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Thank Goodness for Girlfriends

I used to believe girls not my sisters were untrustworthy.

This sentence appears in my May 2011 blog, “A Woman’s Strength.” The remainder of that post reflects how very, very wrong I was about women.

I thought a lot about my relationships with women in the days leading up to my October 2013 wedding. With a baby on the way, I knew there was no way I’d be able to drive over to the outdoor wedding site in my wedding dress. I wasn’t honestly sure I’d be able to keep the dress on for the ceremony itself.

It was okay, though. I figured it would all work out just fine with the best of accomplices. A few days before my wedding, I wrote:

While making oatmeal, I got to thinking about how my mom always said, “You can’t trust women.” I wish she’d had my experience with girlfriends. I can’t even type “You can’t trust women” with a straight face because it’s so unfathomably outside my experience!

I got to thinking about this because of my bridesmaids. Based on what details Anthony and I do or don’t wrap up, my changing room might be a wall of sheets held up by my bridesmaids . . . which, when I think about it, is pretty fantastically symbolic. That’s kinda what girlfriends do, in my experience: hold out their arms in love to shield their girlfriends from the unwelcome or hurtful as best as they can.

The day came, and I discovered my wedding site was a few dozen yards from a public bathroom. My girlfriends used the sheet meant as my improvised changing room to cover the bathroom floor instead. Read more…

(Marriage) Equality: the light in and from us all

I supported marriage equality since before I supported marriage.

“Sure, I feel like marriage is a terrible idea, but there’s no reason my thinking on this ought to control anyone else’s life! If anyone can ruin their life with marriage, everyone ought to have that freedom.”

I’ve changed a lot the last few years. Many of these ways are for the better, although some would probably characterize other changes as “not better for them.” Fair enough! I’m not living for them.

One of those changes, fortunately, was in my thinking about marriage. With only a month of marriage under my belt, I’m still captivated by the romance of having chosen to give someone my all–not 85% or 90% of my all, but 100% of it. That’s the good and the bad. There’s plenty of both.

I’ve had to consider a couple of small practicalities, but mostly I’ve been aglow with the sweetness of it. Was this what I’d been afraid of? Really?

Then I took a trip to the hospital. Everything is fine, and my health is not the subject of this post.

I was asked an innocuous enough question at the hospital. “Do you have an advanced directive?” I said I didn’t, leading the office clerk who’d asked the question to say, “That means your husband will make decisions on your behalf.”

Whoa.

I’d given someone else the power to make life or death choices about me if I ever become unable. I’d made the choice knowing I could trust those decisions–whatever their specifics–to reflect at least dozens of our conversations and to reflect my wishes and beliefs as well as my husband’s own understandings of who I am.

There was little romantic and plenty powerful in that moment. My mouth kept answering the clerk’s questions while my mind struggled with the enormity of that matter of fact statement about my husband.

I’d read articles about men and women unable to visit their partners in the hospital. Unable to make choices for their partners as folks others deemed to be their real family made choices as the partners watched on the sidelines. There are fewer stories of instances like this since the Obama administration implemented rules mandating partner rights and decision-making a couple of years ago, but I was physically swayed at the thought that anyone had ever been exiled to the waiting room who belong at a loved one’s bedside. Read more…

To Gandalf, My Would-Be Bridesman

Dear Gandalf,

I’d graduated college before I knew you existed. With little money to spare the weeks before I moved to South Korea, a friend recommend my small book budget go to The Lord of the Rings.

It seemed like good bang for my buck and, beside, I had a crush on its recommender. So I went for it.

I loved you pretty much instantly. I’ve always found wisdom attractive, more so even than humor (also appealing) and ripped abs (which aren’t especially important to me, actually, no matter what check-out line magazines suggest).

I mourned your encounter with the balrog. I told one of my roommates the same, prompting him to laugh before spoiling the whole thing for me. It was a feat not to throw him over our seventh-floor balcony then, but I figured doing so wouldn’t be very Gandalf-like. Also, I wasn’t keen on the thought of spending time in South Korean prisons.

Mostly it was the former that stayed my hand. Really!

I moved back home before long, excited but a little nervous by the prospect of soon watching you come to life on the screen. I wasn’t sure any actor could do you justice, but, man, wouldn’t it be rad if Ian McKellen could? I was willing to give him a shot.

He was perfect.

I mean, I guess some could argue “perfect” is subjective, but really. He conveyed you exactly as I’d imagined you, and it was magic.

(Oh, yeah, I did.)

My fondness for you grew with each film. I came to love Samwise greatly, too, all the more after mutual love led to a still-treasured friendship, but you continued to hold the fondest place in my heart.

Perusing forums online one dark and stormy evening my last year of law school, I found someone else who had a Gandalf icon.

“OMG, you love Gandalf?!?!?!?!?!” I said, maybe not in those exact words.

“OMG, you love Gandalf?!?!?!?!?!” its poster said, maybe not in those exact words.

Do I ever!

Do I ever!

That poster, Maggie, lived in Los Angeles. I lived in Los Angeles. So we met up. Of course we did. Read more…

My Sister, My Silver Star

My sister celebrated her ten-year wedding anniversary two weeks ago. I wrote about that here, but neglected to mention one important thing: that she and her husband would be celebrating it with me.

family walk

After a family walk, they left their daughter with me and enjoyed a couple of beers at a local beer house. My sister, unused to drinking, was plastered after only a couple of beers. Her messages to that effect were adorable.

The weekend flew. We managed neither our planned trip to Disneyland nor an outing to a bridal boutique to shop for dresses, yet not all was a wash. Knowing my sister, brother-in-law and niece were all just a room away made for much sounder than usual sleep. Listening to my son attempt negotiations with his younger cousin made me chuckle:  “You have to be quiet, A. That’s the deal! That’s how you get to sleep in my room. That’s the deal!” A trip to the ocean made me feel my mom was especially close, for even our junker cars could usually make it to the Oregon coast on a pocketful of change.

The weekend after my sister left, our dear, mutual friend Sarah came to visit. My fiancee and Sarah’s husband, whom both Silver Star Rache and I consider our non-biological brother, agreed to watch our kiddos so Sarah and I could go bridal dress shopping. Read more…

Wedding unplanning, princess style

I’m getting married in two months.

We’ve set a date. The location is planned-ish. We selected the song for our first dance around two minutes after I said “yes.”

The rest? Not so much. But I’m not stressing, and I’m not looking for advice, because here’s the thing: This wedding is about me and my fiancee, and the pace at which we’re planning it is a reflection of who we are together. Whether we plan everything tomorrow or skate right down to the wire, we’ll have our day amidst a small but lovely (and patient!) gathering of friends.

It’s all gonna be great. Even if the first wedding dress I bought didn’t fit just right, it’s still not a loss. My son’s excited commentary when he saw me in it was worth so much more than $99.

“You look like a girl! You’re a princess!”

princess

No matter what dress I wear or where I proclaim my commitment, I’m sure I’ll feel like a princess that day, too, surrounded by friends and enveloped in love shinier and more enduring than any store-bought material.

Celebrating interdependence. Also dresses.

My last voicemails from my mom were entreaties for me to take “[my] sweet man” and marry him before he found himself someone more docile.

That sweet man, bless him, knew better than to ask me to marry him . . . until, sensing the tides had turned, he did, profferring a Green Lantern ring we’d later replace at his grandma’s request.

His grandma's ring

It’s been almost a year since he asked.

In that almost-year, we’ve planned almost nothing. Read more…

So this is middle age!

Who the heck’s she talking about? I wondered after the words “middle aged” rolled off my doctor’s tongue. Thorough examination of the doctor’s office revealed that she and I were alone in the room, which meant she’d just called me “middle aged.”

No way. Nuh-uh. I mean, it’s only been, what? A decade since I graduated?

. . . from law school?

Oh, shoot.

Still, a couple of months passed and I dismissed my doctor’s errant description. “Not yet. Got a few more years yet.”

 

So what if I could talk about my gorgeous new curtains for 23 days?

So what if I could talk about my gorgeous new curtains for 23 days?

And then. Then came my dear friend, 23 years of age, crashing in my living room after escaping a terrible relationship. She bubbled over with exciting stories about her days in her new state of residence. The stories alone made me want to crawl into bed as I interrupted her with admonitions for my son: “No, no, don’t eat that,” or “The dog is not a horse!”

She texted and talked with friends while I mapped out my grocery lists, cooked, and talked with my fiancee about exciting things like budgets and doctor visits.

She did not document purchase of a used washer and dryer, because--for starters--she is years from procuring such things

My dear friend did not document purchase of a used washer and dryer, because–for starters–she is probably years from buying such things

It occurred to me I probably wasn’t quite as spry as I used to be, but I still wasn’t ready to don the title of “middle aged.”

And then. Then one of my dear friend’s girlfriends came to pick her up for a girl-date. As I dried my hands of dishwater, I introduced myself, saying, “You know, my doctor called me ‘middle aged’ recently. I didn’t buy it until just now, seeing you gals getting ready to go out just as I’m wondering which PJs to wear. In, oh, four minutes.”

They left looking shiny and vibrant in their cute clothing and perfect make-up. In their wake, I looked down at my comparatively frumpy clothing for a few seconds before my eyes landed on a stack of self-help books, conveniently located near a bag of clothing to drop by the dry cleaner.

So this is middle age, I thought. Somehow I imagined it’d be more depressing.

I still get to wear cute clothes, just a different kind

I still get to wear cute clothes, just a different kind

Do I creak a little more than I used to? Sure. Do I forego drinks because hangovers really aren’t worth it? Yup.

Do I miss five-inch heels and being out at 2 a.m.? Oh, hell no.

I’ve got way too many self-help books to read for that.

How do you define middle age? If you’ve already reached it, when did you realize you probably already had?

Happy Active Love Day!

Thunder Thighs came home with me yesterday.

She’s always with me, as I’ve shared here before. It was only her representation, so beautifully crafted by Sina Grace some months ago, that was missing from my home.

me and tt
Yesterday I drove home with that representation in the passenger seat beside me, and thought about Thunder Thighs. Love. Laughter. How blessed I am to have an abundance of these things, even when my introversion sometimes–as now–make me yearn for more quiet time to recharge.

Although Thunder Thighs is my mom, and today is Mother’s Day in the U.S., mother’s love is only a small part of what’s in my heart today. The larger part belongs not to the love provided by any one person, but to any love provided by anyone who loves–not passively or from a distance, but actively with outreached hand, heart and time offered up to others.

Whether or not you hope to be a mother, once were a mother, are a mother, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, or none of these things, I celebrate you today. I celebrate your acts of love and compassion. I celebrate your phone call to a friend, your donation to a shelter, your vigil with a friend whose father is dying, your care to a friend’s house when she is in the hospital, your watching a neighbor’s children so she can shop for groceries. I celebrate the light that you shine upon those within your vicinity, and thank goodness you are out there shining that light.

Upon my bedroom door there now hangs a reminder to cherish these things. My mom is no longer a phone call away, but there is love aplenty evidenced in each minute every day regardless.

Today I will look for loves’ signs, and I will celebrate each of them, no matter who originates any one of them.

No matter who or where you are,
may your day be full of love,
both received and given.

IMG_20130511_191640

The Gift of Fear

She didn’t tell me his name.

She didn’t tell me what he did for a living, or where he came from.

She tried not to talk about him much at all, which evoked mild curiosity but didn’t alarm me, even though I’d always known her prior boyfriends by no less than name, occupation, hobbies and demeanor.

It was only when my dear friend fell silent for weeks after dating the new guy that I started to feel a niggling sense of worry.

A gregarious, affable extrovert, she’d always been one to text dozens of times a day, and reply instantly to virtually any text message. I often felt guilty for replying so slowly to her texts; it can take me days or even weeks to reply to a single message.

When she failed to reply to several text messages over a few-week period, I started to worry. I texted her: I get nervous when you fall silent.

She wrote back that she’d moved several hours north of our hometown. When I read him her text message, my fiancee, Anthony, said, “She’s moving the wrong direction! She should be moving down here with us.” I said she’d probably moved with her boyfriend, versus moving just for fun, but relayed his message to her. She confirmed that she’d moved with her boyfriend, whose name I still didn’t know.

I thought, abusers try to isolate their partners. I promptly squashed the thought as the byproduct of an overactive imagination. She hadn’t said anything was wrong, apart from a mild case of moving blues.

My mama and me

Most my mom’s cuts and bruises weren’t from accidents, which impacts my relationship assessments

A few weeks later, my friend called and told me her boyfriend had assaulted her. She was shocked and shaken, but had quickly arranged alternative lodging for herself.

“You should leave,” I told her. “I think it’s dangerous for you to stay. You can come stay with us for a little.” I coordinated parts of her departure with her, but worried she wouldn’t leave. It’s often much easier to continue enduring known hardship than embrace the idea of enduring unknown, unquantifiable hardships. Indeed, the human imagination for possible woes is endless, so that the unknown can end up seeming much more threatening than painful situations we’ve already shown ourselves we can survive.

When my friend called me a couple of days later and said she’d probably overreacted, I stressed that I didn’t feel she had. Still, she was determined to stay and prove she was strong enough to make a home in her new locale, with or without her boyfriend. Read more…

Rock out with your chalk out

My twentieth birthday was a life-changer.

There were no epiphanies. No sudden, startling events that illuminated just how important the day would prove in the scheme of my life.

There was only a party–a movie party, to be precise. My sister took me to watch (or should I say, ignore?) terrible movies with her large group of nerdtastic, boisterous, crass guy friends. I was shocked and delighted by the guys’ shenanigans, but more so, how completely and immediately they accepted me. I’d never experienced that before, nor anything like it.

By the time I prepared to leave for South Korea a couple years later, I knew the guys. They knew me. They teased me incessantly but lovingly. I was at home with them, so much that I had mostly forgotten what it was like to be an island unto myself.

The photos of my collection are gone, but my good friend Pieter Ponyking permitted me to use this photo to demonstrate (mis)use of other parts of my collection!

Piete Ponyking

The evening of my farewell party, I was presented with a gift: a notebook in which all of my friends, some movie party and some not, had written out their recollections of and wishes for me. Read more…

Categories: Family, Friends, Love, Parenting, Youth Tags: , ,
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