Nobody Talks About Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After
Photo credit: disneyspeak.com

I was (am) a really big fan of the series Sex and the City (Affiliate link), especially in my twenties. I was so excited for the movie to come out in 2008… want to know why? Because at the end of the series, Carrie and Mr. Big finally end up together so finally we would see what happily ever after looked like!

Spoiler alert – you don’t get to see what happily ever after looks like in the movie (not really in the second one either). I left the theater so disappointed.

No one seems to talk about happily ever after. Every movie or series ends with the couple having their first dramatic kiss, or walking away holding hands, or maybe even walking down the aisle. But then what?

It is no secret that over 50% of marriages end in divorce and that many couples are opting to live with each other but not get married. Obviously there are millions of reasons for marriages going down the shitter but I have this one theory – that if no one talks about what happens after happily ever after we are helping set these new relationships up for failure. No one knows what to expect and then when the wedding is over, or the kids are grown, or the allure fades we panic because we don’t know what this is supposed to feel like.

The other day there was a teaser on the Today Show for a book on modern marriages. I was so excited! I am married and I am living in these modern times! I had already decided that I was probably going to buy it. Then the segment came on. It was for the book Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules (Affiliate)… that isn’t what I was looking for.

Where is the book called like ‘So You Are Married and Happy’? I would read that one. Mind you, I haven’t read Haag’s Marriage Confidential but it seems a little negative and scary just from the piece I saw.

So what am I going to do about it?

I think I am going to talk about it. I think people in happy marriages (like mine) should be celebrated. I love my husband. No we don’t have children and don’t you dare ask me if I am pregnant… we may have children someday but right now we like being married and there is nothing wrong with that.

The other day my mother texted me that my father drove past her on the island and blew her a kiss. They have been married for 25 years. They are best friends and they are happy. That should be celebrated.

So I am going to do my part to talk about what happens after ‘and they lived happily ever after’ because we as a society should. If we let people know more about what a marriage is like, it could help other people feel more normal when they are uncomfortable. I will of course have to run a lot of this by my husband but I think he will be on board.

I am not a certified professional or therapist or life coach but I have a little first-hand, real-world, best of breed experience with marriage (2.75 years experience and counting) and I will use this little space I have carved out here online to talk about how a modern marriage can actually happen.

“I have been married 65 years, 66 in September, and I think that is a pretty good start” – A nice lady Adam met today

ps – If you have a story about living happily ever after I would LOVE to hear it and possibly share it. Just let me know!

The Thing About Birthdays…

Amandas 2nd BirthdayThe thing is for my birthday and Brody’s birthday (his is September 1st) I get really reflective. I think about where I am and where I want to be. I think this annoys Adam sometimes but I am not a party hat wearing, binge drinker on my birthday – I am usually pretty calm and I spend a good time alone and/or thinking about the state of me. I was surprised to see two men I respect professionally seem to take a similar birthday approach – CC Chapman and Chris Brogan.

Last year was the first year that I can remember that I had a hard time setting my goals. I have found and married an wonderful man who loves me very much and makes me very happy, we have a great little house of our own, we have two of the most fun dogs on Earth, I have a great family who love and support me, I have a good job that is near my home and I was feeling like I was really finding my way.

So my goal last year was more a basic idea – BETTER. I just wanted all the things I already had but I wanted to make them better. I wanted to spend more quality time with my husband, my family and my dogs. I wanted to eat better, become a better runner, take care of some things to make our house better, be a better friend, do my job better and all in all just be a better person.

I think I did a pretty good job with that. We really have had a great year. We have gotten to do some amazing things. I have spent some really great time with my family and I do feel better.

So what about this year?

Today I turn 32 **gulp** . Everything is about the same, generally speaking, as last year with some recent road blocks. My dog, who is just the love of my life is sick, my work is morphing and we are still working on getting Adam into school. Not a whole lot I can do about some of those, which is hard for me because I am ‘a fixer’.

So this year I am going to not go for specific goals but a general goal like last year. This year I want to become stronger. I have some big decisions to make, we have some changes to get ready for and I will feel more equipped to handle these things if I am stronger.

  • Stronger physically – Becoming stronger physically will help me achieve a few goals I have for running. I am not talking about entering any weight lifting competitions or anything but a little more muscle in this body wouldn’t hurt.
  • Stronger mentally – I am a constant learner. I read a lot, I write a lot, I go to a lot of conferences and webinars and I try to soak up a lot of information. I have been pretty busy lately and feel like this learning has slipped a little so I want to try to bulk up my brain a bit more this year too.
  • Stronger for Brody – As you probably know Brody has bone cancer and we recently amputated one of his hind legs. This has been beyond hard for me. I know that we are in our final chapters here but I want to be stronger for him so I can continue to make the right decisions for him and make sure our last stretch is a kick ass one. I want to make sure he is happy, knows he is loved and is well taken care of.
  • Stronger for my husband – How awesome is my husband? Pretty awesome. Our biggest ‘problem’ is that we don’t get to see each other as much as we would like (we work opposite schedules). He has a big year coming up and I want to be better about being there for him when he needs it.
  • Stronger for my family – My family is fantastic. We are unlike any other family I have seen before and I wouldn’t change that for the world. This past year I was lucky enough to get to spend more time with them. I don’t think I spent this much time with family since I was a little kid. It has been awesome. I want to keep that up and be able to help them if they ever need anything.
  • Make my company stronger – My work is in an interesting place. We are growing, moving and in the starting gates to take everything to another level. In the position I have, I am partially responsible for how that growth happens and making sure we execute it well. I want to make sure I do the best job I can growing our company for all the people that work there.
  • Be a stronger writer – One of my heroes, my grandmother, wanted to be a writer. Times were obviously different then but I can only hope she can see all of the work I do. I think she would be very proud. Writing here has been a tremendous help in finding my ‘voice’ and for sorting out some problems and sharing things that I think are important. I have a few projects I want to complete that will involve me taking writing more seriously so I want to become a stronger writer and be more confident in my own writing.

Oh, oh AND I want to make a fish tank out of a television. That is a goal for this year too 🙂 I have the television console… just need to figure out the fish tank part. I am serious.

So I guess those are my birthday goals this year – to just be all around stronger. I am excited to have a fun day with the people who love me and I hope you have a great day too! Thank you so much to those of you who take the time to read this, comment on this and support me in this weird little blogging project.

10 Songs That Always Make Me Smile and Why

Care Bear StareThere is no hiding that life has been a little rough on this chick lately. I am STILL fighting back and trying to not let the bad news take over.

My momma always said ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, shut your trap’ – or something like that. So instead of whining we are going to do the Care Bear Stare and talk about 10 songs that always make me smile and why.

1. Cecilia – Simon & Garfunkle

Ok, ok I have a serious soft spot for songs that involve clapping. How can this song not make you sing along and feel happy?

2. Two Step – Dave Matthews Band

Fraternity brothers in dirty white hats pretty much ruined Dave Matthews for me but this song still makes me smile. Something about the build up in the intro make you want to do a hippie dance.

I also had a beautiful roommate in college who meant the world to me and she really made me love this song. One day she cut her hair really short and I, completely unrelated and oblivious to the new hair decision, had forgot my class notes at home. As I walked into the apartment, there she was twirling, leaping and dancing her heart out and her new hair out in our living room blasting this song. I surprised her and she made me laugh so hard I thought I was going to wet my pants. That right there is one of my favorite college memories.

3. Build Me Up Buttercup – The Foundations

This is another one you can’t help but sing along to. There was also this one time, I went a little crazy (most of 1999 I think I was actually insane) and packed a suitcase and moved to Florida to work for Disney World (about a 2 week turn around on this decision and moving). One of the funnest places in the happiest place on Earth is Jelly Rolls – a Disney run, dueling piano bar where I had lots of fun times with my roommates. Build Me Up Buttercup was an old Jelly Rolls standby. It sounds even better when you are tipsy on Bicardi Limon and Hooch.

4. Break My Stride – Matthew Wilder

I have already given this song some props before on this blog but that is because it is a happy and empowering song. Think there are lots of times when we all just need to pick up our baggage and keep on moving.

5. MMBop – Hanson

Judge and judge away but this is a fun song. When it came out I was in high school and Rickie and I would drive around in my Subaru Loyale (mine was black) and sing our hearts out when it came on the radio. We didn’t broadcast it to all of our super cool friends or anything but it was always fun to hear. Rickie will still text me every time she hears that song now. We think the last time she heard it was in a Staples.

When I got my freshman roommate assignment at UNH I got a letter from my new roommate. It was so over the top bubbly, I almost think she dotted her i’s with hearts. In it she said ‘my faaaavorite song is MMMBop by Hanson’. I was terrified! Such a public admission meant she must be crazy right? She wasn’t and getting her as my freshman roommate may have been one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

6. Stretch – Ryan Montbleau

Another FANTASTIC opening – that guitar intro, piano and of course some clapping. What a fun song and with a chorus like ‘I’ll sing them my song, And I hope they sing along, I know they always sing along in my imagination’ how can that not appeal to a dreamer. This was my MySpace song (actually probably still is, I should probably log in and check that out).

7. Cherry Bomb – John Mellencamp

Disclaimer: I grew up on an island in Maine, in the 80’s. Life was different. I spent a lot of time in the American Legion when I was growing up. I loved the jukebox and knew every song on that jukebox. People who came to the Legion loved this song, the problem was… it skipped on this song – every – single – time. Until I went away to college, I don’t think I ever heard the end of the song! There was a whole 3 minutes left of the song that I didn’t know about. It blew my mind. The way the song ends in my world is with the woman coming in ‘The winter days, the winter days, the winter days, the winter days’ and then someone would bang on the jukebox and it would go to the next song. THAT is funny.

8. Life is Live – Opus

I don’t know what these guys are singing about but it is a happy song with… more clapping! This made almost every mixed CD I played while I was bar tending at Poco’s. Drunk people love this song too.

9. Use Your Love – The Outfield

This may be my favorite song ever. I am very serious. This was the second to last song we played at our wedding, it seemed inappropriate to be the last song. There was a time when this song was my ringtone, my alarm clock song and on every mix I made. It is best played loudly in the car while you belt out those high notes. Their hair is also freaking awesome.

10. Naive Melody – Ryan Montbleau cover of the Talking Heads

This song by Ryan Montbleau was the last song played at my wedding. Adam introduced me to this band and this cover is awesome. What a happy song that spurs up thoughts of friends and family and what your definition of home is.

BAM! Ten songs that make me smile! Take that bad juju. This was a fun list to put together. I may have to do this more often. I would love to hear what some of your songs are that make you smile!

Lastly, if you are upset this post is not about Brody here is a pic of his first post surgery Red’s doggy sundae and this is him thinking we made up the guest room bed especially for him.

How Long Does it Take to Fall in Love with Portland, Maine?


Photo credit: PhillipC

I love living in Portland, Maine. I think it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I love it all year round. I think this area has everything I need – things to do, ocean, mountains nearby, lots of opportunity, history, natural beauty and culture.

I am excited to have a friend coming to visit me in a few weeks. She is coming for an event I am hosting and this will be her first time in Maine!

Which got me to thinking… how long does it take to fall in love with Portland, Maine?

My friend is here for a little over two days, can she be fully courted by our little city in such a short amount of time?

Weather will be a factor

A rainy long weekend could throw a wrench in the gears. I of course have a few tricks up my sleeve in case it does rain – like:

I would much rather prefer a good weather weekend for her trip – to really show Maine off in all of her glory.

  • We could get Adam’s boat in the water and go exploring in the bay,
  • or go visit my family on Peaks Island.
  • We could eat at one of the many restaurants on the water,
  • catch a drive-in movie with a few friends, dogs and a cooler with chilled wine.
  • We could just see the Old Port in its warm weather glory,
  • head to Fort Williams
  • or go play a round of Frisbee golf.
  • If we are feeling fancy, we could grab a martini in the outdoor seating area of the Regency.
  • Maybe there is even a Sea Dogs game that weekend?

Lobster bake at the OBriensIf we had a warm weather weekend, the hardest decision would be where to get ice cream – Reds, Willard Scoops, Beals or Mount Desert?

No matter the weather, there is always shopping in Freeport and I almost guarantee a lobster bake at some point.

I travel pretty often and I talk some big game about what an awesome area I am from. I just hope I can deliver the weekend my friend is here!

In other Maine news

I was so happy to hear Bar Harbor got some serious love from Trip Advisor this week as one of the top 25 destinations in the country. Not too shabby!

Lastly, if you are upset that this post is not about Brody – here is a picture of him from today on the back porch, eating a bone.

Two Week Update on Brody the TriPawd

Brody lookThank you all so much for all of your support and well wishes from my last post. We have felt the love from our closest friends to complete strangers here, on Facebook, Twitter, your calls and texts – not to mention the cards and flowers addressed to Brody O’Brien. As of today, Brody has been home for two weeks from his hind leg amputation.

With two weeks at home, I thought it was time for an update. I have had a long couple of days so I cannot promise you the finesse of my last post but I can get you some good news and facts.

So far Brody is doing fine and adjusting so well. Adam and I are amazed at how well he is getting along. To be honest, he is adjusting much better than I am. We were told when we were making this decision that dogs get along just fine and that it is the people that have a hard time adjusting – they were right. I am so unbelievably happy to have my best friend but obviously I am sad that he had to go through this.

As we reach the two week mark, we can start getting him off some of the medication. He was taking 6 pain meds, 2 antibiotics and 1 anti-inflammatory a day. Now we only need to give him the pain medication as necessary. I am happy about that. I always feel weird giving dogs medication, because they can’t tell you how it effects them. Brody has been sleeping a lot. Of course, a lot of that is to heal but I am curious how much is from the medication.

Getting around

Brody has been getting around pretty well. We have gated off the inside stairs, they are really slippery and a little narrow. There just isn’t enough room to be clumsy and it is hard for him to get his grip, for now. He can do the outside stairs great! So we have him coming in and out the back stairs and he is totally fine with that.

We have been carefully working on building strength in that back leg without over doing it. We have no idea what we are doing but we are trying. That back leg gets pretty tired and he hangs his rear pretty low when it is tired.

Last Thursday we were in the front lawn and Brody decided to run down the street (we obviously live in a no traffic area, I didn’t let him run into a busy road or anything), so I let him go – as far as the stop sign and then we turned back. Each day since, we have gone a little farther – yesterday we even did a full circle of the block.

Chili is ok too

My neighbor asked me the other day how the other dog was doing. For those of you don’t know Chili, he is the master of this house. He is a border collie mix who makes sure we are all in our places, he is fed on time and that Penn will never go out of business – just to keep up his tennis ball supply.

Chili and Brody have a very brotherly relationship. Not the ‘we love each other so much’ brotherly relationship but more like the push you down the stairs, steal your toys, take your bone, tattle on you when mom and dad get home kind of brother. Nothing there has changed. Dogs don’t seem to know that something is different the way a human does. Chili is just being Chili and he is just excited we have got so many new toys lately.

Brody is still Brody

Lots of people have asked about Brody’s personality and I am very happy to say that Brody is still very Brody-like. He is goofy and silly, cuddly and funny, loves his walks, eating fine, drinking plenty and he seems to be loving all the attention and visitors but he has always loved that.

I on the other hand seem to be the shell shocked one. I feel like I have been to battle and I know there is still more to come. We still have some other things to figure out, we still have physical (maybe emotional and mental too) strength to get back as a team and we have more things to get used to and figure out. The good news is we get to do it together.

Thank you all again for checking on us and sending your love, good thoughts, advice and for listening. We wouldn’t be pulling through this as well as we are without the love and support of our friends, family, community, new friends, people who have been through this and complete strangers. Thank you very much from me and from Brody.

Brody Has Three Legs – Just Don’t Tell Him That

Brody Sleeping Day 1One week ago, on Easter afternoon, we took the dogs for a long walk in Robinson’s Woods in Cape Elizabeth. Our walk was probably 3 or 4 miles and no one could have been happier.

When we got back to the Jeep, Brody went to jump into the car and something went very wrong. He screamed in pain and there was obviously something very wrong with his hind, right leg. We calmed him as best we could and got him to lay in some leaves at the edge of the woods. We knew we were not going to be able to get him into the small Jeep and had to find someone to come and help us.

After a good friend drove from three towns away to help us, we as best we could scooped broken Brody into the back of the vehicle and made our way to the Animal Emergency Clinic. Poor Brody was in so much pain, it was absolutely heart breaking.

When we were able to see a vet, the first impression was not good and he eluded to some very big problems that they may not be able to fix. Brody was knocked out and xrays were taken.

Brody has bone cancer – Osteosarcoma

Brody xrayBrody had severely broken his right, hind leg right at the hip. It was shattered. The cause for such shattering with such little force was that he has bone cancer, or Osteosarcoma. The bone cancer had left the bone so pockmarcked and hollow that just the force of jumping into the car shattered it.

They were going to keep him heavily sedated and have a surgeon look at it in the morning to confirm that she could not repair the bone. There was just too little to work with.

We were sent home to wait. Adam and I didn’t talk much. I was beyond hysterical and did not/could not sleep. I could feel my heart breaking and was most frustrated that I didn’t even have anything to hope for.

Very few options

The surgeon called. The bone could not be repaired. She was in agreement that it was Osteosarcoma. She said he could be a candidate for amputation. Brody is 11 years old; don’t tell him that either – he thinks he is 5. Dogs his age were less likely candidates for amputation because their other leg that would need to support them was old or arthritic, and their blood work could come back poor because their body is already fighting the cancer or the cancer could have already spread into their organs – especially their lungs.

I asked for the support of my family and my husband that this decision was mine to make. It has been ‘Brody and Amanda Takes on the World’ for 11 years. He is a momma’s boy and I am completely enamored with him. There were two paths to take – let him go, or amputate and hopefully buy the guy some more time. I can’t even begin to walk you through every thought I had while making that decision. What were you doing for the dog and what were you doing for yourself? I can say after all of it, I decided that Brody wasn’t done yet.

It was a long shot but we had to let the Brody man give it a try. For the first time in this whole experience, I had something to hope for.

So we got more tests taken:

  • His other leg… remarkably strong
  • His blood work… normal except some elevated counts that were from the trauma of the broken leg
  • His chest xray… totally clear

11 year old Brody, was cleared for surgery to remove his leg.

Three legs… ain’t no thing!

Brody’s broken leg was removed Tuesday afternoon. We were able to pick him up Wednesday morning. Late Tuesday and early Wednesday Brody had decided he didn’t want to vet techs helping him anymore and wouldn’t let anyone near his cage. As we walked in and I started to talk to him, he started talking back (he thinks he can talk). We pulled his blanket out of the cage and he buried his head deep into my chest.

Amanda O'BrienHe was heavily medicated, very bruised, wearing a cone and most notably, missing a leg. We removed his IV, he continued to bury his head and ‘talk’ to me until we asked him if he wanted to go home. He clumsily (think Bambi on ice) got up and did his best to run all the way out of the vet’s office. He crashed into a wall or three but he was intent on breaking out of this joint. Outside, he took the longest pee with a new aggressive lean maneuver and let Adam carry him into the car.

The car ride home was very emotional as he continued to bury his head into my chest and ‘talk’ to me. I felt like he was telling me about the very bad last few days he had and I would like to think he was thanking us for making the decision we did.

Brody FlowersWednesday at home was slow. Still heavily medicated he was not very interested in eating or drinking. He slept a lot but did make it outside on the leash a few times. He even tried to make a go at the back steps when we took our eyes off him for a second.

Thursday was better. We began to get our appetite back (including me). We drank water on our own. The heavy medication was worn off. Outside trips were easier and when Adam came home that night, Brody got up to meet him at the door all smiles and wags. Not a dry eye in the house.

Brody and his duckFriday was even better and we moved the recovery room to the upstairs. He navigated down steps well but needed a little help on the way back up. He would look back at Adam with an look that was easily read as ‘little help here?’ and Adam would carry him the rest of the way. He even spent some solid hours outside in the lawn, just standing and smelling but it was awesome. He also snuck out of the bedroom at night and helped himself onto the chair in the living room.

Saturday, we may have outdone ourselves the day before because Saturday was a little slower. Appetite was back all the way though, he was interested in toys and loved having a few visitors. He slept really well through the whole night in his bed.

Today, well today has been awesome. Our first adventure outside was hysterical. Brody even attempted to chase a squirrel. He pranced around for awhile and even mistakingly tried to lift the only good back leg he has to go to the bathroom. He was literally standing on his two front paws for a second, until that obviously ended they way you expected. My parents came to visit their grand-dog and brought delicious bones. He has gotten on and off his chair a few times, rested in between adventures but Brody seems to be back.

Adjusting to Three Legs

Brody StandingI am shocked at how quickly Brody has adjusted to three legs. Of course he slips sometimes but he doesn’t seem to be phased by it much. There was an incident where he rested against the fence to go to the bathroom, stairs are tricky and need supervision, backing up and tight turns are hit or miss but it is absolutely amazing how well he is adjusting.

The surgeon told us that dogs don’t feel that sense of emotional trauma that humans have when they lose a limb, they just adjust. She also warned us that is was harder on humans to see a dog with three legs than it is on the dog. She seems to know what she is talking about so far.

What is next?

Physically, Brody is under surveillance for two weeks after the surgery. We don’t want an infection or for him to fall on that already very tender area. Then after that, we adjust as a family. I am looking forward to some good walks and enjoying Maine in the summertime with my best friend.

The cancer will be back. In my non-medical way of explaining it, bone cancer is already in the rest of your system. It is in your body and your blood – just because we amputated that ‘bad’ part doesn’t mean it went away. We had them send the leg away for more tests and hopefully that will be able to tell us more about how advanced this is. Hopefully we will get more of a timeline on how long we may have with old man Brody.

Emotionally, we heal and try to get back to normal, or what our new normal is. After the decision was made I found some really awesome resources online. A friend sent me Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Beyond Surgery, Chemotherapy & Radiation, which then gave me a better idea of what things I should be looking for. I stumbled on Tripawds – A User-Supported Three Legged Dog Blog Community. I am still going through a lot of information but it is a whole online community for dogs who have lost a limb, usually from this type of cancer, and their owners.

Huge Thank You

This was honestly one of the hardest weeks of my life. If you are a dog lover, you may understand. If you are not, you think I am crazy. I got Brody when I was 20 years old, living in an apartment in Durham, NH. He has done more than change my life, I honestly think he has saved it. He changed me, he showed me our new life and he is my bestest friend.

I didn’t talk to a lot of people as this was happening. To those that I did, I owe you big time. A huge thank you to our families that let this be my decision and who backed me after I had made it. A huge thank you to family who brought us food, when we didn’t realize we weren’t eating. To the family and friends that sent Brody flowers, toys, cards and their thoughts and prayers – every single one of them helped.

Thank you in advance to anyone who wishes us luck from here forward.

The biggest thanks is of course to my husband, who grieved with me, cried with me, accepted my decision, made the cutest pill calendar in the world, who carried my 80 pound dog when I cannot and who loves me and my very special dog Brody.

Wish us luck!