I went through a year of horrendous online dating before I met the man who became my husband. I wasn’t exactly a poster girl for the most eligible bachelorette, but none of my hold-ups were much excuse for the sort of men I met. I was 24 years old and a full time student. I worked part time, lived with my parents, was divorced, and had two children under the age of five. I’m not an unattractive woman, but men weren’t exactly beating down my door to date me. More so, I knew that I needed a companion, not just a boyfriend.
I couldn’t seem to even meet a normal, down to earth man. Things became enough of a joke around the house that my mother would sit up at night and wait for me to get home, collapse on her bed and giggle while sharing all the terrible details of my odd nights out.
Then there was the guy who asked me to hold his belt while in the mall so I wouldn’t get lost.
The man who took the menu out of my hand and ordered food for me like I was three.
The guy who took me to a movie and proceeded to move down to the front row where there was only one open seat to “see better,” leaving me alone.
The man who figured out where I worked and spent an hour walking around the store trying out different women’s lotions before finally admitting he was one of the men I had denied a date request from on an online site.
The guy who took me shopping and then proceeded to tell me how I should dress.
The gentleman who stripped naked in his parent’s living room while I used their restroom.
By the time I got around to talking to Mak, I was pretty wary of dates. A whole year of these kinds of dates will do that to a woman. I had a whole safety set-up – complete with emergency friend phone calls lined up and pepper spray.
Mak invited me over for dinner. I had such a good time that I ended up coming home and looking him up on Google and the case search program to see if he had some shady criminal past hiding. There had to be something wrong, considering my past history with online dating. He had a speeding ticket. That was it. Needless to say, I was impressed.
The next morning we had a quick conversation.
“I’m not really interested in playing around,” he said. “I like you. Let’s make this serious.”
If any other man I’d gone on a date with had said that to me I’d have gone running for the hills.
“Okay,” I said.
I don’t know why. I’d hate to chalk it up to some sort of fate thing, but maybe part of me knew he wasn’t a psycho killer. Maybe there was some deeper connection. Maybe I was just really brave.
Within a few weeks he had met my children and included them in our outings.
A few months later was Easter and I was scrawling ‘I love you’ onto an egg and hiding it in the fridge.
“Go get the orange egg out of the fridge,” I told him.
He got up and I heard the fridge door open. After a moment it closed again and he came back to the couch.
“Well…” I started.
“Well what?” He asked.
“What did you think?” I asked. It was the first time I’d attempted to tell the man I loved him and he was being completely stubborn about the whole thing.
“It’s cute,” he said.
“And…” I lead him.
“I love you, too,” he said. “You know that.”
By the end of the year he had moved in. We were blessed in our relationship. There hadn’t been many of the big challenging moments. His father passed a few weeks before our wedding, but it was expected, and while we mourned it hadn’t surprised us. Their relationship had been so strained, for so long. It was the first time though that I ever saw him cry – a moment that I think is imprinted in my memory. There is something about seeing a strong man mourn, something heartbreaking and frightening and so real it hurts that one simply doesn’t forget it.
I remember standing by his father’s bed. He sat in a chair across the room from me. I went to him, but he didn’t reach for me. I stepped back – gave him space. I didn’t know how to handle his grief. He took a few moments to himself and I watched him. I watched the years, the pain, the neglect from that relationship wash away. For those few moments there was love.
There hadn’t been many of those bring-you-to-your-knees moments. We didn’t even really fight or argue. We were thankful to have found a companion in one another that shared a similar sense of humor. Laughter got us through any time things seemed to be getting dark.
He stepped into the role of father as if it were all he’d ever known. It was never a look-at-me exercise, but came naturally. There was a gaping hole in our little family and he saw it, stepped into it, and never looked back. It was in the quiet way he made that transition that still never fails to amaze me.
He has a silent strength in him. A code of ethics that can’t be argued or even discussed. They simply are.
Perhaps it’s because of his quiet nature that people find him intimidating. Combining that with the sleeves of tattoos and long dark hair, it’s quite understandable. However, anyone watching him drink tea from a tiny porcelain cup with my daughter would realize how wrong they are.
Four years after that first date and I was talking to my brother in California, planning his trip home to visit.
“When is he coming home?” Mak asked.
“The end of June,” I said.
“Good,” he said. “We’ll get married then.”
Proposal. Date set. End of discussion.
I had a month to get everything planned and ready.
I love you, too. You know that.
After our wedding we decided to have a baby. A few short months later and I was excitedly waving those little pink lines around in the air. We were so excited we told everyone.
We were at his mother’s for a belated Thanksgiving dinner when I started miscarrying. My husband had the kids in the car while I stood white knuckled on the phone with the emergency room and watched my father-in-law toss the kids’ toys into their book bags. Hours and many tests later the doctor gave us the news.
“There’s no heartbeat.”
I’d known when I saw her face. I’d been crying since she came into the room. I looked across the room at my husband. I expected him to get up, to come to me. The doctor left and he still sat there for a few moments. In that space between us I watched him break, hit his emotional knees, mourn, and grieve. I watched him as he cared for himself and then he came to me. He put himself behind and cared for me.
For the following days he held me while I cried and found whatever ways he could to make me smile. We found laughter in the darkest moments. We suffered. We healed.
We spent months talking back and forth about whether or not to try again. The entire process had frightened him so badly. I learned to appreciate what pregnancy can do to a man. It’s a terrifying situation, especially for one who tends to like to be in control of things. There is no control with pregnancy.
He couldn’t see what was happening inside my body.
He couldn’t control what was happening.
He couldn’t stop me from being in pain, from hurting.
All he could do was be there and hope that I would heal.
“I’m not sure we should try again,” Mak said.
We were lying in bed, the lights off and waiting for one or both of us to become too tired to keep talking.
“We’ve got a girl and a boy,” he started. “You know? Maybe that’s enough.”
“You don’t want one of your own?” I asked.
“They are my own,” he said.
A few nights later we were repeating this whole thing again. It was like a record skipping, playing backwards, flinging all over the place. I never knew where we’d end up.
“We could try again,” he said.
“We’re not doing anything to stop it from happening,” I answered.
“If it does, it does,” he’d agree.
Three months of this back and forth indecision plagued us.
Finally he said, “I don’t think we should try again.”
“I’m pregnant,” I said.
We collapsed against one another laughing. For weeks we were quiet. We were so careful not to tell people too early. We went to each appointment with our heart in our throats. Every test was a negative, dangerous thing. Every symptom I had was cause to worry. We struggled to find joy.
Mak kept warning me not to get my hopes up.
I kept countering that he needed to not think so negatively.
We flew past each other, both of us on separate ends of our own emotional roller-coasters.
“Are you happy about the baby?” I finally asked him.
“Of course,” he said. “You know that.”
I love you, too. You know that.
I am five months pregnant today. A few weeks ago we went to the doctor and we got to hear the heartbeat. The tiny whomp whomp whomp sound filled the room. I was laid back on the bed watching my husband. He didn’t stand up and come to me. For a few moments, he sat there and smiled. I watched him in this moment of joy and excitement and relief. I watched him take that moment for himself and then he came to me.
He kisses me every morning before he leaves for work. He tells me he loves me before we fall asleep. He doesn’t have to say that he loves me. I know he does. All I need are those few moments, where there is space between us and I have the chance to really see my husband. It is in those moments that I get to watch him love.
I don’t talk about my uncle here much anymore, and part of me is sorry for that, but part of me understands that I’m at a place where I struggle to find humor in the situation. Alzheimer’s is a disgusting, terrible disease, but my uncle and I share the ability to laugh about most things. The last month or so has been hard as we are moving towards the prospect of putting him into the nursing home.
Let me just say that this is never some decision that is taken lightly. While there is a certain kind of relief in the thought, there is also a ton of guilt.
He’s so young to be there.
He could probably hold out here a bit longer.
It’s not that bad, is it?
Yes. Yes it is. And we can’t give him the kind of care he needs here any longer.
But it never fails that everyone else has an opinion on the matter. Let me explain. When you become a caregiver, everyone else knows the answers to all your problems. They’ve all of a sudden got it all figured out. And their vocal. I mean, people will come out of the woodwork to tell you how to improve your life, fix your situation, and best of all, explain what it will be like to care for someone.
Everyone becomes a doctor specializing in Alzheimer’s.
Everyone becomes a life coach.
Everyone knows the answer except me.
So today I’m bringing you the answers, as given to me countless times by people who aren’t in my situation, aren’t caring for a loved one, aren’t dealing with someone with Alzheimer’s, and doesn’t know what the heck they’re talking about.
Thank you, you egotistical jerks for bringing the laughter back.
1. You should come over? I can’t. I’ve got to stay home with my uncle. Oh he’ll be fine. Just let him stay on his own for a bit. He could probably use some time to himself. It’s got to be hard for him with the kids and all around. He’ll appreciate it.
Yes, well. Let’s just leave the man in the house alone who has hallucinations and sees people that aren’t there. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it when he’s trying to chase the bad guys out of his room alone. Or when he goes up in the attic to try to find his hunting rifles. Or when he gets mad about the invisible people trying to steal his truck. He obviously just needs some alone time. I’ll bring the hallucinations with me so he can get some rest.
2. He’d probably be happier if you let him do some of the things he used to like to do.
Of course he would. Tell you what, I’ll pack him up with all his fishing gear and hunting rifles. I’ll dress him in camo and you can just have yourself a blast taking him out to do all the outdoorsy things he used to love. Hell, I’ll even let him drive over and meet you there. . .so you can walk around the woods. . .with a man who can no longer recognize his own reflection in a mirror. Happy hunting.
3. Just put him in a home and move on with your life. You’re too young to be doing this.
Let me just say how happy it makes me to know that most of the people have this sort of advice. These are the future caregivers. “Just throw them in a home and move on with your life.” Gotcha. I’ll toss my morals, ethics, and soul right into a bag with him. I mean, this is such an easy decision to make, right? Sure. You just make sure you call me when you get older and I won’t beat around the bush. I’ll send you off to Shady Pines in a flash. It’s what you’d want.
4. I talked to him the other day and he seemed just fine. He didn’t even repeat himself much.
Yes, welcome to the wonders of Alzheimer’s. . .you know. . .that disease we know next to nothing about? Moments of clarity are wonderful little rays of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy mind. You got him on a good day. Good for you! Oh, did he just tell you the same story for the twelfth time? Welcome back to reality.
5. Have you even considered trying him back on medication? He wasn’t on it that long. I think it would benefit him to try again.
You mean the medications that turned moderately controllable hallucinations into episodes that involved knives and the police being called? Right. I’ll get right on that. . .as soon as my super strength returns and my order of Super Healing Potion comes in from FedEx.
6. Do you know what dementia does to the brain? -Proceeds to give me a long lecture on how the disease effects the brain, the short term memory, emotions, etc.-
Well aren’t you a happy little font of information. After living with my grandfather who suffered from dementia and now caring for my uncle. . .I really had no clue what this disease was doing, or how it worked. It’s a constant surprise over here. The doctors have told me nothing, and I was never one to learn from my past. It really is good you were here to explain all this to me with your extensive medical knowledge. . .Where did you get your degree again?
7. This can be destructive to a family. You need to just find a way to get him out from your inner circle before it causes problems with the core of the family.
You don’t say? Get him out of my inner circle? I suppose I should just put him down then, like a dog that might bite my children. In fact, why do we even bother to be caretakers for our sick and our elderly? It’s obvious that it could be draining and cause emotional frustration. We should just stick them somewhere away from us and let them die.
So to all of you who like to have these conversations with me, I just want to share my and my family’s heartfelt thank you. Now shut up.
*This post includes a lot of sarcasm. I certainly don’t feel like we shouldn’t care for our sick or elderly, or that they should be euthanized.
**Also, my uncle has never physically hurt anyone, but part of this disease does involve aggressive behavior, anger management issues, and the belief that everyone is out to “get them”.
Herstory Lesson: If there were a quick fix to every issue, no one would have any problems.
Growing up I wanted nothing more than to change my name. I went to school with a handful of other girls named Ashley and multiple others named Laura. As if that weren’t quite bad enough, my parents (lovely people that they are) decided to inflict eternal punishment on my brother and I by calling us by our middle names.
Which means I only answered to Ashley.
Or Laura Ashley Lord when I was in trouble. But more often than not, it was Ashley.
So I would go to school and the teacher would call on Laura, and I’d be looking around like a fool while twelve other hands went up and eventually it was narrowed down that she meant me. Now’s the fun part of explaining that I go by Ashley and watching the teacher scratch things out on her list, so the next time she called Ashley seven more hands could go up while I wondered if I was officially an Ashley now, or still Laura.
I wanted a new name.
By high school, I wanted a new image. I went through the goth stage where my closet looked like an Edgar Allan Poe wet dream. I went through the punk stage and wore pants with wide enough legs to be potentially used as parachutes if I happened to be dropped out of a plane. I went through the slut stage and dressed in the least amount of clothing the dress code would allow.
And I’ll never forget coming home with the Levi’s Too Super Low Ultra jeans and my father seeing that there were only two buttons and no zipper to them immediately made me return them. I was devastated…then. Now I’m thankful.
By the way, thank you Daddy.
I saw all this, because even now, at twenty-something years of age, I’m still trying to reinvent myself. I go through phases of wanted to strive to be something else other than who I am in that moment. I am surrounded by friends that call me Laura, and family that calls me Ashley. I have so many names. The children call me Mommy, or Shuggie, or Mama. The husband calls me baby, sweetcakes, or dork. Occasionally, my mother slips and calls me Cooterboo (what a wonderful nickname). My Uncle rarely refers to me by name, but I hold out hope that he remembers it. I’m Mrs. __________ now that I’m married and my author’s name remains my maiden name. Some of my paperwork is still in my previous married name. I’m the “Parent of _________”. I’m the taxi driver, the personal shopper, the chef, the doctor, and the one second genius next second ‘you know nothing’.
Is this adulthood? Would changing my name as a child have changed all that I’ve become today?
I love who I am today.
So when we went to my son’s first soccer game this past weekend and all the children were sitting in a circle introducing themselves for the first time, my son….of course, only my son…says his name is Mater.
I was sitting here thinking today about all the things I wanted to make sure I tell my daughter at some point. I’m not talking the ooie-gooey things like, “I love you” or “You’re beautiful”. I’m talking the real, down and dirty tricks that I’ve picked up over the years.
This post may be full of generalizations, profanity, and of course sex. We’ll rate it “R” for Ridiculously Awesome.
1. Ignore every commercial you see for those fancy women’s razors. Skip that department completely and go straight for the men’s. Regardless of what they say, men’s razors always work better.
Also, it is perfectly acceptable to go without shaving your legs, as long as you are wearing pants and/or the hair is short enough to not poke through your pantyhose.
2. Speaking of pantyhose…it will never be comfortable. Ever. You can save yourself a bit of pain and buy one size up from what the little box-from-hell says you need. Doing this will not, however, pull in nice and tight all the areas you may be wanting nice and tight. For that, you’re going to need Spanx.
No need to be afraid. Spanx are basically like packing your own sausage.
3. Oh yes, home-made sausage and fresh pasta and God only know what else his mother makes that you never quite manage to get right. Give up. Give up now. He will always compare your cooking to his mother’s, and she will win in almost every category. There is something inside a man’s head that makes him nostalgic for the meals he had growing up (even if his mother could barely manage Kraft in the blue box). There are ways to combat the feelings of anger this will cause you.
– Do not ask for your mother-in-law’s recipes, or to teach you how to make a certain dish. In fact, compliment her always on her food (Wine helps). This will do two things: irritate her and confuse the balance that she expects to be in place.
– Take comfort in knowing that if you have a son, somewhere out there is a woman who will feel exactly like you when your son says, “It’s not like my mother’s makes”.
– Offer to house-sit for your in-laws and have sex with your husband in their kitchen. Then when you are over for dinner, just think back on that experience and smile. (Pass the wine.)
4. Instead of worrying about his mother’s cooking, focus on learning one meal really well. I’m talking entree, at least two sides, salad, soup, bread, and desert. Master that meal. Work at it until it is perfect. This will be your go-to meal. Your company is coming over meal. Your his mother is visiting meal. Your time to give the husband the credit card statement meal.
5. Learn to walk in heels. Go out and buy six inch stiletto platform hooker shoes. Put them on and walk on them until you have nailed those monsters. This way you will be prepared for whenever the husband (or anyone else) gives you a pair of heels. If you can master those, you can handle any, and are therefore less likely to spend weeks walking around in your new gift like a drunken flamingo.
6. Your children will hit an age where they practically become a parrot. And like any wild animal, you either muzzle them or toss food bits at them until they shut up.
7. Your body is your own, guard it. Until you have children, then anything you might be delirious enough to believe is still yours, isn’t.
8. At some point, someone in your life is going to offer you drugs. There are certain steps I want you to take before you accept them.
– Look at the person giving them to you…very carefully. Pay attention to detail here.
– Imagine yourself having sex with them in the next hour.
– Imagine your having sex with them without protection.
– Imagine getting pregnant with them.
– Imagine them 50, balding, and changing the diaper of your sixth child on the ripped couch in your trailer, while the rest of your kids are in the backyard shooting BB guns and attempting to tie each other up with duct tape. Oh, and you’re in a floral moo-moo.
– Turn around and walk away very quickly.
* The same applies to alcohol in excess. Except when you grow up. Then flip the image and imagine all your housework. Drink wine until the image disappears.
9. Finally, before you ever consider some life-long venture with a man, consider these things:
– Sex sucks the first time.
– Sex sometimes sucks the first couple of times. There’s a reason one-night stands normally stay that way. It takes a bit of time to actually learn one another well enough to have amazing sex.
– That didn’t apply to your father and I…and yes, we were a one-night stand turned marriage.
– Your father and I are NOT the role model in this situation.
– All the sex stuff aside, if they aren’t the kind of man you’d want to introduce to your father…best to just let that one go.
– If they don’t treat you the way you see your father treat me, run.
– If they put their hands on you, experience tells me crock-pots can be dangerous as hell. Make your way to a kitchen and it’ll be like running into the Matrix armory.
– If they cheat on you, they will do it again. If you’re the girl they cheated on someone with, they’ll cheat on you, too.
– If their pants sag, I WILL make them a soprano for life. You’ve been warned.
– If you can’t laugh with them, lose them.
– If you can’t laugh at them, trip them 😀
And finally, let me just say…
You are not allowed to look at your body and say, “I don’t like -insert body part here-“.
– And my favorite up and coming event: The New Year’s Resolutions
So I’m doing something different for that last one and I’d like to see how many people I can get to join in with me.
This year I’m saying “Screw You” to the resolutions (not like I ever keep them any way) and pouring my energy into the Love My Body campaign.
C’mon…you know you wanna join in.
Come New Year’s Day check in here to see an awesome photo of me along with a nice long list of things I need to remember throughout the year that I love about my body.
I mean, today I walked into Walmart and all the Christmas junk was hidden off in some obscure corner, while the Slim Fast, work-out gear, and dumbbells were front and center. It was like a walk of shame down the main aisle, while I stared at my arch enemy, Special K. I swear, those red K’s were tossing up gang signs and holding the ‘L’ up on their foreheads to accompany me.
And eff that.
Eff that walk of shame.
Eff these stores and commercials and propaganda to make us think that only once a year we should be striving to better ourselves.
Eff everything that takes a huge after Christmas dump on our self-esteem.
Eff these resolutions that end up being just one more sense of pressure in our rush-rush-rush lives.
And eff Special K.
So, what about you? Want to join me for the Love Your Body campaign? If so, send me a link to your version of it come New Year’s! I’ll be featuring an entire blog devoted to the awesome ladies and gents who join me in this little endeavor.
A few months ago, the husband and I went through a terrible loss. After multiple trips to the doctor and finally getting the green light for some quality time of the midnight-everyone-is-sleeping-we-still-have-to-be-quiet variety, I took the doc’s advice and went out and bought spermicide.
Let me just interject here and say that we are obviously two people who are simply not meant to use any form of contraceptive except implanted birth controls. Truly, our brains are simply not wired for this stuff.
But the doc said no baby making for two months, so we wanted to get in some practice before we catch that next green light. It was sort of like a Christmas present. Insert spermicide.
I read the instructions and proceeded to remove the applicator and try to fill that thing with the gel stuff. It was like packing my own tampon. I finally called in the reinforcements, which is when we realized that the applicator doesn’t come together in the way it is supposed to be used. You have to take it apart. Switch it around.
After I’d already filled the plunger part halfway with gel.
Yay. Let’s make a mess.
Finally, between the two of us, we managed to get the thing filled and then I continued with my instruction reading:
It is best to lay on your back, with your knees bent to insert.
Of course I read this out loud. Which is about when I get laughter and this from the husband:
Head down. Arms in. Knees apart.
I mean, as if the romance wasn’t already flowing at this point, now we were collapsed into fits of laughter that made it impossible for me to even attempt to insert this thing. There’s nothing so hot as watching a chick on her back, knees apart, clutching a syringe-looking thing of spermicide while she is laughing uncontrollably, eyes-watering and make-up running.
Insert as far as is comfortable.
Gotcha. So I did, let out a loud ouch, and got:
That’s not comfortable. Back ‘er up.
At this point I was giving serious consideration to slapping him into the moment. I mean, as if this whole thing weren’t stressful hilarious enough, he has to jump in with his little comments. I kept thinking about my mother telling me her horror stories using this stuff. She and my father tried it one time…
By the way, these are the kinds of conversations that put your children in need of therapy. Just saying.
…and my father had some sort of reaction. He supposedly jumped up and ran off with his necessary love-making parts on fire. They obviously didn’t use spermicide again, and we were left with an ungodly amount of fear.
Yes. Let’s add liquid fire in here. Not like it’s sensitive or anything. This should be fun.
So, we finally get everything in where it is supposed to be and I read the rest of the instructions.
Product is active immediately after use and for up to one hour.
Crap, we only got an hour! We gotta go! Hurry up! C’mon! -Me
That’s really romantic.
I won’t fill you in on the rest of the messy details…except to say that at the end of the this tale, we didn’t get our happily ever after.
We got towels and attempted to wipe clean every surface of our bodies.
I recently asked some of my readers what their favorite story or poem was from each of my books. After figuring out which was the most popular, I decided to post that choice here.
But that’s not all, because that would be relatively boring.
Not really…but this part is more exciting!
I’m doing another contest!
CONTEST CONTEST CONTEST
Yep. You could win a copy of one of my books…I’ll even let you choose. All you have to do is find me on Facebook (http://facebook.com/HistoryofaWoman) and LIKE my page. Yep. That’s it. I’ll gather all the new names and on December 15th will draw a winner. That’s only a few days! So get on Facebook and click that Like button!
Now, for the reader’s choice from my first book, Wake Up a Woman: