The list of (im)possibilities

Sometimes progress can be difficult to see when you are in the middle of a slump or things are just not moving as quickly as you would like or expect. A short time ago, my boys and I were going through one of those times. They didn’t ever express such sentiments, but when every request is a “no” answer because of the lack of money, it isn’t a stretch to think they were feeling the frustration every bit as much as I was.

I am a fan of tangible evidence. Just paying bills and eliminating debt isn’t enough. I can’t put my hand on the absence of debt. I want to actually have a way to show that we are doing better and that we are making progress, so I came up with an idea for me and my boys to do just that. The idea is that we need to make a list of things–things we want to do, things we want to buy, places we want to go. These “things” should be anything we want, no matter how mundane and no matter how extravagant. It is to be a list of probable, possible and seemingly impossible things. I want my kids to shoot for the stars because you never know what circumstance is going to come your way. Items will be added as we think of them and crossed off as we buy/do/travel to each one of them. That will be the tangible evidence of progress. Like a very ambitious to-do list.

So, I gave my boys “homework”. I asked each of them to give me a list of their first 10 things they want on that list. I made a list of my first 10 as well and the following is the beginning of our dream that will hopefully keep moving and growing.

My list:

  1. Buy a house–This, to me, is the biggest representation of success. For some, it might be no big deal, but for me, it is monumental. During my marriage, when we were making a LOT more money than I am now, we were always behind on the mortgage and, quite honestly, the house was falling apart. I went from there to my Grandpa’s house where I lived for free (I wasn’t employed yet) for 3 months and then to a low income apartment. In May, I moved in to a rental house. I love having a space where I don’t have to worry about playing music loud enough to hear it, where my kids don’t have to worry about stepping too hard on the floor and disturbing the downstairs neighbor and where I can, for the most part, do and grow whatever I want. The next best thing would be ownership. The very best thing would be ownership.
  2. buy a newer car–I love the car I have now, but it is 14 years old and in dire need of numerous repairs. I would love to have a van or a pickup truck so that I can transport all of my stuff for the art and craft shows in which I am a vendor. I have only ever had used cars. Like REALLY used. My newest car has been at least 6 years old and the oldest was almost 20 at the time of purchase (1978 Mercury Zephyr–I LOVED that car). To me a car is nothing more than a means of getting from location to another, but having one that is reliable is one of the most important things on my list.
  3. Buy a toolbox–I am gradually getting basic tools that every household should have (hammer, screwdrivers, small saw, etc). The problem is that I have nowhere to keep them and therefore they get put down wherever anyone is finished using them. That means, I can’t ever find them when I need them. I buy replacements and then find the original. It would be much more convenient, not to mention financially responsible to have everything in one place and not have to keep buying the same tools over and over again.
  4. Take my kids on a trip to Monterey, CA–Monterey is my favorite place on earth, and I have been to some pretty cool places. There is so much about it to love. It is beautiful, it is by the ocean, it smells heavenly, it has amazing food and, for me, it holds some wonderful memories. Immediately after graduating from army basic training, I was sent to Monterey to study Russian at the Defense Language Institute. There, I experienced my first sense of adult freedom, my first kiss, my first real relationship, first love. I made some of the most amazing friends I have ever known.  Yeah, there is much to love about Monterey. I don’t know if it is just my slightly skewed and bias opinion, but I can’t imagine a more wonderful place. I want so badly to share that with my kids. I have been talking to them about Monterey forever. I have them convinced. I only hope  it is as heavenly to them as it is to me.
  5. Buy a fishing license–I have been telling my boys for the last two summers that we should go fishing, but never actually putting any effort into doing so. There are probably a million places in Idaho to fish, but I don’t know where they are, beyond the Boise River. Thankfully, I have a rather large number of friends from which to glean that information. My goal for summer 2018 is to go at least 5 times. Five is not a really large number so it should be doable, but life, my life, has a bad habit of getting in the way of plans. At any rate, five is the goal.
  6. Get another tattoo–I actually want to get several, but there is one that I want to get more than any other–a Phoenix. My most recent tattoo, a watercolor butterfly, has special significance for me. A butterfly is the perfect example of of transformation, the concept of something amazing, graceful and beautiful from something, well, ugly, blobby and awkward. I feel like I am, or was, that caterpillar,  some loathsome thing that no one really wanted and I felt like I really didn’t deserve happiness or love. While not quite where I want to be, I feel like I have transformed from what I used to be. My next tattoo is going to be a Phoenix because a Phoenix rises from the ashes. Rebirth from destruction. I have been through a lot of things in my life (see previous posts) and I have managed to survive all of them. Not unscathed, but I am still here. I have repeated piles of ashes from every time I have been broken, damaged or destroyed and come out stronger.
  7.  Buy A Taboret–A taboret is a wheeled, portable table or cart, used for holding and moving art supplies and functioning as a hard surface to create on. Right now I have a tiny Walmart coffee table that is overflowing with art and craft supplies. I would love to have something mobile to make painting and creating more convenient. Taborets run anywhere from about $100 to about $800 and sometimes even more. I don’t want or need anything fancy. I just need mobility. I am tired of my coffee table being unusable for its intended purpose.
  8. Take my kids to Lagoon–I haven’t been to Lagoon in about 25 years. It has changed a lot in that time. I do remember it fondly though. Growing up we went about every other year (poor family, 4 kids. You do the math). My boys have never been to a theme park. Never. We have been talking about going for years, but we have never had the money or reliable transportation. Come tax return season (spring break), I think we will be going, if we either have a newer car or we can borrow one from someone else. A trip to Utah can fulfill two things on my list–Lagoon and a new tattoo. I got my butterfly done by an artist in Orem and I would love to have him create another for me.
  9. Get a dog–I miss having a dog so much.  Dogs are amazing. They are quite possibly the greatest gift from God, right after our own offspring. They don’t judge your weight, your place in life, your beauty, your job or your mistakes. They love. That’s it. They love us when we are unlovable. They love us when we screw up. They love us without stopping to think if we deserve it. They instinctively know when our hearts are broken and we need extra love. There is just no downside to having a dog.
  10. Buy a new bed–Several reasons for this. 1. My mattress is about 16 years old and needs to be replaced. 2. I am sleeping on the same bed and mattress that I had while married. That alone is reason enough to replace it. 3. My bed frame is a lodgepole pine frame so it is really big, really heavy and tall enough that I have to climb up into it.  4. It is super squeaky. Like embarrassingly so. If I have to explain how that is problematic, you are way too young to be reading this blog. Squeakiness is not a concern now, but at some point in my future, it might become an issue. Again. Maybe.

“A’s” list (age 12)

  1. A set of Prismacolor colored pencils–“A” is definitely my son. He loves to create anything and everything. He loves color and art and sees the world differently than most. Despite the fact that he already has a growing  collection of writing utensils (much like his mother), he wants more. And Prismacolors are the best. I have a set I share with him, but he wants his own. I get it. There is something about having a collection  that beautiful all your own. The color, the feel, the smell and the way it changes a white sheet of  paper into a work of art.
  2. Nintendo 3DS–Well, he is a 12 year old boy so further explanation would be redundant.
  3. Trip to Peru–This one actually surprises me. He has said a million times that he wants to move to Italy and he has talked about visiting Japan and a few other places, but I don’t ever recall Peru being one of them. I love that my kids are adventurous and willing to try and do just about anything once and I’m glad this one is on his list. This trip may be a very long way off, but that is the point of the list–to dream and plan, even if it is seemingly impossible.
  4. Get a dog–“A” is an animal lover. There isn’t an animal he doesn’t like or want in his life. Someday, he wants to be a veterinarian or an ASPCA worker that rescues animals. He has such a heart for animals. We used to be a vendor at farmers markets and “A” used to find every single dog in the market area and make friends. Not just the cute puppies or lively young ones. He loved the old ones, the “ugly” ones and the shy, skittish ones. He loves cats too, but dogs are something special.
  5. Buy a new house–As of late, we have been doing a lot of online house hunting. We aren’t quite ready yet, but that does not stop us from looking. I think that “A” might want a house for the sole purpose of being able to get a dog. Right now he shares a room with his brother and he is dying to have space of his own where he can escape his brother. What can I say? They are close in age and fight constantly.
  6. Buy a new bed–My kids are sleeping on old metal bunk beds with hand-me-down mattresses. The bunk bed is old and squeaky and uncomfortable. And the frame is such that the two beds cannot be separated. They need to be separated. My kids are just about too old for bunk beds and they are both sick of them. We bought the entire set up for $100 from a neighbor who desperately needed the money. Each had what the other needed. Now we need something else.
  7. Buy a Galaxy Note 8–Right now “A” has an inexpensive smart phone. He wants something better. He says he just really likes the galaxy phones. He hasn’t had much experience with any other kind of phone. He liked his first phone so much he wanted to keep it in the Galaxy family.
  8. Buy the book “IT” by Stephen King–He has read the book already, or several chapters of it anyway. Yes, I know he is only 12, but he can be pretty mature for his age. Sometimes. The minute the trailers for the remake of the movie “IT”  came out, he and his brother started pestering me about seeing the movie. I was a little wary because the nature of the book/movie, but he thought the movie was, in his words, “AWESOME”. The only part that made him uncomfortable was when the bully was going to kill the cat. That was the only part where he looked away from the screen. It Figures.
  9. Trip to Italy–He is fascinated by all things Italian. The food, the art, the architecture, the landmarks. I don’t blame him. My dream vacation would be Italy so I could see the art and architecture I studied in college. What’s not to love about Italy. There is so much history that happened in and around Italy. Some of the greatest artists in history are Italian and some of the most amazing architecture on the planet is located in Italy. For a kid that loves all things beautiful and artistic, Italy really is a perfect fit.
  10. Get a parrot–Not only are parrots cool, but again, the color and “A” is all about color. Parrots are intelligent, colorful, beautiful, funny and they can be affectionate creatures. Dogs are on the top of his list, but it is easy to see why a kid like “A” would want one.

“N’s” list (age 13)

  1. A trip to New York–I am not sure what he is most looking forward to in New York. There are so many awesome things to choose from. Shopping, food, adventures to be had, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, architecture, entertainment, except for musicals, of course. No musicals. Musicals induce much eye rolling and complaining.
  2. Lots of Airsoft guns–“N” is 13. He likes guns and these are somewhat safe for him to use with the proper safety equipment. I am not sure why the “lots” designation is necessary, but, like I said, he is 13. I am thinking I might actually enjoy engaging in battle with him. Something to think about when it comes time to purchase, if we do decide to do so.
  3. Trip to Lagoon–My kids are somewhat deprived when it comes to the entertainment aspect of their lives. Having never been to a theme park, I can see why this is so important and on the list. “N” loves a thrill and roller coasters and the like fit that bill. But more than just roller coasters, Lagoon offers,  from what I remember, much more entertainment. I have to do my research, but I believe they have added a number of rides to the park and even though I am 47 years old, I might have a good time too.
  4. Buy an iPhone X–My son is all about technology and, if given the chance, would have all the latest gizmos and gadgets. I am somewhat technologically inept so I have to rely on his knowledge and research when it comes to such things. As bad as it sounds, I need him to explain how things work on my iPhone. I am an Android girl and my recent upgrade found me walking out of T-Mobile with an iPhone instead of an Android option. I am still not sure why, but I am thankful my son can negotiate those waters for me. I don’t think I am ready to commit to a $1,000 piece of technology for a 13 year old, but perhaps I can be convinced if he becomes a bit more responsible when it comes to taking care of what he already has. One can hope.
  5. Buy a tent–The last time any of us went camping was at a craft fair in Homedale, ID about 4 years ago. The only time actually. Prior to that, I think I was about 13 (unless you count 5 months in Saudi Arabia). My boys and I slept in a borrowed tent and used blankets from home. I don’t want to be that mom that always talks a big game and does nothing. I want my boys to experience sleeping in a tent, smelling like a campfire and breathing in the fresh, clean air in the middle of nowhere. We talk about and plan, but so far nothing has come to fruition when it comes to the outdoors. Buying a tent, as well as other equipment, is my goal for the coming months.  Camping is definitely on the agenda for 2018.
  6. Get a job–“N” is only 13 right now, but he is counting down the days until he turns 14 and can get a job. In Idaho, you can work at the age of 14, but options are pretty limited. He doesn’t care. He wants to make his own money. He will happily do whatever job is available. Now, if  only I could get that kind of enthusiasm when it comes to cleaning his room.
  7. Buy a gaming PC–He has been asking me for this for a  long time. Occasionally we go to Best Buy and look at things we can’t afford and a gaming computer is one of those things. I don’t know much about them, but “N” does his research. He doesn’t always do well in school, but he is no dummy. He loves to research things. He enjoys spending hours telling me facts about things he has found on the internet and in books and magazines. He has a couple specific computers in mind and they and their components have been well researched.  We need a new computer anyway. Maybe this is the way to go to suit all of our needs.
  8. Buy a MacBook Pro–He’s 13, he’s into technology, he’s a fan of all things Apple. ‘Nuff said.
  9. Buy a house–All three of us want a house of our own. “N” is at an age where having his own space is becoming more and more important. Sharing a room with his brother is becoming more problematic. They drive each other crazy. In each other’s faces and in each others way. They are becoming way more physical with each other and could both use space away from the other. “N” also understands the importance of having something of our own, something that, with each monthly payment, we get closer to ownership.  At the present time that investment is going into someone else’s pocket.
  10. Buy a car–“N” is already talking about getting a car. Not one for the family to get around in–one for him. In Idaho, I think you only have to be 14 1/2 years old to take driver’s training and 15 to get a license. He is a very independent kid and cannot wait to drive. He is so anxious to grow up. He is an adventurer and is already planning his escape.

We all have so much to look forward to when it comes to our futures. Sure there will be bumps in the road, but that is okay. We will just keep moving forward at a pace we can handle. I can’t wait to get everything on paper and begin crossing things off.

 

 

The Cesspool of Romance, Part 2

The more I date, the worse it gets. Although since the break up I haven’t dated at all. I haven’t wanted to. I am wondering if it is all worth it. I have also been wondering 1.what it is that I am doing wrong or 2. what is wrong with me that I am attracting less than ideal mates or 3. if I am the problem. Am I so broken, damaged and fucked up that I am chasing them away. Is my need for honesty, transparency, loyalty, intelligence and stability expecting too much? At any rate, now is a time for introspection and focus on myself and my kids. The following match types are just some of the reasons I am where I am. Alone and content with that.

The Liar–One of my biggest pet peeves is lying, whether it is outright lies or lies of omission. I cannot not stand liars. The dating pool has opened up a whole new supply of them. They lie about everything, from whether or not they have a facebook page to being on psychiatric medicine to being married or involved. They are always trying to pull one over on you. Then, they are shocked when you call them on it, offended you have a problem with it and then they run. Or they get pissed. More often than not, they run. God forbid they engage in anything remotely resembling the truth.

The Narcissist–He likes to make you think it is all about you. For a while. Then his true self comes out. He likes to spend money on you and then throw it in your face just how generous he is. Especially after you’ve had any sort of disagreement. They have a fragile self-esteem that is damaged and/ or challenged at the slightest criticism. They don’t like not being the single most important person in your life. They need, so badly, to feel important. Any challenge to that and you. are. toast. They are really good at being bad and cruel and then turning it on you, making you feel like it is your fault. I mean, like really your fault. You find yourself apologizing and when you do, they dig even harder, inflicting as much pain and guilt as possible.

The Player–This one is really good at making you feel like you are the world to him. He showers you with attention, affection and gifts. The only problem is, he is doing the exact same thing with other women. As much time, energy and money as he spends on you, it is almost unfathomable that there could be other women. But there are. And he has a long history with a lot of them. I went out with a guy that liked to brag that he was really well endowed and that a LOT of women really liked that. So many, in fact, that he lost count somewhere around 110 of them. Good thing it stayed platonic. He was carrying unwelcome passengers as a consolation prize for his efforts. No thanks.

Mr. Friends with Benefits–When I was on Plenty of Fish, I stated in my profile that I was in no way interested in a friends with benefits situation or a casual sex relationship. That did not stop the requests, flirtations and constant attempts to talk me into it. I am not sure why they were even interested since I never backed down from my stance. In my eyes, friends with benefits is simply benefits with a little friendly conversation tacked on. That would make me little more than a sperm receptacle and reduce me from an intelligent, flesh and blood woman with plethora of gifts, skills and opinions/ideas to a mere body part put on this planet for the pleasure of a man I don’t really know or care about. And one who certainly didn’t care for me. I will take being single over being someone’s ejaculate catcher any day.

Captain Clingy–This one can be frightening. And suffocating. I am pretty independent. I like my “me” time and being alone a fair amount of time. I enjoy being on my own and creating things, going to the movies and whatever else tickles my fancy. I don’t have to be in the presence of someone else to be happy or enjoy myself. Captain Clingy, on the other hand, needs to either be with you or know where you are. All the time. You must answer your phone when he calls or text him back within a certain amount of time.  No reason for not doing so is permitted because he goes apeshit and gets nasty with you, assuming that because you didn’t answer his text within the allotted time frame, you must be ignoring him and that can’t be tolerated. Any attempt at being in a relationship with this person is sure to end badly and he won’t be able to let go when you finally decide you have had enough.

Oh so lonely–A huge red flag and One of the quickest ways to make me run, is when a guy tells me he’s so lonely, tired of being lonely or tired of being alone. I think we all get there sometimes, but oh my lord, you  don’t have to tell everyone, especially the women you want to meet or date. If you can’t be happy on your own, and in your singlehood, I won’t make you happy. No one will. You have to be able to find a place where you are happy and comfortable in your singleness. Being in your lonely place is like having a spot light shining on your pile of insecurities. If you aren’t okay on your own,  you will be throwing red flags up everywhere, in everything you say and everything you do. Unless a woman is equally dysfunctional, you will lose her. And if she is equally dysfunctional, it will be a train wreck waiting to happen.

The Cynic–This is one I personally can’t date, not that this is the case for everyone. For some people, this works. Personally, I don’t do angry or cynical. I am a pretty happy-go-lucky, Pollyanna-type  most of the time. I easily bore or tire from too much politics which usually fuels the cynic. While I am on one side of the aisle and disagree, sometimes vehemently, with those on the other side, I would much rather be happy and love my friends than fight with them. Or fight with strangers for that matter. The cynic doesn’t care. In fact, they seem to revel in hurting and/or offending those on the other side. I can be friends, but dating is off the table.

The Bore–Boring kills me. I am always up for adventure. I love to laugh. I am a chatterbox. I randomly sing and dance, sometimes in a public setting. I can be completely unrestrained and silly. Sedate is fine with some women, but I want to be with a man that wakes me up, not puts me to sleep.

The Fool–No offense to the intellectually challenged or intellectually average, but I need an intelligent partner. I am a pretty intelligent girl myself and I love super smart men. If a man can’t form a coherent sentence or engage in intelligent conversation, I find myself looking for excuses to end the date.  A man may be super nice, generous, kind and a million other positive things, but when I think of spending my time with someone I can’t relate to, I just can’t even. And if he is smart, but uses shit language (text-ese, bad grammar, can’t spell, uses non-word word replacements, etc), again, no. I cringe at the sight of such things. I am certain this makes me a horrible person, but I can’t help it. I value words. I value their meaning, their structure, their sound. Words are important.

I have noticed that some men embody only one of these types, but with some, you hit the jackpot. They embody several. Good luck negotiating that territory. If my dating (mis)adventure is any sort of  map to negotiating the world of relationship potentiality, There is an awful lot of crap to wade through when it comes to finding a partner.  Hip waders are highly recommended, as well as a shovel and air freshener.

Rock bottom is a foundation not an anchor

I must admit, I can be a jealous girl. Not jealous of someone looking at or flirting with my man (which at present, I don’t have), but jealous of where others are as compared to my current life location. I guess I imagined, when I was younger, that I would be further along in my life, career, financial state, etc. than I am right now. Marriage and divorce have a funny way of upending your plan.

Marriage, with the right person, can be such a blessing in so many aspects of your life. I wasn’t so fortunate. Before marriage, I had a great credit score, I was responsible with my money (I was the only one touching it so I knew where every dollar went), paid my bills on time, kept my utilities on. I wasn’t perfect, but, as a single mom I had to be close. I accepted help from the state when it came to daycare, but everything else was me. Without daycare assistance, I never would have been able to work and my oldest son and I would have been just another welfare statistic.

Fast forward a couple decades and I found myself suffocating under a mountain of debt. Credit cards that went years without payment, one utility or another getting turned off every other month, mortgage payment always late, sometimes by months, worries over whether or not we would have money to feed our kids and those kids wearing duct-taped shoes to school. I was so unhappy and, even though I was a stay at home mom, I was working myself to death, baking 60-80 hours a week to make a little money at farmers market and working additional hours to create custom painted items that I sold at markets, craft shows and online. We made more than enough money to pay our mortgage, bills and other expenses, yet there we were. Nothing was getting paid and we were falling further and further behind and there were threats that the bank was going to take our house.

The thing that finally made me realize I was done was a receipt for a paperback book. A paperback book. I found the receipt in my car because he failed to dispose of it.  He was choosing his wants over the family’s needs. The receipt was just the tip of the iceberg and that was my wake up call. I made my plan to leave and bided my time. I was done.

That was my rock bottom. I walked away from my failing marriage. I had no job, no money, no place of my own to stay. Nothing, but my kids, my clothes and my art supplies. My grandpa, who was in rehab healing from a broken hip, let me live in his house rent free while I looked for a job. My parents and sister and brother-in-law helped me with food and gas money until I could get my first paycheck from my new job.

When I left, what I did have was a mountain of debt acquired during the marriage, school loans to the tune of $20,000 that were in arrears, no self worth, fear of the unknown and feeling like a complete and total failure.

Nothing like facebook to add to the broken mess. I watched as my friends bragged about their amazing relationships and marriages. They posted pictures of smiling faces in far off places on sandy beaches. There were grandchildren born and graduations and job promotions and the purchases of brand new homes and expensive cars. People were going back to school, starting businesses and lives were pretty damn good.

And there I sat on a cold hard rock, alone and feeling absolutely worthless. What I didn’t understand then, is that sometimes we have to hit bottom and that is place where we have to make the decision to lay there on the cold rock and let it kill who we are or we can begin to build from the surrounding rubble of our experiences. I paused while I was there for just a moment and then I made a decision. What I couldn’t seem to do for myself, I would do for my children until I could do it for myself. Kids are wonderful motivators. They need you to be there for them and do for them and that is why a lot of us choose survival when the alternative is so much easier to embrace sometimes.

My kids. They were the first stone I placed when I started over.  They were the cornerstone in the rebuilding of my life. Every day, every week I added stones. Some were big and some were small, but they all fit nicely together and made for strong walls and a sturdy life. I got raises and a promotion at work. I started paying off debt that had been long neglected. I became more comfortable in my own skin and gained confidence I hadn’t seen in a long time. I moved from my grandpa’s house into my own apartment, which, at the time, was a little piece of heaven for me. Recently, I moved into a small house in another town, one that has a yard and a garden and a room for all my art supplies. I paid off (or settled) almost $10,000 of debt. I have been paying on my school loans that were almost in default. We are on the right track and doing better than I imagined considering where I started.

But, all of the gains were not without hiccups along the way. We definitely did some back and forth with the positive and negative. We had car repairs, unexpected financial hits and I even got served three times for things that were either exclusively the ex’s responsibility or mutual. Earning much less and paying  more in expenses than him, I paid off the majority of our personal tax debt (just before the tax commission levied my checking account), all the business taxes from a business we both benefited from after promises of help (this time not before they levied my checking account and emptied it leaving me with $0.01) and finally settling what started at a nearly $10,000 debt after paying it on my own for 2 years. I can honestly say I am proud of myself for how far I have come.

I still struggle, watching everyone else. I feel like I should be there too. Buying a house or accepting an awesome job offer or driving a car that isn’t 14 years old and in dire need of repairs. I still get twinges of jealousy because I want the things that they have. I want to go on  vacation or drive a nice car or live in a house that is mine and not someone else’s. I want to be able to take my kids to the movie or out to eat without first consulting the checkbook to figure out if we will have enough money to make it to the next paycheck without running out of gas or food. All of these things are frustrating. My limitations are frustrating.

Forty-five is a strange time to try and start over. My friends, by the age of 45, have comfortable existences. They are married or started over at a much earlier age.  I assume, maybe incorrectly, that their lives are much more fulfilling or less stressful or further along than mine. I feel like I did when I got out of the army as a 22-year-old single mother. Completely left behind and very often alone in my struggle. It is hard to put into words how out of place I sometimes feel.

I have no doubt that things will continue to get better. Not without setbacks for sure, but they will get better. I don’t know in what capacity or any sort of timeline, but good things are coming my way. I just hope they come before I am too old to enjoy them. I mean, I am 47 after all. Not exactly a spring chicken with her whole life ahead of her. There are so many people to meet, beautiful things to see, places to experience and music to listen to. I would like to do all those things while I can still walk, still see and still hear. My life still has a lot of possibility and potential. I just need to go out and pursue it. Hunt it down and own it. Until I find it, I must remain diligent and patient. And patience is definitely not one of my strengths.

Being single doesn’t suck so bad after all…

Shortly after I started this blog, I met someone. We talked online for about a month and met in person on February 3rd. Three weeks ago, he ended it. If I know one thing about myself, it is that I am a bit much for men to handle. I am a pain in the ass. I know it. The funny thing is, after analyzing the relationship a bit, I am pretty sure I would have ended it within a few weeks anyway. I was seeing in him a lot of the things that made me leave my husband. His reasons for ending it were different than mine but…whatever. We were in different places and I had a much larger emotional investment in the relationship than he did. Regardless, here we are. Unicorns don’t exist.

As much as  loved being in a relationship that, to my blind eyes, was near perfect, I am now unattached and surprisingly quite happy and content. Maybe it just hasn’t hit me yet (I seriously doubt that) and maybe I just know it wasn’t meant to be. Whatever the reason, There are things about being single again to love and appreciate.

  1. The whole bed is mine again. Let’s face it, all that snuggling and (ahem…) grown up time was awesome. That will definitely be missed. A Lot.  The switch from contact overload to no physical contact will be difficult, but for the first time in a while my bedding will remain in place and the bed will be kept presentable. Maybe. I am not great about making the bed, but at least the sheets will stay where they belong and I won’t have to fight them every night. I don’t know what he did when he was asleep, but the fitted sheet was always ripped up on his side. Now, I can sleep stretched out across the bed again without anyone hindering my splayed position. Oh, But the snuggling….
  2. No chewing tobacco. He was always nice enough to not do it around me, or at least he wasn’t obvious about it,  but the habit itself is disgusting. As much as I hate cigarettes and cigarette smoke, I hate chewing tobacco more. Nasty shit in your mouth and spitting. Gross. And then there is the cancer issue. No thanks. Why can’t I find someone who neither smokes nor chews. It seems that those are the only men I seem to meet. Or those with drug histories or legal issues. Maybe those should be deciding factors for choosing someone in the future.  That will eliminate a LOT of men. Not that I am anxious to date again. I am not. I can’t seem to get it right.
  3. No more walking on eggshells anymore. OMG. Walking on eggshells with regard to everything you say is exhausting. Don’t offend. Don’t post the wrong thing on facebook. I am kinda like a bull in a China shop sometimes. I can be awkward and clumsy and sometimes the things that I let spill out of my mouth or from my fingers (online) are less than graceful or elegant. Now I am free to dance about the world minus the fragile eggshells that kept me in line. I guess I am lucky that he saw the flawed mess that I am before I got any more serious about him than I already was.
  4. No mockery of my condition. I have a pretty decent sense of humor, but even mine has limits. I can laugh about the unfortunate symptoms of my celiac disease and I do it fairly often. But every single day, joking about what I go through. It gets old after a while. After it gets old it starts to sting a bit. I find my symptoms embarrassing and extremely uncomfortable. They really aren’t a joke, but I let it go on. Sometimes his response to a complaint or concern was an obnoxious whining, mocking crying noise and sometimes I was afraid it was real and not a joke. I probably should’ve said something, but see number 3. I didn’t force him to walk on the eggshells he provided for me.
  5. Minimal farting. My world is noisy and stinky enough with a teenager and a pre-teen in it, but add a grown adult man who thinks farting all the frickin’ time is funny and you get a testosterone playground filled with the unpleasantness of body odor, smelly feet and rotten eggs. Not to mention the sounds of the farts themselves, and the gut-busting laughs that were sure to follow.
  6. No complaining about gluten free food. I know that gluten free foods are not exactly the tastiest creations with the most pleasing texture. I live with it everyday. I don’t have a choice. I have to make the best of a less than ideal situation so I accept what is and find foods that I can eat as acceptable, albeit imperfect, replacements. Complaining about it and showing your disdain for my diet really doesn’t help and kind of makes me feel like shit. Making a face and turning up your nose at my fare while denying what I have to offer adds to the nice little shit pile. No worries. I don’t have to deal with it anymore. Except maybe from my boys, but I expect that from kids. And they really don’t do that anyway.
  7. I can start going to the gym again. This is my fault. In part. The last couple of months has been a whirlwind of change and activity. In March I bought a gym membership, went about 8 times and then stopped. I had to look for a new place to live, then I was moving (which takes forever) and cleaning the old place. Then there was the relationship. He came over most nights and I felt guilty about leaving him alone in my place (he NEVER made me feel guilty about it so that is on me) and I craved being around him so I let what I wanted take precedence over what I needed. Now I can go without guilt.
  8. No more wondering. If you have ever been in an uneven relationship, you know what it is like to wonder. Do they care about me as much as I care about them? Are they as emotionally invested in this as I am? Will they be there for me the same way I will be for them whenever needed? If you aren’t sure, chances are that answer is no. I knew he liked me and liked the physical part of our relationship, but as far as truly caring about me, I just wasn’t sure. I never heard him say as much. I would tell him I was happy to see him, happy he was here, that he meant a lot to me, etc., and the sentiments were never reciprocated. I think the most I got was “I miss you” and “I can’t wait to see you”.
  9. No competing with an electronic device. We are all somewhat addicted to our smart phones, but to varying degrees. I love mine. I admit it. But as for it completely running my life, I can safely put it down with going batshit crazy. The thing does not have to be in my hand being viewed by me every waking moment. Not so true in the ex’s case. We would be snuggling on the couch watching a movie, one arm around me and the phone in his other hand scrolling facebook, amazon, some geek site, etc. I tried so hard to be understanding. He has ADHD and is always doing 3 or 4 things at a time, but when I wave my hand in front of his phone to break the trance, several times in one night, I’d say he is full on addicted. While watching TV, at the table eating dinner in a restaurant, in the movie theater, etc. It was always the most important thing in the room.

There are some things that, at the age of 47, are much better handled than at 27. At 27, I think I would have done anything to make the relationship work no matter how ill-matched the pairing was. I would have forgiven just about anything and worked and tried and ultimately failed, having wasted an ungodly amount of time on someone that was never worth 5 minutes. At 47, I still try to be understanding and I try to make things work, but it is so much easier to walk away because now I understand just how valuable my time is and just how quickly it passes. I don’t want the time that passes so quickly to have been wasted on some butthole. I would rather my time, energy, affection and love be invested in someone who truly deserves it. I have yet to find him. I am not certain he exists. I know that amazing men exist because I have plenty of friends that are married to or dating them, but as for whether or not there is one out there for me, I am just not sure. In the meantime, I am not sitting around waiting for him to show up. I am living my life, doing what I enjoy and spending time with my kids. If I run into him, it won’t be because he can’t look up from his phone. It will be because I have tripped over my own two feet or a crack in the sidewalk. Hopefully, he will be paying enough attention that he will be able to keep me from doing a header on the pavement and busting my face.

A little grace please. And maybe some patience.

I am a lot of things. Perfect is definitely not one of them.

When you have been through some of what I have been through, I’d like to say you develop a thicker skin, great discernment skills and incredible strength, but that is not always the case. I guess in some ways I have, but I think that most of what I have developed is a plethora of coping skills, some of which are not healthy for me or anyone else. Not healthy and not fair. And then there is the baggage associated with them. Oh, the baggage.

I have encountered narcissists, assholes, selfish men, jerks, deviants, users, liars, abusers and men that make promise after promise, only to blow me off time after time. They have made me question my worth and my place. The last of these  issues was only part of the problem in my longest relationship, but it gave me the bulk of an attitude I have developed that can best be described as “Fuck the world, I will do it my damn self.”  While most men I have encountered, save my dad and my grandpa, have contributed to this attitude, not all of them have. Unfortunately, it is my immediate, knee-jerk response when something happens, whether it is a missed call or text or unforeseen circumstances that screw up my plans with someone. Fuck the world. I will do it my damn self.

This attitude is hurtful and not at all fair and, from something I read recently, seen by others, especially men, as a weakness. Regardless, my fear of the same bullshit happening again, elicits the same response. Fuck the world. I will do it my damn self. Even though someone has proven time and time again that they are not like that,  That they are to be trusted and treated with kindness, an honest mistake will, again, result in that response. Fuck the world. I will do it my damn self. I have been let down so many times that that is the expectation when people make promises or say they will do something. I am always anticipating it. This is just a portion of the baggage I carry with me. It is something, one of the somethings that I would like to get rid of. This response can be off-putting and it pushes some people away. What would be nice is for someone to stay long enough to get past the bullshit response and help me unpack my baggage, leaving room to fill it with new memories, good memories, fun memories.

While I can be  serious pain in the ass at times, insecure, afraid, angry and hurt over dumb, sometimes irrational things, there are good things about me too. I have an awesome sense of humor, dark and twisted sometimes, and maybe even a little dirty, but well worth seeing come out. I am easy to amuse. I can find fun in just about any situation with just about any person on the planet. I am passionate about life. I want to go and do and be and meet. Life is beautiful and I want to experience it. I am kind to others, or at least I try to be, even when they are horrible to me. I forgive easily and I try to see the best in people. If I do get angry, wait 5 minutes and it will pass. When I love someone, and that love is reciprocated, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for them. They are my world and I don’t see anyone else. I am faithful. There are a lot of good things about me that I think are worth others’ time.

I just hope all the good trumps the bad.

Too Much, Not enough, Who cares?

For as long as I can remember, people–friends, family, strangers–have been trying to stuff me into a tiny little box with predetermined dimensions and ideas of who and what I should be. I tried to live the way they said I should. I tried to be who they said I should be.  What happened is that I was miserable and they were much more comfortable.

The problem with that little box is that it does not allow for any individuality and color at all. Anyone who knows me, knows that confinement and conformity do not suit me at all. It took a long time to realize that God made me unique and I should embrace the crazy, chaotic, colorful nature that is me. Hiding it and stifling it creates misery.

Over the years, others have decided that pieces of me are too much to handle and just not enough to be valued. According to their standards, I am both too much and not enough. I think that is why my recent attempts at relationships have failed. There is this assigned group of behaviors and standards given to women my age and any divergence from said behaviors and standards is unfamiliar and unbecoming and therefore, unacceptable.

I am too much:

  1. I am too boisterous–If I am having a good time, you will know. Even in a room full of noisy people, you will hear me laughing above everyone else. While I don’t like being paraded in front of others (I even hated being the center of attention at my own wedding), I don’t have a problem with being the center of the giggle storm.
  2. I am too talkative–I can’t help it if I have a lot to say, whether or not others share that sentiment or appreciate my loquaciousness.  There are many things on this beautiful planet worth talking about. I refuse to apologize for enjoying them and the many beautiful and flawed people with whom I share this planet and my space.
  3. I am too animated–If I am excited about something, enjoying myself or telling a story, I use sound effects, exaggerated body language and crazy facial expressions. I have tried toning it down, but I just can’t.
  4. I laugh too much–I have survived horrible bouts of depression, serving in a combat zone in the military, exposure to sarin, electrocution, rape, 2 sexual assaults, a life-threatening pregnancy and delivery, robbery at gunpoint, job loss, bullying, abandonment, abuse, rejection and being used. If I am able to find joy after that–well, I have earned every single belly laugh, chuckle, giggle, guffaw and snort. I will take laughing over crying any day of the week.
  5. I am too weird–At the age of 47, I still like to color my hair in crazy hues (my favorites are pink and candy apple red). I love crazy non-matching socks. I am mad for shoes, and the crazier they are, the better–I own four pairs of Hello Kitty Vans, rainbow zebra striped sneakers, slip-ons that resemble disco balls and tennies that sparkle in gold and silver. I am obsessed with all things that write, color and brush. Frogs are my favorite animal and I have a growing collection of froggie things. On occasion I will sing in public, rather badly, and sometimes even dance.
  6. I am too naive–As much as I would like to be able to protect myself from the big, bad world and the unsavory, ill-intentioned people that occupy it, I find myself looking for the good in everyone and seeing their potential, even when they have given me more than enough proof that they are not safe or healthy to be around. Some days I would love to be cynical and jaded and angry, for the sake of self-preservation.  I have had moments where I have been those things, but then Pollyanna takes over and the world is beautiful and kind again. I can definitely be gullible and believe exactly what people tell me about who they are. Thankfully, I am getting better at recognizing when I need to walk away, because their “truth” is anything but.
  7. I am too silly–I love nerf gun battles, rolling down hills and having burping contests with my boys. I appreciate kid jokes and making up songs about random stuff going on around me. These things are not likely to change anytime soon.
  8. I am too nerdy–Apparently, I should aspire to be a dumb blonde (sorry blondies, just a term. I know you aren’t dumb). I never understood that. I like being smart. I like words. I will never understand why a man, or anyone else for that matter, would want me to be any other way.
  9. I am too scatterbrained–I don’t think it is age. I think it has more to do with a creative personality than anything else. Most creative types that I know are a bit on the scatterbrained side. In my humble opinion, being scatterbrained is nothing more than the free flow of ideas. There are just so many things running around in my head, that if everything was completely structured and ordered, there would be no room for another batch of creative ideas to run in and join the party.
  10. I procrastinate too much–This is probably one of my greatest flaws and one of my greatest blessings. It is a flaw because it drives most people, including me, batshit crazy. There is always a mad rush and a panic to finish any assignment or project or online order. While it appears that it is detrimental to the process, for some reason, I always do my best work when I am under the gun. That gun, pushes me to fight for the right words, the perfect image or clarity of thought. I get tunnel vision. Some of my best 10-page papers in college were started 24 hours before they were due and finished just minutes before the start of class.

I am not enough:

  1. I am not thin enough–I have never been a size 2. I used to be a size 5. I am a far cry from either now. A lifetime of crazy eating habits, not enough sleep, working too much, clinical depression, pregnancy and autoimmune disease as well as a genetic predisposition for weight issues have complicated things. I have probably lost and gained and lost and gained and lost and gained about 200 pounds or more in the last decade. I take it off, I gain it back. And studies (countless studies) have shown that weight loss is a crap ton harder in your forties. I have finally accepted that the best I  can do is take care of myself the best that I can, eat as healthy as I can (but I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination)  and stay active. Size be damned.
  2. I am not feminine enough–I am a tomboy. I have been my whole life. I prefer jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers to a dress and heels. I like makeup, but I am limited in my application skills so it is usually pretty minimal. I would love to have beautiful hair, but  despise having to put forth the effort to do it. My nails have been polished, but I have found that with the work I do and my art, attempting to keep them girlie is a pointless endeavor. As a child, I would go frog hunting (no killing involved, I promise), bring bugs into the house and play with cars and mud. I am uniquely suited to being a mother of boys. I am not squeamish about bugs and dirt and worms and snakes. I find fart humor both disturbing and funny, but don’t tell my boys that. I like rough housing and getting dirty. No offense to the girls out there or the mothers of daughters, but I think boy stuff is the coolest and being wild and dirty beats restrained and pristine any day of the week.
  3. I am not pretty enough–I have plenty of flaws. My nose is too wide and grows wider by the day. My eyelashes are almost non-existent. I have a round face and hair that always seems to be in need of styling. My eyebrows have random hairs that appear to migrate north leaving me with an odd brow line. I don’t look anything like what most men see as conventional beauty.  That used to bother me. I wanted to be tall and thin and blond with blue eyes and a sparkling personality. I was born as a altitude-challenged, hazel-eyed brunette. I was given brains instead of beauty.  I also got kind heart, an abundance of compassion  and the ability to love the broken and wounded. Beauty, while a nice thing to have, is fleeting and has a limited shelf life. I will keep the “beauty” I was graced with. And the other gifts–they have served me well.
  4.  I am not sexy enough–I guess that I was sexy enough when I was much younger, in my army days. I don’t know that it was so much sexy as appealing for my very youthful looks. For some reason men  really appreciate and have an addiction to women that look really young. I have been blessed in that regard. I am 47 and people still guess my age to be in my thirties. But sexy? Not really. Some people say that sexy is in the attitude and self-confidence. If that is the case, then I am in trouble. I am just weird and seriously lack the self confidence and attitude that would make me sexy. That’s okay. Some day, someone will love me for the awkward mess that I am.
  5. I am not graceful enough–I am like a bull in a china shop. I trip over my own feet,  roll my ankles,  fall upstairs, run into walls and door jambs, drop stuff and bump my head all the time. I am not sure from whom I get this lovely gift, but I would love to give it back. I usually have a variety of bruises in various stages of color at any given time and it really isn’t attractive. Getting them isn’t any fun either.
  6.  I am not “easy” enough–I have been told, quite recently, by men that I have met online that I am not putting out quickly enough (read: just not doing it). A lot of them just want easy, quick sex with no attachments or their ability to love and/or appreciate you hinges on your sexual availability. They don’t really want to get to know me as a human being or a woman. They want to get to know me as a sperm receptacle and little else. One went so far as to tell me that if I didn’t “get hip with the now”, I would find myself “old and in the way.” Nice.

I am me. I don’t really know how to be anyone else. When I try, I fail horribly  and I end up miserable. The closer I am to who God designed me to be, the happier I am. Am I perfect? Not even close. I am flawed and broken and messed up and I fail at something every single day. I don’t get it right. I don’t do things the same way everyone else does them. My drummer has a unique beat that I follow and revel in. I have learned, and it took me until my forties to realize this, that my path and purpose are unique to me, as are the path and purpose of each individual inhabiting this planet. Embrace yours. Grab it and run with it. You never know who might be blessed by your mess. Your beautiful, broken and flawed mess. The world deserves to know the real you. And you deserve to be it.

The Cesspool of Romance, part 1

2016 regrettably found me back in the dating pool. I went back and forth on whether or not I was really ready to date post-divorce, but at the coaxing of a friend (read: pushing) I went ahead and put up a profile on Plenty of Fish. I am still not sure what made me think that online dating would be a good idea since online was where I met my ex. And Plenty of Fish? Well, much to my chagrin, it’s mostly a bunch of horny douchebags and douchebaggetts looking for nothing more than easy, semi-anonymous sex, friends with benefits (which generally means benefits with a little friendly conversation) or easy non-challenging relationships where one party gets what they want, when they want, how they want it and immediately loses their shit when the other party actually has a mind and opinion of their own.

Please don’t get me wrong. I DO NOT think that all parties on said dating site are bad people looking for the above-mentioned things. I have met some really nice men online and some of them, while no romantic connection was made,  are now friends, at least on facebook where we occasionally chat or make plans that never really come to fruition.

But–if you have ever attempted the online dating thing, you know what it is like and how disappointing, and sometimes even frightening, it can be. And not all bad dating/relationship experiences are confined to online dating either. I have had some of those in the real world where we have been friends or acquaintances for a very long time (high school, or, in my case in the army immediately after high school as well).

So, here are just a few things that might be helpful to know or watch out for when considering stepping back into the cesspool that is the dating world.

  1. Benching “happens when someone repeatedly leaves you on a bench to wait around hoping they may choose to play you again. (Similar to what happens in sports games.) They might want you, but they aren’t quite sure if you are good enough, and there may be someone who they think is better right now. Or they are afraid of love, and they get emotionally scared, so they leave you in a position where they can pick you back up and use you when their interest spikes—or more plausibly in the dating world: when their ego needs a boost” (Elephantjournal.com). Who knew that, in your forties,  this is still a thing and even has a name? By your forties, you should be mature enough to know what the hell you are doing and enough to not do something so disingenuous and hurtful to someone else. This happened to me with someone I knew in the army. We have known each other for over 25 years and, while he lives in another state,  we decided to engage in a long distance relationship and,after a  month or so, began discussing him moving to be closer me to actually have a real relationship. A little over two months in, he flips out and suddenly can’t be away from his family and whatever the hell is in his state of residence. So, on the bench I go. Fool me once, shame on you. Almost 2 years later, the discussion comes up again. Thinking he may have matured in that time, maybe knows a bit more about what he wants (me?), I fall for the bullshit again. Very quickly in, he gets very icy and distant and conversation from him becomes very calculated and careful. Fool me twice, shame on me. Benched twice and I have learned my lesson. It will not happen again with him. Ever. My advice is if you get benched once, don’t let it happen again. The big, bad love/relationship thing will more than likely scare them again and you will have wasted your time, energy, effort and affection that might otherwise be applied toward someone who actually deserves those things from you.
  2. Ghosting. “The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested. Ghosting is not specific to a certain gender and is closely related to the subject’s maturity and communication skills. Many attempt to justify ghosting as a way to cease dating the ghostee without hurting their feelings, but it in fact proves the subject is thinking more of themselves, as ghosting often creates more confusion for the ghostee than if the subject kindly stated how he/she feels” (urbandictionary.com). This hasn’t really happened to me in the real world, but occasionally happens online when you have been conversing with someone for an extended period of time and they either meet someone they clique with or you say something they don’t like. In the real world, based on what a couple of friends have shared with me, it usually happens when a. they have sex once or a few times, or b. when they meet someone else who gives them what the first party hasn’t yet or isn’t willing to give them (and I don’t necessarily mean sex). I think that you really need to pay attention to dialogue, attitude and language. If they are  obsessed with the topic of sex, and I mean beyond normal guy obsession (is that even possible?), evasive or vague, you might have a potential “ghoster” on your hands and you might want to reconsider giving them the time of day.
  3. Self centered men. These men are looking for someone to be their on-call playmate and expect you to mold your life around their schedule and do the things they want to do, when they want to do them. They have little regard for your schedule, family obligations, job, needs etc. If you don’t mold yourself around their needs, you will be seen as a problem and will be left at the curb rather quickly, but let’s face it, that curb in all it’s mundane “blah-ness” is a damn sight better than being with someone who is incapable of giving you even a tiny percent of what you deserve. Case in point: I had been messaging a guy for a couple weeks (what can I say, I am wary and need to talk to someone and get to know them before I hand out my personal info like email or phone number). We had been trying to make a meet date but for some reason our schedules were always conflicting. We finally had a date to meet for coffee on a Friday. Turns out his son had a football game that day and he said we would either have to reschedule or we could attend the game together. Now, I have this policy (or rather my ex and I do) that until something is serious, the kids don’t meet a significant other and definitely not casual dates. I won’t do it to my kids and I won’t do it to someone else’s. It creates confusion and it is unfair to parade a bunch of men in and out of their lives. So we rescheduled for breakfast the next day. I get a text that his brother came into town unexpectedly and we would need to reschedule again. My friends said “Red flag! Don’t do it!”, but because my family is a priority, I assume his is as well and I give him another pass. Reschedule for Monday. Coffee in my town at 5pm? No, he had kid stuff going on starting at 5. We decide to meet for pizza right after I get off work. Meet. Talk. Spiral. Seemed nice, but not immediately comfortable. True nature comes out about 30 minutes in. My kids are my priority so I don’t care who you are, if you don’t get that, it’s not going to work. If you have kids at home and they aren’t your priority, again, it’s not going to work. So, because of the number of days I have my kids with me, my dating availability is limited.This gem told me that because I couldn’t make him my priority, having just met, I was using my kids as an excuse. I was a little dumbfounded. An excuse? They are my offspring. I brought them into this world and I am responsible for them. Things rapidly deteriorated from there, and the date ended abruptly when I got up and walked out on him. My kids are an excuse, but him rescheduling twice and then my schedule having to accommodate his was okay. I have zero respect for a guy (not even a man) who would treat my kids as if they were disposable or an inconvenient option.  When I make them a priority, it is an excuse.

You’ve heard that the tip of the iceberg is just that–the tip. What lies beneath, is so much larger and more expansive than what is immediately visible to the eye. That is kind of the nature of this subject. There is so much more to discuss than just these specific types or problems. I thought I knew what dating was going to be like and what kinds of pitfalls I would run into, but being naive has always been my problem. A little foolishly optimistic too. I kind of expected that the good in people would outweigh the not so nice or honorable. What I am finding is that there are a lot of creeps out there, but I still have faith that there is a gem worth waiting for. Somewhere out there, is a diamond, I just have to sort through a lot of stone and dirt. Someone please pass me a pick and a shovel. And possibly some dynamite.