Nobody Better, Vol. 3

Happy Anniversary to us!  Fifteen years ago May 10, two crazy kids (OK, two crazy early/mid-30 somethings) vowed to love, honor, and laugh like idiots for ever and ever in front of one hundred of our favorite people.

We obeyed none of the traditional wedding must-do stuff, and charted our own unique course down the aisle.  Unexpectedly and spontaneously, my husband kissed me when my dad deposited me at the front of the room, the officiant “yelling” at Tom about not following the rules.  Everyone laughed, and my mother-in-law cried.  It was genuine.  And perfect.

Our wedding occurred pre-The Knot, pre-online registries, pre-social media, pre-anything electronic pretty much, yet somehow we managed to pull off a springtime tulip-filled wedding that fit few rules, but fit us perfectly.

Though we weren’t a young bridal couple, in our photos, compared to now, we look so young.  I loved my dress, simple as it was, and if it were appropriate in even the very teensiest way, I’d wear that baby to little league or while grocery shopping.  I’d wear it weekly until I tired of it, which is possibly never.

We went quickly from two to three to four, and three and four keep us steadily occupied these days.  We find ourselves in the midst of the wonder years–you wonder just where in fresh hell the time goes.  That’s my interpretation of “wonder years” anyway.  Fifteen years.  *poof*

This year’s “I sing a song  for us”on our anniversary (well I would if I could sing well enough to sing publicly) comes from–quelle surprise!–Barenaked Ladies’ Nobody Better–

Tell me does it show?

Wherever I go you’ll be on my mind.

Nobody better, forever and ever, I’ll weather this with you.

Nobody better, Tom.  Happy Anniversary!

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So, Uh, Thanks

The cranberries are sugared up and boiled down into a compote, green beans layered with cream of mushroom soup and whatever the hell French’s does with onions, and the turkey’s stuffed. The aroma of the single biggest shopping day of the year wafts through the kitchen. Truth be told, my only culinary contribution for this year’s feast is one pumpkin pie.  I don’t even like pumpkin pie.  My kitchen wizardry is woefully underutilized this year. I feel incomplete, inadequate.

The real reason we collectively eat ourselves into a food coma, drunk on tryptophan and/or a nice Beaujolais or Gamay? The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys!! NO, silly, it’s Thanksgiving!  Happy Thanksgiving, America. And that would be a Happy Thursday to the rest of my friends around the globe.

If you’re my friend on any of the social media outlets or hey, if we actually get to speak to one another in the real world, you see I am pretty consistent in my expressions of gratitude.  I’m good at dishing it out, but I’m great at deflecting any expression of thanks directed back my way.  Why is it that gestures of thanks from others take such effort to accept?

I am grateful for what I am and what I have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.  –Henry David Thoreau

Me too.  Nice job outta you, Thoreau, you beat me to it. I’d like to be reverent, but because I am a juvenile masquerading as a middle aged woman, this is what comes to mind any time I hear Thoreau’s name bandied about–

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Image from Wal-Mart. I don’t shop there, but I do appreciate having found this image on their webpage.

Henry David Catch! Baaaaahh!! Hi, I’m 12.  But I’m a grateful 12, and like Thoreau, I find happiness and gratitude in things great and small each day.  I’m happy that I make it to work every day after driving along Capitol Drive, the nearest I ever want to get to driving on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, here in the central city.  It’s disheartening to see how motorists have so little regard for life–mine AND their own–that they drive like something out of an action film, or maybe what’s depicted in Grand Theft Auto (I’ve never played the game, so I’m postulating here).  I’m glad I arrive at work not dead every day is the point.  I’m happy for tulips in the spring.  I’m happy my children are achieving academically.  I’m happy for Kopps Frozen Custard sundae of the month.  I’m happy my dog thinks antibiotics and pain meds are treats–he will chomp down and ingest whole tablets and even sit in order to receive them.  Good boy, Caleb!

But of course there’s more than the little things to be happy about.  I’d be remiss in not sharing some of my favorite turkey day thankful main dishes, so here goes: a few things I’m thankful for this Thursday.  My Thanksgiving not-list is neither perfect nor pretty, and come on, you know me. . .  it’s certainly not symmetrical.  But it’s sincere.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, or Happy Thursday if you’re not from ’round these parts.

  1. My best friend is flying from LA to Milwaukee IN DECEMBER to see me. She loves me enough (or is off-kilter enough?) to leave sunny SoCal in December, and all I have to do is loan her one of my winter coats.  You guys, my best friend is gonna be here next week!!
  2. My Barenaked Ladies besties love me enough to spring a ninja concert trip on me.  Nikki and Bek arranged a ticket and transportation to the December 9 Toronto gig I was absolutely not attending. The girls announced their scheme after the purchase was made so I couldn’t say no.  To be perfectly honest, I said nothing for a day or two. I am so undeserving of this kind of over-the-top generosity, so I sat mute.  I’m not very good at people being nice to me, so I was reluctant to come around to my “yes.”  I should try to get better at people being nice to me.
  3. Hey, speaking of Barenaked Ladies (who, me?) my coworkers, hale and hearty souls, are making it a team effort for the June BNL show in Milwaukee. “We don’t need to sit in the front with you, but let’s make a night of it!” They’re choosing to spend time with me when they don’t even have to. Of course, once the band hits the first note, I won’t turn around again until it’s time to leave, but we will be together in spirit. Well, they will be together, and I’ll be by myself, zoned out a bit closer to the stage. Christine will be the one silently dying in embarrassment for me while I sing & dance my butt off, but that’s cool.
  4. I’m thankful my husband who, not a huge BNL fan himself, gives me space for my unbridled, giddy glee when a new album is released, and shares some measure of excitement when I call him on the phone, all choked up shouting, “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS SONG!! ED USES WESTLEY AND BUTTERCUP IN THE LYRICS!!!!”  If you don’t know the reference, Westley and Buttercup are the star-crossed, nothing-can-separate-true-love lovers from The Princess Bride, which happens to be the first movie Tom and I watched together at a time in my life I needed more than anything to believe in true love.
  5. I’m thankful my husband leaves me little notes like this one he wrote Saturday morning before departing for work.  I know, “you guys are so cute we wanna barf.” We get that a lot, but aren’t Westley and Buttercup what we’re all shooting for? You + Me Vs The World, baby.
  6. Got Weirs on my right and Wolfgrams to the left. Looking forward to a long weekend, spending time with almost every branch of fruit or nut of my extended family tree at some point.
  7. I’m thankful to the point of speechlessness that I have an all-star supporting cast of luminaries whose generosity helped me raise over $5000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 2017.
  8. I’m grateful for my friends, a cast of characters you wish you were your friends too. This year I offer special thanks to P.J. She killed it with her own shoulder rehab a couple years back, and within hours of reading about my injury, delivered a box of implements and tools designed to simplify life in the kitchen. And also wine, because wine! I opened that gift tonight, enjoying it in the spirit of thanks for her support and concern.
  9. I’m relieved that my friend Matt who was nearly killed in his home last spring, is safe and sound, and that two of his attackers have been sentenced.  You can hear Matt’s story about the sentencing here.  In related news, I’m glad his physical scars are continuing to heal as well.
  10. I’m fortunate to have a boss who says and means family first. This credo is especially important when your child has a disease that requires ongoing management and intermittent therapy appointments.
  11. I’m happy that a song can catch me on the precipice of the abyss and pull me back.
  12. I’m grateful I can read, write, and reason.
  13. And that you’re here reading.  Really.  THIS is my greatest wonder of the last several years: I write. You read.  There are so many ways to pass one’s precious time, and you’re here reading my words.  It means the world.
  14. I’m happy that I have enough.  I’ve never known hunger, and I’ve never had to worry about finding a safe place to sleep.  I’ve worked in the inner city for twenty-seven years, and finally I’m forced to acknowledge that I am struggling with the sequelae of urban poverty. The lack of basic needs being met, the language, hollering, the physical harm, the violence perpetrated–inflicted!–upon the city’s smallest people–it’s too much.  I’m increasingly less well able to handle a preschooler tell me, ‘F-off, white bitch! I ain’t gotta listen to you.”
  15. I’m happy that my children have enough. We do not live like royalty, but I can say that when mine were preschoolers, the worst I feared escaping their lips were “toot” and “fart.” Watch this. You won’t regret having spent the twenty-four seconds here, even with the poor quality videography. And yeah, to this day, the minute he gets home, he tosses off just the one sock.

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For what are you thankful, dear readers? What wraps your heart up with contentedness the way this video of my no-longer-babies does for me?  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.  Can I make you a leftovers plate to take home?

Dinner Date

We reached a collective milestone last weekend:  neither my husband nor I were able to read the restaurant menu at dinner.  We each had our contact lenses in, and sure, the restaurant’s “intimate lighting” was moody and all, but it also precluded our actually reading the menu.  Monday morning I discovered an additional $20 in ambiance: I misread the bill, so I tipped on what I thought was an $84 tab, when it was only $64.  I wasn’t even remotely knocked out by our service, but whatever, she scored big time with an over 50% tip.  Karma, yo.  Nothing like a little in-your-face you’re-getting-old reminder to help a guy (and his wife) celebrate his birthday! Happy birthday, Tom.

We don’t get much time (take much time??) to ourselves these days. Parenting at this stage involves a good deal of transportation and a substantial outlay of money, and not just in the I waaaaaay over-tipped kind of way.  Time between the kids’ activities is spent nearly unconscious in front of some or another screen, grocery shopping or preparing meals. I do a lot of laundry, but too little housework and reading. And much too little time gets spent reinvesting in the relationship at the core of its ensuing madness: the marriage.

So to celebrate another spin around the sun, my husband and I went out for a grown-ups only dinner.   And you know what we didn’t talk about?  We didn’t talk about this–this was the line to get into the city’s top high school’s first night of open house last week.  This was the line 20 minutes before the doors even opened, I mean what the heck?  Is this General Admission for a Barenaked Ladies concert or something?

We also didn’t talk about this–we didn’t talk about football.  We didn’t even talk about baseball!  We didn’t even talk about the MDA Summer Camp Reunion that he and our big kid attended earlier that afternoon.

We talked about this–currently our favorite tree in our yard.  Normally we dislike it, truth be told, because it sports serious botanic attitude about sprouting wherever it feels like sowing its seed in the “lawn.” (Our yard sucks).  But for this week, this one glorious autumnal week, its colors are breathtaking.  #nofilter

We talked about what we were reading, and how we wished we read more and more often.

We talked about my friends metaphorically taking me hostage, and forcing me on an international flight to meet up with them for about 30 hours in Toronto for one crazy overnight.

We talked about next year’s family road trip.  Apparently it’s going to be baseball-themed.  Shut up!  Baseball? No way!

We talked about tennis and his aching back and the chiropractic care he’d sought.

We talked about my flirtation with yoga, my distressed rotator cuff and the physical therapy I’m working through.

We talked about 2017’s medical bills.  Jaysus.

We talked about work, but not in a negative, horribly crabby way, but what challenged us and what we still enjoyed in our careers.

We talked about retirement.  *gulp*

We talked about moving, maybe finding a town a little less insane for high school entrance criteria and with a little more to offer for athletics.  We DO have two children, after all.  And then we talked about needing a home with a first floor bedroom, just in case. . .  Because when you’re me, you never don’t think about MD and maybe your son living with you when he’s an adult.  And when you’re parents, even when you’re away from your kids, you still talk about them a little bit. But then we also talked about what we liked about living in the city.  This view from the lakefront, for example.

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We talked about thinking that at “our age” we’d have more, but that we don’t.  But even without more, we have enough.  Besides love, we still even like each other a lot.  I talk too much and he listens too little, but it works.  We laugh like newlyweds, and in an era of too little happiness for people in our financial stratosphere, we still find humor in nearly every situation.  We still overspend on dinner once in awhile, and spend time talking about what made us two before we were four.  We’re OK.  Minus the not being able to see after the Early Bird Specials dinner hours, maybe even better than OK.

Wife And Mom

I want my own wife and/or mom.

Let me clarify. I am happily married, quite happily, so I am not actually shopping around for a different or additional spouse.  For me, one is not the loneliest number as it relates to the number of individuals to whom a person can be wed; it’s perfect for monogamists.  I already have a mom, but she lives four hours away, and in retirement has much better shit to do than babysit her half-century old daughter.  No.  What I really want is someone to manage my life–the calendar and remembering shit parts–the way I must, as the default setting, the wife and mom, for my family’s goings-on.  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!

I threw a complete fit last night when, upon arriving at #2’s football practice, he realized he’d left his practice jersey at home.  Through some miracle, he did manage to find and attach all seven pads in his practice pants.  I say miracle, because it’s happened that he has been temporarily unable to locate all seven, and forced to attend practice sans full equipment.  Football is NOT the game you want your kid to tough it out through.  Anyway, we arrive last night only to realize he’s missing his blue mesh jersey.  Naturally I have to go home to retrieve it.  Now we live minutes from the practice field, but the idea of having to remedy his forgetfulness made me flip my pony-tailed lid.

Slamming the car door (super mature), I immediately ring up my husband to ask if he sees the jersey laying around the kitchen  bitch about the grave injustices done to mothers, THIS mother in particular, but all women, because why not? I was on a tear.  “Why do I always have to be the one to fix everything?” I whined, and dropped an f-bomb for probably every tenth of a mile between practice and home.  When I pull up to our abode, I’m full-on toddler:  “Why am I the only one who knows anything about anything that goes on in this family?  Why can’t anyone else find their way to the calendar?  Or find anything?? Why can’t this child remember his uniform? He practices three days a week!  Jaysus.  Why can’t he pick up his shit and put it away??  Why does no one from the team know what time the game is on Saturday? Why do I have to take #1 to the high school placement test Thursday?  Why do you not even know #1 has his placement test Thursday??  whywhywhywhywhywhy. . .

“Just once!” I continued railing from the curb, “I would love for someone to say, ‘Hey, Wendy, did you remember to grab your lunch?’ or ‘Hey, Mom, don’t forget to pack your exercise gear for physical therapy’ or “Don’t forget to call Donna to get your lunch date on the calendar.’  But THAT will never happen.  Never.  No one would get anywhere and no bill would ever get paid, NOT ONE, if I didn’t take care of all this shit.”

I’m pretty sure the neighbors were all backing up real slow like, like you would, if well, if you were witness to this.  Pretty sure my tirade was entertaining for some.  A total confirmation for others.  And I’d like to think if there was one other mom among the throng (there was no throng), she’d have been all, “YEAH! You get ’em girl, moms unite!!!'” Because moms know exactly what I’m ranting about, don’t you, moms?

I returned to the practice field with a smile on my face and my idiot dog on his leash. “You’re lucky I love ya so much, punk” I whispered into that sweet boy’s face mask, tossing his jersey at him.

I never react properly. I’ve mentioned that time and again here, and if past behavior is any indicator of future performance, I am so screwed. I’m gonna try to limit my verbal tantrums (well, the ones in the front yard anyway). I mean, it’s not gonna help (past behavior being an indicator of future performance and all. . . My roommates ain’t a’ gonna get any better at making appointments, finding stuff. . . ).

I needed the outlet was all. I was, still am, upset over the mass shooting in Las Vegas.  Now there is a litany of legitimate whywhywhywhywhywhywhy none of us can begin to touch.  I was, in my inappropriate way, mourning Tom Petty’s passing.  Not an excuse for my rant, but kindling for the spark, as they say.

There’s enough ugly in the world right now. I want to be on the side of right, the side where if I left this world for Tom Petty’s great wide open tomorrow, that same imaginary throng of people would say that while I lived I was good. That I did good.  I’d want my kid to remember that I went home to get the jersey for him, so that he wouldn’t feel like an underequipped yutz out there.  I’d want my kid to remember that while we drove to his high school entrance exam (no pressure kid, but if you don’t get into your top two choices, we’re probably moving), instead of saying that which I obviously will not say, I let him choose songs and ever-so-calmly reassured him, “Do your best kid.  You’re one of the brightest kids I know, and I’ll never ask anything more than your best effort.”  I’d want my husband to remember that he told me he doesn’t at all believe I need anti-anxiety meds, that I am hilarious and he wouldn’t want to change one single thing about me.

PS–Just for fun, we agreed that my husband would remind me on my way out this morning to bring along my gym bag of clothes for physical therapy.  He said he would.  When I got home after PT, he grinned at me, maybe a little sheepishly, and said, “I didn’t remind you to bring your stuff this morning, did I?”  No, no, you didn’t.

But I made it there anyway.  Of course I did–I’m the mom.

You’re My White Barack And Michelle

A cool thing about having become a mother at an advanced maternal age (their term, not mine–thanks a whole load, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) is having gotten to know people across age, race, and financial spectra.  My children attend a city public school, and despite their school being in a so-called “good area,” the majority of its students would still qualify for free lunch.  Free or reduced lunch designation = low income and/or poverty status, for anyone not in the know or not employed in public schools.  In what is one the more hilarious, ironic statements I’ll ever write:  We are an affluent family in our school district.

I appreciate that my kids’ classmates come to school from across the city and around the globe, and I can honestly say that I enjoy the company of the parents of each of my children’s friends.  This post though is specifically about my little kid’s best friend and his mom.

I’m no dummy, but E and his mom are brilliant, like freaky smart the two of them are.  My little guy and her E met on the first day of four-year-old kindergarten, and have been fast friends from that day.  They’re dudes–Dude!  And Duuuuude.  And Dude??  They write each other the coolest BFF birthday card notes, they battle Pokémon til the wee hours of their sleepovers, and together they took second place in the district science fair last year. Teamwork and BFF-dom, yo.  (But really it’s her scientist’s brain and E’s insane meta-thinking skills that took the science fair. My child inherited a language-based influence from his x-chromosome genetic contributor; I’m not known for my sciencing).

She’s a genius whose brain is constantly pinging with her next masterwork.  Being a scientist pays the bills, but she’s the rare scientific artist: a creative.  Covered in tattoos, she’s sewing or sculpting animal bones into works of art, baking pies and cakes so beautiful you don’t dare slice, or preparing dishes for the weekend’s pop-up restaurant.  She’s a feminist who bleeds social justice and Black Lives Matter and loves death metal.  In her youth, she escaped the Midwest and has lived on both coasts and metropoles in between.

She’s lots of things I’m not, and I’m not saying that in the way of wishing I were any other me but right-now-today me, or more like her.  She’s perfectly weird in her way, as am I.  I think it’s biologically possible that I could be her mother–she’s maybe 15 years younger than me??  She’s crammed a whole world of experiences into those years, and I feel fortunate she landed back here to raise her son.  I’m certain that were it not for our children, we’d not have met otherwise.

I’m her “old” friend.  I’m her son’s emergency contact card mom, text-me-at-the-last- minute to pick him up friend.  I’m her long-ish term happily married friend.

She came to pick up E on a recent Saturday morning, and as we often do, we sit and talk for about an hour or two longer than either of us intend.  Our conversations cover all of the above, none of the above and are sometimes silly, sometimes intense.  She’s opinionated and open to debate and discussion, and also reflective.  We talk a lot about relationships. She’s a badass single parent raising a pretty incredible kid.  I’m the more mainstream middle-aged, committed, livin’ the mortgage-holding-two cars-two-kids-and-a-dog dream.  “You are my white Barack and Michelle” she proclaimed.

Her inauguration of us made me laugh.  A lot at first, but from her it’s really a terrific compliment.  I’ll take it.  If her ideal couple is the current POTUS/FLOTUS duo– scholarly, just, eloquent–and I’m even included in the same thought process?  I’ll take it.

Don’t I Know You?

Some years ago, there was an enormous marketing campaign around the Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus publications.  The book, its many companion volumes and spinoffs, and underlying “philosophy” if you will, permeated pop culture.  I never read one word of any of it, but I understood that “men and women are different” was the guiding tenet.  During the Mars/Venus zenith, I was married to someone who treated me worse than I’d imagined a human husband could or would, and I recall having that original Mars/Venus book on my nightstand.  I remember thinking that maybe if I read the book, I’d salvage something out of the marriage, you know, I’d “make it work.”  Bah.  That book was probably still on the nightstand when I left, its binding never so much as cracked.  “Making it work” meant saving myself, literally and figuratively, so I left.  Saving me was the wisest, hardest thing I’ve ever done.

When I say that music and songs save me, I sometimes mean that quite literally too–

The bravest thing I’ve ever done
Was to run away and hide
But not this time, not this time
And the weakest thing I’ve ever done
Was to stay right by your side
Just like this time, and every time
I couldn’t tell you I was happy when you were gone
So I lied and said that I missed you when we were apart
I couldn’t tell you, so I had to lead you on
But I didn’t mean to break your heart

And if I always seem distracted
Like my mind’s somewhere else
That’s because it’s true, yes it’s true

I digress.  I’m not going to revisit my first marriage or the Mars/Venus texts any further, but the interplanetary distance between X and Y analogy leapt to mind this weekend.  Men and women are different.  There’s a news flash right there, people, and you don’t need a book to know it.

My husband has little idea how hard our son’s MD diagnosis has hit me.  While I’m grateful that it seems to affect my husband’s day-to-day functioning a billionfold less than it’s affected mine, sometimes I feel we are out of sync.  It’s not that I think he doesn’t care; I’m not sure he’s even aware that I’m dancing as fast as I can as I sit like a lump crushing candy or firing off sassy messages on my phone.  The things that get me moving out of bed–my friendships, music, concerts, cracking wise, writing this blog–he doesn’t get those things the way I do.  He doesn’t get Ulta retail therapy.  He doesn’t get that our house is a physical fucking disaster area, and I want to care, but wanting doesn’t make it so.  Wanting doesn’t produce drive in me these days.  He doesn’t get me right now, and it hurts.

Guess what?  I don’t get him either.  A full year into our after, we haven’t much talked about it.  I talk about it ALL THE TIME, as you know, dear readers.  This forum is where my conversations land.  I don’t actually talk-talk about it often with the only other person on the planet as invested in this as me.  WE don’t talk about it, and what a shocking, sad realization it was to have.  Shame on me.  My husband’s survival strategies and mental health mechanisms are not the same as mine.  I thought he was fine.  I was actually a little–I don’t know what, jealous?, not quite that–that he was lucky to be handling the diagnosis so much better than I was.  I was so wrong.  He’s handling it differently, that’s all.  He’s wounded too, and I knew that he was, really I did.  I’m somewhat egocentric, but I am not that terrible an observer or wife to think he was all “whatevs.”

Between work and work around the house and baseball and school council duties and piano lessons and sleepovers and paying the bills and doing laundry and shopping for groceries and homework and orthodontist appointments and, and, and, and. . .  I committed a heinous marriage crime:  I made assumptions and I took my husband for granted.  I assumed that since he doesn’t talk about it that he was just fine (you know how I hate the word “just” in some contexts).  There are days I see my husband between 5:45-6:40 AM and again around 9:00 at night.  This is not an unusual family status when children are involved in activities, I get that.  I didn’t think there was anything you could do about it though, that it just is.  But it just can’t.  It shouldn’t be a ha-ha joke to say “See you tonight if I’m still awake” with any degree of regularity.

But for the first few months after, I (think I) have presented myself as a fully-functional person.  I look quite the same on the outside, but I hurt inside.  I physically ache some days when I close my eyes and stay still.  This is not some analogous picture painted with words:  Some days my insides HURT when I think about it.  And now I hurt because my husband hurts, and I’d do anything for him not to.  I’d take it all for us both if I could, I would.  Some days the thought of going to work is so overwhelming, I can’t even.  Yet I do.  Some days I get to work, and I don’t talk because I can’t, because what I really want is to idle and/or cry myself into unconsciousness; not talking seems a more acceptable workplace solution.  Some days the line between keeping my shit together and plummeting down that rabbit hole is but a hairsbreadth, and I can feel an external force wrench me–two fists bunched up in my shirt yanking me forward out of my chair, and shoving me down, down.  Yet I get up.

Maybe I’m ready to admit I’m in over my head.  But if I keep getting up, and (I think) I’m still laughing and singing on the outside, and I’m still an engaged, aware parent, am I truly DSM-V depressed?  Maybe?  Probably not?  I think what is paramount right now, today is to be more tuned in, maybe more willing to ask and actually hear the answer to the hardest question I know right now:  “How are you?”