“I knew you’d save me From all that I was running from You’ll be my compass And I’ll be your light” – Lauren Engle / Kyle Breen

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Where to start? … I’m making some changes… some major changes.. it’s time.

I have been putting so much stress on myself. I am constantly worried. I am worried about life and death and money and things I have no purpose worrying about because I am fine. But still … I worry about what would happen if … what is going to happen when I’m old, what if the economy crashes, what if I get sick … This is obviously not a healthy way to live (more about that in a blog next week). The stress I am putting myself through needs to end. So I am taking the steps to change. 

We always believed that in a marriage/ relationship/ partnership one person had to have a recession proof job … that was Duane – I always had the fun job. Now I feel the need to have a recession proof job – just in case. But I HATE it. I hate being on a schedule and the corporate world and everything that comes along with that. I have put up with bullying, low pay and rudeness because of my new crazy fear of not being ok if something happens. 

This is no way to live. So I am making changes. I just started bartending again. I am jump starting my Beautycounter business, auditioning for SAG jobs and working on my book. I am reading again and napping and working out. I am finding my happy again. 

Its sucks it took two years to get back to me but I’m here and looking for fun! 

– xoxo Victoria

I have a longer blog planned for next week on some of the health issues that I’ve been dealing with because of the stress I have been putting myself through. 

“Now this did happen once upon a time When things were not so complex How he worshipped the ground she walked And when he looked in her eyes he became obsessed My love is like a storybook story But it’s as real as the feelings I feel My love is like a storybook story” – Willy De Ville

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary and after arriving home from San Francisco at 1:30 am, a long day at the hospital and a weird allergic reaction I took a pass on blog writing.

I like to “commemorate” special occasions as they happen so I can look back year after year and see how I have grown. I like to look at the photos and remember what I was thinking in those moments, some are good, some are funny and some are so, so heartbreaking. 

My wedding anniversary – that’s a good one. I also have a wedding video – it’s buried deep in my emails and I watch it once a year. I like listening to the speeches and seeing all the love that surrounded us that day and continue to surround me today. 

I love Duane. I loved my wedding. I miss my old carefree, wild life. But I am moving forward and I am happy. 

Here’s where it gets tricky for some people … It’s been four years since we were married and two and half years since Duane passed. We can all do the math and see that we didn’t get married until he was well into his ALS diagnosis and progression. We had been together for a decade before that.

So how long were we together? I count the entire relationship. When Duane asked me to marry him he said, “I should have done this sooner” (No shit)! But does that make our relationship any less? I think not. Honestly – if Duane hadn’t been diagnosed I’m not sure we ever would have gotten married. Maybe we would have just kept doing life in a way that worked for us. Is that wrong? I think not. 

So this leads me to my next question. Duane was a part of my life for over a decade, he was my partner, he was my best friend , he was my co-dog owner … he was my family. Soooo because we weren’t married does that mean what we had was less important? Is it easier to “move on” from? Once again I think not. 

Dating has been coming up in my circle a lot lately. I date, not successfully but I do date. hahahaha I put the effort in and I go … most of the time, well some of the time, I do cancel a lot. hahahahaha But mostly because I don’t like leaving my house or Buddy. I don’t want to be alone forever but I also don’t want to settle. 

So this leads me to another question. When is the right time to truly start dating? Some say not within a year. Some say 1 year for every year you were married. Some say 3 years, 4 years and still some say never. I say whenever you want. There is no timeline. You could meet your next love 2 months after your spouse passes. Or two years. Or never. BUT no matter what, widowed or not you do not get to judge. You do not get to say that people shouldn’t date because of this or that. You don’t get to say that you read this or you read that or you think this or you think that. You don’t get to tell other people what to do with their life. 

We need to support one another more. Support people moving forward with their lives (if they want to). Just because you don’t want to, or you don’t think it’s time, it doesn’t mean that others feel the same way. And that is okay. You have never walked their journey – we all have different experiences in life and we get to decide what is right for us and what works. People are entitled to live their lives as they see fit, as are you. Be mindful that the world is full of judgement and meanness and try not to be a part of that. 

Love people, and if you can’t do that, just be nice, and if you can’t do that, smile at them, and if you can’t do that … I don’t know what to tell you. It takes more energy and more muscles to frown than it does to smile … So I guess I’ll just assume you’re trying to lose weight – because why else would you be deliberately rude. 

– xoxo Victoria

P.S. A HUGE pet peeve of mine … If you are happily married and you think its okay for someone that is divorced to date but not someone that is widowed you’re an A-Hole. 

“She’s living in a world, and it’s on fire Feeling the catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away Oh, she got both feet on the ground And she’s burning it down Oh, she got her head in the clouds And she’s not backing down” – Jeff Bhasker / Alicia Augello-Cook / Salaam Remi / Billy Squire / Nicki Minaj

 

My goal was simple – so I thought. Make it, working in the hospital for 6 months. Don’t quit, for any reason. Stick it out … today I hit my 6 months. 

Duane always said I never finished anything. I would commit to something and then I  wouldn’t follow through. I proved him wrong when I got my captain’s license, when I finished school and now again that I have fulfilled my goal of working in the hospital for 6 months. (The last two he didn’t get to see, but it still makes me smile to say, “I told you so”! I will probably spend the rest of my life trying to prove him wrong! hahahahahaha

I didn’t know if I was going to like it – and the jury is still out. I went back to school to work in hospice – to give back to the organization that had helped us so much. Help people life their lives to the fullest even in the hardest of times. 

It has not always been easy. Twelve hour shifts, lots of poop, difficult patients, normal work drama. There have been days that it has been extremely trying. There were days I cried in the cafeteria at lunch, fell asleep on the couch before eating dinner and thought there was no way I would make it through another day. But there have also been amazing days. Appreciative, thankful patients, efficient team work, gratitude and new friendships. It has been such a learning process. I am so thankful for this opportunity to learn and grow and work in this environment. 

I have grown as a person and have a realized again that life can change in an instant. You are a left turn, fall of a ladder or trip down the stairs from a completely different life.  You need to value your life and your family everyday – everything can literally all change in a second. I am really proud of myself. 

Life is short. Be happy. As Duane said, “live your life like it’s the last day, but prepare for the future, just in case”. 

What will my next adventure be?

– xoxo Victoria

“There’s a time that I remember, when I did not know no pain When I believed in forever, and everything would stay the same Now my heart feel like December when somebody say your name ‘Cause I can’t reach out to call you” – Adam Levine / Jacob Hindlin / Jonathan Bellion / Jordan Johnson / Michael Pollack / Stefan Johnson / Vincent Ford

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No one knows this …

I have a friend who also lost her husband. We text each other every day and if we don’t hear back we call, then text and call. At first it was a joke. “We had to check-in to make sure each other was alive”. Who else was going to do it? We both talk to our parents daily, BUT if they are out of town it could be days before someone realized we were dead, missing, kidnapped or had been eaten by our dogs …. HAHAHAHAHAHA!! Just kidding – kinda, but not really. 

We are widows. We don’t have our person anymore. We don’t have that person to call when our day is amazing and we want to share it or when our day sucks and we need to vent. We don’t have that person to worry about the dogs with. That person to pick up the slack around the house. That person to eat dinner with, sit on the couch with or go to bed with. We are personless. We are heavy in the dog department but lacking in the “who is your emergency contact person?” department.

It’s hard sometimes. Everyone says, “you can call me”, “if you need something, I’m here”. Most the time they really aren’t. They have their lives, their person and their family to maintain. They don’t have time for me to call and “say can you let my dog out”, “grab a drink”, “meet for dinner” … It’s just the way it works. And you know what? It’s ok. I want people to be happy and keep their lives on track. I want them spending time with their families, making memories and taking care of each other. But sometimes it’s hard. And honestly until you’ve lost your person you can’t understand. There is no way. 

Seriously I know that so many people have it so much worse, and that there are so many people suffering right now. I am fully aware of the suffering people and what they are enduring everyday. But I’m still having a pity party tonight. 

Sometimes it’s really hard to be alone in the world. People get offended at that but they are married or coupled up or have kids. They can’t truly understand it because they have no concept of it. They can say “but” and “I and this and that”. They can tell you “I’m here for you” BUT they can not truly understand what being alone is. Sometimes instead of telling us all the reasons that our feelings are not justified or aren’t real it’s better to just listen and acknowledge. We all hope someone would be there in our time of need, but that’s not always the case. 

I had a bit of a rough morning. When I got to work I had an amazing coworker realize something was wrong and just hug me. She listened to me and hugged me. There is nothing more power than no words, just being there. Listening, acknowledging and hugging. I am so thankful that she was the first person I really interacted with this morning. 

Just be there for others. 

– xoxo Victoria

“We didn’t start the fire It was always burning Since the world’s been turning We didn’t start the fire No we didn’t light it But we tried to fight it’ – Billy Joel

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Yesterday this memory popped up in my Facebook memories. I’ve seen it everyday for the last eight years. The first few I remember thinking how lucky I was. Duane was okay. The next few I was angry. Angry at the City of Reno for laying off so many firefighters, angry that their “guys” were forced to work 18 straight hours in some cases, waiting from relief from California and surrounding areas. I’m tearing up as I write this. Tearing up that so many lives have been altered and lost because the city balanced their budget on the backs of the firefighters.

There were the initial incidents. Over 10 million dollars in damage, 43 homes destroyed or damaged, two fire fighters injured, multiple others treated for smoke inhalation, flying debris, foreign objects in their eyes and one citizen had a fatal heart attack while being evacuated. It was a horrible “incident” for the area. 

I remember this day, it’s etched in my memory. I knew right away I would never forget but I could never have imagined the impact that this fire would have not only on Duane and I’s life but on so many others. 

We had moved to back to California a few months prior. Reno was going down the toilet and Duane needed a place where he could go and relax and not be stressed out. As a captain at the busiest station he was not sleeping. He would come home exhausted and and stressed. He was so angry with the city council and couldn’t believe his friends were getting laid off. He KNEW there would be major incident soon. 

Back to my story … 

We had spoken the night before and said goodnight. On the morning of November 18, on my way to work, I called him, he didn’t answer. Not common but not anything to get worried about. As I got closer to work I tried again – nothing. I walked in to the restaurant and immediately froze. All the news stations were covering a major fire in Reno that had started in the middle of the night. I ran to the TV turning it up so I could hear everything that was going on. There were some retired SF firemen sitting at the bar, yes already, and they just looked at me and said this isn’t good. They convinced me to stop trying to get a hold of him. He was dealing with enough and didn’t need to be worried about me, worried about him. His mom called seeing if I had heard anything – she hadn’t either. 

The fire was bad. The news just kept showing the footage, the devastation. Sacramento and San Francisco had been been called in to help. I mean, Reno didn’t have enough fire fighters – they were at the staffing levels from the 1970s. 

I spent the day scared and worried, constantly checking my phone. I received a text from him, saying he was ok, still on the fire and would call as soon as he could. I foolishly felt relief. 

When we finally spoke he told me that his relief came in from San Francisco. He had been on the Caughlin fire for over 18 hours. It said it was bad. They lost a lost of homes and cars. It was devastating. He was so upset that they hadn’t been able to save more, to do more. 

When he came home he even more angry, so many people had lost everything. The wind was bad that night, there wasn’t defensible space between all the homes and nature and they were understaffed. They did the best they could. He couldn’t get over the fact that part of this horrific “incident” was the city’s fault. 

We moved on. There was another major fire two months later. This time 29 homes were destroyed and there was over 5 million dollars in damage. Duane couldn’t believe how bad this was getting. It was so sad to watch him emotionally suffer over the horrible loss that all these people were dealing with. 

Fast forward a year … the twitching had started. The toxin levels in his blood were through the roof, lung capacity was lower and his life was ending. 

Can we say for sure that the Caughlin Fire was the “incident” that cause Duane’s ALS? No. But should we look at that as a possibility? Yes. Should we take a poll on all the fire fighters that were on those two fires and see what their neurological status is now? Yes. Should we poll all those same firefighters and see what their lung capacity is now? Yes. Should we dive deep into the records and see how many firefighters experienced life changing symptoms after these two fires? Yes. Should new see how many of them had to take an early retirement due to their declining health. Should we see how many of those health factors are proven to associated with inhaling toxins and smoke on fires? Yes. Do we need to do a better job protecting our first responders? Yes. 

I believe, as did Duane, that November 18th was the day his life changed forever. Please next time you get asked to vote to increase your taxes for fire departments think of Duane and the many, many other first responders who have given their lives to save yours.

– xoxo Victoria

“I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use the tools and gifts we’ve got yeah we got a lot at stake…I won’t give up…” – MRAZ JASON THOMAS / NATTER MICHAEL LEE

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For the last few years I feel like I’ve been forcing things to happen. Forcing myself to make decisions and making moves to try and create a new life for myself. 

I’ve been forcing things to happen and doing things I don’t LOVE because I thought “I needed” too. I’ve put all this pressure on my self to recreate myself and give my life meaning. To show that the time I spent time away from working and caring for Duane wasn’t wasted, that I have something to “show” for it. 

I’ve been searching and settling and grasping at straws trying to figure out my new life. Worried that when people see me jumping from one thing to another – they will judge and be disappointed. Worried that people wanted to see me ok so bad that I settled into things, jobs, activities, that I don’t love or even like. 

I have felt the need to prove that I have my shit together – it’s been 2 years I should, right? I mean I’m 40 – I should, right. 

I have no idea what I want to do – I know I’m not happy at the hospital right now. I’m not happy doing daily care but at this point it gives me the resources to explore other options. 

I guess I worry about people judging and thinking less of me because I haven’t rejoined their “society” yet.  But today I stopped worrying. When have I ever conformed to what society said I should be or do? I mean the realist job I’ve ever had was jumping off a pirate ship, in Las Vegas, in a bikini 4 times a night. It provided me a salary, medical insurance, retirement … It was, by societies standards “a real job”. hahahahaha 

I have freelanced my way through life and I have had an amazing life. I’ve done so much and have been so happy.

I remember Duane always telling me to settle into something BUT in the end that was the last thing he wanted for me. He loved me and my crazy ideas and constant change and movement. 

It’s okay for me to do a lot of things – it’s who I am. 

So if you need a … Beautycounter Consultant, Virtual Caregiver, a Juicer, Meal Prepper, Event Planner, Talent Agent, Travel Agent, Bartender, Boat Captain, Pilates Instructor, Personal Concierge, Clown (yes, I went to clown college), Scuba Diver, Reality Show Contestant, WWE wanna-be, Showgirl, Bass Fisher Person, Stunt Woman …. I’m your girl!

– xoxo Victoria

P.S. My face in this picture – hahahahahahhahahahaha

 

“And he’s gonna marry me His momma don’t like me one little bit But you know I don’t care Let her pitch her hissy-fit ‘Cause I ain’t a’marryin’ her He’s always been a momma’s boy It’s just plain jealousy She’s as mad as an old red hen ‘Cause he’s gonna marry me” – Dolly Parton

Four years ago we got engaged. We were sitting on the back of the boat, drinking wine and watching the Sea World fireworks. We had spent the day ocean fishing and hanging out with family and friends. I was happy and content.

Duane: Go get the box from under the tv in the bedroom. (We kept extra cards and cash in a little box under the TV and every once in awhile he liked to “check” it).

Me: Why – I can tell you everything that’s in it.

Duane: Just get it.

Me: Put my wine down and go into the room and grab 2 boxes from under the TV. Not thinking anything. I sit down and throw them in his lap. (Knowing full well he can’t open them, because his hands and arms no longer work! hahahahahaha)

Duane: Who’s money is it?

Me: What?

Duane: Who’s money is it?

Me: I don’t know. I mean I bought a bunch of stuff from Amazon on my credit card. I used your credit card to pay off mine, but I paid the shipping (cause it’s free!!).

hahahahhahahhaha

Duane: So it’s our money?

Me: hahahahhaha Ya

Duane: Well then I need to tell you I just spent a lot of OUR money today.

Me: What did you buy? Another boat? I can’t manage another boat? I seriously can’t fix anything else. You don’t understand, I don’t even know what I’m fixing now. What did you buy?

Duane Shut up. Open the box…. The other one.

Duane: Will you marry me?

Me: hahahahahahhahahahha What? Are you joking? What is this?

Duane: I love you and I should have done this a long time ago. Will you marry me?

Me: hahahahhahahhahaha Yes!

I remember it like it was yesterday but it feels like millions of years ago.

We were only married 578 days. But everyday I am so grateful he finally asked and we said I Do!

– xoxo Victoria

Obviously Buddy was happy!!!

“Stars fading but I linger on dear Still craving your kiss I’m longing to linger till dawn dear Just saying this Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you But in your dreams whatever they be Dream a little dream of me” – Fabian Andre / Gus Kahn / Wilbur Schwandt

I never dream about Duane. NEVER. In the two years since he passed I can count on one hand how many times I have had a dream with him in it. Sometimes I have begged for them but nothing.

Last night, well this morning, I had two.

The first one was when Duane was sick. He was well into his progression and he was so angry at me for everything. He was yelling and crying and so mad he couldn’t use his hands and he couldn’t do anything. It was like a flashback. It was heartbreaking. I woke up with tears streaming down my face.

The second one I had in-between alarm snoozes. This one had me reaching for him when I woke up. It was so so real. This one had me truly believing he was alive and we were on vacation. In my dream we are laughing and looking at instagram pictures (I don’t think he even knew what instagram was hahahahahaha). We were making fun of each other and trying to figure out if we were going to eat or go to the beach first. I remember the sun being up and the room being full of light and laughter. It was amazing.

Then I woke up. For the first time in a long time I was disappointed. I was so confused about where I was and why I was alone. I had to remember that he’s gone.

So now I’ll get up walk Buddy and shower for work, thankful for the sweet dream and sad that it was only a dream.

– xoxo Victoria

“Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing” – Unknown

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This day. This day three years ago was my breaking point. It was the day I just surrendered to ALS. Surrendered to the disease and the CTE we didn’t know he had. Surrendered to his need to control and be in charge. Surrendered.

We were living in Del Mar, CA, one of the most beautiful places in the country. If you looked to the right from our front gate you could see the ocean. We were so lucky. But on this day, life totally sucked.

The weather had been so nice the last few days. All Duane wanted to do was go to the boat and head out to ocean fish. We had spent the day before at the boat cleaning “relaxing” and prepping for our next trip.  But we had a hospice appointment this day, an appointment we had put off for over a week. We needed meds and to be reevaluated. We couldn’t put this appointment off any longer. 

The morning was so nice – I kept suggesting to go outside, go to the beach or lunch or just sit on the patio. He refused. He was being a jerk, on purpose. He wanted to go to Mexico and fish and I said no. He wasn’t used to me saying no. I dragged, pulled and threw him into the boat way beyond the time it was safe to do so. I drove us 40 miles out, put out lines and trolled for days. It was hard work. Running up and down stairs all day, caring for him, the lines, the fish and driving the boat. But, I always said yes – that’s what you do when someone is dying and they want to go fishing.  

So he was pouting and making the day so much harder than it needed to be. Making up reasons to stay inside. Making up things that “needed” to be done. Needing to pee, poop, eat, try to poop again. Move to the couch, the bed, the bathroom. Any time I grabbed a book to go and read he called me in, within 1 minute, to attend to some new imagery issue. (Even Buddy was getting frustrated). 

The weather turned late in the afternoon (thank god we didn’t go out fishing), it started raining. He wanted to sit outside. I said no, it was raining. He insisted. I transferred him to his wheelchair, with no help from him, wheeled him around the house and out front, and transferred him to his patio chair. 

I went back inside, he called me out. Saying that he was trying to make me happy by sitting outside. Saying that he did what I wanted. He was being so difficult. I went inside. He sat outside in the sprinkling rain until our nurse go to us. He told the nurse that I put him out there and left him in the rain alone, that he had been begging for me to bring to bring him in. 

Luckily the nurse had seen this behavior from him before and knew what he was doing. He “told” me to help him get back inside so we could have our appointment. The rest of the day was fine. Duane acted like the morning had never happened. 

– xoxo Victoria

 

“Life ain’t always beautiful Sometimes it’s just plain hard Life can knock you down It can break your heart … No, life ain’t always beautiful But I know I’ll be fine Life ain’t always beautiful But it’s a beautiful ride.” – Tommy Lee James / Cynthia Evelyn Thomson

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My sister and her husband are away for their anniversary (YEA!!! CONGRATS!!!), so my niece and nephew are staying with my parents. I hung out with my niece for a few hours today and then went to my parents house to eat dinner with them all. 

As I sat on the couch watching tv I felt my anxiety rising. Similar to how I sometimes feel at my sister’s house (or anyone’s house really). It is SO loud. Everything is so loud. Loud talking, loud laughing, loud tv, loud chewing and really loud walking … I mean stomping. So much stomping.

Every time I am at someones else I think – why are they stomping so much? Why can’t they just walk quietly? Take your shoes off, they are. Put socks on, they are. There is nothing that quiets the stomping. The loud, pounding stomps throughout the house. 

Tonight I realized I have not lived in a home with some else that walked in 5+ years, it has been 5 years since I lived with someone that “stomped”, 5 YEARS?!?!?!?! How is that possible? 

The truth is they aren’t stomping. They aren’t loud. They aren’t talking, laughing, chewing or playing loud. I am just used to the quiet. I have lived so long in the quiet, in the silence.

It makes me sad. I used to love the laughing and noise. I loved being around people and having people around me and now … now it gives me anxiety and makes me uncomfortable. It shouldn’t be that way. 

For a long time I’ve had anxiety at people’s homes, when lots of people are at my home  and around large groups of people and now I realize why. I haven’t had that in so long. And that silence, although deafening and heartbreaking, is my normal. 

Knowing is half the battle – isn’t that what “they” say. 

Wish me luck at family dinner the next two nights! hahahaha

– xoxo Victoria

P.S. I am grateful to spend time with my family and anyone that invites me over, I’m just sharing something that I realized tonight!