A while back I wrote a Bucket List of Men to Do. On it, I included an Too Old For Me Rich Guy saying, “At this point in life this is my only route if I want to be photographed as the pretty young thing on someone’s arm.“
This past weekend, I thought about checking that one off my list.
I had been invited to a graduation party of a former student. The student’s family is wealthy. Not surprisingly, it appeared that their friends are similarly well off. As per usual I attended alone. As per usual, it appeared as though I was the only woman attending alone, except, of course, for the widowed grandmothers. As per usual, I was the only woman of color, and as per usual I knew hardly anyone there. The point is, I kind of stuck out like a sore thumb. Well, maybe not sore, more like a bare thumb, among French manicured pinkies. But these are really good people, we go back a long way, and I was happy to have been invited. Sometimes I just tire of going solo — all the time — but I digress . . .
I got my food and took an empty seat among strangers, though the host did eventually join us. He introduced me, explaining that I was his son’s music teacher.
Well, an older gentlemen seated across from me was simply fascinated, almost smitten. Now I don’t discuss the specifics of age but considering my wealth of life experience, a man significantly older than me has got to be pretty darn — experienced. Nay, old. But this man, by his dress, demeanor and comfort level led me to assume that he had means. I seriously doubt that this dude needed to check his balance before going grocery shopping.
I didn’t catch his name. But let’s call him Jack. Jack was quite complimentary, noting that he certainly would have stuck with his music lessons if he had a teacher who looked like me. “Wow,” he said, and inquired as to whether I had any openings . . . heh heh heh. ”I don’t know how the boy could learn anything with you as his teacher.”
I tell you, I almost giggled. This flirtation from an older gentlemen of means made me — me, a grown-ass woman of feminist sensibilities — positively girlish! I’m not sure, but I think I may have flipped my hair.
I took the comments in kind and did not pursue the matter, but . . .
Let the record reflect that I object to the way younger women romantically involved with older rich men are maligned, called gold diggers and such. It’s offensive.
But hey, Gold Diggers, I get it now. (Shhhhhhh)
Just Me With . . . giggles. I really wanted him to buy me something shiny. I’m just saying . . .
I generally don’t do well with meditation. I’ve had my problems with medication.
Wow, that sounds like a song. Don’t steal it, okay? . . . but I digress . . .
I just can’t seem to quiet my mind. It’s an ongoing problem. I’m better at researching issues and attempting suggested solutions from a list. Those have been my biggest breakthroughs in dealing with my crap. But lately I’ve been feeling almost new-age-like — until the books talk about meditation, intoning aspirations and such. I believe it does work for some people but I have trouble. I know it takes practice. The books say so.
It reminds me of the time my sister was on a girl scout camping trip. All of the girls were looking into the night sky at the stars and trying to identify the constellations. My sister and her friend were not impressed and a little bored. They realized that since everyone was focused and looking up to the sky they could just walk away – unnoticed. And they did.
That’s what my mind does. It just walks away. I almost actually walked away at a group therapy meditation session, but the therapist gave me a dirty look. I just closed my eyes. Whatever.
Anywho . . .
What was I talking about?
Oh yeah, meditation.
I’ve tried it and fallen asleep, I’ve tried it and gotten very angry that THESE PEOPLE ARE MAKING ME SIT HERE!!!! And, truth be told, I haven’t tried it very diligently. I did try massage once. I could not relax. Waste of money.
So it’s really weird that I’m walking around with my Feng Shui books and compass looking for my creativity and wealth corner.
Just Me With . . . random thoughts.
I’m tempted to preempt the trolls who will tell me to shut the f**k up and stop whining and go out and do something productive. Tell ya what, I’ll meditate on that, m’kay?
But seriously, I may write a song. Maybe that’s more of my meditation style.
Somewhat related: Getting Off The Meds
I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been painting. Obsessively painting. I wouldn’t quite call it manic on a clinical level, but yes, it had to be done.
Looking back, this has happened to me before. I paint when something isn’t quite right. The day after I had a miscarriage, I painted all of the hallway paneling in the old house. I should have been resting. I should have been crying. Instead, I painted.
Then there was when my then husband went away on vacation with his club when we had many young children at home. This, to me, was the perfect time to paint — everything– bold colors. He came home to a purple kitchen, a hunter green eat in area and a bright sky blue play area. I think I was jealous of his freedom, so, stuck at home, I changed my surroundings. All while caring for multiple toddlers with open cans of paint around. Perhaps not well-advised, but it had to be done.
Later, after my husband left for good (or so I thought . . . but I digress . . . ) I slapped beige paint over all of those colors in order to make my kaleidoscope house neutral for potential buyers. My children didn’t help me at all. They resented the change, hated the beige.
“We’re colorful people,” they said.
They were right. We are colorful people, but the HGTV gods told me I had to hide my crazy (Oops, I mean color).
Accordingly, all the evidence of my color rebellion against my husband’s hobbies and freedom was - neutralized.
I promised the children, however, that when we moved to our new house, we would bring color back. As that little hoarders house smelled so badly, I painted right away and I went bold: I had red living room, and the TV (family room) was a dark slate blue.
At one point I had an orange accent wall in my bedroom.
But lately, my little house had been pissing me off. Well, everything has been pissing me off. The red was making me angry, I think. I’m already bitter, I don’t need to see red, literally. The dark blue was making me feel sad and closed in, like I was living in an elevator.
My home’s overall darkness screamed despair and denial and hinted at failure, or maybe that was me . . .
I moved to this little hoarders’ house so that my kids could stay in the same schools. I had to move, and it was all I could afford. I was lucky to find it. I’m fine with living small, but I hate the neighborhood — which is on the lower end of the socio-economic scale — and it shows. Also, we are six tall people, and do our fair share of stepping over each other and our stuff. But I can’t move until they graduate, not even to a nearby neighborhood, unless there’s a big chunk of change in my near future. I’m still dealing with divorce debt. Freedom ain’t free.
If I wanted to pull them out of school and move across country — well, I can’t do that either. I’m divorced; I’m not allowed to move without my ex-husband’s permission. I’m stuck.
Until my youngest kids turn 18, my options are severely limited. Yes, I’m blessed to have a roof over my head, but sometimes it feels more incarceration than protection from the elements.
However, HGTV, the teachings of Feng Shui, and countless blogs suggest that if I change my surroundings I’ll change my life.
I took a shot.
So I’ve been painting, lightening up the color, lightening up my life. It goes along with my constant search for non-medicinal treatments for anxiety and depression.
I have to say, the rooms do appear bigger, brighter, calmer.
Still, I need color, so the plan is to get the color back through art and accessories. That’s the plan anyway.
It’s a good plan.
Well, it was a good plan.
Now I’m on the other side of not quite clinically manic, back to the depressed side of things. Suddenly I’m too tired. I don’t feel like hanging my old pictures or scouring yard sales for something colorful, because, at the end of the day, I’ll still be here. And whatever I do, someone in my house will hate it and loudly voice his or her displeasure. So why bother, right?
It’s like hanging posters in a jail cell. Sure, it helps, but the most important thing on the wall is the calendar, marking off the days until release.
Just Me With . . . a bright new look, but not complete. Methinks the angry red and the crying blues are bleeding through a bit. But, hell, I’m giving it a shot.
Release date? Sometime in 2017.
Just a quick note to let you know that I’ve had an article published over at The Indie Chicks — “What About the Money?“
Just Me With . . . a guest post.
I’m just trying to make it “One Day At A Time” like divorced TV mom Annie Romano, except that I have two Barbaras and two Julies, and a boy.
Let me set the scene. As per usual I was unsuccessful in getting certain tasks completed before the kids came back from a visit with their dad. As per usual none of the kids gave the requested heads up text to let me know they were on their way before they came. (I didn’t know what time they were coming home, only that they’d be home earlier than the required drop off time because one of the kids had a rehearsal.)
So the kids walked in to me in the middle of various projects — hanging a shelf, bagging their clothes they refused to wash, my private journal open on the kitchen table and Sex and The City blaring on all three TVs. (It’s one of my secret single behaviors to turn on all the TVs while cleaning so as I’m walking around the house I can still hear and glance at whatever is on. Don’t judge.) I was startled and felt like I got caught doing something wrong.
Turns out, I apparently had done something wrong.
My cleaning and organizing efforts were rewarded with a fit of rage from the Anxious child. Her twin, the Angry child was — guess what? Angry. As per usual, she did not enjoy her visit with her dad and brought her frustration home to me. The other kids just breezed in, dropped their stuff where they felt like it and perched various places in the house to eat the fast food their dad sent them home with. Someone got the Angry child’s order wrong and she was angry about that, too, no surprise. Somehow this anger was directed toward me.
It is always stressful when the kids get home. They’d only been gone for twenty-eight hours but the whole visitation process: getting them ready and out of the door when they’d rather not go, their behavior when they return, my guilt over how I choose spend my time when they are gone (not getting enough done, not having any fun) is always difficult. See Weekends Off.
After the tirade from the Anxious and Angry twins and my frustrated response, I still had to drive the oldest to rehearsal and get some dinner for myself.
During the drive I tried some relaxation techniques I’ve been reading about. I took deep breaths. I sat in my car for a bit to calm down. And, in an uncharacteristic move, when I returned I decided to sit down and watch something funny. Normally I would hide from my ill-tempered children or launch into a series of chores and attempt to get them to do the same. But instead I loaded the DVD player with my new favorite guilty pleasure, Pitch Perfect. Don’t judge. Okay, go ahead and judge. And yes, we own it.
The girls joined me. When he returned from his rehearsal, the Arrogant one — the boy, retired to his boudoir as per usual. To his credit, he was doing a massive amount of homework that he saved for when he got back from the visit. His choice, his stress.
What people say about humor and music is true. Watching Pitch Perfect made me feel better. Miraculously, both the Anxious child and her twin, the Angry child, calmed down.
But when I got up to go into the kitchen to get a drink, however, I was met with a surprise.
Someone had opened every single cabinet and drawer in the kitchen.
It’s not just a matter of neatness, leaving cabinets open has scared the bejesus out of me way back to The Sixth Sense!
Do you remember the abused ghost wife and the open cabinets in The Sixth Sense?
I stopped dead in my tracks. I was already emotionally fragile.
I WAS TRYING TO CALM DOWN!!!!!
But those people I made, those people I grew in my belly like mold, those people know that having all the cabinets and drawers open frightens me!
It probably goes back to Poltergeist as well.
I just don’t do well with kitchen surprises. I’m okay with bugs, I’ve dealt with some nasty stuff, see Piss, Puke and Porn, but open cabinets — scare me.
I froze in my steps, mouth agape. When I could finally move I gingerly walked the five steps back into the family room and cried to my four female spawn,
“WHO DID THAT? You know that scares me!”
Then I collapsed on the floor and laughed so hard I cried. I didn’t go back in my kitchen until I got a confession out of the Quirky one and ordered her to go in there and close everything up.
Oh, those people I made all had a good laugh about it. Great big belly laughs. I was a hysterical mess on the floor, but unlike some of my past days, it was in a good way.
I guess the experts are right that laughter helps with depression and anxiety.
But does it have to be at my expense? Does it?
I just looked at my girl, the Quirky one — the Offender, and said,
“You used to be one of the ones that I liked.”
Just Me With . . . a weird phobia, an unexpectedly devious Quirky child and a good laugh — on the floor.
Given my mood, it was a bold move on the Quirky One’s part. I have to respect her risk-taking.
Shout out to Merbear who inspired me to write something positive about my girls. Well, I don’t know if it was positive, damn kids.
Other Kitchen Surprises:
I had a birthday recently. I’ve always disliked birthdays, since my teen years. My parents always made my birthday special as a child, not with lavish parties and gifts, but with special birthday dinners, cake and small gifts, except for the year I got a new piano. That was the best day ever, but I digress . . .
The bad birthdays started in my teen years when came down with Scarlet Fever on my birthday. I know it sounds very Victorian, but I assure you I’m not that old.
In later years my boyfriend (later husband, now ex-husband) forgot my birthday completely, more than once. I’ve never had the party with the girlfriends kind of birthdays either, for a lot a reasons, beyond the scope of this post. And then there was the first birthday right after the wedding, the separation and some bad ones since then.
This year I decided to pretty much ignore my birthday. I couldn’t really do anything because it coincided with one of my kid’s big events . . . so I just let it go.
But the people who have come in and out of my life over the years, many of whom I have written about here, remembered.
1. My best friend and her husband stopped by with a musical card (hours of fun), a little cake, and a big gift card for me. They didn’t stay very long, but I appreciated the thought and the gifts more than they know.
See my tribute to her on “To My Best Friend on Mother’s Day”
2. One of my married male friends sent me a text, hoping he got the date right. (He didn’t, but that didn’t matter.) He wished me well and told me I don’t look my age. This guy has done things for me like shown up with an air conditioner and installed it when my house was making us melt and he repaired a pane of glass after my daughter decided to play ball in the family room. And most importantly, he checks in on me just to see how I’m doing.
He’s one of the men I was thinking of in “Friends Without Benefits — Married Men.”
3. My Admirer sent me a Happy Birthday text, and when I thanked him for remembering he replied, “You are a smart and beautiful woman whose inner beauty radiates so brightly. I won’t forget you.”
It made me smile. I haven’t seen or talked to this man in years.
4. An old friend, who defies any type of categorization, wished me Happy Birthday via voice mail; I was at my kid’s event and couldn’t answer my phone. I saved the message.
I’ve referenced him in, “We Thought You Were Dead, Mommy.”
5. I even got a birthday text from my Stalker. I did not respond.
It feels good to be remembered, thought of.
Well, the Stalker text is a little disconcerting, but still . . .
Just Me With . . . people.
And even though I’m all grown up, my parents called and sang to me (a family tradition) and my Mom gave me a card with money in it.
. . . and the quirky child gave me a card and a CD.
I admit. I’m on my phone a lot. All the time.
But I didn’t grow up on my phone all the time. I grew up — using both hands!
The other day my daughter and I went to the neighbors’ house to walk their dog. I wanted to make sure she could do it by herself. Accordingly, I instructed her to open the door by herself using the key. She dutifully inserted the key in the lock with her right hand and turned. The door did not pop open, of course. She turned the key again with her right hand. It did not open. Her left hand hung at her side.
She was bewildered, perplexed, really.
She turned the key again with her right hand. Her empty left hand still hung at her side, useless.
Before my head exploded, I had to speak up — slowly:
“Turn the key with one hand, use the other hand to turn the knob and push.”
She’s a teen, not a toddler. Yet it had not occurred to her to use both hands.
I blame Apple. Usually this kid has a phone and/or iPod in hand. She is so used to holding a device that it has rendered one hand useless, even when it’s empty.
This scenario has happened often with my kids. They only use one hand for most things, even cooking. Oh, I admit they’ve become quite adept at using one hand, but it’s not efficient. Not at all.
And it looks ridiculous.
When my children were babies and toddlers they always scored so well on those tests for large and small motor skills. They could manipulate small toys and they could climb on anything.
Now they forget that they have two hands.
I think someone should conduct a study on the long-term effects of the use of personal digital devices on the (arrested) development of manual dexterity in teens — because I think this is a problem.
Seriously. Have you ever watched a person do laundry with one hand? It’s ridiculous.
Just Me With . . . both hands.
Last week I had another surprise interaction that touched me, deeply.
I was leaving my daughter’s basketball game and was stopped by another mother who I’ve been acquainted with for at least ten years, meaning before the separation and divorce. Our oldest boys went to pre-school together and are in the same activities now. Our daughters play the same sport. We’ve never socialized outside of school events, though. She’s married, well-to-do (understatement), attractive and always stylish, and I suppose I always thought we didn’t have much in common on a personal level. But unlike some of the downright snobby parents I’ve met, though, she’s always been friendly, genuine, and approachable.
That day, she approached me, and we chatted about some upcoming events. Then she got personal. She asked about my ex-husband’s new family. Apparently he’d brought them all to a game recently. I wasn’t there. She must have been. Seeing them must have made an impact. She asked if I spent time with him, and I answered honestly, “No, we do things separately.”
She paused a moment, took a deep breath, then shared that her father had suddenly left her mother when she was a child, and that it had deeply affected her mother and the whole family and does to this day. She spoke of eventual healing but said that according to her mother, who had no choice but to accept the situation, it just “wasn’t what she signed up for.” She offered her support, saying that women should help each other more, but often we’re left feeling alone, just holding the bag.
She looked me square in the eyes and said,
“This must be hard for you. And I want you to know that I know that.”
And, standing there in the high school gym, I felt like it was okay to admit that, yes, it is hard for me. It felt good not to pretend otherwise, for just a moment.
Just Me With . . . support, from an unlikely source, who knew just what to say. I was deeply touched.
Other kind words:
Before my divorce, when I still lived in the big house in the nice neighborhood – also known as “The Marital Home,” “The Debtor’s Prison,” or “The Money Pit” I had some really cool neighbors, many of whom were there for me when my world fell apart.
Hillary and Tom lived across the street, in a stately Tudor home.
Hillary and Tom are older than I am, and well established in their careers. Both lawyers, they had worked in the same firm I had, but had left before I started there. My colleagues spoke so highly of them. I earned street ‘cred at the firm just by being their neighbor. I’m not sure where Hillary and Tom went to school, but I’m guessing there was ivy on some of the buildings. Eventually both left private practice, Tom for high-profile government work, and Hillary took an in-house corporate job. The couple moved up the ranks in their positions, with Hillary becoming a major client of the firm. Hillary was kind of a legend for younger female attorneys, she had played with the big boys and shattered the glass ceiling, or at least made a lateral move around it.
What’s more, Hillary and Tom are good people. Tom is a talker, knows as much about music as he does about law (he’d been a drummer in a previous life). Hillary is not nearly as gregarious as her husband, however. She has a quiet dignity that suggests that she is not to be messed with. She’s also very attractive, and appears to be years, even over a decade younger than her years. They both worked long hours, so I didn’t see them often around the neighborhood, but I always liked and admired them both. They were a power couple, truly.
In some ways, I considered Hillary and Tom to be a bit out of my league. They were connected, respected and wealthy. They were happy and well-suited, though Hillary joked that this was because they didn’t spend a lot of time together.
A couple of years ago Hillary took an early retirement from her corporate job. She was undecided as to what to do next, professionally. In the meantime, she had some time off — for the first time in probably twenty years. I was surprised ( shocked) when she invited all six of us to her beach house. We hadn’t spent much time together before this. But I was in the midst of a divorce and renovations on the new (hoarders) house, and I don’t think I had a kitchen at the time. I needed a break. But, I was in a bad way, my medications made me afraid to drive long trips alone. I explained this to her, deciding to be honest.
Hillary listened and said,
“I’ll drive you.”
And she did.
She picked us up in her SUV and drove the kids and I to the beach where she opened her home to us, fed us, and let me sleep while she played with my kids on the beach. I was surprisingly relaxed there. It was nice.
Hillary eventually took a new job, and we haven’t done anything together for years now, though she sometimes drops off her daughter’s (designer) hand-me-downs, and will buy whatever my kids are selling for school fundraisers. We share an educational level, and some professional accomplishments, but our lives have taken drastically different turns. I am, quite literally, on the other side of the tracks now.
Last year, Hillary and another ex-neighbor dropped off gift cards for all of us at Christmas. I was completely surprised and thankful but I didn’t expect it to happen again.
But again this year, a few days before Christmas, we heard a noise in the front room. One of the girls got there just in time to see the door closing and a package sitting on a table. Hillary had left chocolate and gift cards for all of us, including me — again. These are not the obligatory gifts from some aunt. Hillary is not related to us, and has no long-standing tradition of giving gifts to my kids — or me. This was clearly something that she just wanted to do, without fanfare. We were obviously home when she came by, but her stealthy elf-like drop off told me she didn’t want to talk.
So, instead of calling, I emailed her to thank her.
This was her response:
I am grateful for your friendship and especially your companionship during a time that was difficult for me. Not much time for companionship lately, but the friendship is still there.
It made me cry.
I thought I was only on the receiving end of assistance. I assumed that Hillary, like other friends and neighbors who witnessed or had second -hand knowledge of my break up and break down, was simply helping a family in need – because she had the means to do so. I never thought that I had much to give, let alone the means to help anyone — especially someone like Hillary — who seems to have it all.
So I cried.
And I’m still not exactly sure how I helped her — but I guess I did — and it meant so much to me that she told me so.
Just Me With . . . A Wonderful Life?
Other stories of good neighbors: