Saturday, February 26, 2011

Laughter - the Best Birthday Present

So last night was Elliott’s 12th birthday. Roger and I took Elliott and his friend Keith out for dinner – where they got adult menus and adult-sized glasses of soda and ate like… well, okay they still ate like 12-year old boys. Then we took them to the game arcade at the mall, where they spent $40 worth of game tokens in about eleven minutes. No actually it was a good 90 minutes of fun, and then they thoroughly irritated the attendant who just wanted to be anywhere else on a Friday night by discussing how to spend the 1250 tickets they earned. I had no trouble being patient - I had lemonade, cookies, and cheesy popcorn, and the massage chairs are right outside the arcade. Whoever set that up is a genius. And a mom, I’m sure.
Oh, yes, sorry – the back story here is that I am pregnant, due in June, and deliriously happy about baby #4. Roger is so happy he can hardly let my belly out of his sight, and he gallantly tolerates my cravings and mood swings. He even has sympathy cravings and comes home with chocolate Zingers and Pringles, which he will sometimes share. Okay, back to last night…
Roger, the nocturnal one in our house, wanted to stop for coffee on the way home, so the boys wore their giant green sunglasses and glo stick necklaces into the convenience store. I got a gigantic bottle of water, and when we got back in the car I gulped down half of it and asked Roger to remind me not to leave the house without water anymore. Elliott asked why, and here – in screenplay form for more entertainment value – is the conversation that followed.

Elliott: Why?
Me: Well, I get really thirsty, but it also makes the contractions stop.
Roger: Really?
Keith: What’s a contraction?
Elliott and Roger: Um, uh, well, it’s… uh…y’know…
Me: It is when you combine two words and use an apostrophe to replace some of the letters.
Elliott: (laughing hysterically)
Roger: Yeah, haven’t you noticed that she says, “is not” instead of “isn’t” when she takes a drink?
Me: (laughing hysterically, which causes more Braxton-Hicks contractions)
Keith: Ohhhhhhh! No I hadn’t noticed that, that’s cool – Natalie, drink some water and say something!
Roger: I think I’m gonna have to pull over…
Keith: Elliott, breathe, dude! Roger, I don’t think Natalie’s breathing either…

We need another box of tissues in the car now. And a bottle of water.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

August 6th was a day like all the rest, or so I thought. I woke up, did the usual morning crap, and then tried to plan out my day. The most important thing I ever did in this world would be to get my coffee; this would require a little foot travel time. I’m not really sure what bugged me more, the thought of putting on my shoes or that I forgot to get coffee when I was at the store so I had to put on shoes, but whatever. I opened the front door and stepped out into the warm, bright day and began placing one foot in front of the other on this little five block walk.

The art of making my coffee at Quik Trip is something I have spent years perfecting. Start with the right amount of sugar, then five shots of creamer from the flavored creamer machine thingy, then the coffee, can’t fill it up too much or not put enough in, the ice is what makes the difference, then stir well with a straw, not those pansy-ass little stick things. After all that time spent on this one cup of coffee I thought my day might turn out to be a good one, I wouldn’t find the truth of this matter until I was standing in line.

The woman in front of me was cute from the back, and that might have been all that mattered. She was maybe 5 foot 3, shoulder length brown hair, black yoga pants that highlighted these perfect hips and an amazing butt, and a form fitting grey t-shirt. I thought it best to stand back a little. And I had a better view that way. With temptation personified in front of me, I was surprised to find that the paper in her hand is the thing that captured my attention. She was shifting her weight from one foot to the other in a frustrated kind of way, then I found out why. As she was paying she began to ask for directions, and as luck would have it, I recognized the address. When the clerk just shrugged at her, her shoulders drooped about eleven inches, which was unbelievably cute. I must have laughed a bit because she started to look over her shoulder, and I caught a glimpse of her cheek and long eyelashes, but then the clerk asked if she could help me and Temptation turned back around to get her stuff off the counter. She’d been dismissed.
“Go right out of the parking lot, take your first left, go through the first intersection, and it’s the green house, fourth one down on your right.” I knew the place well, knew the loud Asian woman who lived there, as well as you can know someone who doesn’t like you or being in this country. Why was Temptation going to see her I wondered.

As she turned to face me the whole of everything moved in ultra slow motion, almost in a movie special effect kind of way, everything behind her seemed to fade away into nothing and it was just her and myself standing there, then just as quick reality came slamming back. She had the most beautiful brown eyes I had ever seen, way beyond sad puppy dog eyes. I followed the line of her nose down to her mouth as it formed the perfect words. Whatever they were.
Before my eyes continued down to inspect the rest of her body, I thought it maybe might be polite to look into her eyes again. After this effort of politeness, I allowed my eyes to fall, not taking too much time on anything specific (okay except the hips again), I followed her frame all the way to the floor and then back up to her eyes. I caught her returning the favor.
She thanked me and made her way to the door, as I was paying for my coffee and donuts I was watching her walk away, the hips and the way her hair swung as she walked, and she glanced back at me. Perfect day.

I wanted to see her again so I walked a bit faster on the way home, and there in front of the house next to mine was her van. I placed myself on my front porch and lit up a smoke and waited. It wasn’t very long before she came out. There was that butt again, and I had trouble remembering that this was my second chance to talk to her. I got up and said “Guess you found the place ok then.”

She stopped walking, but I could tell that she was smiling. And then I got that smile full force, and I wanted to skip work that night and just hang out with her for a few million years. Over the next weeks we emailed and talked on the phone, and then she invited me to meet her kids and go with them to this festival thing downtown. I’m not into crowds or festivals or downtown, but I would have walked to Cuba if she asked me to. On the way to this thing we stop at McDonalds and she quotes Lethal Weapon. Joe Pesci specifically, with the F-bomb and everything but not loud enough for the kids to hear her. It was almost impossible not to grab her and kiss her right there. It was at that point I knew if she would let me, I would never stop loving her.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

August 6th, 2010. I had driven around this older subdivision with its gently curved roads for nearly 20 minutes. I knew I was in Gladstone, but this particular housing area looked more like a 1950’s movie set. Not every street was marked, not a single street formed a straight line, and the directions from the woman selling soccer stuff on Craig’s List were sketchy – turn right at the fire hydrant, it’s next to the house with the sunflowers in the backyard… I’m not trying to be xenophobic, but English was quite obviously not her first language. Not really her second, either. She’d given me the street address, and I had the Yahoo map in my hand. Trouble was the Yahoo map showed more straight streets than there really were, and only one out of every six or seven houses actually had visible numbers on it. The star in the middle of the street on the map wasn’t helping. I called her again and asked if she could please just come stand on the porch or wave from the door or something. “No, I have child in bathing, I cannot be in doorway. You still coming?” Well, honestly, now I was a little perturbed, a little weirded out, and not real sure it was worth it.
I went back to the main road and went into the Quik Trip. I bought a diet coke and a bag of sour cream cheddar potato chips, directions in hand, hopeful that someone behind the counter would know where the house was. A guy got in line behind me. Not unusual for a Quik Trip, but he stood farther back than he needed to, and that was a little intimidating for some strange reason. I glanced back in his direction. He didn’t move, and I wondered if maybe he wasn’t ready to check out with his coffee and bag of glazed donuts, or was waiting for someone. Whatever.
“Is that all?” the clerk asked. I nodded, she rang up my sale, I paid and then asked, trying to sound casual and not at all stressed and sick of being trapped in suburban hell, if she could please tell me where the address was. She raised her eyebrows and shrugged and then he spoke.

“Go right out of the parking lot, take your first left, go through the first intersection, and it’s the green house, fourth one down on your right.”

If an opera-talented tenor - who smoked for several years, quit, went on a three day drinking binge, slept for 31 hours straight, was woken up by someone jack hammering the sidewalk right outside their bedroom only to discover that there was no coffee in the house - were to speak, that was the sound of his voice.
I was so busy being intoxicated by this sleepy, angry, gravelly, uber-polite voice I didn’t even really register what he said. I turned around and looked at him.
He had brown hair, glasses, a goatee and 5’o-clock shadow; his shirt was black and had murderous-looking clowns all over it, well-washed black cargo pants liberally flecked with yellow paint; the flip flops had seen better days but his feet looked like the professional pedicure was yesterday; and his eyes were the most amazingly startling shade of gray. Or blue. Or maybe mint green. No, blue. Oh wait, gray. Yeah, they kept changing as he stared right back at me. Those eyes, the scruff, the pecs under that shirt, the v shape his body made, the way he sounded, the way he was standing perfectly still but so relaxed… Oh my, I was in so much trouble. Must. Leave. Now. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Oh, wait, he gave me directions.
Like an idiot I stumbled through “I’m thanks sorry did you what say?” Guh.
I was rewarded with a smile that was more shy than confident, and he repeated the directions. I tried really hard to pay attention this time. And really hard to ignore the Atlas moth that had suddenly appeared in my stomach.
I went to my car and barely remembered to look in my mirrors before backing up. Shaking off whatever bizarre thing had just happened, I reminded myself that I am a mom, a church elder, a good girl, a scout leader, and women like me do not meet men in convenience stores. Doesn’t happen. Not someone wonderful. Not someone amazing. Nope. Besides, it was a busy store, I didn’t stick around to see what car he got into, he could be from anywhere, and the chances of me winning the lottery are better than running into him again. Okay, good, I’m safe. Deep breath.

I followed the instructions, found this woman’s house, and waited several minutes for her to come to the door. The television was on loud, I could hear a toddler crying, and pretty soon she opened the door with a naked six-month old baby on her hip. “You late,” was all she said. She handed me the baby, yelled something to the toddler who didn’t even pause at the sound of her voice, and opened the front closet. She pulled out a dusty box and opened it up, saying “$50 dollar for all stuff in there, just $50, not too much for all stuff in there.” There were several pairs of cleats, none of which were the right size for my kids and only one was in decent condition. The soccer ball was not a size 3 as in the ad but obviously a size 5, and flat. The goalie jersey had so many holes I wouldn’t even have been able to dust with it, and I only saw one goalie glove. The ‘practice goal” was just a net and when I asked her where the frame was, making stupid mime-like hand motions, she just shook her head.
I told her thanks for letting me look, but that I was really looking for newer shoes and an actual practice goal with poles and everything, not just the net. She tried to get me to take the box for $40, so I smiled at the baby and thanked her again, escaping out the door. I walked back to my car and was almost to the sidewalk when I heard… oh, bleepity bleep bleep… that voice again.
“So I see you found the place…” he said. I sucked in a breath and looked to my right. There he was, sitting on the front porch of the house next door, smoking. He smiled. Bleep, and the giant moth is back, too.
Part of me really just wanted to smile, wave, get in the car and drive away, back to my boring life cleaning out closets, eating Brussels sprouts and watching CSI reruns on my kid-free weekends. But the other part, the part that encouraged me to go out with guys I’d met online – you know, the part that really didn’t want to turn into the bitter divorced cat-lady who gets stuck raising her own grandkids because she figured she was a failure as a wife, she was probably a failure as a mom too so why try anymore… Uh, yeah, guess I thought about that a little too much.
Anyway… that part won. I smiled and shook my head – “Oh, it’s you again” and turned towards him. He walked across the lawn and stopped close enough for me to see the gray in his beard and the tattoos on his biceps. We exchanged email addresses and smiles and a whole lot of electricity. His name is Roger.
August 25th – we met again for coffee. After about 11 seconds together I couldn’t imagine that we hadn’t known each other for years. It seemed… well, wrong to be getting in different cars and driving to different houses. I wasn’t even a mile from the coffee shop when my phone rang – just as I was getting ready to call him.
Labor Day Weekend – Roger and I took the kids to Irish Fest at Crown Center. On the way there, I stopped at McDonalds so that we didn’t spend $386 on food at the festival. We went through the drive-thru but when all the bags were in the car, I pulled into a parking spot to distribute and make sure we had a boy toy for the happy meal and caramel sauce for the apples and enough sweet and sour sauce to thoroughly coat the back seat of the van. Roger looked at me funny. “Are we going to eat here?” he asked. “No,” I said quietly. “I always check everything because, okay okay okay okay, they f*ck you in the drivethru…” I said, a perfect imitation of Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon. Roger stared at me with the most amazing smile on his face, laughed and announced that he was going to marry me.

I had to admit I was probably going to say yes.
And on November 13, I did. Next week – Roger hijacks my blog to tell his side of the events. Believe me, I’m just as curious as you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Life goes on...

Most of you know that my first marriage, the one that you think will last forever and have all the fairy tale fantasies about, fell apart in early 2009. I did what I could to save it, but he had apparently made up his mind several years before that I was a "mistake" for him. He was already in love with a good friend of mine by this point (I don't ride roller coasters, she does - obviously she's a much better mate...). I was finally able to say "good riddance" after living without him for several months. The divorce proceedings began in February 2010 and were final in October.
In April 2010 I hired a sweet young woman from church to watch the kids so I could go to my monthly scrapbooking night and commisserate with some of the most wonderful understanding women ever. My babysitter, upon finding out that I was not going on a date, said the sweetest thing. "You're not going out with a guy? But you're wasting all that smartness and cuteness being single!" I told her I'd adopt her.
That next weekend was a weekend alone for me. I cleaned out two closets and got another pile of his hoarded junk bagged up for him to take away (seriously - recently I found four plastic grocery bags full of tootsie roll wrappers, a stuffed animal from his first girlfriend, and the boxes from all the cell phones he's ever owned in a cupboard. And I married that...). And then, with a cup of coffee and a bowl of ice cream, out of morbid curiosity, I went to I spent a little time taking the quizzes and writing clever answers, uploading the three pictures of me that are moderately flattering, and then completely chickened out and disabled my profile.
But a week later I activated it, the warning about curiosity and dead cats failing to have an effect on me.
Over the next three weeks I was winked at 79 times. I'm sure these men are very nice, but after wading through their profiles, the spelling and grammar errors, vacation photos that show more scenery and less face, pictures of boats and cars and bloody animals (apparently I'm very attractive to hunters), and profiles that clearly indicate:
1. a complete lack of education and understanding about women - "I dont do girlee moves i meen the movies that you chiks like not the other kind so dont thin about taking me them, k?"
2. a gigantic ego (I like my women to be in great shape like me, to look good in jeans and tight clothes like me, and to be able to keep up with me - these profiles contain dozens pictures of individual muscles being flexed)
3. weirdness they shouldn't be that honest about. I'm sure there are other websites for stuff like foot fetishes (I like really long red toenales and high heeles if you ware them I will love you) and wanting to share clothes and makeup with your date (we can dress each other up in lacey things and I like to wear eyeliner).
I decided to deactivate my profile again. I did send my email address to three candidates, however, before doing so. Scott is my age but has never married and has no kids, a retired military man getting his elementary education degree. Shawn is younger by a few years, divorced with three teenagers, owns a drywall company, and has really amazing blue eyes. Daniel is by far the best looking of the bunch, a little older than me, and a lawyer who rides a Harley.
After emailing back and forth for a few weeks with these three, who all turned out to be intelliegent and funny and relatively normal, Shawn finally asked me out. We had a very nice dinner with good conversation. He asked me out for the next night as well, and since it was a kid free weekend, I agreed. He said there was a small pub near his house that he went to occasionally, knew the bartender, and it was a fun place. Would I want to meet him there? Sure.
Turns out "occasionally" means six nights a week, "near my house" means a block away so he can walk and avoid DUIs, and "I know the bartender" means she has to cut him off and kick him out frequently and tries to stay out of arms' reach after 11pm. I left him at 11:03.
One down, two to go.
Daniel called me a lot, and we had fun conversations. He made me laugh, and asked me a lot of questions, which no one had done for years. One night we were laughing about a comedian we both liked when he finally asked if I wanted to go out for coffee. He suggested a weekday, which was fine since the kids were still in school for another week. He was waiting outside for me when I got to Starbucks, held the door, and most of the conversation was just as fun as on the phone. But... (oh, come on, you knew that was coming) then he said that he travels about 3 weeks a month for work. What he really wants in a relationship is someone who understands that, won't bug him on the road, and will be waiting in lingerie with homemade food when he gets back to town.
Two down...
Scott and I actually went on several dates. He had a small get-together of military buddies at his house one night and invited me. We talked and laughed a lot, and he kissed me on the cheek whenever we parted, and I actually thought he might have potential. Until one day during lunch at his favorite Mexican place, I mentioned something about my kids. "One thing I'm glad for," he said, "is when I date a woman and the baby daddy is still in the picture. Kids are so not my thing." I must have stared at him for a full minute before he looked up from the menu. "What?" he asked - as if the irony of a man who just said kids are not his thing studying to be an elementary teacher was totally lost on him. Not to mention the fact that I have three kids. I went out with him a couple more times, but it just wasn't the same, and I think he knew that. I got a text from him one day that simply said, "I'm seeing someone, it's been fun, good luck." I didn't waste a text on him. Right away. I waited a few hours so he'd think I was busy. Good lord, being single sent me back to junior high.
Alas... three strikes, I'm out of the dating game.
But I know that the reason dating sites offer you six month subscriptions is not to give you that much time to find your soul mate. It's because finding your soul mate the second time around is a numbers game - you have to play the odds. For every hundred people you talk to, you may be mutually interested in ten, may actually date five, and one of them may be an acceptable choice to spend a few years with.
When I was young, I kind of understood that I probably was not going to marry someone from my high school. I thought the guy in college might have been the one except that I was informed frequently by his obnoxious little sister that no one in his entire Catholic family wanted him to marry someone who'd have to convert (and I wasn't about to convert). I dated a little after him, but didn't meet anyone I thought was The One. Mind you, I was not the least bit worried about this - I was perfectly fine being kind of a free-spirited gypsy, dating or even living with someone until the romance was over and then moving on. I knew that marriage was a forever thing, a non-voidable contract, and I really didn't want to mess it up.
So the fact that these three guys were not going to be Mr. Me #2 did not really upset me all that much. They all in their own ways reassured me that I was just fine - I'm still attractive, still a good match for someone out there, still wonderful just the way I am, and I certainly don't have to settle for less than amazing.
Soon, I'll tell you about how "amazing" found me. Happily ever after is out there after all.