Surrender

I was both terrified and excited about having this conversation.

It needed to happen because what he had said just days before was still just hanging out there.  In fact, we had only communicating cordially through email since then.

A real life, face-to-face needed to happen.

He was coming over and I had promised myself that I would be sober.  Not because it would have mattered to him if I had had a few beers, but because I really wanted him to trust that this was serious to me.  This conversation was important.

“So.”

“Yup.”

I sucked in and just went for it, “so you were serious when you said you were falling for me?”

He looked me straight in the eyes.  This friend of mine stared at me with his hazel eyes. “You got it.”

“So do you expect me to be for it or….I mean…do we just…do this?  Do we become more than friends?  I don’t know if I can do that. Is that what you want?  This is so confusing.”

“I know,” he replied.

“Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?  ‘I know’?  I need some input here.  Now that that is out there,  nothing will ever be the same.  Our million year friendship can’t be the same no matter what happens next.”

He just nodded.

“Well?” I was getting impatient.  I was always getting impatient.

“Well, you’re right.  but I already told you…you know…what I told you.  So I guess it’s really your choice.”

“NO!  this can’t all be put on me.  This is NOT just my choice.  You are in this too.  What do you want to happen from that statement?” I stared at him incredulously with my mouth agape.

“I guess it’s not a good idea.”

Ok good.  He was going to be all reasonable.

“No.  it’s not.  We are friends.  Best friends.  If anything happens?  We are DONE.  Look what happened to me and Lance.” I leaned back on the couch and crossed my arms.

“You’re right.  It’s a bad idea,” he said nodding and also sitting back on the love seat.

“Ok.”

“Right.”

We sat and looked at each other for the longest minute in our lives together.

The cat stretched and walked slowly off my lap and I leaned forward again with a huge, telling sigh.

“But then why do I not FEEL like it’s a bad idea?  You know, in my heart?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t feel like it’s bad either. That’s why I told you in the first place.”

My palms went up to my face and I rubbed the heels of my hands in my eye sockets.

This post originally appeared on my now defunct blog, Exploded Moments. I’m bringing it back here because it’s part of our story.

With my Big Black Boots and an Old Suitcase…

Ten years ago I had no job.

It was summer and I had finished up a great long-term subbing position at the beginning of June, but there were no substitute teaching positions during the summer months. I had yet to find a “real’ teaching job.

Ten years ago I had no relationship.

I had been dumped after a five-year relationship in the spring and I had been barely getting by on a wing and a prayer (also know as Doritos and booze) for months.

I was depressed, but I didn’t know it.

Then in July of 2003, after four months of sulking and one month of being unemployed, a friend from college emailed me that he was moving from Michigan to Santa Monica, California in August.  He had a place lined up, but would love a roommate if I wanted to come too.

I laughed at first. Yeah, right.

And then I looked around at my tiny house.  The one next-door to my grandparents that I was renting from them. The one where I ate cereal and Doritos as my only meals and some days didn’t get out of bed until 4pm.

The one I shared with my cat.

That spring all of my plans for the future gone right down the toilet.

I no longer had dreams of marrying my long-time boyfriend. I had sent out and stopped by a combination of over 100 schools looking for a teaching position and hadn’t heard from even one. I couldn’t live on $65 a day subbing (sporadically) for another school year.

Why should I stay in this tiny town? I asked myself.

I had been back from college for almost a year now; what was keeping me from packing up and moving away and trying something else?

It was so unlike me, but I went online and applied for about ten different teaching positions in and around the Santa Monica area. I also emailed my friend and told him if I could find a job offer, we might be in business.

And then I got three emails and a phone call from four of the districts I applied to in California. Three of those four wanted to hire me right there sight unseen.  No interview.  No practice lesson. In fact, they would fly me out there and help me move in.

With my big black boots and an old suitcase…
I do believe I’ll find myself a new place.*

I started to get excited.  As in call my parents and try to decide whether or not to take my cat with me across the country kind of excited.

I emailed all my friends and family and told them I was moving to California at some point.

I started thinking about how one moves across the country. Via moving trucks? On a plane? Yeah, I was not bringing the cat. He would die of the trauma.

We can live beside the ocean,
leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
watch the world die.

My friend, Cortney, emailed me to tell me good luck and that he thought it was a cool idea, but that truthfully he would miss me an awful lot. He was the only person (other than my mom) to convey such a feeling. That I would be missed if I left.

I remember thinking he was sweet and that I would surely miss him too. I mean, he was such a great friend.

Less than a month later, this happened.

And a week after that, my current school district called me for an interview…and I got the job.

A couple weeks after that Cortney was not my friend anymore, he was my boyfriend.

I didn’t move, obviously. I decided to take the job in my current school district (where I had done my student teaching and several long-term substitute positions).  I decided to take the plunge on Cortney.

It’s been ten years since I made that decision.  The decision to stay in the tiny small town I always said I would leave.

When I went to college, I had determined that I would meet a guy from somewhere and go to that somewhere.  I was not going to follow the pattern of marrying a guy from my high school and having his babies and living my whole life in this hick town.

Until I did.

Not because I didn’t try to NOT end up this way.  But because this is the way I was supposed to end up.

It’s been ten years and I rarely think about the chance I had to “get away” from this life.  Probably because I never wish this life away. Even when it sucks, I never wish I was somewhere else with a different guy with different (or no) kids.

I never don’t want this life.

Sometimes I don’t think I am doing a good job at this life I was gifted, but I never ever wish it away.

Not for all the white sands on a Santa Monica beach.

*Lyrics from “Santa Monica” by Everclear

An Evening with Pearl Jam & Other Stories {Part 2}

We went to see Pearl Jam in Chicago a couple weekends ago. If you missed the back story of our journey to Chicago/our field seats at Wrigley, go ahead and get caught up.

When we last left our heroic couple, they were just getting to their seats on Wrigley Field in the 103 degree Chicago sun.

View of the stage from our seats.

View of the stage from our seats.

The original plan had us arriving by 3:30 local time, picking up our tickets, and having a nice dinner before the concert. Because we didn’t get there until after 6pm and the concert’s start time was 7:30, we decided we would just do concession food.

And then we hit the wall of people.  When we finally found our seats, we figured someone could get food if they ever went to the bathroom.  If you are following along, you will remember that I was diagnosed with a pretty ugly UTI that afternoon, so we all knew who that “someone” going to the bathroom was going to be.

Since it was already after 7:30 by the time I had to pee (thank goodness the meds kicked in quickly and I wasn’t dying from pee urges), I hustled to find one that wasn’t a Port-o-John. I also wanted to find a real concession stand because we wanted water, not beer (which was all they sold on the field).  The concession stand actually had food too, but since I was trying to hurry and not miss anything, I figured I would come back later for pretzels and hot dogs.

I should have just gotten the food.

The concert didn’t end up starting until 8:18pm.

We are at Pearl Jam!

We are at Pearl Jam! And it’s HOT out!

I should probably take a minute to tell you about the people around us.

First there were the guys behind us who had never heard of the song “Bugs”.  Pearl Jam has only played it live three times, but it’s not a rarity. It’s on the Vitalogy album. I shook my head a lot listening to those guys.

The guy next to Cort was a backer-upper and kept trying to crowd Cort out, which in turn crowded me into the old hippie next to me.  Speaking of the old hippie, he was with what I assumed was his teenage son.  His teenage son kept talking about the Kardashians and TMZ.

The couple in front of us had the never-ending joint.  Seriously.

They smoked from the first note to the last note...at 2am.

They smoked from the first note to the last note…at 2am.

I get that the pot happens at concerts, but they smoked so much I was starting to get a queasy feeling from smelling sewage weed all night on empty stomachs.

So anyway, the concert started at 8:18pm

There's some Eddie Vedder on the screen!

There’s some Eddie Vedder on the screen!

They started out nice and mellow opening with “Release”, a song that, since having depression and anxiety, has come to mean much more to me than it did in my teen  years.

Eddie Vedder let us know that since they were in it with us for the long haul, they were pacing themselves. They then played “Nothingman”, “Present Tense” (it was during this song that I pointed out the irony of Vedder singing about living in the present tense with a bunch of faces stuck down in their phones. It was sad), “Hold On”, “Low Light”, “Come Back” (which always reminds me of my father-in-law), and “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”.

This was when someone started talking in Vedder’s ear and he announced that there was a major storm with high winds and lots of lightening moving in.  According to the weather watchers at the airport, it was about 30 minutes out and they wanted to use that time to evacuate anyone on the field in case something on the stage would break and fall during the storm.

So just like that we were herded into the concords and under the bleachers.

This is where my previous trip to the bathroom came in handy.

Most people seemed to huddle under the bleachers just as they entered the concord, but I told Cortney if we pushed on, we could be near a concession stand and the bathrooms.

We also ended up near a gate, so we got some fresh air and could watch the storm come in.

It was really hot under there. The next day I heard reports that people had been passing out, and I remembered seeing paramedics run by us every so often. Luckily, where we were, there was a nice breeze once the winds picked up and the rain started.

It was crowded in the land of the PJ fan storm camps.

It was crowded in the land of the PJ fan storm camps.

You would think we would take this opportunity to eat, but here is the thing. First, the concessions around us started running out of food (although they sold beer the entire time).  Secondly, while we stood there hating our life (by this time it was about 9:30pm with no end in sight to the evacuation), Cort promised me a big old spread of room service when we got back.  That ALWAYS sounds better than scouting out the last stadium hot dog.

So we waited for the storm.  When it finally hit (almost an hour into the evacuation), we stayed in contact with our friend Erin who was in the top bowl, under the canopy. She let us know what was going on in the land of the above ground people.

I also thought of my friend Keely who was not sheltered…unless she went inside during the storm.

She later told me they went inside during the storm.

She later told me they went inside during the storm.

We watched the storm. It really was about a 30-minute storm, but by that time it was after 10pm. The curfew for concerts is 11pm. While Eddie Vedder had said they got the curfew extended, we wondered how far out they could possibly have given them.

At 11pm (remember it was midnight est by this time) we were sore (there was no where to sit since the ground was wet from spilled beer and leaked rain water), hungry, tired, and crabby.

We were starting to wonder if they were just going to call it a night.  And maybe we were hoping they would.

Finally around 11:30 we got word that people were being let out on the field, that the soundboard had been unwrapped, and that the speakers were going back up on the stage.

By 11:45 we were being herded back to our seats.  At one point, Cortney (who was behind me in all this  herding) rubbed by arm with his hand. As I whipped my head to the side I growled, “Cort, that better be you or someone is getting punched in the crotch.”  The poor guy next to me threw his hands up to prove it wasn’t him.  We all laughed it off, but that guy found his way away from me fast.

By midnight (1am est), the concert had started again.

There is still MORE to this story, so I will give you Part III (the conclusion) next week. Until then, party on.

An Evening with Pearl Jam & other Stories. {Part 1}

It is 103 degree and humid, but thankfully we found a spot near one of the gates that at least gets some air movement.  Others were not so lucky, choosing to camp out in the concords. The next day I heard that people had been passing out from the heat down there.

Our legs and backs ached from having been standing in the same place for so long. It was almost 11pm (midnight eastern–which our bodies were on).

How did we get here?

It started out innocently. Months ago Cortney got us tickets to An Evening with Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field in Chicago. No opening bands; just Pearl Jam.  In Wrigley.

I don’t have the space here to tell you what long-time fans we (mostly Cortney) are. I’ll just say this: I currently have over 40 days straight of music in my itunes on my computer. This is only a fraction of the music we actually own because I don’t have the space (or the desire) to have months worth of live Pearl Jam on my machine.  Before we saved our music on hard drives, you could see a 500-disc holder in our basement at LEAST a third of the way filled with live Pearl Jam.

Cortney is in the fan club. Since, like, the beginning of time.

Anyway.

Eddie Vedder (lead singer of Pearl Jam) is a giant Cubs fan. He has always said playing at Wrigley would be the epitome. Clearly playing a baseball field in July is hard to book. But they did, and we got tickets.

It was going to be our “month-late-anniversary-trip.” Our “no-kids-relaxing-fun-weekend.”

Our seats were right on the field (thank you, Fan Club).

Cortney took Friday off from work, secured my parents to watch the boys for the afternoon and over night, booked us a hotel near the train, and had everything planned out to leave by 1pm Est.  That would give us time to get there, check in, have a nice dinner and pick up our tickets and Will Call, and the find our seats since the concert start time was 7:30 CT.

The plan was awesome. It was “best laid”.  And we all know what they say about the best laid plans?

Yeah.  They go right to hell in a hand basket.

First, I woke up on Friday to a bladder infection. I called the doc and they can get me in…at 2pm est. An hour after we planned to leave.

“It’s Ok,” Cortney said, “get it taken care of. They are usually fast, especially on a Friday.”

At 1pm, Cort left to take the boys to my parents’ house. I finished our packing and headed out to my appointment early.

Short, cotton dress since it's going to be a thousand degrees...with a chance of thunderstorms.

Short, cotton dress since it’s going to be a thousand degrees…with a chance of thunderstorms.

They got me in early!  Yay!  Things are looking up!  Within 15 minutes I am seen and meds are called in and I am out of there.

To give the pharmacy time to process my script, I caledl Cort to tell him I’m done already, hit the bathroom (because, hello, UTI), and then went to the pharmacy. By the time I got there, it had been 15 minutes since the prescription was sent in, so it should have been waiting.

It wasn’t. So I waited.

And waited.

And waited…a full 30 minutes (45 minutes after the script had been received). I watched other people come and go. I watched the pharmacist leave his job to chat with someone about OTC meds.

Finally I got up and asked, “how much longer? and may I use your bathroom? I am waiting on meds for a BLADDER INFECTION!”

When I got back from the bathroom, I waited five more minutes and it was ready. I may have asked to speak to the pharmacist and I may have told them we are switching pharmacies because of their piss poor service.

In the meantime, Cortney had gotten the boys off to my parents and he had stopped to buy me cranberry juice.

We left for Chicago around 3:30pm est.  Finally.

I only needed to stop to pee four times during the 150 mile trip. I count that as winning.

And then, 10 miles from our hotel, we hit this:

Chicago traffic around 5:30 local time.

Chicago traffic around 5:30 local time.

Our GPS (who we have named Judy Garmin. Don’t ask) told us that it was 10 minutes to our hotel with a minute delay due to traffic. I had to pee (again), but decided to hold it because…10 minutes. Right?

Um. Yeah.

Oh and as we sat there? We noticed this:

Cort is imagining sitting on a ball field in this heat.

Cort is imagining sitting on a ball field in this heat.

So an hour later, we finally get to our hotel (I ran to pee as Cort got our luggage and talked to the valet), check in, and by then it was  closing on 6:30 local time. We had to make like a baby and head out…quick!

The view from out hotel

The view from out hotel

I left my meds in the room because, well, we will be back by midnight for me to take the next dose and I really don’t want to carry my precious pee meds around Chicago.

The red line was like four steps from out hotel, so we jumped on and headed to Wrigley.

Holy. People. Batman.

Now I don’t know who organized the gig, if it was Pearl Jam’s people or the Wrigley people, but getting in was a shit show.

Field access people (us) had one entrance. Seemed legit. Until we walked all the way around the dang field to the one Field Access Entrance and as soon as we got in it mooshed us with the non-field people at a stand immediately in the entrances so we could get a wrist band that proved we could have field access.

To say it felt like I was in a mosh pit is an understatement.

People pushed and shoved to get to the TWO people putting wristbands on.  Why they couldn’t have done this as we went in the FIELD ACCESS entry, I have no idea.

We were hot and sweaty, but we had wrist bands, so we went to find out seats.

View of the stage from our seats.

View of the stage from our seats.

This ends part one. This story is too long to continue in one post. Stay tuned for music, storms, and being crushed on the Red Line in the next installment.

 

just not you…

Cortney and I met in high school, but we were not high school sweethearts.

We were not even college sweethearts, although he did go to my college for a year before transferring to where his girlfriend went.

At some point in college, during the summer between my sophomore and junior year–the last summer I would come home and not stay in my university’s city–I began dating a mutual friend of ours.  I dated this friend for five years before he broke my heart.

After I graduated from college, but before the horrible breakup, Cortney found himself living with this friend.  This is where this part of the story begins.

*************

He was already about six Bud Light Bottles into his  night when I got to the apartment.  Neither of us remember why in the world he was sitting home drinking alone, but there he was.

I had used my key to get in. I used my witty sense of humor to laugh at his slurring words.

I thought I would be alone watching TV, waiting for my boyfriend to get off his third shift job.  He didn’t usually work Friday nights, but sometimes if they had mandatory over-time, he would need to put in a few hours.  This was one of those nights.

“How many have you had?” I asked Curly.  He was already slurring and giggling at nothing.

“About six.”

And that is when I started laughing at him. I wasn’t drinking, unless you count the 20-ounce Diet Coke I had with me.

“He’s not home,” he told me for no apparent reason.

“Yeah, I know. He had to work. I was just coming to wait for him to get off work.”

“Well, now I’m not drinking alone!”

“But I’m not drinking.”

“But I’m not alone!”

I rolled my eyes, but was happy I wasn’t going to have to stare blankly at a TV waiting for the boyfriend to get back.  One of us decided sitting on the deck would be a grand idea. Probably to get him some fresh air.

I don’t know if you have ever heard the term “zero to drunk,” but that is what I watched happen to my friend, Curly that night.  He went from sober (zero) to D-RUNK in like 20 minutes.

And it was hilarious.

At one point while we were chatting outside, he warned me to get to the side of the deck because he was going to attempt to move a chair.  I was no where near getting hit with the chair. And he may have almost fallen over the deck edge trying to move said chair…for no apparent reason.

This was when I guided him back inside to the safety of the couch.  It was also where our conversation turned from the usual Pearl Jam, concerts, TV, movies, friends talk to deeper stuff.

If you’ve been following our story, you know Cortney gets very…truth-spilling…when he’s had a bit to drink. And if you have been following this blog, you know he isn’t much of a vocally communicative person otherwise. But this evening, was different. I don’t know if it was just the booze, or if it was also the fact that we didn’t get a lot of chances to hang out just the two of us, but he felt like talking, and I let him.

We discussed religion and church and what our parents were like when we were kids.  It was then that I realized that compared to all our other friends, he and I had the most in common as far as our background.  I also realized that he had the same basic beliefs about Christianity, religion, and church as I did.  This was big because at that time, I had found no one  who was that similar to me in beliefs.

Drunk or not, I was enjoying the chat we were having.

And then we started talking about how hard it was for him to find someone in our town to date.  He wasn’t a very forward guy. In fact, he was pretty old-fashioned when it came to courting the ladies.  Unless you were into meeting people at church or going to the biggish city nearby to the bar scene, our smallish city was not exactly known for happening places for singles to meet. He had been living there for three years and only been out on a handful of unsuccessful dates.

He was discouraged. He was heading into his mid-twenties with no one. And that was scary.

And that is when he started telling me how jealous he was of my relationship with my boyfriend. It seemed so perfect, he said. We were a “cool” couple.  Then he started telling me how lucky my boyfriend was to have such an awesome girl like me. I knew he wasn’t trying to be all seductive; he was just working through his thoughts.

“Kates, basically I want a girlfriend who is exactly like YOU….but NOT you. Because, you know…just…NO.”

I laughed.

I knew what he meant…he wasn’t trying to be rude, he was just being truthful. He thought I had great qualities, obviously, we were friends.  But also, we were friends. I was not who he wanted as a partner.

You know…until the very next year when he did  get a girlfriend exactly like me.

Me.

December 2003 - dating

December 2003 – dating

eight.

Sometimes you got through 25 years of life not knowing that your partner for life is right in front of your face.

fall of 1997

fall of 1997

You don’t know that the friend you have relied on for years and years to make you laugh and to listen to your fears was meant to do just that for the rest of your life.

Pointing is Groovy

June 18, 2005

‘Til death do you part.

June 18, 2012

June 18, 2012

Some things have not changed at all since we met.

We still laugh at the most inappropriate things ever.

We still feel most comfortable being sad around each other.

We still have the same friend group we did in middle/high school…they just live all over the USA.

My brothers even still call you “Curly”.

We still love Pearl Jam.

But some things are different.

January 1, 2013

January 1, 2013

We are adults now and have to think about things like budgets.

We drink wine occasionally instead of cheap beer always.

We made babies.

We argue sometimes.

We’ve gained weight.

Fall 2012

Fall 2012

That’s really about it.

Oh, and we have more love than we had all those years ago.

Actually, we have more love today than we had yesterday.

Because that’s how it goes when you unexpectedly fall in love with your best friend.

Each day you are amazed that this is the person you married…

and that you love him more than you did ever before this moment.

Happy 8th anniversary to us.

When Kids Happen To Your Marriage

I have mentioned before that marriage is hard work.  Love is easy, but marriage.  That is hard.

Cortney and I never argue about money.  We never argue about who was supposed to do that one chore.  We never even argue about things like socks on the floor or leaving the toilet seat up.

Before we got married, we sorted these things out.  We quite literally sat down and made decisions about stuff as big as finances and budgeting to small things like who is in charge of which chores.  We compromised on things like the location of the dirty laundry basket so that socks and undies wouldn’t get tossed on the floor instead of put in the basket. And we both agreed that toilets come with a lid for a reason…to be closed when not in use (plus we had a cat at the time and no one wanted to deal with walking in the aftermath of a midnight splash fest).

The one thing that causes tension in our marriage is parenting.

I never feel so far away from Cortney as when we have just disagreed or misunderstood each other in terms of how the other is (or isn’t) handling a parenting situation. And I feel pretty confident he feels the same way about me.

I remember when I was raging with undiagnosed postpartum mood disorders, I wondered if I could ever like him again.

Sure, I loved him.  Loved him like crazy.  Had my heart melted every time I saw him being gentle and kind and fatherly with Eddie.  Every time Eddie snuggled and slept on him.  Every minute I loved Cort.

But I when the baby was screaming and he couldn’t fix it, I didn’t like him.

And I am positive that he didn’t like me.  I mean, I was screaming and throwing things at him for doing “it” wrong.  And neither of us knew what “it” was that he was doing wrong.

I know that  makes no sense; welcome to PPD! Weeeeee!

But seriously, when I was finally diagnosed, properly medicated, and going to therapy, I thought all those Blerg feelings would go away.  The ragey totally illogical, irrational dislike went away.

But certain tensions didn’t go away.

Since Charlie is small and easy, we generally don’t disagree on anything with that guy, but with Eddie? Let’s just say that so far, he is our challenge.  He has my personality (to a fault, unfortunately) and while Cort has learned how to deal with my moods and such (and I am better able to use my words when I am upset), he is not as adept at fielding Eddie’s explosions.

Not that I am either, I just understand where they are coming from better.  Usually. I mean, kids are weirdos, so sometimes he is a total mystery to me too.

Let’s see…here is an example…

Last night I went to put Eddie to bed.  Cort had gotten him a new nightlight and was putting it in his room while I supervised teeth brushing and such.  When it was time to go in his room and crawl in bed, he walked over to his new nightlight and fiddled with it.  It got messed up.

We call daddy down to see if he could fix it.  I told Eddie to get in bed.  He didn’t. I told him again.  He didn’t.  I told him he was going to lose book privileges and he finally, all sobby-like, crawled into bed.  At the same time, Cort announced the nightlight didn’t work and he would go get the old one.

Eddie lost his mind.

There was scream-crying and ridiculousness.

I knew he was upset because he believed he broke his new thing.  He was sad that his new thing didn’t work.  I told him it would be Ok; that daddy would either fix it or get him a new one tomorrow.

He didn’t stop crying, and he never once used his words to actually explain to me what was wrong.  He just got screamy.  And sobby.

He didn’t want to read books with  me; he didn’t even want me to be there.  The only thing he would say was, “Daddy.”

So I gave up and got Cortney.

I could tell he was annoyed that he was being asked to do bedtime yet again, but Eddie was having a fit and I thought he wanted Cort as comfort.

So Eddie is downstairs crying his face off…loudly, and Cort is sitting calmly in his chair with the information that Eddie would like him to come down.

And he sits.  And Eddie cries. And Cort sits.  And Eddie cries.

“Did you want me to go back down?” I ask.

“No.” He says as he logs in (or off, not sure) to his laptop.

I stand and watch him; he sits and pays no attention. Eddie, this whole time, sounds as if he has a flesh-eating disease.

“So are you going to go down or what?” I ask impatiently.

And that is when he explodes.  Or, since Cort never explodes, he gets all firm and grouchy with me.  “Yes, Kate. I am going. I’m just giving him a chance to get it out of his system. I can listen to it from here or in his room, and I would rather not sit there with him screaming…” and he trails off as he angrily descends the stairs to put his computer away and tend to the Screamer.

And the tension arrives.

I lie down for a bit to lick my wounds.  I know he was justified in being annoyed, plus with a screamy child, everything is at a heightened stress level.

At the same time, I am not a mind-reader and I didn’t know why he was just sitting there while our little guy freaked the frack out downstairs.  I felt he needed comfort and someone to explain to him that the nightlight situation was not life and death.  I didn’t feel that Cort had enough urgency.

He didn’t feel the situation warranted urgency.

We were both right.  And wrong.  And whatever.

In the end, he chilled Eddie out, read a few books, and got him to sleep.

I wrote a blog post.

We talked about it.  We know tensions ran high and that we snapped at each other because we didn’t use our communication skills in the moment.

As much as we agree and collaborate on almost everything, we still have moments of miscommunication or failure to communicate all together when it comes to parenting.

We are a team.  A good one.  We have more wins than losses.  But it doesn’t come easily.

I would say the biggest challenge in our marriage is being parents together.

The good news is we are always working on it.

The better news is that we are a committed team.  We are in this for the long, forever haul.

The Ides of March

Confession: I chose March 13 over March 15 as Charlie’s birthday because I would rather have his birthday be the 13th than on the Ides of March.

Because Charlie was a planned Csection, I was given the option of a Tuesday or a Thursday birth (the days my OB was scheduled to be in surgery), I chose Tuesday, March 13 regardless of people telling me 13 was an unlucky number and that he would eventually have a Friday the 13th birthday.

I don’t really believe in luck, good or bad.  Which I realize is going to make the rest of this post sound hypocritical.  Or at least not rational at all.  I don’t care.  It’s my irrationality and my blog, darn it.

Anyway, I didn’t want Charlie’s birthday to be March 15 otherwise known to Shakespeare readers and history buffs as The Ides of March.

For the Romans, the Ides of March kicked off a religious holiday season, but most people today recognize the Ides of March as the day that Caesar was assassinated in a meeting of the senate by Brutus and Cassius.

I know, you’re thinking, you would rather have your son’s birthday on the 13th than the anniversary of Caesar’s death?  Have you lost your mind?

Probably, but that is not the point here.

Really Caesar has nothing to do with it.  In fact, as a literature teacher, I have spent 10 years spookily warning my students to BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!!!

But ten years ago, on the Ides of March, something else happened.

It is weird to talk about now because I am so removed from it, and as a married person, it seems like it should be irrelevant, but the truth is, it was was a game-changing event.

Ten years ago my boyfriend of five years broke up with me out of nowhere.  We had started dating during the summer after my sophomore year of college and stayed together, despite the fact that we were vastly different, until March 15, 2003.

Our relationship, looking back, was fraught with toxicity. We got in a habit of only seeing each other on weekends since I was in college and he was a friend from high school who was still living in our hometown and working.  After I graduated from college, we kept the same weekend schedule since he was working third shift by that time.

I put in most, ok ALL, of the effort in the relationship.

In the end, he did me a huge favor when he told me, Kate, we just want different things.  You want matching bath towels and nice dishes and a yard.  I don’t. Even when I protested that I really didn’t need those things, that I didn’t need marriage to be happy, he knew better than I did: We are just different, Kate.  You would NOT really be happy without those things. Or with me.

I was devastated.  My family didn’t make it easier on me.

They all announced that none of them had really liked him anyway and thought he treated me like crap.  They all told me it was for the better.

They were right, but at the time, it still hurt.  Telling me the past 5 years they had watched me make what they all felt to be a colossal mistake hurt. I loved him.  Or I thought I did.  No, I did. I did.  It was like kicking me when I was down to tell me no one liked him.

I felt stupid.  I felt vulnerable. I felt dirty.

March 15 was the start of a months-long dive into a huge hole of depression for me.  I self-medicated with booze–LOTS of it–and chose sleep over food.

I was told to get over it, move on, quit talking about it and thinking about it.

Of course, that made me dwell on it more.

The funny thing, I wasn’t mad at him.  At all.  In the beginning I thought maybe we were just on a break, but as I watched him move on and date someone new, I wasn’t naive enough to believe we would get back together.  But I wasn’t mad at him.  And it made me mad when people tried to make me feel better by bad-mouthing him.

He knew he wasn’t happy with me and that I couldn’t possibly remain happy with him.

He did me a favor.

Because of our break up, his apartment-mate–one of my best friends from our group of friends–spent more time with me checking in, making sure I had a square meal every day, and working to get me out of the house.

All that time spent together culminated in his asking me out that fall, and asking me to marry him the following summer.

My youngest brother told me something that spring during my depression that has stuck with me for the past decade.  He said, “they say the time it takes to get over a relationship is equal to the length of the relationship time two. So it will take you 10 years to get over this.”

I think he was right.

It’s not that I wasn’t “over it” before now.  I certainly don’t think about my ex-boyfriend very frequently.  But he was a big part of my past.  Those five years don’t just get erased because we broke up.

We went places together, we spent time with each other’s families, we had inside jokes.  We were part of a tight group of friends from high school, and once we broke up, many of us lost touch with him.  It created a splinter in our group.

Life changed for more than just the two of us.

We started our relationship as kids, just 19 years old, and we ended as 24-year old adults.

Even though the break up ten years ago ended up leading me to my happiness, it was still one of the ugliest days of my life.

I really DO beware the Ides of March. I don’t think they are unlucky per se, but I did not want my baby born on that “anniversary”.  It was too weird.

Work It

Yesterday, I re-read my About Page with the idea that I would add a few things, but I was caught on the happy little love story I outlined.

I stared at the pictures of me and Cort for a long time, forgetting what it was I was going to add.

You guys seem like the best couple ever.  So fun and so happy.

This is life.  Crap happens.  Our response has always been to cling to each other and laugh as much as we can reminding each other that we will get through it by God’s Grace.

But what if you stop clinging to each other?

What if nothing is going wrong and life is just life and things get mundane and the small things get annoying?

What happens when you just did dishes and the sink is already piled high again? Is it worth “clinging” about?

What if nothing is tragic, so you aren’t holding on tightly?  Or much at all?

What happens then?

What is happening to us?  Something isn’t right. It’s not…clicking or something.

Marriage is work, yo.

I give the side eye to anyone who says they have been married for a billion years and never felt like their marriage was work.

Love is not work.  Not to me.  At least not that I have experienced yet.  I love easily and freely and with all my heart. I have never ever doubted my love for my husband or my sons.

Now “liking”, that is different, but love? That is natural.

Marriage, on the other hand is WORK.  Work that has to be done by BOTH parties or it’s not going to work. I mean, marriage is TWO people, not just one.  It’s a team effort.

In our first couple years of marriage, we experienced Cort’s dad dying, two miscarriages, unemployment, and mental illnesses along with other family deaths.

We hung on to each other fiercely.

We weren’t working on our marriage, we were working on our hearts.  On our hope.  On our positivity in this world.

When you are holding that tightly to someone and you are joined together through grief and mourning and struggle, the marriage just is.  At least it was for us.

If someone was struggling, the other became the rock.  We were a team.  We kept the team going.

Then our team expanded.

Children change things.

Cort and I are both pretty independent people; we both lived alone after school and before getting married.  When it was just the two of us, we were home a lot together, but we could do our own thing.  If I wanted to clean the house and then read a book, I didn’t need to clear anything with his plans to run to Lowes’ and reorganize the downstairs desk area.  We went about our day, went out to dinner, and usually had a conversation that started with, “So, how was your Saturday?  Did you get to do everything you wanted?”

That is not the case anymore.

“Free and easy” isn’t a thing with two kids under four.

If we both have errands and expectations of the day, there are still two kids who need someone with them.  We can’t both just pack up and leave without considering the kids and their schedules.

We have always prided ourselves on our communication.

Except that lately ours sucks.

Life is not tragic right now.  We are not holding each other each night reassuring the other that it will be ok.

Instead, we are falling into bed after hardly talking because the nightly routine of kids’ bedtimes and getting other stuff done has taken away “our” time.

We roll over mumbling a “‘night. Love you.” to each other.

Something isn’t right.

We have gotten frustrated with each other quickly.  We have both been guilty of being mad that the other is not a mind reader.

This past week Cort came to my therapy session with me.

We talked a lot about where the breakdown seems to be happening and when we feel most loved by the other.

That night at home, after the boys were in bed, we sat and chatted about the session and about the work that we needed to do.

Wednesday I came home to roses on my bedside table.

Not because he was sorry–there was nothing to be sorry about–but because he had thought about doing it the week before and had not done it.  Instead of just having the good intention, he did the nice thing.

Coincidentally, I had ordered him a print with a song lyric on it that I had custom made for him just because I knew he would think it was awesome.  It arrived on Wednesday.

Wednesday, while dinner was cooking, we held each other and laughed.

We held on as tightly as possible, so much so that Charlie crawled up and hung on too.

We are not a perfect couple by a long shot.  We have to work hard at this reality that is still new to us–being parents.

We need to learn to put our marriage a bit higher on the priority list.  Maybe even above the dishes.

We have a date next Saturday.  Our first since Charlie was born.

Marriage is work.  And we are going to work it.

Together.

he did it

I guess it’s been around four or five years now since the time I got sick of listening to the same complaints over and over about his job.

He was so unhappy and it was falling over into our home life.

It had started to go downhill after his dad died in 2005, and by 2008 it was getting tougher and tougher for him to leave work and all the crap of it at work.

As I was finishing up my Master’s Degree in the spring of 2008, I said to him, “Why don’t you go back to school?”

“For what? Business? Sales?”

He was thinking narrowly about getting better at a job he hated.

“What if you could do anything?  Anything at all.  Seriously. If you could get paid to do anything what would it be?”

He didn’t have an immediate answer, but after some thinking he said, “something with computers.”

I had a feeling he would say that since he had always been the resident “geek” in our family and group of friends.  He was self-taught so far–tinkering with old hardware and figuring out how to fix all of our gadgets by himself.

“Babe? That is totally a thing, you know.  Like a well-paying thing. You could totally do that.  Go to school for a degree in nerd…I mean computers.”

He smiled. “I’ll think about it.”

(He’s not a spontaneous decision-maker.  Which is good, because I am.)

That fall I was knocked up and Cort was taking his first college classes.

He was also laid off from the job he hated and never had to go back (Thank you, Bernie and Justin, for the job he now has that he enjoys!).

It’s been four years since the end of that first semester.

Four long years of Cort gone a number of nights a week.

Of weekends spent on homework.

Of worrying about grades and due dates.

Of arranging pick up from daycare.

Of needing evening babysitters when his class schedule and my work schedule overlap.

Of saying “no” to things we would like to do because Cort has class or homework to do.

Of solo-parenting Eddie…and then also Charlie…while daddy is gone.

Of doing everything we can to help Cort not just succeed, but do so brilliantly (can you say Dean’s list EVERY semester?)

He has been working toward this for more of our life together than not.

My only regret about the past four years is not looking into when the college held commencement.  They do not have a winter ceremony, therefore Cort has chosen not to walk (he feels like it will be weird to come back and walk in May, and I have to say I sort of agree with him).

I wish he could put on that cap and gown and walk across that stage.  He deserves it so much.

I wish I could tell you how proud I am.

At 18, he entered the university where I was.  He had no direction and no idea what he wanted to do.  Not surprisingly, he was distracted by other things and failed.

The following year he entered the university where his girlfriend was.  And again failed because of lack of direction and motivation.

He decided he wasn’t college material.

He was only partially correct.  He wasn’t college material then.

He had no motivation or direction.

But this time he did.

He surprised himself over and over with his grades, his study habits, his writing skills.

And I beamed.  Because I knew he could do it.  To watch him prove that to himself is a joy I can’t really put words to.

He has a tendency to be humble.  To push attention off himself…even when I know he feels good about what he has accomplished.

(From what his mom tells me, he has always been a spotlight avoider.  I do not understand this behavior! Ha!)

I asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate.  He wanted nothing.

NOTHING.

Nothing???

I don’t do “nothing” when it comes to an achievement like this.

So because he doesn’t have a stage to walk across or a cap and gown to put on (I did offer one of mine to him to just wear around the house or maybe to the office.  He declined.  Such a weirdo.), I decided to have a little get-together.

Just our family.

Just some appetizers.

No gifts or banners or fanfare.

But he deserves to be recognized for all his hard work and accomplishments.

For the TWO associate degrees he earned in the past four years.

Cort? I am so proud of you. So SO proud.

cort

Yeah you, good-looking.

Way to go.

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