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My First Escape

Another rough excerpt:

The neighborhood was familiar, though I had no idea whose house he just went into. I sat shivering in the passenger’s seat of the car. I pushed my skirt down over the big rip in my tights that exposed my left thigh. My shoes were gone, thrown out the window somewhere along the way to this house. I ran my left hand through my hair and gently pulled a handful away from head. For a moment, I stared at the tiny pieces of my scalp attached at the ends, and then, not wanting to drop it on the floor of my own car, I rolled my window down enough to toss it into the wind. I wanted to disappear into the wind. Instead, my tongue found my stinging, swollen upper lip. I tasted blood. The gash my tooth had opened from the smack to my face last night was open again. To this day, I have a scar.

My thoughts went to where he said he was going to take me, and what he was going to do to me. I’m going to die today. I don’t want to die.

I looked around the neighborhood. Though it was just before noon, it was deserted. I wondered how long it would take for him to buy more drugs. Should I leap from the car and take off running? Should I knock on someone’s door? What if no one is home? Would anyone be able to protect me from him? I was paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t move. He had hissed, “Don’t move,” before he left the car. I knew the minute I opened the door to run, he would walk out of that house. And then I saw them. Keys. He left the keys in the ignition. Without any hesitation, I climbed into the driver’s seat. I am not going to die today.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Two years ago I wrote about the colonoscopy that didn’t happen due to my uncooperative nature while in a semi-conscious state. Apparently I need to be knocked out cold before I will lie motionless and let a stranger shove a thingy up my rectum.

It took me two years to get around to scheduling it again. I took comfort in the fact that the doctor told me they traveled about “halfway up my colon and everything looked fine,” so I was in no hurry to repeat this invasive procedure. I was instructed to call back in “six months or so” and be sure to let them know I needed general sedation with an anesthesiologist.

That’s the part that makes me nervous. I have a fear I will never wake up. Or worse, I will wake up and not be able to move and no one will know I’m awake. It’s called Locked-in Syndrome. Don’t Google it. Or I will wake up and a nurse will tell me three months have passed. I know, it’s ridiculous, but I have a mind that veers to the dark.

None of that happened! It was a breeze. The day before was long and awful, but the procedure itself was fine, I guess. I don’t remember anything because I had a fabulous, cute, young doctor who administered the proper dosage of Propofol with a quiet,  “Here we go.” I felt the burn in my veins and the next thing I remember was him waking me up.

In hindsight (haha), the timing of this thing turned out to be perfect. I scheduled way back in December on the first Monday in February not realizing I would be doing my prep on Superbowl Sunday. Not that I care much, but there’s usually a party and chicken wings somewhere. Not a good enough reason to reschedule, though. It was a kid weekend, but Mike offered to take the boys to his parents’ house so I could “prepare” in private. I appreciated that. I’m sure he did too.

A couple weeks before my appointment Mike found out he had to work an event in San Francisco on the Saturday of that weekend and that his company was going to book a room for him at the Four Seasons. What?! Score! A night in the city where I could eat anything I wanted the night before I was going to starve myself and poop all day! YAY! I opted for a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs from Tomasso’s. Soooo good. Then we walked around North Beach and found an Italian Bakery where I blissfully ate a cannoli.

After a perfect night in the city we ended our stay on Sunday morning with black coffee in the hotel bar sitting by the fire discussing the ingredients used to flush my colon. Then we gratefully went our separate ways. Mike headed back to the boys and his parents, and I headed home on the most glorious sunshiny first day of February.

I arrived home, closed all the blinds, put on my jammies, snuggled the cat, drank tea, ate popsicles, watched movies, and prepared myself.

My dear friend Elizabeth picked me up at 7:15 on Monday morning to take me to the hospital. While driving there, I mentioned that I was starving. I hadn’t eaten real food since Saturday night. She said, “We Jews do that.” I said, “Do what?” She said they fast from sundown to sundown on I can’t remember which holiday. I told her that wasn’t the same because you can eat all day until sundown and then just go to bed. Then you can get up and eat that same day at sundown so you are asleep during most of your fast. I was without food for much longer than that, I told her. Also, I had to drink awful tasting metallic fruit liquid and (I will spare you) was up all night. We went back and forth. I almost smacked her, but instead I told her not to argue with a starving girl. Then we kissed goodbye in front of the hospital.

I got settled into my room and met my anesthesiologist and crew of nurses, who were all great. The little Filipino nurse whose first language was not English and was tasked to start my IV came at me with, “I’m going to hurt you now.” And she did. Twice. But I forgave her because she was very motherly and covered me with a warm blanket and put a thing that looked like a vacuum hose under my sheet. Very warm air came out of that hose. I want one for the house.


All done, all fuzzy.

2015 so far.
Physical. Check. Cleared to train for a half Ironman triathlon.
Mammogram. Check. No evidence of anything suspicious. “See you in two years.”
Colonoscopy. Check. One tiny polyp removed. Biopsy Negative. “See you in five years.”

Thanks, Sarah

This past Friday morning I was scrolling though my Facebook newsfeed and came upon this little nugget:

The second I saw it I knew that I would be registering too. And I do mean the second. There was no way in hell that I was going to let my bestie Sarah do this event without me. She and I have run a lot of races together and done a few cycling events, and though we have talked about triathlons, I have never really had the desire to do one. I’m a terrible swimmer and afraid of any water that goes above my head.

Enter Sarah’s mother, Gail Roper, a 1952 Olympic swimmer who has volunteered to help me train. Now I’m getting excited. I’ve been gearing up to get into better shape after a year of mostly slacking, and though training for a triathlon wasn’t the plan, it’ll do. And then some.

So here you have it. At the age of 55, I am going to swim 1.2 miles, then I’m going to jump on my bike and ride 56 miles, and then I’m going to swap out the bike for my running shoes and finish with a half marathon.

Mostly I’m excited about writing my number on my legs and arms with a Sharpie.



Cocaine or Jesus

I sat in a seedy bar that smelled of wet rags and old shoes. My second glass of whiskey was almost empty and the cigarette between the fingers of my left hand was unlit. I was road-weary and drunk.

To no one in particular I said, “That first husband of mine never did anything in moderation. It didn’t matter if it was cocaine or Jesus. Nothing in moderation.”

The woman to my left, with her gravelly voice and smudged red lipstick laughed, then yelled, “That should be the title of your book!”

Just kidding! I was actually sitting at Bergamot with Doralice and friends sipping bubbles and critiquing each others’ writing. But I did actually say that and Doralice did suggest the title. It’s unlikely I will keep it, but that’s the working title as of today.

2015 will be the year I make a very significant effort to finish the words that roll around in my brain on a daily basis. Last night I attended a Christmas party where a friend asked me what was the biggest inhibitor to getting this book written.  I said, “Time. Just finding the time to sit and write.” He said, “If it’s not on the calendar, it won’t happen.” Or something to that effect. I was two drinks in at this point.

I got my new Moleskine planner this weekend and just wrote “WRITE” on the calendar.




I almost ruined Christmas

Weeks ago, Mike and I planned the date to get our Christmas tree. We picked the first Saturday in December that we had the boys. Yesterday was the day! Long before that, we figured out where it would go in our little house that doesn’t have much open space. We joked about putting it in the bathroom since it’s the biggest room in the house. Ultimately, we decided upon the space where Maeby’s cat condo resides since the monstrosity is surely bigger than any tree we would buy and we could tuck her condo in a corner in the dining room where she could sit on her throne and watch us eat.

We had a great time! I borrowed Sarah’s truck and met Mike and the boys down at the lot in town. Liam didn’t care what tree we picked. He was excited about all of them. Finn’s attraction was to the fire they had blazing to keep the patrons warm, the shed that was full of power tools and machetes, and the back end of the lot where we couldn’t see him. While Mike chased Finn, Liam and went to the row of Silver Tips and picked out our tree. Silver Tips are my the boys’ favorite. Mike had budgeted, and though we went a little over what we wanted to spend, we walked away with a beautiful tree that reached the ceiling. He had made me the boys very happy.


photo 3-2

photo 4

photo 5

We headed home in our separate vehicles. On the less than three minute drive home, I was struck with a thought that should have occurred to me long before we had a tree bought and paid for in the back of the truck. Maeby AND THE TREE. I’m not talking about a cat and all the craziness that could happen with her batting off the ornaments or climbing to the top. I’m talking about a tree that I am bringing into the house and not having any idea if it’s a danger to her should she decided to chomp on the needles. For those of you that don’t follow my blog, Maeby came very close to death this past summer after I brought a bouquet of flowers into the house and she chomped on a tiger lily.

I pulled up to the curb, picked up my phone, and Googled, “christmas trees safe for cats,” and then clicked on the first thing that came up. The article made my heart drop. I read, “highly toxic to cats potentially causing liver damage and death.” That’s all I needed. Mike and the boys pulled up facing me in the truck and it was obvious to him that something was wrong. He gave me a puzzled look. I stepped out and read him the first paragraph. I love this man. He said, “Okay, we will have a Christmas tree on the porch.”

My friends across the street were outside and I told them what I read. The told me that was crazy. They have always had cats with trees. Mike said the same thing. I realized that many years ago, I had cats around Christmas trees. Was the site giving misinformation? I needed to get on my computer and research. I was distressed. I wanted a tree in our house, but the week spent with my cat in the hospital on death’s door was traumatizing. Mike was quick to realize this. He said there was no way we could bring the tree in. He told me I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I needed more information, and I also wanted to see what she would do.

Of course she was curious and wanted to explore it. That was fine. We sat close and watched her sniffing and pawing it. So far so good, and then…CHOMP. “NO!” I yelled, and then Mike picked up the tree and took it back outside. Liam went nuts. “My tree! My tree!” I calmed him and told him we would have a tree. On the verge of tears, I asked Mike if we could get a fake one. I told him I would try to get our money back from the lot. He was fine with whatever I wanted to do.

But first I took to the internet. I was getting vague and different information. The word “death” only appeared on that one site. I decided to call the hospital that took care of Maeby. The girl who answered remembered her well and understood my concern. She talked to the doctor who told her she didn’t think ingesting pine needles would result in the same toxicity, but the shape of the needle can be hazardous, and also not to let her drink the water. She advised we go to for information and to separate her from the tree when we weren’t home.

I went to the website of and the information there about Christmas trees appeared to be about the same as what the vet said. I still wasn’t satisfied because I wanted to know about the specific tree. I tried to look at the list of hundreds of plants toxic and non-toxic to cats, but I couldn’t find Silver Tip. In clicking around the site, I found an 800 number for poison control. Bingo. It said there was a $65 consultation fee. I called it anyway. I was hoping they could just answer a general question.

The woman on the phone was fantastic, and she didn’t charge me! Together we researched the species of tree and then she told me to hold on. After speaking with their expert, I was told the toxicity in the tree, which is actually a fir, is nothing like what lilies will do to a cat. It won’t affect the organs. She might vomit or have diarrhea, but it won’t kill her.

Whew! We brought the tree in, we decorated, and as of this writing, which is 24 hours with a tree in the house, Maeby is showing very little interest. Occasionally she bats at an ornament, but that is all.

photo 2-4


photo 1-4

What tree?


The Eighth Puzzle

Last night Mike and I started a 1000-piece puzzle. It wasn’t really planned. I mentioned to him that if he had not gotten up at 4:45am with me that morning I probably would have started a puzzle. I don’t sleep well. I have no problem falling asleep, but I usually wake up sometime between 2-4am and lay awake before falling back asleep shortly before my 6am alarm. It sucks.

Yesterday morning I gave up at 4:45 and got up thinking I would either try to write or do a puzzle. Mike padded in while I was making coffee and though I encouraged him to go back to sleep, he said he’d rather be up with me. I’d rather he be up too, so we had one of those rare, dark mornings sipping coffee and chatting before we both began the mad dash to get ready for work.

It’s odd that I thought of the puzzle. This one, the last of eight, has sat on my bookshelf for over four years. I actually love doing puzzles, but the desire to pull this one off the bookshelf wasn’t there until yesterday morning. Perhaps it’s the holidays approaching. My ex-husband’s mother always had a puzzle going when we spent Thanksgiving or Christmas with them. I loved sitting in my flannel jammies quietly chatting over a puzzle with whichever family member sat across from me while a cold Ohio winter storm was brewing outside, then a cold and snowy Pennsylvania winter, then the dry, crisp, sunshiny Arizona winter.

The first seven of the puzzles I mentioned are long gone. After I put together a puzzle, always 1000 pieces, I’m done with it. I pass them along to someone else. These seven went to Sarah‘s mom when I moved and came across them. I had put together all seven of them during a cold spell in Healdsburg shortly after my husband had left. I was unemployed, alone, and wallowing in misery. I woke up one morning and wanted to do a puzzle so I drove to Target and bought eight. Then I put the seven of them together in a week’s time while watching Lifetime movies back to back, crying, alternately drinking coffee, then wine, then more coffee.

We find things to get us through difficult times. In my case, I needed distractions. Landscaping my front yard was a three week distraction. Doing seven puzzles and watching really awful Lifetime movies was a distraction too. Two years later I wrote a poem inspired by that week.

So when I mentioned the puzzle to Mike last night he asked me where it was. He took it off the top of the bookshelf, opened the box, and emptied the pieces onto our dining room table. We sipped wine as we separated the edge pieces and I was filled with a warm rush of nostalgia, rather than the other memory of that cold week of 1000 tears.


Boys’ breakfast this morning…

Mr. Roper – Part 2

Moving day wasn’t too big of a deal. It was just a couple suitcases, a few boxes of Jarrod’s toys, and a few other boxes of toiletries and pilfered kitchenware from my parents’ house. I was excited. The place was adorable. The front door led right into a kitchen with a small table and two chairs and off of that was the main room with two beds, and a bathroom beyond that. There was one good sized closet, but no laundry. I could live with that. Not far in Pacific Grove there was a very clean laundromat that connected to a cafe/bookstore. I had been there once with a friend and while her clothes dried we had coffee and read books.

The one downside to our new little place was the front door. It was solid glass. The exact kind you find in business establishments. It made no sense and there was no curtain or shade. The door was situated in such a way that no one could see in unless they were actually coming to the door, but it still bothered me. The day after moving in I went to Cost Plus and bought a paper shade and figured out a way to hang it in front of the glass so we would have complete privacy while in the kitchen. It was the shade that prompted the first knock on my door. I peered out to see Mr. Roper standing there.

In his rough and gravelly voice he asked, “What’s that?”
“It’s a shade,” I answered.
“Well, I know what it is, but why is it there?” he asked.
“Because the door is glass and I don’t feel comfortable with it,” I answered.
“Well, why?” he asked. I couldn’t believe the conversation I was having. My heart was sinking. I knew right then and there that I couldn’t live behind this asshole. He couldn’t understand why I put a shade up?
He said, “No one can see in that door.”
Finally, I said, “I’m the one living here and I have to feel comfortable.”
He turned and walked away mumbling under his breath as he left.

It was the beginning of the end. Within the week I had started searching the classifieds again. Allow me to give you a sampling of why:

He looked out his back window at me almost every single time I came and went.

He yelled at Jarrod for being too noisy while playing on our patio. The third time I yelled back at him and told him he was not to speak to my son that way.

One Sunday morning I was sitting on the patio with a girlfriend and we were having mimosas. He walked out and told me that it was in the signed rental agreement that I couldn’t have parties. I said, “I’m not having a party, I’m having a friend over. Are you saying I can’t have a friend over?” Again, the turning away and mumbling under his breath.

Another day my toilet overflowed. Not wanting to deal with him, I called a plumber. Of course Mr. Roper came right over to see what was going on. The plumber pulled an ugly crystal nightlight out of the toilet. Mr. Roper said, “Is that yours?” I told him I had never seen it before in my life and that it must have belonged to the previous tenant. He grumbled that he would go and get his checkbook. When he came back he told me he would split the cost with me. I tried to argue that I shouldn’t have to pay, but then I decided it wasn’t worth it. I wrote my check for $35.00 and then he asked me if I would write his for him because of his eyesight. I did that, he signed the check, and then he asked me to record it. He had a balance of over $65,000.

I once had an overnight guest that I thought I did a very good job of sneaking in to the house. The next morning there was a note tucked into the front door telling me I owed him $10.00. It was in the rental agreement.

There was only one week of peace in that place. It coincided with my second month of rent being due so I knocked on his front door. The girlfriend opened it about an inch. I had only seen a glimpse of her and we had never been introduced.

I said, “Is Mr. Roper here? I have the rent check.”
She said, “No,” and not kindly.
I said, “I haven’t seen him around for a few days.”
She said, “He’s in the hospital,” and before I could say I was sorry or inquire she added, “He’s not going to die.”

He didn’t die. He came back in time for me to tell him I was leaving on the very day I was leaving. I was supposed to give him 30-days notice but I had no intention of giving notice because I wasn’t sure how he would react in the time leading up to my leaving.  He came outside to see what was going on and I told him I was leaving. He didn’t seem surprised. He just wanted to know why.

I said, “Do you really have to ask?”
And then he shocked me with, “I really like you, Jodee. You’re a good girl and you have a sweet little boy.”
I said, “What?! How would I know that? You were not nice to us at all!”

And then he turned around and walked away mumbling to himself.

Mr. Roper – Part 1

After spending three weeks in a shelter for battered women, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Don’t get me wrong, it served its purpose. It was very well run and the women in charge were the kind that would fold you into their soft bosoms where you could weep like a child. But there were rules. So many rules. I understood that the rules were in place for my own safety and the safety of the other women taking refuge from their own horrific situations, but I had just escaped from the control of another person and I didn’t want anyone else telling me what to do.

I can write a chapter on that place, but I’ll save that for the book. This is about the very first place I lived after leaving my husband. Still in my 20s, I was on my own for the first time in my life. I wish I could say I was carefree and happy, but my situation didn’t allow for that. It was as if I were on the run. This was before going through the process of attorneys, custody arrangements, the inevitable restraining order, and everything else I needed to separate myself from the life I’d been living for seven years. And I had a five-year old boy who needed to get through all of that as unscathed as possible.

While at the shelter, I perused the newspaper daily for a suitable place. I found a furnished in-law unit for $350 per month; manageable on my bartender’s salary, and furnished was a bonus since I had no intention of haggling over furniture or anything else with the man I was running from. I was doing my best to have as little contact as possible. I wouldn’t tell him where we lived and the child exchanges were always through the extremely patient, long-suffering babysitter.

I made an appointment and met with the owner of the home. He was an elderly gentleman who lived in the main house with his sort of younger girlfriend. There were a few red flags coming from my (soon to be) landlord, but the place was perfect. It was detached from the main house and sat in the back corner of the property overlooking Monterey Bay. It had a private entrance from a side gate and its own little patio. It was very tiny, a studio basically, but it was clean and rustic and it was furnished with two twin beds. One for me and one for Jarrod.

Spoiler: We lasted six weeks.

Happy Belated Anniversary, my Loves!

This is ridiculous. For the third year in a row I have forgotten my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding anniversary. They’ve been married four years. That means I have forgotten EVERY anniversary. I have no idea why I have a block to this significant date. I love Amanda beyond measure and have never had any doubt that she was perfect for Jarrod in every way, but every year this date just flies right by me. It was yesterday.

Their anniversary is the day before my mother’s birthday. A day that I NEVER forget. One would think I would just attach their day to her day, but I don’t and I have no idea why. One might also think I should put it on the calendar. I should! But I don’t calendar important dates like birthdays and anniversaries because I always remember them. Ha!

This morning while perusing Instagram, I saw a rare post from Amanda referencing their anniversary. If not for that I probably would still be going about my day, the day AFTER their anniversary, not remembering.

Speaking of the rare post, this is part of the problem. They aren’t Facebookers. Amanda is on her third fourth (?) break from Facebook and even when she was on it she rarely posted. Jarrod is on it, but the only thing he ever posts about is music and the occasional harassing of his closest friends. They aren’t like the rest of us who broadcast all our important dates with photos all over our newsfeeds. If he had posted a picture of them on their wedding day yesterday morning with the caption, “Happy Anniversary to the love of my life. You have made me the happiest man in the world and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you,” or something like that, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. Instead, there was this today:

TextSpeaking again of them never posting, allow me:

Awww... Early in the courtship.

Awww… Early in the courtship.

Popping the question in Budapest.

Popping the question in Budapest.

How could I possibly forget this day!

How could I possibly forget this day!


Last Summer

Their dog Frank last night on their anniversary, which is the Instagram post I saw this morning.

My granddog Frank last night on their anniversary, which is the Instagram post I saw this morning.

Nuts and Bolts

Mike and I are going on six months of living together. I guess we’ve made it over the hump. Not that I really gave the hump that much thought, but I think in the back of my mind I thought that if living together wasn’t going to work out, we would know it in a reasonably short period of time. Like weeks. Maybe a month. Not that it has all been sunshine and rainbows, though for the most part it has, but whatever differences we have about things gets ironed out rather quickly. We don’t let things fester. No silent treatments, no beating around the bush. Thank god.

I had a hard time leaving my cottage. I had carved out my own little space and my own life. I loved it. Then I went and fell in love. I didn’t fall in love with a single guy who’d carved out his own life quite yet. I fell in love with a guy who was going through a divorce, living in his first crappy apartment, and had two little kids.

So. There was that. But I (we’ve) told that story.

Now it’s the nuts and bolts. It’s the sharing of a small two bedroom/one bath bungalow with a kitchen the size of a bathroom and a bathroom the size of a living room. It’s joint custody of a 3 and 5 year old. It’s changing diapers, wiping butts, potty training, teaching one how to use a fork and the other to put the napkin on his lap instead of his head. Then there’s the what did I just step in?, stop chasing the cat, hurry up, you’ll be late for school, let go of your brother’s face, keep the water in the tub, and the laundry, my god, the laundry.

The nuts and bolts. The little dance we first did around each other. More than once he asked if all three of them were too much for me to handle. More than once I thought I would drive him crazy with my clean freakishness. Is he ever going to get that he should put the dry dishes in the dish rack AWAY before putting more wet ones on top of them? Is she ever going to fucking sit down?

In time I fell in love with the boys, too. That came with with their innocence. It came with raising my own little boy and knowing that I’ve always had room in my heart for more. It came with investing myself into their lives. It came with the trust that was placed in me by their father AND their mother. I don’t take that lightly. It came with wanting to be a positive addition in their lives. It came with a thank you text from their mom for making the sacrifice of going into work late because Mondays and Thursdays are my days to do the drop off. It came with one-on-one time and getting to know them as precious individuals.

Their giggles, hugs, and kisses. Their smell when you nuzzle their necks. The way they say my name. The way Mike had to come to me this morning with all the questions about the Thursday morning routine having taken over for me because of a work meeting. “What about Penguin? Does he go to daycare?” he asked. “No, Mike. He does okay without Penguin sometimes now.”

Because I know these things. The nuts and bolts.

Carrie Cariello

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