Sunday, August 31, 2008

365 Days

A year ago, we moved.  We had sold our home in 8 short days and moved two very short weeks later.  I had packed up LM and everything we owned and drove halfway across the country to start again.  I moved without a job, without income, without any sense of how I was actually going to make it all work.

And in the past year I found my heart.  I found myself standing in an elementary classroom wondering how on earth I ever left it for ten years.  I found my relationship with my son growing closer, getting better, not buckling under the strain as I feared it might.  We found a church, and this summer, found another.  I started dating again and let myself let go for a short while, letting someone else in for a change.  

It has been a year of faith.  Of believing there is a plan bigger than what I can see.  That there is someone in control who knows more, knows better, knows more completely what I need than I do.  

I cannot say I didn't have my doubts.  I cannot say I didn't lay awake at night and fear.  I had times where the tears wouldn't stop.  Where doubt ruled my mind.  Where hopelessness nearly overtook me while I waited for the next paycheck, waited to sell the house, waited to see if LM's school was the right decision.

But today, a year later, I can say confidently that God knows better than I do.  That He will lead if I will let him.  That He can not only take me to places I've never been, but can fill my heart with joy I've never known. 

As I look back, and then look ahead to a year of teaching in a paraprofessional position, to another year of bonding with my son, to a year of trusting and faith and paying the bills with a fraction of what we used to have, I have confidence.  I have hope.  I have immeasurable joy.

And I have faith.

Let go, let God.  And He will fill you heart with joy and blessing.

They Say That Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I didn't break up with TB rashly, nor did I do it without reason.  I don't regret my decision for a moment, but in the past week I've found that it's terribly hard to love someone and know that you have to let them go.  The idea that men and women can be friends after a breakup might be true for some, but I think that takes time and a very mature attitude on both parts.

TB is going through a really tough time with his divorce and on Friday, in an email, I realized he had received further bad news and he was very nearly going to self-destruct.  My heart broke.  I felt badly for having added to his pain.  I felt anguish for his kids and all they are going through.  I feared for his anger and the decisions he seemed on the verge of making.

I drove over, leaving LM to his PlayStation briefly.   TB assured me he was fine, but his anger was bubbling over.  I don't think he was happy to see me, but I went in anyway and hugged the kids and tried in whispers to keep him from doing something that would damage his chances of keeping his kids.  His ex was due any moment to pick up the kids and in an angry reaction to court papers he had received earlier that day he was prepared to teach her a lesson.  Perhaps one meant to prove something to me as much to her.  His desire to not be seen as passive translated into justified anger.  But is was a decision that might cost him more dearly in the end.

By the time she arrived, TB seemed somewhat better.  After he exchanged the kids and a few not-to-be-repeated words, he sat and shook his head.  How could it be this bad?  How could it have reached this point?  Why must he fight it all alone?  I had no answers, only a hug and reassurance that he's not alone.  I reminded him that he believes in a God that is stronger and more powerful and more righteous than he.  He cried and lamented over the fate of his life and the current state of his heart.

In a further effort to save him from himself (and perhaps from a few too many beers) I told him we were all going out.  It felt like the natural, friendly thing to do - as opposed to leaving him alone to wallow and drink and allow his anger to fester.  We went to my house, picked up LM and we all went bowling, mini-golfing and even rode the go-karts.  TB (and LM) laughed and had fun, and at least for a moment, the issues at court were put to the back of the mind.

But in an effort to care, in an effort to help the kids, by all going out, I sent a mixed message.  And so, after some heartfelt text messages from TB later, I needed, for the second time, to tell TB that I still don't want to date, I don't think this is the time, and I really don't think I'm the right girl for him.  

I know I have to just walk away.  I know I have to let go and just let God work this one out.  Especially for the mess his divorce is in right now.  There isn't a doubt in my mind that I am a further complication to his life at this time.  But it's hard to care for someone and then just shut it off when you realize the timing is horrible, or the relationship isn't what it should be.  It's hard when you realize your compassion is further confusion.  

And so now I struggle.  I want to go to church with LM, but it's TB's church.  And while cleaning out LM's closet this week, I put together a box full of goodies I know The Rentals would love, but I can't give it to them.  And while I realize we are all adults and should be able to handle this well, I also know how TB feels and I would like to stop being one of the people who makes life so hard for him right now.  

I don't think it's the breaking up that's hard to do, it's the turning off of all that you felt that doesn't come so easily.  

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Calls

The principal thanked me for taking the time to come and interview.  He said I had been a finalist for the position and that the interview team had appreciated my candor and honesty.  He wished me luck and success in my search for a full -time position but informed me that another candidate had been selected for the full-time Kindergarten position.  

I wasn't surprised.  The interview team seemed exhausted by the time I arrived, I was the last of what I presume to be an entire day of interviews.  They were behind the proverbial eight ball as they had an all-school Open House the very next night where I know they hoped to announce their new teacher.  Several teachers on the interview team seemed to have already made up their mind before I ever answered the first question.  

And it's really okay.  It's a district I've never been in.  It's a great school, I'm certain, but I didn't know anyone there.  I don't know the staff, I don't know the kids. I would have already been behind, with the other new teachers having already started in meetings and orientations several days before.  I would have had a week to get a classroom and curriculum together.   My heart, truth be told, is elsewhere.  At a school where I know and love so many of the students already.  Where two teachers offered without hesitation to write me recommendations.  Where the principal seemed to be an advocate in my corner.  My heart was really hoping for a position there.

Which is why I shouted with glee when that principal called me earlier this evening and offered me a job.  It's not a teaching position, it's a teaching assistant (paraprofessional) position.  But I'll have my own classroom.  I'll see all the classes and all the kids and I'll get to teach them computers.  I'll also gain some experience working one-on-one with kids at risk, working to find the solution to their learning struggles.  In a word, I'm thrilled.  And the principal was too.  "I was so worried we were going to lose you to the other district" she said.  

I start on Tuesday.  I make as much as I made subbing only I'm guaranteed every school day.  There aren't benefits or vacation but I'm going to spend every day where my heart longs to be.  

Tonight, I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How Fun It Is

He wasn't back in my presence for five minutes and we were teasing and laughing and cracking jokes at each other.  

In the car, he started talking about helping his grandpa out at work. 

LM:  "You know, it's really hard to understand a man on the phone who has just lost his son to cancer."

me:  "Why?  Was he crying?"

LM:  "No.  But Grandpa has known him longer and he can understand him really well.  I had a difficult time knowing what he was saying most of the time."

me:  ????

LM:  "But it is really cool to see how he moves his food around in his mouth by politely using his fork."


me:  (laughing)  "LM, I thought you said he lost his son to cancer.  You said his 'tongue', didn't you?"

LM busts out laughing.

Later on the drive, LM starts whistling.  He immediately stops himself and says, "Oh, right, no whistling indoors (my rule)."  He then proceeds to roll down the car window and lean his head out.  He was laughing too hard to whistle.

LM is taller, just as thin but his voice is deeper and his face has really broken out.  So far, he still thinks dating sounds disgusting (I had to ask) but I can tell changes are a comin'.  When we arrived back home, LM was unloading a bag of groceries while I finished bringing in his 1005 things from the car.  I heard a voice ask, "Mom?  Should I put the Boboli pizza crust in the fridge?"  But I didn't even recognize it as his voice until I was inside and saw him standing there looking at me holding the Boboli.  This deeper voice is going to take some getting used to!

I could post 100 things from our day that have already made me smile, made me laugh, made my heart just leap with joy for being with him.  But I'm going to go fix dinner and enjoy an evening with my boy.  


As full as my heart is to have him to hold and hug and love and laugh with, I realized as he spoke to his father how difficult it is to be the child of divorce.  "Hey, Dad, I just called to tell you I'm home.  Yeah, it is great to be back.  Not that it wasn't great being with you, too..."

My heart sank for the man on the other end listening.  

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Simple Gifts

Today, with heartfelt gratitude, I will return this beautiful laptop to my dad. I cannot begin to put into words what his gift of lending this to me for the summer has meant. More than any monetary gift, more than any other kindness, this truly showed me my dad cares about me. He recognized a need, but did not insult my independent spirit, he did not overstep his role as father, he did not make the effort to impress me or to win my favor, he simply saw a need and knew he had a short-term solution that would help. And it did.

I accepted his offer only because I wanted to put together my teaching portfolio this summer. In a perhaps optimistic spirit that I might get an interview, I wanted to have presentation materials ready and on-hand should I get a call. I certainly could have just visited my sister and used her computer if I had received an invitation to interview, but Dad's generosity allowed me to work at my own creative pace. Putzing with pages. Putting it aside and revising it days, weeks, later.

I do not find it at all ironic that tomorrow, the day after I return this computer to Dad, I have two interviews. With two districts. For two different full-time teaching positions. I do not know that I will be granted either one. But I do know that I will go confidently to the interview, knowing that I have put together a portfolio that reflects my teaching as well as my personality.

And I will know that it was my dad's thoughtfulness that made that possible.

Thanks, Dad. I love you, too.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Feeling Your Age

When you try to defy your age by challenging your 7 year old nephew to a game of golf on the XBox360, even if you kick his butt, you will still prove you're too old to play when you have to put on your glasses to read the information on the screen about your golf statistics (and even then you can't read it all).

When you take your niece shopping for new school clothes, after handing her no less than thirty pairs of jeans of various sizes and styles, you will find yourself cursing the sizing discrepancies from brand to brand and complaining about how they ride too low, or are way too long, or there is just no reason for a 12 year old's jeans to cost $40, only to find yourself sounding 25 years ago.

If you tag along for school supply shopping and find yourself explaining with passion to this same niece that it is the FOLDERS that are the most exciting part of new school supplies and choosing them is an activity that should not be taken lightly. When you find your voice getting slightly too animated, with a bit too much enthusiasm as you explain the lengthy process you used to go through each and every year of carefully selecting your new supplies and agonizing over just exactly how you wanted to organize yourself for classes, she will, in fact, roll her eyes and give you that look that reminds you she doesn't believe folders were even invented when you went to school.

While waiting on your lunch order at the Food Court, you actually take notice that every.single.person behind the counter was probably born after you graduated from high school. Not only that, but they all have two things you would never have dreamed of in high school, namely, either a) a visible piercing in a location other than their ears or b) hair color that is far from natural.

You actually catch yourself saying, "just because all your friends have cell phones doesn't mean you need one."

When you make an attempt to recreate a lesson plan you taught during your student teaching days and realize that in order to find the resources you need, you're using a technological advancement (the internet) that wasn't available when you taught the lesson in the first place.

Realizing for the first time that your sister has wrinkles under her eyes (sorry, Jules) and looking in the mirror and realizing you do, too.

When you've watched 400 of the 500 laps of the NASCAR race at Bristol only to go to bed before the finish because it's 11:00 and you have church in the morning.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It Was Time

to let go. To give him time to sort out his life. To give him a chance to figure out who he is now without her influence, without mine. To allow all of them to settle into their new lives.

As much as I enjoyed being with TB and as much as I loved the Rentals, his divorce was an ongoing, everyday drama. I didn't have a right to help make those decisions, nor should he give any consideration to anything but himself and the kids for each and every decision he needs to make. He has to move. He needs to downsize. He has a budget to re-work, child care to establish, ongoing tension with his ex-wife. I am a further complication to them all.

And it was a challenge for me in my independent life, to respond to a family that all needs love, reassurance and stability 24/7. They deserve it. They crave it. They need it. But I'm so used to my space, my own time. I haven't been needed like that in years. While flattering and reassuring, I was exhausted. I was drained. I felt their desire to be together all the time and I struggled to balance that with my own needs for personal space.

But I learned a lot. I learned that while I am long since past my marriage, that while I long ago dealt with the issues therein, I was not prepared to deal with a sensitive, passive, permissive man without perceiving him as weak. I had to remember at times that passivity can just be an effort to appease and impress. But it was hard. Maybe it was too hard for me. My passive, kindhearted, sensitive, permissive ex-husband turned out to be gay. It was difficult for me to look at a new situation and expect a different outcome.

I know TB's not happy with my decision. I know he thinks the divorce drama will be over sooner rather than later and that my involvement with the kids was a blessing not a complication. But I've been down that road. I've been in his shoes. I think in six months, in a year, he'll be able to look back and say, "I wasn't ready, I needed time." Or maybe I'll be wrong. Maybe despite all the distractions, challenges and obstacles, despite all the changes, disruptions and discouragement, maybe he's got it all together and is truly ready for a relationship right now. I've been wrong before.

Maybe it's me that needs time to adjust. Maybe I'm just ill-prepared to get involved at this stage in his life. Maybe it just wasn't right for me. In any case, I had a great time this summer getting to know someone new, letting someone get to know me and allowing my heart to open up to littles. I wish The Boy and The Rentals all the best. They will all remain in my prayers. My time spent with each of them was truly a blessing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

5 Days

LM comes home on Tuesday. I took a look in my fridge today and realized a trip to the store was mandatory. And pronto.

(Do note the penguin on the top shelf. He has been faithfully turning the light on and off in my fridge for years. Most dependable penguin I've ever met.)

The freezer. Frozen broccoli anyone?

I headed to the store. Not the one around the corner that I usually shop at. Not the one I have walked to all summer with ONE reusable bag on my shoulder and $15 in my pocket. No, no, I went to the BIG store. And I took FOUR reusable bags with me this time.

Ahhh, a stocked freezer. Meat, cheese and veggies. I can sleep at night now.

From a half gallon of milk to two full gallons that he'll consume within 10 days of his arrival. Veggies, fruit, salad, lunch meat....we might make it through next week before he asks me "what's there to eat?"

When I opened the crisper to put in potatoes, cucumbers, carrots and green pepper it actually said, "I thought you had forgotten about me." Guess I haven't had a need for the crisper drawer all summer. Poor neglected thing. I hope the penguin has been keeping it company.

*I was talking with LM this afternoon and told him I didn't think he could come home. "Why?" he inquired. "Well, LM, you see, I went to the grocery store today..." "Oh heavens" was his understanding reply. "LM, I just don't think I can afford for you to come home." "Mom? Let me ask you this. Which will cost you more, the grocery bills when I come home, or the therapy bills if I don't?"

Touche, LM, touche.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Under My Skin

I think it's safe to say the Rentals have won a place in my heart. I stopped by Blockbuster today with crossed fingers and whispering a prayer that they weren't sold out 3 hours after the store had opened for the day.

You see, tomorrow evening, I'm watching the Rentals while TB has a long overdue night out with the boys. And me? Being the most awesome babysitter in the land? I rented the latest Hannah Montana movie.

I must be sick in the head.

Or in love with these kids.

You decide. I'm too busy trying to track down 3D glasses.

The Introduction

A woman approached TB and me as were waiting in the church narthex for his family to arrive. She shook TB's hand and then looked at me quizzically. She held out her hand and introduced herself as Karen. I shook her hand and said, "Nice to meet you, Karen. I'm Eliza Jane". She said, "Eliza. I've known your husband for quite some time but I don't believe we've ever met. It's nice to meet you, too."

I wanted to ask if she might point my husband out to me as I'm not certain I've met him just yet, but I had to help TB stifle his laugh.

Monday, August 18, 2008

8 Days

In 8 days my grocery bill will triple.

In 8 days my laundry will double.

In 8 days the noise in this house will move from silence to regular conversation.

In 8 days I will have to share the computer.

In 8 days I will have to consider his desires when choosing something on TV.

In 8 days he will make me laugh.

In 8 days he will tell me about his summer adventures.

In 8 days my joy will double.

In 8 days the love in this house will triple.

In 8 days he will hug me, if only reluctantly.

In 8 days, my boy comes home.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

He Didn't Even Know

When he took me for a drive today, to show me his old stompin' grounds. The place he taught for the first five years. His apartment where he lived before he was married. The hospital where they went to pick up their adopted son.

And then he drove me to the campus. And we got to see the golden dome.

And the Touchdown Jesus.

And he didn't even know I'm a fan of Charlie Weiss and the Fighting Irish.

The Lake

We love to go to the lake.
We've been to three different lakeside towns searching for our favorite beach. The water has been cold, too cold to entice us in for a dip, but we dip our toes in and watch the sunset and in between we talk for hours about nothing and everything.

Just a walk, side-by-side along the water, can do wonders.

We're always amazed at the one-legged seagulls. (It's a joke.)

God's artwork in the sky.

Smiles and laughter.

(How come he's exponentially more photogenic than I am?)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

For the First Time

It's selfish, I admit. But on most occasions when I miss my mother, I wish she could be back here with me, if only for a short while. I don't wish her to be here suffering from cancer. I don't wish her back if it means being in pain. But I wish her back. I want to introduce her to LM, to Birdy to George. I'd like to talk with her, hear her laugh, feel her hug.

Incomprehensibly, today marks the fifteenth anniversary of her death. Fifteen years. It can feel like yesterday and a lifetime ago all in the same blink.

But for the first time, the only time, that I've longed for her companionship like this, I don't wish her back. Ever since my grandmother joined my mother in heaven this past January, I can only imagine the joy that abounds between the two. Finally reunited, physically healed, the laughter, the joy, the peace, must know no bounds. How could I ever wish that away from my mother?

For as much as I have missed my mom, I know she has missed hers. And her mother has longed to see her daughter again, just as I know my mom longs to see her children again - down the road.

Today, I celebrate that reunion in heaven. And I look forward to the day when I can join both of them in heaven, never to be apart again.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Logic

seems to be missing. I spoke with LM last night (you remember LM, right? My boy? The one who left for the summer just slightly taller than my sister and will return a whole foot taller than me? The one who has spent his summer reading books like "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Gulliver's Travels" for his gifted class this fall? LM, the boy who forgets to call his mother for a week and then calls only to find out what razor number we use to buzz cut his hair? Yeah, that one.) I spoke with LM last night. And during the conversation I learned that his dad is currently working 14 hour days and expects to for the remainder of the summer.

So, can someone tell me, WHY ON EARTH IS MY SON THERE?!? Why didn't my ex choose to have his son at the beginning of the summer (when LM was in Pittsburgh with my ex's parents instead?) when he wasn't so busy with work? Why is my son, the son I ache to see, spending his time with my ex's PARTNER instead of with his mother?

There is a logic here I cannot follow. And a note I will definitely make for next year. Maybe it's just because I miss him so terribly much. Maybe it's because I got used to seeing him every single day. But this news, this information, just makes the ache that much worse. Of course, I cannot really say anything. When I moved LM out of state, I agreed the summers and vacations belonged to my ex so that he could spend time with his son.

This just isn't what I had in mind.

The Beginning of the End

It came yesterday; the first email to discuss plans to bring LM home. I'll admit, my heart leapt just a little. While nothing is firm, and no official date set as of today, the end is beginning to come into light. It's been 56 days already (but who's counting?) and will be at least 70 or more before I set eyes on my more-than-likely-now-taller-than-me son.

But he's coming home.


Eyes Wide Open

It was easier, twenty years ago. This whole dating process was simpler although perhaps more dramatic.

It was enough, then, to know that he occasionally attended church. Now, I want to know which church, what beliefs, how strong is his faith, does he pray. It was enough then to know he wanted children - someday. Now I see him with his kids. I am witness to his parenting. I can see how it differs from my own.

It was enough, back then, to know he had career ambitions. Still working on his degree, his idea of a job was something that earned pizza and beer money. Now I want to know what has he been doing with his knowledge, where is he headed in his career aspirations. Has he planned for retirement?

It was enough, then, to hang out at all hours. To get together at 2 am for a donut run at Five Points. To eat a week's worth of calories in one stop at Whitey's Ice Cream. To be up all night playing Euchre, or sitting in the lounge watching late night TV. Now I'm accustomed to my own time, my own space. I have my own habits and desires. I want time to get ready and then time to be on my own. I want time together but balanced, measured. I still want my life. Apart.

It was enough then to not know who we would become. To sit in the hamster wheel at the park across the street and talk philosophically about the future. To know that we would grow and change and to simply believe it would always happen together. To not know what challenges the future would bring, what obstacles would be placed in our path. We were naive, and that was just fine. Now, we can see the battle scars. The fears from our past are tangible and present. We have become the people we only wondered about twenty years ago. For better and for worse and now we must face our own identities, our own shortcomings, our own disappointments as well as our successes.

It would seem an advantage now, to know who he is now, to see his career, his balance with family, his parenting. It would seem to answer all the What If questions from back then. But it doesn't feel like an advantage. It feels like too much data. It is more difficult to know what information belongs on the scale and what doesn't matter.

It is more difficult now, to know what is enough.

I feel in love with a man I barely knew 20 years ago, a man who barely even knew himself back then. When neither of us could have foreseen the future or our departure from each other. Now, love isn't so easy, so straightforward, so basic. Now, love doesn't feel so much like a blind fall, it feels like gradual steps, taken cautiously, carefully, with eyes wide open and hearts zealously guarded.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Matter of Grace

My brother called last night. It caught me off guard. I haven't spoken to G in more than a month and had not programmed his new number into my phone so I didn't realize who was calling before I had already answered.

We didn't talk. I made some excuse, I told a lie, and I got off the phone as quickly as I had answered.

We've had a falling out. A major one. With details far too intimate to discuss on a blog. And the truth is, I haven't gotten past it. I think I've actually forgiven him for his trespasses against me, to be honest. The problem I have, the hostility I continue to feel, is more for the way I feel he is currently still taking advantage of family. For his lack of appreciation. For his arrogance that with all the generosity that has been afforded him (despite the major issues) he is unwilling to do the small things asked of him.

And so there is silence.

I cannot listen to his chipper voice tell me about his job, his golf, his friends. I cannot respond with the appropriate "mmhmm's" or "really?"'s when all I want to do is scream.

I know this is my burden. I know it is my heart that has to bend. I know that I have to learn to love him again, as he is. But I get hung up. I get angry at his arrogance, his disrespect, his lack of appreciation, in particular for all that my dad is doing for him.

But a voice, in the back of my head is whispering. Is reminding. Is nudging.

How arrogant, how disrespectful, how unappreciative am I at times, perhaps most of the time, of my Father's generosity, of His grace? How often is God frustrated with me for my complete lack of obedience, lack of gratitude for all that He does for me?

When I call, does God tell me He is just sitting down to dinner and will call me back?

Grace is receiving something you don't deserve. A gift. It's not a reward, it's not something you could ever earn. It has to be undeserved in order to be grace. My dad is demonstrating grace to my brother.

My Father is demonstrating grace to me.

When will I learn how to demonstrate it to my own brother?

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

What Ten Bucks Will Get You

No 40th birthday would be complete without a proper celebration and our day away was not over until we went out for dinner at a local restaurant with a piano bar. Neither of us had ever been, but moments in the door we knew this would not be our last visit.

The pianists (three) were amazing. Putting my own playing skills far to shame they played, sang, entertained. The crowd laugh, gasped and sang along with every classic hit, every familiar tune, every joke they played. With no less than seven bachelorette parties in attendance, we were also entertained by more than our fair share of drunk brides-to-be. The pianists had no mercy for women wearing flashing penises.

We enjoyed dinner and drinks and the music. And when I spoke to the waitress about taking home a piece of cheesecake (TB's favorite- as his birthday dessert) I inquired about a birthday announcement. She explained the process and told me $5 would get me an announcement and a song played, $10 would get him called up on stage.

I didn't know him well enough to know which option to choose. I knew myself - call me up on stage and I'll find the closest exit and hold a grudge for years. But TB? I decided to test the waters. I sat down next to him with the request form and asked him for his favorite song. Unable to come up with a good one for the situation, he finally just suggested anything by Chicago. I added a comment on the card that it was his 40th birthday celebration and walked up to place my request on the piano. It was during the walk up that I had to decide. $5, or $10? Announced or embarrassed?

I put a ten on the piano.

And when they called TB up to the stage, alongside another bachelorette, I started to worry. The other birthday celebrations had been fairly tame, but the bachelorette songs had been downright hysterical, at the expense of the bride-to-be (in each case they were far too drunk to remember it in the morning).

They had TB sit in a chair and told the veiled drunken wonder it was her job to give him a lap dance. TB was laughing and I breathed a sigh of relief that at least he was the passive member of this spectacle.

It was halfway through the song that I realized the trouble I had started. The pianist stopped and told the two on stage to switch positions. It was up to TB to show this bride how a lap dance was really done.

And show her he did.

I do not remember the last time I have laughed so hard. Or the last time I saw someone stand with such penache in a moment that might otherwise be a debacle. He hammed it up. He laughed and danced. He did the white man's overbite and had the crowd cheering. He was, in the moment, perfect.

And I, I am just happy to have photographic evidence of it all.

Happy 40th Birthday, TB!!

(It should be noted that I have gone to extreme lengths to emphasize to TB that reciprocity, while considered fair play in this situation, will not go over well. I embarrass easily and I hold grudges.)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A Day Away

He had asked me a couple weeks ago, so very early in all of this, if I would go away with him. It had felt too soon, felt like too much, but he didn't push, he just asked. Would I go away with him for the day, for his birthday?

And so I did.

We left on Saturday morning and he drove. I had guessed where he was taking me, to a place he went to as a child, a place he had been to a year ago but without joy. A place he wanted to experience again, experience together, experience the fun. It was great to talk during the drive, and to enjoy the silence, too. We arrived late morning on the most beautiful of all Saturdays. We walked the streets of the historic town. We browsed the shops and ate lunch on the patio. He held my hand and laughed with me. We walked and walked and with each step we grew closer. The memories he had of the place returned with the same joy.

We wandered around the largest Christmas store in the country. We talked about the holiday, of the importance of faith in our lives, in our children. It was amazing what conversations arose from looking at thousands of ornaments. Do you play an instrument? Have you always lived in this state? Do you decorate with white lights or colored? Nothing of such remarkably signficance, but all pieces of a puzzle that seems to be coming together too easily.

He challenged me to mini-golf, a choice he now regrets. I tried to warn him. I tried to tell him. But he's a competitor, too. He had to learn the hard way. (I tried. I even played the back 9 left-handed.)

He indulged me at the outlet mall. I only wanted to browse Pottery Barn. Even though shopping isn't his thing, he indulged me and ungrudgingly followed me into a half dozen stores.

We didn't stay the night. We decided it was early enough to come back home. We stopped by his aunt's to pick up his dog and then went out for the night to celebrate his birthday in style.

The day was so casual, so beautiful, so unremarkable that it was, well, remarkable. Thanks, TB, for a gorgeous day away with a great companion.

Friday, August 01, 2008


It was, all things considered, the perfect plan.

When I arrived at TB's, the Rentals greeted me with squeals and hugs. We ran to the market and shopped for pizza and cake ingredients. The Rentals helped me make the cake, blow up balloons and color a banner for their dad.

We started making pizzas a few hours later. The kids were tickled to do their own. TB even seemed to enjoy family involvement with dinner. His daughter chose sauce and pepperoni (she's allergic to dairy things) and his son wanted nothing more than the perfect cheese pizza, proud of his own creation.

Dinner was wonderful. We started holding hands around the table during grace. Both kids love to say the prayer and it is often the most adorable moment of the day. His son loves doing Highs, Lows and Thanks and will be the first to yell "HALT!" and start us off with our daily lows. His daughter caught me off guard when she said her high was when I arrived and "squeezed her soooo tight!" making me feel both joy for how loved she feels, and concern that the love is coming from me.

We had promised the Rentals that we would have cake and TB would open gifts after dinner, before their mom came to pick them up. The last bite of pizza was barely swallowed when the kids scurried off to the couch to help their dad open the gifts I brought. They each knew which gift was "from them" and were eager for him to open it. All the gifts were enjoyed by all.

The Rentals and I retrieved the cake from its hidden location, lit candles and sang as we presented it to a closed-eyed TB. Three breaths of air helped blow out the candles. Three smiles looked up at me while I took pictures. Three of a family and one behind the lens were tickled with the celebration.

And then, in a split second it was over. Their mom showed up significantly early. Parked at the curb in her car, unwilling, unable in the midst of the battle to come to the door, she waited. In an instant, in a heartbreaking moment, we whisked the kids out of the clothes their dad bought them and back into the now clean clothes they had arrived in. His daughter became quiet, head down she walked down the driveway to where her mom waited in the street. His son cried. Not ready to leave, with no transition, no warning, he wanted to stay. He wanted cake. He wanted to celebrate longer. He wanted his dad. We tried. We reassured. We hugged, we promised. We soothed. We tried to create a transition for children so young in a fraction of the time required.

TB took them out the door, gave last minute hugs and kisses and promised we would save cake for their return on Monday. No words were exchanged between he and his ex wife. She was taking pictures of his car, the house, him to use in some threatening manner later.

I sat in the house out of sight. On a chair at the now vacant table. Where plates were sitting empty at each chair. Where fruit punch remained in his son's glass. Where a cake sat, candles only moments ago removed, uneaten, uncut. I stood and began picking up the clothes we had quickly changed them out of. Clothes that would never return back if sent with them. Her beautiful dress. His shirt, his shorts, his spiderman mask. The lion I gave her, the one she named Aslan, was on the couch. I picked it up, all of it, and I carried it reluctantly into their rooms. I tucked Aslan into bed. I folded their clothes, her dress, and I put them away. TB had returned into the house solemn, silent. He was in the kitchen, putting dinner things away. Trying to keep himself together.

I was standing in his son's doorway when it overtook me. I had never experienced a moment so traumatic in my own divorce. I had never been witness to such a painful transition with such fragile children. I had not felt such heartache in years. I stood, in an empty, silent, doorway and I sobbed. He found me there and put his arms around me. I was embarrassed. These weren't even my children. It wasn't my divorce. I was only an outsider. But the pain was tangible. The emptiness, the shock, the heartache was as real to me as any.

The perfect birthday celebration, this perfect family of three had been torn in two. And standing there as witness, so had my heart.

I Remember

My 29th birthday. It was the first birthday I spent alone after the divorce. It was, in all honesty, one of the worst birthdays I ever had. LM was not with me, but even in the days surrounding, he had no idea of the occasion and I felt selfish being the one to tell him. A friend came to visit for the day but his mind was elsewhere and I felt the burden of being an obligation.

Since then I've done as little as possible to mark my annual day. It is difficult being a single parent in the situation. You don't want to make a fuss over yourself but you want to teach your children that we celebrate everyone and not just them.

Tomorrow, TB celebrates his 29th birthday for the 11th time. He has expressed his desire to make a deal of it if only to mark a new stage in his life, a new beginning. He is taking the two of us away tomorrow to a place yet undisclosed to spend quiet time together in celebration.

But today is even more important. Today he has the Rentals and it is important to me that they share in the festivities. I spoke with TB about this last evening, throwing out some simple ideas. "We'll make pizza, and the kids and I can bake a cake together."

Last night I wrapped gifts. Mere tokens, really, but items carefully chosen as presents not just from me but from the Rentals, too. And we will make pizzas together (a concept received with a quizzical look from a boy who is used to delivery) and we'll make and decorate a cake (which will be far more fun for me than I suspect as I get the joy of working with the kids) and we will open gifts and sing the song and laugh and love and hug.

Because that is how everyone should celebrate their birthday.


More Than Words

It's been hovering in the air for days. There were moments when the feeling was so tangible I thought I might reach out and grab it. But not a word was spoken. I knew he was holding back for my sake. He is not the one that is afraid.

I finally came to grips, I put a name to the emotion I realized what must be done, what had to be said. But I thought I would wait. His birthday is on Saturday. When he's taking me away for the day. It could wait. It would be better to wait.

But last night, within moments of walking in his door, after two children had run from their rooms to jump into my arms and hug me, after family dinner around the table filled with prayers, highs and lows and winks across the table, I knew it with such certainty I could avoid it no longer.

Laying on the hardwood floors, him working with his boy's Lego creation, me reading with his girl while she twisted my hair in her little fingers the emotion overwhelmed me. In a brief moment, when the kids had run to their rooms, I whispered all that I was holding in my heart.

"I love you."

"I have been wanting to say that for days," he replied in a whisper. "I love you, too."