Family Far and Wide

Mom, Mike, Cindy & Tim 1980

I just made up a hashtag. #MWNKIT=Mom With No Kids In Town. I can’t be the only one. In fact I know I’m not as Al and I celebrate Thanksgiving every year with friends who also have two sons that live in other states. Our kids grew up together and none of us ever thought they would leave for good. Raise their families elsewhere.

But they did and we have to live with it. It’s not easy, but it gets less painful every year. There’s still an ache, but FaceTime helps. I got to see my sons with their sons this holiday and it did my heart good. What I would prefer is to move to the west coast where they are, but Al is still working, and also, for him more than me, this is our home.

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One way I recently learned to deal with the #MWNKIT feeling is to think of the painful stuff as just part of the ups and downs of life. Include the pain of missing someone (or a bunch of someones) into my idea of “life” and instead of judging it good or bad, just accept that this is how life is. Stop the inner struggle that would wish things were as they used to be. Because they aren’t but that doesn’t mean life can’t be good as it is.

I had to put this to the test when my dad took a fall recently and landed in the hospital in Florida. Many family members here in Detroit, me included, wanted to rush right down there and be with him. We wished he was here, with us. But he’s not. He’s there, we’re here. My dad is 79. He is precious to me. But, as Al reminded me, this is my home. Yes, I get that.

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Me, Dad & Owen

Now I just have to convince my dad to get a smart phone so I can FaceTime with him until February when Al and I make our annual visit.

Rock Star

A package came from overseas. My dear friend Ali sent a stone that came directly from a mountain in Greece. It’s gorgeous! She also sent some other things from England. And it’s not even my birthday! I have so busy with NaNo, typing out 2K per day every day. So getting Ali’s gift was a bit like a reward for hard work done (and lots more yet to do, about 5 days away from half way:) I have to say I was also thrilled with the exotic Royal Mail stamp.

I only thought about this after I received the stone, but Ali has provided me with something I have been heartbroken about missing. Al and I had been planning a trip to Greece in 2016 with a stop in London (and a short train ride to Ali’s village from there for a nice lunch:)) Then the Greek currency crisis happened and we really didn’t want to travel there with the economic flux. So we postponed the trip. I’d built it up in my head, and was so looking forward to it. I’d done a great deal of research and was primed to go. I really thought I’d be meeting Ali IRL sooner than later. And then, alas, fate.

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A big part of the trip to Greece, a highlight, was a trek up a mountain on an uninhabited island that was once a spiritual mecca for pilgrims. There are still ancient ruins at the top of the mountain, and in fact all over the tiny island. It’s like a museum on the Aegean sea. Alas, I will have to wait for Greek fortunes to turn. But in her own perceptive way, Ali sent me a piece of a Greek mountain and also something of England too.

Life Without Wine

IMG_1874Recently I’ve given up wine. It’s been two months since I’ve had any alcohol at all, which for some people might not be a big deal but for a frequent wine drinker who loves the occasional martini…well, it’s been interesting. And not as difficult as I thought. The reason I was forced into a life without wine is simple: a new medication that absolutely cannot be mixed with any form of alcohol. The meds are short-term, so I sincerely hope to have a glass of wine again soon. But for now, no.

I wondered when I first realized I’d have to give up wine for a bit if I’d have some sort of withdrawal symptoms. I didn’t, which was a relief. I thought I’d at least suffer minor psychological withdrawal, like when I quit chocolate, or bread. Wine has been my relaxation method of choice for most of my adult life. Wine makes a party or social occasion much more fun. It creates a festive feeling when out on a dinner date with my husband. I was sure I’d miss those couple of glasses in the evening, winding down with a favorite television program or a movie.

But in the last sixty or so days, there might have been maybe one or two times that I really got all wistful and wished I could just stop with the medication already. It’s necessary for now. When I mentioned to my doctor’s assistant that I’d like to be done with the medication as soon as possible because I missed my wine, she said “oh nobody pays attention to those warnings!” It’s true. Almost everyone I know who takes similar meds also drinks alcohol. Still, I’m not going to combine them.

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The medication I’m taking short-term is for insomnia; the irony is alcohol has been known to cause sleep disruption, so it’s probably not something I should be indulging in quite so often anyway. For me, now that I’m getting proper rest, sleep is not the biggest surprise of this alcohol-free existence. The biggest surprise is that my weight has stabilized in a most dramatic fashion. All my jeans fit, every single day. There are no more five pound weight gains during a hectic week. Every day, even if I eat a little sugar or splurge on carbs, my weight is the same, or within a pound of what it has been since I quit wine.

I shouldn’t be too surprised. I remember when I was in Weight Watchers one of the leaders said she always had a problem reaching her goal weight until she quit wine. “I didn’t drink that much,” she told us during a meeting. “A glass or two every other night, maybe. But the minute I stopped indulging in wine, the rest of my weight came off.” This was her secret weight loss trick. I needed a trick of my own, as I never did reach my goal weight on Weight Watchers. At the time, I didn’t want to hear about quitting wine. I liked my wine more than I liked being at goal weight.

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I’ve kind of hit the pause button on achieving the goal weight of my earlier days. I’m a size ten or twelve and while that is not svelte, it is okay. I never like to say never–as far as never hoping to lose that last ten pounds or never having a glass of wine ever again. I might lose the weight some day, if I want it enough. And I am sure there’s at least one more glass of wine in my future. But I also know that if I find my weight starting to creep up and the pounds are harder to lose, I will look first toward the Chardonnay consumption.

The Starter Wife

2wedding.SKMBT_C36413092514530Thirty years ago today I married my third husband. I was his first wife. He wanted the whole wedding, with a big party and the church and a tuxedo. I agreed, but only because it was his first go-round. Frankly I was a little embarrassed inviting people to yet another celebration of forever love. I knew damn well love, at least for me, didn’t seem to last forever. And there were already red flags flying, long before the wedding day dawned.

We’d broken up when he decided we should postpone the wedding after we set the date and everyone had been invited. Then we got back together, but only because I made him choose, all or nothing. Marriage or break up for good. I was a single mom, in the middle of a custody war with no end in sight. I had to be tough. He chose me, but sometimes he’d say “everyone has a starter wife, right?” I wasn’t sure he was joking.

On our wedding day, someone set a video camera up by the keg of beer on the patio. This would become our wedding video. When we got back from our honeymoon (not all hearts and flowers) and watched the video from our wedding day, I heard Al’s friends making bets on how long the marriage would last. Not long, was the general consensus. Less than a year.

Things were rocky as a landslide those first months, that first year. We had completely different ideas about how marriage worked and neither one of us was very good at compromise. There were lots of tears and hurt feelings. He flung the word divorce around so liberally I once went into the boys’ bedroom to find them filling their little gym bags, the ones they used when they switched houses to their dads’ place.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“We’re packing. Al says we’re getting a divorce.”

I told them Al didn’t mean it, we were not getting a divorce, grown ups sometimes said things they didn’t mean when they were upset. The boys calmed down and unpacked their toys and pajamas. But they looked sad. Which broke my heart. Maybe I should get a divorce. Maybe Al really didn’t want to be married to me and maybe I had been a fool to think I could fall in love again and finally make it work. So many more red flags had popped up since we’d said “I do.”

There was the way he never told me when he made plans with his guy friends, just went out. On Friday night. To the bar. And plenty of other nights, too. No discussion, just “see ya.” Or the times I’d try to do something nice for him, like throwing him a birthday party or buying him a little gift, and he’d always say “how much is this going to cost me?” Then there was the way he flung around the D word. The way he’d been so mean on our honeymoon, falling asleep on the road to Hana so I had to drive down that mountain myself, terrified the whole time. Not my idea of a romantic hero. Not at all.

Even on our wedding day, he spent more time drinking with his friends than by my side. He’d walked in on me smoking a cigarette and yelled at me in front of a bunch of wedding guests. Remembering all these raging red flags, I began to worry big time. Not so much about what this would do to my ongoing custody case, but what it would do to my own heart, and the hearts of those two little boys I loved so much. I’d been through a no-big-deal divorce at 18, from my high school sweetheart, and then I’d been through the wrecking ball with my second husband, the father of my sons. I wasn’t sure how we’d survive another divorce. I wasn’t sure I had a choice.

But I was strong back then, so much stronger than I am now. The years have made me soft, but back then I had time on my side. I believed that many good things were in my family’s future. What I didn’t know is if that family would hold three or four people. My mother seemed to think divorce was in the cards for Al and me. I had told her a little bit about our problems and she said “I never thought it would work.” I’m not sure there was anybody who believed we could make it work. Not my ex, not my kids, not my family, not our friends, and apparently not even Al.

I waited until the kids were with their dad and then I sat down on the sofa in the living room and had the talk with Al. I told him that I was done fighting for our love. It was pretty clear to me that he didn’t really love me and that this marriage had been a big mistake. I told him about the little scene in the boys’ bedroom. I don’t think I even had any tears left. Our relationship had started out so beautifully, as so many love stories do, but it had turned uglier and uglier and I truly believed it was past saving. Al agreed. We would divorce, less than a year after we married.

I got up off the sofa. I had no place to go, but I knew how to find an apartment. I’d done it plenty of times. Now it was my turn to pack. I guessed I really had been the starter wife he said I was after all. And good luck to the next one. I was heading down the hallway, ready to pack my own bags, when Al called me back into the living room. By this point, I wasn’t angry; neither one of us had even raised our voices during the entire discussion. All the tears and arguments were over.

I turned around to look at him sitting there, feeling so sad, because I still loved him, even though our marriage was impossible to fix. I was a born loser in love. Three times married, three times failed. He sat there on the sofa looking at me. “What?” I said, simply defeated. Nothing else he said could make me feel lower than I already did in that moment.

“I still love you,” he said.

That was thirty years ago. Somehow the starter wife became the only wife, with hard work, determination, abiding love, and many highs and lows in a very long, mostly happy marriage.

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Send Love, Let Go

Today is my youngest son’s birthday. He’s got a son of his own now:) As I constantly bemoan, they live two thousand miles away. It feels very far on special days. Every day, if I’m honest. Friends who have their children and grandchildren close wonder how I cope. Well, one day at a time. One hour at a time.

I can be a bit obsessive in my thinking, ruminating to no avail except my own misery. Now misery gets my attention. I always want to fix that right away as I far prefer being happy or at least content. So I came up with a plan out of desperation and find it serves me well where my sons are concerned and in many other situations that strike me as sad or unmanageable or out of my control.

Which is, you know, almost everything.

So what I do when I have a thought like “I miss Tim” is I try to stop the flow right there at the first thought and not dwell on it. I stop and let myself miss him a minute and then I send love and let go. I let go of the thought of missing him, I don’t let go of the fact that he is my child and will forever be cemented in my heart right next to his brother.

Some days I have to do this “send love, let go” hundreds of times. When I think of somebody who upset me. When I think of a bit of work I have to do that I wish I had not let myself get talked into. When I have a chore that must be done and I’d rather read. When I remember a long-held grudge. When I miss someone. This “send love, let go” can even work on myself. I can have compassion for myself and send myself some love and let go of the anxiety or the boredom or whatever the drama it is I’m creating in my mind.

I did it with the guy I used to be in my last life. Maybe you remember the post about my recent past-life regression in which I attempted to uncover events that led to a couple of phobias I carried into this life quite by accident.

My past life, according to the psychic, was in the 1920s in Buckinghamshire, England. I was a 25 year old man with a house in London, quite well-to-do, with a wife and two children. I was horseback riding and was suddenly thrown from my horse (phobia of heights) this causes paralysis (claustrophobia) and eventual death. Knowing these facts about the guy I named Joe (just because he seemed like a Joe to me when I thought about how his life was so tragically cut short) is supposed to be all I need in order to move forward without phobia. I have not been able to test these phobic reactions of mine yet to see if they are indeed gone but I certainly hope they are.

I feel like they are, because I sent Joe love, and then I let go.