Eat, Pray, Whine

 My husband and I just returned from a couple’s mini-version of Eat, Pray, Love. We had cashed in on a couple of gift certificates we received this Christmas, and took a much-needed reprieve from parenthood and the hell that has been this winter. We rested well knowing Little Man was spending the weekend with our most trustworthy babysitters, Grandma and Grandpa C.

The weekend was bliss. We caught up with some wonderful friends in their new home and discussed paint swatches, art, Buddhism, sex, real estate, and Sarah Silverman episodes. I browsed in boutiques for hours without uttering the words, “Don’t touch!” We took a long walk to the beach, yes, the beach (it was a downright balmy 30 degrees) of Lake Michigan where I proved to my winter-weary New Mexican husband that Wisconsin CAN be pretty in February. We had massages, meditation, and delicious meals, one at this restaurant that borderlined on a sexual experience. Yes, it was a weekend where the shoulders finally drop away from the ears, all of the senses get some play time, and the left and right brain are in balance. Surely this retreat would get me through the rest of winter.

It didn’t even get me through 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, which found us in my mother’s living room staring blankly while our extremely loud son shook Grandpa’s bald head back and forth like a cat toy. By 11:00, my shoulders had crept up to my earlobes and I was crabby as hell. Why couldn’t those fleeting hours of serenity transfer into my daily routine, thus creating Zen Mom for at least two days this week? 

They say it takes at least 48 hours of vacation for us to significantly relax. By the time we were getting used to that foreign feeling, we were back on duty. I didn’t even get a chance to miss my son. So I sulked. We didn’t gently ease back into reality, it was thrown back in our faces like a cream pie.

This Monday morning started at 3:00 a.m. with my son whining to come into our bed. I was initially tender, but after hearing him drone, “Mo-ooom” in fifteen minute intervals from 3:15 until 4:30, I bristled hard. I plucked him out of his bed, put him into ours with a “There, are you happy?” and stomped out to make coffee. My solace in thinking that I would now have a couple of quiet hours to write and breathe was completely shattered at 5:00 when I saw his little duck fuzz head poke upstairs, ready to start the day. Sigh.

The next hour of the morning was spent trying to outpout my husband, because whoever is the crabbiest usually gets temporary amnesty from parenting. Jeff is getting sick and is facing yet another ass-clenching drive in newly promised snow. He accused me of spending the morning blogging angrily about my family. And what’s the use of a relaxing weekend if I’m only going to focus on the negative of returning home? He won, because in observing his foul mood, I was no longer irritable with mine.  

I am not angry with my family. Anger, for me, is based on intelligent observation of injustice or wrongdoing and can last a long, long time. I am crabby. Crabbiness is based on the scientific fact that I’m being a big baby and this usually runs its course in 24 hours. I wanted one more day, dammit, okay, maybe two. No fair. But that’s not reality, so after I take a few more moments to whine, those mental epiphanies I had this weekend WILL start to seep into my daily routine. One of those being that I AM happy to return to the home I have. And yes, writing a blog will actually help, as its proving to be a most effective form of short-term therapy for me.

See, I do love my job, more than any other occupation I’ve had. I am grateful that I can keep this job. But I need breaks. And like any job, when I’m in a bad mood, my co-workers are affected. Unfortunately, in this work place they take my moods a little more personally. ‘Cause when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So there’s a lot of pressure to shake off those cranky moods fast. And I don’t get the 45-minute commute to do it, I hit the ground running, crabby or not. Like anyone, I should be allowed a few miserable Monday mornings, especially after an idyllic weekend.

The weekend away was truly worth the bumpy transition home. If I didn’t have my occasional escapes, I wouldn’t be a healthy wife or mother. But if I weren’t a wife or mother, my escapes wouldn’t be very healthy. I need both to fully enjoy what the other has to offer. 

How’s that for balanced thought on a Monday morning? Thank God those Advil kicked in.               

The Younger Man

When I was 31, I had a date with a 24-year old. Now, I knew better, I really did. But I met him at a mutual friends’ house. I trusted my friend. And I knew he had a sense of humor. That is crucial. And he did make a point of getting my number from our friend. And I thought that was sweet. It had been a while since I had been on a REAL date. So I said ‘yes’. Even my mother knew better. “Too bad…” she said when I told her his age, “…well, maybe just go out once, and have fun.” She had learned to be realistic when it came to my love life.

He was a half an hour late in picking me up. Being an obnoxiously prompt person, I usually don’t let that sit well, but I wasn’t investing any expectations into this one anyway. If it weren’t for my barking dog, I never would have opened the door and saw his lost soul wandering right down the middle of the street looking for my house. He had left the directions to my house in his apartment. Hmmm. Not a good sign.  

We took off in his car, a boxy, rusting white sedan borrowed from a gay cruise line pianist who was a family friend. He then asked ME where we should go. “You mean you don’t have a plan for tonight?!” I couldn’t hide my shock. He gave me a brutally honest answer. He purposely didn’t plan anything big for the first date because if we didn’t like each other, then we won’t waste the money and energy on a nice but uncomfortable dinner. Let’s just get to know each other and go from there. I initially bristled at that logic, but was distracted by his handsome face, so I accepted that it made perfect sense.   

I suggested my favorite brew pub, where the IPA should not really be legal. After the second pint, my young date and I had already discussed our dating history and many of our family secrets. By the fourth pint, we had examined the qualities of a good mate, the pitfalls of casual relationships and their damage to the psyche, the benefits of and hope for a monogamous relationship and our future life goals.

Who WAS this 24-year old? No guy this age wants monogamy. He’s too nice. My god, he isn’t going to stand a chance out there in the dating world with THIS attitude. He’s going to get eaten alive. And then it dawned on me. He doesn’t have to go back out there.

“You know that I am 31, right? I mean, I’m the older woman…” Nervous laughter…

He looked me straight in the eyes. “I don’t care. I don’t see that when I look at you. When I look at you, all I see is a beautiful woman.”

Ding, ding, ding! Yes, young man, that is the correct answer! That automatically qualifies you for the next bonus round…..

It was Feb. 12, 2000, eight years ago today, when I went out on that date…  

…that young buck has a few more wrinkles now around his stormy eyes. They crinkle when he scoops and snuggles our son or the dog that beckoned him to my house that night. He still gets easily lost. It is a rare occasion for us to drink four pints in one sitting and actually remain sitting. But he has grown. In eight years, he has moved across the country, became a father, gone to war, got a degree, renovated a humble home, and started a solid career. He has made many sacrifices for my happiness. He wipes my tears, makes me laugh, pisses me off, picks me up, annoys me, hears me out, ignores me, turns me on, supports me, humors me, thanks me, and always tells me he loves me. His honesty and integrity continue to impress and teach me. His love and faith in me make me grow.

He is truly my prince.

And when he looks at me, straight in the eyes, I know he still sees his beautiful woman.

So although we had a wonderful second date on Valentine’s Day, today marks the real anniversary of the day and the date with the young buck that has changed my life forever.

I love you with all my heart Jeff. Thank you for asking me out.