Friday, September 30, 2011

Truth #5

This year has absolutely flown by; it's already October tomorrow! WTF?

More than that, though, October marks the month where one year ago I decided to change my life.  And although divorce is something that is sad and awkward and tense and prone to make people avoid you and prone to make you experience jags of frustrated tears, I remain a resident of Hopeful, Unincorporated.

Truth #5:  I wish I had the balls to leave earlier than I did.

I know that I cannot change the past.  I know that I cannot please everyone.  I know that some people may think I am disparaging my wasband and our marriage.  Please know that I am not trying to do any of those things, honestly. 

This past year has taught me that making the decision to move forward without being married was a Good Decision.  Believe me, I played Devil's Advocate with myself and looked at every which way that leaving would be a detriment to my life.  There were just more checks in the "pro" column.

And now that I've had some distance from that decision, from the days of living in a friend's spare bedroom, from the days of listening to NPR every evening in the one armchair I bought at Goodwill in my rental dollhouse because I didn't have the extra cash to hook up the cable, from eating the same four meals overandoverandoverandover because they were cheap and the ingredients were available in bulk, from sneaking over to my old house during the day when no one was home to pilfer more of the items from the marriage that I thought I didn't need to share any longer...

...I can say that I wish I had done it sooner.  Maybe even years ago.

And now that I reside full-time in Hopeful, Unincorporated, I can look back at the dark days from last winter and this spring, and look at what many would call hardships and smile to myself because I know that I am a capable and intelligent woman, and that my strength comes from my gut, and what I know to be true right there. And so I leave you with this, one of my favorite Jewish proverbs:

"I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Truth #4

I used to think that good deeds would always be acknowledged, that somehow the Universe was tallying the good things we humans do, and that one day our goodness would be rewarded somehow. Like with the lottery machine spitting out winning numbers, or starting that new business at exactly the right time, or with finding a $20 bill in those jeans you put on for the first time since April. This isn't about religion, either, because I know some of you may say: "But darling, God is watching you, and you will reap your rewards in Heaven."  And those of you who know me, know that I am rolling my eyes at the thought of hearing those words.

It's not about that kind of stuff; it's about always doing the right thing, always being the bigger person, always being good, and then not seeing anything positive for your efforts.

Truth #4: I am very tired of being the Bigger Person.

I am the person who will always look at the Bright Side when something unfortunate has occurred; I have the wisdom to know that I can't change it, so I need to learn something from it and move on.

I am the person who will never speak badly about my wasband in front of my children, because they are his children, too, and what kind of example would I be setting?

I am the person who will always shake hands and say "It's nice to meet you," even if the person is someone I "know" from word-of-mouth or reputation.  And yes, even if the reputation is not a good one. I'm a firm believer in not judging a book by its cover.

I am the person who will stay at work to finish a project or cover for someone who wasn't able to make it in, even though I just know my efforts will go unrecognized, and that the absentee isn't really sick.

I am the person who will go to the wedding/baby shower/funeral despite the fact that I don't really feel like celebrating or remembering with a bunch of people I don't really know that well.

I am the person who will attend my children's school events, even if they never acknowledge my presence and walk ten feet in front of me to get to the car before someone sees them with *gasp* their mother.

I hold doors open for people.  I smile at people walking their dogs. I make goo goo eyes and talk funny to babies. I make small talk with people I know from my previous life as a waitress & bartender, and ask about their pets and children and lives, even if they were bad tippers.

And most days, I am okay with this.  I recognize that how we treat others is indicative of how we feel about ourselves.  But for one day, I would like one of the following to happen: either I would like to be recognized in some way (and it need not even be monumental, like winning the lottery or anything, just...anything), or I would like to have a Free Pass at telling others how loutish their behavior is. 

I would like to take children who are in public and acting unruly by their ears and drag them to a corner and tell them in a very stern voice that means ALL BUSINESS that they need to knock it off, already.  I would like all bad drivers to stay home.  I would like to scrutinize out loud every fashion faux pas I see.  I would also like to stand at the checkout counter at the grocery store and refuse to let people purchase certain items; snarling teenager with you? No Mountain Dew or ramen noodles.  Does your MediAlert bracelet say you have diabetes? No soda for you either.  Are you obese? Only raw vegetables for you today.  And no, you can't have soda either.  Not even diet.

You catch my drift? I feel like the past month or so I've been biting my tongue so hard and so often that it takes an extreme amount of effort for me to not spew what I'm really thinking at people, lest they get covered in the blood that has been pooling behind my teeth. It's not lost on me, either, Dear Reader that Yom Kippur is coming in just a few weeks. 

You may be wondering why,all of a sudden, I feel this way. I won't say (because I am certain that no good will come of me telling you), but I will point you to this post for a clue.  In the meantime, re-read the Swedish proverb above, and remember to be thankful for the blessing that is this day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Truth #3

I was trolling around my friends' Facebook pages the other day, and *ping!* Up pops a little blue window that says "So-and -so posted on your wall." Oh, really? "So-and-so" is actually my cyber-pal, The Duck (side note: I use aliases for my friends, just in case...).

Oh, Duck- this is why I asked you what I asked you the other day.

Anyway, The Duck had asked about my opinion of candy corn. DUH. It is one of the four major food groups. And I answered her that one of my favorite fall treats is candy corn mixed with cocktail peanuts (Planter's Cocktail Peanuts only, definitely NEVER dry roasted): "It is like a fluffernutter without the bread," is what I replied. I also told her that I didn't allow myself said treat until the calendar read October 1st.

Truth #3: For being such a proponent of live-in-the-moment-ism and new-adventures-ism, I cling very tightly to certain self-made rituals, which cannot and will not be ignored or altered. It is probably an amateur form of OCD, but when you grow up in the Catholic church (and then find out you have some Jewish lineage, too), your life revolves around ritual whether you like it or not.

For your enjoyment (or, for your information, so you know when to avoid my craziness. Or better yet, so you can indulge your need for observing craziness in motion), I've put together a calendar of rituals I follow throughout the year. This list is by no means complete.

JANUARY 1st: Resolution Run. Usually a local 5K, and in years past, still a bit drunk. Coffee and any residual hangover accompanies me while I mark birthdays, anniversaries, etc. in RED INK on my new wall calendar. I usually think back to my childhood at this time, too, when New Year's Day meant a trip to my grandparents' houses for birthday celebrations for my paternal grandfather (January 2nd) and my maternal grandfather (January 17). I really think it was an excuse for another family get-together, and for my male relatives to watch lots of football games and drink beer. JANUARY 16th: Celebrate Daughter #1's birthday. Birthday celebrations include choice of food at dinnertime, and choice of dessert (cake, pie, cheesecake, etc.).

FEBRUARY28th: Celebrate Daughter #2's birthday. See description of birthday celebration above.

MARCH 17th: St. Patrick's Day. Wear something green; drink hot tea and eat buttered toast with grape jam (NEVER jelly) in honor of my maternal grandmother's birthday.

SPRING BREAK: May begin to purchase and consume Cadbury's Creme Eggs. There is no rule for consuming said eggs purchased by someone else; however, said eggs (regardless of purchasing personnel) must be stored in the freezer, and eaten in the frozen state: crunchy chocolate + solid creme filling = miraculous.

APRIL: Opening Day for MLB- adjust work schedule to facilitate viewing of Chicago Cubs' opener; manufacture feelings of hopefulness that "This is gonna be our year!" with beer and popcorn, at least until 7th inning stretch.

MAY: Usually the weekend after Mother's Day- host "Run & Brunch" event for friends. I didn't host the past two years due to Daughter #1's high school graduation, and then my work schedule. I think its going to make a re-appearance in 2012, though. See, I send out super cute invites to all of my runner friends (male & female), inviting them to participate in a local 5K, then come over for brunch afterwards. The first year it was just women, and we just ran one of my regular routes, not a race. The second year we did a local race. It was so nice to feel the camaraderie runners share and to show off my Martha Stewart-like hostess skills. Like I said, its comin' back in 2012. Memorial Day Weekend- Celebrate birthdays galore (my mother, two red-headed brothers-in-law, and now Bunny Boy); bring outdoor furniture out of winter storage, and sit outside on said furniture as long as the sun is shining (please note: snow may still be present).

JUNE: There isn't anything special about June for me, except that ever since I moved to the Upper Peninsula, I've spent the majority of June wondering when Summer will make an appearance.

JULY 4th: Run in Firecracker 5 Mile race. This was my first ever competitive race. Ever. I was training for my very first marathon, and my father-in-law said that I should get some experience doing races, being with lots of other runners. Also, there was the promise of a parade after the race. (Note to my Hog Capitol peeps: It's no Hog Days parade.) I have run it every year since then, and look forward to it, as for me it marks the start of summer. Independence Day is also my favorite holiday. Cookout or potluck party with friends; fire works viewed from the lake shore. Since living in the U.P., cookouts on July 4th have been day-long affairs for me. It used to be my in-law's home, and now it has been time split between my friend Fast Jessica's house (for food and perhaps a beergarita) and My Favorite Redhead's house (for a fire, beer, s'mores, and fireworks). JULY 20th: Eat Polish food in honor of my paternal grandmother. I have been known to consume the dreadful, frozen, store-bought version of pierogi; I do not recommend them unless it is a true Polack emergency. That, of course, means that you've run out of vodka, and if that's the case? Shame on you.

AUGUST: Nothing really special about August, either, unless Labor Day weekend falls at the end of the month. In which case...

SEPTEMBER: Labor Day Weekend, aka Hog Days. This marks the end of summer, for sure. It also marks one of the only times I make it to my parents' house during the year. I haven't been to Hog Days in the past two years (including this year) due to scheduling conflicts with work and other family obligations. I miss it so, so much. This is how it goes: usually the high school football team has its home opener on Friday night. Saturday morning there's the Hog Stampede (4 mile road race), followed at 2 pm by the absolutely fabulous Hog Days Parade which includes some of my favorite things: the Highland Bagpipers, The Marching Grey Ghosts of IVCC (community college), the Youth Rhythm Corps out of the Quad Cities, and my brother the fireman passing the fireman's boot along the parade route for donations to charity. Saturday night is Drinking Night. The bars downtown are in an L-shape on the block; if you go out the back door of one bar, and jog to the left, you'll be in the next bar. The alleyway is blocked off by the police, and you're allowed to wander around outside in this massive beer garden/street party atmosphere. Sunday is when you are convinced you are a volleyball champion, and you will WIN your match in the mud volleyball tournament that day. Some years you are correct. Monday is the Fly In Breakfast at the regional airport, served up by the municipal fire department (the one that takes care of the rural areas rather than calls within the city limits). And then just like *that* your summer is over.

OCTOBER 1st: May begin to mix and consume the afore-mentioned candy corn/cocktail peanut snack mix. Doesn't everybody eat this and love it? No?

NOVEMBER: The Night Before Thanksgiving. Two years ago, I spent Thanksgiving Eve with My Favorite Redhead and her husband, one of my Red-Headed-Brothers-in-Law. I taught him how to mix a proper vodka gimlet, and we and everyone else present drank mightily while singing Billy Joel songs pounded out on the piano & organ in the living room. It was a perfect pre-holiday night, the likes of which I will long for yearly in hopes of recreating it again. Thanksgiving Day- Run the Gladstone Turkey Trot 5K. Except for that year we made gimlets at Red's house. Oops.

DECEMBER 6th: Begin day with phone call from mother where she tells me again about how she remembers this day ("We were out cutting down a Christmas tree, and I told your dad to hurry, because it was time to go to the hospital. And it was so cold! And you were in such a hurry to get here!"). May purchase live Christmas tree and begin household Christmas decoration; may begin annual viewings of "Elf." See? It is part of my birthright to be mandated to wait until my birthday before getting a tree. And I love the movie "Elf." It makes me smile and laugh and feel all warm inside every time I watch it. And what girl doesn't want to feel like that on her birthday?

So call me crazy, say I'm OCD, say I'm silly to follow these self-made rituals, to keep on making these observances year after year. Go ahead, it's fine. Really. I don't care. They are my collected experiences turned into memory, and recognized and venerated in such a way that brings me comfort and happiness,no matter what else life throws at me.

See, Duck? You're not alone when you say that the worse it gets out there, the better you perform, and the more you enjoy what you have in the moment.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Truth #2

I hate the fact that I wear corrective lenses. Always have.

I remember when my eyes started to change. I was in fourth grade and absolutely loved my teacher, Miss Pillen. I loved her yellow-blond hair, her attitude of fun, her handwriting (what with its curlicues and such). I loved that she used a fine-point ball point pen so much that I bought one for myself with my allowance at the Osco downtown. Seriously, it was kinda stalker-ish how much I loved her.

So, we were in class one afternoon, and Miss Pillen was going over something with the entire class, Math maybe? I was sitting at a table in the middle of the room, and raised my hand at one point because I couldn't make out the stuff on the screen: things were out of focus. So Miss Pillen fiddles with the overhead projector, I look up and work through the next problem, but still can't see anything. Again, I ask for things to be put into focus. By now, the other kids in my class are shooting me looks; What is wrong with you? Its perfectly in focus! Miss Pillen fiddles with the knobs again, saying to me "Now? How about now?" I shook my head, no, its still blurry. And then Miss Pillen says in a very exasperated and completely annoyed voice:

"Maybe you should get your eyes checked!"

She had never raised her voice to me or spoken harshly to me; I was really a good kid, a good student. I started crying, and I thought I was doing a good job at hiding it (it was dark in the classroom, after all), but she came over to me and told me to go wash my face.

I cried just now at the memory, it is so ingrained on my conscience.

How thrilled do you think my parents were to have to take me to the eye doctor? Yeah, with six or seven kids at this time, one of the kids was bound to need glasses, right? (Although none of us needed braces...) And since we're talkin' circa-1982, my choice of frames was, um, limited. Do I even need to tell you that my hair was always home-permed in the skinniest rollers? And that our Catholic school uniforms were less-than-fashionable? I was a sight to behold.

I remember a couple of years later coming home from the eye doctor needing a stronger prescription. Another year, another new, stronger prescription: I was convinced I was going blind. I would come home from school many days and go upstairs to my bedroom, throw my glasses at the wall, and just sob. Big, heavy, mournful sobs that only a self-conscious pre-teen girl can understand, and that a mother can only listen to outside the bedroom door. Inconsolable.

And so, my 12th birthday stands out as one of the best ever if only for the fact that I was finally allowed to get contact lenses. I dream of laser eye surgery now, even though I'm pretty sure my eyes are past the prime state for that. *sigh*

On a happier note, Miss Pillen got married the summer after I had her for a teacher, and became Mrs. Wentworth. She named her first daughter Rachel.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Month of Truths

So as an experiment of sorts, I've decided to dedicate the majority of my blog posts this month to telling truths about myself. How do these "truths" differ from secrets? Well, if you know me at all you know these things already: no secret, just part of who I am.

And I figure that if I'd like a relationship with a guy (who isn't just part of a dream), I'd best be up front about myself. What better way to do this than to put it out on the good ol' World Wide Web?!

Shall we begin?

Truth #1 (and let me just state that these truths are not in any certain order, like, this "Truth #1" isn't at the top of my list, the most important thing about me, its just #1 because its the first thing that came into my head when I though about this month-long experiment): I hate surprises.

Yep. Good or bad, I don't like them. I mean, if I won the lottery- yespleaseandthankyouverymuch!- I'd be happy with all the money, but I'd be pissed I didn't know about it ahead of time. Think about it: if the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes Patrol came to my door, I'd sing-song "Just a min-ute!" to make sure I didn't look too unkempt (read: white trashy). A dab of blusher, eyelashes curled, nothing in my teeth, hair smoothed down...and PHOTO READY!

Its all about being prepared, being in the know, being in charge. I have control issues, I know. And if you know me, this is not news; my childhood has something to do with this, I'm sure. (As in, I was much more independent than other kids out of necessity.) Let me give you another example:

If I came home to a surprise party for me, I would kick everyone out of my house and not talk to them for a REALLY long time.

And you'd say to me if you were here right now: But that's mean! Your friends just wanted to surprise you as a means of showing you how much they love you! They wanted to celebrate you WITH you!

No. A thousand times, no. My friends know that any party celebrating "me" would need to be planned in some way by "me," lest I show up and throw a hissy fit over the placement of the flower arrangements or the music selection. Oh, yes. Truth be told, I would.