Dear Husband–Your loss is my loss

Dear Husband–Your loss is my loss

Dear Husband,

I haven’t written in awhile.  I’ve thought about it here and there, but that’s about all.  I haven’t wanted to write even though I could feel the need closing in on me.  I know I should’ve written something, anything, weeks ago, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  It made more sense to resist.  Nothing I could think of saying seemed adequate anyway.  Even now, I don’t know where I’m going with this.  I’m just trying to let some of this out because I’ve been holding it since your mother began her transition, and now that she…See, I don’t want to write it down right now.  I know not writing it doesn’t change anything, but it doesn’t matter.  Your loss is my loss, and I’m just not ready to face this, not yet.  

She said she didn’t want us to cry, and we did our best to do as she wished.  I still can’t believe she’s not down the street, just minutes away.  We can’t pick up the phone and tell on each other anymore.  I can still see that look she would give me whenever you would make up stories or just flat out lie about some odd thing from your past.  She was always amused by your stories…I can only let myself remember a little.  I don’t want to go too far, not yet.

You know you did the right thing moving her here, right?  There’s no question about it.  She needed you.  

You did your best for her.  I saw it everyday–no exaggeration.  You were right there for her.  You consistently demonstrated your love for your mother through every twist, turn, and bump in the road from the moment she arrived last December.  You didn’t even know you were in the valley with her, but you were.  I saw it.  I know.  She knew, too.

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You are a courageous person.  You learned that from her.   

Love,

Your wife

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Dating Tip #3: Leave the Past Where It Belongs

Dating Tip #3: Leave the Past Where It Belongs

It’s your first date.  You’re excited and nervous at the same time.  It’s all you’ve thought about all week.  Finally, you’re dressed in the perfect first date outfit, which you selected with the help of a trusted friend earlier in the week.  One last check in the mirror before you go, and you must say that you look good.  Your look says, “I’m confident, intelligent, and classy with just the right amount of sexy.”  He’s told you that the dinner reservation is for seven, and there are plans for after dinner drinks at a popular spot nearby.  You’ve got this!  You’re ready to go!

Thirty minutes later, you’re sitting across from him.  It’s noisy with activity all around you, but you barely notice.  You only have eyes for him.  The lights are very low.  This makes you feel extra good because you know how great your make-up looks by candlelight.  The server appears, and he suggests an appetizer and wine that you absolutely love.  He speaks of his week at work.  You listen intently.  Every time you look at him, you get the feeling that he is as into you as much as you are into him.  You don’t even realize how you hang on his every word.  You sip and smile and bite and smile and sip some more.  He sips too, but not as much as you. 

Somewhere between the entrée and dessert, you can’t recall when, the conversation takes a turn from him, his work, and recent happenings to a tour of your past.  Every time you look at him, you get the feeling that he is as into you as much as you are into him.  So you keep talking.  You go on and on about your previous relationships, especially the last one that ended in heartbreak.  At first, he asks questions.  You answer openly, honestly—providing all of the details that matter to you, never pausing, never considering that maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t need to know everything. 

He smiles and nods occasionally.  You continue on, and in the span of just one meal, you spill the contents of your past all over the table, into his lap, and onto the floor. 

The check comes.  He pays.  Then, he politely excuses himself.  When he returns, he explains that after dinner drinks are no longer possible as something unexpected has come up.  You’re disappointed, but you accept his explanation without the slightest understanding of what is going on. 

Days later, you receive no call, no follow-up, and he has not entertained even a single thought of you.  He has checked out and moved on with intimate details of your life that quite frankly, he should not have known. 

Since this was a first meeting, and there were no guarantees of anything beyond it, your past should’ve never found its way in.  In the beginning, sometimes it’s best to remain focused on the present, and leave the past way back there where it belongs. 

Dear Husband–This Mother’s Day is Different

Dear Husband–This Mother’s Day is Different

Dear Husband,

         When you asked me about Mother’s Day early last month, I remember thinking that this year would offer new opportunities.  There’s only about an hour between my mom and us, assuming you can avoid Atlanta’s horrific traffic, and your mom has finally left New York behind and is settling into her place just a few minutes down the road.  Bringing us all together seemed like an easy thing to do. 

 You and I have had many laughs about how my mom won’t drive on the interstate, which means a trip that should only take an hour is more like two.  It’s frustrating to me when we’re trying to meet up, but you have to admit that she’s ingenious and can find a back road to anywhere in and around Atlanta.  So even though your mom doesn’t drive, my mom could swing by and pick her up.  Right, that means three hours for the trip from my mom to your mom to us.

   My plan was to take our mothers out for a light brunch or afternoon tea.  I could imagine both of them claiming not to spend time watching reality shows or following celebrity gossip and entertainment, but you and I know the conversation would be sprinkled with “Did you see…Did you read…I heard…and…Let me tell you what happened…”  It’s funny how they seem to know about everything. 

I have no doubt that our mothers would’ve enjoyed our time together, but things don’t always go as planned.  Who would’ve guessed that we’d all be separated?  I’m an hour away at my mom’s for the weekend, and later today you’ll be at your mom’s for a visit.  Even our children are across town at their mom’s for the weekend.  We are spread very thinly indeed (smile).  We are adept at adapting to whatever a situation needs, and our marriage is strong because of this.

 It was sweet of you to ask me what I wanted for Mother’s Day.  I did think about it.  I believe the last thing I mentioned to you was taking a cooking class.  I checked out the upcoming classes at my favorite location, and I was surprised that nothing grabbed my attention.  I thought about other possible gifts, too.  As I continue to consider my needs and wants, I find myself not needing and strangely, not wanting.  I don’t have the perfect word to describe this place where I find myself, but it feels good. I think I’ll stay for awhile.     

   This Mother’s Day is different than I’d planned, but I’m alright with that.  You, I and the children will have experiences with our mothers to share with each other when we all make it back home tomorrow.  I look forward to it.

Love,

Your Wife

 

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Dear Husband–Code Word

Dear Husband–Code Word

Dear Husband,

             When I dropped everything at work today to call and tell you my face was turning red, and I was worried that this was yet another allergic reaction, insect bite, or some other condition that could result in swelling, bumps, and possible permanent scarring, I didn’t hear a whole lot of concern in your voice.  In fact, you spoke in fragments and the only thing I could make out was, “meeting…okay, we can talk about it later when we get home.”  Then your voice trailed off and it was apparent that you were talking to someone else.

             I don’t mean to sound selfish, but more than half my face was red!  I wasn’t exaggerating.  It just wasn’t normal, and you know how it is for me with back-to-back Monday meeting madness.  I suppose Mondays are tough for you, too.  Honestly, I didn’t expect you to have a full blown conversation with me, but you know I’m not even over the terror I felt at work two weeks ago when my face suddenly turned red and itched like crazy.  Remember?  Remember how I asked you over and over again how the irritated area looked?  You tried to downplay it, but you knew it was bad. It was real bad!  I looked crazy.  Remember?  The thing is that I’d already disinfected my workspace.  What else could I have done?  I felt like packing up my things and busting out of that infested place today!

             I wish we had chatted, even for a minute or two.  I’m sure you would’ve said just the right thing to help me feel better.  But since you were busy, I had to find another way to cope.  Anyway, I was thinking that we need a code word to use when we find ourselves in situations like this, especially at work.  I assumed that someone had to be standing right in your face when I called and that it would’ve been awkward to say something comforting to me, right?  Besides, you told me that you don’t like it when I cut you off mid-sentence to run to a meeting.  So a code word could work for both of us!  You’ll see.  We just have to think of a good one.

             I think our code word should have a specific meaning to us.  It should mean what you have to say is important to me, but I’m not alone.  I want to be able to listen and understand you.  So I’ll call back as soon as I can, and I promise to give you my undivided attention.

              Do you have any ideas about what word can say all of that?

Love,

Your wife

code_word

Online Dating: How Two Became One

Online Dating: How Two Became One

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A few months ago, I shared my personal story about why I initially tried online dating and what the process was like for me.  I shared how not making my photo available upfront resulted in frequent rejections early in the process and how I used eHarmony’s guided communication process to my advantage.  As a result, 150 matches were reduced to about 10, and then there were two.

Two men:  one in my city and one far, far away.

Mr. City was funny, handsome, ambitious, divorced, and still raising two young boys.  Mr. Away was engaging, handsome, mysterious, never married, and without children.  I should add that he traveled often to the states and was willing to relocate for the “right” person or at least that’s what his profile stated.  You know how it is when you initially read someone’s profile?  You want to believe the person is being honest, but only time reveals this for sure.

Mr. City communicated with me every day from the time I gave him my personal phone number and email address.  In fact, before I knew it, we’d established a standing phone date every night at 9:30pm.  This happened without us ever discussing it.  He never stood me up and our conversations went longer and longer into the night as we discussed whatever occurred to us.

Mr. Away called every few days or so.  It was challenging to figure out the best times to talk with the time difference and our different work schedules, but I didn’t hold this against him.  I tried to have reasonable expectations.  He began to talk about setting a date to come visit me. I thought it was a bit early for overseas travel to meet each other, but I went along with it.  We discovered we both had family in the same state.  So I figured it was feasible if we actually decided we wanted to see each other.

I let things proceed naturally, and two became one.

Communication continued with both men by phone and email.  I spent less and less time responding and reaching out to other matches on eHarmony. I left my account open because you never know how things will end up, but I didn’t care as much about it.  It was only a three month subscription anyway.  I eventually found myself enjoying conversations with Mr. City more than Mr. Away.  At this point, where they were located wasn’t a factor.  We were still in the initial stage of getting to know each other and the plain simple fact was that my conversations with Mr. City became a high point, something I looked forward to everyday.  I felt he had a genuine interest in me.  If he was faking it, then his ability to keep it up day-after-day as our conversations grew longer, more varied, and more revealing would’ve been most impressive.  I chose to believe his interest was real.  On the other hand, my conversations with Mr. Away, while initially engaging, lacked the steady progression that I expected from a man who was supposed to be interested in having a relationship with me. Remember, he was all set to travel to the states to meet me.  Things just didn’t match up to me.  A couple of missed calls and non-replies to emails was all it took for Mr. Away to never contact me again.  Luckily, my instincts about Mr. City proved to be correct.  We made plans to see each other for the first time.

I’ll never forget the first time we met.

As the day of our first official, face-to-face date approached, I became very anxious.  I was ready for it.  I mean I felt excited, but I couldn’t calm myself at all.  I mentioned my anxiousness during one of our phone dates about a week before the date.  He suggested that we break the ice with a short meet and greet.  He said it wouldn’t be our first real date.  We’d just meet for coffee and chat for a few minutes—just long enough to get over the initial anxiety.

We met in the middle of the day in the middle of a nearby mall at Starbucks.  I like to recall that I smiled with ease and that my skin was glowing as I walked towards him, but in reality my mouth was dry, my lips were covered with extra gloss, and my skin was shinny due to sweat.  He was already seated and I recognized him right away from his profile picture.  He looked exactly the same, which was a relief.  He greeted me with a smile and a hug.  I was still sweating and a little shaky, but this subsided once we began talking.  It was just as easy as it had been over the phone.  At some point, he excused himself for a few minutes.  I sat waiting for a few minutes.  Then, I felt a light touch on my right shoulder.  When I turned to see who it was, he leaned in and kissed me.  It was short, gentle, and on the lips.  I honestly didn’t expect it.  Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. It was shocking, but in a good way.  Coffee turned into lunch.  A couple of hours later, we parted with confirmed plans to have our first official date the following weekend…and as time moved on, our dating grew into a relationship.

It’s been six years since then, and we’re still together.

After a year of dating, we relocated together.  A year later, we were married.  It’s been a little over three years since our wedding day, and it still feels like we’re experiencing so much for the first time.  For me, it’s an adventure with unexpected surprises, great challenges, and ordinary days with an extraordinary man.

Using an online dating service turned out to be just right for me.

What’s your story?

2 Big Lessons Learned on Mother’s Birthday

2 Big Lessons Learned on Mother’s Birthday

Remember the fabulous time I had a little over a week ago when I went to the theatre with my mother and a close friend to see “What I Learned in Paris” by Pearl Cleage?  I haven’t changed my mind about the play.  I’m still glad that I saw it, but I had no idea that my decision not to invite my sister along would lead to a series of events that ultimately led to arguments between me, my mother, and my sister.  Hopefully, this post won’t lead to another one 🙂

The Story

I have checked and rechecked my original motive.  My original thoughts (laced with expectation) were simple:  I think my mother would enjoy this play.  I should take her to see it for her birthday.

Thoughts swiftly became a decision to purchase the tickets and two calls—one to my mother and one to my friend—followed.  I asked them both if they’d like to see the play, but I provided no details.  I didn’t even bother to let either one know that the other would be present.  I knew my friend was flying in on the weekend of my mother’s birthday.  The airline ticket had already been purchased.  There was nothing I could do to change that.  At the time, I also knew that my mother had no plans for her birthday.  Somewhere between the calls and other considerations, I reflected on the fact that my friend and my sister did not get along.  In fact, as far as I knew, they really didn’t like each other at all.  The thought of inviting my sister along was dismissed right then, right there.  Putting them together just seemed like a bad idea.

After a short search for the best affordable seats, I purchased three tickets for the play on the day AFTER my mother’s birthday. I purposely chose not to purchase the tickets for a showing on her birthday.  I didn’t want to monopolize her time on her birthday.  I thought my father or sister might have other plans for her, but I didn’t ask either of them.  I just focused on what I was doing.  I did tell my mother and friend the date and time for the play, but not much more.  My mother still didn’t know my friend would be there.

Tick…Tock

Many days passed.  Nothing happened.

One week before the birthday, my sister called me to suggest a joint gift for the weekend after our mother’s birthday.  I agreed.  I didn’t mention the play.  I saw no reason to at the time.  I had my idea for a gift, and she had hers.  I was supporting hers.  Everyone’s happy.

Three days before the birthday, my sister called again to discuss details about our joint gift and to ask if I was still taking our mother to the play.  I was surprised that she knew, but I didn’t see a problem with this.  She asked a few more questions about it.  When I told her which play we were going to see, she expressed no interest—as expected.  It never occurred to me that she’d even want to see this play anyway, and the overall tone of the conversation seemed to confirm her lack of interest and concern.  I hung up the phone and thought nothing more about it, but I should’ve known better.

Tick…Tock…Tick…Tock

Things did not go as I planned it in my head.  I expected my mother to arrive on the morning of the play and to only be with me for the play and dinner.  Instead, she decided to come over on the day of her birthday, and she was packed to stay overnight.  I just went with it, but I should’ve known better.

Tick…Tock…Boom!

We were standing between shoe racks at a department store in the mall.  I was already irritated, but the reasons are too involved and—well—I just don’t want to get into it.  The reasons are a few layers underneath this story.  We’d have to dig deep to get there, and there’s not enough time for that today.  I just think it’s important to know that I wasn’t in the best mood before my sister called our mother to give her the third degree.  One look at my mother’s face, and I knew that joy had left the building behind my back before I even knew what was really happening.  My mother turned to me and asked, “Why didn’t you invite your sister to the play?”

Boom!  Boom!

I got angry!  I refused to address the question in the middle of the store.  I basically had my version of a tantrum. My face contorted.  I didn’t have to see myself in a mirror to know this.  I could feel my strained facial muscles.  The light seemed to grow dark all around the edges of my vision and the situation.  My lips tightened and my voice became an urgent whisper.  I don’t remember what I said.  You’d have to ask my mother or my friend about that.  I do know that after I was done, I walked (okay, stomped) off in the opposite direction.  I couldn’t stop myself from acting out.  It wasn’t pretty or respectful, but it was.  I really hated to be questioned about the gift I chose to give (or anything really).  I wanted to scream.  My mother was on the phone with my sister.  My friend was calmly trying to remind me of the dynamics between mother, older sister (me), and much younger sister.  Please!  I didn’t want to hear any of it.  I had fallen into an emotional sinkhole.  If you had been there, you would’ve heard me shouting, “You can’t tell me what to do!  This was my gift to you!  I can do it any way I want to do it.  I don’t have to explain it or justify it to you or anyone!  What happened to thank you?”  As I said, it wasn’t pretty.

Days passed.  It was too quiet on my side of town.

I called my father.  He listened, but he really was out of the loop.  He cared, but he couldn’t help.  I called my grandmother.  I only wanted to know how she was doing.  I had no intention of mentioning what was going on.  But it didn’t matter because she already knew.  Figures, right?  She let me know that my sister had called her.  Later, my mother called me to revisit the same question I refused to address in the middle of the department store.  The next day, my sister called me…

Lessons Learned

  1. Too much time went by without a genuine attempt at resolution.  Too many conversations took place about me, without me…without my mother…without my sister.  At any point, if all three of us had talked, I’d like to think that concerns would’ve been addressed and opportunities for adjusting the birthday plans could’ve been discussed.  I’d like communication between me, my mother, and my sister to improve.  I am committed to trying.
  2. Too many expectations can kill the joy of the experience.  In hindsight, it’s clear to me that we all had different expectations for my mother’s birthday.  I think if I hadn’t been so focused on what I wanted and expected, this might not have happened.  I know in my heart that my motive was pure, but I do believe that my own expectations got in the way.  I have to learn to be more flexible.  I am committed to trying.

What’s happening now?

At the time of this posting, my sister and I are getting ready to spend the day together and plans are underway for a mother/daughter day for all three of us next month.

3 Tips For Online Dating

3 Tips For Online Dating

In my last post about my personal experience with online dating, I talked about not posting my photo—not making it available upfront—for all 150 of my eHarmony matches.  This was not a particularly popular decision, but think about it.  I was supposed to feel comfortable with posting my picture for 150 strangers from all over the world?  My account settings were open, extending far and wide beyond the confines of my travels from home to gym to work to store or an occasional restaurant, to movie or star gazing, to dance or art walking, to book or music or writing, to fellowship at church with friends or occasional lovers, but ultimately, back home to self.  Still, I activated my eHarmony account with the goal of meeting a man.  No, scratch that.  I was planning to meet several men, but I would have been happy with gaining just one male friend.

Tip #1:  Know your goal before you begin the journey.

There I was with 150 matches in a virtual world with virtually endless possibilities, but not posting a photo meant instant rejection for the first few days.  After I got over the sting of receiving “close” notifications from men who wanted to see my face (and no doubt my body too) before having any kind of conversation, the experience was wonderfully freeing for me.  Don’t you just love feeling free to express yourself?  I sure did.

I’ve often heard that eHarmony’s guided communication process takes too long and is just too involved. I didn’t see it that way.  I liked the step-by-step process, which helped me shed my layers in a controlled environment. Stated this way, I could easily be talking about a laboratory experiment.  Having the option to initiate conversations within the secured environment that eHarmony created was comforting to me.  Their environment was my laboratory.  I was conducting an experiment in the virtual world to try to get the result I wanted in my very real one. I added ingredients such as information about my goals, interests, and dreams.  I left out ingredients I could do without such as my photo and references to previous relationships.  It was easy to turn up the heat with probing questions and just as easy to cool things down with sharp, no nonsense answers to inappropriate or offensive responses, questions or suggestions from men.  I was open, but I knew exactly where the line was when it came to my personal boundaries.  I chatted with any man who wanted to talk about something of interest in the beginning.  But I closed just as fast on men who displayed disrespect, immaturity, shallowness, carelessness, or rudeness. Sometimes men wrote things that were just plain dumb. I felt no obligation to entertain foolishness from men.

Tip #2:  Know your standards and make your actions consistent with them.

I had a three-month subscription with eHarmony.  That was all, and I had no intentions of extending it.  I had to make my three months count.  Very quickly, 150 matches were reduced to only about 20 or so active conversations.  This was still all within the secured environment that eHarmony had created.  Now here’s the funny part:  less than 10 matches actually made it all the way though the guided communication phase into open communication, where they saw my photo. This all happened within the first month.  I typically spent anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour communicating with the 10 in the evenings after work.  I still carried on my normal daily activities.  My online activities never took the place of my daily life.  Instead, my online activities had an enhancing effect.  I loved the experience of learning about men in different countries with backgrounds vastly different from my own.  I appreciated their different perspectives.

Tip #3:  Be lighthearted and enjoy the process.       

Then, the 10 became two…two out of 150.  What’s that?  1.33%.  What’s that saying about how it only takes one?  I think it’s important to keep in mind that it only takes one person to impact your life in a significant and lasting way. Are you looking for many or just one?

I’ll tell you how two became one in an upcoming post.