What's in a Name? {Thoughts on marriage, divorce, depression, and independence}

{Note: this is my 100% totally unedited raw free write that I copied into a blog post to document for all of time, and of course share with you. Please expect typos and misspellings.}

When I was born, I was given these names:

Katie Caroline Butterweck

My grandma (mom's mom) was named Kay Frances Osman and I was named for her. I am asked, "Is Katie short for something?" Well, no. It's actually "long" for Kay. Caroline I am not sure what the significance is there - it sure is cute though. I like how Katie Caroline rolls off the tongue. Butterweck is my dad's last name, and it is German. Butterweck translates too: buttered roll, which is super fitting because I looooooove butter. And bread. 

My grandma, Kay, died when I was 14 - two weeks shy of my 15th birthday.

January 4th, 2000.

She shot herself in the downstairs bathroom of her condo. I had just spoken to her two days earlier on the phone and she asked me how my new years eve went. I had gone to a party with a bunch of friends that were a lot older than me so it had been a really exciting night. I loved my grandma and spent all kinds of time with her. She didn't live far from my mom's house (my parents divorced when I was a baby) and I frequently would sleepover on Saturday nights with her. We would always have steamed potatoes, topped with diced tomatoes and cottage cheese for dinner with glasses of diet coke. And she always bought those weird ice cream cups - the plastic cups with the ribbons of fudge laced through and that always followed dinner. After dinner, we'd go upstairs and lay in her big king size bed together and watch Golden Girls and/or Empty Nest. After TV time was over, I'd transfer to my little bed on the floor of her room and we'd go to sleep. The next morning we'd always go for an early swim in the community pool in her complex, and then I'd beg her to take me with her while she grocery shopped. 

I always abstractly knew she was on medication for depression, but I didn't really know what that meant. Of course I have all sorts of hind sight now that I am an "adult". My mom and my grandma had a strange relationship and were always at odds about something. I can't imagine what my mom went thru having her own mother commit suicide. Her father did the same when she was 8 - he was an alcoholic and was hallucinating and jumped out of a window several stories up.

My mom and I don't have a relationship now.

She always struggled with depression and got progressively worse - depression, then alcoholism, and then and then and then. It got to the point, in my mid-20s - where I realized it was all or nothing. I was either spiraling down into her massive web of drama, or I had no contact with her whatsoever. Both options suuuuuuuuuuck, but with option B I feel like I serve myself better. I can't save her. I used to make light of it - joke that my mom was crazy or whatever. But now I don't so much. Because it's pretty much the worst thing ever not to have a mother. I am in birth work so I am surrounded by so many amazing women, but nothing replaces your own mother. Nobody gives a shit about your daily nuances like your mother does. 


Back to Butterweck - my dad's name. He is a real hoot. A long haul trucker with a handlebar mustache and the most gigantic heart. He loves babies and animals and would do anything for anyone at anytime. He is selfless to a fault. Like - I've been on him for two years to get his teeth fixed - to spend money on himself instead of always on other people. I got married when I was 20 - to a man exactly like my dad. All of the things I loved about him were things I loved about my dad, and all of the things that drove my nuts about were things that drove me nuts about my dad. Funny how that works. 

I took his name - DiBenedetto, obviously Italian. We were married for 3 years and separated on a weekend trip celebrating our three year anniversary. We had been working towards dual citizenship for nearly two years at that point - searching for birth and death and marriage certificates dating back 140 years. After many official letters, calls to the consulate, back and forth, blah blah blah - we finally had an in person appointment at the consulate to finalize our citizenship - it was the day before our 3 year anniversary and the consulate was in southern california so we decided to make a trip of it. I remember that consulate visit so well - the woman loved us and loved our story and said she would fast track our file - we wanted to get it as soon as possible and move to Italy. When we left the office I broke down in tears in the hallway. I was overwhelmed and elated and I think deeply, deeply sad because I knew our relationship was ending, even though it wasn't quite over yet.

The next day we split up and he drove home alone. 

We stayed married on paper for the next year or so because I wanted my citizenship to be finalized and he did too - we were splitting amicably and were still good friends. How dual citizenship by marriage works is that the one with Italian descent gets it first (in this case, him) and then the spouse applies immediately after. As long as we stayed married, I could still apply and as soon as I got citizenship and got my passport, we'd get divorced. The Italian consulate is not notified so it's not like anybody would know and my passport would be cancelled or anything. 

In the end, I ended up going forward with the divorce before my citizenship was final. I realized how long it was going to take and how much still being legally married was holding me back. Symbolically, energetically -- I needed to be divorced form him. My dream of dual citizenship and moving to Europe was still at the forefront of my mind, but I didn't want citizenship via my marriage to him. I wanted it fresh and free and clear. 

Which is interesting because I kept "his" name. I love the name DiBenedetto and it's so totally and completely me. I don't think about him or associate him with the name or have any negative anything with the name at all. Plus, going back to Butterweck didn't feel right either. It felt like "going back". And I didn't feel like Katie Butterweck anymore. And also - changing your fucking name is a royal goddamn pain in the ass. I figured since I liked the name and wasn't keeping it for some unhealthy reason that I should just carry on. 


When I was 10 or 11, I wanted to change my name to Raven Sunshine. I even had a few pen pals and aunts and cousins that I would write letters to and I made them start addressing me that way. My mom said I could change my name legally, but I had to save up the money myself. It was $125, which is a small fortune to a 10 year old. I did end up saving it, but spent it on an American Girl doll. 


I was born on January 18th, 1985 at 2:38 in the morning. I see my birth time a lot - on license plates, bar codes, clocks, satellite TV channels, receipts, everywhere. At first I thought it was significant like it was signaling my rebirthing or something. Now I'm not sure. But maybe it is, because I'm constantly evolving and changing. Aren't we all? I was born in Good Samaritan hospital in downtown Phoenix, AZ. My mom had an obstetrician and was given an epidural and an episiotomy. Knowing so much about birth, I'm glad I came out the vagina, though I feel sad that my mom was given a probably unnecessary episiotomy. I remember her saying how much it hurt to laugh after I was born because of her stitches. I was breastfed, too, which I am also very thankful for. I recently read a great book called Placenta: The Forgotten Chakra. I think it's a must read for all. The author talks about the significance of the placenta and how it's honored around the world. I could go on and on and on about this subject, but I think it's super fucking interesting that I now live a stone's throw from the hospital I was born in, and the place where my placenta was buried/incinerated/otherwise laid to rest and I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. 

Katie Caroline DiBenedetto, that's me. 

Writing Group, Day 1: What's in a Name? | CockandCrow.com

You guys. You should sign up for one of Jena's writing groups. You are not prompted and it is not suggested in any way to share your writing as I have done. It is also not suggested or implied that you "advertise" Jena in any way. Again - this is something that is coming only from me, as a result of being totally and completely moved by this project on the very first day. Even if you're not a writer - Jena's writing groups are for you. Think of it as an exercise in self reflection and processing. Writing is healing. Do it. www.jenaschwartz.com

ALSO. Check out my e-course. It's called Reality Rehab: A Four-Month Online Course to Uncover Your Inner Badass. We go over sex, money, health, food - all the stuff you wish they would've taught you in school.

What's in a Name? {Writing Group, Day 1} | Cock & Crow Blog #writing #prompt #jenaschwartz