The Permanent Roommate

Lucy knew what she wanted. She wanted the laundry to fold itself. She wanted a house with a yard and a small space for a tiny garden of herbs and vegetables that she used all the time so that she could have them fresh and waiting for her to cook with. Lucy wanted a dog, nothing too big or too small or fancy. Nothing with a long name that sounded more like a gourmet entrée in a French café than a dog breed. She wanted hardwood floors and long drapes to frame some windows that looked out onto that large yard in back. A home she could call hers.

Lucy also wanted to have another child. Her first two were growing fast, faster than she could have ever imagined. They were growing out of their shoes and pants quicker than she could keep them fed. She was proud of her children, of all their little accomplishments. But she yearned for another go at pregnancy and the infancy of new life. She ached to be needed by a small baby with pudgy hands and rolls of chub along their legs.

As Lucy put away the freshly folded laundry, still warm from the drier and smelling of cotton and sweet flowers, she reflected on all the things she wished for and sighed. All these things, these dreams and wishes, were once not only hers, but they were also Ray’s dreams, too. Dreams they shared oh those many years ago before marriage and children. The days long ago when they were more than friends. When they were lovers.

But life had changed in the last couple of months. Ray’s job offered him a new position, one that was more demanding of his time and efforts but afforded them more luxuries like a healthier savings account and for Lucy to be able to quit her job and stay home. While life was easing into this new phase, their romantic inclinations were slowly fading away. Lucy couldn’t tell if it was the stress of the job or just the waning interest in a long term partner that had struck their intimate life down, but, either way, Lucy felt the pangs of desire but didn’t know how to approach her husband.

Bending to pick up a pile of books left in the hallway by the kids, Lucy thought back, trying to remember when it all started. As she racked her mind to pinpoint the moment their relationship shifted into this complacent, friendly area, she spotted a corner where a cobweb had been missed. Tsking her own work, Lucy put down the woven laundry basket resting on her hip with the pile of children’s books placed on top of the dirty clothes inside and reached into her back pocket for the dusting rag she had tucked away. Waving the rag around in a half-heart manner, she swiped at the accumulating webs and scattered dust from the corner. Stepping back, she felt pleased and considered that area now done when her eyes glanced at a framed picture of the two of them, laughing in a swinging hammock together. Her heart sank as she saw the glimmer of adoration in his eyes that she longed to see again.

She married Ray for his laugh and the way he could turn a simple meal into a two hour conversation about anything and everything. He always spoke with passion and interest. And it wasn’t very long ago that she was the subject of that passion. He always took the time to tell her how he felt about her, to hold her hand even when simply grocery shopping, and he made sure they had a date every so often to spend time just being together, alone. Those days were gone. Her role as wife was now more of a glorified best friend. As a permanent roommate.

Lifting the basket and slowly placing it against her hip, Lucy realized she had unwillingly slipped into this role as she supported Ray in his new job by being there and not asking too much. In doing so, she had become no more than a housemate; always there, always pitching in and sharing the space around them but nothing more. They talked and laughed occasionally over a dinner of macaroni and cheese. He’d hug her after a long day and she’d scratch his shoulders if he asked while they caught up on the news after the kids were asleep. There was always love and devotion, an unwavering vow of fidelity tacked on the walls between baby pictures of the kids and their honeymoon in Tahiti. But that was it.

Lugging the heavy basket into the kids’ room and depositing the missing books into their book-bin, Lucy stifled a sob. They didn’t fight or argue. They still got along wonderfully. Nothing was out of place and she was even granted the gift of staying home to tend the house and the kids when needed. But that was the growing problem, no one needed her. Not really. Ray could take care of himself as he always had been able to and the kids were growing more independent with every blink of an eye. And while Lucy would take being needed by either her husband or her children, just being wanted would have been enough. It would have filled the hole that had been growing steadily. The feeling of being wanted by those she loved would have mended the tear across her heart.

She no longer cared to be a wife or a mother. Or a roommate or a best friend. As she cried tears of grief and loneliness on her way down to the garage where the bulking silver washing machine awaited her with freshly washed clothing, Lucy realized she would like nothing more than just to be wanted.


Date Night

In the passing lights of the highway, the glint from his wedding ring catches my attention as we drive to the coast for a quiet dinner together. A dinner with no children, no diaper bags, no whining. Just us.

I tuck my hand into his as he speaks of his clients that day. Of the menial details of his Monday. The conversation is light and airy, flowing between us as we share the little things we forget during the weekly hustle at home due to the homework assignments that need to be checked and the bathtime antics that need to be mediated.

I lean back against the headrest and let his voice carry me down the motorway towards the grey sky of November hanging above us. He hasn’t told me where we are going but I know. It’s our place. A little harbor restaurant tucked away between the boats and jetties where we can dine on seafood and wine with real linens and a small candle lit between us. Tonight there is no worry of little curious fingers finding their way into the glass sconces or markers making a permanent drawing of Big Bird on the snow white table cloth.

Tonight there will be no kid’s menu and no macaroni and cheese to cool down with our gentle whispers. No hamburgers to order with only meat and cheese between two buns, preferably without seeds. No sippie cups or lidded cups of any kind to avoid spills. No fighting over the crayons brought to the table to placate the children as they wait for their food.

Instead I’m in my purple sweater dress. The one that hangs perfectly off my curves that are usually hidden beneath my comfortable, worn jeans and careless tee-shirts. I managed to dig up a pair of black nylons and heels to match so that I’m warm yet dressed up. And though we rushed from work to the bathrooms to ready ourselves to sit in traffic on our way to the shore after the exchange of offspring from parents to grandparents, I managed to put on makeup and let down my hair.

His smooth voice brings me back and I realize I miss hearing him speak without whispering after bedtime or raising his tone to be heard over the din. I laugh at his jokes and he asks me about work. He shares his opinion about a song on the radio and I joke about the video I saw at lunch. Then, without warning, a silent blanket falls around us as we coast along the ebbing sea of glowing taillights. Small rain drops pitter against the windshield as the tires beneath lull us into a comfortable silence.

And there between us, our hands clasped casually over the center console full of nurse rhymes on CD and pacifiers, we fall in love all over again. In that brief moment of silence with only our palms resting together do we remember why we are here. Without a word, only a sigh from both of us, we find our romance tucked within the crumb covered seats, a lone shoe, and the toys that have been “lost”.

The Reality Of It All

Reality. Real life. That constant current flowing through our days and nights. It’s always there whether you choose to see it or not.

I can say, as a human being, that reality isn’t something I ponder often. It’s just there, taken for granted. Like oxygen. Reality is that thing we fall back on when our dreams and hopes and wishes aren’t coming to fruition. Reality is the warm blanket that’s not pretty or special, it’s not fancy or exotic. It’s just there, waiting for us.

I’ve noticed that reality isn’t as bad as we can make it out to be. Yes, our dreams are brighter and our future hopes glimmer oh so enticingly but reality, the solid consistent mass that sits in the back ground patiently, isn’t as dark as it seems. It’s nothing more than a basic thread in our lives, weaving the background together while we frolic and dance about hoping for more.

We’ve been married for 5 months. In those five months we’ve planned big, taken huge leaps, and we’ve loved passionately in that blinding newly wedded bliss that happens to everyone. But that isn’t reality. That is the post-wedding/honeymoon glow.

What is in actuality our reality is homework. Monday through Thursday homework. It’s rescheduling doctor appointments and juggling after-school pick up. Reality is going to bed to read a book while your partner works through the night to support the family. It is the dirty socks that must be turned right side out and the grocery shopping list for all the dinners to be made that week. Reality is the linen closet that needs to be organized and the light bulbs that need to be replaced.

Reality is boring. It’s basic. It’s everyday. But it’s unwavering and reliable. There will always be dishes to be washed and toys to be picked up and bills to be paid. And as a married couple, our reality is that even when the flames dim a bit due to the hectic family life that’s being created and executed, there is still a strong foundation of respect and love. Reality is that married life isn’t the blasting heat from a raging bonfire but the glowing warm embers of a fire that never dies.

I realized today as I paid off a credit card and added my husband as my additional payee on another bill that I was allowing myself to slip into the realness of everyday life and that I was forgetting to step out of it for a moment, for a quick second, to remind him that I loved him. Those glowing embers are there and I bet he knows how I feel for him without saying it but I didn’t want to rely on that. I wanted to take that second, grab it tightly and to say what I felt.

And most importantly, to say it without the expectation that I will get something in return. Instead, I said it because I meant it and I wanted him to know.

Reality. It’s not glamorous or special. It’s real and constant. It’s there whether you think about it or not. And in married life, reality is what kicks people in the face after the excitement of a wedding wears off. If you don’t plan for the everyday stuff and you go in with the expectation that your married life will be just as special as your one big day was, then you are in for a real surprise, and not the good kind.

Instead of mourning and clawing ferociously at the slowly fading shimmer on our post-wedding bliss, I’m settling into my warm, comfortable reality and wrapping it around me. These embers are still glowing and are scalding to the touch because even in the comfort of reality, the passion and love is just as present even if the folded laundry does need to be put away.


Born Angry

Can a human be born angry?

This is the question I’m asking a lot these days.

Our son is having quite a tough transition lately from his private school to his public school. From his single mother household to his newly married mom and step-dad. And issues we’ve dealt with in the past with his anger and tantrums are raising their ugly head.

I remember the doctor’s appointment in which I confided with his pediatrician that his tantrums were more than I could handle. That he had been removed from a daycare due to his rage over taking a nap. And at the time he was only 20 months old.

Through his doctor and a program called Help Me Grow, I gained access to early intervention programs to help me with my son. We did a developmental screening where we found he had a slight delay in his fine motor skills. But in all other areas we were fine. Until we discussed his behavior and the tantrums.

It was in this area that the most red flags began to fly. Jake was an angry little boy. He’d tantrum violently and I often found myself at the mercy of his little fists and kicking feet. And though I had a background in education and child development, I was finding myself flying by the seat of my pants when it came to disciplining him. I had no clue what to do and I was doing most of it on my own.

We went through some therapy and got a little help. A term was tossed around, a possibly key: ODD or oppositional defiance disorder. I laughed at first thinking it was just another multi-lettered acronym for the pharmaceutical companies to push more drugs. But as Jake aged and his temper ebbed and flowed, I wondered if, for him, it may be true.

Now we’re back to square one. He’s defiantly resisting most everything at home and many weekends are spent dealing with his anger and frustration. When good things are planned and outings are scheduled for fun, they often are cancelled due to a time-out or a day long grounding because of his anger issues.

And I find myself a tired, sad mommy again.

It’s hard not to feel helpless when your child seems to butt against anything you say or do, even the positive stuff. When you tell him today will be a good day and he responses with a “No it won’t”, it’s hard to keep your spirits up. When you want to do fun things together as a family but in the back of your mind you prepare to cancel your plans because you never know if something will trigger his anger before you even get to the car.

And I’m balancing a brand new marriage to boot. Not only am I dealing with the frustrations of parenting a particularly explosive child but I’m also trying to find a place for my new husband in all this parenting stuff. The two seemed so fine together and loving before the wedding but now it seems to be a war of wills to vie for my attention. And I’m exhausted.

So exhausted the tears are burning the backs of my eyes just tying these truths.

I want to roll up in bed and never get up. I just want to sleep, read, and sleep again.

That is my selfish side speaking. And apart of that voice is another little tidbit that’s niggling at me. I don’t want to be one of those activists moms speaking up for their child and how to accommodate them better in life. I don’t want to have a child with special emotional needs. I just want…normal. I want to love my son and have him love me back. I want to be a newly wed planning to make a new baby, too.

I want a family that isn’t torn in half by rough nights, big fights, and have me standing in the middle.

I feel very unprepared for this and I’m starting to unravel at the edges. They say the first year of marriage is the toughest and I can’t agree. The marriage is actually going fine. It’s the parenting in the 7th year that’s been toughest. And we have 11 more years of closely parenting a child that fights like a cat caught in a bag, flinging and screaming, when all we want is for him to do a chore. To clean his room. To find his soccer gear.

Can a human be born angry?

I’ll lean towards yes…

Guilt Trip

When the Mr. and I dated, we had a healthy relationship that included time together and time apart. I had my girls nights out and he had his dude days. We also had friends together we’d hang out with and date nights just for us along with family nights with the little man.

I never once felt guilty for spending time away from my little family. We felt our time together was wonderful but our time apart was just as important to maintain our sense of self and our friendships outside of each other.

But all that seems to have changed. We said our vows and signed the legal document making us husband and wife about 6 weeks ago. In that span of time we’ve done what we usually do: family nights, date nights and our own separate nights out with our friends. Nothing new and shnazzy other than us being able to call each other Mr. and Mrs.

Things are only different in the legal sense, we are still the same couple. Then why do I feel so guilty?

Yes, guilty. Suddenly, as if things have changed drastically, I find myself struggling to make plans with friends and not feel bad about it. Weird…

Take this past weekend, for example. Before the wedding, my sister and I made plans to go to San Diego to see The Postal Service perform. It would be our weekend away after the hub-bub of the wedding was over. This plan seemed awesome until the time came to pack up and head down south. I was suddenly struck with concern and worry about leaving, feeling some unspoken fear of abandonment. It took much encouragement from the husband and from my sister to continue with our plans. In the end we enjoyed the time and show together immensely.

So none of this is coming from the husband. He’s completely supportive of me to make time for friends and to explore new things like painting and wine tasting nights. And I encourage him to do the same, have time away with his friends and do their guy things (whatever those might be).

Then why am I suddenly regretting any plans I make away from my guys? Is this some magical thing that overcomes you when you get married? Does it creep up your arm as your sign the license and take over your body and mind?

It’s odd how suddenly this change happened. Maybe it’s because I’m happiest at home having dinner and watching a movie with my son and husband. Maybe it’s because this marriage is still so new and fresh that I’m still intrigued by it and want more of it. It must be that honeymoon phase people talk about. I must be knee deep in it and it pains me to take time away from my home.

I wonder how long this phase will last. For now, I’ll just roll with it.

Tidying Up

Our home is where our heart rests no matter where we venture to. And when that home is a disaster, you can bet coming home is a bit of a heartache.

For the last couple of months, our home was a mess. There were gifts lining the couch from the shower, clean laundry piled high waiting for a drawer to be available, boxes of decorations and items for the wedding littered the living room, and our son’s bedroom had slowly slipped beneath the radar and was filing up fast with junk.

After we returned home from Costa Rica, we knew we needed to do some heavy duty cleaning. So we worked together, unboxed everything, washed all the old dishes and carted them off to Good Will, organized the kitchen to within an inch of its life, and cleaned out the refrigerator. That was only the kitchen.

Soon the living room followed with a new coffee table to replace the broken one we currently were using, wrapping up cords that squirmed around the entertainment center, and vacuuming the carpet more than once. New pictures went up on the walls and everything was clean and orderly.

It felt good to have an old space look new!
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It felt so good that I took to my internet hangouts (Facebook, Friendfeed, Twitter, WordPress) and decided to do a virtual cleaning of my own. I whittled down my followers. I deleted old, unused accounts from sites I rarely ever visit any more. I trashed a few draft posts I never finished and released a few older posts that were at one time private. I adjusted my name on a few sites to now reflect my married name.

I swept and cleaned every little virtual corner and in the end, felt a certain level of peace come over me. I was letting go.

I was moving on and accepting this new life. Change is tough no matter how great it is but it’s worth all of the pain in the end.

We now have a clean kitchen and I’m finding myself in it more, cooking and baking and trying new recipes like…
 photo adaa173e-1af5-4610-850d-ac3e6fbf883c_zpsd238ccb9.jpgBacon Wrapped Chicken Kabobs

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Fourth of July Pancakes

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Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Even our son is becoming interested in learning to cook. We started with something simple, scrambled eggs.
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Nowadays I feel relieved to be home at the end of the day or after a good workout instead of stressed and uncomfortable in my space. And it’s also something we work on together, as a family. We help each other fold the laundry and wash the dishes. We load the dishwasher together and help fill the laundry basket when the dryer is done. Together we made this space ours.

As a family, we made it our home again.

Yours. Mine. Ours.

When you become married, life suddenly goes from being singular to being pluralized. It’s no longer me or I. It’s we and us. We will be available next weekend. This gift is from us. What was mine is now ours and the same goes for him. What was his is ours. That couch I bought years before? It’s ours. His colorful fiesta mugs? Those are ours too.

While these little things are small and insignificant, it does take some brain work to adjust our vocabulary. To remember to use inclusive language when, for so long, you spoke only of yourself. And maybe, though the ring is on your finger and the memories of the wedding day are still lingering, you still don’t quite believe that you made the plunge. That somewhere in your mind you still don’t believe you’ll ever get married even if you have the documents to prove that you have, in fact, been hitched recently.

I’m finding for myself that the hardest part is actually referring to Jake as “our” son. The Mr. has been raising him for sometime with me and we all feel that he’s as much a father as anyone else. He loves deeply and thoroughly and he worries just as any father would.

It’s not that I don’t want to share, it’s just an adjustment of vernacular. Instead of “my” son, it’s “our” son. Our son finished first grade today. Our son left his towel on the floor again. Our son has grown another inch and needs new pants that fit him.

Our son. Our home. Our life. Our dreams.