The Neverending Story

Courage is an interesting concept … as a writer, words do not scare me, however, I found myself needing to work up the courage to put delicate words together for this “personal essay” of sorts. This year has been the strangest year for many of us I’m sure, especially for myself it has absolutely been the most unique and complex in my thirty-something years. A brief timeline, as we went from dreading my job in January, to the Coronavirus pandemic infiltrating our hospitality industry in February, to my husband’s furlough in March, to then the ultimate separation from my employer in April. That was a bittersweet break-up. I felt such relief but immediate anxiety with what happens next?

Having been at an increased clot risk with my VP shunt, I was not prepared to face an uncertain health scare should I contract COVID-19. There are a lot of unknowns in living with some conditions that I try to wear with confidence, but I do worry about all that could go wrong. That’s natural. Acquiring hydrocephalus was a shock to me, but I am much more fortunate than some. I have known individuals who have had more shunt revision surgeries than I can recall. Luck, that’s all I can put this down to. I am more than lucky to have had a successful run with my shunt. I am circling back to this later this week for a particular reason, but for now, I am counting my blessings to suffer with low pressure headaches that I can live with in comparison to the stories of my friends.

Our little world stood still. Schools did not open, we worked with the kids at home to complete the end of their 1st and 4th grade quarters. Playtime outside with friends consisted of masks (thank you Grandmommy!), hand sanitizers, soap, Lysol, immediate showers and as much social distance as kids can cope with. From March … through today, September 3rd … and until further notice. E-campus learning has been in progress now for two weeks. With the influx of internet usage, the parallel programs running is too much for one computer. It has been challenging for both kids to need two computers just to attend school without the risk of becoming ill. Four days after our school had opened, the first confirmed positive COVID-19 case was made public to parents. Since August 24th, it has exploded across our district and county. There are still so many unanswered questions into how children carry this virus and the risks involved. Since May 28th, this became even more of a risk that we were not willing to take.

Here’s where the courage comes in. And here’s what happens next. Infertility. Miscarriage. Two words that had not entered my regular vocabulary until 2018. They say to stop trying and then it’ll happen … that wasn’t the case. No need to hash all of that out again. I lost my job in April, three weeks later, surprise! A positive pregnancy test. How was this even possible? In February, we agreed that 2020 was going to be awful, we would take a break on trying. And when I say “we” … I mean me, mainly, because it became so deeply personal that it affected my daily life. Sam has seen me at the lowest of lows in battling infertility. What happens when you find out that you are actually pregnant during a pandemic? Sprinkle in absurd anxiety on top of it all and you’ve got the messiest kind of happiness and worry at once. Fears of another miscarriage swoop in and you find it difficult to enjoy the moment. We knew that we wanted to keep this to ourselves until we were “sure, sure,” like 10000% sure our risk of miscarrying was significantly low. Because of the Coronavirus, Sam was not allowed into appointments with me. I was next level frightened to walk back into the same office for a confirmation ultrasound, where we had learned of our missed miscarriage in April. I was shaking. I was petrified. Sam was not allowed in the lobby, he had to wait in the hallway. I had to go in expecting the worst.

June 18th, 2020: Confirmation! A beautiful little fetal pole – everything looked good. Naturally, my anxiety was sky high. We would return on July 2nd. Until then, take care of me. This news was still a sacred whisper between us, but one lone soul did know. 💕

July 2nd, 2020: A heartbeat! Let me tell you how bittersweet it is to hear the heartbeat of your child without your partner. The office allowed me to record the screen for Sam. You could hear me in the background saying, thank you! over and over again. We cried. We sobbed. The emotions were deep. My eyes are watering. Moving on.

July 30th, 2020: Hello, baby Calabro! Doing little butt lifts, stretching out completely flat and not letting us get a profile shot, our thirteen-weeker was in full action! Heartbeat – great. Position – great (we were low-lying last year, dangerously so). Stubbornness – 100%. Bittersweet, again, to be witnessing our little life without Sammy. I think I could hear his tears from the truck. After the first appointment in a cramped hallway, he would from that point forward remain outside. I had a chauffeur and a beautiful a/c ready for me to whip off my mask and sob with my husband.

I think at this point, we were both still in such disbelief, such shock. Our baby is due February 1st, 2021, but with a scheduled c-section at the end of January.

WE ARE OFFICIALLY PREGNANT!

The best kind of surprises are true surprises, we truly had no idea this was ever going to be possible again. To conceive and maintain a pregnancy?! What a blessing. I spent the next few hours working on a video that would reveal our secret to our family and friends, who live across the world. This was also, how we planned on showing Ben and Emma that they would become a big brother (again) and big sister, early next year. The video was a compilation of the past few years, moments I had captured of Sam with the kids, our beach wedding and so many more memories in-between. The video would then shift from captions about love and how full our hearts are, to our best kept secret. Our little wiggle worm and heartbeat would appear in the video and bring everyone to tears (really not my intention) but everyone cried. Including the kids, I mean Ben is always a softy, but he sobbed so much my shirt was wet. Our baby is strong and growing. This is really happening!

We learned how incompatible Android and Apple phones are, when attempting to send a four minute long video to my Android family, please get iPhones, guys … but we made it happen. So many tears! Seriously, just an amazing way to share the news during this pandemic. My parents live twenty minutes away, but to limit exposures, we have only seen them less than five times since the beginning of 2020. It’s been devastating that we have been unable to travel to see family in Virginia as well. This pandemic has changed our lives.

Sam and I have spent 132 days together, without a break, since April. We would have been lucky to have sixty-six two-day weekends together between his hectic kitchen schedules, but the world tossed a new set of parameters our way. We have grown closer, learned even more about one another, and made this time in our lives positive for both ourselves and the kids. Our levels of stress and anxiety are down, we have implemented budgets and we have reshaped our business plans to include the “new normal” precautions with COVID-19 in mind. This year, 2020, is not over yet, and neither are the changes & challenges that we accept with open hearts and open minds.

Our little girl is coming into a world that is currently experiencing so much change, hopefully for the greater good, and we will do all that we can to contribute to the future.

Baby girl, you are the luckiest little human. Your daddy is amazing, your big brother and big sister are the kindest and most loving kiddos. Your dog is a beautiful mess and your mommy is too. We cannot wait to meet this stubborn little Italian/English bundle, which we think will have bright red hair, my nose and Sammy’s beautiful eyes. 💖

Cheers to 2020, for so far, being the most incredible, unique, confusing and beautiful year of our lives.

Is it Over Yet?

It’s August. 1,000 COVID-19 deaths a day. When can we step out of this tornado of maniacal bullshit?

I can’t say that this lifestyle change has been entirely bad. I have spent more time with my kids since April, than I have been able to since 2017. Their cups are full and so are mine. I calculated, between the time sharing schedule, school (when it was brick & mortar), along with my former work schedule, two total days a month with the kids. This is a reality for a lot of working families, add divorced and shared custody with hospitality careers, and the sad truth that existed. 48 hours a month. It was heartbreaking for so long. So here we are, mid-apocalypse (aka 2020), the kids will not be returning to their brick & mortar school, but will be attending e-campus whilst remaining enrolled at their current school. I will be working from home & working as a stay at home mom-teacher until further notice.

We are in a very interesting and important position as human beings. Unfortunately, the unknowns of this pandemic have created an unstable environment for humanity. Are we improving? Are we going to go up in flames as the worst country in the world? Other than all signs pointing to yes, I am a pro-health-pro-vaccine mom living in a time where history in medicine is being made. When I was pregnant with Ben, 2009/2010, the H1N1 paled in comparison to COVID-19, however, for the safety of myself and unborn child, I received the vaccine during a routine ob-gyn appointment. Given the wide range of illnesses and underlying conditions that exacerbate the coronavirus, my hand is up for vaccines when it has been studied and is safe to administer. I’m not queuing up for the first in line round though. Call me cynical, but I believe in a healthy balance between rush and efficiency. If a vaccine means that I can see my parents, my kids can see their grandparents, and that we can return to some sort of semblance of routine from the pre-pandemic life, then a vaccine it is. I want teachers to be safe and treated like the angels on earth that they are.

I have not been blogging like I would like to, as so many opinion writers are fueled objectively. I am no different. Politics is not fun to argue about, nor do I care to preach my personal perspectives, so it may be best to keep my letters to myself until I can step away from the cookie jar of internet opinion allowances. I do have a few recipes that are coming up. Emma created her dream pie, so, we made it. Gluten-free pie crust with fresh organic cherries and apples. It was pretty amazing. I’d have to call this one semi-homemade, as I used a gluten-free pie crust mix to cut down on some time. Standing on travertine tile for more than 15 minutes induces some great feelings once you reach a certain age. 🤷🏼‍♀️

There’s also my favorite kale soup variations. I’ve been playing with some additions, like beans and sausage, rather than chicken and potato. I make this with some spice, so it’s typically planned for the days when the kids don’t have to panic that they’ve got kale soup for dinner. 😂

So this is me, trying to steer clear of politics and opinions on the response to coronavirus in my state. I think I’ve done enough of that on Twitter and in previous posts. Let’s settle into our new way of life and shift our focus. Always forward.

2020, Year of the Unknown

Well, it happened. I knew my career was about to tank; so many of us working in the hospitality industry have been sidelined. Who knows how long this will really last. It happened the day before my son’s 10th birthday. It was almost bittersweet. I say that with trepidation … it was a toxic workplace. I hate writing those words, but sadly, they are true. I was not the only one who felt this way, which is a shame. I knew Ben and his little brain full of fear-gears would worry his heart out, so we kept it from the kids for as long as we could. I needed to grieve a little bit, kind of like a break up. Sudden. Unexpected, yet expected. I knew it was likely. We prepared. I have never been fired before. It was nice to decompress for a while. Sam and I have been able to focus on mental and physical health. We’ve generated structured days; the kids love Thursdays the most, which is their cooking day. Even my niece got in on the action. Pick a recipe; find the ingredients; learn from Chef Sam. It was wonderful. But all good things must come to an end. The decompression slowly turns into worry, anxiety and fears of the unknown. Will there be any summer camps? Can I even try to hold down a job? Will schools actually open in the fall? What is going on here? It’s June 21, 2020 … and there are no answers. Assumptions. Presumptions, maybe safer to say. Sure, schools are already a cesspool of germs, kids do not fully understand social distancing, what are we expecting here? And how crazy am I for hoping my career in schools begins this year?

We have had many joys over these months in our little quarantine bubble, but lows linger for us. Unfortunately, our area now seems to be on the uptick for positive cases again. Our governor states that this is a good sign; there are more tests being administered, therefore, there are more positive results amongst the community of twenty and thirty-year-old adults who have returned to the workplace; but most of these individuals are asymptomatic. So … pray tell, why are 4,000 positive cases turning up after the phased reopening in our area? Our governor is trying to tell us that four thousand people without symptoms decided to get tested? Are these mandates for returning to certain jobs? Obviously not, as airport employees are still contracting the virus. This is a nightmare. The entire world was more prepared than we were. The incessant need for bickering and pointing fingers in this country today is despicable. It is embarrassing. We are the laughing stock of the world. Awesome. So how do we move forward? What does a banquet chef do when large gatherings are not allowed? This is a new world … or is it new at all? Maybe we cannot adapt as a society. Clearly, our “leader” is not adapting.

In other news (spoken as Isabelle), Animal Crossing New Horizons has taken over the Calabro household! Our island gained its 5-star rating after some sleepless nights and a lot of TLC. Little pieces of all of us are nestled somewhere on the island. It’s silly, really, to enjoy virtual gardening so thoroughly … but it has helped me through this pandemic. Mental health is so important. I set a goal to swim 4 days a week. Hello summer storms! Hello pollen! Hello green pool! Okay, so let’s set up some fans and get on the machine in the garage. Wait, your garage floor is flooded too?! Let’s try not to panic. Don’t panic. Do not panic. Breathe. Water your flowers. The cycle of stress and decompression comes and goes in waves. It always will. This is a storm we are weathering together as a family. The kids are equipped with amazing masks, (we are too, mine have paw prints, be jealous) we have hand sanitizer, antibacterial soaps, Lysol, bleach, wipes … we’re good. We are working through this. It’s been a weird few months.

It sucks when your creative energy isn’t drawing any motivation or inspiration. I have wanted to write. I have wanted to paint. I have wanted to use my camera. But snapping myself back to reality is hard when I do not know what the future of my reality is holding. What we do know, is our present reality, the reality of now. One day at a time. One storm at a time. One headache at a time. One hug at a time.

A lot of this post does not make sense and jumps from here to there, which is how my brain is currently processing the world.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads. It is odd not being able to see my parents freely … but this is the reality of now. Chaotic and calm, all at the same time.

Maintain virus awareness & please adhere to social distancing with masks during senior shopping hours!