Twenty years later – Remembering Dennis O’Berg

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What is there even to say? In 2001, I was 25 years old and working my first “real” job. Today, I am 45 years old and 15 years into my chosen career as a NICU nurse. I have been married and divorced. I have lived in several different homes but have lived in my forever home for almost five years. Yet today, the emotions I felt on 9/11/2001 come rushing back to me, and I remember the confusion and the fear of that day and the numbness I felt as a watched the news all night long on my couch, reading the endless news ticker as it trotted across my television screen. Was there even a such thing as a news ticker before that day? I feel like that is the first day I ever noticed it, and now it’s a feature on every station. I was fortunate not to lose anyone close to me in the attacks on our nation that day. My aunt and uncle lost a dear friend. My cousin was working at the World Financial Center, and I believe I recall that he walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to safety. A local martial arts studio hung a large banner in their window, I think painted on a bedsheet, looking for information on one of their students who was missing. A dear friend of mine lost her cousin on American Airline flight 11, which crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I have learned in the years since that others I have met have their own 9/11 stories and suffered their own losses that day.

Every year, when 9/11 comes around, I consume as much of the special programming as I can about the events of that day. I have learned a lot about the events preceding the attacks and all that has come after, up to and including our withdrawal from Afghanistan just this year. I focus, of course, on what happened after those planes were hijacked and used as weapons against our country. I feel a duty to recognize that day for what it was – an attack on America – and remember those who were lost and those who sacrificed their lives that day. Every September 11th for the last 15 years, I have posted a profile of one such brave individual who gave his life in the service to others, responding to Ground Zero as a member of the FDNY. Below is a reprint of my profile of one of New York’s Bravest, Dennis O’Berg.


The world is a completely different place than it was on September 11, 2001. On that day, I was a Program Director at a small social service agency running afterschool programs for the mostly minority population in the immediate neighborhood. I was living on my own for the first time since graduating from college. I learned about the 9/11 attacks when my mom called me on the landline phone in the office in which I worked and told me that something strange was going on in New York. My coworker and I tried to get reception on an old TV with some broken rabbit ears and managed to get enough of a picture to hear Bryant Gumbel tell us first about the Pentagon and then about Flight 93 going down in Western Pennsylvania. By lunchtime, our Executive Director had sent us all home.

Five years later, I joined a project called the 2,996, which was created to memorialize all of the innocent lives lost on 9/11 through what was a relatively young platform, the web log (blog). My blog is not super active, and I have not monetized it and turned it into a profit-maker, but it has been in existence, in one form or another, for most of my adulthood. And every year, since 2006, I have posted a tribute to Dennis O’Berg, who was snatched from his family on that day by the actions of terrorists who tried to break this country but did not realize that we cannot be broken. Many will try, but they will not succeed. We are made of stronger stuff than that.

At 494 Dean Street in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn stands the building housing Engine Company 219 and Ladder Company 105. The two companies have shared that building since 1977. Prior to 1977, they were located in separate houses, about ½ mile away from each other. Ladder 105 has its roots in a volunteer company, Ladder 5, from the Greenport section of Brooklyn that was organized in the latter half of the 19th century. After spending time as Ladder 5 of the Brooklyn Fire Department, Ladder 5 of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), and Ladder 55 of the FDNY, Ladder 105 was organized on January 1, 1913, as a part of the FDNY.

One member of Ladder 105 who was lost on September 11th after responding to the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center site was Dennis O’Berg. Dennis was 28 years old at the time of his death. He was a resident of Babylon, on Long Island, where he lived with his wife of less than one year, Christine. Their first wedding anniversary would have been September 28, 2001.

Dennis didn’t always plan to be a firefighter. He graduated from the State University of New York at Geneseo with a degree in accounting and worked for the Big 4 accountancy firm Ernst & Young after graduation. However, he followed his father’s footsteps as a firefighter, entering the academy because he felt shackled to his accountant position. He graduated from the academy not long before the September 11th attacks and was assigned to Ladder 105. Being a firefighter changed him into a happy and smiling and easygoing person. On September 11th, he had been a firefighter for only seven and a half months.

Dennis’s remains were not found in the wreckage at Ground Zero, and his family held out hope that something would be found so that they could plan his funeral. After only his helmet, his jacket, and one of his boots was found, Dennis’s family held a memorial service for him on June 28, 2002, burying an empty casket. Dennis’s father, Lt. Dennis O’Berg, retired from the FDNY on September 11th to dedicate himself to finding his son. However, when all the wreckage had been cleared, it was not to be so.

Family and friends remember Dennis as someone who was young at heart. He was a fan of Harry Potter, Norman Rockwell, Star Wars, and the New York Rangers. He collected baseball cards and enjoyed all kinds of music. He was a romantic and often gave his wife roses for no particular reason, took her on long drives and picnics on the North Shore, and left her notes telling her that he loved her. She found one of those notes in her bed the evening before September 11th as she was preparing to retire for the night. His dream was to be there as a husband and father for his wife and kids and to raise a family on Long Island. He never got to fulfill that dream. Instead, his life was cut short by the terrorists who attacked America on September 11th.

Dennis P. O’Berg. Forever in the thoughts of his friends and family. And now, forever in my thoughts as well.

To learn more and pay tribute to other heroes lost to us on September 11, 2001, please visit Project 2996.

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Podcasts

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I read a lot and love many, many televisions shows, but recently I have also been listening to a lot of podcasts, so I thought I would recommend a couple, in case anyone is looking for a way to enter the podcast world.

My favorite right now is Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown. For those who are not familiar with her, Mayim played Blossom on the sitcom Blossom when she was a child star and then more recently played Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory. She now headlines her own show, Call Me Kat on FOX. She is also a doctoral-prepared neuroscientist who studied obsessive compulsive disorder in the presence of Prader-Willi Syndrome. Mayim and her cohost, Jonathan Cohen, host guests to discuss topics surrounding mental health and wellness and neuroscience, as well as current social and cultural events. I find them to be relatable and entertaining, and I find their message to be one that is important for us all to hear.

Another one that I am listening to right now, which was just introduced to me by a friend, is called Maintenance Phase, and it has as its tagline “Wellness & weight loss, debunked & decoded.” I am sort of binge listening to this right now because I am enjoying it so much. One thing I really like about it is that it’s very science-y, which is really my jam. I also find the hosts Michael Hobbes and Aubrey Gordon (aka Your Fat Friend) very funny. They are generally from my generation, so a lot of what they discuss resonates with me (I just finished listening to the episode about Snackwell cookies, and when they did a throwback taste test, I could feel the sawdust texture on my tongue), and I appreciate how well-researched the episodes are. Content warning: They do discuss eating disorders and dieting, so if those are not okay topics for you, maybe steer clear. They do offer specific warnings in the descriptions of certain episodes.

True crime/human interest (?) podcasts – I spend a lot of my podcast time, as I spend a good amount of my TV time, listening to true crime podcasts. Some of these don’t quite fit the true crime category, so I am going to call them human interest, for lack of a better label for them:

And just a general shout-out to Wondery, where you can find all kinds of podcasts on all kinds of topics. You can listen to them on your desktop or download their app and listen for free.

This is not a sponsored post…just stuff that I enjoy and hope you will too!

We only have this day.

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Any time you are doing any kind of tracking of your food intake, be it through calorie counting or some other means, there is that danger of turning your life into a scoreboard. Today was “good.” Yesterday was “bad.” On Friday, I am going out for lunch. I am going to “allow” myself to have half an appetizer and two glasses of rosé with my salad (dressing on the side). I am going to “make up” for it by skipping dinner that night and doing an extra mile on the treadmill. Gold star, gold star, gold star, big piece of chocolate lava cake, stop at the grocery store on the way home; suddenly, I am sitting on my bed in a tank top and sweatpants, shoveling raw cookie dough in my mouth and waiting for the Grands biscuits in the oven to be done baking.

ED LOVES scorekeeping.

This year, I took a vow of openness with my therapist. I am happy to say that the above scenario did not happen to me (this time), but I did have a conversation with her about scorekeeping last week. My family and I were going out on Saturday for lunch, out at a restaurant, for only the second time since being vaccinated. And I was planning to go all out…margarita, guacamole, entree, dessert. So of course, I had to save all my extras for that big event. I was going to be good all week. I naively thought this was a decision I was making on my own because, you know, ED has been pretty quiet lately. He’s been leaving me alone. So I went into therapy last Wednesday, all set to talk about this, and my therapist asked me if I could consider doing something. She asked me if I could consider just taking one day at a time.

So instead of living for Saturday, which I had been doing since Monday, she wanted me to live for…Wednesday? We talked about it. She had a good point. (She’s an excellent therapist. She’s full of good points.) I went home and tried to stop living for Saturday. I lived for the rest of Wednesday…and then for Thursday…and then for Friday. Saturday came, and instead of skipping breakfast, I ate my normal breakfast. And I went out to lunch and did all the things I planned to do. It didn’t feel sneaky or clandestine. I didn’t even feel like ED was there. I didn’t get up and weigh myself the next day. It happened. It was over. Or so I thought.

Turns out, he came back the next day. Yeah, no fairy tale ending to this one. I got in a bit of a struggle with him the next day. He didn’t win though. I’d call it a draw. I was at work. Pizza and chocolate were involved. BUT! And this is an important but…I did not fall down the rabbit hole. I remembered what my therapist had asked me to do. It was Sunday. Sunday ended at midnight. It was ONE DAY. I could leave that one day behind. Another day was going to follow it. So I might have given in a little to ED in that moment and fallen back on some old behaviors, but I copped to it, and I moved past it, and now it’s Wednesday again, and I am living for Wednesday. I am living for this moment on Wednesday. And in this moment, ED is not the boss of me.

Therapized

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CW: dieting, eating disorders

I have been in therapy for a minute. I first went to therapy in 2012 (I am pretty sure it was the end of January) when I was starting the journey toward divorce. I had a friend and coworker who had given me a deadline of sorts – call the EAP number by Monday, or she was going to do it for me. She recognized that I was floundering and needed someone to talk to. I mean, even I could see that. I will be forever grateful for that deadline though. I don’t know that she would have actually called. I don’t know that they would have allowed a third party to schedule an appointment with a therapist for me. However, this set me out on the first step of this long, strange trip I am still on.

Therapy ebbs and flows. Not long after we started meeting, however, my therapist and I started discussing what would eventually become a diagnosis…my eating disorder. I have discussed this before, but I haven’t blogged here in a long time, so I don’t think there’s any harm in a recap. I have a long history of disordered eating. I have spent a large portion of my life as a chronic dieter. I remember being very aware as far back as elementary school of the size of my body in comparison to other girls. By middle school, I remember using food to soothe difficult emotions, and dieting behaviors were certainly in place by the time high school started. When my first serious boyfriend broke up with me in college, I assumed that the size of my body had something to do with it, so I started a crash diet and lost weight rapidly so he could see what he was “missing out on.” That was a behavior that would be repeated every time a relationship with a man ended in my life. My weight would rise and fall throughout my adulthood. I was near my highest weight, interestingly, when I got married. When I left my husband, my weight was near the lowest it had been as an adult because I was in a “good” period, in which I was eating well and exercising faithfully, mostly to avoid some stuff that was happening in Real Life. Before long, as I delved deeper into therapy, that changed, and the weight started piling back on. My therapist spoke of this thing called “recovery.” I rolled my eyes and told her that sounded amazing…for other people. She nodded thoughtfully but didn’t push.

We have probably revisited that conversation, or something like it, at least ten times in the last nine years. She is tenacious, but never too forceful. She believes that recovery from my eating disorder is a possibility for me. And as I have moved through my late 30s and into my 40s, my relationship with my eating disorder has seen a subtle shift…so subtle that I have only recently begun to see it.

First of all, I am happily single. What I do with my life these days is mostly about me and also about my lowrider hound mix Nora. I do not need to consider the wants and desires of anyone else when I am planning out my life. Secondly, I have reached an age at which I do not bounce back quite as quickly as I used to. A hangover Saturday morning might still be hanging around on Monday. Managing my aches and pains sometimes requires a heating pad and a tube of Icy Hot. I am not past my prime by any means, but I also am not dreaming about being a size 2. What I want is to be healthy and happy. This is not related to a pants size or a number on the scale. It is related to how I feel in my body and how my bloodwork looks. Right now, my bloodwork looks great, and my body feels…okay. It could be better. I also have osteoporosis, which is not as common in someone my age but comes to me through a strong genetic component and also my history of early menopause (sorry if that’s TMI). All these are things I would like to be able to manage without the input of my eating disorder…who I (un)affectionately refer to as ED.

This year, I did something I said I would not do, and I went back to a large commercial dieting plan in order to use their tracking features. I felt like I needed some way to pay more attention to what I was eating and some accountability, and I had always liked the app that this plan included. I have been doing this for about 2.5 months, and for the most part, I would consider it successful-ish. I am eating better than I have in a long time, in that I am eating actual meals. I am neither bingeing nor restricting. And I am mostly casual about the weight loss side of it, but I am not 100% there. So I would say I am creeping closer to being in recovery from my eating disorder, and some days I don’t even think of ED. And then some days, he’s lurking in the background all the day long, trying to knock me around a little. But even on those days, I try to choose recovery. I am not always 100% successful, which is really hard for a black and white thinker like me. I tend to think that good is good and bad is bad, at least as far as my behaviors are concerned, so if I “mess up” in the morning, I can let that ruin the whole day. It’s getting better. And every second is another chance, I suppose, to choose recovery.

September 11, 2020…And still we remember

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Nineteen years have gone by since we woke up to a beautiful blue September sky that seemed like any other day here in the US…not knowing that we would go to bed that night with our lives forever changed. This week, I was talking to a couple of coworkers (I work as an RN in a local NICU) about where we were on 9/11. I share my story below. The youngest of us was in 2nd grade. The “closest” of us was working in a hospital in Virginia, preparing for victims of the attack on the Pentagon to come in to her emergency room. In spite of the fact that the world is completely upside down this year, as we sit in the middle of a global pandemic, this remains a sacred day, and I sit here remembering all those who lost their lives that day, as well as all of those first responders who have died since from illnesses that have been connected to their work at Ground Zero.


The world is a completely different place than it was on September 11, 2001. On that day, I was a Program Director at a small social service agency running afterschool programs for the mostly minority population in the immediate neighborhood. I was living on my own for the first time since graduating from college. I learned about the 9/11 attacks when my mom called me on the landline phone in the office in which I worked and told me that something strange was going on in New York. My coworker and I tried to get reception on an old TV with some broken rabbit ears and managed to get enough of a picture to hear Bryant Gumbel tell us first about the Pentagon and then about Flight 93 going down in Western Pennsylvania. By lunchtime, our Executive Director had sent us all home.

Five years later, I joined a project called the 2,996, which was created to memorialize all of the innocent lives lost on 9/11 through what was a relatively young platform, the web log (blog). My blog is not super active, and I have not monetized it and turned it into a profit-maker, but it has been in existence, in one form or another, for most of my adulthood. And every year, since 2006, I have posted a tribute to Dennis O’Berg, who was snatched from his family on that day by the actions of terrorists who tried to break this country but did not realize that we cannot be broken. Many will try, but they will not succeed. We are made of stronger stuff than that.

At 494 Dean Street in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn stands the building housing Engine Company 219 and Ladder Company 105. The two companies have shared that building since 1977. Prior to 1977, they were located in separate houses, about ½ mile away from each other. Ladder 105 has its roots in a volunteer company, Ladder 5, from the Greenport section of Brooklyn that was organized in the latter half of the 19th century. After spending time as Ladder 5 of the Brooklyn Fire Department, Ladder 5 of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), and Ladder 55 of the FDNY, Ladder 105 was organized on January 1, 1913, as a part of the FDNY.

One member of Ladder 105 who was lost on September 11th after responding to the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center site was Dennis O’Berg. Dennis was 28 years old at the time of his death. He was a resident of Babylon, on Long Island, where he lived with his wife of less than one year, Christine. Their first wedding anniversary would have been September 28, 2001.

Dennis didn’t always plan to be a firefighter. He graduated from the State University of New York at Geneseo with a degree in accounting and worked for the Big 4 accountancy firm Ernst & Young after graduation. However, he followed his father’s footsteps as a firefighter, entering the academy because he felt shackled to his accountant position. He graduated from the academy not long before the September 11th attacks and was assigned to Ladder 105. Being a firefighter changed him into a happy and smiling and easygoing person. On September 11th, he had been a firefighter for only seven and a half months.

Dennis’s remains were not found in the wreckage at Ground Zero, and his family held out hope that something would be found so that they could plan his funeral. After only his helmet, his jacket, and one of his boots was found, Dennis’s family held a memorial service for him on June 28, 2002, burying an empty casket. Dennis’s father, Lt. Dennis O’Berg, retired from the FDNY on September 11th to dedicate himself to finding his son. However, when all the wreckage had been cleared, it was not to be so.

Family and friends remember Dennis as someone who was young at heart. He was a fan of Harry Potter, Norman Rockwell, Star Wars, and the New York Rangers. He collected baseball cards and enjoyed all kinds of music. He was a romantic and often gave his wife roses for no particular reason, took her on long drives and picnics on the North Shore, and left her notes telling her that he loved her. She found one of those notes in her bed the evening before September 11th as she was preparing to retire for the night. His dream was to be there as a husband and father for his wife and kids and to raise a family on Long Island. He never got to fulfill that dream. Instead, his life was cut short by the terrorists who attacked America on September 11th.

Dennis P. O’Berg. Forever in the thoughts of his friends and family. And now, forever in my thoughts as well.

To learn more and pay tribute to other heroes lost to us on September 11, 2001, please visit Project 2996.

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We still remember…remembering Dennis O’Berg

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On this, the eighteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, there is nothing I can add to Dennis’s story. After all, his life ended that day. However, I can keep paying tribute to him, today for the thirteenth time, as I remember all those lost that day. We will never forget.


The world is a completely different place than it was on September 11, 2001. On that day, I was a Program Director at a small social service agency running afterschool programs for the mostly minority population in the immediate neighborhood. I was living on my own for the first time since graduating from college. I learned about the 9/11 attacks when my mom called me on the landline phone in the office in which I worked and told me that something strange was going on in New York. My coworker and I tried to get reception on an old TV with some broken rabbit ears and managed to get enough of a picture to hear Bryant Gumbel tell us first about the Pentagon and then about Flight 93 going down in Western Pennsylvania. By lunchtime, our Executive Director had sent us all home.

Five years later, I joined a project called the 2,996, which was created to memorialize all of the innocent lives lost on 9/11 through what was a relatively young platform, the web log (blog). My blog is not super active, and I have not monetized it and turned it into a profit-maker, but it has been in existence, in one form or another, for most of my adulthood. And every year, since 2006, I have posted a tribute to Dennis O’Berg, who was snatched from his family on that day by the actions of terrorists who tried to break this country but did not realize that we cannot be broken. Many will try, but they will not succeed. We are made of stronger stuff than that.

At 494 Dean Street in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn stands the building housing Engine Company 219 and Ladder Company 105. The two companies have shared that building since 1977. Prior to 1977, they were located in separate houses, about ½ mile away from each other. Ladder 105 has its roots in a volunteer company, Ladder 5, from the Greenport section of Brooklyn that was organized in the latter half of the 19th century. After spending time as Ladder 5 of the Brooklyn Fire Department, Ladder 5 of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), and Ladder 55 of the FDNY, Ladder 105 was organized on January 1, 1913, as a part of the FDNY.

One member of Ladder 105 who was lost on September 11th after responding to the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center site was Dennis O’Berg. Dennis was 28 years old at the time of his death. He was a resident of Babylon, on Long Island, where he lived with his wife of less than one year, Christine. Their first wedding anniversary would have been September 28, 2001.

Dennis didn’t always plan to be a firefighter. He graduated from the State University of New York at Geneseo with a degree in accounting and worked for the Big 4 accountancy firm Ernst & Young after graduation. However, he followed his father’s footsteps as a firefighter, entering the academy because he felt shackled to his accountant position. He graduated from the academy not long before the September 11th attacks and was assigned to Ladder 105. Being a firefighter changed him into a happy and smiling and easygoing person. On September 11th, he had been a firefighter for only seven and a half months.

Dennis’s remains were not found in the wreckage at Ground Zero, and his family held out hope that something would be found so that they could plan his funeral. After only his helmet, his jacket, and one of his boots was found, Dennis’s family held a memorial service for him on June 28, 2002, burying an empty casket. Dennis’s father, Lt. Dennis O’Berg, retired from the FDNY on September 11th to dedicate himself to finding his son. However, when all the wreckage had been cleared, it was not to be so.

Family and friends remember Dennis as someone who was young at heart. He was a fan of Harry Potter, Norman Rockwell, Star Wars, and the New York Rangers. He collected baseball cards and enjoyed all kinds of music. He was a romantic and often gave his wife roses for no particular reason, took her on long drives and picnics on the North Shore, and left her notes telling her that he loved her. She found one of those notes in her bed the evening before September 11th as she was preparing to retire for the night. His dream was to be there as a husband and father for his wife and kids and to raise a family on Long Island. He never got to fulfill that dream. Instead, his life was cut short by the terrorists who attacked America on September 11th.

Dennis P. O’Berg. Forever in the thoughts of his friends and family. And now, forever in my thoughts as well.

To learn more and pay tribute to other heroes lost to us on September 11, 2001, please visit Project 2996.

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What happens when you get there…

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It has been about seven years now that I have been living on my own. And when I moved out of my ex-husband’s house and into that first post-divorce apartment, I was in rough shape. Fast forward to now. A couple of weeks ago, I told my psychiatrist that I felt like there was something that I had been chasing for the past seven years, and I had finally caught it.

You guys, I am doing really, really well.

There are two questionnaires that my therapist gives me every once in a while that are designed to measure a person’s level of depression and anxiety. My scores are approaching zero. I am not hiding from the world, sleeping all the time, or numbing my feelings with food or shopping or overworking. My thoughts are not racing or jumping around. I feel better than I have in a really long time…possibly better than I have ever felt. I am pretty comfortable saying my depression and anxiety are in remission. It feels like a miracle. In reality, it took a lot of hard work, some false starts and do-overs, the support of all of my people, and a fantastic “treatment team” to achieve something that I wasn’t convinced was actually possible. I am so grateful that no one ever gave up on me.

Now that I am not living in any kind of fog, I get to think about what I want my life to look like. And ever since I read Brené Brown’s best-selling book Braving the Wilderness, there has been a short phrase from that book that has stuck in my mind and replayed itself on occasion, kind of calling to me…

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Strong back. I don’t think that needs explanation. In this weird political and social climate (I don’t even know quite how to write about this), women really have to keep their backs strong in order to avoid being run over. And it is on these strong backs that we carry our family obligations and our careers and our relationships and our causes and our beliefs and try to get it all done.

Soft front. I am not by nature, I don’t think, a very soft person. I am naturally sort of prickly, with sharp corners and rough edges, sarcastic and snarky. At least, that’s how it used to be. But as the constant background noise of my sometimes crippling anxiety started to fade and the heavy weight of depression began to lift, I went from being someone who could not figure out how to cry to being someone who sought out those in need of comfort in order to sit with them and share their sorrow. I went from being a non-hugger to being someone who always aimed to “hug like you mean it.” I went from being someone who listened with half an ear while planning out my reply (which, by the way, is not really listening) to being someone who could sit and listen to someone as long as she needed me to. It feels so much better.

Wild heart. I’m not there yet. I still listen a little bit when someone thinks I can’t do something. I am not so big on adventure and still would rather spend my time alone at home. But I can see that the world is bigger than my living room, and I might start exploring a bit more. My heart may get a little more wild and start seeing what else is out there.

Retirement

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HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Now that I’ve got that out of the way…

So I am 42. And I feel very similar to how I felt when I was, say, 35. But the difference between 35 and 42 is that I am, you know, seven years older now, and that means I am seven years closer to retirement.

I have not so much started preparing for retirement. That has always seemed like something I would do someday. I met with The Guy at work today to see about fixing that a little bit. My employer offers a pension, but on top of that I am able to contribute to a 403(b), which I did for a hot second right after my divorce happened when I was feeling all “I am woman, hear me roar” and “I will survive” and “Stick it to the man.” And then I realized that my new budget did not have room for such extras as The Future and I needed to bring home as many of my dollars as I could so that I could do things like feed my pets and also myself.

Thanks to some guidance from my therapist (as well as some big changes and hard work on my part), I am thisclose to paying off $42,000 of credit card debt (through a debt management program because there is no way I was going to be able to tackle that on my own). I was also, thanks to the generosity of my grandmother, who passed away a couple of years ago, able to pay off some student loan debt and buy my house. All that consumer/extraneous debt is basically gone. I am down to home and car debt. This seemed like a good time to look at my retirement plans. I love my job, but I don’t think I still want to be doing it when I am 80. So today, I put on my big girl panties and did something about it.

And then I was so tired from all that adulting that I drove to the Starbucks that is farther away from my house because it has a drive thru and that meant I didn’t have to get out of my car again. Steps forward. Steps back. It’s like a cha-cha.

Shoes

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I first wore Dansko clogs my first semester of nursing school. I picked them out, in their blinding white glory, to be my shoes for clinicals. I lied to the shoe lady who asked me if I had worn them before, as she warned me they could be hard to get used to (PS – She was maybe a little right.), but I adjusted, and I would say that I have mostly loved wearing them for the 15ish years since then.

I have accrued quite a collection over the years. I no longer have those white ones, but I have them in red and cordovan and black and brown. I have a couple of pairs with patterns on them. I have a wool pair. I have some on my wish list (It is surprisingly hard to convince your that you “deserve” a new pair of $150+ shoes on the regular.). Right now, I have the red ones on my feet (purchased on a vacation in Bar Harbor, ME, back when I was still married, which places it in the 2010ish era).

Over the last year or so, I have started wearing my Danskos pretty often with my usual bottoms, which, when I am not working, are usually either a cropped or a skinny jean. I think the ankle jean and clog look is probably not one that most people are fond of. The jeans I have on today, coupled with my red shoes, do make me look as if I were waiting for a flood (and it has been raining for weeks here in Pennsylvania, so…).

I am 42 years old, and finally, FINALLY, I do not care. I look in the mirror. I think the combo is kind of cute. I am not setting out to impress anyone. It’s a(nother) rainy day here. I don’t have many plans for the day. I want to be comfortable.

This is not to say that I don’t ever care. I still struggle with body image issues. I still want to find the “right” diet that will help me lose The Weight (Someone once remarked after I had lost weight that I looked really good because I had lost The Weight. He meant it innocently, and I don’t hold it against him, but it did give me something to call the nemesis I was constantly at war with.). I have been, more or less, stuck at the same weight +/- five pounds for the past year. And I know that is because my eating disorder has been pretty active for much of the past year. Today I feel happy though, in my red shoes. Today is going to be a good day.

September 11, 2018…Remembering Dennis O’Berg

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The world is a completely different place than it was on September 11, 2001. On that day, I was a Program Director at a small social service agency running afterschool programs for the mostly minority population in the immediate neighborhood. I was living on my own for the first time since graduating from college. I learned about the 9/11 attacks when my mom called me on the landline phone in the office in which I worked and told me that something strange was going on in New York. My coworker and I tried to get reception on an old TV with some broken rabbit ears and managed to get enough of a picture to hear Bryant Gumbel tell us first about the Pentagon and then about Flight 93 going down in Western Pennsylvania. By lunchtime, our Executive Director had sent us all home.

Five years later, I joined a project called the 2,996, which was created to memorialize all of the innocent lives lost on 9/11 through what was a relatively young platform, the web log (blog). My blog is not super active, and I have not monetized it and turned it into a profit-maker, but it has been in existence, in one form or another, for most of my adulthood. And every year, since 2006, I have posted a tribute to Dennis O’Berg, who was snatched from his family on that day by the actions of terrorists who tried to break this country but did not realize that we cannot be broken. Many will try, but they will not succeed. We are made of stronger stuff than that.

At 494 Dean Street in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn stands the building housing Engine Company 219 and Ladder Company 105. The two companies have shared that building since 1977. Prior to 1977, they were located in separate houses, about ½ mile away from each other. Ladder 105 has its roots in a volunteer company, Ladder 5, from the Greenport section of Brooklyn that was organized in the latter half of the 19th century. After spending time as Ladder 5 of the Brooklyn Fire Department, Ladder 5 of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), and Ladder 55 of the FDNY, Ladder 105 was organized on January 1, 1913, as a part of the FDNY.

One member of Ladder 105 who was lost on September 11th after responding to the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center site was Dennis O’Berg. Dennis was 28 years old at the time of his death. He was a resident of Babylon, on Long Island, where he lived with his wife of less than one year, Christine. Their first wedding anniversary would have been September 28, 2001.

Dennis didn’t always plan to be a firefighter. He graduated from the State University of New York at Geneseo with a degree in accounting and worked for the Big 4 accountancy firm Ernst & Young after graduation. However, he followed his father’s footsteps as a firefighter, entering the academy because he felt shackled to his accountant position. He graduated from the academy not long before the September 11th attacks and was assigned to Ladder 105. Being a firefighter changed him into a happy and smiling and easygoing person. On September 11th, he had been a firefighter for only seven and a half months.

Dennis’s remains were not found in the wreckage at Ground Zero, and his family held out hope that something would be found so that they could plan his funeral. After only his helmet, his jacket, and one of his boots was found, Dennis’s family held a memorial service for him on June 28, 2002, burying an empty casket. Dennis’s father, Lt. Dennis O’Berg, retired from the FDNY on September 11th to dedicate himself to finding his son. However, when all the wreckage had been cleared, it was not to be so.

Family and friends remember Dennis as someone who was young at heart. He was a fan of Harry Potter, Norman Rockwell, Star Wars, and the New York Rangers. He collected baseball cards and enjoyed all kinds of music. He was a romantic and often gave his wife roses for no particular reason, took her on long drives and picnics on the North Shore, and left her notes telling her that he loved her. She found one of those notes in her bed the evening before September 11th as she was preparing to retire for the night. His dream was to be there as a husband and father for his wife and kids and to raise a family on Long Island. He never got to fulfill that dream. Instead, his life was cut short by the terrorists who attacked America on September 11th.

Dennis P. O’Berg. Forever in the thoughts of his friends and family. And now, forever in my thoughts as well.

To learn more and pay tribute to other heroes lost to us on September 11, 2001, please visit Project 2996.

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