Category Archives: Marriage

Birthday Diary

Surprise!Thanks to anyone who looked at my blog while I have been on hiatus (unofficially).

My life is upside down in the worst way, so to bring a little bit of cheer and “happy thoughts” into my brain I am going to review my birthday weekend.  Well, really the Friday night before my birthday party because that was by far the best part.

Years ago I told J I had never had a surprise party and always wanted one.  Unbeknownst to me, J set a surprise party in motion for my 40th birthday almost 3 years ago.  So all that complaining I was going about missing my friends and family on this significant birthday?  He was just chuckling underneath his compassionate expression.

For 3 years, J was taking money out of his wallet and hiding it around the house.  (“I can’t believe you never found any of it!” he laughed on Friday night.What can I say?  I’m not a snoop.) In 2007, he and my mom worked out dates and began to get everyone on board: my sister and her kids, my brother and her kids, my cousin and her husband and his family, none of who live in my state.   And I never knew a thing!

On the Friday night before my party, I thought I was meeting my parents for dinner.  J was, oddly, not rushing us out the door.  That was the first weird thing.  Second weird thing was him calling my mother on our way to the restaurant to see if they were there already.  I heard her say “David and Shaina,” my brother and sister-in-law, and I thought for a moment they might be in.  But that was ridiculous – they have three young kids. They wouldn’t come in.  At the restaurant, my parents were sitting at the bar even though we had a table.  That was the third odd thing.  The last one was J trying to hold my hand as we walked to the table.

I tried looking for my brother and his family to the right and when I turned to the left, all of my family was standing there (ironically, not my brother but he was on his way).  I cried my eyes out!  I was so happy to be with them all and couldn’t believe that they were there for me. (J tried so hard to get friends to come but the economic downturn made that impossible.  One friend, Laura, came in on Saturday night for my party, also a surprise.  It was awesome to be together, even for a day.)

After all that fretting over turning 40, I stood there with my family and basked in their love, forgetting about my age.  All I could think was, “They did this for me.”

I have the best husband.  Thoughtful, loving, compassionate and fun.  He took care of me, and I will appreciate that for a long time to come.

You Can Move Forward With Me, But You’ll Have to Travel Light.

This post is my first Guest Post, by my friend Cara.  She is a fabulous jewelry designer (you can find her website here) and recently divorced.  She is looking for advice on how to connect with other divorced moms in the most positive way, something she is finding challenging.  If you have advice, she’s all ears.

Ten months ago, when my divorce became imminent, I remember thinking, “No one I know is divorced.”  The thought was isolating, sobering. Now, due either to the laws of attraction or simple statistics, every other person I meet seems to be in some stage of divorce.  In conversation, when we establish that we’re among the ranks of the Divorced in some way, we have an obvious common ground and simple questions are asked: Who’s your lawyer? Have you filed yet? How’s *it* going? All above board and fairly impersonal.

Sometimes, though, the conversation quickly degrades into a marriage/spouse bashing session.  A hue of  “This is why I deserve my divorce” is added to the exchange.  I don’t discount the need for support and the feeling that we are not alone on this hellish journey to single status.  I do loathe the back and forth about who did what and wants what and on and on. I have had those discussions and I don’t find them to be particularly healing or even cathartic.  I have found that they can make me feel worse.

I know divorce is a gut-wrenching experience and that sometimes people need to just spew their anger and frustration about it. During the process people find out more about themselves, their to-be-ex-spouse (and friends and parents, for that matter) than they might have wanted to know.  For me,  I found out that I’m not comfortable airing my dirty laundry.  I also didn’t want to Monday Morning Quarterback my whole marriage nor did I want to relive it.  (If I’d wanted that, I could have just stayed married.)  I don’t mind sharing the facts but you aren’t going to find me bad-mouthing my spouse to everyone I know.  My goal is to leave my marriage in the past.  If I am talking about how upset my ex-husband makes me, then I can’t do that.

My problem is, then, how do I deal with other divorced moms (usually, with a dad here and there) who bash their ex-spouse?  Does it make me insensitive or unsupportive to not want to perpetuate the bashing cycle? Do I stand there, smile weakly and nod or do I find a way to force the conversation down a more positive path?  Is it even my place to dictate the flow of the conversation? What do you think?

UPDATE: An Affair to Avoid

So, I’m in the gym locker room yesterday getting dressed the woman I wrote about in “An Affair to Avoid” walks into my locker area.  At first I didn’t know if it was her because, you know, she was moving around getting ready to work out and staring is rude. She was only 5 feet from me! Fairly certain it was her, I wondered what she was doing at the gym if her membership was supposedly canceled after February.

I’m applying some old Kate Spade body lotion (“Beauty,” discontinued) when she turns to me and says, “That smells amazing! What is that?”

As I am telling her the name of this product, I am freaking out inside. First of all, no one and I mean NO ONE talks to me at the gym. I am always alone and people rarely if ever strike up conversation. Second, no one strikes up conversation with someone half naked! And there we were, discussing body lotion with me in a towel.

No, I didn’t ask her about her affair and how she managed to slide by the front desk and get in to the gym anyway. And how ironic my one authentically nice interaction at the gym is by the woman who’s misfortune turned into my good fortune.

Next time I see her, I’ll have to say “hello.”

An Affair to Avoid

I work out at a gym and see lots of very fit people.   One woman, I don’t know her name, is a sight to behold.  She obviously works out every day and eats nothing with fat.  Always dressed in skimpy, stomach-bearing work out clothing, she seems to shine while she exercises.  Hell, I would shine, too, if I knew that every person who walked by looked at me and said “Wow” under their breath.

J and I recently rehired our trainer, Steve, and on our first day of forced strenuous exercise, we walked by this woman.   Once we all whispered “Wow” to ourselves, Steve said, “That woman worked out with a trainer for 9 months.  She was 190 lbs. after her second child and now look at her.  She is in here twice a day.”

My first thought was, “Who is taking care of her children while she works out?”  (I know she has kids, I’ve seen them.)  Then I had another opinion: all that focus on her body is going to be exaggerated in her children.  Kids don’t understand moderation.  They simply mimic and mostly they mimic their parents.  Any child who sees her mother fret over calories will begin to fret over calories without the understand of what that means.  I expressed something like this to Steve but he thought I was nuts.  “But she’s so healthy!”  He doesn’t have children, so he doesn’t get how children think.  I simply shook my head.

At home, J made a comment about how flirty the woman acted.  “Maybe she comes to the gym so much because she’s having an affair,” J threw out there.  I didn’t think it was fair to assume that flirt equals affair.  And an affair is a heavy accusation to make.

In our next meeting with Steve, I brought up this woman again to make my point about her parenting skills (because I just can’t let go) and Steve interrupts me. “Oh!  Didn’t I tell you?  Her husband called the next day and canceled her membership when he found out she was having an affair.  She’s done at the end of the month.”  That put our conversation to rest.  But I didn’t stop thinking about her.

As J and I walked out of the gym, I became very, very sad for the children.  For the first time, the impact of an affair on the kids hit me in visceral way.  A child’s world is made up of the adults who care for him/her.  In this case, Mommy and Daddy.  To process the affair (“Mommy loves some other man?”), their world view will have to be destroyed.  And the destruction of that world made me sad for those kids.  And if they don’t know about the affair, they will have to make up reasons why Daddy is so mad at Mommy that even if she apologizes, it won’t “make it better.”  That is a scary world to live in.

I explained this to J and his response was enlightening. “Well, insecurity is costly.  Obviously, this woman was insecure about herself, and when working on her body wasn’t enough, she had an affair to feel better about herself.”  Whether or not this is true, we don’t know.  But I thought about my own insecurities and how they effect our family.  When I am feeling insecure, I get angry and lash out.  That makes me unpredictable, another fear children have.  They need security, and for them that comes in the form of predictability.  That hit me hard.  I thought about L’s sweet little face and how much she needs me to be Mommy so she can develop her own confidence.  I can’t be perfect, but I can be honest when I am feeling lousy about myself and not take it out on my family, something I tell Lillian not to do.

The experience of seeing myself in another person with different circumstances isn’t new to me.  But I was surprised how much the cost of her (assumed) insecurity hit home and how it changed me.  I guess I have her to thank for helping me be a better mom.  I hope that she has a similar insight about herself someday.  And for the sake of her kids, soon.

Apparently, A Soul is Worth One House.

I have only owned one home, for 7 months in Illinois.  My first night in it, I never felt more relaxed and satisfied.  Regardless of boxes to unpack or being strangers in the neighborhood, I had an overwhelming feeling of happiness.  I was in MY home.  It was luscious.

Soon after that we had to move again.  I cried for days.  While desperate to buy a new home in Texas, my husband and I decided to wait until we felt the economy (and thus his job situation) felt stable enough to make buying a home a safe idea.  That was a year and a half ago.  We continue to rent.

Since moving here, J and I have participated in “real estate porn”:  We look online at housing prices, we even got an agent and looked at used homes, and we’ve probably seen every new housing development in the county.  At some point, I couldn’t take the tease any more.  We would look, but J would say we aren’t financially ready.  So I asked: How much money would we need to have for him to feel comfortable?  His answer: double what we have in our savings.

Now for the reality check: J has a job but his salary won’t be increasing any time soon.  My book idea that could be an entire motivational products empire is still in draft form.  My brand design and marketing communications company is extremely quiet and needs to be revamped.

And then there is my sales job (and the point of this post).

Before I had my daughter, L, I worked for a Creative Marketing company.  I began as a leader of their focus groups but, on the great advice of J, I took on other responsibilities and made myself indispensable.  Until 4 years later when I was laid off.  I continued to perform some duties as a freelancer, but over time these duties were given to others.  When I announced to my boss that I was moving to Illinois, he offered a sales position.  Chicago is home to many consumer product companies (think, “Anything I can buy in a grocery store”) and since I know the business and his particular process inside and out, it seemed like a perfect fit.

I have been at the job for two years now (even after moving to Texas) and have only landed one project.  My problem is I hate cold calling.  I hate the nervousness before picking up the phone, having to be eternally grateful for having 30 seconds of their time and then having only 30 seconds to tell them why they should answer my call in the future.  I hate grovelling to them for their attention.  And I hate being blown off.  I feel like an idiot.

On the other hand, the money is goooooood.  Seriously good.  And I am fine once we set a meeting.  And I love working on the projects.  I get to be a part of a project, do a little creative work, go to meetings, get out of Mommy mode.

If I sold four projects, we would be at our savings goal (that includes withholding for taxes).   Doesn’t sound like a lot, right? But I have only sold 1 in 2 years!  Sometimes we gain momentum with contacts, but no momentum in selling.  So it takes a lot of cold calling, or extremely luke warm calling.  I already mentioned how much I hate that, right?

I find other things to do, knowing I am breaking my promise to myself, my husband and my boss.  I write my book, I work on my blog, I clean the bathroom.  And yet, I complain about what I don’t have.  I said I was going to give the job 3 months after the holidays and then, if no momentum is building, quit.  But how can it build momentum if I don’t do the work?

Here’s what I want to know: have you ever, in your deep, dark past, done a job you really didn’t like for a bigger long term goal.  Is it worth it?  What have you done that didn’t itself bring you joy in order to achieve joy later?

Not the Response I Was Looking for, Redux

My marriage is in a bit of a rut.  Nothing inescapable, nothing worrisome, but on track toward problems.  Our evening habit is: put child to bed, turn on television to something neither of us is interested in, put computers on our respective laps to surf social networking sites, and drink cheap wine until one of us decides it is time to go to bed.  Night after night.  Once and a while we get a babysitter and go out, and it is nice.  But also expensive and we don’t have the cash for that kind of event to get us out of our rut.

I suggested to my husband (we’ll call him J) that we need to come up with something we can do together.  A hobby or a sport – used to be golf until he hurt his shoulder and I don’t play well enough to be at the driving range without his encouragement.  (We also played Scrabble, years ago, until I surreptitiously studied a Scrabble book and whipped J’s butt.  I admitted my lying and then we both started reading the book.  By that point, whomever was behind in points would simply quit playing , and that just got stupid.)  J has fishing, which doesn’t interest me, and I have politics, which isn’t much his bag, either (at least, not the organized kind).  Thus, the rut.

“Think of something we can do together,” I told him, figuring if J came up with it, he would be more likely to participate in it.  He agreed.

A week later, J starts out a sentence with a funny grin on his face, like he knows what he is about to say is crazy.

“I thought of something we can do together,” J says.  “How about going to the shooting range?  You can learn to use a shotgun.”

Um, okay.  Not exactly the kind of “together” activity I was thinking of.  Basically, a random activity.  Sort of.

See, J thinks that our society is going to decend into chaos pretty soon, what with the financial crisis, health care crisis and general fear for survival these days.  We have been preparing by stock piling food, batteries, flashlights, etc.  In the event of riots, J would like to have a shot gun.  I would like to NOT have one.  That is the impasse we have been at – no fighting, just a difference of opinion.

Now he wants to take me out to shoot guns.  As a date, apparently.  He’s done it before, says it is fun.  Kind of odd, a bit scary.  But interesting?

What do you think?  Should I take my husband up on his offer, simply because he thought of it – you know, made the effort?  Or should I pass and then make an equally insane suggestion, like going out for a late-night pedicure?

(Why “Redux”?  Because the first version wasn’t exactly family friendly.  I mean, my family.  Same issue though, without the snark.)

UPDATE:  Given the overwhelming response (from 5 people, two from the previous post I deleted), I am going to go for it!  I will write a new post about the experience once I go.  Thanks for the support!