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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What Strong Women Do

Every so often I fall apart. I would say it happens at least once every few months.

I had this favorite pair of high heels.  They were perfectly broken in.  They carried me across campus for the past five years at least 1000 times.   A few years ago the heel became detached from the sole.  Just a little bit, and I ignored it and kept stomping across campus.

You see, these shoes were perfect, my pants were the perfect length for them. When I wore skirts, they were high enough to make me feel professional but not too high to look like a street walker.  Well, they were kind of on the border of the two, and I was okay with that.

I had the soles of these heels repaired twice.  But the heel was wobbly. It threw my off balance several times, but I kept going. One of my colleagues helped me duct tape it once. Don applied super glue at least three times.

But last week as it was starting to rain, the heel came completely off.  I didn't have an umbrella, and I stood in front of a group of college guys and had an adult breakdown.   I took them both off and threw them in the trash and proceeded to walk in my stocking feet in the cold rain to my car.

My husband was out of town, and I was single parenting for the week.  I had several work projects I had been working on, but unable to complete because I had to leave work early to pick the boys up from school. I had a paper due in grad school. My oldest son, Parker had a major conference for school that he was stressing about.  I got an email from Fin's violin teacher informing me that that he keeps forgetting his violin. My son Jack had made it his mission to be mean to his younger brother, which caused said younger brother to cling to me like he hadn't since he was two.  Top that off with morning workouts that made me say things like "my body is showing it's age." and stop for air.  Also, I found out someone was trying to steal the name Mamalogues, which I had trademarked and know for a fact they didn't have a trademark.  And that was just in one day.  And then my fricking heel came off my favorite shoe.

When I got home I checked my email and had one from my professor.  I received an A, but then she wrote, "I think you would benefit from a writing tutor for APA formating"  WTH? That is like telling my brother, who is a professional opera singer that he needs opera lessons.  I understand what she was saying, but it was too late.

Cue: Falling apart.

I decided to screw dinner.  I told the boys to eat whatever they wanted.  I had to say it twice because they didn't believe me.

I then proceeded to sit on the couch with a glass of wine, holding back tears as I texted my friends. My tribe of women who I know I can trust. Who I admire.  It was dinner, after all, and after I rapid fired a dozen texts my phone was silent.   I could hear the microwave beeping, the blender buzzing as the boys made a cornucopia buffet of everything they weren't supposed to make for dinner.  Smoothies, nachos, pickles.  I saw them peek in to see if I really meant it when I said they could eat whatever, and I did. Hell, I was having Pinot Noir,  with a side of nothing. I wasn't one to talk.

The boys have seen me cry before, but you see, Don's mom (and Dad) were really ill and that is why he was in Florida.  I felt like my problems were self-induced and insignificant. I didn't want to worry the boys more than they already were. So I tried to maintain a somewhat normal composure as I stared at the wall doubting all my life decisions while drinking my dinner.

What felt like hours, but was actually just minutes was when my phone started going off.  All the friends I had texted were texting me back. My phone has a light that flashes when I get a text, and it made my family room look like a disco.  One text after another. Telling me to shut up, that I'm fully capable. That they love me. That I'm stronger than I think.  That I'm not a dumbass.

It was then that I started crying.

Damn, I have amazing, strong and wonderful friends.  We don't see each other often because the truth is, we all have careers and mortgages, and we have to take care of kids and husbands, and maybe just life  They were busy, making dinner, or sitting at practice, running their own company or grading exams. But when a friend sent out a message, they stopped what they were doing, and they were all there, at least in texting form and that is what I needed.

What strong women do, is they don't avoid the pain of a friend, they rush to it.  They swoop in and take care of business.  The business of of repairing a wobbly soul.  I'm not throwing this one out.

By this time, the boys had taken the free-for-all dinner to mean they could eat on the couch.  I didn't care. They were also watching Teen Titans. A show I happen to like.  Fin (the one who keeps forgetting his violin at home) made half of his nachos the way I like it, just in case I wanted some.  And I did.

We all fall apart for whatever reason, but surrounding yourself with people that won't rush in to pick you up, but give you encouraging words that let you know, that YOU are fully capable of picking your own damn self up. Even if it is shoe-less and in the rain, they know you will find a way, because deep down they know you have got it in you and you can.  And when you do, you will be even stronger.

They knew I wasn't going to give up. I wasn't going to call in sick, or quit my job, or school or go AWOL and leave the kids alone. 

They have no doubt in me, because they have been there too.  They know, that on the other side of this,  I will be fine. The painful and crucial times like this are when true personal strength and growth happens.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Don't Rule People Out

Our marriage was born in 2001, so it is kind of a millennial. something that is hard to define, but cool nonetheless.
I had coffee with a friend whose marriage recently ended. They didn't have children. In fact, both Don and I were in her wedding. Just to let you know, every wedding that Don and I have both been part of, has ended in divorce. We are the nursing home cat who visits people right before they die, of bridal parties. If you ask us now, we will politely decline.
But she said, "You're so lucky, when will I get my Don?"

Don is a remarkable human being.  He is kind, and funny and loyal. Not only to me but his friends, family and students.   But when we started dating, he didn't look great on paper.  He had just quit his job and was moving from the West coast to the East coast in two weeks.  He sold everything that couldn't fit in his car. He was done with Hollywood and wasn't looking back.   I didn't hold that against him.  I  knew that he made me laugh, and our conversations came easily, so for the two weeks  we were inseparable.

On the day he left, I gave him a mixed tape; this was before burning a CD was even possible for normal people.  I gave him a travel bag full of snacks, a book, and hugged him goodbye.   I didn't ask him to stay.  I wanted him to, but how could I have made such a request?

I flew home to Indiana to celebrate my 22nd birthday with my family the following day.  I cried to my brother, mother, anyone who would listen wondering if I had done the right thing by letting him go.  I got my answer when showed up at my parent's house 2 days later with a birthday card.  He drove 600 miles out of his way for a girl he had been dating for 2 weeks. My parents didn't exactly know what to think of this long-haired tattooed guy from Hollywood, but I didn't care.
People put so much emphasis on what a person does more than how they make you feel.

Two months later he moved back to Los Angeles, and as our best man said at our wedding reception, Don told him the reason he came back was: " because of this incredible girl..."

I was still in college.  At times I had $3 in my bank account.  Our dates consisted of a lot of creativity and meals made at home.  But that was enough to consider me "incredible".

We grew together and everything that we have, we earned as a team. I don't see that as luck. I see that is understanding the person you are committed to.

People say that marriage is hard. I wouldn't agree.  It has it's ups and downs but so do my best friendships.  Nobody can piss me off more than he does, that is for certain. And he does some things, like puts ketchup on his eggs and just the thought of it makes me want to vomit, but I get over it and there is always a new day tomorrow.
I explained to my friend that a lot of women would have just overlooked Don because he didn't have a job or didn't have a title. He fit in the "other" catagory.  Maybe a lot of guys would have overlooked me for the same reason. And the fact that I am an extreme early bird, well, that really makes people angry sometimes.

But had I judged him before our first date, and said no,  I would have missed out on seeing the things that show his true character.  I would have never known that this tattooed actor would some day feed my Dad ice cream in the hospital when my dad lost the use of his arms and legs.   That this guy without a fancy car would fly to Florida in an instant to take care of his Mom who is sick and bring her flowers.  I would have never known that he would make an outstanding daddy someday.   Or that he would be completely supportive in anything I want to pursue. As for a career, that came later.

The same is true for any meaningful relationship in my life. I can't rule someone out because I think we aren't compatible. My best friendships are usually born when we have one thing in common, like a gym. Then over time, I discover how much I can learn from someone who is on a completely different life path than I am.

Marriage is weird, and fun, and challenging and I would never have expected to be where we are today. There have been some amazing times and those experiences are what carry us through tough times.

We settled back in my hometown, where he went 600 miles out of his way just to give me a card.  The place I swore I would never return. I always thought that if I moved back home after college that I had failed at life.  The opposite is true; it's not where you live that makes you successful. It is the people with whom you surround yourself.

Success to me is in the times of lazy Saturday mornings while I'm sitting enjoying my coffee on the couch, or walking to a neighbors house for an impromptu family dinner.   The food and wine will be forgotten, but the relationships built from one thing in common, end up being the most important.

Don't rule people out because of what they do, or don't do or have or don't have.  You may be missing that perfect relationship or friendship that is just right for you.