No regrets

It’s almost that time again. Our anniversary. I no longer add the years but I can’t let the day go by without acknowledging it either.

From the moment I saw Franco, to the night he left me….I loved him. Simply, deeply, effortlessly. It’s like my heart took one look at him and dove off the cliff, knowing that his arms would catch me on the way down.

It’s hard moving on from him.

Acknowledging that level of love may never be an option again. That I may never open my heart that completely again. Fearing to need someone, to want someone that much again, to be willing to be destroyed again.

I recently had a conversation with one of the men I am seeing. He has a strong faith in God and told me he knows that God places people in our lives for a reason, cause he wants us to be happy. I replied with a more calloused answer, emotion making my voice crack. I said “I believe to my bones that God/fate/the universe doesn’t want me to be happy and will take away anyone I bring into my life that makes me happy.”

Admitting it out loud was hard. Putting my fears out into the open.

I struggle with this daily. With being happy and waiting for the rug to be pulled out from me again.

This same man has made me feel like I could be with someone again. I’m afraid for him and for us. I’m afraid to bring him closer, that my dark heart will consume him and hurt him.

It’s complicated and messy on both our ends but I can’t help but want more of him in my life.

I’m trying to keep it light, like it doesn’t matter. Like he’s just another casual person but i know it could be more than that.

It hasn’t been long but he makes me want to give up everyone else and consider being “titled” again.

A “couple” is not a word I thought I would ever want to be again.

I’ve been trying to get better, get my shit together, give myself space to breathe.

Give us time and space to figure out what we want to be, together.

Maybe I am taking this too seriously. Maybe it’s not meant to be forever. Maybe it’s just meant for right now. To heal each other, to care for each other, make us better people for someone in the future.

I don’t want to run from happiness or life but I’m afraid to fall in love again. Cause I could fall for this man if I let myself.

If I wasn’t so broken, I would grab his hand and jump off the cliff together. Dive in and see what happens.

But fear has me locked in place. Shaking and doubting that he would want me back, that he would want to take this broken soul and love it until it was whole again. Doubting that I am worth the effort.

Maybe it wouldn’t turn into love…..maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe I don’t have anything to worry about.

I worry because it matters, he matters.

Maybe that’s enough for now, to admit to myself and to him.

Maybe instead of running together. He will stroll with me. Easygoing and let the path unfold as it will.


I have been so sensitive this past week.

I have cried every single day, multiple times a day. On the drive home, with friends, at work. Ending up sobbing in a ball on my shower floor cause i just couldn’t be strong anymore.

I have been flooded by memories of Franco and the life we were supposed to have.

I am a disaster zone and everything is a mess.

I have been trying to move forward and it’s causing destruction on my heart.

I have been reorganizing my house.

I took down pieces from his memorial wall and replaced them with every day items. I’ve been playing with paint colors to paint our room, my loft and bathroom. To prepare for my “Legacy of Love” wall.

It feels like a betrayal of him. Like I’m starting to remove him from my life. I know that isn’t true but it doesn’t stop the guilt from drowning me.

I’ve reached out to close friends to help me to go through his clothes that are hanging in the closet. To love me through it and make it a good day not one filled with reminders of loss.

I know that this is for the best and needs to happen but why does it have to be so damn hard.

Why can’t it be easier?

Am I making it harder then it needs to be?

Am I holding on to this pain because I am terrified to be happy again?

I am terrified that if I allow myself to feel again, to fall in love again……that person will be ripped from my life cause I’m not meant to actually be happy or loved.

So instead I find men who I can have very little emotional connection with so I can feel safe and secure.

My heart is safely locked away so deep behind my walls that it’s impossible for anyone to find but then I am in agony that I can’t trust again.

I want to have a story book romance and I also want to remain detached. I know I can’t have it both ways and it’s tearing me apart.

I can’t handle another “what are you looking for” from another man.

Cause this girl right here has no idea and probably has no right to be in your life, just fucking up your world with her indecisiveness.

I am doing the best that I can but lately it’s definitely not good enough.

Franco’s girl

One of the best things that I ever did for my relationship with Franco was read “The 5 Love Languages” and have both of us take the test after I was done.

It turned out that we matched our 2nd language, which was Physical Touch but where my primary language was Word of Affirmation, it turned out his was actually Receiving Gifts.

For YEARS….I had loved him in my language. I would write him notes, give him cards, text him sweet things or just tell him nice things…..all the ways I received love.

So after that, I changed how I showed my love and I could see the difference in him and in us.

I used to have cookies and other sweets delivered to him at work. I would do it for special occasions and sometimes just out of the blue.

He would share it with his co-workers since I always sent enough to go around.

The boys would get excited when my delivery team would walk in with the baked goods and some ridiculous over the top loving balloon.

It would embarrass him but I knew he enjoyed it cause after he died, I found all the small enclosure cards i wrote in the top of his tool box.

He saved them all.

Initially after he died, I would go and see the boys often and would make sure to bring them cookies or donuts, to let them know I was thinking about them and that I was ok.

I haven’t been to the shop in months. With working full time and a small part time job too, doesn’t leave much time to hang out.

One of the boys mowed my lawn this weekend so I swung by to give him cash.

On the way there, I stopped and got a couple boxes of donuts and as I walked through the shop and delivered them, I saw a lot of new faces.

Faces who didn’t know who I was or who Franco was.

I gave a box to one of the admin ladies and told her she was the gatekeeper to make sure they shared. I dropped the other box at the service department office since that was where Franco worked so they always get special treatment.

I was gonna be late to work so I was rushing out when Debbie called out that she wrote a note that the donuts were courtesy of “Franco’s girl, Stephanie.”

I’ve been thinking about that all day.

I will always be Franco’s girl to them. My identity is wrapped up so tightly with his, that they have no idea who I am without him. They would have no idea who Stephanie was if that was the only thing written on that note.

It doesn’t bother me.

It just reinforces that fact that I will always be Franco’s girl to the ones who knew him first then met me.

No matter how much time passes or where life takes me.

I just hope I’m making him proud of me.

Losing him has been the toughest thing I’ve ever gone through and I have been struggling lately with missing him and realizing that it has been 1.5 years already.

Some days are hard and I end up crying cause I can’t hold it in anymore. When it still feels like a terrible dream that I can’t wake from. When I can’t say his name or talk about him without my throat closing up and breaking down.

Most days though, I can talk about him. I can joke and tell stories about meeting him or the first time I saw him. About our crazy adventures and I will just laugh and smile with the memories.

I spent 1/3rd of my life loving him.

Some of my favorite memories are with him. My Alpha male, best friend, battle buddy and my Baby.

We had a inside joke when we would get introduced to new people. It was from one of the fast and furious movies. He would say his name was Alpha and I was Mrs. Alpha. The people always looked at us confused and we would look at each other and just laugh before telling them our names.

I miss his smile and the special wink that he would give me.

I hope that he is looking down on his girl and encouraging me as I’m doing the best I can and moving forward with my life.

No matter what, I will always be proud to say that I am Franco’s girl.

What if I never get over you?

I heard this song today and it stopped me dead in my tracks.

It’s like the words came from the secret place in my heart. The place I try to convince that everything will be ok and that my story doesn’t end here.

It’s by the band Lady Antebellum.

“….It’s supposed to hurt, it’s a broken heart
But to movin’ on is the hardest part
It comes in waves, the letting go
But the memory fades, everybody knows
Everybody knows….”
“…What if I’m tryin’, but then I close my eyes
And then I’m right back, lost in that last goodbye?
And what if time doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do?
What if I never get over you?…”
“….Maybe months go by, maybe years from now
And I meet someone and it’s workin’ out
Every now and then, he can see right through
‘Cause when I look at him
Yeah, all I see is you….”
“….What if I’m tryin’, but then I close my eyes
And then I’m right back, lost in that last goodbye?
And what if time doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do?
What if I never get over you?….”
“….What if I never get over?
What if I never get closure?
What if I never get back all the wasted words I told ya?
What if it never gets better?
What if this lasts forever and ever and ever?…”
“….I’m tryin’, but then I close my eyes
And then I’m right back, lost in that last goodbye
And what if time doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do?
What if I never get over you?…”
“….What if I gave you everything I got?
What if your love was my one and only shot?
What if I end up with nothing to compare it to.
What if I never get over?…”
“…Oh, if I never get over
What if I never get over you?….”


I could tell you were lonely, cause I was lonely too. The haunting look in your eyes when my hands were on your face. The way your body fit against mine. That gentleness was my undoing.

You made me feel like I could be ready, ready to love someone new.

You made me wish I could tell you that I had been looking for you.

Instead of telling you the story of the One I never thought I would lose.

I would have given anything to tell you that you might be the one I took a chance on.

To let the faint stirrings in my soul, awaken into a storm that consumed us both.

I stood at the edge of the cliff, hesitating, looking for a sign from you.

Listening to my brain tell me not to jump, feeling my heart whisper “you don’t have to jump, you just have to let yourself fall.”

I dove into you like water.

Letting the stillness and silence surround us, bodies twisting and turning effortlessly.

I reached out to you, over and over.

Trying to bring you into me but you just turned away.

Leaving me to the darkness and fear.

The pain filled my chest and I sunk like a stone, praying it would pull me under.

Pulling me back to the place where i couldn’t feel anymore.

Letting rage at my own stupidity burn away any glimpse of hope for love.

Tucking back into myself so far that the light couldn’t reach me.

So it would stop tempting my heart to beat again.


The dreaded day had finally come.

February 17th.

I had made it through my first year without him.

I had warned my family and friends that I was going to go into a social media and contact black out starting the 16th.

I didn’t know how bad that it was going to get for me. I didn’t want to fall apart with the world watching.

I made sure to drink quite a few beers before I tried to sleep on the 16th. I didn’t want to risk laying in bed. Reliving that life shattering phone call.

I slept deeply and dreamlessly till about 6am. Then I crept as quietly downstairs as possible. Made coffee while I watched the gray skies as the sun slowly woke up. Hoping the rain would hold off.

I took his orb from it’s normal spot and held it in my hands as I played his memorial photo video. It had been more than 6 months since I watched it.

The tears ran down in streams, silently and I watched the photos fade in and out on the screen. School photos, baby pictures, sports photos, then our photos.

Memory after memory hit me with each photo. I could remember taking each one and the look he would give me when I wanted to take his photo. The semi irritated but doing it to make me happy face. It made me smile and I felt a peace settle into my soul.

I only watched it once, then put it back in the case and stood watching the rain fall softly outside.

Missing him. Missing who I was with him.

I called Susan, to check in and make sure she was ok. We didn’t talk long but I needed to make sure she knew that I was thinking about her. Especially then.

Trina came down some time later and we decided that since it was raining, we would honor Franco by doing a Fast and Furious marathon. He absolutely loved those movies. It actually turned out to be a great day and excellent way to honor his memory.

As we prepared our shots of Jack Daniels to take for him, we both looked at each other and laughed. Both dreading the shot. As we lifted our shots up, I struggled to say his favorite shot saying, choking on the words. Trina just hugged me close. “Here’s to you…’s to me….the best of friends we will ever be…..but should we ever disagree…..fuck you…’s to me.”

I don’t know how that saying got started with us friends but he had said it for years. We both would say it together, whenever we were taking shots.

Over all, I thought I handled the day well. Until I realized that I hadn’t been coping well. I stopped doing basic things like cleaning up, paying bills and just let things snowball up.

Neal had been asking me about working on his bikes and I kept putting him off. I had to wait for probate but also, I was not ready to put hands on his motorcycle.

The motorcycle he died riding.

Finally I couldn’t avoid Neal anymore so we agreed that he would come over and we would work on it.

I started without him. Dismantling the metal crate around it. Removing the broken and damaged pieces. As I removed piece after piece, I could feel my burden getting lighter and then a thought popped into my mind.

It just simply said 2 words.

“….It’s Time….”

I realized then that it was time. Time for me to stop being afraid of confronting this issue. Time to stop blaming myself and to get his baby running away. To take him on his final ride, before I bury him at sea. I know that I will do that this year, because in my soul, I know that it’s time to do it.

It took a few weeks, lots of beer and liquor but me and the boys finally finished swapping the performance parts and good parts from totaled bike to his second bike.

His second bike had broken down on Neal while he was riding it and I was in Africa. There was a bolt inside the one of the jugs and it had lodged onto the valve head and seized. We were able to swap the entire top end pieces but realized a few odd and end things that need to still be figured out.

I know Neal was nervous as we put the tank on and connected the battery. Triple checking all the electrical connections. Turned the key and the panel lit up and we all held our breath as Neal hit the start button. It roared to life before the switch was pushed down all the way. It happened so quickly that it surprised us all and Neal cut it off immediately.

I stood with my arms crossed in front of me and just breathed in deep. Unable to speak. I was holding it together pretty well till I looked at Neal. That big man was red faced and trying to hold in his tears. I lost control then and we just held on to each other. Lots of high fives and group bro hugs were exchanged. We hadn’t videoed the moment cause I think we were all afraid it wouldn’t start.

We backed it out of the garage, started it again and let it run as we checked for leaks and noises.

She just purred.

I can’t even explain how beautiful a moment it was to be surrounded by the men that loved him the most and share this experience with them. To get our hands greasy, drink too many beers, cuss in frustration and laugh at our stupidity. To share the love we all have for motorcycles and for Franco. To hear his heart beating again.

Still have a long way to go till she is 100% the way I want but that is mostly cosmetic. I’m going to paint her because black was never my color. She will be chameleon colored in blues, purples and touch of pink. I want the blues to remind me of his eyes and the other colors cause I’m a lady rider.

I miss him more now than ever and I just hope he knew how much these boys loved him, how much I loved him.

What do I want?

I grew up in a single parent home. My mom never brought anyone around us. She stayed single until the man I call my dad came into our lives when I was 13.

When they first started talking, my mom took me aside and asked me to write down everything that I would want in a father.

I wrote a whole page.

Extremely detailed, down to eye color and traits.

When it got serious between them, she showed him the note and he fit everything except 2 things.

He wasn’t rich and he didn’t have green eyes.

God sent her exactly what she and I needed.

So in that same respect, I decided to write down my own list of “requirements” for a future love.

If he is out there, then he will find me. Until then I’ll work on myself so I will be ready and be the woman he needs when he shows up.

When I wrote this, it was so hard not to think of Frank since he fit so many things. I made sure to include the traits he didn’t have as well.


Dark, tousled hair. Blue or green eyes. Chiseled cheekbones. Jaw like an anvil. 5 o’clock shadow or beard. Straight white teeth, full lips. Beautiful smile with eye creases. Dimples. Thick neck. Broad, rounded shoulders. Broad, muscular and hairless back. Narrow waist. Bubble butt. Thick thighs. Defined calves. 5’10” and above. Veined arms. Rough, hard working hands. Long fingers.

Character traits:

Contagious laugh. Eye sparkles. Killer wink. Sings while he works or driving down the road. Bursts into spontaneous dance moves. Pulls me to dance anywhere, anytime. Hugs from behind. Hands in my hair. Smart. Mechanically inclined, handy man. Artistic. Creative. Crafty. Athletic. Competitive. Loves board games, playing sports. Musician. Loves to talk and read. Appetite to learn new things. Charismatic. Funny. Sarcastic. Kind. Empathetic. Strong. Loyal. Passionate. Giver. Loves to touch. Bubble bath joiner. Dancing in the kitchen. Karaoke singer. Good job that he loves. Savings account. Little to no debt. No kids. No previous marriage. Intense lover. Dominant and submissive. Playful. Talented kisser. Unafraid to be consumed by another. Has strong male friendships. Outgoing. Would rather be outside. Grill master. Chef. Barista. Beer drinker. Whiskey shooter. Truck owner. Doesn’t snore. Veteran or first responder. Excellent communicator. Great relationship with his family. Willing to be silly. World traveler. Treats me with respect. Values my opinion. Always watches my back. Rubs my shoulders without asking. Opens my beers. Cooks dinners. Spoils me with attention. Good morning and good night texts. Speaks another language. Movie buff. Challenges me to be better. Love notes, cards, flowers for no reason. Hiker. Backpacker. Strong enough to withstand my storms. Loves to hold my hand.

I don’t know if he is out in this world, but this is what I want. So if the universe is listening, get him ready for me. I’ll work on my end.

Storm warning

I’ve been seeing the sign for weeks.

The darkness covering the skies and distant rumble of thunder.

I’ve been ignoring them, hoping to outrun them and keep the sun shining on my face.

I had been getting jittery and more uneasy until I realized it was that I was nervous about his birthday trip. That I didn’t know how upset it was going to make me.

Trina and I drove up to Tennessee early and got in some hiking at a local state park. I wore one of frank’s favorite shirts in his honor. It help me feel closer to him as I let the silence of the forest absorb me.

I always forget how much hiking helps me. How I can just let go and let the peace flow into me. Trina was a great hiking partner, giving me space and silence and waiting till I was ready to talk again.

The next morning we went to the distillery first thing and I was surprised to see it so busy for a Monday morning.

They have started doing a tour that ends with the tasting inside a barrel room and it was the coolest experience.

You get to taste the top level whiskeys surrounded by the barrels. The slight chill i got from the air was quickly warmed by heat from the whiskeys.

He would have loved it.

I got a bottle of single barrel, the one we always liked the best and had it engraved.

“Franco” forever loved 2018

It was hard for me to write the words on the paper and had to choke down tears when it was complete.

It was still a beautiful experience and it helped to be there with the ones who love me and let me lean on them.

As it got closer and closer to Christmas, I was trying to decide what to get his mom.

I looked at ornaments with sayings, keepsakes and nothing felt right until I found a frame that I could have a message typed out in and it had a spot to clip a picture to.

I put his name and debated long and hard about putting his birth and death dates. I decided that the day he died wasn’t as important as the fact I loved him.

Instead in place of dates, I put “Always remembered, forever loved”

Then a beautiful poem:

Your Life Was a Blessing. Your memory a Treasure. You are loved beyond words. And missed beyond measure.

Having that printed was the straw that broke me.

I just broke down and lost it.

It was beautiful but hurt so damn much.

I printed out a picture of his mother and him and put it in a gift bag.

I went over to her house on Christmas and she wasn’t expecting a gift at all.

It hit her hard too and we both sat in tears for awhile.

She told me how she hadn’t felt like decorating for Christmas and implied how hard it had been with everything this month.

I realized that I haven’t been checking in on her often and I need to do that. She is still important to me and I have been so absorbed in trying to fight my own demons….I forgot that she has her own.

I still think about him daily, mourn him daily.

The loneliness hasn’t been as bad with Trina and Dick here but I miss the touch of someone who loves me.

Arms to hug me after a shit day.

The simple intimacy.

I feel so guilty about thinking about finding someone new. I don’t want a replacement for him. I want someone who can stand on their own but am so afraid to let someone get close to me.

The walls I’ve built around my heart are so high. Impossible to get through.

I don’t know how to trust someone.

To allow myself to get close enough to be broken again.

I’m still picking up the pieces of my life now.

Snowy memories

It’s snowing here.

First snow of the winter. It had been broadcast for days about this snow apocalypse.

It finally started about 7 pm with an icy sleet.

I could hear the sleet hitting the windows as I huddled under a blanket. Lights off, using the Christmas tree for a warm and homey glow.

I actually decorated the house for Christmas. Garlands cover the mantle, above my kitchen cabinets, over the back door. Every horizontal surface is covered in warm lights and ornaments.

I knew that December was going to be tough so I am trying to bring in as much joy as possible to my surroundings. To keep my heart from sinking.

Even going as far as buying a tree.

First Christmas tree in a long time.

It’s a simple 7 ft prelite tree but the impact it makes is huge.

Trina and I decided we would only put ornaments on it that we had received as gifts or on our travels.

As an homage to our hawaii days together, I leid the tree with shell necklaces.

I have been so blessed to have her here.

I had forgotten how positive, funny and lighthearted she made me.

There’s a spoken rule in our friendship that we can tell each other anything without judgement.

I know that I can tell her my secrets and she will keep them safe.

Unless they are embarrassing. Those are open game to share with our fellow best friends.

She has helped to keep me from spinning out of orbit lately.

It’s Franco’s birthday next week. Ever since we moved to South Carolina, we made yearly trips to the Jack Daniels Distillery. Saw the barrel Christmas tree, took the tour, sampled and always bought an engraved souvenir bottle.

The last time, I bought him a used keg barrel and shelves made from the barrels. Perfect birthday gift to decorate our bar with.

When we were looking at them. He completely ignored the very clean, pretty ones.

He honed in on the barrel with stains, paint marks and rust. It had a roughness and character that was him.

I miss that ruggedness.

I miss his dirty hands in mine.

I miss watching him comb and oil his beard. Sometimes I put some of his beard oil in my hands and rub them on my shoulders so when I turns to hold his flag, I can smell him.

I miss watching the snow with him.

Last year, we awoke to the first snow day of winter and I was like a child.

I dress warmly and pronounced loudly that I was going to go build a snowman in the backyard.

As I gathered the snow that had collected on the outside table in my hands, I brought my hands together to create the snowball and it completely disappeared. Like a cloud of flour thrown in the air.

I just frowned and kept trying to make the ball but it wouldn’t keep the shape.

I opened the door and yelled inside “babe! How do you make a snowman?”

He yelled back “start with a snowball then roll it.”

I shut the door and sat looking at the table and snow.

“Babe!……how do I make a snowball?

He comes to the door, rolling his eyes and shivering at the cold air. “You just clump it together in your hands”

I demonstrate the clumping method I had tried and it was obvious that the snow wasn’t wet enough to stick together.

He just looks at me, shrugged and walked away to look for snack cakes in the pantry.

I complained loudly about the stupid fucking snow ruining my plans and I stomped my feet and came pouting back on to the couch.

He just looked at me and smiled his happy fat kid smile as he downed a snack. I just laughed and snuggled close to him to get warm.

That is the part I miss the most. How damn easy it was to be around him. My best friend. My battle buddy. My Alpha male. The one who always had my back.

It didn’t matter how crazy i got. He could handle it and kept me grounded.

He was my lighthouse. The port in the storm that I could always go to for shelter.

I would give anything to stand at the back door with him again. In silence as he peered out, in his funny way, to see if he could make me laugh. To see his eyes light up at me when I smiled at him.

Maybe the snow will cooperate this year.

10 years

Happy anniversary baby.

I used to joke with him that I would give him 10 years then he would have to marry me or I would leave him. Too bad he did the leaving.

Basically 1/3 of my life was spent loving that man. I wish he was here to celebrate this milestone with me. Instead his flag lays on his side of the bed and his ashes next to the bed on the other side.

10 years.

We almost made it Baby.