Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holy, Holy, Holy

So the hole is the size of a pinhead. Doesn't seem like a big deal, right? Unless, of course, you are one of those crazies who thinks the ideal heart shouldn't allow blood clots to pass to the brain.

Today's procedure...another wristband...another hospital gown...another IV...more great medical staff (they're starting to recognize me). But this time I was sedated. And that's appreciated when and echo-doppler probe is inserted into one's esophagus. I fear I'm becoming a regular at KUMed. And they'll be seeing even more of me. I'll meet with another cardiologist soon. A neurologist too. And they want more of my blood.

I'm going to continue writing my New Year's Resolutions with the mindset that all will be well and fine and these minor inconveniences will cease in the near future. And since the next decade begins in just a couple of days, I'd best get hopping on those.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the Road Again

I've been remiss on follow-up for the Hot Red Speed saga. She failed me five, count them, FIVE times. Mr. Joy Agent took her under his wing and found that her fuel filter had become nearly impenetrable. Seems they should be changed every 50,000 miles or so -- she's got 137,000 under her [serpentine] belt. Joy Agent loaned me her car while the van was in his care. A secondary part broke during replacement so there were a few extra days spent driving a Toyota Avalon (I have sedan cravings now). When all was said and done, Joy Agent returned to me a freshly washed and vacuumed Hot Red Speed that was, in fact, hotter, redder and a lot speedier than before.

And after a dozen or so starts in varying degrees of, well, weather, I finally started to trust her again.

I trusted her so much, in fact, that I didn't listen to myself when I noticed that it had been a long time since I'd filled her up. She gave me the "Beep. You're down to 1/8 tank" three or four times, but the gauge didn't lower. So I kept driving. Until...

Yes. You know exactly what happened.

Initially, I feared we were back to the drawing board with more car woes. But I first called a friend whose house I'd just left and asked her to grab a gallon of gas and head my way. The van gave a rather hesitant start, but kept chugging then slowly came up to her normal idle. Sheesh. I'm foolish.

But lucky!

Because I have the best friends in the world.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Remarkable Summer Romance of 2008, cont...

Three months after our fabulous beginning, as we sat with our cappuccinos on his porch, Wasabi held my knee, looked me in the eye and told me that he felt we needed some time apart. What we had shared was amazing. It was fiery and nurturing and loving and crazy and sweet. But we were both baby pre-divorcees. Papers had been filed, but there was much left to be done. And we hadn't really lived as single people yet. It had been very easy to fall into the comfort of an affectionate, caring relationship, but through his wisdom, we gently released our clutched hands and chose to maintain a beautiful friendship.

I won't lie. I was heartsick. He had been my first romance after the marriage dissolved...perhaps the first of my life. And it was a wondrous one. He gave me respect, attention, affection and taught me that I deserve all of those things and more. And I knew that he was right. We were too new at single to get wrapped up in something with such potential.

We continued to see each other every month or so, meeting for lunch or a drink or coffee and lots of great conversation. We shared dating disasters and updated the other on our children's lives. Each meeting ended with a sincere hug, a genuine smile and an "I love you." There were times throughout the year that I longed to be back in his arms, and others that I knew the space between us was merited. And when The Poet came into my life, Wasabi was genuinely happy that I had found "the love I truly deserved."

I always felt he and I would be lifelong friends. I thought we'd continue to meet for coffees long into the future. I thought we'd invite each other to our eventual weddings. I thought I'd send his kids graduation cards.

But The Poet came to me with a pre-existing condition. His ex- had cheated on him and his ability to trust was tenuous at best. To keep the peace, Wasabi and I halted any facebook chit chat, as well as our monthly meetings and occasional text messages.

And while I loved The Poet, I was saddened by the loss of an important friendship.

So when The Poet and I ended, I sought forgiveness from Wasabi for abandoning him. And he quickly granted it with the same hug, smile and I love you that we'd rehearsed so many times.

I don't think this will surprise you...we have now opened our more mature, post-divorce hearts to one another and are pursuing the rest of the relationship that we suspended that September. Thus far, I feel promise and joy. We first thrived as lovers and later as friends. Now we can combine those experiences into something greater than the sum of the two.

I'll be taking it easy here. You will likely witness many good times, some struggles and hopefully a lot of laughter with us. But I make no promises. I speak of no forevers. Not yet.

Our mantra for this journey is This is not a race. So grab a drink, settle in, and let's all watch where this goes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Ace in the Hole

I'm working on one heck of a "What I Did Over Winter Break" story. This is what I have after just one week...

After my "incident" last Monday, I spent the bulk of Tuesday wrangling follow-up care. Not an easy task, mind you. Being rather a rookie in the world of medicine and doctors and health coverage and whatnot, I was amazed at the hoops through which I was forced to jump. After about five hours on the phone to various sources, I managed an ER follow up appointment at KUMed (my initial visit had been at Shawnee Mission Medical Center) on Wednesday.

The doctor was interested in my story and lack of risk factors. She was looking forward to presenting it the following morning, but was honest in explaining that the upcoming tests that I would be taking would doubtfully provide much for answers. The diagnosed TIA was likely a fluke and my life would probably go on normally with little more than a faint memory of those garbled words and a decent bog post.

The next morning, I returned to give them a few vials of blood and the following Monday I had cardiac tests. They checked my carotid artery for plaque -- none to be found, and then ran an echocardiogram (I was told my arteries are very photogenic) and a bubble study to see if I had a PFO. After the nurse injected saline in my bulbous vein (my arms read like a road map -- "I could stand across the room with a dart and draw blood," one tickled nurse chortled), a whoosh of bubbles crossed from my right atrium to my left. There's a hole in that thar heart! No biggie. Lotsa folks have them (20-30% of adults, it's believed). But it could be a reason as to the TIA, so it was good to have more information than we thought we'd gather.

Tuesday morning, the ER follow up doc called. She'd seen the results of the heart test and was surprised to be gaining ground on finding a reason for my event. She mentioned the PFO, which I knew about, but also said there was a potential atrial septal defect. She scheduled another heart test -- a transesophageal echocardiogram -- to get a better look at the hole(s) in my heart and to see if further treatment is necessitated.

Now, that same morning I woke with an odd achiness in my left arm. I figured I had slept on it wrong and it would come back to life after awhile. But it kept nagging. It felt tingly and occasionally hurt, and now and then I felt a pang just below my left clavicle. Now, I have ignored many pains for many years, but on the day a doctor tells you that there is at least one hole in your heart and to "keep taking that aspirin to prevent clotting," an ache in or around the heart certainly gives you pause. I ignored it the best of my abilities, arguing that I was over thinking and just needed to chill. But it continued to nag at me. The doctor had told me to watch for any interesting symptoms and I knew a whole slew of folks who would ream me if I experienced another mini-stroke that my body warned me was coming.

So after I had successfully tackled much of my to-do list for the day, my arm continued to fuss and I reluctantly listened. At about 4:30 I headed to KUMed's ER and hesitantly told them my story, acknowledging that there was probably nothing wrong, but I had to cover my arse. They agreed, gleefully drew more blood and sent me to a room. Where I waited. For a very, very long time.

And of course, once the doc arrived, I couldn't really describe my symptoms. "It's sorta like icy-hot is running through my veins." "Kinda achy, but kinda not a real pain." "I didn't drop anything today because I didn't use that arm today...but I don't have any decreased strength either." I know he was loving me...not. But he wanted to err on the side of caution, and a neurologist was on staff for the evening, so...more waiting. And then I got to tell the story again. After a bit of internal debate on his part, he ordered an MRI. I was wheeled down to the dark, dank basement where they keep the magnetic fields and radiation tucked away from the masses...and...I waited. But not before a tech delivered the news that an extra test had been ordered and I was looking at about an hour and forty five minutes in a cozy tube.

By the time that was done, it was nearing midnight and I was well-past hungry. As I emerged from the basement, I had visions of a quick signing of release papers and a short drive home to feed the cat and drag the trash to the curb, but there was more waiting to be done. Eventually the neurologist returned, saying he didn't see anything abnormal on the scans, but he'd have them read by a radiologist. And shortly before 1 a.m., they took the uncomfortable hep-lock out of my arm and I wearily left.

Just after 9 this morning I got a call. The neurologist. Though yesterday's arm fuss was neither here nor there, last week's so-called TIA was not, in fact, a TIA at all. The radiologist saw what indicates the event was a sub-acute stroke, complete with permanent brain damage (on a very small scale). So though yesterday's trip wasn't merited as per my symptoms, it got me in with the neurology department a full three months earlier than my upcoming appointment and uncovered yet another important piece of my puzzling ailment.

For the lessons learned portion of today's post:
  1. You get faster service at the ER if you garble your words.
  2. Bring a book.
  3. Throw a tangerine and a gluten free granola bar in your bag too.
  4. No nose rings for an MRI -- so bring a plastic shunt for the hole, 'cause it's a major drag to get it back in after two hours.
  5. Veiny arms are as good as porn for nurses.
  6. KUMed is hands-down the finest ER in the city.
Best of all, I now may freely throw down the Brain Damage card for any and all foibles on my part. I've got nothin' to complain about. Nothin' I can remember anyway...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

After much deliberation, I decided that the best way celebrate the end of finals week and earning straight As for a 2nd semester in a row was with a trip to the emergency room.

...because a martini seemed so cliche.

I met Wasabi Monday evening for a celebratory cuppa green tea to cap my semester and toast those hard-earned grades. As the evening wore down, something rather odd happened. I couldn't talk. Why, yes, Jennifer. That is odd... I was actually unable to speak. Thoughts were in my head, yet mush was coming out of my mouth. After the first try, I just laughed, not realizing that something might actually be wrong. I giggled over the silly sounds then tried to form more words. Only garbled consonants came out. Before long, Wasabi began pressing me to let him know I was fine. I tried over and over to say nothing more than, "I can't talk," but it wouldn't come out. After much labor, I finally emitted enough sounds in sequence to convey the thought. He had heard an article about strokes on NPR that morning so after much kicking and mumbling on my part (including the statement, "Dis wih make a great bog...I mean bog...ugh."), he dragged me to the hospital. By the time we arrived, I was able to reasonably communicate. My speech was labored but understandable. And while I desperately wanted someone to tell me that there was no reason for me to be there and that he was overreacting, the response was quite the contrary. Admit nurse: "It was probably a good idea you came." Triage nurse: "This is very concerning. He's going to get to say 'I told you so' more than once." Doctor: "You don't mess around with symptoms like that. It's good that you're here."

So for the finale of my Second Semester Culmination Celebration, I donned a lovely sea foam green gown, participated in voluntary blood-letting, got EKG'd (all the cool kids are doing it) and was exposed to alpha, beta and gamma radiation in my first ever CT scan.

Diagnosis: this was likely a mini-stroke. Doctor's orders: Follow up right away with a neurologist. No more exercise until further notice. And drop everything and get to an ER if there are any similar symptoms.

I feel fine now. I'm in the throes of acquiring the follow-up care that is warranted while getting a first hand lesson in why health care reform is necessary, yet probably won't work (another bog for another day). For now, I'll try to lessen my risk of recurrence by quitting smoking, giving up junk food and (when permitted) starting a fitness regimen.

Wow. That was easy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Peeved

One peeve in this life of mine is the misuse of the word nauseous.
: nau·seous: \ˈn-shəs, ˈn-zē-əs\
Function: adjective
1
: causing nausea or disgust : nauseating
2
: affected with nausea or disgust

So if you feel compelled to tell me that you're nauseous, I can only assume that you believe yourself to be disgusting and could very well cause me to become ill. If you're feeling sick to your stomach, you might want to claim to be nauseated.

But the biggest annoyance in my life right now is the undetectable something that ails Hot Red Speed. She's still off and on (and off) and very, very vexing.

My car woes have become nauseous.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's a Start...

Take a wild guess as to what happened when I got to my car on Wednesday after class.

Yes. Or rather, No. It didn't start.

And while on Monday when my car wouldn't work I tried to be grateful that it was not cold AND rainy, the Wednesday Cold (yes, it deserved to be capitalized) was a formidable foe and I was too chilled to find a reason to be gracious.

But Lab Partner Laura was still on campus and was able to attempt the (failed) jump and then kept me warm in her car while I called my mechanic who sent a tow (at his expense) who had a nice cozy cab on his truck and got me back to my little city, where Fab Miss K picked me up and brought me to Casa del Mar. Bonus: no tears.

But what on earth was plaguing Hot Red Speed? The boys at my shop were stymied. Wouldn't start yesterday, but then was fine today. And they couldn't get it to fail again. They fussed with it all day today hoping it wouldn't start so they could run more tests.

And then Joy Agent 007 called me. Mr. Joy Agent is a mechanic and she was generously offering his services. I gave her the story, she passed it to him and he said, "Pish, posh! That's not a fuel pump (what the shop was tending toward). That's water in the gas line!" And it all made sense. Two cold days. Once the car was at the shop it would start. Couldn't recreate the failure in a warm building.

So as all good Howrey girls have done for many years, I called Dad to confirm Mr. Joy Agent's theory. He gave it a big thumb's up. And I retrieved my car. I gave her a dose of fuel system cleaner and a tank of premium. She'll sleep warmly in the garage tonight and will hopefully gleefully take me to spinning early tomorrow, and a bit later, the kids to school.

Today had been filled thoughts of worst-case-scenarios of vanlessness or car payments or financial indebtedness to loved ones. I'm not quite done holding my breath as to the conclusion of my auto drama, but I'm certainly optimistic and hoping the prayer that the Shaman said over Hot Red Speed will hold.

And sitting in my warm home with the electric blanket preheating my bed, I can find lots of reasons to be gracious. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Break Down

Just days ago while singing the praises of my overly charmed life, I pondered what was worth mentioning and what I could edit. One particular cut comes to mind. Hot Red Speed. I had written that I was blessed to have a car that starts each morning. With all of the other wondrous things for which I was thankful, that and another something or two were deleted and I went on my merry way.

It should come as no surprise to you that the minivan took that omission very personally. So on Monday as I left school, well, I didn't leave school. She cranked just as always, but couldn't quite make it over the hump. I tried three or four times and then sat for a minute or two in my rather chilly auto, hoping just a little patience and a quiet plea would do the job. No luck. So just as all good Howrey girls have done for many years, I called Dad. He's always good for a troubleshooting trick or two. He suggested that I find some starter fluid and spray it into the air filter. I really wanted to get home and I take Dad's car advice pretty seriously, so I headed back into school to see if Lab Partner Laura was still studying and could give me a lift to the hardware store about 1/4 mile away. She'd already left so I trekked through as many campus buildings that I could until I had to brave the outdoors and College Blvd. to purchase said starter fluid. I made it there, and then back to the car, only to realize that many of the tools that previously resided in the van had made their way into the garage or the house, namely the socket set needed to open the air filter casing. A few more pensive moments and then finally back into school where I figured I'd look up a tow service and find my way home. But when I got to the Science Resource Center, I thought to ask if security offered get-your-car-started help. Alas, they do! A call was made and help was sent. I was hoping for a socket set, but he only had a jump. I didn't think I needed it, but we tried anyway. No go. So back to the SRC and I googled then called a tow. Only 15 minutes later, it arrived, the driver played along with my starter fluid theory (it didn't work), and then he loaded up Hot Red Speed for a ride back to my neck o' the woods.

And while the gentleman from the towing company was doing his job, I fell apart. Bawling, sobbing, gasping, weeping. Crazy stuff! I had called Dad back, letting him know what was up but could barely talk. And I was ashamed. Why on earth do I have a right to be crying over a broken down car? So many live with such greater burdens. I could see I was being ridiculous and scolded myself (and perhaps that made me cry harder) and my father, in a moment of wisdom and sympathy said to me, "Everything breaks down eventually."

I pulled myself together (for the most part) and took in the cozy ride to my mechanic where the Fab Miss K (I'm trying out a new name for Study Buddy Kristen) awaited with a ride back to Casa del Mar. The haze began to lift and I could see how delightful everything in my life really is. Lab Partner Laura (who had already headed home when I looked for her) was willing to come back to school to get me home. Dad offered a spare car if the problem was bigger than my bankbook. Wasabi and Martin were both ready to jump in and help wherever needed. Concert Katrina was on top of the crisis as well.

Now, I don't like to drag my loved ones into my misery. Historically, I've been pretty dead-set on handling the mishaps life hands me on my own. But in the last year, I've lessened my need for complete independence (though it's still very very hard to ask for help). And back to that whole falling to pieces thing...I think I was weeping because I had lost control. These days, nearly every minute and every dollar are allocated weeks in advance. To lose an afternoon and who-knows-how-much-money was backbreaking. Or so I thought at the moment.

While chatting with Wasabi, I expressed that I hoped Hot Red Speed wouldn't betray me like gluten had. And I got my wish. A bad battery. That's it. No biggie. A day in the shop. A few more dollars than had I figured it out myself. And another reminder that I have the best friends in the universe.

And that includes you, Hot Red Speed. Thank you for being there for me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Seasons Change

Uggghh.....the holiday season is here. Incessant chirpy songs, bargain driven shoppers taking down their neighbors for a discount dvd player and misguided religious folk celebrating a birthday at the wrong time of the year....how miserable.

Wait! That's the old Jen. So I'm exorcising my inner grinch this year. Fifteen years of intense distaste for Xmas is plenty. It's time to cheer up!

I have no reason to be crabby. My life is absolutely completely perfectly exquisite. There is nothing in my world that is not exactly what it should be. I have set myself up for an amazing rest-of-my-life. My children and I are healthy and thriving. I live in a comfortable, safe home. I have open access to higher education. My friends and family are the best available on the market today. I am loved.

Much of this holiday fuss appears to be based on greed and commerce in these United States, however I will enjoy it this go-round. I will enjoy it because my children anticipate it. I will enjoy it because my friends relish in it. I will enjoy it because it can bring out the best in people.

Though I doubt I'll win the Miss December pageant, (okay, Ms. December), this time will be better than its predecessors. I will not grumble at those who wish me a Merry Christmas. I will smile at the bell ringers, I will understand that though some act foolishly, most are sincere in their sentiment and truly thrill in giving to those they love.

The holiday at Casa del Mar won't be the visually impressive shiny box filled room that my kids might desire, but my wish is that this new-found spirit will instead overflow our home with a love for sharing that I can only hope is contagious. Hmmm...I think a warm and fuzzy feeling just tapped me on the shoulder. This might even be fun!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Woman's Got To Do...

It has been a non-stop day since long before the sun rose. And I will not do any more that is on my to-do list tonight. Except scribble the word "blog" and then gleefully cross through it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Term Limits

Nearing the end of the semester...sheesh. Fall is a lot longer than summer! And the intensity toward the end of this term seems to be much greater. More than anything, I think the cumulative chem final is looming over any true relaxing I might wish to do over the course of the next twelve days.

But it really has been a great semester. One rather frustrating class, an easy, albeit uninteresting online one and then of course, chemistry. Can't believe I let that one slip past me in high school and my first go-round of college. It's so cool! And to be honest, I don't think you'll hear me judge any portion of my educational experience negatively. I am so excited for what I'm doing and where I'm going on a daily basis that the ick that accompanies any part of this amazing journey is swallowed up (much like a phagocyte might attack bacteria) by my awe of the fabulous possibilities that I see on the horizon.

But for now, phenomenal or not, I'm pretty tired. And am looking forward to the liquid lunch that will most certainly follow my final final on the 14th. You're invited.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks

I don't know that I've ever taken Thanksgiving seriously...you know, to really look at life and all of the wondrous things that come my way, making my fabulous life fabulous-er. I go through times when I'm more gracious than others. Some days, weeks, months I can look around me and see that I lead a truly charmed life and have so many people to thank for it. Others I take for granted, wallowing in my own personal muck and mire, forgetting that I have indoor plumbing, a cat who won't let any rodents past the threshold and a Chair of Fabulosity.

And then there are those precious Three Little Diggs. In addition to having delightful, intelligent, resilient children, I occasionally remember to step back and be in awe that they are all amazingly healthy to boot. I am so blessed.

Need I go into that whole, "best friends in the world" rant again? Seriously. The Best. My family...even though somehow I fell off their political and religious wagon, they embrace me for who I am...or at the very least, they put on a darn good show (though I can only assume that there's a whole lotta prayin' goin' on when it comes to my eternal soul).

And while I have been known to shake my fist at my government, I am lucky to have been born in a country where few go hungry, most have a roof over their heads and all have a right to dissent. Add to that Pell Grants and federal student loans...I'm happy to live here.

I hope I express this gratitude every day. I hope those around me can see that this single mom driving a 13 year old minivan living by the skin of her financial teeth is as fortunate (or more so) than someone in a fancy-schmancy house with a maid and a retirement plan. And I hope you feel as blessed as I do.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Flour Power

I continue to reluctantly embrace my new gluten-free ways. It's been a couple of months since I made gf bread...or bread of any variety, for that matter. And as the last couple of days have been spent angrily stomping about, nibbling on anything I could get my hands on, I realized that I was suffering from AGFS (angry gluten free syndrome). It flares up occasionally and manifests itself in the form of incessant, mindless munching on high fat and high carb foods.

So into my jam-packed Saturday, I squeezed the time to make a loaf of bread. As you can see, a good portion of those hours making bread are spent gathering and measuring ingredients. I have promised myself that when I perfect the texture and flavor, I will prepare the flour blend in bulk for far greater ease.

In any case, I got both my baking and eating fix. I'm still mystified by the texture of the dough -- it's more like batter, but not quite exactly that either. And of course, the end result is not the hearty bread I had grown to love so, but it provided a perfect landing pad for my peanut butter, jelly and jalepenos. And really, what more could a girl want?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fourteen?!

As I've expressed a few times recently, the divorce has taken a toll on the kids far greater than its impact on me. I don't think anyone could deny that I'm thriving in a multitude of ways since stepping out on my own. The kids...well...let's go ahead and rethink their suffering a bit...

Not much more than a year ago, Emily, Isaac and Audrey lived with two disconnected parents in one house that wasn't so much built for five. Sure, everyone fit and no one was sleeping on the floor, but the children, all three, shared one bedroom. They did enjoy a small basement play area, but the sleeping quarters left much to be desired.

When I found my way into Casa del Mar, Isaac managed his own room and the girls shared one that was a smidge bigger. In the meanwhile, Martin carefully jumbled living arrangements and each child scored their own room at his house. As of today, a year (and more than a few hours of bickering) later, I am finally splitting up the girls, having concocted a makeshift bedroom in a corner of the basement for Em.

This new bedroom is a surprise. Emily turns 14 today. Yes. I said it. Fourteen. She's been exhibiting teenage behaviors for some time now, but in the last few months, the fussing between she and her sister has been nearly unbearable. I feel a tinge of guilt knowing that my "gift" to Em is probably as much a gift to myself as well as Audrey. Heck, Isaac will certainly benefit as well. The less angry estrogen filling the house...well, you know the old idiom.

So in just a couple of hours, Martin and the kids will come over, they'll enjoy birthday cake (I made it with gluten to keep myself from eating it) and then the big reveal. I don't have a backup plan in case of a negative reaction, though I did buy one helium balloon. She could always suck out the air and speak in a squeaky voice for a few seconds...

From one bedroom to six in 13 months. Poor kids.

And Happy Birthday, Emily!

P.S. It was a big hit. Harmony is restored to my world...if only for a few days. And I'm quite content to take each and every one of those lovely days (or moments, if that's all I get) as yet another gift.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Woman Behind the Chips...

I'm trying to rewrite my bio. It's getting the best of me. I think that's funny.

I can throw up hundreds of words about my every day, my loves and losses, my friends, my cat (okay, we really don't talk about the cat here), my house, my kids, fitness, food, but me? What about me?

For quite some time I have looked at the sidebar of my blog and groaned. It's outdated. The dream of Portland kinda went out the window with the divorce, the mention of my L.A. life is irrelevant. The kids experiencing dizzying change...that can stay.

So what is it that I want to say about me? Girl loses marriage. Girl puts children in school. Girl exercises. Girl gets job. Girl gains perspective. Girl meets boy. And another. And another. Girl goes to school. I guess that's pretty much where we are now.

But that's not really what I want to say about me. I want pretty words to paint a pretty picture of a pretty life and pretty things. But it's not always pretty, now is it?

And if it were always pretty, what fun would it be?

Back to the drawing board...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday of Splendicity

Last night I was a melancholy mess. I tried to compose a post but could only find sadness and self pity. I wanted to share with you but the words and thoughts were stuck inside, quarantining the misery.

So I went to bed.

And that was sooo very unsuccessful. Insomnia...blah...blah...blah....we've heard it before, Jen. Whatever. Since the time change, I've been waking alarmingly early. Even earlier than I would have without the change, and last night I outdid myself. 3:30. Doing chemistry in my head...both that from class and that of love. Sorry. I'm not ready to divulge any of my discoveries. That's a different post.

So by 5:30, I was fed up with listening to my analogies. I got out of bed and laced up my new Nikes for a cool fall morning run. A cappuccino, my Greek yogurt, some good stretches and I was headed out the door. Not a fab run, but good enough. I've been taking the whole exercise thing to a ridiculous level for the last couple of weeks, so I didn't want to over-do my over-doing. After I returned home, I goofed with the kids for a bit then off to the store to fulfill their weekend breakfast requests. I decided that today would certainly be my last opportunity to scoot for some time, and as the market is only a few blocks away, the cold, wet air wouldn't do me in before I returned.

As Viv and I parked, I noticed a gentleman approaching. He wore a sincere smile and cheerfully greeted me. He came to admire the always glamorous Vivianna. She was flattered and accepted her compliment with grace. And then he and I began to chat. We must have both had our groovy-doovy positive thinker magnetic forces turned on this morning, because we enjoyed a great conversation and clearly had a big energy exchange going on. It was a bright ray of sunshine to an otherwise gray morning and absolutely reset last night's low mood.

Once home I made blueberry muffins (the kids have decided that is the Saturday morning tradition now) and a few other hot breakfast fixins. A bit later I was off to my second meeting of the day, this one planned. Cappuccino with Wasabi. Catching up with him absolutely warmed my heart and refreshed my spirit. And it wasn't even noon yet.

My afternoon was booked with the infamous Mrs Diggs and her crew. I had the corkscrew ready as soon as she crossed the threshold and we were gossiping and giggling before the kids settled into their places. We hadn't hung out since Halloween, which was manic to say the very least, and there was, as always, much to catch up on. Married folks love to live vicariously through me.

Once she moved on to her evening date with the fam, my house fell quiet. For about ten seconds. Then the kids started begging for more entertainment. I updated my facebook status, saying that my day had been spent basking in the glow of my friends' love and wondered who was coming over next. And then the best thing happened. Hostess Treat Claudia read the update from a sterile party. She twisted her hubby's arm and headed my way with her kiddos in tow. We enjoyed catching up until the under 15 crowd re-emerged from the basement and before long, her young son entertained us with his entrepreneurial aspirations.

Upon their exit, I realized my day and my heart were similarly full. From my whiny, leaky-eyed evening to a fabulous friend-filled day, I feel abundantly blessed and loved.

Tomorrow, however, I'm going to have to get back to that chemistry. The stuff from the book. Not as much fun as the love variety, but far more predictable...and with a lot more rules.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dinner Winner!

There are a lot of benefits to reuniting with old friends. Tonight I took advantage of one of those. Last week, shortly after Wasabi and I reconnected, he and I shared a quick text exchange about what was for dinner. I remember that he won by a long shot, making white chili for his family. I think I concocted some odd variety of bean dip that Martin usually makes for the kids. Acceptable in the eyes of my children. The budding dietitian in me...not so much.

And tonight, after a rather off-kilter day of studying (more or less), I realized that once again, I needed to feed the young 'uns. Last night had been a complete dinner fail. Em had leftover real deal mac n cheese; Isaac, a hot dog; Audrey, pasta with red sauce and I ate an entire jar of kimchi (hardly holding to my I'm not a short order cook mantra). Taking into consideration the many likes and dislikes...okay, mostly dislikes...with which I contend, I was at a loss for this evening's I-must-do-better meal. While I wandered through the massive grocery store, I remembered Wasabi's successful dinner. Consider it done. I had earlier noticed that skinless boneless chicken thighs were on sale (um...Jen...that's meat), I grabbed a few cans (seriously, Jen, you didn't cook them from scratch?) of white beans and was on my merry way. The rest of the fixins are pantry standards at Casa del Mar.

Or so I thought.

First step: saute the onions. Naturally, I only had red onions today. I had to giggle. Maybe it would be pink chili. I mean, I'm not feeding royalty or anything...and I had yet to announce the dinner menu on the marquee in front of the house. Really, when it comes to food, the concept is all that's needed. From there, I'm happy to experiment. So I'd already thrown in my towel for it being truly white chili. Good thing. My seasoning choices tended toward the more rosy shades as well.

And as a bonus, while I was cooking, Isaac pulled out his violin and began practicing. Remarkably pleasant for having only played three months. And rather heartwarming to boot.

In the end, the kids were satisfied. Not too meaty for Audrey, not too vegetable-y for Isaac and not too spicy for Emily. And for me...an excuse to enjoy avocado and Sriracha without pushing it on the kids.

And I finally have something to blog about other than love, or lack thereof. A dinner victory and then some...popcorn! (Audrey added that. Gotta go...make popcorn)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Open Letter to my Next Great Love

Dear Mr. Right,

I'm sure you have been wondering when I would come along. You've been living a good life for some time now. You are a wonderful person with tremendous love for your family and friends. You are complete on your own, but feel a tug toward a giving, loving relationship. And here I am. A like-minded spirit who longs for the same partnership. We are not the same, but we are not a case of "opposites attract" either. Our full lives leave just enough room for each other.

A little about me...I am not perfect, but I'm damn good. I am loving. I am smart. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am funny. If you do not believe these to be true, then this letter is not addressed to you. By societal standards, I might not meet any of these metrics, but for you, I give more love than you knew possible. To you, I am impressively intelligent. Because of you, I can move mountains. In your eyes, there is no greater beauty. With you, I laugh like no other.

And you are the most handsome, charming, witty delightful fellow I'll ever know. The mere thought of you brings a smile to my face. Your presence brings me comfort when I feel the world collapsing on me. You are my rock. If you don't believe these things about yourself then this note is not intended for you.

I have no desire to change you and you must not wish to change me. I will not surrender my sense of self. I will not give away those things that make me Me. Yet I am not stagnant. I will continue to grow in the way my heart directs. You will continue to grow in the way your heart directs. And if this essay was written to you, our hearts will move forward together.

I have much to offer, and am open to receive as well. Despite the fullness of my life, there is a void that only you will fill. And we might not recognize our love immediately. This could very well take time. We will learn each other, ourselves and us. Only then will we know that this message was meant for you. Parts of our lives will mesh seamlessly, others not so easily. But obstacles will pale in the light of our love. I have quirks and flaws. So do you. These will sometimes grate nerves, but more often than not, they will be overlooked or even embraced. We each love the others whole self.

Our lives will be filled with more laughter than tears. More joy than pain. More love than doubt. And lots of music and dancing and kisses and hugs.

Because we are meant to be, when you are ready, I will be too. I will not be impatient while you find your way to me. I have much to do, continuing to grow and learn and teach and be. For now, I will live my life, and you, yours. Sometime, somewhere, our paths will cross. When they do, it will be an extraordinary union, for we are both extraordinary people and together we will build an extraordinary life.

Thank you for your time, my truest love. I look forward to the day we meet.

Sincerely,
Your next great love

Monday, November 9, 2009

Friendly Fire

Have you ever tried on clothes at a store, parading in front of a trio of mirrors telling you that you look fabulous, only to get home and realize that the image reflected back at you was lying? Damn skinny mirrors. How's a girl to know how she really appears?

Can't trust the sales girl dying for a commission. Can't believe the guy passing by staring at your arse. Can't believe yourself because it's far more fun to think you really did drop those last five pounds. The only real way to know how the world sees you is from a friend. A true friend.

As we've discussed a hundred times here, I have the best friends in the world. I know with no uncertainty that I will never be hungry, cold or lonely. The wondrous people who make my life the fabulous mosaic that it is have demonstrated numerous times that they love me for exactly who I am...and sometimes they show that love by telling me exactly who I am.

Yesterday afternoon Fab Study Buddies Kristen and Laurie (aka Joy Agent 007) came to Casa del Mar for a long overdue social hour. While Kristen and I share a physiology class this semester, Laurie transferred to a different college and is desperately missed. We catch up a bit here and there on facebook, but we hadn't treated ourselves to a true blue hanging out session since the summer.

We sat. And we ate. And we drank. And we talked. And we giggled. And we learned. And we loved.

Among a whole lotta subject matter, Laurie made an observation that I'd not quite put my thumb on.

I like it smack dab in the middle of the fire...
...because it's warm in there.

Since the divorce, I've watched myself grow in numerous ways, but this is something I'd not considered. I'm a risk-taker now. Once I left the "comfort" of the marriage, I suddenly became empowered to take chances. I don't know if I have a sense of invincibility about myself now or that hearing nothing ventured, nothing gained for so many years finally sunk in deep enough for me to start living it. But I really do like it here in the fire.

Love, for example...the ink is barely dry on my divorce. Yet I enjoyed a remarkable summer romance last year, what I believed to be a happily ever after just weeks ago and more than a couple of fun distractions in between. And I will dive in again. What do I have to lose from loving? Heartache? Meh... The sum total of joy from head-over-heels in love vs. the sum total of sorrow when it ends...the ledger always balances in favor of love.

I'm making a promise to myself to be completely open and honest and not live in fear of heartache. Loving is absolutely amazing. Learning from it isn't a bad thing either. Having already gone through one divorce, another is not an option, so if happily ever after isn't imminent with the next lucky man who strolls into my life, I'd rather it end with some tumult now than with lawyers later.

So it turns out that mirror wasn't so much lying about those last five pounds. It was trying to tell me that I'm hot. Flaming hot.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Taking It on the Chin

Last Sunday was one heck of a day. In addition to the emotional hit of the break up, I also took a physical beating...at the hand (ok, wheels) of Viv.

Initially, I just had a slight gash under my chin and soreness at my temples along with a couple of cuts on my hands. Later that night, I noticed I'd skinned my knee too. Monday, however, I woke to see quite a bruise overtaking that gash, plus sore shoulders, and by midday, a breathtaking headache. Concert Katrina managed to massage out some of the hurt, but only the passage of time would allow for the remainder of my recovery.

As the week progressed, the achiness subsided for the most part. The headaches lingered a little longer, but the mark on my chin only grew angrier. I found myself defending against well intentioned smudge-wipers and was unpleasantly surprised each time I passed a mirror. Yet, just as I proudly wore my very first black eye, I also have an affection for this bruise. It finally appears to be fading but will likely take quite awhile to make its final exit.

Now, don't think for a second that this will keep me off my sweet scoot. If I've learned anything in the last year it would be to get back in the saddle, no matter what throws me off.

Brace yourself...here comes the metaphor...
(Insert other big event of that day here)

I know I won't heal instantly. But each day the wounds hurt a little less and are not quite as obvious...though I might earn scar or two from the hit. I don't regret for a second the decision to take that ride -- it was exhilarating and beautiful and a joy...until it came to its surprising end. Like so many other hurts I've experienced, this one hand delivered a lesson that I can take or leave. I think I'll take it. It would be a shame to waste such a great learning experience.

And I will definitely give right turns the respect they so deserve.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dreams Do Come True!

Apparently tucking that sweat sock under my pillow worked. The shoe fairy came! Hooray! I love the shoe fairy!

This is far from the first time a mention here on my Mountain netted just exactly what I needed...and I doubt it will be the last. Call my life charmed or blessed or downright lucky...all I know is that I have the best friends in the world.

My fitness endeavor has suffered more than one blow since I started school. My yoga instructor moved to another gym, so that practice has all but ceased. My school schedule makes for a tight, sometimes uncomfortable fit with my spinning classes (but I'm giving those another college try) and as mentioned last week, my shoes put up a good argument against running. But because of the thoughtfulness of a treasured someone, I've run fresh out of excuses and can't wait to hit the streets tomorrow morning.

I'm thrilled to relapse into my exercise addiction. I'm no longer trying to substitute for love though...the right one will come to me at the right time. But you never know...if I pick up my pace enough, I might catch up with it sooner than later.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The End: Parts II, III & IV

Broke the news to the kids last night. I had hemmed and hawed since the official break-up as to how I would tell them. I never came up with a song and dance routine, so as I was preparing dinner, I just called them near to me and dropped the bomb. First, silence. Then opposition. Will we still hang out with them? I thought you loved each other? What went wrong? We really won't hang out with them anymore? What about Emma? Can I invite her to my birthday?

I had never before introduced a suitor to my children. I've witnessed a friend parade no fewer than 50 men in front of her son over the last five years and I didn't want to do that to mine (nor do I desire to be a serial dater). I swore I'd not bring my kids into my mid-life whatever-this-is, so early on I promised myself that only the absolute finest of men would enter their lives. The Poet was my first romantic interest they met. He had the burden of initiating them (or did they initiate him?) to the wondrous world of post-divorce dating. Our first few hang-outs were fabulous. The Poet and I knew we'd hit the jackpot. The kids were having a great time. His loved me. Mine loved him. They all loved each other. Life was good. As time wore on, so did the newness. Little bits of bickering here and there...occasional resentment for time consumed by the outsider....but for the most part, it was lotsa fun and games and laughter and general happiness.

Until, of course, now.

The two young ones cried upon hearing the news. The big one was visibly conflicted. But as the evening wore on, they began reminiscing fondly of the times we'd spent together, the lessons learned and the general silliness that we'd all enjoyed as a family in the making. It warmed my heart to see them working through their emotions openly and positively. This won't be an instant recovery. There will be lots of moments in the coming weeks and months that we will find ourselves missing the good times we shared. But from what I've seen thus far, I'm pretty sure we'll all heal together nicely.

I don't think we've absorbed all of the lessons from this chapter just yet, but am certainly feeling better about having involved those little souls. They appear to be resilient, thoughtful and loving. Guess it's their turn to teach me a thing or two.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The End

As you likely surmised, The Poet and I are no longer signed on for Forever**. A beautiful love story for the most part, a hidden truth early in our bliss overshadowed many of our remaining days. I hoped to rebuild the trust I had lost, but toward the end, the transgression became insurmountable.

I hurt The Poet. Our breakup was mutual, but I think more of the pain has fallen on his heart.

Am I calloused? Maybe. Not ready for a happily ever after? Probably. Wish him all of the happiness in the world? Absolutely.

I've been looking closely at me these days and the flaws I'm discovering are fascinating. Part of my self-discovery was spurred by observing myself giving something away -- something quite precious to me -- in an attempt to "fix" a problem. I gave up a friend. After I did this, I stepped back from my actions and had to ask myself what else I was willing to relinquish in order to maintain my relationship.

Full disclosure here (more of that darn honesty)...the friend was Wasabi. The broken trust...a fifteen minute clandestine catch-up. Now, Wasabi and I have been in friends-only mode since last September, but I can imagine that with the blog trail I left chronicling our enchantment and subsequent friendship might give pause to many a suitor. Sensing The Poet's discomfort with our banter, I asked Wasabi for some space. And he honored that. He reached out to see if we could resume our friendship a couple of months later and that began the tailspin that was the beginning of the end.

Without turning this into the entire history of my mostly-lovely romance, I'll just mention that I am learning to be truer to myself, only willing to compromise what is worthy of compromise. A bad habit? Absolutely. A minor annoyance? I'll give it a whirl. Portabellos for morels? It'll be tough, but sure. A friend? Never again.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I Was Wrong.

What the #*@! does a 39 year old know about forever?

You Call it Autumn...I Call it Fall

First things first...All Hallow's Eve. Tradition prevailed and the kids and I along with The Poet and his Emma went to Chez Diggs for food, fun and frivolity. Though for the past three years, Mrs. Diggs and I have paraded as Mad Housewives of some variety, this year, we donned our roller skates along with horns and pitchforks, claiming to be Hell on Wheels. Surprisingly, we made the entire night of trick or treating rolling about. The weather was spectacular and the kids had a ball. Each of us wiped out only once -- she, transitioning from grass to driveway and I, while standing in a neighbor's foyer...just fell down, knocking off the light switch at the same time. If I'm going to fall, I might as well make a production of it, right?

Other pieces parts of life have me a bit uncomfortable in my own skin. I'm already growing weary of this whole self-discovery thing. Each day seems to uncover another trait I find undesirable. What gets changed...what merits attention...what stays under the label "quirk"...what's a girl to do? Perhaps start by admitting she's not a girl anymore...

So today after several hours of wallowing in self pity and misery (and a bout or two with that leaking eye phenomenon), I realized that it was a beautiful day for a scoot -- very likely the last of the year. I painted on a reasonably happy face, concocted an errand to run and rolled Viv out of the garage. She was stubborn about starting as it's been well over a month since we hit the streets, but managed get her motor running and we headed to the...well, not highway...Roe Blvd. actually. A slight chill in the air along with bright sunshine proved a quick cure for my blues. I stopped to purchase a music book for Isaac's violin class and figured I should find my way back to Casa del Mar to hit the books. Three blocks from home, I took a right turn and before I knew it I was closely examining the asphalt. My first ever wipe-out. Turns out, autumn leaves that accumulate by the side of the road provide very little traction. Viv looks pretty good. The friend from whom I purchased her had taken a similar spill -- that time it was sand that had built up at a corner -- so she was already a little scraped up. As for me...I banged up my hand and took a fairly jarring blow to my chin (my jaw clicks now...do you suppose that's a bad thing?).

I'm okay with metaphorically falling down my own rabbit hole of self-discovery, complete with strange characters and interesting new finds, but I really could do without the physical impact of my arse to the floor and my face to the pavement. I'm getting the message...no need to pound it in further, Universe. Thankyouverymuch.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big Girls Don't Cry

I certainly don't.

I was once taking a facebook questionnaire and it asked "When was the last time you cried?" I had to dig deeply to remember it had been a couple of months, and the reason I shed tears (literally two or three) was sheer exhaustion after a long workday plus the realization that I had several hours of baking ahead of me. Even while I watched the marriage die, I rarely cried -- a couple of times for show to try to pull emotion from my ex. When that didn't work, I'd just stop. That easy.

But a couple of weeks ago, I opened the floodgates and have been fighting back the tears since. As of late, I'm not quite the Ms. Merry Sunshine that I've previously impressed upon you. All these hats I wear...as a mother, a partner, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a student and a general cog in this society are getting a bit heavy, the stack tilting to the side from lack of balance and I fear they're all about to crash to the ground and make quite a mess.

I love all of the parts of me. Each comes with its own set of joys, sorrows, responsibilities and rewards. But their combined mass seems to be growing and I'm not sure how I will manage. And now the tight rein I keep on my emotions has slipped and my eyes have been leaking as a result. This is odd. A little cathartic, but mostly odd...and embarrassing...and wet.

I'm sure this is good for me. I know there's a chemical this-and-that that happens and it's a great way to relieve tension and whatnot, but I'd really just rather have someone hand me a piece of paper with the solutions to all of my challenges. And a box of tissues. And maybe some type of stabilizing device for all of those hats.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Fairy Tale

My passion for fitness is eluding me. I still work out...just not as often, not for as long and with almost no zest. This bothers me greatly. My list of excuses includes I don't have the time to spare, my school schedule cramps my exercise class schedule, I'm tired, gas is too expensive to get to the gym, it's too cold, it's too hot, I don't have any clean shorts and the cat ate my running shoes.

But none of these excuses give me that runner's high (my favorite from the workout euphoria collection), and, well, I'm not certain because I need a new battery for the bathroom scale, but I'm pretty sure I'm not dropping any pounds. So yesterday, a school-less, kid-less, nice-ish morning, I decided to slip on my shoes (okay, I'll admit, the cat didn't destroy them) and head out for a run. As always, the first 200 yards were great, followed by a mile of suffering (I can give you physiological reasons for this now) and then onto the rest of my run. But my body kept nagging at me, whispering, "You haven't done this in awhile. Take it easy. Please?!" Apparently Tina Turner was singing too loudly for me to hear that until I was nearly three miles from home.

So I turned around to make my way home. I was shocked to see that though the entire first half of my run was uphill, so was the return. Same road. A mystery of physics if ever there were one. I walked more than I liked, but when I finally found Casa del Mar, I was glad to have hit the road again.

But my feet weren't.

My Adidas have logged more than a few months and miles since they first rescued me from my last pair of broken down running shoes. And they are going to have to deal with my abuse awhile longer (as will my feet)...unless of course, the shoe fairy comes in the night. And it would be great if she brought along the utility bill fairy, the food fairy, and my all time favorite, the cleaning fairy.

I wonder what I should put under my pillow...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Betrayed!

I keep an edge of "buyer-beware" about myself for the most part...especially when it comes to food. I know that the labeling tends to exaggerate claims of healthfulness or fabulosity. And I believe that it's the consumer's job to know the facts and to make decisions based on knowledge and experience.

Where is she going with this?

The spelt flour! When The Poet told me that his aunt had bought me a package of spelt flour, I was quietly appreciative, thinking that spelt was a wild form of wheat, and though it has less than its domesticated counterpart, it still contained gluten. When I next saw The Poet and I was given said flour, it was marked "For Wheat or Gluten Allergies" so I just figured I had confused it with one of many other grains available from my friendly natural grocer. And I was stoked to have a new flour at my disposal.

Saturday morning we gleefully enjoyed maple blueberry muffins. They were hearty and wheaty just like I love. And Saturday night, I was whining to Audrey that I felt "gluten bumps" developing -- a telltale sign that someone had snuck wheat into my food. I figured there were trace amounts in some chips or crackers (and I was irritated that I hadn't caught it on the labeling). Sunday morning...spelt pancakes. They were fabulous. Rave reviews from the whole crew and I enjoyed more than a few topped with freshly made blueberry sauce. And Sunday evening...more gluten bumps. A bit later, Big Sis made a comment on my facebook picture of a Svelte Spelt Flour Flower, saying, "You can't have spelt, can you?"

And I put all of the pieces together.

A quick google search told me what I thought I previously knew but dismissed based on packaging. Spelt is a wild wheat, and though it contains less gluten than its domestic counterpart, it is not safe for celiacs or those sensitive to gluten.

I guess, "For Wheat or Gluten Allergies" means that it will cause them.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Love Muffins, Part II

It has been a stretch for me to fall back in love with baking. It had been such an important part of my life and a big piece of my identity. After arguing with the dermatologist that I couldn't possibly be allergic to gluten because I was a baker -- you know, the good kind with a grain mill -- after I pushed my luck by continuing to make and devour wheat bread -- after my face reacted in the ugliest of ways, after all of the fussing, I more or less hung my head low and threw in the [dish] towel.

I reluctantly researched my new lifestyle and learned that gluten-free baking is no joke. To mimic the results of wheat flour, typically three or four flours are used, as well as binders...and even then...well...maybe it would maybe be kinda sorta be like what I knew and loved.

I tried collecting the various ingredients for this and that recipe, but when I would finally convince myself to delve into the big, scary world of GF baking, I would inevitably be missing an ingredient or two. So I just didn't.

Then this happened. Lovely people made me lovely muffins. It wasn't scary for them. They just did it. And that gave me the encouragement I needed to dig my heels into this new world of mine. I collected a few more flours (seriously, I probably have a dozen kinds or more), did more research and just dove in.

Guess what...not so terrifying! Granted, I make a bigger mess when I bake now. Potato flour is really fine and leaves dust everywhere. And I tend to make more trips to the basement where I keep my vast array of baking supplies (exercise!) but it's really quite tolerable...maybe even enjoyable. I'm tickled with each kitchen victory. Yes...I have a couple of failures under my belt (the kids are quick to point to those), and will inevitably rack up more on my journey, but the successes are soooo sweet.

Today I tried a new flour. One of The Poet's aunts (who has not yet met me), gifted me a beautiful package of spelt flour. She was in Arkansas with her sisters (one of whom is The Poet's mother) and came across this locally milled gem. A care package was sent this way and today I gave it a run. The label suggested it could be used 1:1 for wheat flour, so I did just that. And the blueberry maple muffins were a beautiful success.

So more love, more baking and more happiness. I've reinvented myself more than once in the recent past. And as hesitant as I was to embrace my new baking identity, and as difficult as I made it out to be, turns out this is as easy as pie.

Pie, huh? Alright...I'll give it a go!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Daily Grind

Now and then I have a day when I'm really happy to have a cappuccino maker. I have a feeling that every day for the rest of this semester is going to be one of those days.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Forever**

Wow. You guys are paying attention.

I didn't expect any response to my last post. I thought it might be just uncomfortable enough that everyone would pretend they didn't see it. But the reaction was so far the opposite of that...two online comments, a personal email (to me as well as to The Poet) and three phone follow-ups. (Sure, some bloggers have thousands of readers and generate ad revenues, but...) I've got friends. The good kind.

Upon closer inspection (of me) it looks like there are more parts of understanding how to be in a loving relationship that I didn't even know that I didn't know. Like that conflict doesn't spell out the end of all things good and pure. My favorite way of dealing with conflict has always been to ignore it. I mean, what's better than that? To just pretend nothing bad ever happened and let it go away. AWESOME, I tell you! You should try it sometime.

Or not.

I wasn't in counseling long...eight, maybe ten sessions...and I'm pretty sure I accepted the ultimate demise of my marriage and stopped seeing her before we covered my inability to face potential conflict. So I went on my merry way, got divorced, and before I knew it, found myself smack-dab in the middle of a real relationship -- with no real relationship skills in my arsenal! Well...I am fiercely loyal (good dog) and I can bake a cherry pie, but I'm pretty sure those aren't going to get me terribly far (though they did once get me far, terribly).

So last week, throughout the ebb and flow of our strife, I forced myself to communicate. I had to share my feelings, understand his, be open to compromise, look within myself, apologize, be patient, and most of all, continue to love. I knew this deserved my very best. The Poet is a magnificent person with more love to give than anyone I have ever known. His spirit is pure and he has a kindness about him that is honorable. Plus, he's darn good-looking and dances with me when our song plays.

The Poet and I finally saw each other on Monday. It had been a full week since our gazes last met. Seven days of chemistry tests, his sick child, money woes, an appearing ex-, and numerous other pieces of life that beat one down. And when he opened his door and welcomed me back into his home, I melted. Our eyes fixed upon one another and we shared a long embrace, understanding there will always be work to do, but more importantly, we will always have each other.

So just as quickly as I put a little maybe-asterisk beside our "forever," I will now take it off. With all of the beauty he and I have shared, all of the amazing signs pointing us in the same direction and all of the impromptu dances, there's nothing that could convince me that we are not meant to be together. Forever**.

** I really mean it this time.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Lot.

That's what's been up with me. A lot.

School. Love. Kids. Life. Food. Money. Joy. Sorrow. Less exercise than I prefer. And no gluten.

I don't think I'll try to hit all of these subjects this morning (it has been a long hiatus, after all), but a couple of things are front-and-center at this very minute and I have to get some thought out of my academically enhanced cranium and out there into the ether.

First off, and this would relate to Life and Joy and Kids (and I suppose Money), today marks one year since Concert Katrina and I boldly picked up more than our fair share of furniture and kitchenware and moved them into Casa del Mar. I'm sure I've mentioned this before...I love this house. I love what it is. I love what it symbolizes. I love its energy. I love what it has done for me. I love the promise it holds. But I will not make a big to-do today about this. I understand that the joy I feel when I realize that I've been on my own for a year is not shared by my children. Though the last 12 months have been the most amazing of my life, my Three Little Diggs have not had it quite as easy. They've been plucked from a fairly simple life of life with Mom and Dad (though surely they sensed the miserable tension between us for quite some time). They have had to move from house to house each week. They've had to learn to be diplomats between parents. They've had to watch their mom date a different man. They've had to pick up new responsibilities. They have become children of divorce. And as easy as it is for me to say that it happens all the time and children are resilient, I personally have no way of knowing what they're really going through. All of this makes today's milestone no less sweet. It just will keep my celebration a quiet one.

School. School. School. Oh how I absolutely love school. This semester brings chemistry, physiology and human resource management. Okay, I could do without the HRM, but it's easy...whatever. Physiology is being taught by a dolt so I'm having to figure it out on my own. Chem...I completely dig. I don't know if my adoration for chem is so strong that it makes the whole semester tolerable or if I just love what I'm doing because of where I'm going, but I really am elated to be on this journey. Two years from now I'll be interning and before you know it, a certified dietitian. The future is so good.

Love. Joy. Sorrow. It's been six months since The Poet and I met. Three since we took it up a notch. It has been a beautiful something to experience. Except for when it isn't. Because it is a relationship. My journey through divorce was a long and arduous one. But I don't often remember that. I don't care to re-read the blog posts where I was a sniveling, whiny, weak girl who couldn't convince her husband to stay together for the kids. Once I'd gone to counseling and realized that we might all come out winners if we let it go, I could almost giggle about the failure of my marriage. When someone would ask me, "why did you get a divorce?" I'd joke back, "I ruined his life" or "He left because I took exercise away from him" (these were both accusations that were made against me in the long process, but hardly the whole of the reason). Fact is, I'm not the bee's knees. I am amply flawed. Now, don't go freaking out here. I know this is the first time you've encountered such a statement from me and it's a lot to take in all at once, but hear me out. I'm pretty selfish. I am a control freak. I'm pretty sure I'm right almost all of the time. I definitely know how to do it (whatever it is) better. And I certainly know what's best for you more than you do. So as we travel down the road of falling in love (and what a fabulous something-to-do it is) and we get to some of the harder parts of meshing families and souls, and we each dig through what made us ourselves and what makes us us, it turns out that maybe, just maybe, I'm partially to blame for the failure of my marriage. Maybe I don't know how to behave in a healthy relationship. Maybe I'm not ready for the give and take of a healthy partnership. Maybe all of the growing I've done in the last year is pretty much external and I now need to look to the inside. Maybe I'm a mess...a fun mess, but a mess nonetheless. There's a long story behind what I'm trying not to delve into...I will tell it if the time becomes right...but for now I will merely say that I have some work to do on me. Though The Poet and I have previously spoken quite freely of a "forever" aspect of us, it seems a little more tentative these days. I know I love him. I know that what we have shared thus far has been beautiful. But I also am learning that when holding someone's heart in your hands, careful attention is required. Each of us came in with damage from our previous relationships. He knew what his was, clearly spelled it out and asked for my mindfulness to that matter. I listened, made my own interpretation and continued living my life just as I pleased. And I hurt him. I broke a trust. No, I didn't cheat, but I masked a truth and I'll leave it at that. As for my own damage I bring to the table...I'm not even sure what it is. But I now know it's down there. I think it's time I dig through all of the happy-happy-joy-joy that I piled on top of it and see if there's a way to get to the bottom of who I am, so that I can become a better partner...someday. Whether The Poet and I make it, I don't know right now. In addition to our own fragile hearts, we have involved four little souls in our adventure, so careful handling is required in any case.

Now, the cute, quippy Jennifer might skip right to I-haven't-exercised-as-much-as-I-like-lately, but I think I've said more than enough for now. Growing has been a theme here on my mountain, I suppose. And it only makes sense that I'd eventually have to delve a bit deeper. Hmmmm. Once again, I'm curious who and where I'll be in a month...or year. Good thing I like surprises.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No Skin Off My Nose

During my break between semesters, I was given the opportunity to house-sit...okay, really pet-sit...for my friends, the Perkins. They live south of KC and have 40+ acres and somewhere in the range of 75 animals. Okay...maybe a dozen.

But that's not the story here (humor me...I've got to get back into the blogging groove, as you well know). Big Sis and Casey shuffled their schedules and created time to visit me during that week so we could enjoy our first ever kid-free visit. Now, let me make it clear that we all completely adore our children. Both Casey and Big Sis homeschool, just as I did for many years. We take our jobs as mothers very seriously, but there comes a time...and we finally found that time.

Casey arrived on Sunday night and Big Sis on Monday morning. After a bit of chat, we all cleaned up, made sure all animals were fed and accounted for, then headed into the city for...well...we didn't quite know.

As we neared downtown, we juggled lunch choices, as well as what else to do to occupy our day. Mediterranean food won out, but the rest of our time was still up in the air. In jest, I suggested we get tattoos (I knew they wouldn't play along, but don't be surprised when I get one in the near future), then either Big Sis or my self (geez, neither of us could remember even an hour later!) suggested we get our noses pierced. Sis and I were both immediate takers, while Casey was a bit more hesitant.

During lunch, I texted a couple of friends for good, safe places for body piercings, and they both suggested the same place, and one even added that we should grab a pre-piercing adult beverage at an adjacent bar. So that's what we did.

One good cocktail each and we headed into Irezumi where, well, we looked nothing shy of out of place. Three middle aged (yes, I will acknowledge that) clean-cut, mom-ish women, all wanting to have their noses pierced. This probably happens more than I'd like to think, but for this story's sake, we'll pretend that we were a unique trio of revolutionary women adding art to their bodies and expressing their individuality (together). After a short wait, Beth took us into her studio where we would all eventually emerge with shiny (and maybe a bit bloody) studs on our noses. I was the first victim, and just as Beth promised, it was less painful than any other piercing I've had (four in the earlobe and twice in my cartilage). Sis and Casey followed with no tears shed, but more than our fair share of giggles.

About a month has passed and my nose has healed nicely. Sure, it's gotten knocked around a bit and one night I even whacked myself in the face and had to replace it at 4 a.m. (soooo not pretty). I fully realize that by all outward appearances I could easily be judged as going through a mid-life crisis. Mid-life...I can give you that one. Crisis...well, call it what you will, but I've never been happier.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Love Muffins

This weekend brought another visit with The Poet and his precious Emma. Saturday was an extra-special day for the little one as her great aunt would be treating her to a back-to-school shopping trip (is it back-to-school if you're going to kindergarten?) Said aunt (and uncle) live in the Kansas City area, so I left the Three Little Diggs with Martin for a few hours while The Poet, Emma and I drove across the city. A surprise was awaiting Miss Emma. Her grandma, The Poet's mom, had traveled more than a few miles to share the joy of the day. This also meant (drumroll please...) I was going to meet Mom.

The Poet has a beautiful relationship with his mom...heck...his whole family. Rarely do we make it through a conversation without a new story about mischief with one or more cousins, the powerful "coven" women who lead the families or how Crazy Uncle Dick once caught a flaming marshmallow with his bare hand while on a five-plus month hike through the Appalachians. And I was about to walk into this powerful vortex of love armed with little more than a smile and some zucchini bread.

We arrived at Aunt Lisi and (Crazy) Uncle Dick's house and before we had exited the car, were greeted by a houseful of folks. Hugs were immediately dispensed (thank goodness...I'm a hugger too). A casual breakfast was planned before the big shopping trip so we headed indoors--well, I did. The Poet stayed outside to chew the fat with a cousin for a bit, forcing me to fend for myself after only a few minutes.

And I felt perfectly welcome. I was ushered into the kitchen to a lovely spread of baked goods. And before I could take a breath, it was pointed out to me that those muffins, the beautiful blueberry ones, were gluten-free. Homemade gluten-free blueberry muffins. They had searched out a recipe and the many flours it takes to reasonably substitute for wheat, then baked said beautiful muffins. I was (and kinda still am) blown away. Far beyond a mere thoughtful gesture, this family has so much love to give, they passed it onto someone that they'd not yet met.

Did you know I hadn't had a muffin in four months? Oooohhhhh my. What a treat!

The rest of the visit was easy and fun and filled with love and stories and laughter. When the goodbyes and hugs were said and done, The Poet and I drove away with full bellies and fuller hearts. It's good to see the tree from which the apple dropped...even if it rolled around a bit before finding a nice resting spot. This tree is a real beauty.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Exercise Doesn't Hold a Candle to Love

It might be time that I explain this silly grin I've been wearing as of late and the doe-eyes as well. Seems I have found myself smack dab in the middle of a severe case of love.

Not what I thought I was looking for. At all.

As a matter of fact, my Match profile so many months ago, when I was merely seeking a distraction for a few evenings until I started school, began like this:
Far be it for me to tell you that I'm your dream girl. Sure, I'm witty, intelligent, charming, sassy and, um, humble... Chances are, I'm not her. She's probably working at the desk around the corner from yours, cutting your neighbor's hair, married to some other guy or, if you're really lucky, the author of the very next profile you click. This isn't an effort to drive you away. I'm not specifically looking to be someones next wife -- though not saying it's impossible, just that it's not probable. But, hey, you won't know any of this until you finish reading my verbose profile and order a background check and bloodwork.
Though I attracted a few entertaining smartasses, for the most part I found myself disgusted by winks and inane come-ons referencing nothing more than my looks or assumed bra size.

Then one Saturday morning after a delicious run, I found a lovely note waiting in my inbox. A kind young man wanted to tell me that he enjoyed my writing, noting that "nobody uses the word verbose in their profile" but that he was, in fact, looking for something more special than what I seemed to be seeking. Never one to be challenged, I responded somewhere in the realm of if it was really the right thing, I wouldn't turn away from it.

And from there a friendship was born. We quickly hopped from Match to facebook and enjoyed some truly beautiful exchanges. Meeting in person was going to be a greater challenge...he lived a million miles away, after all. Okay, sixty, but with my crazy kid schedule, it seemed unrealistic to try to get anything real started. He managed to find an excuse to come to my city for a couple of hours so we could take in a museum and walk the Plaza. It was sweet and fun, but my inner cynic was especially loud those days and I couldn't muster the effort to build something that would take so much perceived work.

We continued to exchange emails for a month or so, with my side of the communication dropping off fairly dramatically as school started. A month into classes, I planned a trip to his town to check out the university and shot him a note to see if we could meet for a drink and some quality conversation. He sweetly agreed (despite my recent disappearance), so after my meeting with the dean of the dietetics department and his workday, we found each other in quaint downtown Warrensburg. We picked up in a better-than-we-left-off place...no first date jitters...just casual fun. We caught up on Match escapades, children, jobs, school, life... Though I truly was enjoying our visit, I knew heading home would be a long drive and that I had a full school day on the other side of the sunset, so we walked toward our cars. He proudly pointed out local landmarks while we held hands like only two people who cherish each other could. A goodbye hug turned into a kiss--you know...the kind of kiss that makes your eyeballs shake...yeah, that kind--and then we parted ways.

My brain on the drive home was a tangled mess. I had only a small window in which to decide whether I was going to change my baccalaureate plans from K-State to UCM. And I had to sort out the pile of emotions that said kiss left all over the Johnson County, Missouri courthouse lawn.

I would like to say I played it cool for the next couple of days, but in reality, I was a bumbling fool, telling myself and him that starting something would be dangerous. (What on earth did I mean by that?) But I couldn't shake him from my thoughts. We managed another rendezvous and it all gelled from there. The friendship had evolved in the loveliest of ways.

Those million miles that I'd previously argued against became nothing more than a walk to a neighbor's house. In the weeks since that fateful kiss, we have shared countless hours of telephone conversation (perhaps a reason for my lack of attention to my Mountain of Laundry) and have crossed those
miles more than a few times, even recently introducing our children -- something I agreed with myself that I'd not do until I had found a relationship with true promise. This one meets that criteria.

So I introduce you to The Poet. A spirit like no other who adores me as much as I do him. Though the notion of falling so deeply and so quickly likely seems preposterous, I assure you that when you meet him, you will understand.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Whatever Floats Your Boat...

Sure, school was a great time. A wonderful stepping out of my comfort zone, a giant leap toward my future aspirations, a challenge beyond my expectations, and a big fat A in each of my classes to jump start my return to college life. But I wasn't going to settle for just that. I had to snag new friends too. One in particular, Laurie, with a zest for life like no one I know, invited the kids and I to her family's place at the Lake of the Ozarks to give our otherwise school-full summer a nice exclamation point.

As we were wrapping up the semester, she reaffirmed her welcome and we made plans to head lakeside the following week. I packed a few things, grabbed the kids from Martin and we headed out on a two-day fun-fest.

None too shy of three dozen, are-we-there-yets, we arrived at the lake and stepped into a new world. Laurie explained that there were only two rules: that kids must always have a life jacket once on the dock, and that we must have fun. My little ones started playing in the water immediately while Laurie readied the boat for a quick spin. Audrey was not a fan of the boat ride initially, and was nothing shy of terrified when Laurie (aka Joy Agent 007) encouraged Isaac and then Emily to take to the driver's seat. She returned to the helm, slowed then stopped, pointed at a cliff and said to me, "Do you want to jump?" I have no idea who was controlling me at the time, but I answered "yes," hopped into the lake, swam to the the shore and began my ascent to the thirty foot high plateau. Then I realized how crazy I must have been. It took more than a minute and several deep breaths before I reluctantly stepped off the ledge, ignoring Laurie's careful instructions for a safe landing. And just so you know, water can leave a nasty bruise when improperly handled.

After that, we headed to bar in our swimsuits and barefeet (the kids were beside themselves in shock) for a deep-fried dinner then back to the house, where we built a campfire, made s'mores, lit fireworks and shared general joy.

The next morning...another boat ride, tubing, (got my first black eye from that!) more swimming, jet-ski rides, and general getting-away-from-it-all bliss. My Three Little Diggs had a rip-roaring time. Their summer under my watch had consisted mostly of quizzing me on anatomy terms and (im)patiently awaiting their turn at the computer, so this was a treat far beyond their expectations. They wrapped evening number two with board games, snacks and soda. (It's vacation...even I can loosen up and allow high fructose corn syrup now and then.)

The next morning we had to be on our merry way, but not before Joy Agent 007's cousin set up poles with lures and took the kids to the dock. (Favorite quote of the trip...Austin: "Isaac, do you like to fish?" Isaac: "I like to catch fish.")

The drive home included fewer are-we-there-yets and more that-was-awesomes. Before Joy Agent 007 had closed the car door to return to her home, the kids were asking about the next time they'd see her. She's an amazing mother, optimist and fabulous role model for me.

I've said it a hundred times. I have the best friends in the world. And lucky me, I have room for more. Life is good. (Complete photo album here)