Saturday, November 29, 2014

Little Moments

Today it snowed.

It doesn't snow often where I live, and when it does, the whole city is touched by the magic of it.  Though this was hardly more than a dusting, we ran to the attic to pull out snow clothes and got outside as quickly as we could.  When I was a little girl, it would usually only snow at night when it was coldest, and on more than one occasion my mother would wake me up in the middle of the night, hurry me into my snow clothes, and we'd go out in the yard to make snow angels before going back to bed, dreaming of the possibility of a day off school.

Today had that kind of magic.

Katherine and I walked together - only a couple of blocks - to the place where we get our Christmas tree.  We picked out the biggest silver fir that we could find, agreed upon its perfection, and then each grabbed an end to walk home with it, singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

We even wore Santa hats.

My daughter likes my company.  She thinks I'm crazy, but she likes me too, and to share this kind of small memory with her just makes me feel filled 'til bursting.

Once the tree was in the stand, I made peppermint cocoa with extra whipped cream before we started decorating it.  A friend stopped in, and even Bryan stopped in to pick up Katherine, but we kept decorating, with pumpkin pie and cocoa for everyone, with Christmas carols on the stereo.

I have to record it here, because it was all a bit dreamy.

I could have done without Bryan's presence, of course; my friend pointed out (after he and Katherine left) that he aimed a hundred small arrows at me; he is not always kind to me, but smiles at me as he insults me.  I refuse to engage with him - it's enough to have divorced him, he knows what I think! - and focus my attention on Katherine instead.  She beamed to have her parents both there as she placed the angel on top of the tree, and I smiled to be able to give her that gift.

The tree is filled with memories: it is not a themed tree, would not suit a department store.  It is covered in a lifetime's worth of ornaments: the ones that I bought with my college roommate, the ones I have received from dear friends through the years, the ones that I've given Katherine, and the ones that she has made me.  There's one to mark the year we bought the house (the house that I bought again when we were divorced), and ones marked "Baby's First Christmas" and ones for each pet.  There's a small bear in a graduation cap marking when I got my master's degree, and one from my book club, and one in glass with a pink ribbon on it that is a reminder that I lived.  The angel on top isn't special but Katherine loves her and so I haven't replaced her with a sophisticated silver star more to my liking, but she's a sassy angel and her skirt rides up a bit and she tilts herself to face whichever way she chooses (no matter how carefully we place her), and I like that about her.  An angel with a mind of her own is my kind of angel.

Tonight I opened our Thanksgiving Gratitude Journal and looked back through the years at what was written.  I started it in 2007 - lifetimes ago! - and each year I ask everyone at my table to write their gratitude in it, and I write in it as well.  Reading years gone by made me ache, but no matter the heartaches - surgeries, near deaths, the demise of my marriage, all wrapped in "I'm glad to be alive" and "I'm grateful for my strength and for those who support me" - this year my heart is filled to bursting.

I have a thousand small moments.  A daughter who laughs with me, even when she's laughing at me. 

Today I walked through the snow with my daughter, and we sang together, and our hearts were light. I set up my tree, so ordinary, so beautiful.  I lit candles alone in the glow, and wrote this here.

That is all I need.  The smallest of moments, but it's bigger than anything I can imagine.

I will hold this for as long as I can.

Happy holidays, everyone.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Strange turns

Well, it finally happened.  The stars aligned, and at long last Gymnastics Dad invited me to dinner.

It happened spontaneously....but not really.  I kept my Saturday night open because I know it could happen the way it did.  There was a league gymnastics sleepover at the gym, and all the parents would be dropping off their kids at the same time.  I knew his daughter was attending, and I (ahem) didn't leave until I saw him.  We chatted, there was "What are you doing now?" and "Well, I'm starving!" and lo and behold, a dinner invitation.

We went to a beautiful little Italian place nearby - the kind with a hand written menu on a chalk board, candlelight, intimate little tables, and innovative dishes (mine had Brussels sprouts and black trumpet mushrooms, for starters).  We laughed a lot, and talked about things large and small (as we have been doing for months now).  I think he was actually a bit nervous - which was funny, because he's a hottie and about 6'4" and successful and smart and polished and charming - and he dropped things and had a bit of self deprecating humor etc. 

But he also had a twitchiness that I didn't like, I think brought on by Nicorette pills.  I don't like that he recently returned to a smoking habit that he's now trying to re-break.  I don't like that he's a reformed party boy with a craving for adrenaline.  He mentioned going to the clubs, and it was all I could do to prevent myself from sighing or laughing.  Nothing in his demeanor made me think that we'd find ourselves on a quiet beach watching the stars, or hiking through a forest, or camping by a lake.  He seemed like a city-boy through and through.

And just like that, the crush seems to have dissipated.  He's a nice guy, a catch for someone....many women will likely want what he has to offer.  I still find him intriguing - it's nice to have the attention of an attractive man, fun to have banter - but my gut says that he's not my guy, not my dream man.

This is so freeing that I can't even begin to tell you how good it feels.

He's got credentials - not only gorgeous eyes and a chiseled jaw and that height thing that makes me melt; not only a successful creative professional and a dad who is fully engaged with his daughter, a home cook, a reader and a musician for fun (but not money) - but he drives a fancy car and says things like, "when the mayor invited me to sit on the economic council..." very casually.  Yes, he's got credentials.

But I know now to listen to my gut.  There is nothing calm about him, and my frazzled nerves most definitely want calm.  He strikes me as a great big kid, bouncing off the walls and probably getting into trouble at school but making everyone (including the teacher) laugh in the process.  That's fun, and playful is attractive....but it's not "me."

I don't need a man.  Not even a successful, kind, hot man.

I want someone who makes my heart respond.  That is what I want, and I won't stop until I get it.  I want the whole enchilada, and I want to feel that rightness deep within me.  I want that in a man.  And if I don't get it, I will be okay.  A little sad, but utterly okay.

I have no idea if Gymnastics Dad and I will go out again.  I'm not even 100% sure that what we did was a date - it was a two hour meal, very enjoyable, but no physical contact (not even "accidental" brushing of hands or knees), and no "let's do this again" at the end of the night.  It went well.  I think he likes me, but he likely sees things in me that aren't a good fit for him, either.  (I'm more librarian than party girl, and I'm A-Okay with that.)  If he asked, I might say yes, because this has been a good experience, but I am making sure that I don't get sucked in to the credentials, and that I listen to my heart.

I'm waiting for what the universe hands me.  Professionally, personally, romantically, I have a new faith in the universe-that-some-call-God.  It's happening.  I can feel it.  I just need to clear the way for what comes next, not get bogged down in what is not true and right for me.  I'm listening to my gut in a way that I never have before, gaining new confidence that it knows what is true.

What a strange turn!  A date with my crush, and I feel so free.  I didn't see that coming, either.  I can't wait to see what happens next!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Broken home?

We all know the statistics.

Single mothers are more likely to live in poverty.  Their children are more likely to grow up addicted or criminal or, well, I don't know, something awful.  Children from broken homes suffer greatly, do less well in school, have difficulty maintaining relationships, and all that.

I'm not going to look up the statistics to share them with you - if you want that depressing data, you can find it, but this time you have to find it on your own, because I don't want to talk about other people's broken homes, I want to talk about mine.

I am raising my child in a broken home.  Bryan moved out - at my "request" - in 2012.  It was heartbreaking for all of us, and I truly doubted my sanity in asking for a divorce, as unsure of my own ability to manage that fallout as I was.  Bryan spiraled even deeper into his depression.  Katherine got angry and picked up some scary OCD behaviors (hand washing and more).  I lay in bed awake, wondering how it ever got so bad and if I had the wherewithal to make it better. 

I don't want to sanitize all of that.  It was horrible.  We all had our dreams dashed, and I carried the weight of the broken promise ("to love, honor, and cherish, as long as we both shall live") with me heavily.  I value integrity above all, and reconciling my inability to breathe within my marriage with breaking that promise wasn't easy. 

And the financial parts - don't minimize that, either.  I thought I would lose my home, the only place that Katherine has ever lived.  I seriously doubted my ability to keep food on the table, and thought it was likely I'd never have a fun vacation or a beautiful dress ever again.

And my beautiful daughter - what was I doing to her?  How incredibly damaged was I making her?  It made me feel so ashamed that I could bring this into her life: how could I possibly do this to her, while simultaneously keeping my promise to her to give her the best life possible?

If you're asking yourself questions like that, floundering in the answers and feeling like you might drown, then please keep reading.


My home may be broken - clearly, a piece was shattered and the remnants swept away - but if this is broken, then I don't want to go back to being whole.  This cracked and imperfect life of mine is so good that I can barely believe my good fortune.

It's actually looking pretty Norman Rockwell around here lately:

I'm standing in the kitchen in high heels making a dinner from scratch.  (The heels are leftovers from work, not some bizarre 50s housewife getup; the scratch dinner is simple but fresh.)  Not just sometimes, most of the time.

Katherine is practicing for the choir concert - choir is her favorite class now.  She sings whenever she thinks I'm not listening, and my heart nearly explodes from the pure joy of  listening to her.

We're getting ready for family Thanksgiving.  Katherine is going to learn how to make her first pie (apple), I'm preparing several side dishes, and we're going to head to Bryan's brother's house.  Bryan and I will carpool (I'll offer to drive in my new car!).  There will be 15 or so of us squished around a too-small table, and on that table will not only be my roasted Brussels sprouts (yum!) but my ex-sister-in-law's jello salad (no thank you).  Cousins will run around, football will be on in the family room.  I'll pass around the Thanksgiving journal: every year, I have those at my Thanksgiving table fill it out with their Thanksgiving gratitude, and now that the journal is half filled we all have fun looking back at what we wrote in prior years.  Though Thanksgiving is not at my house this time, I've got a few fall things set out - a table runner, candles, gourds - that make my home feel like Thanksgiving is here.

It's all pretty darned near perfect.  And it doesn't feel broken at all. 

Actually, it feels a thousand times less broken than it did when I was married.


I have fought, scratched, and clawed my way into work that is meaningful to me.  I'm not in "the" job yet, but I'm well on my way, and in the meantime I'm happy enough with where I am.  I love my career path, I'm doing well in it, and I feel like landing on that career path is like winning the lottery.

Financially, I am nowhere near where I ought to be (a source of fear, often enough) and yet I feel so much more stable than I ever did in my marriage, and I have come so incredibly far.  I have enough.  I pay all of my bills, and Katherine is allowed some fun things, and there's enough left over for ski lessons if I don't go out to eat or go to plays this winter.  My pride at doing this after my years of being marked a dependent on income taxes is....extraordinary.  I hated being dependent, and I hated not being able to financially prioritize my values.  My ex was terrible with money: we were constantly running short even though he made way more than I do now.  I was constantly fearful that the checking account would be empty when I went to purchase something - it was ridiculous, given his income.  I never feel like that any more, and I LOVE being in charge of my own finances, and watching my life improve as a result of my managing those finances.

And beautiful daughter, with a soul made of light and kindness, the center of my days and the person that I care about most in the beautiful daughter is thriving.  Yes, her grades fell when we told her that we were getting divorced, and they were a tangible marker of my shame at what I had done to her.  But these days, she's getting the best grades of her life, and what's more, she's feeling proud of her schoolwork.  She approaches homework with a can-do attitude.  Her report cards tell me that she is doing well, but more importantly, her easy smiles tell me.  She's in love with her gymnastics and really blossoming with it; she's constantly inviting or being invited to sleepovers with good friends; at night I have to say "turn off your light right this minute, young lady!" and she says "please let me finish this chapter!"  Sometimes after school she calls me and says "Mom, my homework is done and I feel like baking: can I make brownies?" and she pulls out cookbooks, eggs, flour, and chocolate and gets to work.  She's a bit mad at me because I haven't figured out yet how she can volunteer at an animal shelter (time is still in short supply!).  We've been playing board games together when we have friends around.  We sing along with Taylor Swift (shhhhh, don't tell her, but she's getting tickets to the Taylor Swift concert under the Christmas tree!).  We're about to start ski lessons because my new car came with free season passes to the local ski hill, and though we'll be in hand me down equipment the two of us will be having fun on the bunny slopes (and we even talked some friends into joining us, so Katherine will have a bestie in her ski class).

I'm healthy.  Blissfully healthy - about to go on a run after I hit "publish" on this.  I have some writing projects that really speak to me.  My volunteer work brings light into my life.  My house is filled with good books.  Last night, friends came over and we started planning a camping trip for next summer (kids and dogs included).  I've got a crush that may not go anywhere but makes me feel lively.

I see my ex all the time.  I go to every gymnastics meet, regardless of whether it's my weekend, and sometimes we carpool.  He will spend the night in my guest room on Christmas Eve - after the party here that he will attend as my guest - so that on Christmas morning our beautiful daughter will get to share present-opening with both of her parents, gathered around the tree.  Bryan still drives me crazy, of course - getting divorced didn't turn him into my dream guy - but given that we don't share finances, or a bed, or household chores, or future dreams, or vacations, or leisure activities, or a closet, and given that his daily moods no longer have an influence over my life (no more walking on eggshells in my own house)....I don't mind that he drives me crazy.  Even when he's in the same room with me, he only drives me crazy from a distance.  He is not the fabric of my life, he's just a character in it.


I'd love a million dollars (or even an "appropriate" college fund and retirement fund).  I'd love my muffin top to go away.  I'd love to fall madly in love with the man who is worthy of that love and returns it.

But right now, today, this minute, I don't need to change a thing.  I am well.  My daughter is well.  My life is better than good - it feels extraordinary in its ordinary goodness, because I know how different it could be.

Broken?  Maybe.  But like those Japanese bowls, the cracks and brokenness in my life appear to be filled with gold.  I appreciate my new life in a way that I could not have appreciated my old one.  An outsider may judge: I could not save my marriage, and I raise my daughter in a broken home as a result.

But if this is broken, it is so much better than whole.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I have a crush.

And I love it.

Gymnastics Dad and I have been having long conversations at the meets and practices as we watch our daughters, and I am absolutely in the throes of my first crush since my divorce.

I've had flirtations.  I had a passionate "love" affair.  But I had not yet had a crush, and I had forgotten how positively delicious it is to have a crush.  I'd forgotten what it was like to have that early stage of catching eyes with someone across a room, trying not to look TOO excited, and watching them light up, too.  I'd forgotten what it was like to fall into like with someone.

With Luke, it was pretty chemical.  The man resembled a Dutch god or a soccer star, all lithe golden limbs and physical beauty, and well, I'm human, and I responded.  I think it was good for me to be with an uber-fit uber-attractive man after my relationship with Bryan.  Bryan and I didn't have great sexual chemistry; by the end of our relationship we had a negative sexual chemistry.  I was craving flames of passion, and with Luke, my body trembled in his presence.  It was exciting and (ahem) enjoyable, but it was more about being in a physical relationship than anything else, and I see that now.  He was a sweet talker, said the most marvelous things, but it was really just talk (whether it was the talk of a player or just a bumbling post-divorce guy is something I'll let fate judge) and of course ultimately it wasn't a good pairing.

I've had flirtations.  I've had too many dates.  But I hadn't had a crush....until now.

Gymnastics dad is tall and rugged in a George Clooney way; I'm definitely drawn to him physically (oh yes!).  But he's not chiseled perfection in the way of Luke; he's more human.  And his humanity is what draws me, somehow.

I do not tremble around Gymnastics Dad.  As a matter of fact, I feel animated, and sharper somehow.  It's playful and quick, and weaves in and out of silliness and lightness, pausing in moments of real depth.  We've talked about Taylor Swift, feminism, artistic process, books, parenting, our love for our daughters, our exes (lightly on that one), friendships, the holidays.  There is smiling and teasing on both sides, and then these dips into pieces of meaning - little glimpses at the person beneath the smile.  We've touched on religion and politics (we agree), volunteerism (he is one of the few single men I've met outside of work who not only values it but lives that value!).

The time passes quickly when I'm talking to him, and I walk away feeling light every time we talk.

He has my phone number now - but in a contrived way, a volunteer project we might both do, something to follow up on, not a date.  He has not yet used my phone number.  Maybe he will (I actually think he will!), maybe he won't.

But the difference between 45 year old Pollyanna and the Pollyanna's that came before is that I don't need him to call.  Sure, I'd be delighted if he did, but I don't need it.  I'm busy living my life, loving it, filling my hours with fun and activities, planning for the holidays, working my tail off.  If he calls, he calls, and I would certainly say yes to a date.  But if he doesn't?  All is still well!  It is not a reflection of who I am if he doesn't call.  Maybe he has a secret girlfriend, maybe he's not into dating, or maybe he's not into me "like that" and it's all okay.  Maybe he doesn't have the nerve to ask me out even if he does like me (and that would be a sure sign that we should not be together, because I need a strong man, and of that I am absolutely certain).

This crush is all about me feeling light and happy: nothing more, nothing less.  In some ways, it's not even about him (yet), it's only about me allowing myself to feel attracted to someone, to be playful, to indulge in little fantasies.  Whether or not he reciprocates, or whether or not it goes anywhere, it's okay, because I'm having fun with it in the here and now, no need to worry about anything that happens next.

Although I did have quite a little fantasy when a Groupon for a romantic getaway came into my email this morning.  I do wonder what he looks like with bedhead on hotel sheets......

Happy Tuesday, everyone.  I hope you've got a little flirtation in your life, too, because it's awfully fun.  Why didn't I do this sooner?!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Another step on the path

Every day, I am becoming more and more myself.

Who was I, if I was not myself?  I was certainly out there living my life, doing things, having friends, being a mom, volunteering, keeping a house, thinking Deep Thoughts....but I was not myself.

Not that long ago, my life felt very, very small.  No matter what I did, I did not know how to please my husband.  My health was in constant jeopardy, and spinning out of control (thank you breast cancer, and the barbaric treatments that we undergo when diagnosed because more sophisticated treatments aren't's still mostly slash, burn, and poison).  My finances were dismal.  Everything felt so precarious, so much so that it was hard to dream.

Bit by bit, I've lost some of those old shadows that blocked my light, and bit by bit, as the light has hit different parts of me, I've felt more illuminated.  More myself.

Finding the courage to ask for a divorce.
Finding a job that paid the bills.
Taking Katherine on an airplane.
Becoming more active - hiking, running, snowshoeing.
Managing my house, including little upgrades and maintenance.
Dating (and realizing that I was attractive enough in every sense to be desirable).
Finding a career again - so different than a job, so much better.
Finding success at that career.

Little things, big things, but they've all added up.

When I bought my new car, my dad said, "You just don't know where you'll be in a few years, and if you'll even want this car any more," and I thought "hhhmmmm I think it suits my lifestyle, so even if I got mega-raises I don't think I'd invest more than this in a car...." but my dad said, "I mean, you could get married and then you'd have more money, sharing a household."

Dad and I are not on the same page with that one.

Right now, when I think of improving my life, I think a lot about career, and the strides I've made, and the new strides I must take.  I think about travel.  I think about things I'd like to do - skiing, beachcombing, taking an art class for fun, throwing a Christmas party, biking through spring tulips, writing a book, finishing an essay I am playing with.  I don't really think about dating.

Dating sounds good in theory.  I mean, in theory, who doesn't want love, romance, sex?  Who wouldn't like to share the Sunday New York Times over good coffee and croissants, or go for a waterfront run, or find new hikes, or SIFF films, or dance at concerts with a beloved?  And it'd be GREAT to have somebody to do the dishes if I cooked, or to swing by the cleaner's on the way home from work.

But in practice, it sounds like I would have to let someone in to the new life I've created for myself, and share my physical space.  (My house has gotten more "me" by the minute.  Inexpensive art, pictures in faux-silver frames, antiques.  And - one of my quirks - empty kitchen counters, no clutter at all.  I LOVE my empty kitchen counters, and the idea of someone leaving jars and toasters and knick-knacks and cereal boxes on them makes me very, very unhappy.)  At the end of the day, I love my big bed with the toile sheets and way too many throw pillows.  (What man likes toile?  Or, what straight man, anyway?)

And there's Katherine.  We do so well together, and we've found ways to make it work, and we're laughing so much.  This weekend we went to the friend's cabin with my friend and Tessa's friend, and the four of us played board games and were silly and it was so innocent and charming and goofy and I wouldn't have changed a thing.  There wasn't room for romance in that cabin - in part because the car was full, the cabin was full, and I loved the girls' weekend parts, where my daughter looked so relaxed and happy to be with me, and I don't know where a romantic partner's energy would have fit in there.  We've got our household routines down, from Sunday night folding and TV watching, to the frenetic weekdays-gymnastics schedule.  There are so many many girls in PJs giggling.  We eat what we like eating (and lately, that means this eggplant dip that is to die for, that we sometimes eat for dinner, no matter how weird that is - it's healthy and delicious and we like it so who could judge? but who else would want to eat that?).

All of it seems so silly.  But Katherine is nearly twelve, and she's growing up so fast, and I just don't feel like accommodating anyone else's schedule, no matter what other niceties they offer.  And I'm career focused when I'm not focused on her, so those are good excuses.

But the reality is still that I'm afraid.

I'm afraid that letting someone in would upset all of that.  I'm watching a friend fall in love right now, with a guy who seems fantastic and loves her back, and her daughter - Katherine's friend - is falling apart over it.  It is not for the faint of heart to witness: the daughter is clearly distraught, and taking it out on her mother the way that only a hormonal tween can do.

And more than my fears for Katherine - because I think I could introduce someone slowly, meet Katherine's needs, bring more love to her life - I fear for myself.

I fear that I would, once again, give up all that I hold dear for someone who doesn't value me.  I'd lose control of my finances, my career, my parenting.  I'd put someone else's emotional needs before my own.  I'd agree to live in a way that didn't make sense to me, that didn't map to my values.  I'd become small again, and I'd hide my light because it was too bright and gaudy.

I'm somewhat amused by these thoughts, because a wiser part of me knows that deep love makes a person grow, not shrink.  Because the kind of love I dream of would make my light even brighter, and would never ask me to dim myself.  Because the kind of man I would love, would be patient and kind, not only to me, but to my daughter, and he would jump right in on game night and make us laugh with his antics, and he wouldn't mind at all if we did girls' weekend sometimes without him.  He'd want to allow me to be me, because he wouldn't want a shrunken woman, he'd want the fullness of me.  All of me.  And it could be beautiful, magical, magnificent.

One day, I want the big, glowing, amazing white-light love.  I really do.

But it's a step on the path to acknowledge that I'm not ready, that I'm closed to it, that I fear it.  I do believe that the truth will set us free, and this is my truth.

So, I keep going.  Working.  Mothering.  Signing up for ski lessons.  Planning girls' weekends.  Caring for my house.  Getting ready for the holidays.  Enjoying my life.  Counting my blessings.

But I do hope that I can free myself of these fears enough to let someone in someday.  One step at a time, though, and I'm content to be where I am right now, knowing that I'm always moving forward.  One little baby step at a time.