Category: Marriage

Subconsciously, I Really Love Him

I could feel the weight of his gaze — it rested on my profile as I concentrated really, really hard on the menu in front of me.

Ew — please, please stop staring, my mind begged.

Every noodly fiber in my brain stretched and strained in an effort to push his longing away from me and onto something else — anything else.

The waitress.

The woman in the booth behind us.

The slice of banana cream pie on display inside a glass counter to our right.

The teaspoon resting in a pool of coffee droplets on the aluminum tabletop.

Anything.  Whatever.  Just.  Look.  Elsewhere.

Normally, I try my damnedest to put on a super cute performance when I know I am being watched by my man.

But now — no.  God no.  Now, I wanted to look repulsive, actually.  I wanted to repulse and repel him because his eye raping was making my skin jump and curl and shrivel.

If you are a woman, then I know you know that feeling — that jumpy, curly, shrively skin feeling.  You feel it when a guy is being a particular kind of gross.

I somehow sensed the staring was now being accompanied by open-mouth breathing and a side-cocked head.  I also somehow sensed that the top two buttons on his Oxford shirt were undone, exposing a sparse patch of black wire.

Why am I here?  This is all wrong.  Why am I here?

I made the most unattractive face I could conjure, pushing my jaw down against my neck to force a double chin.  I squinted my eyes, exaggerating the crow’s feet as I continued to review breakfast options:

Steak and eggs?

Biscuits and gravy?

I don’t ever eat like this.  Again — all wrongWhy am I here?

Sigh…..

Just keep readingDon’t look up….keep reading.

“Enjoy two of our homemade buttermilk biscuits smothered in sausage gravy….”

I could feel the threat of a gag reflex at “smothered,” as a tube of Pillsbury biscuit dough — -seemingly lodged in my chest — exploded under the pressure of my ensuing panic, forcing a yeasty paste up into my throat.

I think I might vomit.  Or cry.  I’m going to vomit and cry.

It was then that I became aware he and I were not alone at our table.

There were suddenly two boys sitting across from us, and they were furiously scribbling crayons down to nubs, intent on covering their paper place mats with blue and red wax.

The smaller of the two threw me a sideways glance.

“I love coloring place mats, Mommy,” he said, tossing his red crayon aside to grab for a green one.

Mommy.

No, no, no, no!  No “Mommy.”  I’m not your Mommy, I thought.  He can call me Miss Lauren, I reasoned, but most definitely not “Mommy.”

What did I do — what stupid, terrible mistake did I make? 

Oh, God — what happened? 

Why am I here in this diner, sitting down for a breakfast date with this guy — this guy who, apparently, I have encouraged to the point of longing gazes and open-mouthed breathing, and allowing his kids call me Mommy?  This guy who looks like a mash-up of  an old neighbor and that strange cashier at Giant who talks my ear off every time I accidentally go through his line.

My thoughts zig-zagged like a thousand pin balls in a frenzied attempt to identify whatever events in my life’s story had led me here to this completely foreign and unhappy place.

In a brief moment of clarity, I remembered my husband.

My husband!   Yes, you, husband.  Where are you?  Oh, thank God — [husband’s name]!  Yes, yes, yes.  Him, please.  I want him.

And then it became apparent that the husband was no longer a viable option.  He was out.  Obsessive staring guy and his two crayon scribblers were in.

Waves of intense hopelessness washed over me as I came to accept this whole awful scene was my new reality.

No, no, no, no, no……

When I woke up, I was still upset.  The nightmare was over, but it had left an imprint that would likely take a few hours to shake off completely.  That’s usually how these things tend to go, at least for me.

I breathed deep and immediately felt grounded by the faint smell of All Free and Clear mixed with Polo cologne and just a hint of sour bath towel.

Our bedroom, I’m nearly certain.

I opened my eyes and blinked into focus a large brown mass above me.

Ceiling fan.  Ours.  The husband’s and mine.  Our bedroom, yes, definitely.

I turned my head to the left — the husband sleeps to my left — and rejoiced in all that was familiar. Big, broad shoulders.  Long back.  Thick legs capped by wide feet and odd Flintstone toes.

Oh, thank Jesus. 

And I literally meant “Thank you, Jesus.”  No worldly manhandling of the Savior’s name.  I’m a believer, and I was literally sending up a mini-prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude.

I was thankful and grateful that I had not, in fact, made a dreadful mistake by deep-sixing my husband in favor of some awful conglomeration of men I’d never want.

I was also thankful and grateful to be married not to any of the men from my past — nor to the occasional man in a series of “futures,” who, in moments of carelessness, I idealize to unnatural levels of perfection — but to my man.  The man I married nearly 13 years ago, and with whom I’ve produced two children and a life that suits me and him and us just fine.

I slipped out of bed, grabbed my robe, and headed downstairs to start the coffee.

Still enjoying that awesome sense of relief that comes with leaving a bad dream behind you, I started tidying up for breakfast.  Working my way through the previous evening’s dinner dishes, I wondered why it is that I feel my deepest longing for him — my husband — in my subconscious.

You see, the diner nightmare was not the first dream to have left me desperate for the comfort of my reality.  Two hands do not have enough fingers to tick off the number of times I have woken up frantic because I thought I had “accidentally” married an ex-boyfriend.  Or because I somehow got entangled with that co-worker at my old job, or with that character actor who played the “crazy cousin” on last night’s episode of that syndicated sitcom I sometimes watch before bed.

All these dreams of “terribly wrong” serve to reinforce what is “terribly right.”

So, why can’t I get to this place of pure and absolute submission to the correctness of it all in our day-to-day, night-by-night living of real life?  Why can’t I live in my waking hours the way I wish I could live in my dreams?

I’m going to change that now, I committed.

I’m going to start trying to live differently.  I’m going to consciously love my husband as though my reality depends on it.

And really, our realities do depend on it.  Right?

The coffee was ready, and so I grabbed two mugs from the cabinet as I heard the husband make his way downstairs.

“Good morning,” the husband offered as he blew past me toward the door that leads to our garage.

“Good morning,” I called back.

I stood at the counter, waiting for him to reemerge.  I had his coffee ready, and I was hoping he’d have five minutes to spare.  He usually does have five minutes for a few sips of coffee with me at our table.

When he came back inside, I could see he was not in a sipping sort of mood.

He was in a rush.

A second blow-by, this time past me and my coffee mugs and out to the foyer where his laptop rested against the wall.

Hoisting the black canvass strap up and over his shoulder, the husband came back into the kitchen in search of a to-go cup for the coffee, and to grab his keys and wallet.

Before he could make another move, I walked over to him and slapped myself against him — literally fell into him —  wrapping my arms around his back and burying my face into his chest.

I breathed him in, and then said:

“I had the worst, worst dream last night.  Oh my God, I am so glad I married you.”

Mildly amused, but failing to fully absorb my cue, he said:

“That’s sweet, babe.  Me too.  Hey — did you remember to buy the to-go mugs?”

I pulled back from him as he helped me further disengage, peeling one of my arms away as though opening a gate.  He walked through and away, toward the to-go cup cabinet.

“[Husband’s name]!” I said.  “I’m serious — I had a bad dream!”

“Sorry, babe.  I’m just hot, and in a rush — you know…. Tuesday mornings.  I’ll call you when I get to work.”

No, I didn’t know “Tuesday mornings” and I didn’t care if he was hot, and maybe he wouldn’t be in a rush if he woke up maybe ten minutes earlier.

I watched through the window as he headed down the driveway toward his car.

Mere moments into the conscious reality of a new day, and I was already agitated.

Okay.  Yup.  Got it.

This is soooooo why I tend to love you harder in my subconscious. 

But, subconsciously, apparently, I really do love him….


A Poem For Moms

Bringing back that poem I wrote maybe four years ago, about a day in the life of a mom.  Happy Mother’s Day everyone!:

“A Day In the Life of Me, a Mom”

Eyes open to a new day.

Way later than I had hoped to be up.

My joints hurt.

My eyes, wrinkled and puffy

like the raisins on a gingerbread boy.

No time to hit the gym….at least maybe a quick hot shower — NO!

Is that my husband STILL here, in the bathroom

that I had hoped to occupy?

Yes.  Him.  Hairs and all.

Hot water gone.

Damp towel draped lazily over wet shower curtain (it will get mildew that way, I scream in my

head)

I know he forgot to use the Tilex

that I leave hanging on the towel bar.

 

The usual back-and-forth

Something about no clean underwear.

I just ran 20 loads this week…how can it be?

 

Kids are up.

There is no escape now.

Make my way downstairs with a bird’s nest for a hairdo.

COFFEE.  PLEASE…..

I wait to take the first sip

until husband leaves for work.

It tastes better that way.

Ahhh….partial sanity.

 

Younger son has a cold

I listen to him gulp his juice like only

a kid with a cold can do.

Hot breath into glass between sips.

Obligatory “uhh” noise punctuates each swallow.

I escape into the world

of on-line news….it is bleak

 

Check the decorating blogs and visually

arrange the furniture I cannot yet afford.

A girl can dream….and satiate her desires

at Target.  Instant gratification with quick and cheap

trumps saving and waiting any day.

 

Here comes the older boy.

I think I had the lady at the Hair Cuttery

have too much of her way with the scissors.

He looks like an escapee

from Jonestown.

Or a matchstick.

 

Pancakes (that they won’t eat)

Eight glasses of — gulp — o.j. (they will spill at least two of them)

Yogurt drinks (they will fight over who gets the blueberry)

Sigh.

Sigh again.

 

My house is scaring me.

How do we go through so many dishes?

Collect so many dust bunnies?

Never have clean laundry?

Why did we get a dog?

Why does the mailman never look up when I wave, which I only do because we

always seem to be in the kitchen window when he

arrives?

 

Why does my husband never have clean underwear?

 

Make my way to laundry room to remedy the latter

only to find

a Pottery Barn catalog that I must

sift through.

 

Sigh.

 

Trip to bank (kids knock over the rope stands).

Change machine is broken. And sticky. And reminds me to worry about

the flu.

 

Target store equals drapes I don’t need, and a Nerf Gun that younger son will need assistance

with each time he wants to shoot a bullet

and he always wants to shoot

100 bullets a day.

Also plastic Popsicle molds

Undershirts for husband

Zone bars for me

because I still might be on a diet.

 

Home.

 

Sigh.

 

Kids tear through construction paper and tape

as though they were building the

Great Wall of China

And of course the tape was

MINE.  As in, from my little desk.

My little corner of the world where at least some things are sacred

Like having tape in the dispenser when I need it.

The tape is empty now.

All the tips of the crayons are broken.

The silly putty they played with last week

is still stuck on younger son’s chair.

 

Search in-box for e-mail I have been waiting for

Grad school adviser still has not answered the questions that I need answered

before I decide when to begin this whole

$30,000 process.

I secretly resented having to go back

until now b/c it may not work out and so I realize

that I may have wanted to do this more than I could admit to

my husband.

 

Dinner equals leftovers b/c Giant is too expensive anymore

To buy food in quantities as if I was a

new wife with new recipes

to feed a new husband who doesn’t care about how much

underwear is in his drawer

Kids take over an hour to eat

half their dinner.

 

Daddy says they can have a bath

not on your life, husband.  I cannot drag this

day out any longer or have

water all over the floor.

I quickly hose them down while they

still splash water all over my floor.

Younger son puts his lips to my ear

as I hold him, carrying him damp and wrapped in a towel

and it is not a kiss I get, or a special love secret

But a shout. Loud and just

for the fun of it.

My ear rings.

I yell at him.

And set him down on the floor among half his closet

that has apparently barfed toys

All over the floor.

 

I am done.  I am tired.

I still do not know what I want to be

When I grow up.

At least I have coffee and a best friend

whose husband gives her dumb Wal-Mart roses too.

 

I think I’ll send this to her.

 

Then surf the decorating blogs again

for the tenth time today.


A Typical Saturday Evening Drive When We’re On The Verge Of A Good Time

A story that captures the typical amount of tension that seems to be a necessary prelude whenever the husband and I are on the verge of having a nice evening together.  It’s also a story about how men can be a little bit selfish:

Upstairs in my bedroom, I was perfecting “the look.”

Gold bangles? Yes.  Definitely.  But only two– and take off that white leather cuff.

I unsnapped the cuff from my wrist and quickly tossed it on the dresser.

Taking several steps back to get a better view of everything together, I scanned my reflection from head to about mid-thigh, where the mirror ended and the dresser began.

Ditch the ring, too.

I yanked the cocktail ring off my right index finger, and settled my arms back to my sides.

From what I could tell, it now all looked great — as long as I kept my stomach sucked in when standing. The dress had some ruching at the waist that — if positioned just a quarter-inch too high  — made for the unfortunate insinuation of a puffy gut.

Not good.

But — it was an otherwise really great dress.  And I knew that I’d only be standing upon entering and exiting the restaurant, and for maybe one trip to the bathroom, so keeping my mid-section taut for an estimated 10 to 12 non-consecutive minutes would not be too difficult a challenge.  Besides, the hair looked perfect, and the make-up had miraculously behaved too, so, there was always that.  And that counts for a lot, especially knowing most of the evening, I’d be presented only from the chest up, the rest of me conveniently tucked away behind a candle-lit dinner table.  Hedging my bets that there’d be a tablecloth involved too, I figured I was definitely good to go.

I grabbed my purse and clonked down the stairs in brand new heels.  The husband was waiting in the driveway.

It was an absolutely gorgeous evening.

Not a cloud in the sky.

But upon stepping outside, an unexpected chill hit my bare arms, while an overly aggressive gust of wind blew a mess of curls into my face, tangling some strands with mascara that hadn’t quite enough time to “set” yet.

Raking the hair back into place, I saw that the husband had the top down on his Mustang.

Sigh —

I knew how this was gonna go.

“Hop in, baby!”  the husband grinned as he held the door for me.

I hobbled down the driveway, curling my eyelashes back with my fingertips.  As I slid into the seat, I offered up the first of several hints.

“Oh my gosh, it’s so much chillier than I had thought it was gonna be.”

Silence.

“[Husband’s name]?”

“What’s that baby?”

When the “ignore” doesn’t work (and it never, ever does), the husband then goes for the “phony-oblivious.”

“I was just saying it’s awfully chilly.  I’m freezing, actually.”

“You’re kidding me!” the husband said, feigning surprise.

We only have this conversation, oh, I don’t know, maybe….every single time he puts the top down, save for the 60 days between July 1 and the end of August.  This was still April.

“No, I’m not kidding,” I said, as I crossed my arms and tried to squeeze away the goosebumps.

“Well, here — turn the heat on.”

The husband reached for the dashboard, snapping the temperature knob toward the wide end of a red arc that framed the right side of the dial.  The most extreme of the heat variants, I noted.  He then twisted the little vents toward me, forcing a blast of hot, dry air in my direction.

This is what he always does when I say that I am cold in his top-down car.

The heat, as I expected, began to do weird things to my skin.  I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks, as the tip of my nose and the tops of my ears started to tingle.  My make-up, which had gone on effortlessly just 30 minutes before, was now congealing; every pore and fine line threatened a push to the surface. Lush, black eyelashes slowly morphed into scary, clumpy spider legs.

The full success of my “look” hinged on perfect hair and make-up distracting from the possibility of a puffy gut.  I could sense my plan slowly unraveling.

And, despite the assault of heat that roasted my face, 90 percent of me was still freezing.  The cold air that hung above our heads worked its way around my shoulders and down the back of my neck.

This was no solution, but a nonsensical effort to keep the top down at all costs.

“[Husband’s name]!” I said, trying not to yell.  “You know I hate that.”

I quickly flipped closed the slats on each air vent and snapped the temperature control back to “OFF.”

This is what I always do when he tries to keep me from being cold in his top-down car.

“Baby, this is silly — if you’re cold, put the heat on!” the husband insisted, as he once again reached for the temperature knob.

Now normally, I’m not one to mince words.  I say what I mean, and I mean what I say, and there is no in-between.  No dancing around the subject, or sulking quietly waiting for the husband to intuit exactly what it is that I am expecting of him.

But for some reason, I was — in this one moment — kind of waiting for him to offer up what I knew would be a sacrifice without me having to ask for it.  I was waiting for him to graciously relent, but not act like he was relenting (hence the “gracious” part).  I was waiting for him to care more about my comfort than his need to play like Crockett and Tubbs.

I was waiting for him — just this once — to put the damn top up without it involving such unnecessary back-and-forth.

At the first stop sign, I turned to him and glared at the side of his face.

I know he felt it.  He pretended not to.

“[Husband’s name],” I said.  “Can you please just put the top up?”

“You want the top up?” he asked, his eyes darting from side-to-side, as he tried to busy himself on a scout for cars that weren’t even coming.

“Are you kidding me?”  I asked.  “Uh — yeah, I want the top up.  You know I always want the top up when it’s cold.”

And, then, the kicker:

“Baby, I didn’t know you were cold!”  he said.

A strained silence hung all about.

Sensing my agitation, he corrected himself, slightly.

“I mean, I didn’t think it was cold out.  But, if you’re really that cold….alright.  You want me to put the top up?”

I marinated in the subtle emphasis on “you’re” and “that,” as well as the continued effort to keep things his way by ending with a question that he already knew the answer to.  I guess he figured he still had a fighting chance.

Agitation was now edging toward anger.

“You should have just told me you wanted the top up.  See — here it goes….I’m putting the top up.”

The husband forced a neutral face as he pushed whatever button needs to be pushed in order to maneuver the black canvass from crinkled accordion arm to smooth, respectable roof.

I should have been pleased, but I wasn’t that pleased, really.

See, I knew this mildly tense exchange had just set the tone for a moderately tense drive.  No doubt some unexpected traffic was gonna up the tension ante.

Plus, I now had to execute some beauty first aide in a moving stick-shift car.  Negotiating a mascara wand to effectively groom the spider legs — without putting an eye out — as the husband shifts it into high gear would be no small feat.

And, frankly, I was a little steamed that the whole thing had to even come to this in the first place.

Sitting there in the passenger seat, I assessed the damage in the visor mirror.

Ew. 

I was warm, but at what price?

Suddenly, I became very aware of my stomach.  What earlier seemed nothing more than a minor problem easily rectified by some strategic sucking in, now seemed a huge problem, completely insurmountable.  I could feel it — all gross, and blah-like, and pushing up against the fabric of my dress.

I wanted so badly to start up a fight.  Sometimes it’s the only way to exorcise the demons.

But I knew I couldn’t.  The evening would for sure be ruined.

So I sat there, and let my splotchy skinned, spider-lashed, puffy-gutted self be driven to an early birthday celebration — for me, by the way.  Did I not mention it was my birthday dinner?

As we got out of the car, roaming the parking garage for the stairwell that would lead to the restaurant, my husband seemed surprised to detect a slight aura of “attitude.”

“What’s wrong?” he queried.

I walked a little too fast as he pulled at my hand to force a slower gait.

“Just relax.”

I think we’ll just stop here for now, as the the issuing of an order to “relax” is probably the worst thing that could have come from his lips.

Nothing makes me feel more murdery than any man — most especially the husband — insisting I “relax.”

But that is the stuff of a whole separate post altogether.

Suffice it to say, generous servings of beer and really great food and company helped to soften the earlier blows to my mood.

When we left the dinner, I happily walked in obedient rhythm with the husband, and I was sufficiently “relaxed.”

We had the “good time” I had hoped for.

But, of course, not before first participating in A Typical Saturday Evening Drive On The Verge Of A Good Time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


How A Strategically Placed Question Mark Caused A Week’s Worth of Tension

A short story about how men and women think differently.

In my household, I’m in charge of paying the bills.  I’m in charge of all paperwork, actually.  Actually, I’m in charge of all things related to organization: I keep the social calendars, school calendars, doctor’s appointments, and baseball schedules.  I plan the menus and stock the pantry.  I arrange closets by season, sock drawers by color, and linens by bed size.  I created our filing system for bills, our notebook for recipes, and our binder — with plastic protective sleeves — for all major household appliance warranties.  I could keep going, but I trust you get the point: managing the home is my job.

My job.

A job I take seriously — as seriously as the husband takes his job. He and I have had many, many discussions about this very thing.  Many discussions.

So a few mornings ago, I was working at my desk.  A desk I specifically requested during the planning phases of  last year’s major kitchen renovation.  It’s customized to suit the way I work.  It houses all my important supplies.  My computer is here, and so is a pretty glass jar for containing like-colored pens and pencils.  I have a  fabric-covered pin board — coordinated with the window cornice — for all important paper reminders.  Depending on my mood, I sometimes even have a little vignette on display, made from equal parts Threshold for Target and some sort of something from etsy.  There’s always a faux bird or some chinoiserie involved.  It’s style and it’s substance and it works.

I like it here at my desk.  It’s my space.  And it’s my space.

So, I was working at my desk — my space —  hunkered down to pay some bills and update the household budget.  Breaking for a moment of review and reflection, I propped my elbow on the keyboard stand, wedging my thumb between my teeth.  Total concentration mode.  I stared at the numbers on my computer screen, reasoning out the different ways to manage some new payments we’re now responsible for.  Serious stuff.

And then I saw it.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw at first what I could only recognize as something “other.”

Something that did not belong.

And I knew immediately that I did not like it.

Now, I have grown accustomed to the stray action figure or nub of crayon or handheld gaming system left errantly within the boundaries of my territory.  The perps are young and mostly innocent.  And as a mom, I’m supposed to pardon these kinds of things, which I do.

But this was no child’s play.

This was the handiwork of a skilled invader.

Etched in black Bic pen against the stark white of an MVA envelope was a large question mark.

A question mark.  A very particular kind of question mark, actually.

It’s top arc was not round and friendly, but sharp and impatient.  It’s tail did not wisp into the oblivion of endless possibilities, but continued dark and deliberately down in a pressing and urgent probe.

This was no casual query, but an inquisition.  An interrogation, clearly.  And all this communicated without the added effort of actual words.  Just an effectively drawn and strategically placed symbol.  A “what” and a “how” and a “were you” and a “do you” all rolled in to one piece of haughty geometry, assuming its validity by default.

Apparently, not only was I being interrogated, but it seemed I was also already being accused.

On further inspection, I noticed that the question-marked envelope had been opened already.  It had my name on it, but it had been opened nonetheless.  And not just opened, but molested, really.  Ripped into with such fervor that fine pulpy fibers were jutting out from the top edge previously  secured with a seal of glue.

I sat back in my chair and considered the scene.

Someone assumes that without nudging, I won’t be able to do my jobSomeone doesn’t trust that I will open and properly address an important piece of mail.  Someone is worried that I will somehow fail to renew my driver’s license.

Suddenly, my desk felt fake, like some kind of imaginative play set-up.  My computer might as well have been a cardboard display.  I half-expected to open my drawer and find a bunch of rubber date stamps only covering the first part of the century, like the office cast-offs a dad would bring home to his daughter, “just for fun.”

My pretty glass jar and my pin board and my little vignette at once felt frivolous — silly, really.

In an instant, I felt gutted.  Minimized.  Mocked.

All because of that damn question mark.

Little did my poor husband know that his reckless question-marking would lay the foundation for a week’s worth of tension in our house.

Did he not take me seriously?  Did he not appreciate all that I did?  Did he not trust my capabilities to handle important things all on my own?  Each of these questions seemed to work their way in to our every discussion.  It took me some time to not see the watermark of cavalier punctuation on his face.

I’m finally over it now.  Indignation is an exhausting front to maintain, and it almost always gives way to surrendered resign.  At least I feel at home behind my desk again, like I belong there.  I’m stamping and hole-punching and stapling and typing, and it is most decidedly not feeling like pretend play, but like real work that has meaning.  It’s an actual job, and I do it well.  No question.

And while this whole 900-word story speaks volumes about my own inner workings, and how I see things playing out in my little corner of the world, my husband, upon getting the full explanation for my unrest, had only this to say, 19 words total:

“The question mark was just reminding you to renew your driver’s license.  Are you about to get your period?”

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Day In The Life Of Me, A Mom

An April Fool’s Day idea and a silly poem I wrote about a day in the life of a mom:

Happy April Fool’s Everyone!

Before I get to getting, I wanted to throw out a pretty good April Fool’s Day gag you may be interested in using yourself.  I don’t know your age or stage in life, but if you are decidedly not planning to grow your family right now, this could work for you.

Pick sometime today when you know your husband will be around.  Evening is likely best, after he’s had a long day at work.  Access your family/public computer (we have a desktop in the kitchen that’s always on) and do a Google search using the following keyword phrase: “I think I might be pregnant.”  Now, you have one of two options: Either leave the Google results page in tact, or click on one of the links, opening to an article on “signs and symptoms of pregnancy” or some similar gist.

Minimize the page, and walk away.  Wait.  Husband will find it.

If necessary, prod him along by asking him to look up MapQuest directions for you, or pretend you need help renewing your Norton Security package, or whatever.

I did this two years ago.  It worked.  My husband still talks about it to this day.

I think the beauty of it is in the simplicity.

So, moving on…..today I am sharing a little poem I wrote nearly four years ago.  I crafted it on the fly, when I had had a particularly frustrating day.  I’m pretty sure I sent it off in an e-mail to J, just for laughs.  It was in my Word document files, and I came across it yesterday when I was looking for something else.  Here it is…..some of you, especially those of you home with young children, might be able to relate.

I’ll ask the usual questions on the front-end this time: Why do some of the simplest hiccups in life sometimes seem to be the most frustrating?  How is it that the things I love more than my own life can also be such a huge part of the mind-numbing grind?  Truth be told, re-reading this “poem” leaves sort of a pit in my stomach.  When I wrote it, I remember I was just venting; I thought it was sort of amusing.  Now?  Not so much.  Here it is anyway….

I’ll be back tomorrow with a new post regarding what I like to call “a consistently unfortunate coincidence.”  For now, enjoy my hand at poetry (don’t think I am not completely irritated by the horrific formatting here.  For whatever reason, I cannot make the spacing shake out appropriately.  Oh well, my apologies):

“A Day In the Life of Me, a Mom”

Eyes open to a new day.

Way later than I had hoped to be up.

My joints hurt.

My eyes, wrinkled and puffy

like the raisins on a gingerbread boy.

No time to hit the gym….at least maybe a quick hot shower — NO!

Is that my husband STILL here, in the bathroom

that I had hoped to occupy?

Yes.  Him.  Hairs and all.

Hot water gone.

Damp towel draped lazily over wet shower curtain (it will get mildew that way, I scream in my

head)

I know he forgot to use the Tilex

that I leave hanging on the towel bar.

The usual back-and-forth

Something about no clean underwear.

I just ran 20 loads this week…how can it be?

Kids are up.

There is no escape now.

Make my way downstairs with a bird’s nest for a hairdo.

COFFEE.  PLEASE…..

I wait to take the first sip

until husband leaves for work.

It tastes better that way.

Ahhh….partial sanity.

Younger son has a cold

I listen to him gulp his juice like only

a kid with a cold can do.

Hot breath into glass between sips.

Obligatory “uhh” noise punctuates each swallow.

I escape into the world

of on-line news….it is bleak

Check the decorating blogs and visually

arrange the furniture I cannot yet afford.

A girl can dream….and satiate her desires

at Target.  Instant gratification with quick and cheap

trumps saving and waiting any day.

Here comes the older boy.

I think I had the lady at the Hair Cuttery

have too much of her way with the scissors.

He looks like an escapee

from Jonestown.

Or a matchstick.

Pancakes (that they won’t eat)

Eight glasses of — gulp — o.j. (they will spill at least two of them)

Yogurt drinks (they will fight over who gets the blueberry)

Sigh.

Sigh again.

My house is scaring me.

How do we go through so many dishes?

Collect so many dust bunnies?

Never have clean laundry?

Why did we get a dog?

Why does the mailman never look up when I wave, which I only do because we

always seem to be in the kitchen window when he

arrives?

Why does my husband never have clean underwear?

Make my way to laundry room to remedy the latter

only to find

a Pottery Barn catalog that I must

sift through.

Sigh.

Trip to bank (kids knock over the rope stands).

Change machine is broken. And sticky. And reminds me to worry about

the flu.

Target store equals drapes I don’t need, and a Nerf Gun that younger son will need assistance

with each time he wants to shoot a bullet

and he always wants to shoot

100 bullets a day.

Also plastic Popsicle molds

Undershirts for husband

Zone bars for me

because I still might be on a diet.

Home.

Sigh.

Kids tear through construction paper and tape

as though they were building the

Great Wall of China

And of course the tape was

MINE.  As in, from my little desk.

My little corner of the world where at least some things are sacred

Like having tape in the dispenser when I need it.

The tape is empty now.

All the tips of the crayons are broken.

The silly putty they played with last week

is still stuck on younger son’s chair.

Search in-box for e-mail I have been waiting for

Grad school adviser still has not answered the questions that I need answered

before I decide when to begin this whole

$30,000 process.

I secretly resented having to go back

until now b/c it may not work out and so I realize

that I may have wanted to do this more than I could admit to

my husband.

Dinner equals leftovers b/c Giant is too expensive anymore

To buy food in quantities as if I was a

new wife with new recipes

to feed a new husband who doesn’t care about how much

underwear is in his drawer

Kids take over an hour to eat

half their dinner.

Daddy says they can have a bath

not on your life, husband.  I cannot drag this

day out any longer or have

water all over the floor.

I quickly hose them down while they

still splash water all over my floor.

Younger son puts his lips to my ear

as I hold him, carrying him damp and wrapped in a towel

and it is not a kiss I get, or a special love secret

But a shout. Loud and just

for the fun of it.

My ear rings.

I yell at him.

And set him down on the floor among half his closet

that has apparently barfed toys

All over the floor.

I am done.  I am tired.

I still do not know what I want to be

When I grow up.

At least I have coffee and a best friend

whose husband gives her dumb Wal-Mart roses too.

I think I’ll send this to her.

Then surf the decorating blogs again

for the tenth time today.


Making Faces

A story about making a bad impression in front of important people:

I had made a last-minute decision to go out and buy a new pair of shoes — edgy, near-stiletto ankle boots  — because nothing I owned would quite work with the dress I had picked for the occasion.  It was settled the night before: I would “be” the short black dress with kimono sleeves.  Deep V-neck.  Bare legs, if the weather allowed.  Hair back.  Necklace, no earrings.

So the shoes, found barely one hour before I had to get the kids to my mom’s, barely one hour and change before I would be walking out the door to greet my husband in our driveway — the shoes were important to my character. The version of “me” that I hoped to pull off that evening: quietly confident, effortlessly edgy, with a bit of sexy turned down a few notches to read more like “intriguing.”

Yes, I had put a lot of thought into this.

Husband and I were going to enjoy a rare treat: a Saturday night date AND some socializing with a group of friends, some of who were my husband’s co-workers.  Co-workers who held kind of important positions at his company.  And, we were going to a very nice, and very hip joint downtown, therefore, the whole effortlessly edgy thing was appropriate, in case you raised an eyebrow at the mention of “co-workers” and “important.”  No worries, but thank you all the same.

So, again, yes….I had put a lot of thought into this.

This whole, how-I-must-come-across-just-right thing.

The evening went by much the way I had hoped it would.  Husband and I spent some time at the bar as we waited for our party to arrive.  I enjoyed strong beers with names I couldn’t pronounce, served in voluptuous glasses.  We played hangman on the back of cocktail napkins.  We sat with our knees touching; lots of leaning in and laughing close.  We didn’t talk about the kids.  We were having a really nice time.

Then friends began to arrive.  We took our seats around a large table as most couples broke themselves apart, sitting next to “new” partners and making new conversations.

There was lots of happy banter and gesturing and taking turns being clever, but not too clever.  We ate great food and drank what one might expect on an evening like this.  No one talked about their kids.  We were all having a really nice time.

Amidst this intense energy, I remember taking myself aside, you know, in that way one does when among a large group.  In that “I’m-not-here-I’m just an -observer” detached way you can do usually for just a minute or two before your sub-concious retreats back into wherever it usually hangs.  And in that minute or two of observational clarity, I was able to assess that I was playing the part I had hoped.  I was in my role, and it was working well with everyone else’s role on set.  Okay….we’re good.  This is good.  I’m having a really nice time.

And then, something happened.  I still don’t really know how it happened, but I know that it did because I felt it happen.  Plus, I had my husband’s repeated reminders of it happening: “Babe, you just need to be more aware next time.”

Right after final drinks were brought to our table, someone in the group made some particular comment — a completely benign comment — that struck a chord with me.  Now, I didn’t say “struck a nerve,” I said “struck a chord.”   I wasn’t upset.  At all.  I was more….contemplative….it made me go “huh” (to myself).  And once I go “huh” to myself, that act typically engages a Jacob’s Ladder-like process in my mind, where the one trigger thought leads to a deeper thought that then leads to some other kind of thought, etc.  Usually, within mere minutes, I end up going from something like “my thoughts on vacationing in June versus August” to “I wonder why it is that I never pursued that opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill.”  That’s just an example.  Whatever.

So, apparently, while I thought I was “huh-ing” to myself — quiet and on the sidelines of the conversation, just chewing on this notion, whatever it may have been (I don’t even remember now), everyone was sort of watching me.  The table grew eerily silent.  I wasn’t even aware until my husband touched the side of my arm, leaned into me, and whispered, “What’s wrong?” with a slight sense of urgency.  It actually broke up the thought party I was having.  It startled me.  Something’s wrong?  With who?  I thought, until I realized it was with me.  Something was wrong with me, I guess.  And everyone else thought so too.

Because, while I would have imagined that my quiet contemplative face looked like this:

Image Credit: taylorswiftedu.edublogs.org
Image Credit: taylorswiftedu.edublogs.org

I am told it actually looked more like this:

imagesCA4FCPS1
Image Credit: ejsisme.blogspot.com

(for the record, I look nothing like Taylor Swift or Amy Poehler.  These were just good examples of faces).

I had what most humans would interpret as angry-sour-I’m-pissed-at-someone-sorry-if-you-all-have-to-witness-this face.   To be honest, I did sort of feel a little contorted, facially speaking.  I kind of remember my mouth sort of twisted, my lips pursed together.  I remember feeling the fat under my jawline being slightly squished by my neck becasue I had my head cocked to the side just so.  And, okay, my eyes were probably “squinty” — maybe one eye more squinty than the other one.

I was probably wearing said face for several minutes.

And that’s sort of the last impression most of our dinner companions had of me, that face marking the end of the evening.  Though I quickly offered a broad smile in an effort toward damage control and an assurance that I was just swimmingly happy (I was, though.  I really, really was), it was sort of past the point.  Everyone had pretty much concluded that “Something’s wrong with Lauren.”  Ohhh, she’s pissed — look out.  Glad I won’t be going home with her tonight.  Pshew. Conversation continued — a bit stiffly.  Eyes darted away from me and toward more pleasant-looking people.  Bills were paid.  Coats and purses were gathered up and our group slowly broke apart, heading home.

Well, so much for quite confidence and intrigue.  So much for the dress and the shoes and “the look.”  Actually, I had the look — it just wasn’t “the look” but instead (eyebrows lowered, whispery/judgey voice) the look, tsk.

I have wondered more than once how many couples talked about “the face” during their car ride home.

What the Hell happened?  Did I miss something?

Was she pissed at her husband?

Geeze-o-flip.  Glad I’m not that poor guy.

Well, c’mon — did you see those shoes?  Only psychos wear shoes like that.  I could tell — she’s a little “off.”

I have actually been told that I make a lot of faces.  A lot of faces.  Some are more purposeful, and will be the subject of a future post, I’m sure.

But others are completely unintentional, and scarily enough, beyond my ability to control them.

I usually get asked, at least once during every social gathering I attend: “What’s wrong?  You look….upset….”  99 times out of 100, nothing is wrong at all.  Nothing.

So what’s with the faces?  ‘Cause I sure as Hell don’t know.  Have you ever been accused of thinking or feeling what you most certainly were not thinking or feeling, all because of a few facial muscles moving in unfortunate directions?  Have you ever determined that someone else was thinking or feeling what they likely weren’t, just because of a slightly miscalculated non-verbal?

Share stories if you’re able.  This happened a few years back and it still makes my stomach flip every time.

I need to be more careful….more “aware.”  Advice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sexy Problems

Cast of thirtysomething....sexy.
Cast of thirtysomething….sexy.
Image Credit: mistercritic.com

I have a theory on one thing that makes marriage really, really hard sometimes.  It’s just one thing — not the thing — and again, it’s just a theory.  I’ll tell you what I think, and you tell me if you agree.  I’d like to call this one thing the false promise of a “sexy problem.”  Let me explain.

Coming of age in the very early ’90s, my formative years were influenced by television more than I care to admit.  The computer of 1990 had so very little to offer the delicate and still-forming synapses of a young mind.  It held no weight.  No water in that well (my, how times have changed).  But the television — well, that was a whole other story.

I still remember the drill: My brother and I, after dinner and homework and showers, would race to the family room at 8:00 sharp, Monday through Thursday, to watch the evening’s “line-up.”  There we would stay on our respective perches — me curled up on the couch among pillows and blankets, my brother stretched out on the rug — absorbing all these messages about what our lives would probably start looking like in a few short years.  If we were to do this whole human existence thing right, it seemed we should be preparing ourselves to jump into an utterly exhilarating fray of drama and angst and sex and hi-jinks just waiting beyond the walls of our little home, beyond the streets in our neighborhood, a bit beyond our current circumstance — somewhere “other,” yet reachable and, apparently, inevitable.  I could hardly wait!

While my brother was likely more interested in the half-hour sitcoms, I was a devotee of the Church of 90210.  Brandon and Brenda.  Kelly and Donna.  Dylan.  Hell, even slightly weird David Silver — these teenagers were it.  The clothes, the cars, the houses, the day-to-day comings and goings punctuated by parties and palm trees and beautiful bodies and great hair.  It was the epitome of cool — I loved to watch it all unfold.

My most favorite scenes, however, were always those that showcased the latest developments in whoever’s dating relationship.  I still vividly remember a particularly “important” exchange between Brenda and Dylan: She, in a chunky, Autumn-at-the-beach sweater and eye-grazing bangs; he, with his sideburns and rolled-up sleeves and scarred left brow.  They sat in his vintage car, parked on the sand in front of a low tide.  They made out against the lyrical backdrop of  REM’s Losing My Religion (oh, the foreshadowing).  She digresses — something to the effect of it all being “too much.”  He brings her close to his chest, trying to calm her fears (he’s so sensitive!), but then pulls away to make an impassioned pitch in favor of eschewing her parents’ wishes and continuing to have taboo sex with him (oh thank God he’s not THAT sensitive — perfect!  And better yet, he WANTS her.  Like, a lot).  She breaks it off anyway.  Fists are slammed into steering wheels.  Tears are shed.  The music swells louder as the scene fades to black.

Well, now, if this was what I could expect of my first real relationship with an almost-man — sex and conflict and tears and kissing and dramatic negotiating and being wanted and being expected “of” and expected “to,” all  moving to the poetry of Michael Stipe — well count me IN.  In like Flynn, baby!  Nothing speaks to a young girl’s heart more than the potential to be smack dab at the center of a series of such sexy problems.

A chunky Autumn-at-the-beach sweater makes a sexy problem sexier!
A chunky Autumn-at-the-beach sweater makes a sexy problem sexier!
Image Credit: brendadylan90210.webs.com

So, 90210 really planted the seed.  And then thirtysomething watered it.

I didn’t watch it often, but every now and then I’d stay up beyond what was appropriate for a school night and take in the first half-hour of thirtysomething.  Couples, all in various stages of commitment, lived out their slice-of-life trials and tribulations in some Philadelphia suburb.  They were all attractive, they were all successful, and the conflict that fueled the movement of the show from beginning to crescendo to end was all — here it was again — sexy.

I especially focused on Hope and Michael, because their marriage seemed the most intact.  They were what I pretty much expected to be one-half of someday.  So I watched them closely, and this is what I learned:

A falling-apart fixer-upper house?  Sexy.

Sure, contractors failed to show when scheduled, drywall cracked and crumbled into their morning Sanka, and bathrooms with leaky pipes and dated tile made evening baths and morning showers harried.  But the chaos always seemed to serve as a vehicle for creating the kind of little “married moments” I was growing to envy:   Cramped quarters in the kitchen?  Why, simply a great excuse for Michael to slide thisclose behind Hope, grazing her neck with his five o’clock shadow, the big of his hand on the small of her back, while making his way to the toaster.  Leaky toilets?  Why, no more than a reason for Michael to be in the bathroom while Hope soaked away in the tub, he checking the flushing mechanism while calling out over his shoulder to contribute (contribute!) to the conversation, while she stretches a very long and very toned leg over the tub’s ledge, preparing to shave.

A near-toddler-aged baby?  Sexy, of course.

Little Janey was little more than a prop, anyway.  When she did demand screen time, it was usually just a writer’s ruse to make Michael have to wait for sex.  And of course, this made him want and appreciate (appreciate!) Hope even more when she came back to bed.  Having just tended to their little one, Hope suddenly became more than a warm and available body — she became a woman that someone else (even if just a baby) needed.  She became someone whose attention and affection, because it could be so easily parsed in two at a moment’s notice, was worth vying for.  Vying for.  Sigh….

Work stress — of the “holy-shit-if-we-lose-this-big-client-we’ll-have-to-close-the-agency” ilk?  You guessed it.  Super, duper sexy. 

I mean, clearly the threat of a layoff always serves to bring couples closer together.  There Hope would be, an anchor of calm and reason, sitting propped against pillows, her freshly scrubbed face betraying not a wrinkle of worry as Michael paced the floor.  Of course, he would eventually pause to look at his wife, which would (again, of course) give him a temporary reprieve from the stress of it all.  And then he’d go to her, and rest his head across her lap, and make some real insightful comment while she stroked his hair.

See -- it's sexy when your husband is stressed out at work!
See — it’s sexy when your husband is stressed out at work!
Image Credit: mynewplaidpants.blogspot.com

So….this notion of being married and facing tough choices and less-than-ideal circumstances was incredibly appealing to me.  I actually preferred to play out perceived rough patches in my future marriage whenever I’d daydream about “someday.”  Because I “knew” how it would all go down:

I, in my chunky Autumn-at-the-beach sweater and eye grazing bangs would, likely in a moment of adorable female angst, say something to only slightly set said future husband off.  Just enough for him to remember how much he actually cares for me once he stopped punching the steering wheel of his vintage car.  We’d spend the next morning negotiating mirror and sink time in our charmingly dilapidated bathroom, him trying to figure ways to get accidentally-on-purpose closer to my neck and the small of my back, me totally knowing it.  Duh.  Later that night, after reasoning through the facts of the matter, we’d together discover — calmly and while each of us sported his pajamas (him in the pants, shirtless, me in the button-down-shirt, pantless — oh, yeah, because he of course has great abs and I have those long, toned legs.  Duh again)  — that no, losing the big client won’t cost you your job, it will just make things a bit “tight” for a while.  But we’ll manage.  I’ll offer to clip coupons and give up lunches out with the girls, and he’ll smile and say that’s not necessary, he’ll give up his gym membership.  And then the baby will cry, disrupting the sex that I probably would have not liked that much because he was going to be selfish about it, but, because of that prop of a baby, I come back to bed to find a contemplative, appreciative man.  Oh yeah, and some Morrissey song is playing all day, while it’s all happening. And end scene.

Okay, so , any of you who are married know that this notion of mine was just a house of cards, waiting for the first breeze to blow and knock it all down.

I have been married for more than 12 years now.  Hurricane gale forces have rendered all 52 cards MIA.

There are no “sexy” problems.  I repeat: no sexy problems.  And with each passing (or lingering) problem I encountered in my marriage’s early years, I grew increasingly aware that I was ill-prepared for the reality of being bound for better or for worse to this one man.  Even his great abs were no match for the leaky pipes and the crying babies; I could not have cared less about those abs when I was jolted awake for the 11-thousandth time in one night by a newborn in dire need.  And no matter how toned my legs (not very, btw), nothing could detract from the wrinkled raisin eyes I was sporting thanks to lack-of-sleep.  I’m sure my husband wasn’t completely enthralled with me either. Oh, and while we’re at it, having been through many a home renovation project, I can assure you that drywall falling out in chunks above your head does NOT make one wish their spouse would slide up close behind them to graze their shoulders with his or her chest.  God, no!  Such unnecessary touching feels remarkably clumsy and completely annoying.  And agitating and murdery.

As for the incredible bone-crushing stress that haunts a house when the husband can’t find peace at work…..oh, that one is particularly bad.  Late nights “discussing” work rarely happen, as real-life husband is not as communicative as fake-life husband.  There is no head-resting or hair-stroking as real-life husband prefers to swallow his stress like a jagged pill and go to sleep stoic and quiet, leaving real-life me to lie awake listening to the crickets and the frogs outside my window, staring ahead into the darkness wondering how long before the days inside our home will return to a normal cadence.  Blinking back tears at the thought of my babies being at the mercy of our adult situation that was not meticulously scripted by a professional writer who knows that it all will end well by the end of the season.  No, there are no professional writers here.  No actors or producers or good lighting guys who can make things look sexy even when they aren’t supposed to be.  This is real, real, alarmingly real life.  And nothing can really prepare you for it, especially if you got most of your expectations for “how things go” from tv (or from books or movies or fleeting glimpses into only the good parts of other people’s lives).  Yikes.

So, what do you think?  Are we unwittingly corrupted by false notions fed to us by media or other sources?  Do we expect things we shouldn’t?  Are we using a faulty compass?  How does this happen?  Are women more susceptible to this than men?

Oh and for the record, and for a return to a little levity, even Michael Steadman couldn’t stay sexy:

Ken Olin, aka Michael Steadman, today.
Ken Olin, aka Michael Steadman, today.
Image Credit: misstlc.blogspot.com

Ouch.