Friday, December 2, 2016

I Feel Bad For You Because You're Married

Okay, so I don't really feel bad for you because you're married. I just wanted you to know what it feels like when us Singles get that sympathetic "bless your heart" look as soon as people find out that we're unattached.

At first I thought I needed to be careful about how I worded this blog. After all, I'm widowed and not divorced so I'm sure that someone is going to read this and think I'm glad my husband is dead.

Believe me...that's not the case.

But he is and that's the reality. And in the last 9 years and counting I've experienced casual dating, serious relationships, great first dates, horrible dinners that make me want to run screaming from a restaurant, two dodged marriage proposals, and a partridge in a pear tree. 

When I managed to untangle myself from the last serious encounter, I was so shell-shocked by the whole experience that I couldn't fathom getting into another relationship. Weeks turned into months which turned into years of being single. And since then, I've found a new love.


Now, I'm not completely alone. I do have three kids. But as far as a relationship goes...I'm blissfully, enthusiastically, not-a-moment-of-regret SINGLE.

I think a lot of your Marrieds and Committeds out there think that when Singles say we like being on our own, we're just saying that because we can't find a man (or a woman). I guess that could be true in some cases, but when I talk to many of my single friends we are so happy living in Singledom that we truly can't imagine living anywhere else.

I feel like I need to explain this because in the last two days I've received a phone call from a professional acquaintance who began the conversation with, "Please tell me you're seeing someone" and my mother telling me, "Don't worry. You'll find someone!"

Uh. I'm not worried.

Here's the deal. I've been around long enough to know that if I just wanted to get out there and find a man...I can. I'm not saying that to brag, but it's true. If you REALLY want to be in a relationship, you'll make it happen. But it's unfathomable to people that I don't want to.

So, I'm going to tell you the reasons why I'm enjoying this time in my life so much.

1. I hate it when people snore, but I snore too. So, I'm more than happy to curl up with my silent dog who overlooks this little issue. I sleep with 4 pillows, he sleeps with 2. We know our boundaries and give each other space. We both know we don't like to be touched while we sleep and he's the best about sleeping facing the other way so I don't wake up to morning breath. Best relationship I've had in years.

2. No one comes home and asks me why I haven't showered that day. Or why I worked in my PJs until 5 PM. I don't worry about weight gain or loss. I've completely changed my hairstyle without worrying what my significant other will say about it. All of this combined makes for a very liberating experience.

3. Girls Night Out? No problem! No, you don't have to hang on while I check with someone else's schedule.

4. Do I feel like cooking? Sure. Take-out tonight? No problem! I talked to another mom the other day who had gotten take-out for herself and her kids because her husband was out that night and she didn't feel like she needed to cook. She got my sympathetic nod.

5. I don't get frustrated watching someone sit on the couch playing solitaire on their phone while I clean the kitchen and get the kids ready for bed (I love my late husband, but I still get annoyed thinking about that). Yes, I know I have to do it all on my own. But I know what needs to get done and I do it without watching someone else relax while I sweat through the evening chores.

6. I. GET. THE. REMOTE. During Thanksgiving weekend, not one football game was on at my house and I watched Downton Abbey for 72-hours straight. Sure, my kids were irritated but I'm a parent. I'm supposed to annoy my kids.

7. Now, here's the hard one. Traveling. I would love to travel more and it's hard to think about going alone. But I believe that when the time comes, I will find ways to do it. I'll go with other friends or find a group. The point is, I'll be able to go where I want to go. I'm in control. I'll go on vacation and sleep all day if I want to or do other things that I want to do.

8. Freedom. I know lots of things are racing through your mind when I say that, but what I think of are really little things. The day before Thanksgiving I cooked all day and watched Christmas movies. It was as I was standing at my counter making Almond Joy Macaroons (highly recommend) that the thought "I'm completely happy right now" floated through my mind. Content. Doing exactly what I wanted to be doing in that moment. Alone and happy.

9. I believe I've grown more living in Singledom than I did as a Married. I've had to get creative about how I spend my time, how to make a living, and how to parent three kids alone. I've had to ask myself over and over again what I (me, myself and I) want out of life and I don't have to take anyone else into consideration. I think ahead to when the kids are grown and am already planning the things I will do to keep busy, keep growing, and stay independent (I don't want to be one of those clingy moms).

10. Every decision is mine and mine alone. Now, when I was first widowed, this scared the crap out of me. If I'm being honest, sometimes it still does. Thinking about getting the kids through college or handling a basement flood on my own is daunting to say the least. But in the last few years I've found a confidence I've never had before. I've realized that I can tackle this stuff. I've found professionals to call when I need them. I have a network of wonderful friends and family who help me as I would them. Yes, I miss how handy my husband was and sometimes I would REALLY LOVE to have that again, but I also don't miss having a plumbing issue that he would tell me he would fix when he got home...two weeks later.

11.  I was going to keep this list to 10, but I really have to add this one - you moms/wives out there will know what I'm talking about. There are times when I get my house completely to myself. When you're married...that is so rare. Sometimes all the kids will be at sleepovers or activities and I embrace that time. And you know you would too because I've talked to so many women who get almost teary when they think about it. It's like what Tina Fey said in Date Night: "I don't fantasize about being with another man. If anything I think about being alone, in a hotel room, with a Diet Sprite." I hear ya, sister. I love it, too.

I was talking to a friend's mom the other day and she spoke about her divorced sister who, she said, would probably never get remarried. "She's too spoiled" was her conclusion.

Now, I can't speak to that specific case, but I don't believe that being single makes you spoiled. What it does is make you MORE of who you actually are. And as time goes by, it gets harder and harder to think about being flexible and making compromises. I've gotten pretty used to doing things when I want to do them and how I want them done.

Since the 8th grade, I've almost always been in a relationship of some sort. I've always had a guy. For me, it came from a lot of insecurity. I needed the validation of being in a relationship. It wasn't until my mid-30s that I took the time to be by myself because, the truth is, it scared me. In fact, I almost made some pretty unwise commitments out of fear.

I wish I could have told my newly widowed self that I would be okay. I'm pretty good company to hang out with on a Friday night. I make myself laugh. I can cook. I can play a tune on the piano or sit quietly at a movie on my own and I don't annoy myself by talking through it. I'm a pretty good date.

For me.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

10 Reasons I'm Grateful for this Election

I'm betting that some of you read that title and thought, "Great. Another post that tells me I'm supposed to hug the neighbor I'd like to punch and that we just need to sweep what's happened under the rug and get on with our lives."

Well, yes and no.

You don't have to hug your neighbor. We're getting into flu season and that may not be wise. And I'll tell you right now...I hate sweeping.

Like a lot of the country I've been trying to process this week. I've felt this wild mix of emotions and I've been getting my money's worth out of my anti-anxiety medication. I spent the day after the election feeling drained and looking at the world as if I'd never seen it before.

But there have been many bright spots to what's happened, too. And in an effort to try and save some money on therapy, I'm choosing to focus on those.

1. On the morning after the election, my 15-year-old daughter came downstairs for breakfast and learned the election results. For a moment she looked defeated. We talked for a moment about her three best friends - an African American girl, a Muslim, and an openly gay friend - and how they might be feeling that morning, how some extra sensitivity might be needed.

She then sat up straight and said, "I can't wait for the next election so I can fix this." Yes! She WILL be able to vote in the next election and the fact that she's so invested in what's happened isn't a bad thing. This new generation - which I believe in many ways is a more tolerant and open group - watched this election carefully. And many didn't like what they saw.

2. This has been a huge lesson in complacency. I've had others before, with my local school district which I watched deteriorate as I kept saying to myself, "This isn't really happening, is it?" But now I know these things can happen. And Hillary herself said at one point near the end of the election, "Don't get complacent" when the rest of the country thought the election was in the bag.

Don't just sit back and let things happen. Don't assume anything about any situation. Be vigilant. Be the change you want to see.

3. Okay, so this is a big one and if Blogger would let me I'd draw big arrows to this point.

Yes, I've seen all of the posts on social media about some awful things that are happening. It is true that some racists out there have taken this election as a sign that their behavior is okay so they've decided to ramp it up a little bit. I agree, that's scary.

All I can comment on is what I've experienced post-election and that is what I feel is a huge outpouring of kindness. When I go out, I feel like we're all being very careful with each other. I've actually experienced more smiles and conversations - not about the election, but people just making small talk with each other - than I have in a long time.

And here is a small example.

I've recently had a family move in next door who is originally from Iraq (they've been in the US for a while, though). Yes, the wife is completely covered and she hardly speaks English. But their kids are delightful and respectful (and, truth be told, I think they have a family dinner on Sunday nights that makes me want to knock on their door and invite myself in because it smells so good) and the husband always waves enthusiastically as he drives by. I don't know them well, but they've been great neighbors.

The day after the election the husband's car broke down just as he was backing out of his driveway. My parents and I were standing outside and my mom said, "I wonder if he needs help." I walked over to his open window and asked if we could help him push is car back into the driveway so it was out of the street.

He looked surprised for a moment and then his face broke into an enormous smile. "No, no! I have someone coming out to help me," he said.

"Are you sure? We're happy to help."

"That's okay." His smile broadened.

As I walked away I heard him call from the car, "God bless you."

I don't know how to explain it, but during such a tense day...that kind of made my afternoon.

4. As adults, we've just learned the lesson we're constantly trying to teach our kids which is that not everyone wins. We're disappointed, sad, fearful of the unknown. But we have to keep moving. We have to keep going.

5. I've learned about the people I thought I knew well. And I know I mentioned this in my previous post about Trump, but I need to expand on it.

First, I DO NOT believe that the people within my social circle are racists and all of the other words that have been thrown around. Yes, I do think those people are out there, but I think that many people who voted didn't vote for Trump - they voted for the bigger picture that they believed in. I think that a lot of those people probably feel just as unsure of the future as the people who voted against him.

But what's been disappointing is the response from some of the Hillary supporters I've seen. It's been offensive to me. Yes, I know we're all going through a huge range of emotions, but what I've seen isn't helping anyone. And at this point I'm just as likely to unfriend someone for their response to the election as I was to unfriend someone because of what they were posting during the election.

6. Of course, that's made me examine how I handle losing because (not that I'm perfect) it's been a while since I've lost something I cared so deeply about. And that's also made me wonder why I was so invested in this election.

And I've realized that, thanks to social media, we all made it so personal. Actually we made it personal and impersonal at the same time.

So much was thrown around that seemed to stab at what I believe in...and it was easy to do from the sanctuary of a keyboard. Had I been sitting face-to-face with many of these people, I think things would have been handled better. But as the election process went on, people began to personally attack each other. Which not only made me feel like my candidate lost...but you were voting against me, personally. Instead of saying to someone, "Why do you support this?" we quickly went to "You're stupid. You're a racist. If you don't vote for Hillary you're sexist" and many other personal attacks on both sides.

Please keep in mind that when you do that...we all lose.

7. Again, I mentioned this in my previous Trump post, but in many ways his terrible public behavior has prompted a lot of conversations in my house about what's appropriate and what's not. We've talked about race, religion, gender equality and other topics that might not have been fully addressed otherwise.

The question "What do I tell my children?" is a valid one. And I have the answer. You tell them what you should have been telling them all along: Bullying is not okay. Treating women with respect is not a choice - you just do it. Yes, my daughter, you are valued and you have so much to give. Yes, every race and religion is important to who we are as a country. Love is never wrong.

You will have these conversations because a bad example has been put in front of your kids. But bad examples are everywhere. I've experienced people in Human Resources roles who are racist, bosses who should have never been in a management role, and don't get me started on what our kids witness with so many celebrities. People we don't agree with are constantly in positions to influence our kids.

Now, rather than assuming they know good values when they see them, you're going to have the conversation over and over again and teach them. We should be doing that anyway.

8. In some weird way, this election has made me even more proud of my country. I didn't realize that until I attended my daughter's elementary school Veterans Day celebration the day after the election. Fifty veterans walked in as 600 children chanted "USA!" and waved American flags. They each stood and said their years of service. My daughter sang her solo, Let There be Peace on Earth, and I wiped tears from my eyes, trying to figure out what I was feeling. Was it sadness?

No. It was hope.

9. This country is fired-up about CHANGE in a way it hasn't been in a very long time. Democrats want to change the system because they feel it failed them. Republicans wanted change all along which is why they voted the way they did.

I believe that after this election, there will be more focus on finding candidates that each party can be proud of. I know that many couldn't wait to get Hillary into office and I've heard from some that Trump's private demeanor is very different from his public one. But for most of the country, this election was about picking the lesser of two evils. We deserve better than that. And I believe we will fight for it.

 10. This election has changed my perspective in so many ways. It's not fair to try and force someone to your side when you're unyielding yourself. Being dismissive of others and their opinions is not okay and, frankly, I think that's what got us into this mess. Instead of stopping and listening, in many cases we shut our minds off the moment we thought, "They don't know what they're talking about."

In this election, more than any other in my lifetime, people had reasons for voting the way they did. No one I know took this lightly. I'm tired of people blaming others who voted for a third party. I'm tired of people being thought of as pot-smoking hippies because they voted for Hillary. I'm tired of people thinking that every person who voted for Trump is going to start walking around with assault riffles come January.

I don't believe that many of the voters out there from either party are as black and white on the issues as some would like to think they are. 

The world is made up of many colors, my friends. And many shades of gray.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Practical Tips for Watching the Presidential Debate

Well, another debate is upon us which means that if you haven't completely given up on social media, you're in for a wild ride tonight.

I think most of us have figured out that the Presidential Debate Drinking Game is probably not the healthiest way to go. I realized that during the first debate when I woke up the next morning wearing nothing but the American flag and a cowboy hat.

Recently I saw an article from the Wall Street Journal that encouraged yoga for the debates, but I feel like that will just have us all tied up in knots - mentally and physically.

Now, let's be honest. We ALL know the issues that are going to be brought up tonight and we'll have the added discomfort of watching President Obama's half-brother sitting on the other team's side while Hillary Clinton has asked a couple of billionaires to sit in her corner (hope they're bringing their tax returns).

If you'd like to sit this one out, I completely understand. So I've decided to sum it up for you NOW so you can go to bed early. Yes, I have suddenly discovered I have political psychic powers that will anger and amaze both parties.

You're welcome.

  • Trump will criticize Clinton for all of the past issues with Obamacare. All of the problems will be presented to her in no particular order but the outcome of this will be his assurance that he can defeat ISIS.
  • Clinton will smile and listen to her earpiece before asking for his tax returns. 
 The Plight of the Middle Class
  • Trump will relate to hardworking people everywhere by reminding them that he came from nothing but $1 million in seed money from his father and that his work ethic is what it will take to defeat ISIS.
  • Clinton will remind him that it was $14 million and ask if that was documented on his tax returns.
Violence Throughout the Country:
  • Trump will remind everyone that he is focused on the issues that plague inner cities while suburban moms watch and wonder if it's okay to send their kids to the neighborhood school two blocks away from home.
  •  Clinton will smile vacantly while he talks and then go into her thoughts on gun control before asking for his tax returns.
Tax Loopholes:
  • When asked about his tax history, Trump will finally be frustrated enough to bring up a related topic - Bill Clinton's infidelities and Hillary's complicit behavior while Bill tries to glare at him through the bags under his eyes. He will then tell everyone that his tax returns were in the emails that Clinton deleted and can't be retrieved.
  •  Hillary will smile smugly as America Googles "Presidential Candidate Infidelities" and scrolls through 15 pages of sexual assault accusations directed toward Donald Trump, including one in Latin that no one understands.
  • Trump will assure us all that he has plans in place (presumably screaming, "You're fired!" before pushing the button that will nuke everything south of Turkey) and that they are good plans. Huge.
  • Clinton will amaze us all with her plan that we don't understand and we suspect was taken from an episode of Scandal where the characters talk so fast we just assume they know what they're doing. She will mention that defending the country would be a little easier if Trump would pay his taxes.

I have now saved you 90 minutes wasted, the embarrassment of finding yourself in a yoga pose you can't get out of, and a hangover.  What I cannot rescue you from is a newsfeed full of things you don't agree with even from friends who are voting for the same person you are.

For those of you who will bravely go forth and watch the debates tonight, I wish you good health and good luck.

And remember that ripping your television from the wall doesn't hurt anyone else but you and that the candidates can't actually hear you when you're screaming.