An Open Letter to the Mom in the Doctor’s Office Today

I overheard your friend (daughter? niece?) reading to you from that questionnaire today, and I took notice because of all of your “no” responses. I immediately remembered those soul-crushing, developmental, yes or no questions, the mix of defensiveness and hopelessness when you begin to understand just how far behind your little one is.

“Does your child point to an item s/he wants? Does your child turn pages of a book independently? Does your child say three words?…”

And on, and on, and on. I heard the tone of your voice change the more she asked. I heard you begin to whisper. I glanced at your face to see if you might cry, but you were holding it together. I guessed the tears may come later when you are alone, maybe before you fall asleep tonight.

And I watched your little one. I watched him smile, and observe the other children playing – he was watching close, but something was keeping him from playing along. He looked at me and made eye contact. I waved and smiled. He smiled bigger and looked to you for reassurance, but you didn’t notice.

I wanted to say, “This tall, gangly boy of mine sitting next to you didn’t do any of that stuff either. We had to use flash cards to teach him words. He didn’t point at anything.  They thought he was cognitively impaired because he played with the toys wrong.  But you know what? He is the best speller in his class and uses words like ‘misheard’ and ‘eclectic’ as an almost-seventh grader!”

I really wanted to say, “These questionnaires are a special kind of torture for us, and you are most definitely one of us. You are not alone.  Don’t discourage too quickly.  Be hopeful, because he needs you to be. I have been in exactly that spot where you are sitting and it is awful, but better days are ahead. Believe in that little boy.”

But I didn’t say anything because I’m not sure I would’ve wanted anyone to do that when I was in your place. Maybe I should have. Instead, I hope you get the support you need through this process, and that you realize quickly that he needs you to just do what you gotta do to get him as close as you can to where he needs to be.

And that there are lots of us rooting you on, even if silently from the chair next to you in the doctor’s office.

My little blond boy, once upon a time...

My little blond boy, once upon a time…

Happy Birthday to My Man

DSC00478The Man and I have just celebrated being married for 8 months, and today is his birthday.

If you’ve been following along, he and I have known each other for years, and I started to crush on him pretty hard after I got divorced.  He has also known The Boy for years, and often entertained him when we were on vacation down here with my parents.  He even taught him to ride a bike, and has recently succeeded in getting him to stand up on the surfboard while riding a wave in by himself – such a triumph after years of “lessons”!

He was nervous about getting married, but has since settled in, and enjoys marriage now, as do I.  Quite simply put, he’s my best friend, I love spending time with him, he makes me laugh, and we are good together.

There is also a considerable age difference between us, which has always bothered him more than it has bothered me.  He often wishes I had some grey hairs so people wouldn’t mistake him for my dad (this has only happened a few times, although it is irritating), but I think over time, he has seen that it rarely comes up, and isn’t an issue in the least.

He is a good man, and I am so lucky to have him.  And for the next seven months, he is only sixteen years older than me, rather than seventeen.  Happy Birthday to The Man, The Only Man For Me!

Buddies

The Boy has always relished the attention that The Man has given to him without a thought, most likely because his own dad doesn’t give him the time of day, even in the one week of the year (or less) that he sees him.  The Man was the one to teach The Boy how to ride his bike, and The Man will be the one that shows him how to shave.  He is constantly creating teachable moments with The Boy, and doesn’t hesitate to take him to the hardware store or the convenience store for a little hang-out time.  This morning, he suggested The Boy start his truck while he started my car for me (ice and sleet having covered our windshields, and not having an ice scraper because the old one got busted in the last ice storm).  It pretty much made The Boy’s day.

DSC00878

Tonight, The Man and The Boy had a wrestling match, which they do a couple of nights a week – we use it as a reward, and The Boy adores the sensory input and the bonding.  Later on, he came out of his room and sat with us (an unusual occurrence), and it was a wonderful family moment, giggling and laughing as I asked yes or no questions and they controlled eachother’s heads to nod yes or no in answer.  And he chose to stay to watch some skiing with us, cuddling up to his stepdad on the end of the couch.  And he even invited The Man to have a sleepover in the family room with him tonight since he has a snow day tomorrow…  The Man has fallen asleep, but The Boy is still there cuddled up to him, enjoying having a real dad for the first time in his life.

Newlywed Report: I Like This

After I got divorced, I swore I would never get married again, and mostly because I had such a horrendous financial mess on my hands, but also because I had been so miserable for so long.  I felt and still feel that people should not have to live miserable lives if they don’t have to.

Even as The Man and I progressed in our relationship to the point of thinking about marriage, I was still nervous.  Did I want to make that kind of commitment again?  Did I want to subject my son to a relationship that could possibly fail?

UsAnd then I came to the realization that all relationships have that potential.  They also have the potential to enrich our lives, help us grow as people, and give us the support to make us the best we can be.  I had never experienced that myself, but I knew the potential was there, and I also knew that I had never ever felt about anybody the way I felt (and still feel) about The Man.

We’re coming up on being married for five months, and in that time, we have joined households, developed routines, and purposely chosen to spend time together when other options were available.  We even work together on occasion.  And you know what?  We work well together.  Yes we have disagreements, and momentary lapses of bitchiness (on both parts), but we never get to the point of purposefully hurting the other person because that is the absolute last thing either of us would want to do.  And 99.9% of the time, we are enjoying each other’s company.

I just got off the phone with The Man.  It was just a random mid-day phone call to tell me what his plans were for the afternoon, and we talked for awhile about this, that and everything.  He said, “You know, I like being married.  I thought it would be bad, and I had bragged for so long about remaining single, and some of the married people I talked to seemed so envious.  But I really like it.  Plus, I have a good woman.  And she’s not bad to look at either,” he concluded.

I think I’ll keep him.  <3

This Right Here…

THIS, is why I love The Man.

cardIn between my IEP meeting this morning, and the could-be-stormy doctor’s appointment this afternoon, I was kicking butt and taking names.  I took a moment to bring in the mail, and saw a card addressed to me in The Man’s scrawl.  I can’t help but grin like a goof when he sends me something out of the blue like this.  And he does this from time to time, as well as leaves me goofy or heartfelt voice mail messages… One time, he drew our initials and a heart on the mirror in the steam from my shower.  This card contained a message from him that was sweet and told me exactly what I needed to hear.  He’s a secret romantic, and I can’t help but love him for it.

Happy weekend, folks! <3

Book Review: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Kiss - RodinI know there are a lot of Elizabeth Gilbert haters out there, but I think she is actually a very good writer, and just because her books have been popular does not mean that her writing is mediocre. I find her writing style personable and engaging. I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, all the while envying her ability to travel like that – would that we could all take a year and visit three amazing places on our bucket list! Some complain that her divorce as portrayed in the book wasn’t “real” enough, even though her divorce isn’t actually the center of the story – her recovery is (and shouldn’t we single gals be supporting each other instead of tearing each other down with “if you think that’s bad” stories?).  When Committed came out, I actually bought it in hard cover (not a planned purchase, just one of those see-it-in-the-bookstore-and-think-what-the-heck purchases).  And I read it and enjoyed it, how it weaves anecdotes with research, and I learned a heck of a lot more about matrimony than I had ever known before. I like books where I learn stuff.

Here I am, on the cusp of getting married again, to someone who is not-scared-of getting married, but shall we say, a little anxious, not having been married since the mid-eighties. And I remembered this book, sitting on my shelf, about a man and a woman facing marriage, and who are also a-little-more-than-anxious about getting married. I decided to read it again, to see if I could gather any insight into my fiancé’s perspective, and explore my own feelings on the subject.

Ms. Gilbert says, “It’s been famously said that second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. It seems to me that first marriages are the more hope-drenched affairs, awash in vast expectations and easy optimism. Second marriages are cloaked, I think in something else: a respect for forces that are bigger than us, maybe. A respect that perhaps even approaches awe.” I tend to agree, although I think hope is the wrong word here. I think first-time marriages are the epitome of naivete (sorry – can’t think of a better word!), thinking that divorce will just not “happen” to them, because they think they are in control, while second marriages are hopefully careful, acknowledging that there are forces within and around a marriage that are just not in our control, but that being aware, and having that experience may actually give us an edge.

I take exception to her terminology and jaunt into singlemomdom, when she uses that washed up old term “broken home” to describe a single parent family. Although she does stress that her point about kids doing better in two-parent homes is actually in reference to the consistency and stability of a family, rather than the actual numbers of parents, I really just wish she had said that instead of the whole “kids do better in un-broken homes” section.

But the stories about the people she encounters on the other side of the world, and how silly her questions may have sounded, and the over-analyzing of the marriage statistics…  It all makes sense to me.  Because I do the same thing when I am anxious about something.  I’m not (very) anxious about my own second trip down the aisle, but as I said, I get it – I completely understand why anyone would be.

Another point that resonated with me was the discovery that early western marriages were in spite of the Church, who wanted no one between an individual and God, not even a spouse. Early western marriages, then, were alliances between a man and a woman, in effect, against the world. I like that.

I spoke with a friend today who is at the beginning stages of her second divorce, and she is obviously bitter about marriage in general.  She can’t be happy for me, although she is trying – and I understand.  She said, “Why can’t you just be happy together?  Why do you have to get married?”  I had no reply, because I understood.  But my question back is, Would your heart hurt any less if you had never gotten married this second time?  Or would it still be messy and ugly, this breaking up stuff?

In any case, this book is a thinking person’s book for anyone, not just those contemplating a second marriage. Ms. Gilbert tackles tradition, cultural differences, expectation, and anything else a skeptic would research before coming to terms with something as important and life-altering as getting married, for the second time.

Valentines and Stuff

Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960

Valentine’s Day. It always has me pondering stuff and

  • do I want stuff,
  • why do I want stuff, or
  • why is it ok to/not to get stuff, and back to
  • it’s really not about stuff.

Or other people, which is reason number one why I think people want stuff for Valentine’s Day. It is not a display of love between two people, it is a display of love “between” two people that is promptly shared with all and sundry, as in look-how-much-he-loves-me-because-he-got-me-this-stuff.

I get a little piece of Valentine’s Day every time he sends me a card in the mail on some random day, sends me a funny email, or any of the wonderful ways he makes me feel loved even when we’re separated by 900 freakin’ miles. Last year on Valentine’s Day, I got a little thrill when I pulled out my phone to set a tempo in class, and realized he had called and left a voicemail. My students would tell you I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, and was blushing and giggly, just knowing he had called me. I don’t need stuff, and I don’t want stuff. I have what I want. And I am a lucky, lucky lady.

 

 

Something Borrowed, Nothing New

A letter from my grandpa to my grandma, dated 1939

A letter from my grandpa to my grandma, dated 1939

My grandparents were married in 1925, in New York City.  My grandfather was 25, my grandmother 20, and they had eloped, staying with a cousin, as they were both from upstate New York, near Buffalo.  They were both Italian immigrants, and as such, very Catholic, and this eloping thing got them in pretty hot water.  And they knew it would.  They went so far as to rent bridal regalia and have a picture taken (not a cheap process in 1925!) as proof of the marriage, and the seriousness of their intentions to my great-grandfather.  It didn’t work real well, as he didn’t speak to them until after they had their first child, almost two years later, even though they lived only blocks from each other.

Before they eloped, they dated of course, but my great-grandfather made it clear that one of my grandmother’s brothers had to “chaperone”.  My grandfather was a bowler (scandalous!), and hung out at a bar called “The Red Front” which wasn’t the most savory of places, and so my great-grandfather didn’t think him a suitable match for his eldest daughter.  Some of the brothers did a better job of chaperoning than others, and some of the younger kids reported having learned to kiss from watching my grandparents on the porch at the end of a date.

I have been reflecting on this, because sometimes we think we are the first to experience everything we experience.  And sometimes we think our ancestors led rather boring lives.  But I admire their strength and courage.  They knew they had found their one true love, and they pursued each other, even though there were clearly obstacles, namely my great-grandfather.  And it was important to them that he understand, which he eventually did.  My grandparents were married for 63 years, and although it looked like a typical love from the outside, you never know a relationship unless you are in it.

He called her “Darling”.  <3

The Look

"Now I can buy the things I love^ Here's ...You know the saying about there being a fine line between bravery and stupidity?

Increasingly, I have been getting “the look” from people I know and work with.  The look that says the person can’t quite tell which one I am, brave or stupid.  This “idea” of giving it all up and moving south.  “Is she really gonna do it?” is what that look says.  Mostly it’s people who don’t know me too well, because the people who know me well also know it isn’t an “idea” — it’s a reality.

I can understand the look.  I can understand the thought process behind it.  But the truth is, my parents prepped me for big moments like this the entire time I was growing up.  Education, education, education was the key to independence, independence, independence.  For a long, long time, I assumed it was freedom from depending on someone else.  But it isn’t just independence from other people.  It’s also independence as my own person.  Independence from a job, career path, lifestyle, society, thought, etc.  The ability to think for myself and know myself enough to know when to walk away.  To walk toward something simpler, easier, more satisfying.  Toward a smaller pile of money, sure, but much more happiness.  And not just for me, but for my boy, too.

And it’s not all that easy.  Some things will be infinitely harder down there.  But there will be love.  Lots of love.  And I guess I never quite stopped believing that love is enough, especially now that I know what true love feels like.

The most interesting part about “the look”?  Mixed in with all of the incredulity, disbelief, and sizing up?

There’s more than a little jealousy in there, too.