2018 Year in Review

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

This sounds so lame, but 2018 was the first year that I got up early, took an exercise class, showered and got ready for work at the gym. Seriously, I had to talk myself off a ledge the night before: “If you don’t like it, Christianne, YOU NEVER HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN. No one will be staring at you or thinking you’re weird. They will be focused on themselves. GET YOUR HEAD RIGHT.”

It turns out, I loved it and felt energized all day. Don’t get me wrong – this is not going to become a 7-day-a-week thing. I heart sleep.

But it could be a once-a-week thing.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I rarely make resolutions. Instead I set goals. (Honestly, I’m not sure how these are different.) But in 2018 my husband Sterling and I made vision boards and hung them in our bedroom. Among other things, I had a 4Runner, a corner office and a dollar figure on my salary. THEY HAPPENED.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My friend Alison had her daughter in March, and I got to meet her in November. She’s a little doll!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, but our beloved cat Batman almost did. Our dog Silver hurt his leg somehow and we were initially worried that he had a degenerative knee issue. Corner Vet prescribed some medicine for the dog but failed to mention that it’s highly toxic in large doses. Because cats are so much smaller than dogs, it’s much worse for them. Batman jumped on the counter when I was feeding Silver and ate half of a dose. My back was turned for less than a minute. I immediately swatted the medicine from his mouth, but the damage was done. Two days later, he was near kidney failure and in kitty ICU. I will never forget standing outside of a Starbucks where I had settled in to wait and work on my laptop after dropping him off, the vet’s voice on the phone, telling me how high the kidney values were. It was bad. It was catastrophic.

“Are you telling me that my cat might not live?” I managed to sob. I could tell the answer was probably yes, but he didn’t want to say it.

I got in the 4Runner and called my husband, describing in more sobbing, hitching breaths what had happened. The worst part was that I had messed up by leaving the medicine on the counter. “I killed him,” I wailed. He told me it wasn’t my fault, that it was just a mistake, that Batman would be okay. But my heart was absolutely breaking.

Batman spent four days in ICU. We didn’t ask what it would cost to save him. We just asked the vets to do everything in their power to try.

He made it. In fact, his last diagnosis had him almost back to normal, so much that I heard incredulity in the vet’s voice.

5. What countries did you visit?

I didn’t leave the USA this year, but I went basically everywhere else!

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

My life and my heart are full! I am so grateful and lucky that I have everything I want and need, but if I have to choose something, I want more quality friends like Gigi and Madame V. I am working on this (see below!) and making progress, so I have high hopes for 2019.

7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory?

November 6: the Blue Wave that ushered in a historical House of Representatives victory. And even though Beto lost, he inspired so many. I think he’s going places. Maybe even the White House.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Professionally: I got a promotion, a raise and a new corner office (hello vision board!) and hired my first employee. I manage a team of just one, but I’m so grateful that she not only loves her job and loves working for me, but tells me these things. Sterling always said I would be a great manager, and I hope every day I’m proving him right.

Personally, I made big strides in my relationship with my brother Jerry. Last year, same question, here was a part of my answer:

I had a falling out and difficult time with my brother. Life hasn’t been easy for either of us, but standing my ground and knowing I handled the situation well was a good lesson. Talking to my therapist about this (hi Kathaleen!) and hearing her words of wisdom and comfort was like wrapping myself in a warm blanket of love and reassurance. She told me that I deserve my good life, and I’ve worked hard for it. They were words I didn’t realize I needed so badly to hear.

Jerry and I didn’t talk much throughout 2018. He did his thing, and I did mine. In October, I was visiting my parents when my mom told me he was moving to Chicago. Because he has a dog, he would be driving instead of flying. Offhandedly, I said, “Road tripping isn’t really his thing; it’s more mine. I wonder if he wants help driving.” She beamed at me: “He would love that.” I rolled my eyes, thinking, “He most certainly would not.”

Regardless, I texted him and offered to help. He wrote back so quickly I saw the tiny dots that indicate someone is typing an immediate response. “That would be awesome and it’s so kind of you to offer.”

A month later, we had made the arrangements and the trip was upon us: 16 hours from Houston, starting Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. The goal was to reach Chicago by dinner Saturday night, and then I would fly home Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. I had scheduled a ton of trips (see below) so I couldn’t take any extra days off work.

Jerry pulled up in a rented Ford Expedition with all his earthly possessions, including the dog. In the driveway, he said to my husband, “Thanks for letting me borrow her.”

Friday night we stayed in a Motel 6 in Marshall Texas. It was so fancy that I was surprised there was hot water in my room. I also found leftover Subway sandwiches in the refrigerator (mini bar?). Saturday morning at 6 a.m., we were back on the road trading 3-hour shifts of driving.

We rolled triumphantly into Chicago proper at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night, after 17 hours of music, Google maps, Starbucks, jokes, FaceTime with our parents, Spotify, podcasts, talks about why Chicago, our jobs, dating, trips down memory lane, facts about Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois’s state flowers, insects, and more.

Sunday afternoon we brunched and parted ways after sending a selfie and a few texts to my mother, who said we made her “heart sing.” Days later, Jerry told me that the trip was almost as cathartic as the move itself, my friends and my husband told me I was one of the strongest people I knew, and I realized they were right.

9. What was your biggest failure?

This is the same answer as 2017: Not being kind enough to myself. I kept a pretty accurate tally of every time I fell short, drank too much, ate the wrong thing, said something stupid to my husband, my boss or my friends.

Being mature about college football.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I took a spill in A-Bay on our spring trip and hyperextended my knee. I heard the pop, felt some pain as I navigated the rest of the double black run (!) and thought I had torn my ACL. I ignored it, hoped for the best, but Sterling convinced me I needed to see a doctor. Reluctantly, terrified of bad news, I went in August. The doctor examined me, made a face and said, “I think it’s your ACL, but let’s do an MRI before we jump to conclusions.” I was kicking myself for the second time in 2018 – first I had screwed up with the cat, and now I had potentially wrecked my knee without time to fix it before ski season began in December.

The MRI showed a partial tear of the ACL, and my heart dropped in my chest. I asked a bazillion questions and received answers I didn’t like.

“Well of course you’ll need to brace your knee when you ski.”

“For how long?”

“Well, forever.”

Heartbroken? Um, yeah.

My hubby came through yet again with a recommendation from a friend in med school for a second opinion. The day of my appointment, I thought that I’d go in with a positive attitude, but be realistic. There was no way this would be a completely different diagnosis. Perhaps less severe than the reconstructive surgery with a 6-month recovery time the first doctor said I required, but still something had to be wrong. Right?

I practically held my breath as the doctor examined me, pushing my leg this way and that. He looked at my MRI. Finally, he looked at me. “I push and pull on torn ACLs all day long. That’s not what’s wrong with you. In fact, I’d tell you to ski tomorrow.”

I returned his gaze and said, “Would it be really awkward if I hugged you right now?”

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My 4Runner! He is so badass. I needed a weather vehicle for Princess Eleanor Rose, and my husband came in clutch with the research, negotiation for a fair price, and most importantly, all the mods to make FinnRunner look like a badass.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Same place as last year and the year before that: going out to eat, drink and on vacations during which we ate, drank, skied, boarded, drove and generally had a blast. No regrets, three years running.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Our vacations. We scored the companion pass on Southwest, so we went EVERYWHERE.

January: ski trip to Breckenridge with my parents, aunt, cousin and friends. We met up with a customer of Sterling’s and dragged him back to the house for dinner. Heather and Erik came to the house one night and we had cake for Sterling’s birthday. Joe joined us and crash landed into my dad on the slopes, but they were both okay and we laughed about it later.

February: annual anniversary ski trip to A-Bay, which is always like coming home. In late February, we went on the Race Armada rally to Golden Nugget, each driving our own car! This was very super awesome for the control freak in both of us, but not so awesome for conversation on the trip.

March: our final spring ski trip of the season, where Sterling’s colleague joined us and egged us on into trying a double black diamond. That turned into #10 – see above. Sterling intelligently said no. Despite the snafu, we had a blast. That’s what happens when you’re home.

May: we did a quick trip into Denver for Heather’s 40th surprise birthday party. I reconnected with her parents, whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years. Her ailing father even remembered our secret code word and made sure to say it to me. Memorial Day weekend we went to Scottsdale, mountain biked in the desert and generally partied like college kids.

June: I tagged along on Sterling’s work trip down to a resort in Galveston. We rode bikes and had too many cocktails in the pool.

2018 was strangely the year of Chicago – after never visiting there before, I went on a business trip there in June, returned in July and helped my brother move there in November. July’s trip involved meeting our friend Joe there and spending three glorious days eating, drinking and walking the city. Blue skies, sun, comedy shows, rooftop views, and much laughter.

August: we met up with Joe, Madame V and Gigi for a quick weekend. Cue the food, drinks, laughter and fun.

For Labor Day weekend in September, Sterling and I took a tour of California, starting with San Francisco on Friday night. After dinner and drinks with friends, we headed south on Saturday morning to Los Angeles. We stayed at the Dream Hotel for a night, then got on the road Sunday morning for San Diego. Sunday evening we had a delightful dinner with our friend Denise, and returned home Monday.

In October, we met Joe again in Dallas for the Texas-OU matchup and a win for the Longhorns! Then my crazy schedule really kicked in. Two weeks later, we took Princess Eleanor Rose on her second car rally to the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles. My friend Heather came to visit and we road-tripped to Austin for two days. A week later, we were en route to Vegas (my third home, after A Bay) to rally from there to LA, Monterrey and back. After arriving home on Tuesday, it was off to Chicago three days later. The following Saturday, I spent 24 hours with my dear friend Ali, her doll baby and baby daddy. I treasure our memories of takeout, Hallmark movies and watching the Longhorns on my iPad.

For Thanksgiving, we road tripped back to Austin for dinner with my parents. My sweet mother made me strawberry rhubarb pie. SHE IS THE BEST.

Outside of all that vacation, the other standout for excitement is I made new friendships. I found some special ladies who are strong, progressive, independent, and love sharing a mimosa and/or an enchilada with me.

14. What song will always remind you of 2018?

This just came out, so It’s a bit late, but the lyrics totally describe car rallies: “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” by Panic! At The Disco.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? I think I’m a little sadder. Trump’s presidency is wearing on me.

– thinner or fatter? I am just about the same. However, I hate this question.

– richer or poorer? Richer

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing. I love it. I think I’m good at it, but I just have trouble making time to do it. I had a plan at one point to go write on Saturday mornings after my workout class, but it happened a grand total of twice until life got in the way.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Beat myself up for not being perfect or “good.” This is obviously a recurring theme

18. How did you spend Christmas/Hanukkah/Major Holiday of your choice?

On Christmas Day, we flew to Denver and went up to A Bay for three days. I call this a bonus trip since we didn’t plan it, and one of the main goals was to test my knee. It passed with flying colors.

19. What were your favorite TV programs?

Queer Eye, Very Cavalleri, This is Us, Are you the One?, 911, Suits, Younger, Botched, (rewatching One Tree Hill).

20. What were your favorite books you read this year?

The books I gave five stars on Goodreads are: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, The Good Goodbye by Carla Buckley, and Sacred by Dennis Lehane.

21. What was your favorite music you heard this year?

I am totally digging Zayde Wolf and Panic! At The Disco right now. I went to a Blue October show in November and was absolutely enthralled. Sterling and I ask Siri to play Imagine Dragons radio nearly every day.

22. What were your favorite films you saw this year?

I hardly ever watch movies! I’m usually reading or watching TV when I have free time at home, on a plane or at the gym. I saw Crazy Rich Asians, Sorry To Bother You, I, Tonya, RBG and A Simple Favor. They were all good! (A Simple Favor was somehow better than the book! I think big credit is due to the screenplay writer as well as Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively for their amazing acting.)

23, What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

My husband and I celebrated my 41st the Saturday prior to my Tuesday birthday per my request. Our day began at Tenenbaum Jewelers, where I brought in a ring my grandmother left me when she died. I haven’t ever worn it, and it’s been 30 years. So now it’s being coated with a silver finish and made into a pendant. From there, we went to St. Bernard’s, where we drank free champagne and beer, and purchased new ski trip items. After St. Bernard’s, we wandered around River Oaks District, window shopping and sipping. We finished the night with a wonderful dinner with our friends Alex and Mark, including a delectable risotto.

There was a lot of prosecco.

I don’t regret a moment.

On Tuesday, I came home to flowers, champagne and a new lounge hoodie. My husband is always surprising me in the most wonderful ways.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

My husband struggled a bit with being fulfilled in his job, with his colleagues and friends, mainly due to the Trump presidency. His happiness is mine, and it’s important. I hope this gets better in 2019.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

I’m going with the same answer as 2017: Classy and hip for work. Refusing to act my age, sexy and fierce when going out.

26. What kept you sane?

I apologize for the boring answer. As always: my husband. My partner, friend, confidant, therapist and love.

27. Share a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

Hard work plus patience pays off. I passed the 6-year milestone at my job in September. It’s the longest time I’ve ever worked anywhere in my entire life, whether marketing or law. All the good things that happened this year — my promotion, raise, new boss — made me feel like perhaps I’d found my home.

I continue to be most deeply grateful for my family. I chose not to have human children, but that doesn’t lessen or cheapen how much I love my family. My husband, my parents, my brother, my furkids, and my friends are my life. And that is a pretty damn good one.

Reality Check

Here’s what I’m supposed to be.

I shouldn’t have a line or a blemish on my face: a perfect FaceTune in real life. A full set of long, curled lashes. The perfect pout and long, shiny hair that never frizzes. My measurements should 36-24-36; not a bit of cellulite.

I’m supposed to be a runner, a weightlifter, a downhill champion skier, the girl who gets up a 5 a.m. to go to boot camp. I should eat kale, and quinoa, grilled fish and chicken.

Cultured. I would enjoy visits to a museum or an art gallery. Maybe learn a new language. I could take up the guitar.

I should be volunteering at the food bank or taking pro bono cases for those who can’t afford it. Maybe work at the community garden. I would never forget the reusable bags for the grocery store. And definitely bike to work three times a week.

I should work 60 hours a week, and if I have downtime, I should be studying articles about the law, my industry, management. I should create new projects and initiatives. I should work weekends. My job should be my passion.

If I were perfect, my husband and I would always hold hands, make love spontaneously and often. I wouldn’t ever go makeup free in yoga pants and sit on the couch. If I were perfect, I would have great friends, and a best friend. We would have these elaborate parties and get togethers and have great talks over coffee.

Here’s who I am.

I have cellulite on my thighs. I have lines on my face. My hair frizzes when the humidity hits 40%. But my husband says I’m gorgeous, sometimes in the morning when I’ve just woken up and I have not a stitch on, nor any makeup on my face. I have my dad’s long straight lashes, and my mom’s freckles. My grandmother’s dark brown eyes, almost black. Those lines on my face: some are frown lines, but perhaps far more are laugh lines.

I hate running. Lifting weights bores me. But I work out nearly every day. Sometimes, I get up at 5:45 am to go to a gym class that challenges me. (It usually involves weights.) If I don’t get up early, I go to the gym after work. I am one hell of a downhill skier. I am a pretty decent mountain biker. Each day at work when my Fitbit reminds me to get up, I walk the floor. Sometimes, I take the stairs.

I am flawed. I drink too much. I don’t want to learn French. I just want to sit on the couch and watch old episodes of Felicity. I tried the guitar once. But I meal prep on the weekends. I have a budget. I have a weekend checklist of productivity. My idea of a fabulous Sunday afternoon involves mimosas, and my husband, and some of our friends, and laughter, and my favorite wedges, and a hip new restaurant, or the one across the highway from our house where everyone knows us and we sit at the bar.

Every once in a while, I do take a pro bono case. Every couple of years, I take a family law case and help women free themselves from a marriage that stopped working long ago. Every once in a while, I volunteer to help green card holders apply for citizenship.

I don’t work 60 hours a week. When I have downtime at work, I pick up my phone and scroll through social media, or read an article in the Washington Post. I wasn’t in the top 10% of my class in law school. Sometimes, though, I read the bar journal magazine. Almost always, I do good work. Always, I am a good employee, a good colleague, a good manager.

My husband and I can go a whole day without touching except a quick peck on the lips to say hello or goodbye. But that’s not every day. We love each other with passion. We have fun together. We talk, we laugh, we plan, we dream. We are a true team, a partnership. We take care of each other. Perhaps most importantly, we are friends.

I invited a bunch of people to my fortieth birthday party in Vegas. Three people came. And sometimes people who I thought were my friends…aren’t. But my mom is my dear friend, and she is a wonderful person who is slow to judge and quick to compliment. I could not love that woman more. And I am still friends with a girl who lived across the street when we were just babies. Another one, from first grade – has a baby and lives in New Orleans and doesn’t drink anymore – but when we’re in the same room it’s like no time has passed at all, and we let each other be…each other. I found some wonderful ladies in a car group. I found an unexpected friend at a workout class. I have lovely friends who stood up at my wedding and who I’m confident will be by my side forever. And with all of these friends: we get together, and we laugh. Over booze, or coffee.

Sometimes, I eat the freaking cupcake.

Sometimes, I give myself a break.

Love, Part 1

03.14.2017

I met my first husband in line for the bathroom at a St. Patrick’s Day themed frat party twenty five years ago this month.  With such an auspicious beginning, who would have guessed that it wouldn’t last?  I nearly didn’t meet him at all, as I was about to leave the party because some drunk frat boy had just smacked me on the butt.  I realized my cup was empty when I went to throw my green beer on him.  I ended up shaking my cup at him and yelling, “Not nice!”  while he laughed and shrugged like, “Whoops, my bad!”  It was time to go. 

I didn’t want to ride the subway with a bladder full of green beer, so I got in the long bathroom line and the guy in front of me turned around, smiled and said hi. I was going to smile vacantly and look through him, but I noticed that he looked kind of like Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything, which is a stupid reason to fall for someone, but I was 20 and it was a good time to fall.  I opened my mouth and something super sexy came out, “I really have to pee, so don’t stink up the bathroom or use up all the toilet paper.”  I was a sweet talking devil.  How could he resist?  He laughed and was waiting for me when I came out, so we sat on a couch and started talking.  I found out that he was not one of the frat boys, but was home on spring break from his college, which was four hours away.  Frankly, this made him even more attractive to me, as I tended to be far more enthusiastic about romances that seemed like they would be excitingly short-lived.  It soon became clear to the fratties that Lloyd (not his real name, but let’s just go with it) was not one of them, and they not-so subtly asked him to leave.  He and I, along with my sweet roommate, who had been waiting while I chatted up Mr. Say Anything, got in a cab headed back to our dorm.  My roommate was heading to bed and Lloyd asked me if I wanted to get coffee.  I always say yes to coffee. 

It was a magical night, lightly snowing and cold with a big bright moon giving off a glow that gave the trees and sidewalks a sparkly luminescence.  I am not made of stone.  How was I not going to fall in love with him?  We walked to Harvard Square together and sat at the counter of a diner called The Tasty and had coffee and talked more.  Elton John’s Rocket Man started playing and he said his dad used to call him the Rocket Man and made him a t-shirt with the nickname emblazoned on it that he wore all the time when he was a little boy.  After our coffee we went into the Store 24 and bought gummy worms and other candy that you can eat at 2 AM when you are 20, yet still avoid heartburn and belly fat.  I saw a card that had a picture of a chubby guy sitting at a diner counter and inside it said, “missing you” and I told him he should buy it and send it to me and he bought it.  Then we walked back to my dorm and sat in the lounge watching MTV and eating gummy worms and milk duds, and we talked on and on all night.  When it was light out, we wrote our phone numbers on the back of a jello box (I seriously had eaten jello for dinner that night.  How was I even alive with that kind of diet?) and then I walked him out.  At the door he leaned in and kissed me and I remember it being this monumental thing, where I thought, “Whoa….something big is happening.”  Maybe it was lack of sleep and too much sugar, but that was the first kiss I’d ever had where I saw fireworks.

We spent nearly every day and night of the next week together and then he had to go back to school.  I was sad that he was leaving, but it didn’t seem sensible to try a long distance relationship.  The morning he left, we said that maybe we’d get together next time he was in town and kissed goodbye.  I was a little relieved that it was over, because the week with him had been way more intense than anything I’d ever experienced romance-wise and I felt like I needed to catch my breath.  I was watching tv with my friends that night, when the phone rang and it was Lloyd, drinking at a bar near his school.  He said, “I was wrong, I think we should give a long distance thing a try.  I don’t want to wait and see.” I was surprised, but thrilled.  I threw caution to the wind and said yes.

Everything about love was so new to me.  I’d had a couple of boyfriends before, but it had never been like this.  It all seemed like magic.  He wrote me letters from school and would draw me funny cartoons and write silly poems.  He took a train and a bus and traveled a ridiculous amount of hours just to come see me every couple of weeks.  We were crazy about each other and never seemed to run out of things to talk about.  We came up with silly ideas and stories and laughed like maniacs.  We made each other mix-tapes.  Plus, we were both young and adorable and having the type of sex that young people with endless energy, are limber and need very little sleep have.  Lots and varied.  Ah youth.  I found a way to stay in Boston for the summer while he was home from school (four part-time jobs!) and we spent all of our non-work time together.  We loved taking long ambling walks through the city.  Sometimes we’d ride the subway to a stop we’d never been to, then get out and walk around for hours. The first time he asked me to marry him, we were on a late night walk,  just four months after we met.  Our summer together was ending in a matter of weeks and we were both starting to get anxious. “We should get married!” he said and I just laughed.  But he stopped and spun me around so that he was looking in my eyes and said, “I’m totally serious.  Let’s get married.” 

“But we can’t!  We’re too young!”  I said.  I adored him more than I’d ever adored anyone in my life, but I had no interest in being a wife.  I still had two more years of college.  He said we could do it and still finish school.  Maybe we could just secretly get married,  and we wouldn’t even have to tell anyone? That idea actually appealed to me.  I like secrets and I am prone to doing ridiculous things on a whim.  We didn’t do it, though.  Before he left to go back to school he bought me a gold ring with a little heart-shaped amethyst stone in the center.  “Will you wear it on your left hand?” he asked.  “I want everyone to know you are mine.”  That sounded like passionate adoration to me back then. I was all in.

We should have done it.  We should have made that spectacular mistake early.  Gotten it out of the way and been divorced before we could do any major damage to each other.  Instead we had a long distance relationship while we were in college, then moved to Texas together so that he could go to graduate school.  He asked me to marry him again when we’d been together 6 years.  This time it wasn’t romantic.  We’d been growing apart and fighting more and more.  And then he had a health scare, something minor that seemed major, and when we got back from the doctor he said, “Maybe we should get married?”  And I said, “Sure, why not?”  And we tried to plan a wedding, but neither of us was really interested, so we flew to Vegas and got hitched in the Chapel of Love.  Maybe it was an attempt to get back to the days when we were younger and frivolous and did wild things together.  Eloping in Vegas is some wild and crazy fun. 

Sadly, I’d say that was the last time we ever had crazy fun together.  Things quickly went to shit after that.  The jealousy and possessiveness I’d mistaken for passionate love in him was starting to smother me.  He seemed to disapprove of everyone in my life: friends, family, anyone that took my focus off of him.  I somehow thought that marriage would make this better, that he would feel more secure and loosen up a bit, but it seemed to make it worse.  Two months after we married, we had a huge fight where he was angry at me for talking on the phone with my sister when he wanted me to watch tv with him.  He yelled at me and punched a wall, and I grabbed our car keys and took off.  I drove around aimlessly thinking, “I’ve made a huge mistake and I am going to need to get out of this marriage.”  But I stuck it out for two more years.  I always loved him and I kept hoping that the stress of both of us being in graduate school was our biggest problem.  We still seemed really compatible, as long as I didn’t spend too much time away from him.  And working full-time while going to grad school didn’t give me much opportunity for a social life, so things just went along for a while. 

He was at the point in his academic career where he was teaching his own classes, while working on his dissertation.  He seemed restless and unhappy.  He began telling me salacious stories about a colleague who was having an affair with a student and I was fascinated and repelled.  Somewhere in the back of my mind it began to dawn on me that he knew way too many details about this affair.  One day I came home from class and he smelled like a fruity shampoo that we didn’t own.  He left to go play basketball that evening and without thinking, I logged into his email.  I’m not sure what drove me to do it.  I’d never done anything like that before, but it was easy because his password was my name.  I found a chain of his emails with a college friend of his, whom he was supposed to be meeting in New Orleans that weekend.  It was all about keeping a secret from me.  It said, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell her I’m with you if she calls.”  And it ended with “Fuck your brains out this weekend!”  So then I knew.

I’m not saying I was perfect.  I know I can be petty and mean.  Conveniently, I can only rememer two instances of my egregiously bad behavior towards him.  One was in college when we’d had a fight and I hung up on him, then got all dressed up and went to a party.  I met a guy and ended up making out with him in a bathroom stall, standing on a toilet.  I thought it was hot at the time and now I can’t believe I didn’t get flesh eating bacteria.  The other thing is shitty, but not nearly as gross.  Once he was sitting on our bed, shirtless and I went over and poked him in the belly and made that “hee-hee” sound like he was the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  This seems way meaner to me now that my stomach will never be flat again, due to having three babies.  These days, I’d cut somebody who poked me and made the Doughboy sound.  Then I would cry.  But at the time I laughed maniacally at him while he stared at me in horror.   

Also, that amethyst heart ring he bought me?  I lost it.  He had another one made for me a few years later and I lost that one too.  I was appallingly careless back then.  But it may have been symbolic.  That ring and that relationship sometimes made me feel smothered and I would take it off for a while to breathe and be myself again.  I think I knew it wouldn’t last, but I still hoped it would.  Maybe he felt the same way.  

When I found out he was cheating, I was devastated and furious.  I kicked him out of our apartment and proceeded to cut all of the crotches out of his pants and underwear, then folded them up in a box for him to take with him.  Surprise, asshole!  I threw out all of the love letters he’d written me in college, including the “missing you” card from the night we met.  I gave him back my wedding ring and told him it didn’t mean anything to me and I never wanted to see it again.  I held on to being angry, because when I wasn’t angry I felt more lost and desolate than I ever had in my life.  I divorced him, even though I still loved him, because I thought that he’d end up ruining me if I let him stay.  I don’t think it was the wrong decision, but it was one of the hardest things I ever did.  

I wish I hadn’t thrown out all of our love letters.  I wish I hadn’t let my second husband convince me to throw out the three wedding pictures that I had from my time with Lloyd.  I wish I hadn’t lost the heart rings.  I have no physical evidence left of that relationship and sometimes it feels like it never really happened.  I’m writing it down now, while I still have the memory to do so.  It’s already flawed and missing pieces, but I can still remember that feeling of first real love, long before things got so sad and ugly between us.  It was a pure and beautiful thing.  He and I aren’t in touch today.  I once ran into him at the gym a few years after we split and we had a nice conversation.  I haven’t seen him since then, 12 or 13 years ago.  I’m not really interested in knowing him now and I don’t want him to know me.  But I am glad that he was my first real love and also that he was my first real heartbreak.  The love we shared opened me up to so many good things.  When you’re in love, I think you learn to be generous, kind and vulnerable in ways that you never have before.  Maybe that’s why we keep doing it, taking the leap even though it can turn on you.  It makes all good things even better.  But the heartbreak from that relationship taught me that I was strong, brave and resilient and that I was capable of picking myself up and moving forward on my own.  It has been immensely helpful to know that in my life.  I am grateful for all of it.

Most Influential

05.01.2019

A few weeks ago I read that Christine Blasey Ford was on Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people.  It would be so much more of an honor if Brett Kavanaugh weren’t on that very same list.  That seems utterly perverse to me. I’m not sure what that list really means and who thought it was a good idea to put both of them on it.  But those hearings were certainly memorable, with the sniffing, the outrage, the inky social calendar with references to all the beer and the bitter crocodile tears of a man who seemed like he might not get what he wanted for the first time, ever.  What really affected me, and most of the women I know,  was the woman whose voice shook as she told a story of a traumatic night that happened many years ago.  She testified to all of this in front of an audience of strangers, many of whom didn’t believe her and/or didn’t care. 

The unsurprising conclusion to all of it was a kick in the gut to me.  I knew what was going to happen, but it still hurt. But still, those hearings and Christine Blasey Ford’s courageous testimony were very influential to me, in a way that has changed my life.  Her bravery in the face of horrific judgment and backlash is something I won’t forget. And a part of her testimony gave me a small but amazing gift:  the permission to not be ok.  Hear me out.   (Or don’t.  You can probably tell where this is going, so you may want to skip it. After all there are so many of these stories.)

Many years ago, I was in the process of divorcing my first husband, although I still loved him deeply.  It was the right thing to do and I knew it.  I was learning how to take care of myself and follow my own instincts. During this time I met a man, a friend of my dear friend and roommate’s boyfriend who was also going through a divorce.  He seemed like nice guy.  He would come by our apartment with the boyfriend, his toolbox in hand and fix things without our even having to ask.  He asked me out on dates and I demurred at first because my heart was broken, but at some point I said yes.  We dated for about a month and I never felt much of anything for him.  He seemed nice most of the time, but he drank in a way that alarmed me sometimes.  I slept with him just once, toward the end of the month I was seeing him.  I felt guilty about it, though, because I didn’t love him and didn’t think I’d ever love him.  That really mattered to me back then. 

He could tell.  I went to his company party at the lake and he got wasted.  A colleague’s wife referred to me as his girlfriend and I blurted, “Oh I’m not his girlfriend, we’re just dating.”  I knew immediately that I’d fucked up.  He was quiet and cold for the rest of the night.  Late in the evening we were walking on a path by the lake and I said something else he didn’t like and he shoved me hard.  Falling to my knees, I remember thinking, “Ah yes, there it is.”  He quickly pulled me to my feet, apologizing and acting like it was an accident, but I knew.  I pretended it was all fine and dropped him at his place, feigning exhaustion.  I called him the next day and broke it off.  He was livid.  He was still yelling at me when I shakily hung up the phone.  But I knew I’d done the right thing. 

We hung out in the same circle, so I saw him now and again over the next several weeks.  He glared at me occasionally, but didn’t speak to me.  I felt really guilty about hurting his feelings.  I felt like I’d messed up.  Six week after I’d ended things, I saw him at a Halloween party.  I was dressed in a short plaid skirt, like a sexy school girl.  This is one of those things that shouldn’t be relevant.  I wasn’t wearing it for him, but that doesn’t matter, either.  He came up to me and was friendly and I was stupidly relieved.  He wasn’t mad anymore! We could be friends again.  He offered to get me a drink.  It was my second of the evening.  I think that fact is relevant.  He handed me a tall drink and we kept chatting as I sipped it.  It probably was a jack and coke, because I liked those a lot back then.  It was sweet and bubbly and I don’t remember anything weird about the taste of it.  I drank half of it.  And at some point I realized that I didn’t feel right, but it was too late to do anything about it. I don’t remember much of the party after that, but I’m told that I passed out and he sat in a room with me laying in his lap.  He told people I drank too much and he was taking care of me.  Everyone knew we’d dated, so I’m sure it seemed sweet. He carried me out of that party and brought me back to his house.  At some point I woke up in his bed with him.  I didn’t know why I was there.  I didn’t have my underwear or my shoes on and for some reason I was way more concerned about my shoes.  I really wanted my shoes.  

Don’t worry, I don’t remember any of this well enough to share any gory and upsetting details with you. Whatever he *allegedly* put in my drink makes me a terrible witness.  I’m sure this would be relevant in a court of law, but we are not in one, so who cares?  I remember asking him why I was there and he said, “You wanted to come here.”  I said I didn’t think so, and I instantly knew that I’d fucked up again.  That man knew how to exude rage without having to raise his voice.  He was talking to me quietly but I don’t remember most of what he said.  The only part of it I remember was him asking me if I “just fucked everybody?” and I only remember that because a couple of years ago, some asshole friend of a guy I was dating put his arm around me and asked me that same question, out of nowhere, and the jolt of terror that went through me at that moment took my breath away.  I didn’t fuck everybody.  Then or now or ever.  But none of that has ever or will ever be relevant.  Back in that bed that night, that man was very angry at me.  I wasn’t sure why, but  I knew I was in trouble.  He kept talking and at some point I put my hand on his arm and said, “It’s ok.”  I don’t know who I was talking to, him or me.  But I know that it’s relevant, in that I can’t call what happened later rape.  I never said no. In fact, I said it was ok.  I thought that would make it better, but it’s the last of many things that I was wrong about that night.

For the next month or so I still ran into him.  And when I did, I went home with him.  He always wanted me to leave with him and it seemed pointless not to.  This fact has seemed very relevant to some of the people I’ve told this story to and they have judged me for it accordingly.  I judged myself too.  I can’t say why I did it.  That month was a blur and I couldn’t really feel anything.  I also couldn’t eat anymore.  I lost nearly 15 pounds in just four weeks.  It was the single most effective diet I’ve ever been on! I didn’t have much of a voice, either. I’ve always been quiet, but I could barely talk, especially around him.  That made him almost as angry as when I did talk.  Nothing really worked with him.  Sometimes I wondered if he was going to kill me, but I didn’t really care because some part of me wanted to die. 

I was seeing a psychologist back then and attended a weekly support group of his depressed patients.  Toward the end of that month someone in the group said they were worried about me because I was even more quiet than usual.  I suddenly blurted out what had happened on that bad night.  A sweet guy with a blond beard and glasses said gently, “That sounds like sexual assault.”  I started to cry and I said, “No, no, it’s not. In fact, I’m kind of seeing him still. It’s all fine.” I didn’t want to talk anymore but I couldn’t stop crying.  After the group meeting, the psychiatrist wrote me a prescription for a stronger anti-depressant and in two weeks I miraculously didn’t want to die anymore.  I never went home with that soulless garbage person again. A deceptively easy ending to a brief, but horrible and self-destructive period in my life.

I wish that was truly the end of it, and I had immediately been all better, but the truth is that I never felt safe again.  And I started having all these quirks and workarounds for my crippling anxiety.  I was terribly ashamed of all of it and I always tried to hide these things, only letting someone know about it if it was absolutely necessary.  There were just so many. And a lot of them persist to this day.  Some examples: I have an security alarm on my house, but I only set it at night when I am there.  I can’t sleep unless it’s on and I’ve checked to make sure all my doors and windows are locked, usually more than once.  I don’t really care if someone breaks in and steals my stuff when I’m not home. I mean, I wouldn’t be happy about it, but I’m not a stickler for setting the alarm when I’m gone (besides, I own little of value and have a mean, barky and bitey dog). I can never sleep with the windows open, even when I stayed in a house without air conditioning for a summer.  I’ve camped, but I don’t actually sleep when I’m outside in a tent.  That’s why I hate camping.

There’s more!  Inconveniently, in order for me to have a repair person in my house, someone else has to be there with me….or better yet, without me.  I can’t park in a parking garage by myself at night.  If that is the parking choice, I’m not coming.  If I have to park too far away at night and I’m alone, I am also not coming.  And I nearly always run on a treadmill inside unless I’m running with a group. I tell people it’s because of the weather or childcare, but it isn’t.  It’s all about safety from predators.  I hate when someone I don’t know touches me.  I hate when anyone touches me unexpectedly when I’m sleeping.  I always have a pair of shoes by the door. There are more, but I don’t feel like sharing them.  I’ll say that it takes a ridiculously long time for me to trust anyone, especially men.  Way longer than most reasonable people would expect and that’s caused some really unpleasant conversations.  I don’t know if all of these quirks are because of that one traumatic night, or that whole shitty month,  but I don’t think I had most of these issues before then.  I kept thinking I’d be better at some point.  That I should be better.  And stronger.  But so far, this is just the way I am.  High anxiety with lots of quirks.

Which brings me to my point. As horrifying as it was to watch Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, it was freeing.  I will forever be indebted to her for changing my life.  Decades after the trauma that a laughing Brett and his friend caused, she talked about how she still lived with the effects.  She had quirks and workarounds, including the fact that she couldn’t live in a place without two exits.  This seemed crazy to her husband, but not at all to me.  Instead a lightbulb came on in my brain and I had the amazing realization, “Holy shit, I am fine.”  Finally, after all this time,  I had permission to feel ok about not being ok. 
The way I was and am makes perfect sense.  I am not broken or crazy.  I have been managing my life so that I can live and sleep and move through the world every day.   And I don’t have to be ashamed about any of it.  And I can tell this story and I don’t have to be afraid for people know these things about me.  It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about it or how anyone judges me for my actions and reactions. I am fine and I am free.  Thank you Christine Blasey Ford.

Morning Routine

11.30.2016

Rudely awakened by the bleating of my first alarm at a ridiculously dark hour.  So strange to not feel refreshed and energized after 5 – 1/2 hours of fitful sleep! First put the coffee on, now the day can begin.  Oh my God, who is that mug shot in my mirror? Nick Nolte? Oh shit, it’s me. Stupid 40s, why do you hurt me?  Shower, then put on my pink fuzzy robe.  Grab my coffee cup and buckle up.  It’s about to get real.

Second alarm is 12 minutes later.  That one plays “Don’t Stop Believin'” for extra motivation.  I need it ’cause it’s time to wake the children.

It is unfortunate that only one of my children is a morning person. That child, while not thrilled to be getting up, will generally smile at me and get out of his bed and possibly start getting ready for school.  The other two are in no mood for pleasantries.  They are burrowing, they are growling.  They can only be lured from their beds with promises of pop tarts.  They don’t know that my pop tarts aren’t the real deal, but some facsimile from Trader Joe’s that claims to be “organic” and therefore full of nutrition, right?  But really, how can something called a “toaster pastry” be organic, or healthy, or even considered food?  That is one of the many mysteries I will not be solving this morning. 

After I have thrown food at the kids, I grab my coffee and head to my bathroom to try and make myself look like the competent professional I aim to be someday.  Not hungry yet, but I will likely be chowing on trail mix at my desk later this morning. I eat a lot of trail mix for someone who is not particularly outdoorsy.  I read and admired Wild, but I’m going to have to go another way with my transformative journey. The way that doesn’t include wildlife or sleeping on the ground.  As I dry my hair, I multitask by barking orders at the children.  Is it possible that they will someday figure out that they have to put clothes AND shoes on their body and brush their teeth EVERY day without my telling them?  Hasn’t happened yet.  Won’t happen today.  They are screaming at each other and eventually one of them throws a hardcover book at his brother’s head and there is more screaming and a little bit of blood.  I wipe up the blood, do some consoling and scolding and direct the children to the next steps in the getting ready process. “Brush your teeth or they will all turn green and fall out of your face! I hear that the Tooth Fairy charges YOU to haul away the green ones.”

Oh crap, I’ve got to put on real clothes!  Luckily, I have a dress I found at Ross Dress for Less for $14.99 which miraculously makes me look 10 pounds thinner. I don’t know if it’s the material, the cut or the print, but it’s magical wizardry!  I need to find six more of these dresses.

Grab my youngest son’s “sack lunch” because he has a field trip today.  I have no sacks, so it is in a paper wine bag from Trader Joe’s, ’cause I stock up on Three Buck Chuck when I purchase my organic pop tarts and trail mix.  The bag has a wine bottle on one side and a wine glass on the other.  Awesome. 

Time to go!  Each minute that passes after my set to-go time buys me exponentially more minutes in congested Austin traffic. 

But wait!  Shoes!  I tell the boys to put their shoes in a bin by the door every evening.  But do they put them there? Occasionally. Right now, five out of six feet are shoed.  Nobody can find the sixth shoe.  I search around frantically while approximately 1/3 of the hundreds of “dammits” and “shits” in my head come out of my mouth.  I consider that a victory.  And I find the shoe under the couch and consider that a victory as well.  Roar up to the school in my vaguely-colored minivan and practically push them out of the car. Now it’s time for traffic hell! This was one of Dante’s levels, right?

Did you know that things are just magnetically drawn to vaguely-colored minivans?  Cars come at my van like moths to a vaguely-colored flame.  And nobody wants to be behind a vaguely-colored minivan.  Furthermore, Dodge Ram drivers seem to think that their penises will fall off if a vaguely-colored minivan passes them, so they are on high alert and do their damnedest not to let it happen.  If I get cut off or somebody is practically driving up my butt, that person is most often piloting a Dodge Ram.  Hey guys, I don’t think the penis thing is true.  It doesn’t seem like real science.  Please stop trying to kill me.

I live 11 miles away from my job, but it takes me at least 40 minutes to get there.  Luckily this morning I have a sweet Neil Diamond playlist going.  “I AM, I CRIED!  I AM, SAID I!” Hell yeah, Neil.  I AM the bitch driving the vaguely-colored minivan you are stuck behind, Mr. Ram.  Suck it.

I eventually get to my parking garage, which is three blocks from work.  Not terrible, unless it is raining.  The thing that IS terrible is the garage stairwell.  It smells like a whole lotta urine and at the bottom there is often some sort of weird surprise like old pants or empty cough medicine bottles or dead crickets.  Today I realize, after exiting the stairwell, that I have forgotten my badge in my car. I have to run back up four flights of stairs, causing me to breathe heavily and suspect I am huffing a urine cloud.  That can’t be good.

But wait, the harrowing times aren’t over!  The three blocks to work are filled with crazed Austin commuters and I must make my way across the streets like I’m playing a live version of Frogger. I am almost run over by a guy in a Prius who didn’t see me in the crosswalk because my magical dress made me look so incredibly thin.  We stare at each other in horror for a second and then he smiles apologetically and gives me a wave, like “Glad I didn’t run you over! Have a nice day!”  Whew.  I’m finally at my building. I work at the courthouse, where there is usually a line to get through the metal detector at the entrance, because courthouses are one of the few places in Texas where your concealed weapons are not welcome.  Never fear, you can still bring them to the state mental hospital or your film studies class at the university, where they are totally appropriate.  I don’t make it through without setting off the buzzer and must be “wanded” by a police officer.  Not gonna lie, that was the best part of my morning.

I make it to my desk, just barely on time and breathe a sigh of relief.  My cube-mate smiles the serene, well-rested smile of a child-free woman and says, “Good morning!”  I say, “I’m gonna need to drop six bucks on a ridiculous coffee beverage with syrup and whipped cream in about an hour.  Need anything?”  I think I deserve it.

Cats Are Assholes

03.28.2017

Look, I’m just going to say it: I think most cats are assholes. I hate to admit that I feel this way, as I tend to be open minded about most things. I’m not into newer country music, most sports, many theme parks, carrot cake or that guy who plays Sherlock, but I can definitely see why people like these things. I recognize that we all find different things appealing and that is good. It’s what makes the world interesting! And I am usually able to get along with just about anybody, even people who seem to have no sense of humor, other than the laughter that comes at other people’s expense. Do you know the type of person I’m talking about? Is it my imagination or are there more of them lately? They are not fun or funny, but they *think * they are. Ugh. I’ve had to deal with more than a few of those folks in my life and they are extremely tiring to endure for long periods and only barely manageable in small doses. I generally just nod and smile and make affirmative sounds near them, until I can get away. Much like I do with cats. Which was the subject I was on, before I digressed. I often digress. I have no illusions about my endurability to others, but thankfully I like my own company. But cats? They suck. There, I just threw that down. Boom!

I know that some people admire the “don’t give a fuck” attitude that cats seem to have, but not me. That attitude doesn’t make me want to win them over, it convinces me even more that they are assholes. It’s not that they aren’t cute assholes. They are adorable! I love pictures of cats, especially in clothing, but even uncostumed, they are pretty damn cute. I don’t love that they will walk on your counters and tables and not even give a shit that you don’t like it and think it’s probably unsanitary. I don’t love that they poop and pee in a box that you have to clean frequently so that your home doesn’t smell like an indoor zoo exhibit. But I could deal with those issues.

Here’s what I can’t deal with: I hate that cats ALWAYS approach me. Always. They meow at me and look irresistably sweet. They rub up against my leg as if to say, “I reeaaally like you. Pay attention to me. Give me pats.” And I always acquiesce even though I know how it’s going to end. I pat them for a while, they purr and seem oh-so happy, they snuggle up to me and relax. And then, out of nowhere, those cute little motherfuckers will bite me. Almost every time! If they don’t bite me at this point, it just means that this is a long con, where they are going to bite me six months or a year from now when I trust them more. Hmm….this is sounding scarily similar to my history with men. Given this, you would think that I’d be all, “Cats just seem right to me for some reason. I don’t know why, but I just love them so much.” But no. My heart belongs to doggies.

Dogs are just as cute as cats, but they are unabashed in their adoration. They will wag and jump and seem absolutely crazed to see you, even if you’ve just re-entered a room you walked out of five minutes ago. Dogs will go on a walk with you and make you slow down (while they sniff and pee on stuff, it’s true) so that you actually see all the pretty trees, flowers, yard art and other people in your neighborhood. But you won’t have to talk to them, because dogs try to protect you. My crazy ten pound Josie will get in front of me and bark and growl ferociously at anyone who dares approach me when we are out walking. While I doubt that she has saved my life in this way, she has almost certainly saved me from countless uninteresting conversations. Dogs will happily play fetch with you or wade in a creek, but they are also happy to sit next to you and watch a Netflix marathon. And dogs look even better than cats in clothes. If they love you, they will totally let you dress them and take photos to send your friends and post on instagram. Dogs are not sneaky at all about wanting your food. They are never subtle. All I’m saying is that dogs are sweeter, snugglier, more helpful, more loyal and just generally better than cats.

I know that people will disagree and may try to change my mind, but ironically, my personality is more like a cat’s than a dog’s and I will not care at all. Maybe this attitude is why so many cats approach me. They know I’m a kindred spirit. An asshole who deserves a good chomp every once in a while. They probably aren’t wrong.

I Don’t Know

04.24.2019

“I don’t know how you do it!” If I had a dollar for every time I heard those words, I could actually hire someone to help me do it. Or hire someone to do it for me and then I could lay in my bed and read (#goals).  I heard these words again this week and I find them oh-so irritating.  Because let’s be real: A) You aren’t actually impressed with what I’m doing and B)You don’t really want to know how it’s done.

Welcome to my latest rant!

At best “I don’t know how you do it!” is just one of those things that people spit out when they really don’t have anything to say, but feel the need to talk anyway.  As a lifelong introvert, I particularly dislike this kind of happy horse shit and fervently wish that people would stop polluting the air with meaningless words (yes, I’m also a bit of an asshole). It’s much like “You’ve got your hands full!” or “Is it hot enough for you?” or “How about that exciting sportsball whatever?” (not an actual thing, just what sports-talk sounds like to me).  I do understand the need for human connection, so I will try not to act like an asshole when I hear these things in their benign, friendly tones, and will probably just nod vaguely and move on with my life.  You’re welcome.

At worst, “I don’t know how you do it!” has a little snotty tone to it that betrays the not-very-well hidden message of “Your life sounds so shitty to me.  Glad I’m not you!” I’ve received way too much of this in the past 4 years, what with my surprise divorce and years of piloting a hideously ugly minivan, not to mention the constant presence of multiple boychildren, who belong to me and are always wilding nearby.  You’d think I’d be used to it, but much like those situations where people tell you that you “look tired” when they really mean that you look ugly or disheveled to to them, IT GRATES.  I get that “tired” one a lot too, because I’m a single parent in my 40s and hell yes I’m tired.  I usually just respond with, “I AM tired, thanks so much for noticing!” and raise my coffee cup to the asshole who said it, because really? Who doesn’t know they are tired?  Who needs it pointed out?  Nobody, that’s who.

I suppose “I don’t know how you do it!” is a bit better than “You look tired!” because faux admiration is surely better than faux concern.  But honestly they both suck.  Especially when said with a smug smile and little headshake.  Yeah, I saw that.  Thanks!

I guess it’s possible that some people are actually wondering how I accomplish some of the unremarkable things in my life.  Well I have answers to some of the “I don’t know how you…” comments I’ve heard recently.  Here you go:

I don’t know how you do that long-ish and trafficky commute to your job with the very inflexible schedule EVERY weekday!  I sure couldn’t do that!    

Answer:  Oh I bet you could do it, if you had the motivation of it being the only means of your getting health insurance and the paycheck that provides food and a home for you and your children.  And even though I do not love being in the car for 45 minutes in the morning and an hour at night to go 11 damn miles, it’s actually super easy to do.  I just get in the car (no longer a minivan!!) and put on a podcast like My Favorite Murder or a sweet (possibly yacht rock) playlist and then I drive while trying not to hit anything or swear too obviously at the other commuters until I get to work.  Then I do it again at 5.

I don’t know how you ran that half marathon!  Who has time to train?  Plus running is so boring…especially on a treadmill.  And aren’t you worried about your knees?

Answer: Running isn’t for everyone, but I love the way it makes me feel wrung out and happy and way less crazy.  I fit it in to my already packed schedule, because being less crazy is a high priority for me. So I turn down other things or get up really early in order to do it.  Bonus: the effects of running have (so far) kept me from throwing things at annoying people who tell me I look tired or ask me stupid questions while criticizing my choice of hobby.  It’s a win/win for society!  The actual doing it is a deceptively simple process of getting up out of a seated position, putting on running clothes and shoes and moving forward while listening to another awesome playlist that I compiled in my head during my long-ass commute.  My knees seem to be holding up fine.  I am not worried about them.

I don’t know how you handle parenting your three crazy sons!

OK, this one may be legit, because my children are nutsy and loud and they all talk at once and want my personalized attention at all times.  They also never walk when they can roll, flip or climb something and jump off of it and getting anywhere with them is exhausting and probably much like herding cats.

Answer:  I’m not very good at it.  That’s why I look tired.  Having three kids was not the smartest move for my temperament and if I’d known that I’d be alone with them most of the time and that they’d all be energetic boys, I might have rethought the whole endeavor.  But I’m lucky that I didn’t know what my future would hold, because I adore them in all their craziness. They are truly my life’s best reasons.  I may sometimes look like I’m not extra thrilled with it, but that is because I am so damn tired all the damn time.  But it’s good. We’re all doing just fine.

And that’s the point of my rant.  My life, while not everyone’s cup of tea, is very good and I’m fairly happy.  Nobody really needs to know how I do it.  I just do it, because it’s what needs to be done and who cares? It all works for me.  Everybody has things in their life that they don’t particularly enjoy and that other people would find distasteful or downright horrifying.  But they get them done because that’s what they need to do to make their lives work.  If you haven’t had to make the best of some shitty situations recently, that’s great!  But don’t get too smug, because life is unpredictable.

If you think that someone’s life looks unpleasant, you do not need to let them know.  If you must say something, you could try to be helpful with “This seems hard, is it?  Can I help in some way?”  Or if you are truly impressed with the way someone is handling the challenges in their life you could give them some encouragement like “You are doing a great job!” or “I admire the way you did that.” Those are nice things to hear.  Or you could send them a lovely Starbucks gift card! Tired people love those.

Thank you for reading my rant.

Learning to Fly

05.16.2017

I frequently describe myself as a “nervous traveler” or just “not a great traveler” but I’ve started to rethink those ideas. It’s true that I feel somewhat incompetent when I travel by plane, mainly because for most of my life I would fly once every few years, maybe twice in a really big year. In my younger days, I was always too broke for anything but long car trips or the ‘hound. That’s what the cool broke people call the Greyhound bus, btw. Well that’s what I call it, anyway. And I hope to avoid it for the rest of my life. Speaking of buses, I once went on the Mexican version of the ‘hound and some of my fellow passengers were actual birds. That was an adventure. Would a bad traveler do that? Maybe I’ve had the potential to be a good traveler, but not the resources? Hmmm…

My second marriage was to a great traveler, so I had high hopes that we’d go a lot of places together and I’d become an expert at it. But we had lots of kids (three, but all boys and in less than four years, so it’s really like having fifteen) immediately, so my travel dreams were put on hold while I was tethered to the earth. We did take a LOT of road trips, which is really the way to go when you have young children. At least if your asshole kid is screaming in your personal minivan you don’t have to apologize to anyone when you put in ear plugs and ignore him for 7 hours. And nobody has to know that you are carrying around a large bottle for the children to pee in, that you actually refer to as “the pee bottle” because you’re just handing them any damn juice box they want so their little mouths will be quiet for a while, but you don’t want to have to stop at sketchy gas station bathrooms every 40 miles when you could just pull over for a pit stop and then empty child pee all over these great United States. I bet this ensured that search dogs could have easily located my family on any of our trips, had we needed to be rescued, so really it was a win-win. Plus, I always researched any weird and interesting places that might be along our route, so we’d get to see some crazy shit, like a giant King Kong statue, boat and train-shaped restaurants, the Precious Moments chapel, a big blue whale you could wander inside of, multiple Elvises (Elvi?) and South of the Border, where Pedro sez you need to stop, so you just do. I will always go out of my way to see something unusual. It’s one of my life’s guiding principles.

So maybe I could be a good traveler, but I just haven’t flown often enough to totally get the hang of it. My air travel skills are still like those of a very old, very young, or slightly drunk person. I am unclear about what is happening, but I’m really excited! I can’t figure out how to check in my bag, and I ALWAYS have a bag to check, because I have not mastered the skill of paring things down when I might NEED a variety of shoes and multiple books. There are always new and unpleasant protocols to follow, just to get near the plane, like shoe removal and weird body scans and threats of pat downs and anal probing. It is all really confusing and makes me rumpled and disoriented and protective of my body parts. I’m getting better with it, though. This has been a big travel year for me, possibly the biggest ever. I’ve flown 4 times since July! I know, right? It’s huge! I stayed in hotels by myself twice and it was glorious. I have plans for even more travel in the upcoming months. Soon there may be a time when I can call myself a great traveler. And I will! The main thing I’ve realized is that in order to navigate travel one needs to READ THE SIGNS. There are many of them posted. They are telling you things that you need to know. This is good practice for life in general, not just for traveling. Read the signs!

I love being at the airport so much more than the actual flying part. It’s really fun to watch all of the people. So many interesting outfit choices. People are either super-fancy or they’re like, “Screw it! Why shower or wear anything clean when I’m going on a damn plane? I’ll just wear these pajama pants with the blown-out elastic waist. Yup, that’s my butt crack. No need to hold up the security line when you can see for yourself that I’m not hiding anything in there. You’re welcome everyone.” Hmmm…maybe those people are on to something.

I usually spend money that I would not ordinarily spend in airport stores, and not just at the Starbucks. Magazines are a given, because Us Weekly is never more compelling than when you read it on a plane. But I’ll even be tempted by souvenirs FROM MY OWN CITY. On my most recent trip, I had to convince myself that I didn’t need to bring a packet of “chili-fixin’s” from the Austin airport with me to New York. If I hadn’t been distracted, I would have totally picked up those fixin’s (oh my God, it is killing me to make something plural with an apostrophe, but I think that’s the way you are required to do it with something called “fixin’s”) on the way home. And I’ll just admit here that if I’ve ever given you a gift after I’ve taken a trip where I traveled by plane, there is an 85% chance I got it at the airport.

I am not at all a fan of the actual flying on the plane part. It’s always too cold and claustrophobic for me to really be comfortable. And despite my lack of frequent flying, I’ve had some weird and unfortunate flight experiences. Have you ever been screamed at by a hysterical flight attendant to put on your oxygen mask while you made an emergency landing because of an issue with cabin pressure? I have. The bags do not inflate, but the oxygen still flows, just like they said it would. How about being on a flight that is rerouted to a different place, because after four insanely turbulent attempts at landing in a dust storm in El Paso, the plane is running out of fuel and the pilot is will finally admit defeat, as your fellow passengers get teary, throw up and pray. I had that harrowing experience with Shakira and her husband last summer. Thank God I was with them, because they are never opposed to getting drunk and that was exactly what I needed to do, once we were on firm ground.

Usually if I’m flying alone, I take Dramamine, put on a fuzzy neck pillow and try to fall asleep and miss as much of the flight as possible. Do good travelers do this? Do they bring better distractions? Do have access to better drugs? Are these some of those adult secrets I never seem to know until it’s really late, like that people who have kids, but also have clean houses most likely *pay other people* to clean them. Or that more people than you’d suspect, who don’t have those “eleven” lines between their eyebrows, that you get from thinking “WTF?” too often get a little botox there? I didn’t know these things before and just thought I was failing at things like cleanliness and graceful aging. Perhaps it is the same with travel? Are there just a few more things I should learn and then I will be an amazing traveler? Let me know!

Be Better

9.26.2018

I am raising three sons.  Man, just typing that made me tired. It is not easy and I worry constantly that I’m not doing it well or that I could be doing better.  I feel like I get things right about fifty percent of the time.  And I suppose the other half can be classified as “learning experiences.”   Oh yes, learning experiences a-plenty, every day!  And I’m not even halfway through their childhood.  There is no chance in hell that I’m going to give up caffeine in the next 10 years.  Please feel free to send Starbucks gift cards my way.

 I have an overarching goal in my parenting: I’m trying my absolute best not to raise assholes.  World, you’re welcome! My boys know I have high standards…not for cleanliness (don’t come over if a clean floor is on your “must haves” list) but for many other things.  For example, two of my children are able to communicate with me by text these days, and as everyone knows I do not appreciate texts with bad grammar and stupid texting language.  My boys know that they better fix their spelling and under no circumstances are they allowed to “K” me.  I know it’s not how everybody feels, but I do and that is the way I want to be treated. I have made that clear. Stupid texting language is a smack to my eyeballs.  Be better or don’t text me.  It’s a boundary I have set and so far they respect it.  

I’ve always set boundaries with them.  I think when you care about someone, it is important let them know how you want to be treated.  And learning to respect people’s boundaries is one of life’s more important skills. My kids were never allowed to demand things from me.  If they demanded, they did not receive.  From the time they were toddlers, I expected them to say “please” if they asked me for something and “thank you” after I gave it to them.  They might be loud and crazy little hooligans, but they damn well better be polite little hooligans.  I didn’t want them to think I was their personal servant, just because I was their mother.  I want it to be clear that I am a separate person from them and while I am happy to help them and do things for them, they need to show appreciation and not entitlement.   I’m also no nonsense when it comes to talking about or touching other people’s bodies.  I’ve made sure that my kids know that their bodies belong to them and other people’s bodies belong to other people.  That you don’t get into someone’s space or touch them without permission. That you can tell people when you don’t want a hug and they can tell you the same.  This does not prevent them from trying to beat the crap out of each other multiple times a day, but apparently they are more respectful of the space and bodies of their peers. It’s not a total win, but it’s not a loss!

I’ve also tried to hammer home the point that one’s commentary on someone else’s body or looks is unnecessary and not good conversation.  I am mindful to not make careless remarks about other people’s looks or weight around my sons.  They know that I think that jokes about someone’s looks are stupid and that people who make those jokes are trying to deflect from their own poor self esteem.  And that poor self esteem is probably warranted because they don’t know how to carry on a good conversation or tell a funny joke.  I want them to be better than that. 

I’m thinking of all of this as I try to figure out how and why so many men seem stunned that women’s bodies are not there for the taking or for their inspection and critique. And they are shocked and dismayed that women are speaking up about this and deeming it unacceptable. How on earth did they not know this?   And what does this mean for me, when raising sons?  If so many men are surprised that we women do not enjoy being groped in the middle of a conversation or that we wouldn’t be thrilled to see their penises at work or that hearing denigrating comments about women’s bodies is insulting to all of us, does that mean that at some point my sons will be shocked by this too?  Or is society changing so much that they will see girls and women as equals?  There are still school dress codes that are geared toward female students’ attire, under the assumption that even today’s boys have so little self control that they will not be able to learn if they see a girl’s collar bone or too much of her leg or *GASP* a bra strap.   I expect better from my sons.  It is natural to want to look at people you find attractive or interesting, but then you need to move your eyes to your school work and get on with it, because that’s what you are there for and your classmates do not exist for your ogling.  Don’t be a creepy asshole.   

I’ve been hearing about a lot of people who feel that #metoo has turned into a witch hunt and that it’s ruined romantic interactions between men and women.  Obviously, I don’t agree.  Women don’t want to be treated in a subhuman way. This doesn’t mean that all women no longer want to interact romantically with men, it means we don’t want to be considered prey anymore.  We are not targets, we are people and we have our own boundaries, needs and desires and we’d like them to be heard and respected.  Instead of whining about the unfairness of it all, a mature response might be to look at your own behavior.  I wish that everyone would ask themselves some key questions: How have you treated other people when you wanted something from them?  How do you talk about other people and their bodies and their sexuality?  Has the word “slut” or some other derogatory term come out of your mouth when you were talking about a girl or woman? (I suppose you could say this about a boy or man, but let’s be realistic, these terms are meant to denigrate women.) Have you touched someone in a way that was unwelcome?  Did you immediately stop at that point or did you continue?  Have you tried to coerce someone into sex when they were telling you verbally or non-verbally that they were not interested in having sex with you? Were you paying attention to what they wanted?  Did you care? Because you should, if you don’t want to be an asshole!  

If you aren’t a predatory creep (and let’s throw caution to the wind and assume that most people aren’t) then it really comes down to: 1) Treating everyone as if they were a separate human being from you and therefore knowing that they have their own needs and desires that may not match yours. 2) Paying attention to that person’s words and actions and responses to you.  3) Caring about what that person’s words and actions mean, even if it disappoints you and is the opposite of your wishes.  4) Respecting that other person’s boundaries and walking away if that is indicated.  Four step process, guys. You can even skip the Step 3 “Caring” part if you’re kind of an asshole, but not a complete one.  You can even do this if you’re drunk.  If you find that you are too drunk to do this, you can call a car service to come get you and take you home so that you don’t assault or harass someone.  What a time to be alive! It’s just that easy.  It really just comes down to noticing what the other person in your interaction wants and making that as important to you as fulfilling your own desires. If you have a question about what that person wants, you might have to come right out and ask.  But then you will have a really good chance of knowing the answer.  It’s a win-win.

But you know, you can even be better than that if you are brave enough.  I think a lot about those guys who were out biking and stopped the assault Brock Turner was committing.  They saw something wrong and they stopped it.  I wish this wasn’t so surprising to me.  They didn’t choose to mind their own business, because a guy was getting “twenty minutes of action” and it would break some sort of guy code to prevent that from happening.  And I bet there were people who watched creepy Brock leave with a woman who was too intoxicated to walk steadily.  Just like there were probably people at that house party 35 years ago who watched two drunk and aggressive guys follow their female friend up to the bathroom.  And apparently there were people in a dorm room watching  and saying nothing while their shitty drunk frat brother waved his dick in their drunk female friend’s face and told her to kiss it.  And I hope that this is changing and that people (men specifically, but women too) aren’t afraid of being called a cock blocker if it means that they can help prevent an assault.   I think there will always be entitled garbage people in the world who see other humans as conquests and who will do whatever they can to get what they want. They are not looking for a mutually satisfying interaction with another person, they care about their own needs, only.  If this is you, then you are at best an asshole and at worst a predator and you probably should hate #metoo, because it’s going to put a crimp in your lifestyle.  I certainly hope most people are not like that.  But you don’t have to be a bystander, either.  And you could even be a stand-up person who says something when you see terrible behavior taking place.  I’m hoping to raise stand-up men.  The world needs more of them.

Resolution

I have a problem with maintenance. I’m working on it. I told this to my therapist last week and she nodded sagely. She often nods sagely and I love that about her. She is proof that I’m working on my problem with maintenance. I guess ‘maintenance’ isn’t quite the right term. Or maybe it’s that not doing maintenance is the manifestation of my real fear which is a fear of *knowing*. If you don’t check under the hood, if you don’t get the test, if you don’t look too carefully, if you don’t ask the right question…then you don’t really have to know. At least for a while. Until it blows up in your face. Which it inevitably does. You know those moments you have before you learn something that shatters you? I think about those moments in my life. They were mundane. They wouldn’t have been memorable except for what came afterwards. In 1988, in my friend’s car after a night of playing Nintendo and swimming in her sister’s pool. Pulling up to my house and laughing our goodbyes before realizing there was an ambulance in my driveway. In 1999, a phone conversation with my beloved grandfather that ended with a promise to see me soon and an “I love you, stop worrying about me.” In 2000, watching my husband walk out the door with a basketball and an “Eat dinner without me, I’ll be home in a couple of hours.” Again in 2000, a fucking devastating year I still haven’t recovered from, at a Halloween party where a man I’d briefly dated was being friendly to me instead of the usual hostility he’d shown since I’d told him I didn’t want to date him, and I was stupidly relieved and happy to accept the drink he handed me. I didn’t think I’d ever be so blissfully ignorant again. My problems with maintenance were intensified after that. I couldn’t relax, I always felt unsafe and unmoored. If I heard a rattle in the car, I turned up the radio. If there was a problem in my apartment, I moved. I had eight addresses in four years. I became petrified of going to the doctor or dentist, because what if there was a problem I couldn’t handle? When all the worst things keep happening, how can you trust that the sky isn’t about to fall on you every time you leave the house? How can you risk hearing somebody tell you that things are even worse than you feared? What if you just can’t handle ANYTHING ELSE? Better to ignore any issues, because sometimes issues just go away! After four years of living by that sensible philosophy, I met someone with whom I didn’t feel alone. That was new for me. I got married again and had my sons. Weirdly, that started to steady me. It doesn’t work that way for everyone, I know. Kids aren’t exactly a calming force, but somehow, they grounded me. I still wasn’t thrilled about maintenance, but I went to the doctor. I got my car fixed. It’s best have to have a working body and car with kids. It’s good to take your kids to the doctor, too. So I did. I sunk into it for a while. I don’t know if I ever got comfortable. And yet…it hit me like a goddamn truck when the blissful ignorance of my marriage was shattered in an artfully decorated hotel room in Manhattan with a view of big wet snowflakes in the air and ballet dancers practicing in the building across from us. I left the room an hour later to walk alone in that beautiful city in the falling snow, knowing that the life I had before was over forever and I would have to do something and tell someone and ask someone to help me, but all I could do was walk for a while and feel the snow and remember that I was still breathing and my heart was still beating. It’s important to know those things. Sometimes you don’t need to know anything else. So. That was almost three years ago. Maintenance has been difficult for me again in those years. I haven’t been to the dentist in forever, I ignore my doctor at all costs, I have a plumbing problem in my shower and a toilet that needs you to lift the lid in order to stop it from running. Also my car is ten years old and has a lot of hazard lights that are always illuminated on the dash. I ignored grindy brake sounds until I needed to get a complete new set of brakes. A ridiculously expensive consequence, yet it still didn’t cure me of the maintenance problem. But this year is the year. I told my therapist (and therapy is totally maintenance, so I’m not a total failure in this regard) and now I’m telling you. My 2018 resolution is to get check-ups and get things fixed. To ask the questions and find out what I need to know to solve the problems. To know that I am strong enough to handle the answers and resourceful enough to find the solutions. I’ve got this.