Ten on Tuesday

Again, borrowing inspiration from one of my favorite blogs, Linny's Vault. For no reason in particular, other than I know I love reading this kind of stuff. Especially when you have something in common with the person writing it...you can get an "Oooh thank GOD I'm not the only one" moment, and that can sometimes make your day. Just knowing that somewhere out there, someone else gets it.

Without any further ado, here is my very own TEN ON TUESDAY!

1. Few things in life can hamper your day like an ill-fitting workout bra. I have ONE that I like, it's by a brand called "Shock Absorbers" of all things. Because I need a reminder that my mass is so great that simply moving about the earth creates shocks needing absorption. P.S. I just about fainted when I saw how much those babies go for...I got mine for $2.00 at the thrift store last year, brand new with tags attached. Had I known they were apparently lined with mink and stitched with solid gold thread, I would have probably sold it. But I'm glad I didn't, I love this thing.

2. Today I composed an email, felt that old familiar gut-wrenching pang, took a deep breath and hit send. An email to whom, you must be dying to know? A famous person? A potential lovah? What on earth could cause such inner turmoil? It was my yearly plea to Big Daddy for his help with back to school shopping. I've already spent a tiny fortune and the two high schoolers don't have anything that they need yet, supply-wise. They don't get their supply lists until the first day of school, so that makes for a few fun nights that first week.

I don't think he helped out last year, aside from *maybe* a new pair of shoes for William. We'll see how he responds. I'm not holding my breath but you never know...maybe all those fuzzy warm "new daddy" feelings will extend out to his older kids.

3. I had an epiphany last night. There are 18 weeks left in this year. I have failed, in epic proportions, to do anything good with myself so far this year, despite a very good start. I am a big fatty again, complete with a muffin top that moves on its own accord. The self-loathing I've been experiencing all summer long has been awful, and once again, has hampered not only my life, but the lives of my kids. It's been another summer of mom not wanting to do anything that would require me shedding my burka/uniform of fat girl capris and big ugly man t-shirts. Another summer that I spent avoiding people, turning down invites and generally feeling like a giant, squishy freak when I did venture out and about. I won't go into the volumes of excuses I have. Bottom line is, I failed and I'm sick of failing. And I'm sick of not liking myself. How on earth am I going to ever land a lovah if even I don't like me? Things have to change.

Well...last night, as I was getting the calendar figured out, and I realized that there are 18 weeks left of this year, I decided to try and challenge myself. Not so much in a "cut out all fats sugars carbs and processed foods and workout every single day" way, rather in a "let's try to grow, let's try new things, let's get out of this god-forsaken rut" way. I'll be babbling on about it in a day or two. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for new things you think I should try (a new workout idea, new foods, new ANYTHING), please let me know. (and yes, Whitney. I will be joining you at hot yoga.)

3. School starts next week. September 6th. Which means I go back to work. And I will admit here, in front of all 17 of you: I am dreading it. Dreading every aspect of it, except for the part of seeing all of my sweet kids again. I'm dreading the early mornings, I'm dreading trying to figure out what to wear, I'm dreading the homework, the conferences, the wincing every time I get an email or call from one of the schools. The only thing I'm not really, totally and completely dreading is getting the inmates out of the house for a nice chunk of the day. These people can eat.

4. I have finished all three of The Hunger Game books. And I'm now left wandering around the house, half-heartedly fingering the spines of other books I have here, feeling depleted and hollow. Ok, not that bad but OMG. I loved those books. I have turned into one of those creepy moms who will shove people out of my way when I run to get my seat at the midnight showing of The Hunger Games movie when it comes out in March. (March 23rd, 2012 in case you want to go ahead and mark your calendars, too). (What do you mean, you're an adult? Have you read these things?)

5. We watched the MTV Video Music Awards as a family the other night. Aside from Dave Grohl and the rest of the Foo Fighters, and a few other random acts, I thought it was awful. I even said to Molly, at one point, "My heart breaks for your generation! This is like a bad movie." Have I become one of those crusty old bitchy people who don't understand the lyrics of anything and no longer recognize anyone in Us Weekly? Or are the music acts and the songs and all of it truly sucky? I did, however, shed a few tears at the Amy Winehouse tribute. What a terrible waste.

And I'm sorry, but Lady GaGa is no longer innovative or risk taking. The fact that she made Britney Spears appear demure, mature and sophisticated kind of rang that bell for me.

6. I love my friends Danielle and Charlie. Charlie is Danielle's hubby, and he's a teacher who like most teachers, ends up with an impressive collection of spare school supplies. Lots and lots of them. This year, they graciously offered to let me come peruse the selection and try to knock a few items off of our back-to-school supply lists. Peruse I did, and I walked away from their house with a giant Ikea bag full of notebooks, pens, pencils, scissors, a protractor, a compass, SHARPIES!!, markers, etc. All brand new. I haven't told them this part, but as I drove home I cried a little. They are two of the best people on this planet.

7. This computer sucks. It's ancient. When I was growing up, a friend of mine had this old dog. Some sort of spaniel breed, one of those with the big rolling eyeballs. When I first started hanging out with this friend, we'd be sitting in her living room, watching tv or whatever, and I'd notice the dog would just freeze. Just stop, and stand there like someone had tapped it with a time-stopping wand. A few moments would pass, and then the dog would just carry on, like nothing had happened. My friend explained to me that this was the dog having seizures. Not funny at all, of course, except that my computer does the same damn thing. And every time it does, I think of that poor old dog, standing there with its tongue hanging out, staring into space.

8. AT&T stinks. My phone doesn't work in my house. I called, for the 10th time, earlier this month and gave my usual litany of woes to the poor sap who answered the phone. He was pretty cool, and I kept apologizing to him for saying "you guys" and "your company" when I know he's just another one of their lackeys workin' for the man. I ended up with a $250.00 credit on my account, which is nice, but doesn't make up for the fact that I'm paying a sick amount of money every month for something that works sporadically. Contract is up in March, and I will be celebrating that and the release of The Hunger Games by getting into bed with either Verizon or T-Mobile. Or Sprint. Or Virgin. Haven't decided yet. But I'm ready.

9. Sons of Anarchy starts next week. Getting my body pillow prepped. Love me some dirty biker boys.

10. My birthday is in September. I'll be 45. Five years ago, when I embraced my forties at a fun party held in our town's awesome grungy dive bar, I was wearing size 6 Levi's and a size SMALL t-shirt that had a picture of a martini on it and the words "Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner" printed below it. If you had pulled me aside that night, and told me what all would transpire over the next 5 years, I would have cried. Thank God none of my friends time-traveled that night. But, despite all of the absolute dreck the kids and I have gone through, I probably wouldn't change a thing. We've certainly suffered, we've for sure endured losses. But I've gained things (and not just a layer of cellulite on my stomach. YES, cellulite on my stomach, people. I am like a female, non-bearded Santa Claus). One of the most precious things I've gained has been a new perspective. I know the stuff that matters now, the things we truly cannot live without. From time to time, I'll get misty eyed thinking about the things I lost: granite countertops, my Target Visa, health insurance...but my rebound time is getting better.

I'm determined to make 45 an awesome year.

And that's all she wrote, folks. Blog friends, try this post and then link to Linny's Vault (on the bottom of her post).

Have a spectacular evening, friends. And please don't look too closely at the cottage cheese on my belly. God help me.


I'm poor and you aren't...can we still be friends?

Well, duh. Yes, of course you can be friends with someone who is in a different tax bracket. It happens every day, and has, for eons.

But can you be good friends? Like best friends? Can you walk alongside each other through the day-to-day and still relate?

As those of you who read this already know, I'm poor. No, not homeless-poor or food-stamp-poor (yet, because you never know)...but compared to the people with whom I rub elbows with on a daily basis, I am for sure considered less fortunate.

You know how you sometimes classify the people in your life? "The rich one" "The super fit one" "The funny one" "The divorced one" "the intense one" "The drinking buddy" "The smart one". I think we all do that, to some extent. Not really even consciously, more like if we were to divide our acquaintances up like we used to categorize our Barbies or Dawn dolls: The tan one, the one with the good hair, the ugly short-haired one (oh Midge..you are to Barbie as Sabrina is to Charlie's Angels)....you love them all the same, but your brain automatically compartmentalizes* them. I think it's human nature to want everything in its place. It's why God made pre-labeled spice racks.

Or maybe that's just me. But, whatever.

I spent a few hours with a friend this past weekend, a friend who is more on my side of the tracks, money-wise. We drank red wine and wept a little over our current state of affairs, bemoaned the ills that had befallen us, and talked about what it's like to be a Have Not in a world that is rife with Haves.

And it felt good to let it all hang out. It felt good to talk to someone who knows what it's like to not be able to go somewhere because you don't have enough gas in your vehicle, or what it's like to apply for reduced lunches for your kids and get a letter back saying, "Hey, forget the reduced price, you poor sap...this year they're free!". Or what it's like to sit there and smile while a friend goes on and on about how hard it is to pick out fixtures for their new house or how insane they're going because their cleaning lady took a week off and the house is SO DIRTY.

Don't get me wrong: I love my friends, intensely. I'm not one to do anything half-assed, and if you're my friend, you are my friend with a capital F. You are friends with someone because of who they are on the inside, not because of what they have on the outside. I know that's how it goes. I have friends who honestly don't know what a gallon of milk costs, who have no idea what's in their checking accounts. And I don't begrudge them for that. I love them and I'm genuinely happy for their successes. Truly. (I can also tell them not only what a gallon of milk costs, but can also give them a coupon for it and tell them which grocery store will give them Fuel Perks or Monopoly game pieces for buying it there).

But sometimes, I worry. I start to think that some of my friendships have expiration dates. That being friends with me is an exhausting endeavor, a task which drains a person until there's nothing left. You see, I'm not only "the poor one" in my circle of friends, I'm also "the one who needs help". "Quite often".

It wasn't always this way, but man, it feels like I've been the needy one for a long time.

In this little corner of the world, where I live, in my community, when you become "the one who needs help" the hens come out full-force. They circle the wagons, they nourish you physically and emotionally, they care for your kids, they call in the cavalry. They hold your hair, they talk you down. They got your back, is what I'm saying.

When Big Daddy first left me, I was needy. Not financially, especially that first year after our divorce was finalized. I was needy emotionally. And my friends were there for me through every panic attack, every sob session, every lonely weekend. When things got dicey, and I became needy in the money way, again they were there. They helped me get an attorney, they helped me move out of my house, they helped me give my kids Christmases and birthdays. They quite literally saved my life.

But I'm starting to feel like I'll never shed this label, that of "the poor needy one". I don't know... it's like, when someone goes through a tough time, you think of it as an arc: the bad thing happens, the person struggles, and then the person overcomes the trials and tribulations and goes back to living like everyone else again.

I feel as though my arc is something big, like Guinness Book of World Records big, you know? Like I should be in a better place by now, my listing ship should have been rightened already. I'm starting to feel as if I'm wearing out my friendships, the same way you wear out your favorite pair of jeans.

Like they are nearing their expiration dates.

I started this post more as a "can someone who is poor be friends with someone who is not", and I see now that it's turned into a "can anyone be friends with someone like me?" whine. It's not like me to think about things so materialistically, to see things with such a judgy eye. I love my friends for so many reasons: how absolutely freaking hilarious they are, how fun it is to just sit and gab with them, how they can sit down at a table full of Thai food and feel almost turned on, just like me...I love them not because of what they have that I don't, not because of what they have done for me...but because of the richness they give me in other ways. I don't keep score, there is no little notebook with tally marks under the "Received" and "Given" columns, but to be frank, I am starting to fret that I haven't done nearly enough giving, and have done way too much receiving.

I wonder if there's a point when I'm going to to be seen not as a friend, but as a charity case. If there is an invisible stamp somewhere on the cartons of my friendships that says, "BEST IF USED BY 12/01/2011".

Of course, the sane part of me knows that this isn't the case. I know exactly how blessed I am to have people in my life who also don't keep score, people who are going to be on the sidelines of my life, cheering me on until things finally do go in the right direction. People who know my potential, just as I know theirs.

Someone pointing out the obvious would elbow me in the ribs and whisper, "Honey, if you did have friends who kept score, they'd be long gone by now."

That someone would be right. I just wish I could be "the helpful one" for a change.

*oh my GAWD what a Scrabble word that would be. Just saying.



A few weeks ago, William approached me and asked me a very strange question:

"Hey Mom. You would never hurt a little kid, would you?"

For a second I thought to myself, "No. No way. Not unless they got into my stash of Quaker Rice Quakes Caramel Corn minis on the day before I get my period." But of course, out loud I said:

"Oh my gosh, no. No way. Why would you even think that?"

He paused for a few seconds. And then he said:

"I was asking Dad where the baby would go to school. He said probably my school."

William paused yet again. This kid knows how to create dramatic effect.

"And then he said..'Unless your mom still works there. She'd probably strangle him.'"

William looked at me and said, "You wouldn't hurt a kid, would you?".

It takes a lot to leave me speechless. It takes a lot to make me feel sad, mad, frustrated and embarrassed all at the same time. But I was all of the above. I could feel my cheeks burning, felt a thousand snarky, bitchy comments rising up at the back of my throat like vomit.

I ignored the urge to say something evil, something that would serve a dual purpose: to reinforce to my 11 year old son that no, I wouldn't hurt anyone, especially a child. And to try and showcase the absolute inappropriateness, the sheer profaneness of what his father had said. Instead, I swallowed the acerbic replies, I took a deep breath and answered my son's question.

"I would never hurt a child, William. Never."

Don't know why I'm writing about this now. This exchange took place between William and I almost a month ago but it's been stuck in my craw ever since.

Flossing hasn't helped, so I figured I'd try getting it out on here.

Nice, huh?


Dr. Frankenstein was on to something....

So I've been feeling kind of wanting lately. Not horny, not desperately lonely or anything like that.

Just wanting.

Over the past couple of years, I haven't really felt any desire for companionship. I've been so preoccupied with all of the work, all of the repairing, mending, fire-putting-out-ing of my life and my children's lives that any of those feelings have either been squashed or else put on the back burner. The way far back burner.

There was my very brief reigniting of the John McCain flames earlier this year, and an even more brief revisit with The Artiste just prior to that (I still haven't done my victim profile on him, have I? I need to think about that one.). Neither of those led anywhere except back to square one. There were fleeting moments of excitement, the butterflies, but even as I sat next to each of them, looking into their eyes, I knew they weren't what I was looking for. There was no flurry of neurons, snapping and crackling, no moment of realization or that satisfying click you feel when long-lost pieces slide back into place.

But lately, there have been twinges. Little exchanges with people, small gestures that strike me just so...moments where I've caught myself wishing I had something that I don't have.

Moments of wanting. Again, to clarify, I don't mean wanting in the lusty way. Hey..don't get me wrong..I'd still enjoy that kind of wanting. I'm not dead. But these feelings I've been getting lately are more of the soul-yearning variety vs. the nether-region yearning ones.

95% of my male acquaintances are the husbands of my friends. The other 5% are made up of random men in my life, from my sweet landlord Dan to guys I know from the neighborhood. All wonderful men in their own right, but of course, none that are even remotely close to available. And more importantly, none that I would consider in that way. You know, THAT way. As I've explained before, my friend's husbands are many things, but objects of desire? No. If you're married to one of my friends, and I don't care how hot you are, how charming, how funny you are...you are essentially a eunuch. It's as if that gleaming band on your ring finger forms a sort of protective barrier around you, a bubble...a shiny force-field that neutralizes any feelings above or beyond those of friendship.

But every once in a while, one of them will say or do something, and I'll feel a little whimper from that place where my heart sits. That place where I used to wish and dream and plan for dates, for handsome and sweet boys and the places they'd take me. That place where I used to get a tingle, a leap of joy or sometimes just a tiny shiver whenever I'd think about the one I loved.

My friend Danielle and her husband watch t.v. together. At night, in bed, sometimes while eating ice cream. They talk about the shows they watch, both with the same excitement. Her husband and I were talking about the 80's series "Quantum Leap" the other day. He was just as psyched as I was when we discovered that it's on Netflix instant streaming. That's when I felt a pang. A pang that said, "Damn. I need a guy who would be this thrilled about a stupid show on Netflix."

As I've mentioned a few thousand times, I play trivia with a very special group of nerds. The core group is made up of the aforementioned duo, Danielle and hubby, plus me and our awesome friend Alex (we took him in as a foster-trivia person when the other half of his team went to Alaska for the summer. We want to keep him.). There are a few others who join when they can. The trivia we play is a pop culture game, it's live rather than via computer as most bars will conduct it. Ours is hosted by two guys, one who is in his 40's, the other a bit younger, both funny gingers. Sometimes they'll come talk with us before or after the show. One night, we were all discussing the latest heated battle, questions that had been asked and different answers that were given. I looked around the table, and here were these men, these grown ups, laughing and talking about this seemingly trivial game. Again with the pang, only this time it said, "Damn. I need a guy who would sit around and willingly admit he knows all about 80's music and Marvel comic characters."

Another friend off-handedly mentioned her husband taking his son camping. Just the two of them, off together for a weekend of fishing, hiking and sleeping in a tent. The pang was louder this time. "Damn, I need a guy who would carve time out of his life for my kids."

I see men at church, men who no doubt work hard all day and have a million other things on their To Do lists, volunteering to lead confirmation groups or teach Sunday School.

Men in our community volunteer to coach Little League teams, football teams, soccer teams. They arrange practices, uniform drop offs and stand out on a baseball field in 99 degree weather, encouraging kids to do their best.

A friend of mine from eBay, who lives in another state, a friend I've never met face to face; her husband has reached out and given me feedback, high fives when I need them and consolation when I need that too. He just sent a big box of fantastic comic books with strict instructions to "keep them". They arrived on the day when I felt the first tiny urges to run away from home, that day in August when the wheels of the Crazy Train start wobbling and threatening to come off completely. The boys were lost in those comic books for hours. What kind of man does that? Does something completely random and kind, something to help out a woman and her kids...without any strings attached, without any repayment expected?

I think back to all of the instances over the past few years, when men who have absolutely no ties to me or my kids have contributed to our well being, to our lives. Contributed time, skills, a helping hand when we needed one, not out of any sense of duty or obligation, but just because.

Because that's the kind of men they are. Sometimes I think how wonderful it would be if I could make my own Mr. Right, concocted from bits and pieces of all the amazing men who have touched our lives. Mr. Right would sit in bed with me, pillows bunched up behind us, remotes in the middle of us and watch Scott Bakula solve the world's troubles as he leaps through time. Mr. Right would be a father to my kids, give them the attention they deserve, the love they so desperately need. Mr. Right would accompany me to my beloved trivia night, and would still love me even when I blurt out the wrong answer to "What holiday was being celebrated during Die Hard 2: Die Harder?" (answer: Christmas. Not 4th of July. That's Die Hard 4, Live Free or Die Hard. Dammit.). Mr. Right would understand that even if I get kind of fat, I'm still worthy of his love, and not lazy or ugly or pathetic (like Big Daddy told me, so many times).

He'd talk to me instead of turning to Happy Hour and co-workers, he'd work hard with me to make sure our relationship was chugging along and most of all, so most importantly of all:

He'd stay.

I know Mr. Right is just as fictional as Frankenstein's monster, and I know that just like that poor doomed creature he'd have his own arsenal of faults and flaws (and believe me, I'm no Bride of Frankenstein myself..). But I also know that he's out there, somewhere. Maybe he's been hurt like me, and is terrified about ever being hurt that way again. Maybe he's decided, also like me, to focus on his kids right now, making sure that they are whole again before pausing to repair his own damage.

But these pangs, these feelings, that wanting. I've learned to trust my hunches, to give credence to those gut feelings we all get now and then. These feelings, like that little itch in the dandruff commercials...

They may be telling me something. What is it, though? Is he real? Is he nearby? Is it time?

I don't know. But rest assured...when I know, you'll know.


A Mother's Pride

I had a couple of Groupon movie tickets to use up (clever me, signing up for the deal with two different emails...and then promptly forgetting that I did so. Thank you for the reminder, Groupon!). William and Henry have been begging to go see the movie "Cowboys and Aliens" for a few weeks, and yesterday was officially the first day I really, really wanted school to start, so we went.

The movie was, to borrow a phrase from what's his name on American Idol, "aight". Not great, not horrible. Harrison Ford has settled into the soft and comfy stretch of his acting career, the one where he is just able to play the same character in every single movie. When he's super old, but still able to move freely and speak legibly, he'll probably have one of those tear-jerking, earn-a-standing-ovation-at-the-Academy-Awards roles and go out with a bang. Until then, we get to see him play "cranky curmudgeon" in many variations. In this movie, he's doing it while dressed in old Wild West garb.

Daniel Craig is smokin' as always, Olivia Wilde is generically beautiful, Adam Beach is always good and I'm pretty sure he and Mark Ruffalo are voice-doppelgangers (seriously, they sound identical) and the guy who plays Doc is one of those "where have I seen him before?" dudes.

The scenery was lovely, the way certain parts of the movie were filmed with different kinds of patina, giving some scenes a decidedly old-school western look was awesome, the aliens were very generic.

Yada yada yada. My favorite part of the movie, though, wasn't in the movie at all. My favorite part happened during a small stretch of the film that shows Daniel Craig traversing some rocky mountainside, most of it shot from behind. So all we see for a few minutes is his very lovely tush, clad, of course, in traditional Western articles of clothing.

It was during this scene that both of my boys, within minutes of each other, leaned over to me and whispered:

"He's wearing assless chaps."

That's my boys. Do I want to know where they learned the term "assless chaps"? No. Not really. In the same way I don't want to know what all the wadded up Kleenex in the mancave bathroom was used for. Some things are best left as mysteries.

But this one made me laugh. My kids crack me up.


Hunger Games...it's not just a kid's book

So, my Henry received all three of Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games books last Christmas (thank you, sweet anonymous Santa...they were his FAVORITE presents, hands down). He finished all three before the winter break was over. Molly read all three, Henry loaned all of the copies out to friends, William started the first book. I was just happy that they were reading.

Then, I started hearing about moms picking up the books and reading them. Some of my more highbrow friends were reading the first book for their Book Clubs. I was tempted, but since I am lucky to eke out time to un-dread my hair every few days, the idea of sitting down and reading something for pleasure was laughable.

And then my friend Gillian read the first book. She quite literally couldn't put it down. I love Gillian, and I give her opinions and thoughts special weight, since she and I are similarly wired. So after hearing her gush about it, I decided to pick up Henry's copy of The Hunger Games.

That was a little over 24 hours ago.

I just finished it, and am already eying* Catching Fire, Book Two, trying to figure out when in the hell I'm going to be able to start devouring it. Even the thought of getting out tonight to play my beloved gathering-of-the-nerds Trivia seems hollow compared to delving into this next adventure.

I cannot remember the last time a book has held me captive like this, honestly. Surely not since I've had kids...who has the time to get utterly lost in a book when you have kids and responsibilities and overflowing floor drains in the basement? And yes, I did converse with the Roto-Rooter guy while gripping my book like it was a slippery baby. Even cursed him a little, under my breath, because I was on the last 20 or so pages and he kept bugging me (could you flush that upstairs toilet for me one more time please? Sir, do you not realize that if I don't find out what happens to Katniss and Peeta I will go completely insane?). My poor kids have had to ask me questions twice, sometimes three times before I could hear them through the trees and over the sounds of cannons being fired and mockingjays singing.

Have you read it yet? Did you love it?

Now I have to go do those things I put off in the last 24 hours...you know, those little things that I neglected so I could indulge the malnourished bookworm in my head. Things like laundry, feeding my kids, showering....

After all, I have two more books to read.

* eying or eyeing? According to spellcheck, the former is correct. According to my anal-retentive spelling "gut", eyeing is right. Gahhhhh.


Horrible Bosses and Good Friends

I saw Horrible Bosses this weekend, and despite the mixed reviews out there, I loved it! Not one, not two, but THREE of my creepy old lady crushes as stars. Plus one of my unrequited gay crushes, and an on-again, off-again girl crush. I was floating on air before the movie even started.

Jason Bateman (swoon), Jason Sudekeis (swoon again), Charlie Day (ok, not swooning so much since in this movie you can tell that he's maybe 5'6" but still funny as hell), Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey (awww what's in the box?? I think of that line every single time I see Spacey), the fabulous and hilarious Jamie Foxx and a cameo by the always kick ass Donald Sutherland. What's not to love?

The story isn't super original but the presentation more than makes up for that slight shortcoming. As far as movies go these days, like just about everything else in my life, the bar is set pretty low. All I ask is that it just doesn't suck. If it can keep my attention, if it makes me laugh or cry, if it has people in it I can think about later while clutching my body pillow and feeling shameful, it's been money well spent. And considering my friend treated me to this movie, it was like an extra helping of gravy. Really good, homemade gravy.

Which brings me to the good friends portion of this post: I love my friends. I know I babble on about this, but I really, really love them and cannot believe how blessed I am in the friend department. Every once in a while, I'll go into one of my Depression Lite funks, and want to just hide, go all hermit for a while. And that's when a friend will call and want to just hang out, or go do something, or wants to check in and make sure I'm still functioning. Even with my Greta Garbo/I vant to be alone history, they still do it. And I love them for that.

I've been gearing up for another legal go-round with Big Daddy, and like always, it give me twitches and causes a great deal of stress. But one thing I've come to count on is the support of my girlfriends (and hey, I can't forget my ever increasing circle of guy friends, too. My testosterone-infused homies are the best!). If I need to bounce ideas off of them, they're there. If I need to rant like Louis Black, they're there. If I need to cry, I can count on a posse of comfortable shoulders to be at the ready.

This past week, when real life slowly slipped back for me and the kids, my friends were there. When Worry and Fret came back onto the scene, I was able to call a couple of them and kvetch about it, about how I hate that old fear and what it does to cloud my vision. They talk me down, smooth my ruffled feathers, rock me like a fussy baby until I'm able to breathe again and can see clearly.

I met a woman this weekend, at a little hen gathering. She's divorced, like me, but unlike me she has been able to move on and is now engaged. We talked, at length, about how hard it is to get to the "next level" after the whole divorce debacle. She shared her frustrations, her fears, and how she managed to just get on with life. After I talked to her, I realized just how guarded I've been, how I've used everything in my arsenal as excuses to not get out there, back into the world, and let myself live again. Oh, don't get me wrong; I live a pretty decent life, a life filled with awesome people and plenty of good times. But I have built such walls around my heart that I'm beginning to think they have become impenetrable.

Big Daddy did a number on me, and believe me when I say that there are scars on my heart that will never go away. Even if he does grow a set one of these days and does the right thing by me, and by the kids, there will be residue from his slimy grasp that will not come off no matter how hard I scrub.

I have every excuse you can imagine; the biggest by far is my not wanting to cause any turmoil in the lives of my kids. I have seen how hard it's been for them watching their father create a whole new identity, and how much they don't like Secretary, and I am loathe to bring anyone new into their lives. But last Friday, when they left for Big Daddy's house, I was alone. The house was quiet and it dawned on me for the first time that it won't be too long before it's quiet all the time. And that's when I'm going to regret all of this shielding I've been doing.

Talking to this woman was comforting but also kind of jolting. I'm going to have to learn how to not see my needs and wants as threatening to the kids or to myself. It's hard for someone like me to put things into the proper perspective; people like me, we tend to keep ourselves as the person in the back of the photograph. Blurry, out of focus. When in reality, we should allow ourselves to be front and center, at least some of the time.

This learning to evolve thing is hard.

And one final thought before I go...I have to share how EXCITED I am about my book. I have the first chapter outlined (there are actual paragraphs written) and the characters are becoming three-dimensional and the ideas, the images, the bits and pieces are all coming together. I haven't been this pumped up about something in a long, long time. Some of my kick-ass friends have agreed to be consultants for me (thank God for my friends who went to medical, law and journalism schools). I am getting ready to sit down for what's sure to be painful but hopefully, cathartic: the interviews with women who have gone through the shitty roller-coaster ride of being left by their husbands.

A huge thank you to ALL of you who responded, by the way. You are all rock stars and I'm so thankful that so many of you are willing to share your stories with me. There are days I think the internet will be the downfall of society, but when I heard from so many women, from all over this country (and the world!) I realized that it can be a good thing, too.

And now, since the Hades-like humidity has dropped (for now), I am going to take Walter out for a nice long walk. I was worried that we'd have to find some doggy-anti-depressants for him during the heat wave, when his sluggish owner fell way behind in the walks department. I don't like to be sweaty. Unless there's really good reason.

Have a fabulous Sunday, people.


Accepting the New Normal

Funny how the mind works, isn't it? You live one way for so long, that when things change your brain can take forever to get with the program.

My mind still balks at the tiny indignities I deal with on an almost-daily basis. I find myself, after almost 3 years of living without much money, still trying to accept things as they are.

Not as they always will be, mind you. But as they are for now.

I received a nice tax refund a few months ago. And by the way, my definition of "nice" has changed a lot over the past few years as well. It wasn't a king's ransom, in fact, it was less than the average teacher takes home every month. But to me, it was nice.

We didn't have any specific plans for the refund, but I could have spent it a hundred times over. I had looked forward to its arrival for months, and had told the kids "The Tale of the Refund" over and over again.

"There's no way we can do that this month. But maybe when the refund gets here..." and
"I know you need that. But I can't do it right now. Maybe when the refund arrives...." and
"You know what would be nice to do? Rent a cabin up north and go away for a week. Maybe when we get the refund."

I had let that simple little check grow into a giant mountain of possibilities. Why, I could get that new computer I've needed! I can get my old laptop fixed! We can take a mini-vacation! I can pay the balance I owe for the little boy's week at bible camp!

In the end, I decided to pretend like it wasn't even there. I put it in the bank and went on with life. Life as it is now. You know, normal.

I don't get paychecks during the summer, so having that little cushion in the checking account has been a great stress reliever. It felt so good to just be able to write the checks out and not worry about when they got deposited or whether I'd have enough to cover them.

Don't get me wrong; we did live large a few times. We stepped back in time to the days when we could decide, on the spur of the moment, to go see a movie. At the nice theater. And get treats.

I filled my gas tank all the way up to FULL a couple of times. To the tune of around $160 each time. But man, did it feel good to not have to keep a mental mileage log for a few months.

I marched into Famous Footwear and bought new shoes for two of the kids and a new pair of gym shoes for myself. Regular priced shoes, the nice brands (ok, mine came from the clearance rack, but still...new shoes for me!).

I went to Costco a couple of times and not only did I renew my lapsed membership, I let myself just shop. I shopped without keeping a tally of what I'd spent, without asking myself, "But yeah, do we REALLY need this?". The kids went nuts when I came home from one of those trips. You know those clips you see, of American soldiers or missionaries going into poverty-stricken towns in poor countries far away from here, and the village kids just swarming them, cheering and smiling and then clutching their bags of rice or crayons or shoes for dear life? That's what it was like, a little bit.

It was so far from our normal, you see. All of it. The relaxed mom, the first run movies in the nice theater, the fridge and cupboards just stuffed full of Costco bounty, the gas tank running on so much more than the usual fumes.

It was nice. It felt good, as a mother, to be able to say "yes" a few times. To be able to buy them little things that we haven't had for a long time. To be able to just stop worrying and to just start enjoying for a bit.

The little boys went to camp. It's a bible camp, and they went with our church. Molly and Charlie had both gone, I've gone up there for a retreat with my confirmation group. It's a lovely place, a peaceful place. Henry dug his heels in, right up to the day I dropped them off at the church for the bus ride there. He was furious. I was ruining his summer! I looked at him in the rearview and said, "Mark my words, H. 6 days from now you'll be sitting in that same spot, all tan and dirty and happy, and you'll say how glad you are that I made you go."

And he did.

So I guess the refund did have some magical powers, after all. It wasn't much, but it gave us some peace, it gave us some freedom.

It gave us a taste of our old normal. And believe me, it was fun. I loved feeling that old normal again, even if it was just for a little while. I had forgotten how nice it was to just live. To just live without my constant companions Worry and Fret sitting next to me, smothering me, blocking my vision, interrupting my dreams.

Now, the cushion is getting thin. I'm tightening the reins. Things are going back, back to our New Normal. I knew things were shifting back when my eyes flew open at 4:00 in the morning the other day. Worry and Fret were standing there, next to my bed...arms open, they leaned in and embraced me. "Oh how we've missed you!!!" they cried. Like a beaten wife going back to her monster of a husband, I let them back in.

Did I do wrong by the refund? Did I make mistakes? I'm sure I did. I'm positive that Suze Orman would take me over her well-toned knees and paddle me while ranting about INTEREST BEARING SAVINGS ACCOUNT or ROTH IRA or something wise like that. I should have just bitten the bullet and purchased a new computer, but God help me, this 9 year old Dell still works and I am so stuck in the "if it ain't broke" school of thought that buying a new one seemed frivolous to me. I should have had whatever it is that makes my truck shimmy like a stripper when I brake, fixed.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Like I said, it could have been spent a hundred times over. But I'm glad that I did what I did. I'm glad that I let it cushion us this summer. The kids and I, we needed to be cushioned for a little bit.

Just for a little bit, before we get back to our new normal.


It's Too Freaking Hot. There, I said it.

Those who know me, and know me well, understand that I am not a summer person.

Don't get me wrong; I love summer. I love the no homework, I love having days with nothing on the calendar, I love letting the kids sleep in. But the weather?

I'm not loving it.

I'm good for a while, for the first few days when the 70's turn into the 80's. When you're still able to keep comfortable with all the windows open, and there's still a nice little breeze at night. And I'm even ok when the 80's morph into the 90's. For a little bit.

Believe it or not, I'm even fine for the first few days of 90+ degrees with humidity. I enjoy the sudden suppleness of my skin, the lovely curls in my hair and watching my dog seek out vents to lay in front of. I like commiserating with my fellow Minnesotans: "Whoo boy, it sure is hot out, isn't it?" "Oh yeah, you betcha. Hotter than hell, don't cha know."

But...I start to go insane, very slowly, so slowly that even I miss the signs at first....when it stretches on. And on. And on.

When we're on day 14 or so with temps in the upper 90's and that awful tropical humidity.

When you wake up and every single window in your house looks like the windows of that car in Titanic, the one where Leonardo and Kate were getting it on and all we saw was a palm, slapped onto the dewy glass.

When you walk outside and start to wonder if mayhap you are becoming asthmatic. Because it's HARD TO BREATHE.

When you suffer from what I have coined "Delayed Reaction Sweat". This happened to me last night. A friend of mine had a birthday party at one of the fabulous restaurants in a booming little section of our town. I went from an air conditioned house, into my air conditioned car, walked maybe 4 minutes from the parking ramp to the air conditioned restaurant. Sat and gabbed for a bit, all was fine and dandy. And then I started sweating profusely. Sweating like Michael Moore's inner thighs swathed in corduroy.

I felt little beads of moisture begin forming on the back of my neck. Then a little uncomfortable swampy feeling in the armpits of my tunic. And then, oh yes, and then the trickles down my back. My Spanx camisole felt even more binding, more oppressive than usual, and I cursed my extra pounds for forming a small gulley between my hips. I began to wonder if the sweat on my back was visible, or if it was still contained between the layers of spandex and cotton.

I resisted the urge to wet some napkins in my ice water and tuck them in my now moist cleavage. I could not, however, resist the urge to take said napkins and dab at the perspiration that was now dripping down my neck.

Yes, last night I became one of those ruddy cheeked, plump women who wipe off their sweaty bodies, in public, with a paper napkin.

One of the few benefits of getting older is that you no longer give a shit what anyone thinks.

So I dabbed and dabbed, all the while chatting and laughing, and yes, that was me sucking on the ice cubes from my margarita. Maybe next year I'll kick it up a notch and take one of the ice cubes out of the glass and rub it all over myself like Mickey Rourke did to Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks.

When it's this hot and muggy out, I start to fantasize. I get a smile on my face as I remember shoveling snow, warming up the car, scraping glaze ice off of my windshield.

I dream about a time when money is no object and I am able to turn the air conditioning down to 65 on days like this. I picture myself, wearing a sweatshirt and fleece pajama pants, standing in front of the big picture window in the living room and giving Mother Nature the finger.

Yes, I know. I know this will be over soon, and the leaves will start changing and I can dig my beloved hoodies and sexually ambiguous fleece jackets out of retirement.

But for now, it's just too freaking hot.

Stay cool, my friends.
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