses. My brother is teaching my son to play pinball on his xbox. My sister-in-law is younger and prettier and cooler than me - Rachel hangs around Becky like it's her job. Rachel and Jake can't get enough of playing with their cousin Darby. What a tremendous gift. My brother Tom is coming to visit this weekend for a quick trip. Tom is really the glue that holds the three of us together. He's insistent and persistent on calls and visits. Between the three of us we don't have a shred of sibling rivalry and I'm grateful for that.

2. Yesterday I went out to breakfast with my two future sister-in-laws, Susan and Cheryl. I was so proud to sit there with them. I have a very best friend in Susan, and I have a great potential friend in Cheryl. We didn't run out of things to talk about, that's for sure. Cheryl lives in Colorado - she's married to John and Susan's brother Doug. I don't get to see Cheryl that often. This is only my second time since John and I started dating. We all jokingly referred to my first meeting with Cheryl as "The Interview" because John *really* respects Cheryl and Doug's opinion. Like I wasn't sweating that! But yesterday was far more casual (for me at least) and I was absolutely delighted to spend the time with both of them. Marrying John means I'll be inheriting four more nieces and nephews. And I love being an aunt.

3. Speaking of friends, man - my group is the bomb. I have a gang of girls that run around together and we can get pretty rowdy when we're laughing and having fun. Sometimes we laugh so hard we've got tears streaming out of our eyes and I feel like I might wet my pants. We talk about issues - political and social, world and local. We talk about our kids. We talk about what's coming next in our lives. We talk about what didn't work as we thought it would, and about what did. I know I can call any one of those girls and at the drop of a hat, they'll be there. We've been through everything together - from cancer to childbirth to job loss to new opportunity. We've been through death, divorce, home remodels, and new love. We've suffered when someone is hurting and we've rejoiced when someone is happy. And you know what's funny? We've been through all that in the last 5 years or so. I cherish my group as much as my own family.

4. My kids, while tough to manage, are good and just. They are happy children, despite the fact that they lost their dad to cancer. They are very normal children. They have the most amazing manners. (At least in front of me they do.) They are also crude and going through a potty mouth phase, which I find disgusting and normal. They are healthy. They are healthy. They are healthy, And my God, I am thankful for that. Because I know full well that other parents are suffering far more than I ever have in my life.

5. I just got to take a trip to Savannah. Because I have a job, and John has a job. And because my in-laws came to watch the kids. Because I knew I could leave the kids with two people who love them very, very much. Janet and Jim got to be here for Grandparent's Day at school, and I know my kids were delighted to have them. Rachel and Jake get to go camping with their Aunt Judi and Uncle Mark and cousins Kirsten and Sean this summer, and that will be a real treat for them.

6. Don't laugh about my number six. We're celebrating the small things here. I'm going to give a shout out to Sprinkles cupcakes. And cupcakes in general. And the fact that I've learned to make cakepops. (Thanks to Amy Krueger for inspiring that one!) Because you know what? It's little things that make every day life special. And I think cupcakes are special. ...Other small things? I am getting pretty good at trap shooting. And I have a great friend, Liz Schumacher, who talked me into it. We shoot every Tuesday. Last Tuesday I brought Rachel and Jake, and Rachel told me that she wants to start shooting as soon as she's old enough. Well hot dang. That's one of the reasons I'm doing this. So they can eventually do something their father enjoyed. And I finished the Green Bay Half Marathon with my mom this last weekend. I'm not the fastest out there (and thankfully not the slowest either!) but I am out there. We are healthy and able to run 13.1 miles.

7. I have the best parents *ever*. Don't even try to tell me that your parents are better than mine. They aren't. And I thank God every day that they are healthy.

8. It's freezing STILL here in Wisconsin. But hey, I'm living in Wisconsin and I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful to be near family. I miss my old digs in Atlanta. God knows I miss Sara and Paul, Christine, and Amy and Erik. But Wisconsin is a blessing of beautiful summers, magnificent fall leaves, awesome cheese, rolling hills and amber waves of grain. And hops. And barley. And Miller Brewing Company.

9. What is just and good in my life is that I have found love again. Not just some dud I picked up on the street. This guy is the human version of kobe steak. He's brilliant and funny and good looking. He's charming and I love his laugh. He's fun and creative. He loves me and he loves my kids. And the kids love him. This week they are experimenting with calling him "Dad", which breaks my heart and then fills it. John makes me feel whole again. When I think about John, my heart swells and I am overcome with emotion. I consider John a direct gift from God. No kidding. In the end, my kids will have three families to love them. I will have found outrageously good love in my life - twice.

Yeah, things suck right now. It's been seriously tough times around here. But look at all the things I have that *are* fair. That *are* right. The fact that I am able to look around, enjoy the blooming tulips and daffodils, smell the clean Wisconsin air (sometimes tinged with the smell of the Kohler foundry or cow poop), run, jump, dance with my kids and my nieces and nephews, breathe, and eat cupcakes - these are all my blessings. The fact that I have friends and family with which to share love is far and away the greatest blessing of my life. That is the justice for which I've been yearning.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Measuring Success

Last night I heard a very interesting quote. It was "You're only as successful as the five people you're closest to, and that doesn't necessarily refer to money."


I don't know about you, but I started really examining who I thought I was closest to. I have a huge array of friends and relatives. But who do I call when I'm really hysterical? Not many people.

I thought about success and what it really means to me. I decided many years ago that how much money Jim and I made wasn't a measure of success. I listened to a book on tape of The Millionaire Next Door, and we cut our lifestyle way back so that we could pay for things in cash and not carry any debt. I considered that a big life success.

Oh, but I do love material things. If you're my friend on Facebook, chances are you already know that I'm literally attempting to run the Chicago Marathon this year in 5 1/2 hrs or less. If I can do it, my reward is a Marc Jacobs purse that I've been lusting after for *years*, but haven't been able to justify the cost. Yes, that's what will drive me to finish a marathon. Not being healthy or even being thin. I want something material. I have a love/hate affair with all things designer. Not because I want other people to know what I have - who cares what anyone else thinks? But because oh my, the leather of a Marc Jacobs purse just good. Because Ted Baker's clothing is softer than anything I could get at Old Navy. And because my Target sunglasses ride up on my face when I smile...but my Chanel sunglasses don't. (And I wear my Target sunglasses and the Chanel sunglasses in equal measure.)  The love part is that I love them. The hate part is that I can't afford them. So I have a very few things that I truly love, and buy everything else at Target, Land's End, or when feeling crazy, Banana Republic. Loving those things also makes me feel ashamed and materialistic. And it also drives up my envy gene when I see people who have things that I want. I have worked for several years on keeping that in check, sometimes it's a struggle. Lately it's not as much of a struggle, but man, I have to be vigilant about keeping it under control.

But, I digress. Success isn't measured in wealth or material things. Not in my mind anyway. When I evaluate the people I feel closest to in life, none of them are millionaires. But I consider all of them highly successful. In their relationships, in their families and homes, in love, in life. All of them have stumbled or gone through tough times. Instead of wallowing in it, they've all picked themselves up, regained perspective, and gone forth with courage. And done it with an air of optimism that is truly refreshing.

I wondered whether I would consider myself successful. When Jim was alive, I considered us highly successful. We had two fabulous jobs in Atlanta. We had two beautiful children. We moved to Kohler and bought a house that's cute as a button. I got to stay home with the kids, while he went to work so close to our house that he often came home for lunch. We loved and respected each other. We laughed and had fun together. We made plans, we had goals. We had tons of friends, including our siblings. I really thought we had it all. Sure, there were tough times. I am an in-your-face-get-it-out-on-the-table fighter. Jim was so passive aggressive that he could go days without speaking to me. Early on in Atlanta we dug ourselves a debt mountain...and then managed to completely pay it off. We disagreed on lots and lots of things. Our parenting philosophies were so different that sometimes I'd call my mom and cry about it. But who doesn't have things like that? Overall, I rated us as hugely successful.

When Jim died, I considered that my life failure. Man, we mounted one hell of a battle against cancer. And failed. I was left reeling. Without Jim, how would I moved forward?

I've spent the last three and a half years carefully constructing what I consider to be a successful life. I've become so rigid in my thinking that in my mind, there's only one way to do things. But this building project has been more akin to a house of cards than a concrete block foundation. Every time I've stumbled and fallen, I've seen the entire construct fall apart and I've had to start again. I've become bitter and brittle. I resent families that have their stuff together. I had all that. Why was it taken from me? Why do they get to have what I lost?

I am a nerd of gargantuan proportions. Thusly, one of my recent favorite movies is "Tron: Legacy". And you know what Kevin Flynn says? "The thing about perfection is that it's unknowable. It's impossible, but it's also right in front of us all the time." Aw shit. Really? I had to learn that from Kevin Flynn?

The five people I feel closest to seem to recognize that they aren't striving for perfection. They're striving for "getting it done", "kindness", "living a moral life" and "giving and receiving love". You know what's funny? I don't see a Marc Jacobs handbag in that list. I don't see where they feel that a setback makes them rip down the entire house of cards. It just takes them down a level. And then they rebuild from there. Maybe that's what makes a strong foundation. Recognizing that perfection isn't the goal.

People often tell me that I'm too hard on myself. Of course I am. I'm trying to set up a rigid structure that helps us get by. I'm doing it alone. I want so badly for the kids and me to have a "normal" life. I have to put out double the effort, literally, in order to achieve what other families can. Loneliness and bitterness drive a lot of my activities. Despite all that, we have very happy days here. We are living a normal life as I see it. (A Ferguson definition of "normal" probably doesn't meet the same definition everyone else uses.) We get by, one day at a time. And most days, we do better than get by. When I think about the five people I feel closest to, I try and model their success, and I feel happy knowing that in my own way, I am successful too.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Angry Phase

*Watch out. This is an angry rant.

You know I've been through several phases since Jim was diagnosed, ranging from feeling helpless to feeling like a party-animal to feeling like I have to explain to everyone at the grocery store why I'm an only parent. And don't even get me started on the phase that I don't particularly appreciate being called a single parent - I am an only parent. Any way, I go through lots of phases, and many of them seem to be tied to season changes.

There's something about spring and summer that really throw me off my rocker. It's not even spring yet (good God, I know...we're still sitting under 2 feet of snow here), but the birds are chirping, we're getting more sunny days, and suddenly any mental footing I had seems to slip out from under me like a landslide. In the last few weeks, cancer has reared it's ugly head in more people than I care to mention. It's driven me into an angry phase.

In the last several weeks I am reminded with a vengeance of what was taken from me. I am feeling angry about losing Jim. I am feeling sad for my kids. I am feeling sick for those families that are dealing with cancer - or the loss of someone who had cancer. I am feeling regret over some of our dealings with cancer - we did the best we could...but maybe I could have afforded Jim the luxury of eating pizza every damn day if he wanted it. I was just so focused on getting him healthy and well. I wish I'd talked to Jim about other stuff more often. I wish I'd known sooner that his swollen legs were a sign of congestive heart failure. I am glad we got to talk and say goodbye, but while he was going through treatment I was so fixated on our next steps and achieving the NED goal. And I felt bad whining to him about a hangnail or a stubbed toe when the guy was hooked to a chemo pump through a port in his chest. Jim thought it was funny and incredibly annoying that I was such as hypochondriac. Maybe whining that a hangnail was a sign that my arm would probably fall off would have been a dose of normal that Jim could have used. I don't regret 98% of his treatment or the way we dealt with things. But that 2% slays me. I'm glad we tried everything we could, but sometimes I think I was so driven to make him get better that I pushed everything else in life, including normal conversations, aside.

So my current phase, fueled by anger and insecurity over cancer is that of being completely cynical and annoyed with the whole thing. "The whole thing" being life in general. Because really...what am I doing this all for? Having and raising kids seems incredibly selfish when I see even the most normal childhood struggles. (As I have mentioned before, despite the fact that I had a fabulous childhood and home life, I did NOT enjoy being a child.) If it seems selfish when they are struggling through things like math homework, how will I feel when something major happens to them? What if they don't have a good example of love in their lives because I've been single and they see me dropping guys over the fact that I don't like the way they tie their sneakers? (I haven't broken up with John, by the way...I'm just stating a worry here.) What if I'm getting married too soon and they think I view marriage as disposable or easy? What if they get colon cancer? Every time one of them goes to the bathroom I worry. Seriously. Am I feeding them enough fruits and veggies? Should I switch them to a vegetarian diet?...and so on. These are like rungs on the little hamster wheel I'm running on that is supposed to be my life.

What am I exercising for? Jim was healthy. He was a runner. And yet, at 36 years old he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. What the? So...let me get this straight. I'm supposed to run...for my health. And I'm supposed to stay healthy so that I can...what? I'm supposed to run a half marathon so I can...? Feel good about myself for an hour after it's done and carry my little medal around...and then what? I have to start training for something else. And something else after that.

Sometimes my life seems so driven by tedium and drivel that it makes me want to scream. Ok. So I'm supposed to go find some work that's really satisfying. What the hell kind of work is satisfying? You know what's satisfying to me? *Taking a nap*. Or I'm supposed to do something really adventurous. And...leave my kids that I was selfish enough to have? "Sorry kids, mom has to climb Mount Everest - I'm sure you understand. It's for my own mental satisfaction. Because regular everyday life isn't enough for me. I need more. I'll only be gone for a month or two."

Wait, why do I need to clean up the house again? So that I have a comfortable atmosphere? FOR WHAT? What a dumb thing. To put knick-knacks all over and think it looks nice. People would come over even if I didn't have oriental rugs and matching paint. (Well, they might not after this rant, but that's a different story!) I hate cleaning. It's a waste of my time. Same with cooking. Who cares if we have a healthy dinner every night? My kids don't seem any worse for the wear if I feed them canned soup and grilled cheese. It's completely lame that I'm expected to make something healthy every night. Know what we were eating for dinner the night Jim got diagnosed? Turkey chili. Because I was trying to cut down on our red meat consumption. Oh goody. I made us a healthy dinner. That one wouldn't fit past the golf-ball sized tumor in his colon. But I'll make sure that we're getting the damn four food groups because I'm supposed to. Why? Because it prevents cancer. Wellllll, not exactly. But it MIGHT prevent cancer. Or at least keep it at bay.

I went through this all on the phone with John the other night and he got quiet. He's not accustomed to me being cynical and bitter. I think one of the reasons John loves me is because I find joy in even the smallest things - I am normally the picture of resilience. But lately, in this phase, there is no joy.

Am I always supposed to be grateful and thankful for what I have? Don't get me wrong - the kids are so awesome. It's truly my honor to be their mom. I *am* grateful for them. I am lucky to have found John - to have found love a second time. But where are we going with this? HEY GOD! I COULD REALLY USE A COPY OF THE PLAN.

Next week I'll feel different. (Please God let me feel different.) Next week I'll feel gung-ho like I can do it all and be happy doing it. I'll realize that what I have - my family, my life, my health - is a gift. This week marks the week it's been 3 1/2 years since Jim died. What an emotional journey. I feel like I'm 100 years old. Jim was robbed of all his gifts. We were robbed of the gift - the spirit - that was Jim. So this week I reserve the right to go through an angry phase.

The sun is shining, it's a beautiful day out...who the f%ck cares.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

So, guess what? I got a job. Actually, I got two jobs.

Job #1 - Online marketing and website management for my previous boss, Kimberly. I've mentioned Kimberly in a post or two before. She's my life and work mentor. She's smarter than all y'all. And she can shoot pool and play darts with the best of 'em. And she's interesting. And she taught me A LOT about keeping my trap shut and my game face on. (Some of those lessons I clearly need to brush up on.) And she's very self-actualized, which I have tremendous respect for. I have respect for anyone that sets a goal and then actually accomplishes it. Kimberly doesn't just talk the talk. She walks the walk. Anyway, Kimberly owns a franchise of a business down in Jacksonville called Tutor Doctor. So I'm going to be doing some marketing, etc. for her. For those of you who didn't know me before I moved to a Norman Rockwell painting, I had a pretty successful career in IT. I did product management, technical writing and end-user documentation.

Job #2 - I got myself a job as a nursing assistant. Yee haw! My classes paid off and I got a job offer. Not only am I state certified to bathe and feed people (people that aren't my offspring - because heaven knows they don't have a test before we become parents) but I'm also qualified to earn .50 cents LESS an hour than I pay my babysitter! *sigh* I knew the pay would be low. I wanted to be inspired. And I AM inspired when I see how amazing those caregivers are. Man, nurses and CNAs hustle. They work for that dollar. And I'll be darned if not nearly every single one of them throughout Jim's process wasn't completely amazing and giving and compassionate. (Except that male nurse at Northwestern. He was a jerk. I'm looking at YOU - in the Interventional Radiology Department, buddy.) So, they're offering me fifty cents less an hour than I pay my babysitter to work on weekends. Oy. That's time away from my kids.

When I started this process I dragged my feet and said that I couldn't POSSIBLY go back into IT. Because I was burned out. Because I'd had it up to my eyeballs with a lackluster development process and with people who couldn't take ownership for their work. ...And maybe a little bit because I'm scared that my skills are WAY out of date. And yet, when Kimberly called with this opportunity, I am brimming with ideas. With the need to see her business and how she talks to her customers and meet the kids who have had amazing results with her in-home tutoring business. Because if I made an investment in my kids' academic future, and I had to hand a check to one person, it would be Kimberly. (Or Judy Howell. But I digress.)

I wanted to help people the way they helped us. I wanted to be inspired. I wanted to be that comfort when someone needed it. Or that smile when someone with cancer was having a crap day. When I interviewed for the job, the woman smirked at me and said "Um. You must have made a lot of money in Atlanta. You're not going to be making that here." And I knew I wouldn't. Everyone has to start somewhere. And when it's with no experience, somewhere is better than no where. But at this rate, I'm actually LOSING money and I don't get to stay home with my kids.

AND I'm actually feeling excited about working with Kimberly on the Tutor Doctor stuff. Because I'd report to Kimberly, and no one else. If I screw up, it's all on me. No pointing fingers. No office squabbles or personality differences. I'm looking for a job that's interesting but I don't have to climb a corporate ladder. I don't want water-cooler chats. I don't want to hear anyone's opinions or ideas unless they come directly from the person that's hired me. Basically, I just want to do my job to the best of my ability.

So that means eating the nursing assistant courses I took and chalking them up to good experience. At least for now. It means blowing the socks off Kimberly and Tutor Doctor. I'm disappointed. I'd imagined myself working as a CNA part-time and going to school to get my RN. I imagined studying hard and really getting into the classes. But the reality is I'd imagined that from 8-5, Monday through Friday. Not on weekends and times when I'd have to pay someone more to stay with my kids than I'm making.

It feels like I keep starting down a maze track, trying to get to the end, and hit another wall. This maze that is my life certainly doesn't match the picture they held up for me when they roped me into this whole "being an adult" thing. Granted, I LOVE being an adult. Hopefully I can mimic one of those trained rats that knows how to get to the food after a couple of tries. If someone wants to send me the playbook on how this is supposed to work out, that would really be helpful. Because it sort of seems like I'm drawing the maze *and* trying to figure out how to come out on the other side all at the same time.

Hey Jacksonville. If you haven't heard of Tutor Doctor or Kimberly, keep an eye out for them! You've got a bored widow in Wisconsin who's itching to market a business and a boss she believes in. And who just wants to find her way out of this maze to get some cheese...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Where do we go from here?

I've had a jumble of feelings about Jim lately. I took the kids to Disney World at the beginning of January because Judi ran the Disney Marathon in memory of Jim. I trained to run it, but the week before I got so sick that I couldn't run. I cried about that. Felt guilty on the day of the race. Wrestled with my psyche wondering if I somehow got sick on purpose so I couldn't run. Guilt and tears consumed many a night earlier this month.

Everyone else's life gets to move on ahead. They are making plans, doing new things, hanging out with the people they love. I somehow feel stagnant despite the fact that I am moving ahead too. I have a wonderful fiance who I love very much. I haven't been happy like this in YEARS. For those people that find sheer joy in doing nothing but doting on their kids...good for you. More power to you. But a little adult interaction is the life preserver I've been needing. As I've said before, a hug from your kids or your parents or your friends is not the same kind of feeling as a hug from someone who loves you.

No action or emotion happens in my world without serious self doubt and a healthy dose of judgement from other people. Some express it out loud. Others don't. Either way, I suppose it happens because I open myself to it. After all, I document my emotion on my blog or on Facebook. I still find it stunning how many people choose to judge my choices. Because...really? You get to go out with your husband on a date any night you want. My friends all got to make goals for 2011 with their spouses. What's the appropriate amount of time I'm supposed to be home, alone and be a widow? Is 5 years enough? 10 years? How long are my kids supposed to go without a father figure in their lives? How long should my daughter take her grandfather to the Father-Daughter dance? How long should Jake be expected to make a separate "special" Father's Day project at school because his Dad died?

Heaven knows John is a tolerant man. And that he's taking on a lot. After all, I appear not to have the same kind of baggage that someone who is divorced carries. But the reality is that it would be easier for John to compete with a sh*tty ex-husband that muddles picking up the kids. It would be easier to find a girlfriend that doesn't have kids. It would be easier to not have to learn to parent. It would be easier to buy his own house and not have to commute a long way to work. It would be easier to have a fiancee that doesn't cry over her late husband.

John is trying to build a life with me on the shaky foundation I have left from my previous life. He's putting up with tears, meltdowns, frustrations. He's trying to blend into my family - not an easy feat - after Jim. We all know how my family felt about Jim. John's trying to make me happy and make the kids happy and be happy himself, despite what he's taking on.

As John pointed out, I am in the trenches here. I am the one who is dealing with the every day crap that is the remnant of our life. I am a single parent. I am an ONLY parent. I am the ONLY one dealing with throw-up, homework, reading charts, shoveling snow, temper tantrums (mine and theirs), laundry, playdates, cooking, and the myriad other tasks that come with being a parent. I have had to cut a monstrously large amount of stuff out of our lives because I realized that I can't do it all. A few weeks ago the miracle of team parenting started happening for me. John took the kids outside and shoveled the walk while I cleaned up inside. Then he made lunch for all of us while I did laundry. Please understand: as an only parent, I would have been able to choose two of those activities and then work on two of them LATER. It's sad when one of the more exciting points of my weekend is dual tasking. But hey, that's how a NORMAL family works, and it's exciting to me to have that kind of...flexibility. It's exciting to me to thank someone for helping me. It's exciting to me to have someone who listens to me, who talks with me, who makes plans with me, and who loves me.

Think I need to hear your judgment? Nope. Believe me, I'm already overworking it in my mind. If you've got thoughts, keep them to yourself. Jim and John will both be canonized for loving me. But John will be canonized for helping me put my life back together and loving me. You're the finest of men, John. I am so very blessed. Some people can't find love once. I've found it twice and I'm grateful for all that entails.