My husband and I never had any children, once we decided it was “that time” and after several attempts at becoming pregnant, we went through all of the basic tests and found out the issue was with my husband. We were in our mid-20s and thought we had “all of the time in the world” to process and cope with this news. We had no insurance and certainly could not afford to pay out of pocket for the vast majority of tests and treatments, our best personal guess was that the Meningitis that he almost died from when he was 13 years old had something to do with it. The doctors went over all of our options but we both decided that it “was what it was” and if it was meant to be it would happen naturally. I can’t say that I was too awfully upset with the news; my mom always said that I preferred Barbie dolls over baby dolls so maybe that was a hint that I wasn’t cut out to be a mom to a human. We found joy and happiness in being parents of a variety of fur babies: dogs, cats, goats, and some non-fur babies: ducks and fish. B.J. was our first pet as a couple (initials stand for our first names); my Dad got her for us as a gift. She was my heart dog, a terrier mutt and oh so smart. Kitty Babe, a solid white cat with blue eyes that was deaf, was B.J.’s best pal. They traveled with us every time we made trips to WV to visit our families, our parents thought of them as their grandkids and loved them just as much as if they were real children. After several years, and many different types of pets, we came to the realization that cats were our favorite, so much easier and way less needy. Gosh now that I try to recall I believe there may have been one too many to remember, but my favorites by far (and the ones that I felt a soul attachment to) were Max and Benji.
My husband refused to fly in an airplane; he never had and refused to consider it. So our journeys were limited to discovering only those places that could be driven to. Since he was in the construction business and we lived in Ohio, our travels usually took place in the winter after all of the holidays had come and gone. We pretty much, over the course of our married life, drove all over the United States. We never made it to the state of California though, something else my husband seemed to be as afraid of as flying for some odd reason. We spent a lot of time in the south and Florida to escape the cold but we made a few trips out west as well; visiting Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, the Badlands, and countless other national parks and quirky places of interest. A couple of my favorite and most memorable places were in Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes located in Mosca, and St. Mary’s Glacier which is located in Idaho Springs and sadly, I hear, not much left of it these days. I also adored New Orleans which we visited pre-hurricane Katrina. There was something about it that was so different and unique from any place I had ever visited, I believe it left me with a deep desire and longing for more diverse, cultural experiences. In 2003 I finally took my first plane ride. My husband was in Florida at his usual winter vacation spot and I had stayed back home, our marriage was on its last leg and we decided to take some time apart. Some friends invited us to join them in Las Vegas, a place we had never visited, and in one last attempt to work things out we booked the trip and the airfare. I was beyond ecstatic and shocked that my husband was agreeing to board an airplane, and all by himself nonetheless as he would be flying out of Florida and I would be flying with our friends out of Ohio. I can’t say I remember a whole heck of a lot about that trip other than I sat in the middle seat on the plane between my friends to feel protected from the unknown, and it ended up not being scary at all and would be the start of my many flights to many locations around the world.
One day, in the spring of 2006, I decided to sell a few personal items on eBay that I felt no longer served me, the me that I had become after moving to New York State in 2004. It was a bold move, I knew one person and quite honestly didn’t really know them that well, but my life in Ohio didn’t feel the same after divorcing my husband of 17 years and if I was going to reinvent myself I might as well go all in: new town, new people, new everything. For so long I identified myself as someone’s wife, one half of a unity, and I devoted so much of myself to helping him make his dreams come true that I lost touch with what my own dreams actually were, if I even ever truly knew. We were childhood sweethearts and we married young, I was 18 and he was 21. We got married on the exact same day that I graduated from high school and the next day I moved with him to Ohio where he had been living and working for the past two years, coming back home to West Virginia to visit me pretty much every weekend until we married. He was a high school dropout but a hard worker and absolutely brilliant at architecture and construction, it was his gift and he could probably frame a house blindfolded. After a few years, with my encouragement and support, he started his own business; he did all of the labor and I did the bookkeeping and payroll. I worked a handful of part time jobs just to get out of the house and make friends. Our life seemed normal and felt fine and right on track. Many would say that we were living the American dream; a brand new house, brand new cars, a big diamond ring, extra time and funds to travel...and lots of traveling we did.
Once upon a time...
Well, isn’t that how all great stories start? My story starts in December 1967, in Charleston West Virginia where I was born. All right that’s probably going back a little too far, and would make this story go on for way too long. My DOLL story starts sometime in 2006, I don’t quite remember the month; I used to have all of the notebooks that I kept all of my records in but over the years, moving from one place to another, it was time to let go of some extra weight, so I can’t look back and tell you exactly… but I know it was 2006. I was an office manager and Jill-of-all-Trades at a small town restaurant, quite famous in its own right, the first restaurant to earn four stars from the New York Times that was not located in New York City. It was here that my love and appreciation for fine cuisine grew and flourished. Growing up in West Virginia and then living in Ohio for 17 years, spaghetti made with Ragu, meatloaf, and pinto beans with cornbread was the norm. I had little experience with things such as risotto, sushi, and foie gras. My idea of a nice meal out was at the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, or Chi-Chi’s. I was hired to be the office manager, but being the people pleaser/go-getter that I am I quickly found myself waiting tables, playing hostess, and housekeeper when the cleaning ladies didn’t show up to take care of the few B&B rooms that the restaurant also operated. And let’s not forget bartender ... I even crafted a cocktail especially for Aidan Quinn, which was obviously so delicious that the next time he dined with us he remembered me and requested that same concoction. Ahhhh... he was so dreamy! I truly loved this job, I loved my coworkers, I loved my boss, and as much as I sometimes complained, I loved all of the variety of work that I did.