“As long as I’m laughing with you”

As you know, our life here is going through some pretty dramatic changes. Aubrey has reached the next stage of her life (automotive freedom!), and will be leaving for college soon. We’re planning to sell our house and downsize. Most excitingly, there is the potential that I could soon experience some medical relief. Last but not least, Ron and I will be celebrating our eighth marriage anniversary.

I’ve written before about Ron’s and my “wedding.” As we signed our 2003 taxes as “married filing joint,” we knew that under Texas law, we had met the final condition for a common law marriage. Our single vow to never purposely put ourselves in a position where we could potentially fall in love with someone else has held us in good stead. That doesn’t mean we haven’t been through worse, sickness, and poorer. We didn’t even get much of a honeymoon period, because my symptoms permanently flared just four months after we married. Four months after that, I was unemployed, and as the highest household wage earner at that time, it was damnably stressful to lose my income.

Ron, to his ever amazing credit, stuck it out. He watched me disintegrate from a vibrant, active, happy woman to a fibromyalgia patient who rarely leaves the house. Against every fiber of his being, we went deep into debt so we could financially survive while he went to grad school. As much as he hates our neighborhood, and this house, he sucked it up because I was firmly committed to not moving until Aubrey graduated from high school. He’s raised Aubrey since she was eight and Matt since he was 13, and after going through Matt’s teen years, Aubrey’s teens haven’t been much of a picnic, either. He’s eaten gluten free meals (even though he could have real food), reminded us to take our meds every single night, and fixed more dinners than I ever have since we’ve been together.

Suddenly, the end of the tunnel is shining it’s little light. My committment to keeping my kids in this home until they were college age has almost been fulfilled. Selling this house will free us financially like someone shifting Mount Everest off our backs. We’ll be able to pay off our credit cards, get a NEW new car, travel (as much as my health will allow), go out to lunch, go to dinner, a movie, a museum, a street fair. Best of all, if it is confirmed that I do have a parathyroid tumor, I have a good chance at not being so dead exhausted all day, every day. I might be able to do dishes, or laundry, or some of the myriad of other things that Ron has to do around here (or at least, we’ll be able to afford a maid to come help out). In other words, we are about to hit the better, health, and richer part of those traditional marriage vows.

It’s a little scary. It always is when a family dynamic changes, because even good change can catalyze relationship disasters. Even so, I am vibrating with anticipation. I’m one of those incredibly rare, lucky women who not only love their husbands, but actually like them. I truly like Ron, and I miss all the fun stuff that we used to do, so I can’t wait for the chance to date him all over again.

The next six and a half months are going to go fast, as life always does when change is in the air. In the meanwhile, I just want to say that I love my wonderful husband, and I’m happy that we’ve managed to survive. I am going to do my damned best to ensure that the next eight years are exponentially better than the last eight.

I love you, honey. Happy Anniversary.

“I think that all that still matters is love ever after, after the life we’ve been through, ’cause I know there’s no life after you.”

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“He sang as if he knew me”

I was raised quasi-Christian. We celebrated Christmas, and my mom let the local Baptist Church have temporary custody of me for a week every summer for Vacation Bible School. We didn’t say grace, but my mom would whip out a bible quote if she wanted to snark. I felt somewhat comfortable with my sense of spirituality, although I wasn’t so thrilled with the company.

I grew up in an affluent neighborhood, although we were dirt poor. I had a lot of life experiences with the Sunday Christians…you know, the ones that go to church on Sunday, but gossip, bitch, and make snide remarks about the help for the rest of the week. Needless to say, I didn’t really feel welcome at any of the churches in our area; mostly, I just felt pitied as they gave me colored sugar water and cheap candy. I wasn’t surprised many years later to find out that the pastor was having a long standing affair (at least 15 years) with the church secretary. Strike one.

Then there are my aunt and uncle. Aunt A and uncle D are baptist missionaries in Mexico, and viciously mean spirited. At my aunt M’s funeral, instead of offering words of comfort and love, uncle D delivered a blistering sermon on hellfire and damnation (literally; I’m not being euphemistic). Strike two.

Last but not least, there are the Christians who were friends with my daughter, who proclaimed to be her BFF’s. That is, until Aub began vocalizing her support of her LGBT friends. All of a sudden, those Christians who were so full of love turned on her. One girl, who practically lived at our house for the previous school year, decided that Aub no longer existed. Because Aub loves, this friend (and I use the term quite loosely) would not look at her in the halls, talk to her in class, sit with her at lunch. Strike three.

I was pretty sure I was completely done with Christianity, mainly because I had never had any contact with others who felt the way that I do about the bible. I don’t think it is meant to be taken literally (it’s been translated how many times??). I think it needs to be considered in the context of the culture in which it was written. Mainly, I feel that if someone is going to be a Christian, they probably shouldn’t ignore all the stuff that Jesus said about turning the other cheek, loving thy neighbor, and loving in general.

When I came across a blog post by John Shore about how he became a Christian over a weekend, but stayed friends with his gay friends, still felt that women should not suffer abuse because of some church dictate, and believed that Christians could be friends with folks of other beliefs, well, I was shocked. I was even more amazed that there were others out there that felt the same way.

John decided to start his own cult (and he states that loud and proud) called Thruway Christians, and I jumped on that bandwagon. Did I suddenly start going to church and quoting the bible? No. But I find comfort that there is a group of people out there that follow the most important mandate in the bible: “Above all, love.” It gives me hope that not everyone in this country is an evangelical nut who wants to burn me or my daughter at the stake. Yeah, there is a lot of comfort there.

So if you are looking for a movement, some way to make a change, a positive force for good, based on mutual respect and love, check out http://thruwaychristians.com/, then spread the word.

“In all my dark despair…”

“Starry, starry night”

Tonight, as I sat at Starbucks and waited for Aubrey’s dance class to end, I felt warm and cozy. It wasn’t just because I was drinking my exacting and ridiculous personal recipe for the perfect mocha, or that I was snuggled under my New Year’s wrap, or that I was curled up in one of the big, cushy leather chairs. Those are all great reasons for that warm and cozy feeling, but tonight, it was because of the four police officers sitting at the table across from my chair.

I know what I’m about to say will likely piss a few people off, and for once, I really don’t mean to. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about the military, and how great they are, and how they are the reason we can sleep at night, yada yada yada. Before you get all riled up, let me say that all of my brothers, one ex-husband, and Ron are all ex-military, and they are all my heros (although I’m positive Ron whined through all six years), but while I highly respect the men and women who sacrifice everything out of patriotism to their country and in some cases, their fellow man, they are not the reason I sleep soundly in my bed (or on my sofa).

I feel safe because of the men and women who serve here, for way less money, and a hell of a lot less benefits than our military. They are just as willing to jump on a bomb, throw themselves in front of a bullet, or even kick an ass if necessary (and if no one is looking, because there are laws, after all). Yes, I know that the majority of them are ex-military. I’m not arguing that one is better than the other, just that I feel safe knowing that with the dialing of three little numbers, within minutes someone will be at my door, ready to charge. If I could dial up Fort Sam (which is closer than the local police station) and get that same response from the army guys, it might be a different story.

So while you’re saying thanks to all the people who have died for our country and our rights and our freedom, don’t forget to say thanks to the ones who die keeping us safe, not from some undefined “evil” around the world, but from the evil right here.

“Paint your palette blue and grey…”

“Here’s the sidewalk, I used to ride my bike…”

When Aubrey was in fourth grade, we lived on Argo, about two blocks from Cambridge. She desperately wanted to ride her bike to school, but she was still in training wheels, and I just wasn’t ready. There was no way I was going to let her toddle off, unstable, shakey, about to fall over at any second, without my being right next to her. Then Ron taught her to ride her bike, the training wheels came off, and half my excuse was gone.

I still couldn’t handle the idea of her falling, or being kidnapped, or eaten by wolves, and my not finding out about it until 4pm when she didn’t make it home from school. This was ages before it was nothing for a nine year old to have a cell phone, nor were there “family plans,” so I wasn’t about to shell out $70 a month for her to ride her bike to school. Instead, we came up with the compromise of her calling me from the school office as soon as she got to school. Although the school wasn’t so thrilled with the idea of letting her use the phone every single school morning, all it took was one glare and they let it go.

So Aubrey was on her own. It was her first foray into autonomy, and one of the most difficult things for me to handle…at that time, anyway. Every morning, I would frantically stand staring at the phone, willing her to call me and let me know she made it. Those were the longest four minutes of my day, every day.

Eight years later, and she’s got a car. It’s a decent, safe car. It has all new tires, gets great gas mileage, and brakes well. It also doesn’t go much above 60 mph. Of course she wants to drive it to school. And of course, I can only imagine her crashing, being kidnapped, or eaten by wolves (after the crash). It doesn’t matter that we live seven blocks from school, that there is no traffic, no stoplights, and only four stop signs between here and there. I still want to know that she made it okay.

Today was her very first day to drive herself to school without someone else in the car. She didn’t have to be at there until 9:55am, so there wasn’t even any school traffic. She got her parking permit yesterday, so she is legally allowed to park on campus. She’s insured, licensed, and today she knows how to turn on the car. She’s 17 and a half, and will leave for college in seven months. None of that matters. I still made her call me when she got to school. It was another lifetime of four minutes, as I waited for the  phone to ring.

Every now and again, we drive down Argo, and I remember how scared I was, how impossibly far away Cambridge seemed from our house. I remember how excited she was when she made the trek for the first time. I’m sure at some point, I will look back at this tiny little distance in the car and laugh at how nervous I was, but for now, she still has to call.

“Down this little slope, down my little mountain,
Start by the driveway spinning up to speed,
Careful on the gravel ’cause it’s nasty on the knees.
Watch out for the branches on that apple tree.
Soar down to the corner.

Well I guess it’s not as high as I remember.
It might not be a mountain after all,
But it was hard enough to climb,
And steep enough to coast,
Long enough to satisfy,
And fast enough to boast.

It may look to you like nothing much to see
But you should see the way it feels to me.”