Monday, August 30, 2010

Good Friends Will Go Anywhere

Even though she was slightly apprehensive, my friend Margaret agreed to come with me on my birthday outing to Ravinia, an outdoor music festival just north of Chicago. We were going to see the amazing guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. That's her on the left.

Notice, she is wearing her St. Christopher pendant. I usually see her with a lovely diamond necklace. On this night, she felt she might need the patron saint of protection on her side.

And she was mostly correct.  I drove us down there with a large tumor sticking out from my tire and almost ran us out of gas by not paying attention to that big yellow light blinking on my dashboard.  That's Kris on the right.  Kris is not afraid of anything. Thank God she came because she kept us from getting lost at least 16 times and she solved the great, enduring mystery of why my chair wouldn't fit in its bag while her chair had loads of room left over. Duh.

Ravinia oversold this concert in a brutal, feeling like you're being herded to your death, kind of way. We parked off site and waited for our bus. While in line, we unfolded our chairs and started to snack on our picnic goods. Once we arrived, it was necessary to step over and sometimes on people to find a place to sit. We squeezed ourselves in, pulled out our wine, food and patchouli candle and commenced to enjoy the serene beauty of the last days of a Chicago summer.

The girls, of course, had the sense to tell me we needed to leave early to avoid the long bus lines but I wouldn't listen. I was the birthday girl and I was staying until the very last perfect chord had been played.  Big mistake.  Huge. We spent the better part of an hour chasing taxi cabs.  Actually, I chased them while on the phone trying to give the dispatcher our location. The girls just continued to walk in the direction of a main road, which is what one would typically do in Chicago if wanting a cab.  Finally, our Serbian cabbie arrived. He didn't understand a word of my broken Spanish or much of my English come to think of it.  He indulged us with something in Serbian. We understood the words crazy and taxi.

Even though it looks highly suspicious, I swear they were not holding me up here. I was doing my signature sexy side head tilt. We made it to my SUV and headed out for more fun in Chicago. Again, it was Kris who saved the day be finding us the perfect little club. Relaxed, older crowd - great dance band and pool table.

It was the kind of bar where you get to know everyone else there in an instant. I took notes from various couples, patrons, band members, bikers, golf pros - all telling them I was working on research for my book.  That was actually true. I think I even helped the golf pro to get over his ex-girlfriend and agree to start dating the girl he had just made out with the night before. They were a cute young couple.  They deserved a chance at love. I love the irony - here I am doling out relationship advice like Oprah while I'm sporting a hole in my heart the size of one tall Armenian.

Margaret and I played pool with some bikers. My partner let me sit on his bike as we were leaving. Those pictures will not be posted for your purview, nor do we need to see the ones with the enormous chess pieces in the hotel lobby. I think Margaret and I thought we were Vanna White, the way we were posing with them.  After all the activities, we talked, as girls will do, about the meaning of life and all - just before we passed out from exhaustion, exhilaration and the excitement of another year gone by for me.

Margaret has been divorced for a year now. It was a bad ten year run she had. She is free and just now starting to emerge from her shell. She is a great teacher for me in the divine art of being alone. She has built a warm, colorful existence with friends, family, career and travel.  And, she stepped out beyond her comfort zone with me to be there for my birthday, armed with St. Christopher, St. Kris and a picnic basket feast for the God's.

The next morning, she looked at me with her deadpan delivery and said, "yes well, happy birthday, I know I feel a year older today." That's okay, she's only 40 and truly, has the best years of her life waiting just around the corner. Thank you ladies - with all my heart, thank you.

Good Friends, Going the Distance

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Marilyn Monroe, Destiny and Jail

Marilyn Monroe said it, "I'm selfish impatient and a little insecure.  I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best."  There is so much wisdom to that. Why are we so quick to put a gun to the head of our relationships and blow them away when people are at their worst?  More specifically, why have I always done this.  Could it be I have an amazingly low threshold for pain and nonsense these days?

Somewhere along the journey, I worked my way up the cynical ladder to eventually become the full embodiment of a jaded woman, unable to trust or extend myself beyond a safe boundary. Just read through the annals of ex-husbands past and you should be able to understand how I got there. But with this last devastating end - I had crawled down off that ladder, and handed it all over.  Here you go, here is my heart.  Here is my faith.  Here is my future, our future - take it and let's build a life together. I trusted him as an old soul with a sixth sense.  A wise person, a strategic thinker and a loving boyfriend.

But behind it all, there was a dark side.  The moon went from full and glorious to total eclipse over the course of one evening. There was duplicity, there was ugliness, there was ego and struggle for power and it was me who couldn't handle him at his worst. Forget about how we were at our best.  The dark shadow of that lunar relationship eclipse crushed my world.  I have been sitting still now for nearly two months. Waiting for a time when my heart would feel whole enough to have a conversation with another man - much less, God help me, a relationship.

I've been hanging out on the back row, more like the nose bleed section of Match.Com.  Letting people filter through with their underwhelming attempts at cracking my shell.  It has provided some much needed humor during a dark time.  I love it when Match sees my inactivity and tries to encourage me with juicy tidbits about a potential hand selected candidate they wish me to meet.  I mean, who could resist when they advise me, "you both fancy felines, like you  - he's not a smoker and he enjoys bowling." Well, there you have it.

I've been working on my Masters Degree in  being alone. I've climbed upon the large platform that is built out of confusion and angst instead of scaling back up that jaded ladder. I have launched my spirit off this platform and allowed it to come back to me with renewed intention and belief. I wish to be without a relationship, not out of fear but because I am enthralled with the changes I'm seeing in me.  There is meditation, exercise, clearing alcohol from my system, weight loss, and an awareness that I am standing at the crucible that is my destiny. This is my test. The universe is guiding me. It's as if I can feel the hands of generations past, all the way to the beginning of time, nudging me forward, patting me on the back and in some cases, embracing me with their light and energy.

That's not to say if the universe decides to throw the perfect man at me, I'll walk away. No, no, silly thought, no.  If that happens, I will dive in to the deep end, knowing I don't know how to swim but trusting a strong set of arms to shore me up.  I love the line from the book, Eat Pray Love, when Liz is told she doesn't need a man, she needs a champion.  I suspect there is a dearth of true champions at this stage of the game but I cannot, ney, will not settle for anything less. For not only will I be continuing to leap off of platforms, I will be doing it with all of my kids depending upon me as their sole provider for the next two and a half years.

Mr. Sunshine was sentenced on Monday. He's going to be going away for thirty months to a federal minimum security camp. We are devastated, reeling, shocked and somewhat numb. I am hoping with all this jumping, leaping and soaring I've been doing during my alone time, my cape is ready.  Thus, if a man intrepidly seeks to enter my life, he had better come equipped with his own cape, a championship belt, or a shit load of trophies for character, stamina, and the ability to talk me down from the occasional platform, or dare I say, ledge.  And in return, he will deserve me at my best, which I don't mind saying will be a life beyond his wildest dreams.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tickled Pink

I received this card in the mail
from one of my good friends.

Thanks Susan.

I have it pinned to the wall in my office because it makes me smile.

And I need to keep smiling.

Either that, or I need a new purse.

Not sure.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Let There Be Light

When my baby girl was fighting for her life in the hospital, it came to me. It sought me out and it lifted me in perhaps what has been my darkest hour to date.  It, this mysterious force, gave me the strength to pull my sleep deprived self together and to hold her up. To look her in the eye and tell her I understood her pain but at the tender age of 7, she had no other choice but to face it the way a child faces a bad dream or a monster in the closet. I told her to kick its ass.  Note: I didn't use those exact words but the meaning was conveyed. I taught her how to breath the way I was taught when giving birth.  We did our labor breathing together. 

Breath with me baby, short breaths. She would do as I asked while her eyes locked upon mine, seemingly never blinking. Her expression was one of trust but it also conveyed a vulnerability that simply said, help me.

Out of this nightmare experience, she seemed to have a new sense of strength and confidence about her. She doesn't take any crap from her big brother anymore, she is deeply connected to her emotional side and she will speak up to any perceived tyranny or injustice in her world, even if it's defending one of her stuffed animals. Besides the courage that comes during times of crisis, we were also blessed by our many friends. My daughter and I walked out of that hospital knowing we had survived because we were hooked up to an IV that fed us more that nutrition or hydration, it fed our very souls.That's what I took from the love that surrounded us. Our friends came and they carefully weaved a tightly knit net underneath us and with that, we were safe.

One friend in particular came to see us nearly every day. We had been planning a ski trip together with our kids, the very week the ruptured appendix occurred. She had graciously booked our room, using her points in a time share plan. We obviously couldn't go. We were all bummed but there was no repercussion, no pettiness, just a constant flowing love. This same woman recently offered us a weekend at a water park resort. She wanted to gift us with something that would replace our worries with fun; taking away my heartache and substituting the laughter of my children, like music to my ears.

Off we went last weekend, the four of us at a Lake Geneva resort.  A mom, still slightly less than whole from heartbreak and kids who are living with the fear of their dad going to jail.  Add to that, the girls don't know about our breakup yet. They are asking about Michaela every day. They literally see her in everything, a bowl of noodles, a horse, a bird. I am hoping we can arrange for her to remain a part of our lives but if it doesn't work out, they have more disappointment, more suffering heading their way.

Thank goodness for our water park adventure. We played all day and night, ate pizza and ice cream, and went down one particular water slide that the kids loved but in my mind, it felt like I was on a death slide to hell.  It was narrow so you went sans a raft, mat or tube. Just you, in total darkness, for what seemed like five minutes of twisty, tormenting, torturous abyss. Did I mention it was pitch black? You don't know when you're going to turn and you don't know when it's going to end. I tried closing my eyes but that only made it scarier. I'm praying, please God - let there be light at the end of this thing and let it be soon.

Finally, I was unceremoniously dumped into the water the way a load of laundry get's pulled under during the rotation cycle. I emerged to see the smiles and thumbs up signs from the kids. It is symbolic of course. Many times in life, we are forced down these dark tunnels but if we keep moving and keep praying, there is always light at the end. I am blessed to have four children who are beacons of light. We may all be going down a new scary yellow tunnel soon but I will remind them to keep breathing, keep moving and keep praying until it doesn't hurt anymore.

The light will emerge from the darkness and we will go under a bit before we can poke our heads above the water and walk away stronger, more confident and able to face whatever twisty turn life has in store for us next.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Does This Wine Taste Campy to You?

Last week, my friends were doing everything in their considerable power to get me out of the house.  I had the most tempting invites. Beach parties, bands playing, festivals, promises of girl time - no boys allowed.  They knew what I needed.  They have been worried about me suffering so, refusing to let go of my pain - even some would say, wallowing in it.  On Wednesday, I spent hours getting ready to go out, not because I was carefully applying my makeup.  It took me hours because I kept changing my mind.

Finally, I walked out the door around 8pm. I arrived at the State Fairground venue where one of my favorite bands was playing but I couldn't find the stage. With my girlfriend trying to talk me there, I began to get frustrated, the hurt was bubbling up inside and I started to cry.  

What am I doing here? I'm not ready to be around actual people yet.

She then handed the phone to a security guard in the hopes of him giving me better directions.  That's all it took, one smug man's voice and I was on the way back home. I tried again on Thursday but never made it out the door. When Friday rolled around, the plan was to attend a lakefront festival, taste of the city event, with live music and a huge bonus, it was not too far from my house.

I can do this.  I just have to get there and if it sucks, I can come home early and still catch The Ghost Whisperer on TV, pathetic but true.

My most persistent friend, Jodes, would accompany me. She knew exactly how to handle things, letting me know I could talk about "him" if I chose but it was okay if I didn't want to talk.  She was there either way. We spent the first hour of our night on the phone with US Cellular tech support. Somehow, we had both inadvertently attached a speed dial to our ex-husbands and have been persistently purse dialing them. Neither one of us could figure out how to get it off.  To our credit, it took tech support the better part of that hour figuring it out themselves.

Finally, meandering into the festival, we walked up and down the beach, meeting old friends and new friends and elderly men who were retired military gentlemen, and married men who were misbehaving. Growing tired of that in a hurry, we decided to stop in a little winery on the outskirts of the festival. We spent the next hour in the company of two brothers, owners and proprietors of Two Brothers' Wine. They looked just like this picture from their business card, except you have to imagine them both with Hulk Hogan style blond mustaches.

They served up their unique blends from exceedingly peculiar grapes along with their stories.  Henry was the winemaker, brother Joe was a mess, somewhat akin to the Jim character from Taxi.  We were beguiled by them. They told us the story of their most popular wine, which comes out in the fall, just in time for hunting season. It's called Deer Camp wine and it is made from the tiny wild grapes that grow on their land up north. I'm certain we saw it fermenting in their homemade jugs lining the back wall of their storeroom.

When this wine was in the development phase, they mentioned it to one of their customers, we'll refer to her as one of those "ladies who lunch". Her disdain for everything related to hunting was immediately apparent when she supposed they were going to include a buck with a nice large rack on their label.  She went on to straight out call them chauvinistic pigs. Not ones to take such an insult, they utilized the services of Henry's son-in-law, a graphic designer, to come up with a label that would truly represent who they were.  The result is the label above, featuring a lovely doe, with a nice large rack, ever so gingerly balancing her glass of wine within her hooves.  After all Joe said, we are not chauvinistic pigs.  We're just pigs.

Jodes and I purchased a bottle of wine, then decided it was time to dance. We kicked off our shoes, buried our feet in the sand and made our way to the front of the stage, oh and did I mention, in the pouring rain. We danced and sang and hugged. I must have thanked her at least 236 times for getting me out of the house to have this experience. Two gorgeous young men started dancing with us while several others scooted in to make their plays.  We were drenched. Jodes asked me to let my hair down. It was wet and wild and I was free and without pain. There it was, this beautiful young man, the better looking of the two, and he was interested in me. But all I wanted to do was dance in the rain.

When the band finished, we excused ourselves from the opportunity in front of us. I would later be admonished for this when it was explained to me that younger men will give you great sex and expect nothing in return.  Why the hell didn't somebody tell me this before?  Oh yeah, I tried that already. Didn't work so well.

As we were making our way out, we said goodbye to one of our friends who was talking to a nice looking guy. He flirted with me and I flirted right back. He thought I was feisty, I told him he couldn't handle my feisty. As we left, he asked for my number - but I simply walked away, arm in arm with my good friend. I think we might have actually been skipping.

Later I found out this flirty guy who asked for my number is married, has cheated on his wife many times, been kicked out and now was back trying to make things "work" with her. Oh, there it is again - that familiar pain.  Not for me, not for him, but for her, the wife.

Yet how refreshing it was to spend a night fixing our phones, skipping arm in arm and meeting Henry and Joe who somehow managed to restore the reputation of men by being exactly who they are. Pigs who appreciate a nice large rack. It was every bit as refreshing as dancing in the pouring rain.

Here with are with the one and only, Joe.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wicked Good

I am over the rainbow. I've been invited to see Wicked tomorrow night here in Milwaukee. In preparation, I've had the soundtrack plugged into my ears for the last few days. Such an amazing story of two strong women, two diversely yet equally powerful, uniquely bonded personalities. As I've listened to the music, certain verses from various songs are speaking to me.  I've compiled them here and added one word on the end.

Consider this Wicked me, Wicked good.

Ev'ry so often we long to steal
To the land of what-might-have-been
But that doesn't soften the ache we feel
When reality sets back in

Too long I've been afraid
of losing love I guess I've lost,
It comes at much too high a cost
I'd sooner buy, defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye, I'm defying gravity
And you can't pull me down

Don't wish, don't start
Wishing only wounds the heart
I wasn't born for the rose and pearl
There's a girl I know
But I don't want it
No, I can't want it anymore

Like a comet pulled from orbit
as it passes the sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
halfway through the wood

As someone told me lately:
Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly
And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
Defying gravity.

And nobody in all of Oz
No wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down.

It well may be that
we will never meet again in this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend

Hands touch, eyes meet
Sudden silence, sudden heat
Hearts leap in a giddy whirl
He could be that boy
But I'm not that girl