Friday, February 29, 2008
enjoy alyssa! i want another divorce installment post haste!
p.s. sorry about the weird bug in the template. all long posts have weird backgrounds. working on that...
Thursday, February 28, 2008
My mother-in-law persisted with her knocking and asked through the door "are you sleeping? I brought your gift!"
Perhaps this is the origin of the "sleeping" euphuism for sex - not wanting to alert the in-laws that any hanky-panky might be happening on the wedding day!!
I wanted to ignore her. I felt like a teenager caught doing something bad . . . well, at least one of us was still a teenager so there was something to that. But Mitch pulled his shirt back on and shut the bedroom door and walked the two paces across the living room/kitchen/dining room to open the front door as I frantically pulled on the clothes that had been flung to various parts of the small room. After checking myself for guilty signs in the bathroom mirror, I de-muffled the voices by opening the bedroom door.
My mother-in-law who less than an hour ago could barely look at the two of us, let alone think of a single thing to say to us, was babbling on and on about when we needed to be at the church for the open house, something about the food and who knows what else. Mitch was holding a box. It wasn't wrapped. It was a VCR. Mitch was excited about this gift and enthusiastically pointed it out to me and with that purchased affection he forgot the sting of silence following his mother's "you'll have to come back to me, I can't think of anything."
At some point not much later he stung me with that material gift by holding it out as superior to whatever it was my parents gave us . . . which may have been nothing in terms of wedding gifts. But considering the wedding they scraped together, the car they gave us, the bed they would later donate to our sad cause (and the effort they exerted in transporting it to us), the bail money they would later pay to get him out of jail, the countless meals, gas money, moving labor and groceries they donated, not to mention the tremendous emotional support and advice they freely offered, I believe their gift tally to the marriage came out miles ahead of a lone VCR.
At some point my mother-in-law left but the mood was ruined and I think I ultimately ended up going to my parent's hotel - possibly alone - to have my mom fix my hair and makeup. There I found a large gathering of my very bored relatives just waiting for the open house to start.
There is very little to say about the open house. It was as I described it earlier - held in one of the very large basketball courts that are a staple in Mormon churches with round folding tables covered with the worst shade of lavender tablecloths with loud scraping metal folding chairs and my groom and me standing in front of an incomplete-looking white lattice-work backdrop propped up against the wall under the basketball hoop - which was an improvement over the temple backdrop I almost had. All under the unflattering glare of fluorescent lights.
But really, these aren't the things that matter at a wedding, right? What really matters is the connection between the bride and groom and with their guests. Which is why this slopped together excuse for an open house did not improve.
No one came.
Although I went to school in Cedar City, I really didn't have a lot of friends there at this point. And the few I did have were still enjoying the last few days of summer vacation before school started and had not yet moved back to Cedar on September 16th. Besides, my family was hosting the "real" reception in Salt Lake - this was not our gig.
And yet, the bulk of the people who came were invited by me and my family - including my mom's family and a smattering of other relatives and four or five of my high school friends. Most of Mitch's immediate family didn't even bother showing up let alone his relatives, neighbors and ward members. He had lived in that same house and ward since he was 4 or 5 years old and over the course of two or three hours I would guess we barely had twenty, maybe thirty people come in to greet us.
Have you ever thrown a party and had no one show up? How about a wedding?
One of my biggest fears at that point in life and perhaps one of my biggest motivators for getting married so young was my fear of ending up alone. I had been hurt too often by friends who seemingly abandoned me without any stated reason, which left me paranoid. I was not comfortable with myself and felt solitude was a punishment inflicted on the outcasts. I did not want to be an outcast - so I got married thinking I would never be alone again not realizing how lonely a marriage could get.
Despite the fact I did not invite many people to this open house, I took the poor turnout very personally. It soured the day to the point that when I did have friends show up I was embarrassed. I wanted to apologize for the large empty room to the few who entered.
Among Mitch's dad's side-jobs (such as lawn mowing business and wedding slide shows), he also had DJ equipment for some reason. I think one or two of Mitch's brothers would DJ church dances and the occasional wedding, including ours. I have always enjoyed dancing and I was lucky enough to stumble into a group of girl friends in high school who shared my passion and taught me to dance with abandon by frequenting nearly every church youth dance offered in the Salt Lake valley over the last two or three years. Not to speak to anyone else's dance skills, but as a whole, we weren't necessarily good dancers. But what we lacked in skill we made up for with heart.
So having our very own DJ with an entire gym to ourselves should have been an exciting prospect. Instead, given the bright lights and the palpable discomfort that permeated the large space, all we could manage was one half-hearted dance. I don't remember what song it was but seeing us do one of our "routines" in my photos warms my heart thinking there was something I enjoyed at that night.
There was also a daddy-daughter dance and most likely the other traditional first dances . . . for the family members to watch I guess. That was the first and only time I have ever danced with my father. Despite it all, he looked in my eyes and wore this proud, emotional face he gets when he grows especially maudlin about his family. I tried rolling my eyes to shake his sentimentality but then he pulled me closer and whispered loving words in my ear that made it difficult for me to hold back the tears. He could see how hurt I was that day and he wanted to take it away and show that he supported me and he sincerely did. My parents supported me in every decision I made and when I was fighting for my marriage, they fought by my side offering succor as needed, even when they were praying for me to find a way out.
There isn't much more to say about the open house. There wasn't a cake, I didn't throw my bouquet. I don't think anyone decorated our car and I don't remember anyone really wishing us off although I'm guessing they did, at least my family. By the end of the night (only 9 pm or so) I don't think anyone other than Mitch's mom was still there from his family. Most of his eight siblings (many with spouses) made limited appearances and slipped out early - some using children as an excuse, others just leaving.
I collapsed in the car in near-exhaustion as Mitch drove up the winding switchbacks of the canyon we knew so well to a cabin someone had kindly donated for the night to two poor students who couldn't afford a honeymoon. I could no longer hold back the tears so I let down my guard and cried. I cried when I realized I was leaving my family behind, I cried for the miserable turn-out, I cried for the lack of support we were receiving from Mitch's family and took it all upon myself and viewed the day - and me - as a failure.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Erin: The quail outside kept me awake last night. I woke up at 2:30 because I slept on my arm weird and it was completely numb! Then I heard this eerie cackle and realized it must be the quail family freaking out about something. It’s starting to warm up outside, so the quail must be reproducing already. I had the worst night’s sleep, so I’m so tired today!
Me: this cracked me up!! [then blah, blah, blah about my uneventful morning]
Erin: [ignores everything I've said] If you’ve ever heard mass quail panic in the middle of the night, you would know it sounds a little freaky. There must’ve been a cat or maybe they were just trying to warn someone that their car was getting broken into. Nah, quail aren’t smart enough for that. Although they do seem to have a strong sense of community. But most poligs do I think.
Me: still laughing........ "mass quail panic"!!! too funny [I gave up on having anything to add]
Erin: I just imagined hundreds of them scampering back in forth wondering who will save them. There are no leaders among them, most of the mothers were pregnant teens, so they cope with crisis by freaking out. You know, like they do when they are running across the road in front of a car. Instead of hurrying across like a cat would do, they run around in circles waiting for someone to tell them which way to go. I guess that’s what Darwin meant by survival of the fittest. Only I think survival by the most fertile species is more accurate than the fittest.
Maybe we could petition her to start her own blog . . . all in favor!
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The spell was broken as soon as we stepped outside and into the bright sunshine as cameras captured our first startled moments as a married couple.
There was some delay with my siblings arrival and my pushy photographer wanted to take pictures in the order and places he dictated regardless of whether my entire family was present or not. He claimed the group photo on the temple steps was really only for people who attended the wedding and urged me to leave my siblings out! Ultimately I prevailed in persuading him to save that photo for the end but he also managed to upset me further by complaining about my bangs and the shadows they were casting across my face. Too bad I failed to consult with him before styling my hair. I am happy to report they were simply curled in a loose roll across my forehead, although I am sure he would have preferred I had startched them high in the sky as many girls did during that era. But he was cheap and we didn't have money so we stood in the ten poses he dictated taking his abuse and then wandered around and allowed Mitch's brother to take the more spontaneous and relaxed pictures - including the one where after spinning me around under the shade of a tree Mitch stood off to the side smiling at me in his black tuxedo, almost capturing the look from the ceremony, as I clutched my stomach doubled over with laughter, wild curls spilling over my shoulders and down my back intertwined with the white ribbons streaming from the wreath of flowers crowning my head, white sneakers peeking out from under the hem of my dress.
That was the last time I laughed with such wild abandon that day.
As an aside, I must say, I have never cared for the standard wedding formula of my culture which consists of: early morning temple wedding, waiting around for pictures, family luncheon, a few hours of killing more time, reception at the church with a long receiving line followed by a cup of nuts and an eclair as guests shuffle out the other door. No offense if this was your wedding. It did not suit me and I did not want it. But it is hard to fight against tradition when one is 20 and has a pushy mother-in-law to be (my mother didn't want most of this formula either).
The luncheon, however, was something I did anticipate with excitement. I had not attended many but from my limited experience, this was the point at which the bride and groom received the most attention and adulation in a relaxed and intimate setting. At my sister-in-law's luncheon everyone said wonderful things about the couple and shared words of wisdom, the same at the wedding breakfast I attended for my sole married friend earlier that summer. I was ready for the compliments, the jokes and the teasing. Unfortunately, it never came.
The luncheon was hosted by my groom's parents in the institute gym. Things were chaotic and unorganized when we arrived and no one quite knew where to go or what to do. Several of my friends had traveled down from Salt Lake and didn't know where they belonged which quieted our giggling exuberant reunion into a few awkward hugs and our traditional "legs" photo followed by shuffling feet, standing around and me unsure where or how to direct them. My family felt awkward as well. Not just my immediate family either, the boistrous crowd of my extended family was hushed by the inexplicable tension that permeated the room.
What should have been a joyful, celebratory mood felt downcast and clumsy. I blame his family.
One of his younger brothers with whom Mitch was particularly close showed up absolutely and unexpectedly stoned. He had recently turned 16 and we had spent a considerable amount of time with him over the past 9 months. He was funny and reckless but I had never witnessed him high or even drunk and here he was sullen and glazed over. One of Mitch's older brothers was wired on the other end of the spectrum. I knew he was a heroin addict, as was his date. The pair arrived at the luncheon from another planet. But at least they injected some energy into the space.
But none of that explained or excused the ill-humored atmosphere that hung over lunch as everyone ate in near-silence. I was close to tears throughout most of the meal and desperately cast about for a conversation to lighten things up but as is often the case under such circumstances, I caught nothing but my mother's empathetic eyes. We were the guests. We didn't understand what was happening around us and felt powerless to change its doomed course.
When my new father-in-law brought out a microphone to pass around the room for my much-anticipated moment of glory, it was attached to a rock that sunk the room into even murkier waters. I don't remember what my parents said or what, if any, words of advice my friends or extended family imparted to me that day but I will never forget my mother-in-law pushing the microphone away as she said "you'll have to come back to me, I can't think of anything."
No wonder I wanted to love this boy, save this boy. His own mother could not think of a single thing to say to or about him on his wedding day. And it was not because she was shy or so overcome with emotion; she simply could not think of anything to say to her son, my husband. I still carry the shock of that moment with me.
After lunch, the familial party moved into an adjoining classroom wherein my father-in-law had set up the slideshow Mitch and I had worked so hard to assemble. We sat awkwardly in school desks in the dark watching photos of Mitch's short life, followed by photos tracking my life from birth to present, then intertwining with photos of our courtship and engagement. It was cheesy but sweet. A small bright spot in that somber lunch that felt more like a funeral luncheon except at least at a funeral people fondly reminisce about their lost loved one.
Happy to escape back into the bright September sunshine, Mitch and I had a few hours to ourselves before we needed to be back at the church for the open house. We went to our motel/apartment and as we sat on the edge of our bed smiling mischieveously at each other we tried to fully comprehend the import of what had transpired earlier that morning - we were married! We started kissing and as we fell onto the bed I sat back up and, for the first time in my life, I worried about my hair. How could I really enjoy these first precious moments of solitude with my husband when all I could think about was my friends teasing me about having "sex hair" later that night!
I will admit, as a virginal bride, I was also nervous and I didn't want our first time to be a hurried, pre-occupied ordeal in our messy apartment while I fretted about my hair, makeup (I didn't know how to redo it) and the time. Nothing about the situation was romantic. I was trying to ignore the lingering tension that I had failed to leave behind at the luncheon - it was still screaming in my head. I took it personally. I felt no one was happy for us, for me. I was spiraling into depression and looked to him to pull me out.
So I suggested that instead of skipping straght from A to Z the first time we were alone . . . or more aptly instead of speeding from the simple arithmetic that was allowed before the I dos and hurling ourselves headlong into calculus, I recommended that we test out the waters with some long divsion and perhaps a bit of algebra, if you will. With this in mind, we started making out and as things progressed the passionate kisses were interrupted by giggles and furtive "I can't believe this is okay now" exclamations as I quieted the lingering "you're a failure" voices from the luncheon. Before we made it too far but after I managed to wind up entirely nude on the bed . . .
Someone knocked at the front door.
Of course we initially tried to ignore it.
Until our intruder identified herself by saying "Are you sleeping? I brought your gift!"
It was my mother-in-law.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Part VI: Wedding's Eve (or, if you aren't superstitious now, you might be a little 'stitious after I'm finished)
I chose to get married in the same temple where my parents and maternal grandparents were married, which was the same place Mitch's parents were married. It seemed fitting and I somehow beleived the power of that generational connection would deepen the marriage bond.
I was given a couple of bridal showers in Salt Lake and felt overwhelmed by the genorosity of others, even those friends with whom there were still open wounds. The ward I never enjoyed and often resented as a teenager rallied to my mother's side and practically completed my registry at the old ZCMI and volunteered their time, efforts and creativity to assist with preparations for the extremely low-budget, yet elegant reception in Salt Lake.
I spent that final week of preparations moving into a new apartment in Cedar City -- to my disappointment -- the Village Inn, low, low budget student housing that was in fact a motel during the summer. I had assigned this apartment hunting task to Mitch (since he actually lived in the same town) and he procrastinated until this was the only thing left. A furnished motel suite that came with a dingy old love seat (complete with a 4 inch nail I later found in the cushion!), bright orange formica counter tops and a king size bed but no phone line. It was about as far from the south end of campus as one could get at that time before hitting the rodeo grounds and the freeway and felt absolutely isolated from all of campus life and the rest of the world for that matter with no phone line (and no cell phones yet).
Mitch and I also spent that final week putting together our wedding slideshow with his dad which we set to Chicago's You're The Inspiration and some theme song from Legends of the Fall (a movie I will never watch again since we saw it together). I also spent a great deal of time yelling at Mitch about the horrifying things his mother was attempting to thrust on me for the open house she insisted on hosting in Cedar City - where none of my family lived, none of my friends lived (school wouldn't start for another few days) and none of my parents' friends lived. While I agreed to letting her host (and pay for) this unnecessary party in the oversized church gym (how could I refuse if she was paying), allowed her to bully me into lavender tablecloths (my color was deep purple), acquisced to having the dreaded receiving line and reusing my soon-to-be sister-in-law's cast-off centerpieces from her July wedding, I absolutely stomped my foot down when she thrusted the horrifyingly tacky recycled backdrop from said sister-in-law's recent nuptials. You see, my mother-in-law to be was attempting July reception redux, only cheaper, shoddier and with less emotional interest in the actual outcome and overall aesthetic. She wanted me and my bridal party to stand in front of a giant 10 foot painted cut-out of the St. George temple.
In case you missed the complete vision of this let me expound on that as best I can with my limited words. The reception I did not want was being held on a basketball court with hardwood highly waxed floors, a smattering of folding tables with lavender (not purple) tablecloths, metal folding chairs and a smattering of people including my groom and me, my two bridesmaids, his two groomsmen, my parents, his parents and I believe my brother sometimes standing and greeting people as they walked in, in front of a GIANT cut-out of the building we were married in a few hours earlier. The very cut-out I had endlessly mocked just a couple of months earlier when I attended the wedding at which it was originally used (the wedding that was in a smaller, carpeted church multipurpose room with less lighting and more soft, personal touches). I should have called the wedding off that very minute. Instead, I compromised (as one is counseled to do in such situations) and agreed to the lesser evil of a white lattice-work thing that I believe was simply propped up against the wall under the basketball hoop with absolutely no adornments. And it looked even worse than I have described it with the fluorescent lights blaring at full power from the enormously high ceiling.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, we are still on pre-wedding events.
Once I compromised my wedding day away to the whims and wishes (and moods) of my in-laws, I was free to enjoy the gathering of my family in St. George. My mother's family is one of those large Mormon families that pulls together (generally under one roof) for major family events. By September 15th, the house was full of aunts, uncles, cousins and my former roommate Gretchen (who, with my sister, was my bridesmaid) along with most of my immediate family.
My brothers were the stragglers. My marriage at the fledgling age of 20 (I had graduated out of my teens shortly after the engagement) was wedging a decade or so of unnecessary years between me and my younger siblings who were all still living at home, not yet graduated from high school, overlapping friends and school acquaintences. They have many shared memories from those years to which I cannot relate - due to living away at college and then joining the adult world of marriage. It didn't help that my brothers never liked Mitch. Needless to say, my wedding was not high on their list of priorities in terms of how to spend a mid-September weekend. If asked, I believe one of my brothers would remind me of how he begrudgingly missed a football game for my wedding. They did not arrive in St. George until the wee hours of the morning long after most of us had gone to bed.
Speaking of beds, the night before my wedding was like a giant slumber party. After my final dress fitting, my mom and grandma rolled my waist-long hair in perm rods - PERM RODS! - before bed to give my hair the kind of curl with which it had rarely ever been acquainted before and never since. I slept in the pitch-black oversized bedroom on a waterbed with my sister. My then 4-year old cousin begged to sleep with me but her mother saved me from that restlessness at the last minute. But the room was far from being full yet. Gretchen slept on the roll-away bed and I know at least one, possibly two, other aunts were on the floor in that same room. I had the usual anxious nervousness one might expect the night before one's wedding day. Plus, I was sleeping on a head full of perm rods in a water bed with my sister - not the most comfortable of sleeping arrangements. I was also worried I would sleep in. That room is so dark it is impossible to know whether it is 2 pm or 2 am and I had to get up around 5 or 6 am to make it to temple at some excessively early hour.
(as a quick aside, if I manage to marry again, I refuse to get married at any hour with an "a.m." attached)
I tossed and turned until I woke up completely freaked out, thinking everyone had overslept. I picked my way around the sleeping bodies toward the bathroom until Gretchen whispered "what are you doing up?"
"Nobody woke me up! I'm going to be late!!" I replied in a frantic whisper.
Somehow she knew it was only 3 am and she told me this and urged me to go back to sleep. I decided to continue my path to the bathroom while I was up but opted to change course and use the main bathroom instead of the half-bath adjoining the room of sleepers. I walked into the kitchen and confirmed the hour with the clock over the stove and the absolute darkness beyond the sliding glass doors, then stepped around my brothers and cousins in sleeping bags scattered across the living room floor and entered the bathroom. The bright light was shocking after being so accustomed to the shadows of night. I blinked away most of the bleariness as I sat on the toilet staring at the bright pink rug ringing the base. As I began to focus, even without the aid of contacts or glasses which I need to see anything of detail past my fingertips, I saw hundreds of tiny red dots pouring out from under the rug and scampering across the bathroom floor. I lifted my feet onto tiptoe away from the edge of the rug and blinked again only to see in vivid clarity the tiny red dot of a body and ferocious pinchers being wielded from where I imagine its mouth would be. I silently squealed in horror, finished my business and rushed back to bed in fear.
A few hours later as my mother hustled me toward the shower, I paused outside the bathroom door and asked "what about the bugs? Has anyone told Grandma about the bugs?"
In shock and with concern my mother prompted "what bugs?" since bugs, especially ants, are not strangers in a dry, desert climate.
As I described the fearsome pests, I paused.
My mom started to giggle and I said "there aren't any bugs, are there."
Sunday, February 24, 2008
We had originally discussed marrying in January. But somehow, in the crash course whirlwind dating ride up to engagement, he had convinced me that his bishop agreed he could go to the temple as early as November and then October. And eventually, September was agreed upon as practical since it was before school started again.
I don't remember telling my parents we were engaged. It was over the phone and shortly before I drove home for the summer. It wasn't a lengthy discussion but I'm sure the conversation that took place immediately after I hung up was and it was likely bordering on panic. I know my mother lamented her inability to immediately yank me out of the situation and ship me off on some exotic study abroad program far, far away. My parents cautioned me many times that summer but ultimately they supported me.
Mitch's parents were a different story. I remember standing in Mitch's living room with his mother scurrying around straightening things up, barely focusing on her son as he summoned the courage to make our announcement. When he dropped the bomb - we're getting married! She finally stopped, turned around and said "you're kidding." He had to convince her that we were serious and she barely managed a congratulations before telling us September was a better time than October for housing reasons.
I did not take her lack of support as anything negative about me. Instead, it further solidified my urge to protect and rescue Mitch from his own family. He once described his parents attitude toward their 9 children as something to the effect of only loving the "good" ones and dismissing the ones who made mistakes (such as him). He genuinely felt like a cast off and I saw it in their attitude toward him many times. I saw how much he was working to be accepted by them again by going to church, going to institute and following the pattern of his "good" older brothers by getting married in the temple. But they resisted accepting that he had truly changed and I don't think they ever believed he was capable of change.
My parents had the misfortune of knowing their daughter was making a terrible mistake but supported her anyway. They were not in a financial position to throw a wedding and they were not in the emotional position to cope with throwing a wedding for what they fore-saw as a doomed marriage. In retrospect I admire my mother for her willingness to give me everything she could despite the fact it was breaking her heart.
Luckily I had never focused on a wedding and had not yet formed any grand ideas of what type of wedding I wanted. My tastes were simple and basic and I was cognizant of our budgetary constraints so I did my best to keep the wedding plans as simple as possible. After one trip to a bridal store I realized wedding dressings were beautiful but far too frou-frou for my tastes so my grandmother volunteered to make my dress. My mother and I selected a simple pattern and fabric - a slightly off-white textured raw silk with a very simple, large-patterned lace for the bodice. I wanted 3/4 sleeves, no train and no bows. My grandmother made my mother's wedding dress (which I outgrew when I was 14) and has since made several others. Regardless of the reason that dress was made, I will always treasure it as a gift from my grandmother who sews like a professional and probably could have given the Project Runway kids a run for their money in her day. I mean, she makes her own jeans - and they look like real jeans! Nothing she has ever made looks home-made. I wish I had inherited an ounce of her sewing talent and creativity. She took the basic pattern selected by my mom and I and combined it with another pattern she had and then used the extra lace to add some remarkable personalized touches and against all my wishes added a bow in the back that actually finished the dress off beautifully.
A day or two before the wedding we had our final fitting and I urged her to pull the darts in a bit more on the bodice because from the side the dress was making me completely flat despite my new miarcle bra from Victoria's Secret that just didn't seem to be pulling off the miracle I was hoping for. Exasperated with my pestering, she finally threw her hands in the air, shook her head and told me she couldn't create what nature hadn't given me. And three generations of not-so-well endowed women with the same middle name laughed their similar laughs together.
My mother did the bulk of the errand running, the bulk of the budgeting and the bulk of the stressing over her eldest child's upcoming marriage that summer. I spent most of my time sulking and pining. I was separated from Mitch by a drive of over three hours and expensive long distance phone calls. We drove back and forth to see each other on weekends and I overlooked the incredible amount of type-os in the handful of emails he managed to write to me.
I worked, went to the gym and planned my wedding and counted the days to when I would see Mitch. Unlike what I imagine would be the purpose of working out if I were to suddenly get engaged in my current physical condition, I was not looking to lose weight. In fact, I vividly remember wanting to reach 130 pounds because I thought that would be the indicator I was gaining more muscle. I was probably somewhere in the vicinity of 125 pounds. I say this not to brag but as a measure for later in the story when this comes in as a factor.
The summer of my engagement wasn't perfect. It was full of arguments with my mother, with my siblings and with Mitch. Mitch and I didn't argue a lot when we were dating. There wasn't much to argue about. But with the stress of being apart and two families constantly voicing their opinions and ideas of how our wedding should be, we cracked. And I usually caved. I was against receiving lines - his parents insisted on it, so we had one. I only wanted one reception in Salt Lake, despite the fact we were getting married in St. George - his mother insisted on having an open house in Cedar City, so we had one.
There were other fights as well. One in particular should have been my warning flag. It centered around a set of keys to my car that had vanished and I was being blamed. His unpredictable, quick-fire temper flared and I should have tossed the ring back in his direction and run as fast as I could back to Salt Lake because that was the first glimpse I had into what my impending marriage would look like.
My home computer has died. DIED! I watched it slowly slipping away from me - first itunes vanished and my computer absolutely refused to re-load it. Then internet explorer inexplicably disappeared and likewise refused to come back. I took these as warning signs and finally purchased myself an external hard drive to back everything up a few weeks ago. Last Friday, before I left for my whirlwind trip to Salt Lake, it died. I wanted (NEEDED) to order some dinner and nearly panicked without internet access. Unlike the old days, I do not keep the menus shoved under my door. Luckily I had the card of a favorite restaurant and have committed their menu to memory after frequent dining over the last 7 years and was able to call something in. I had to do the same thing again this last Friday night because I had not given my computer any attention. I dragged my laptop home (along with the piles of papers I am supposed to be working on right now) and have managed to cope with my lack of computer a bit. But I'm still in itunes withdrawals. Over a month without it is causing some serious issues.
Last night I went to a friend's birthday party. I offered to make cupcakes and since she and her husband are supportive fans of my baking they took me up on it and requested vanilla with chocolate. I decided to do a bit of experimenting and tried out this recipe. It turned out great although I couldn't find cake flour at Whole Foods (although I did find nearly every other type of flour imaginable from the ordinary white and whole wheat to the more experimental such as oat bran and buckwheat to the positively exotic including blue cornmeal, spelt, amaranth, semolina, soy and wheat germ. But no cake flour. I did see pastry flour but I wasn't convinced it was the same thing so I passed and hunted down a substitute on the wonderful internet, the answer: place 2 tablespoons cornstarch in the bottom of every cup of regular flour. It worked well. Although I did have a panicked moment with the first batch of cupcakes that fell miserably. Apparently these cupcakes don't like to crown and really must be only filled 2/3 full as suggested. I reduced the batter in the next two batches and they came out beautifully.
But then I decided to be a bit experimental. My friend Wendy loves spicy Mexican food and while I was hunting around for vanilla cake recipes I stumbled onto a recipe (no idea where at this point) for a spicy chocolate frosting. Well, that sounded delicious to me so I decided to try it out because I have been addicted to the Aztec or Mexican hot chocolates that have been out there lately with lots of cinnamon and chile flavors so why not in a cupcake? I realize this sounds crazy and if you aren't into spicy foods then steer clear but I thought it worked and now I'm going to have to eat one of the ruined left-over cupcakes with the ganache after I finish this post because my mouth is now craving it.
I made my usual ganache: place about 4 ounces of chopped up unsweetened chocolate, I like about 60% cacao at least, in a heat-proof bowl; heat on the stove over medium-low heat about 4 ounces of heavy cream (I heated the whole 4 ounces but didn't use it all, so maybe about 3 ounces is all you need). Keep a close eye on the cream so it doesn't scald or reach a boil. I pulled it off after it was steaming but before it was even hinting at boiling. Pour the cream over the chopped up chocolate and blend until the chocolate is completely melted. Then came the fun part. I just started shaking in chili powder and cayenne pepper until I liked the flavor. I added a bit of powdered sugar (about 3 spoons full) because I used too much cream and needed to thicken it up a bit and just stirred until it was smooth. I popped the bowl into the freezer to speed up the process of cooling it down and thickening it up. Then I took each of the good cupcakes and dipped them straight in the spicy ganache and transferred them to my cupcake caddy. I was running a little late at this point and since I really love adding whipped cream on top of cupcakes I stopped at the store on my way to the party to pick up some whipping cream to whip up (hehe) at the party.
A brief word about my friend Wendy. When she says she doesn't cook, she means she does not cook.
When I arrived I asked if I could raid their kitchen to put the final touch on the cupcakes. Bryan pointed the way to the mixing bowl and hand mixer (I believe they have these only as a result of recently getting married) but when I asked for a little bit of sugar they had nothing. Nothing! So I improvised and used a couple of pinches of the colored sugar sprinkles I had brought along as a topping in the whipped cream. It was perfect and turned the cream a slight lavender color.
Everyone told me they liked the cupcakes and I had to refrain from eating two myself. It was a fun party despite the fact I was the only single person to show up. It was low-key and full of interesting conversations - although I think the one about pumping breast milk was a bit much for me (two women in attendance had newborns).
I should have just gone home. Or stayed a little longer.
But I decided, since it was in the same neighborhood, to stop at a singles party a few blocks away. I took some of the leftover cupcakes and made my way to an apartment full of 20 something girls and about 4 boys who thought they were essentially god's gift to women-kind. I half-listened to one irritating conversation after another and longed for the last party. The one where no one was trying to impress anyone and where everyone could just be themselves.
One particularly irritating boy from Philadelphia was telling a couple of girls I had been talking to about this place he lives with a bunch of rowers (I have no idea why, I started listening in half-way through) and how these girls would get a lot of attention there because all they do is train and don't get out much. I attempted a sarcastic remark about how that isn't too complimentary to say they would pay attention only because they don't get out much . . . but he did not get it. At all.
So I drifted my attention to a conversation wherein a friend of mine was making a case for the Simpsons to a girl who has never watched it. Ever! Not once. That kept my attention for a bit until I overheard a girl telling another about my cupcakes. She was urging the other one to taste the one last discarded one with a single bite taken out of it. She was trying to describe how strange it tasted when she noticed me with my smirk and they turned away. I was not offended, just amused. At the last party my cupcakes were complimented and since I enjoyed them and the birthday girl enjoyed them, I really didn't care what random party girls thought of them.
Today I have managed to accomplish very little other than go to church, nap and watch a movie. Very eventful. Oh, I have also managed to completely confuse myself as to which tv I should buy.
I thought I would continue the divorce stuff but I don't think I have it in me tonight. Thanks for all of the great feedback so far, it is really helping me push through this and I haven't even hit the hard emotional parts yet. And for those of you who have not heard any of this - just be prepared, it gets really ugly.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
It pains me to admit this, but I couldn't stand the idea of being away from Mitch an entire summer. I liked my carefree college world that lacked much responsibility or oversight and included vast amounts of free time I filled with last minute trips to Las Vegas, afternoon hikes up Cedar mountain, climbing trips to the Parawan Gap, blanket huts in the living room, long work-outs at the school gym, evening swims or raquetball games, trips to the health center for stitches (okay, this part was not so much fun as it was memorable - of course I was the one getting stitches, in my leg, after falling out of a tree) and the innumerable excursions to the surrounding national parks and Red Cliffs - where the sun was almost always shining and warm just 40 minutes away while Cedar's high altitude was still suffering from spring chill. I knew the magic spell would be broken as soon as I left the Spruce Apartments.
And so did Mitch.
That last Saturday, full of expectation, we took one last adventurous drive together down I-15 and took the exit to Toquerville. In my rusted top Pontiac 6000 I joked was "hoping to grow up to be a four-wheel drive" we turned off Main Street and onto the dirt road that wound up some cliffs and back to the oasis that felt as if it was all ours. I knew what was coming and I wanted it. I was not thinking about the long-term future, I was thinking about preserving the most recent past and present and this was the only way I thought it could be done.
I was also desperately afraid of ending up alone.
We went for a hike and stopped at a stream with black lava rock cliffs rising and falling on either side at uneven intervals, a red clay creekbed and a couple of patches of cottonwood trees here and there marking the winding course of the water over the dry desert. Dressed in my favorite cut-off denim shorts, nike hiking shoes and oversized tie-dye shirt, I picked my way over protruding rocks in the creek until I found one to settle on to observe the scene.
Over one of the distant bluffs dark clouds hung low, heavy with rain. I saw them without registering their intent and failed to predict how effortlessly they would soon block the bright sun I was basking in at that moment.
I too caught up in my own thoughts guessing at the words Mitch would choose.
As I sat on the rock, he waded out into the creek to examine various pebbles he retrieved from the stream. I knew it was now or never. How could he wait for a more opportune time or pictoresque locale?
He turned, took my hand and said words I will never remember that caused me to leap off my rock and shout yes as I flung myself into his arms. He didn't have the ring but handed me a rock with a faint white ring around it.
For the better part of the last year I had carried a small rock I had found on a favorite trail in my pocket. It was a salmon colored arrow-head shaped rock that I carried to remind me of a personal crisis and a promise I had made to myself. I carried that rock so I could escape to that lone trail to Crystal Spring when I needed to cleanse my mind and center myself.
Mitch knew I carried a rock but didn't know why. Apparently, I had forgotten myself. It was to remind myself of my own foundation. He was offering me a replacement and I snatched it up even as those ominous clouds moved overhead obscuring the sun and forcing us to make an early retreat to the car, racing to escape the thundershower as thick droplets fell heavy in the dust at our feet that was quickly turning to mud.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Of course during the idyllic days of spring when the whole world simply hums with the buzz of new life which is interpreted by new lovers as love, I thought the perfect moment in which we were were living could go on forever. Which explains why I vividly remember making comments such as "I want to always live in a small college town," where I would of course teach at some small college. Or, more ironically, I was known to say such things as "I don't even have a desire to visit a place like New York City - too much cement and people!" Oh, if I could have only had glimpse of my life ten years into the future . . .
Not that I would have paid it any attention. I was too all-consumed with the present. And as I have stated, the present included only Mitch, Gretchen, her boyfriend and a smattering of other outsiders.
But Mitch and I couldn't exist entirely in this vacuum devoid of outside influences. Eventually I had to introduce him to my family. I don't remember when or how they first met but I believe my sister was the first to meet him when she came to visit me for Easter weekend. She was still in high school at the time and she, like me, was completely charmed. He was the same person around her as he was around me - teasing and flirty and fun. We spent one day of Easter weekend in Panaca, a tiny little deseret town just over the border in Nevada, with little to recommend itself other than some astonishly beautiful rock formations in the adjacent Cathedral Gorge State Park. On the drive out Mitch pointed out the beautiful wildflowers growing along the highway which he named "nearoadies" which amused us because we were both caught up in his spell. We endured a rather dull and lifeless Easter lunch with Mitch's grandparents and family then escaped to the Gorge to explore the exquisite beauty of the rocks that truly looked like a Cathedral.
The one objection my sister had to Mitch was my willingness to allow him to help me scrabble up the rocks by taking his hand. I was (and am) stubbornly independent and my sister had always known me to push through with an "I can do it myself" attitude, so she had never witnessed me literally reaching out for help like a girl who did not consider herself to be an avid rock climbing enthusiast might do. At that point in my life I would climb anything without fear or hesitation. I proudly wore skinned knees and bruises as battle wounds of my outdoor adventures so allowing a boy to lend me a steady hand to leap across a crack in a rock or pull me up onto a ledge which I could easily have maneuvered myself was startling to her. . . as it should have been.
I was not myself. Mitch had already started to take away my independence and insist on inserting himself into my life as the only person on whom I could rely. It was subtle but I believe it had already begun.
Other friends were being introduced into our equation and it soon became evident that I did not like his friends. They were losers in every sense of the word. For his late-April birthday I organized a camping trip (back to Cathedral Gorge). We invited Gretchen and Kevin, two of his friends and their girlfriends and Liz and her new boyfriend - her now husband. Liz, Gretchen and I took an immediate dislike to one particular couple Mitch had brought along - Luke and the poor girl who had to kiss him (Liz and I still mercilessly laugh about how gross they were). I cannot even begin to describe how much I disliked that kid from the start. His other friend Benji was a bit more acceptable to me at that early stage but only because I didn't know what role he would play later in my marriage. Other than the oddball friends, it was a great weekend during which I discovered a peach cobbler in the dutch oven is a great camping birthday cake but putting candles on top of a cake in a cast iron oven is not such a great idea.
But I ignored the incompatability with his friends in the same way I ignored my incompatability with his family. After all, I thought, he likes my friends and gets along well with my friends (which included in totem Gretchen and Kevin and Liz and Shawn). And I did not really accept that life would ever be any different than it was in those care-free days.
The first real memory I have of my parents meeting Mitch was probably not their first meeting but as with many things during that year or so of my life, the details have been blurred out and remain fuzzy even while other details leap to mind with harsh sharpness that is painful whether the details were positive or negative at the time.
At any rate, Memorial weekend is the time when I really introduced Mitch to my family. My dad was finally feeling closer to his normal self after his December surgery and organized a family camping trip to the Uintas. I was about a week away from finishing school for the year and moving home for the summer. The pressure from Mitch to get married was unbearable. Mitch could see that our five months of near-solitude were coming to a close. He could see that I would soon move home for the summer and possibly forget him so he needed to close the deal and was relentless in his negotiations. He talked incessently about when we would get married, where we would live, what it would be like and . . . what we could do.
Let's face it. We were 19 years old and I was not giving the milk away for free as the saying goes so he was anxious to ante up and purchase the . . . err, cow. His persistence had very little to do with impatience to spend the rest of his life with me as his wife and everything to do with rushing toward the finish line of the wedding night because I had made it very clear he would not cross that line a minute sooner.
Of course, he wasn't alone in wishing for that day. If nothing else, I was physically attracted to Mitch. And in my naive head I could not imagine any other temptations out there aside from sex. I had no desire to drink or smoke or do drugs and I felt like I was pretty honest and I never cheated in school so really I figured my only temptation was in the physical realm and once I got married that would go away and I would be pretty close to perfect.
Mitch was wedging his way into my thought process and his persistence had instilled the idea of marriage into my head to such a degree that I barely noticed when he gradually changed the language from "if we get married" to "when we get married."
Which means, by the time Memorial weekend came along and I had the opportunity to judge him from my family's perspective, I no longer cared how others viewed him - marriage had somehow become a foregone conclusion.
Again, it is difficult for me to recall much from that weekend other than a photo of me paused in the woods wearing his gray sweatshirt, leggings (ACH!) and two braids positively beaming at him behind the camera and the correlating photo of him smiling back. He made me happy at that moment and I thought that was all that mattered despite the fact that when my parents or even my brothers were around he became dull and lifeless.
After camping, as we were driving out of town to return to school, we stopped at South Town Mall which was, at that time, generally deserted. I had a pretzel from the food court and we meandered through shops looking at items we could not afford until we stopped in front of a jewelry store - perhaps his design all along.
I wish I could explain what was going through my head that day as we paused outside that entry. I wish I could remember the conversation that led to me agreeing to walk in. I wish I could remember more about the experience than the smell and taste of that pretzel and my assertion that I preferred white gold. I am pretty sure I disliked the majority of the rings and referred to them as "swirls of yellow gold" and "tacky". I did not wear jewelry other than some tiny hoop, silver dinosaurs or mushroom earrings and my watch had a velcro strap so these rings held little appeal for me.
Unlike many other girls my age I had never looked at a bridal magazine, never tried on engagement rings, never envisioned the type of ring I wanted or even had conversations of that type with any friends. Even with an engaged roommate and a ward full of girls desperately wanting to get married, I had stayed out of that loop - even mocked it. The first time I ever contemplated what type of ring I would want when I got married was that Memorial Day at the mall sitting on the velvet bench with Mitch as a rather pushy sales person assured me he could make any ring in white gold and finance it too.
So I chose one.
The least offensive one.
Not the one I loved.
Not the one I had always dreamed of having.
Just the least swirly, least gaudy of the bunch.
Setting: my parent's basement, I was taking a fitness challenge on the wii sports with boxing when my dad walked in.
Dad: "You punch like a girl"
Me: "I am a girl" but trying to modify my punching style to not look like a girl somehow.
Result: my sad little wii age was 80!!! And I injured my left shoulder in my attempt to not punch like a girl and struggled to get in and out of shirts the rest of the weekend which made the shopping expedition with my sister very painful and taking off a sports bra excrutiating. I think it is all better now but I was a bit embarrassed that I injured myself playing the wii . . .
Setting: my parent's living room. I was reading my mom's Real Simple magazine looking at the eye shapes chatting with my parents and sister shortly before leaving for the airport:
Me: holding up the magazine to my face "which of these looks like my eyes?"
Mom: "the round one"
Dad: pointed to the "close set" ones . . . then changed his mind "a cross between the round and the almond"
Me: "not the hooded one? I think my eye lids are starting to droop so maybe they are hooded" I said as I pulled my eyebrows up and then pushed them down over my eyes to demonstrate the difference
My sister: "you don't have hooded eyes, those are your eyebrows!"
At which point the conversation veered into the plastic surgery realm - you know, in case I ever need to fix those hoods. I'm not sure what I said that preceded this next comment but I'm pretty sure I didn't say I wanted any plastic surgery.
Mom: "You don't need a face lift yet"
Yeah, I don't think I need a face lift yet either. Thanks for the reassurance Mom.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
A few highlights of what I have been doing and why I no longer sleep.
- spent valentine's day working 19 straight hours
- enjoyed the roses I received from my "Secret Admirer/Superfan" - you are the best, seriously
- also enjoyed the chocolates from said superfan - happily polished off the last of them moments ago
- worked a half-day of sorts on Friday after less than 3 hours of sleep
- discovered my home computer had finally given up and died - still hoping that external hardrive I purchased did its job or else I have once again lost everything
- ordered dinner the old fashioned way - over the phone - luckily I had memorized Vynl's menu after all my visits
- packed for my whirlwind weekend trip
- took a car to JFK and had an altercation with my driver when I realized he DID. NOT. KNOW. HOW. TO. GET. TO. THE. AIRPORT!!! Seriously, isn't that driver 101 in NYC? I kept asking him if he knew where he was and finally called the car service dispatcher when we stopped at a gas station for directions. Yeah, that isn't stressful on less than 3 hours of sleep when you are trying to catch a plane. . .
- made it to the airport after guiding the driver there by pointing out the LARGE green signs on the expressway that say helpful things such as "JFK Airport" with an arrow
- also had to make sure the driver didn't drop me off at arrivals
- realized I had lost the ability to sleep, read, work or even watch tv as I flew 5 hours across the country during which time I could only stare blankly ahead of me while listening to my ipod
- arrived in SLC at 2 am - which was 4 am NY time
- chattered annoyingly at my sister the entire 20-minute drive to our parent's house and interspersed my chattering with comments about how she should ignore me if I'm not making sense because I wasn't
- surprised my dog by rousing him out of the comfort of his dog house at 230 am and basked in his exuberance at seeing me unexpectedly and dragged his bed into my room for the night
- ignored my sweet dog when he impatiently attempted to wake me before I was ready
- reluctantly crawled out of bed at 9 am in to attempt preparing for an 11 am conference call
- avoided the work by eating waffles with my family and introducing them to the wii
- rejoiced when the mean person who wanted a conference call on a saturday cancelled at which point I decided to ignore my blackberry and the stack of work I dragged to Utah with me
- laughed and laughed watching my mom and sister discover the joy of the wii
- went to 4 different ski shops before I found a helmet that fit my oddly small head
- made my dad's day by looking at tvs with him at Costco
- went shopping with my sister where we each purchased fun new outfits for dinner
- enjoyed an amazing dinner at La Caille with my family - seriously, it was amazing!
- stayed up way too late talking with my mom (as always)
- overslept and got up at 830 which made me an hour late meeting my friends to go snowboarding
- enjoyed a FABULOUS day of snowboarding at Snow Basin with bright blue skys and beautiful powder
- did not enjoy the crowds - especially when I fell hard on my butt when I had to dodge people which resulted in an extra large bruise
- happily enjoyed a home cooked spaghetti dinner - something simple that I miss, it just felt like a normal family dinner
- surprised fellow-blogger Tiffany with a birthday visit and a one-on-one tutorial in how to make red velvet cupcakes
- realized sleep deprivation can make me hyper and excessively talkative (more so than usual)
- happily stayed up talking into the am hour with Tiffany, Ryan and Mr. Smith
- fell in love with Tiffany's sweet dog Lucy, all the funny quirky things Max says and Christian's eagerness to be one of the adults - a trait I remember well as an oldest child
- drove home counting down the days until their east coast transition (seriously guys)
- didn't find my way to bed until well after 1 am
- roused myself at 9 am to head back up the canyon for more snowboarding - this time at Solitude, one of my favorite places on this earth
- met a good friend there and caught up on each other's lives on the ski lift and tried to keep up or at least catch up with her racing down the hills
- drove back down the canyon when my legs felt like they might collapse under me
- picked up the delectable Cafe Rio for lunch
- watched "Becoming Jane" with my family - so sad and tragic . . . feel like I can relate a little too much
- had spa pedicures with my mom and sister
- got into an altercation with a teenage pimply manager at The Pie over whether or not I had in fact ordered pizza from them (um, I had)
- loved the nostalgic pizza despite his beligerance
- played some more wii with the family
- wrote a great birthday blog tribute to Tiffany in my head but never touched a computer - HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY TIFF!!!!!
- reluctantly packed
- boarded a red-eye flight with high hopes for sleeping
- despite two sleeping pills, a pillow, eye mask, ipod, and a window exit row seat, I never fully slept but rather deliriously and uncomfortably drifted in and out of full consciousness
- arrived home at 7 am and flung myself into bed for two hours
- forced myself into the shower at 9 and prepared for court - yes, court
- had the pleasure of moving for the admission of a good friend into federal court
- after listening to all the exaggerated tales of connection between sponsor and applicant (and personal details such as he will be the best man at my wedding!), I resisted his suggestion that I introduce him to the court as a former boyfriend (lying is bad in court by the way) or his dare that I mention home teaching somehow
- agreed to not awkwardly shake hands after the judge approved his admission (as a couple of others did) and laughed at the idea (but didn't do it) of him giving me a hug and swinging me around
- raced in to work only to be greeted by all the work I had ignored over the weekend - why it didn't finish itself is beyond me
- didn't have any caffeine until after 4 . . . I'm on my third diet coke now
- now finishing my dinner at my desk at 8 pm hoping to go home within the next two hours before I pass out or forget how to sleep
Don't feel too sorry for me. The quick trip home was absolutely worth it. Even though I may not have the opportunity to sleep until Saturday. And even if I hibernate all next weekend as a result. I had a blast and would not do it differently. Except maybe I would try and work in one more day so I could see the people I didn't even tell I was coming to town because I knew I wouldn't have time to visit everyone.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Tonight I managed to slip out for a blissful hour and half to attend a friend's engagement party at the Yale Club. It was delightful and I didn't want to leave. Mostly because I knew when I left I had to go back to work. . . and I did.
Then I had to come home and do laundry, which is why I'm not in bed yet.
This work thing looks like it is going to be ugly for a while - I will definitely be spending Valentine's day ordering dinner at my desk. Whee!!! Then I am going to run out of town for some ME time and then the madness starts up again next week with THREE consecutive days in court (only two of which are hearings). The first court appearance is to swear a friend into federal court which is kind of exciting.
In reviewing my calendar I should have an opportunity to sit, ponder, reflect, create an blog something worth reading around the second week of March . . . I kid. Maybe. I sort of have something in the works.
But there was an up side to today. I wore a dress I bought on a whim a few weeks ago that I hadn't had an opportunity to wear (too cold) and I loved it. I loved how it looked and how it felt and how fantastic it looked with patent red peep-toe shoes. Really, it worked well in the office and transitioned nicely to the engagement party where I received compliments which are always lovely.
Oh, and I also received a wonderful package today from Emily that included the greatest toffee ever. I ate it all in one sitting even though it made me sick. I just felt that I deserved it somehow (the taste, not the sick).
Now I'm going to get my laundry out of the dryer, go to bed and try to ignore the fact that tomorrow is make-all-singles-feel-depressed-and-lame day.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
- On running for the United States Senate if this presidential thing doesn’t work out: “It’s more likely I’ll dye my hair green, get a bunch of tattoos and go on tour with Amy Winehouse.”
- On the rigors of a presidential campaign: “Arkansas politics and the savagery of it were far more intense than running for president.” [hmmm, maybe this explains the Clintons' political behavior. Or maybe just why Arkansas politics are so "savage".]
- On why Senator Barack Obama appears to be beating [Clinton]: “The American people are not looking for someone who can fix a carburetor. They’re looking for someone who can drive the car.”
Monday, February 11, 2008
Let me explain.
I have two options for getting to work. Walk the 1.3 miles (literally up hill for the first three blocks) which takes about 20-25 minutes or ride a shuttle bus for the first three blocks (which are also, incidentally the coldest blocks) and walk the remaining 15 minutes.
I didn't get out of bed until 830 this morning (I worked yesterday from 1230 to 9, then blogged, I was tired) and realized I needed to rush if I was going to make the 910 shuttle (the next one didn't come until 930). But I dawdled in the shower under the hot steam.
When I saw the temperature of 11 degrees on tv I realized I really needed to hustle. No way was I walking up the hill where the "feels like" temperature had to be well below zero.
So I rushed and pulled on a pair of gray pin striped pants I could pair with a cream turtle neck and blue argyle cardigan without too much effort but I stalled looking in my sock drawer. Feeling the time pressure at 906, I grabbed a pair of brown socks, threw them on with my uggs and dashed out the door with my purse, hat and pashmina flying behind me as I ran down the stairs and caught the shuttle just before it pulled away from the curb.
And believe me, I was happy to wear socks that didn't match all day rather than subject myself to that cold any longer than necessary. The portion of my commute where I had to walk was miserable. Breathing hurt. I had to pull my scarf over my mouth and nose so the air did not burn my lungs. Walking cross-town wasn't too terrible but I had to walk south four blocks and both Broadway and 7th Avenue were wind tunnels in which I was pushing up against a severe head wind that stung my face and induced an instantaneous and almost unbearable sinus pressure.
So I spent the rest of the day until about one hour ago (11 pm) holed up in my office toiling away until I took a car home.
I was anxious to keep writing my divorce story (which seriously needs a better name than that - all suggestions are welcome) but I am far too tired to write tonight as evidenced by the meandering stream of consciousness dribble that was spilling out.
More to come soon.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
The previous year I had fallen in love for the first time. It was a fast and furious fall that didn't fully resolve itself when it ended on an extremely short time-line. We broke up because things were moving too quickly and because we were home for the summer living 45 minutes apart with neither of us owning a car and long distance phone calls were a pricey item in those pre-cell phone days. So I spent the rest of the summer rebounding with a guy I worked with pining for the one I had lost.
Months later, as I found myself caught up in the whirlwind relationship with Mitch, I could not help but make comparisons and Mitch perpetually came up short on every count. Yet, by then I was starting to wonder whether that first love was really as great as I had made him out to be and whether we were really as compatible as I thought in my heart-sick nostalgia. As Mitch crept his way more fully into my life, I buried the comparisons bit by bit and slowly convinced myself this was as good as I could ever hope for. I was talking myself into settling.
No, really. At 19 when I couldn't have weighed more than 130 pounds, was perpetually tan year round, worked out every day and climbed 2 to 3 days a week and was YOUNG! and SMART! I thought I needed to settle for whomever would have me.
Because I was broken.
Broken from the heart-ache of losing my first love.
Broken from the scars left from losing friendships with an apartment full of girls with whom I still desperately wanted to be friends.
And broken down from the trauma of nearly losing my father.
All of this on top of the self-doubt I had hauled off to college with me from high school. And on top of the pecuniary stress of only managing to pay for school by the miracles of grants and scholarships that a kind professor had helped me find as a freshman.
The night I met Mitch was the culmination of all of these factors pressing me down to the rock bottom stage when I was so overcome with the fear of solitude after so much rejection that I simply ached for someone, anyone to pull me out.
And initially Mitch was the exact person I needed to pull me up. He made me laugh. He boosted my confidence and helped me move forward again. That first week we were dating I had to go back to my old apartment to collect my mail. The idea of walking back into that place where I was no longer welcomed terrified me. I think I had some altercation on the phone with one of them before stopping by and when I arrived I felt as if I was immediately pounced upon. I ran back to the car in tears and Mitch was there waiting for me, completely baffled as to why a 2 minute trip to pick up some bills resulted in the dam opening up. But he comforted me and I felt safe. We then went and played basketball and started a new life. He was my new safe-haven.
Around this same time period another type of force began to exert pressure on me. Again, I want to emphasize this was a cumulative effect and any one of these factors alone would have, I believe, allowed me to press on through college like a normal person and stay blissfully single (or at least single).
I was serious about going back to church. Other than my frequent trips home for the weekend and the occasional Sunday, I hadn't been going since I had left for college. Which was kind of part of my plan to be honest. I wanted to move out, spread my wings and figure things out on my own. But desperate times call for desperate measures so I started going back to church with my new roommate Gretchen. Soon Mitch was tagging along at my side. Before long the bishop noticed and asked to talk to me.
I nervously sat in his office one Sunday after church as he chit-chatted with me and casually asked if I would rather do a musical number in church or speak. I quickly chose musical number and thought our time would soon be up but he kept asking questions and before I knew what had happened he had sent me home with an assignment to write down ten goals and bring them back so we could talk again the following week. My goals, dated February 22, 1995 were fairly generic and consisted primarily of Sunday school answers: "1. daily scripture study/church books; 2. Pray - morning and night; 3. Write journal . . . " and down through the list until at the very bottom I had written "serve a mission" long after "study & learn - concentrate on education" and "avoid temptation". When I proudly returned this list to my bishop I thought I had all the "right" answers for both short and long term goals. However, after studying my list for a while he passed it back across the desk to me and asked if there was anything missing. I inspected my list and tried to figure out what I might have missed.
I started to explain that maybe I should have included "go to the temple" but I thought that was included in "serve a mission" so I hadn't added it separately. He cut me off there with "what about marriage?"
There it was again. Barely a week after Valentine's Day and now my bishop was bringing up that word too. Here I was just trying to focus on graduating from college and he was throwing words like marriage at me.
But he didn't stop there. "You have a boyfriend right now, don't you? Have you talked to him about marriage at all?"
And there it was. The power of suggestion. The tipping of the scale. One more external factor pointing me in a direction I previously hadn't considered. It is hard to second guess your bishop, your spiritual leader. I wondered if he was somehow inspired. How else would he know Mitch was raising this very question? And how could I brush it off as coincidence?
I couldn't and didn't.
From that point forward a seed was planted and it continued to grow over the coming months. Mitch and I spent more and more time together and became increasingly comfortable and familiar to the point where I did not know what life would be like without him. We took an institute class together - the one and only institute class I took in college - and worked on a spiritual relationship as well as the fun, playful side as well. I was helping him apply to college. Thankfully he had at least passed his GED. Honestly, it makes me cringe to write some of this out. Even at that young age I knew I would eventually get an advanced degree of some sort. I was so incredibly motivated to make a career for myself and I thought I could will him to have that same ambition. Instead, he just let me write his application letter and urge him forward as he slowly drifted along living at home working odd jobs.
Did I mention his family? A word of advice. When dating someone - anyone - if the idea of sitting around a dinner table with their family makes your skin crawl and puts you on edge, leave him or her immediately. To a college student a home cooked meal each Sunday should have been something to look forward to. Instead it was something I would dread. His mom made the most bizarre casserole concoctions ever assembled and the family would wolf it all down before a single beverage had been offered to the table. I would be dryly nibbling on a piece of bread desperately casting my eyes around for a sign that someone, anyone would notice the empty glasses and suggest someone retrieve the punch that had been left in the fridge. After enduring mumbled conversations completely parched, someone would finally bring a jug of milk to the table and I would do my best to refrain from gulping my meagerly alloted portion down in one refreshing chug.
As soon as dinner ended the men scattered. Immediately. Another warning sign. His house was
one of strict gender roles. He had 7 brothers and 1 sister but that didn't discourage the idea that "inside chores" (like cooking, dishes and scrubbing toilets) were for girls and "outside chores"
(like washing cars and mowing lawns) were for boys. Having grown up in a home where everyone had to take their turn at pretty much everything I had a difficult time wrapping my head around this division of labor and frequently found myself stuck in the kitchen with my soon-to-be mother-in-law straining to make conversation. Or even worse, I would end up alone with his sister who was in my astronomy class and considered me immodest and probably slutty for wearing tank tops and short shorts. And to her I probably was. I believe the term molly mormon was coined with her in mind.
Undaunted by yet another warning signal I continued to play along as Mitch's entreaties and hints toward marriage and our future became the norm and sunk in deeper and deeper to the point where I was discussing our future together as well.
I remember my attempts to project forward and finding small hiccups and glitches and glossing over them because I both believed and didn't believe this grown-up talk of marriage was real. I mostly considered our relationship to be not just the two of us but to also include my roommate Gretchen and her boyfriend - they were just lucky enough to escape the dreaded Sunday dinners. Living that idealistic life of carefully balanced class time, study time and lots of play time, it was hard to imagine hard times. For the first time, perhaps ever, I felt happy and well-rounded. I had a boyfriend who loved me, a roommate who was my best friend, I was doing exceptionally well in school and spent as much time as possible outdoors and in the mountains. I remember one early spring afternoon deciding the four of us needed to go camping - right. this. minute! So we grabbed my small tent, some sleeping bags, a few extra pillows and blankets and drove up the canyon as far as we could go before we hit snow and pulled off onto a side road and pitched my tent. The four of us woke up to Gretchen complaining that she had to pee but was afraid to go outside because it had snowed. Another time we didn't eat all day, piled into my 1984 Pontiac 6000 with the rusted roof and drove to Las Vegas (about 3-4 hours away) just so we could get our moneys worth out of the $5.99 buffet. On a different Las Vegas trip (when Mitch's older and married brother inexplicably would not allow us to stay at his house!) we camped in the desert, just the two of us and I woke up wanting to always be next to him. The next night, as we drove back to Cedar I saw the most spectacular moon rise of my life - a giant orange globe I thought was rising just for us at 2 am over the desert just south of St George somewhere near the Arizona border. It was breathtakingly beautiful to the point that I am now questioning whether it was real or just imagined. I interpreted it as a celestial blessing and sunk further into love.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
I met my ex-husband at a party. He was tall, blond and quiet in his brown flannel shirt leaning against the back of a couch - the same brown flannel shirt I often wore after we were married. Meanwhile, I was rambunctiously dancing around the cramped living room with any boy who would look at me in my Gap v-neck maroon sweater and blue pants, the only pair I think I owned that actually fit me (in 1994 I was prone to wearing pants at least two to three sizes too large) paired with hiking boots I'm sure. And it wasn't exactly my Gap sweater, it belonged to my very soon to be former roommate and I doubt she ever knew I "borrowed" it that night (unless she's reading now . . . sorry!). If I had an image of this sweater many of you would proclaim you had the same one at some point in the early 90s - it had a blue stripe following the v-neck and for some reason I felt this sweater along with those blue pants that I remember as being very, very soft was dressing up. I was at a very low point that December evening and I desperately craved attention and thought a rebellious attitude (ahem, in a stolen Gap v-neck sweater) and a devil-may-care attitude would win me some attention. And I guess it did, just not quite in the manner I anticipated.
It was my sophomore year of college and I had just finished taking fall quarter's finals, decided to move mid-year after breaking up with my closest friends and was in the midst of enduring my dad's first heart surgery. This basement I was bouncing around in was the apartment of my most recent boyfriend. We hadn't broken up but we hadn't seen each other in close to a month. I had spent most of the quarter gravitating toward him, his always-high buddy and his constant companion Gracie - a beautiful yellow lab who was my biggest draw to the group. She never had a leash and I always knew where Patrick was from spotting her lounging on the lawn outside the building or standing anxiously peering in the glass doors of the grocery store. I felt privileged to be on a first name basis and be scent recognized by the campus dog. I climbed with them, camped with them and watched Tom Petty's Wildflowers album premier on MTV with them. They deemed Sweet Melissa by The Allman Brothers to actually be about me and they cooked for me and introduced me to their other friends. We climbed all over Southern Utah and I felt I had found my niche - a safe haven away from the chaos that seemed to erupt whenever I was back in my apartment. Then something happened. The boy stopped calling me. His friend made excuses and I was confused. I was most assuredly not in love with this boy. I wasn't even entirely sure how much I liked him. I liked that he was cute and funny and interesting. I liked that he had been to Europe, that he was a chemistry major and his all-around low-key attitude. I especially liked how he liked me and how he asked for my permission the first time he kissed me as he hypnotized me by staring strongly into my eyes so I couldn't help but consent. Even the girls in his gang of friends accepted me and urged me to join their bowling league.
He had been a filler for a larger heartache from which I hadn't quite recovered and now I was untethered - set adrift from this new gang. No more sitting in his basement apartment with Gracie at my feet, a boy on either side. No more bowling invitations. I was cast back with my kind and my kind seemed to be rejecting me.
Or so it seemed to me at the time.
Retrospect is much clearer than real time and in viewing that fall I recognize my faults, my tantrums, my pouting, my teenage penchant for drama. All aggravated and exaggerated by the hormones my doctor had prescribed that summer in an attempt to balance me out. What I later realized was I was a powder keg - take some out of whack hormones, add some more hormones to the mix and toss this chemistry experiment into a small apartment with 5 other hormonal girls and see what happens. Drama is what happens. Misunderstandings, hurt feelings, tears and stubbornness all leading to me giving up and moving out.
The party was my last night in my apartment. I took my roommate's sweater (which I folded back up at the end of the night smelling of smoke and weed and returned it to her closet) because I was the last one to leave for winter break and I was bitter and feeling vindictive and that was as vicious as I could bring myself to be.
I wanted to make the fading boyfriend jealous, hence my reckless dancing and awkward flirtations. I suppose I succeeded in the end. Mitch cornered me and asked for my number and I eventually drove him home, along with his plastered brother who handed me $20 when I stopped in front of their house. I took Mitch's phone number, explaining I would call him when I came back to school in three weeks.
A few hours earlier all I could think about was running away from this town that seemed to be rejecting me but after I dropped off Mitch I couldn't wait to get back. A new interest! Perfect for a new start!
Our first date was January 1st. I believe it was my first day back in Cedar City and my first day living with two new roommates (this time with my own bedroom) and I called him. I was nervous and anxious but much to my mother's later regret, she had encouraged me to make that call. She saw the state I was in and didn't know the details of our meeting so she suggested I ask him over to help me put the new desk together I had purchased at Shopko for my new room. So I did. We sat on the floor of my bedroom connecting board A to board B laughing and talking and then we went to a movie. It was so refreshing to be starting over. I was set on keeping to myself and resisting any friendships from my new roommates and I was reluctant to make much effort toward my rock climbing friends since more than one of my prior boyfriends were wrapped up in that crowd. Mitch was something different. He was separate from all the messiness of the prior quarter of school and he encouraged me to steer clear of the crowd I was gravitating toward at the party. That first night, as we stood in line at the movie he pulled on my excessively long braid and complimented my eyes and I let down a bit of the guard I was holding up.
Despite my exceptional (and often annoying) memory for dates attached to significant as well as insignificant events, I don't remember when Mitch first kissed me - whether it was that night or one of the next few nights since I immediately fell into seeing him every day. He wasn't a student, didn't have a job and lived at home. Looking back I have no idea why I accepted all of this so readily and easily other than to say it just shows how un-serious I was about the whole thing. I would go to class in the mornings, study, go to the gym and then meet Mitch to play basketball at the institute gym or to drive up Cedar Canyon for a hike or just to hang out with my roommate Gretchen (the one I was set on not befriending) and her sort-of boyfriend, our neighbor. The four of us fell into play mode and it was easy to let the pain and sting of the past quarter of school melt away as new friendships replaced the old. We played racquetball and went swimming on campus and built blanket huts in the living room and made ridiculous videos of our nonsense. I knew I wasn't a solitary being and these new friendships filled a significant void. I felt free to be silly and fun and wacky and I was.
Gretchen and I started cooking together, something I had never tried in college. I was so used to living with and on top of five other girls that the kitchen was rarely used for much more than a bowl of cereal or a frozen dinner. I have a very vivid image of some wretched pasta concoction called Michaelina's. The grocery store was practically giving them away for free and as an excessively poor and jobless freshman I purchased more than my fair share of 4 for $1 pasta dinners (they may have been 3 for $1 but either way, very cheap!). I also sustained myself on the cases of top ramen and mac & cheese my parents gave me as a moving away from home gift. No, cooking wasn't something I even considered trying as a freshman in the dorms and the prior quarter of school hadn't proved to be much different. Gretchen and I joined our meager grocery budgets and experimented with recipes and transformed ourselves into decent cooks. We, along with our boys, were fast friends and by February I did little without them.
By Valentine's Day my relationship with Mitch started to feel serious and this was my first Valentine's Day with a boyfriend. I kept my expectations low and he surprised me by making me dinner. At his parent's house. Mitch didn't have a car so I drove myself up the hill, dressed up once again in the same soft blue pants I had worn the first night we met with a matching blue turtleneck sweater. Signaling the significance of the evening, I applied both eye liner and mascara and ignored his faults as I waited for him to open the door. His 4-year old little brother was by then well-acquainted with me and was anxious to lead me down the stairs to the small table set for two in the basement. The setting was complete with candles and a rose in a vase he likely bought at the gas station. When Mitch emerged, I was touched. He had set this all up and shooed his brother away so we could eat the Parmesan chicken with fettuccine he claimed to have made (I'm convinced it was his mother who pulled it all together). We toasted with sparkling cider and finished the evening cuddled on the couch watching a forgettable video.
Caught up in the romance of the night, Mitch nuzzled up to me and continuously whispered how much he loved me and I nodded along. I had previously explained to him my reluctance to be serious. I was, in fact firmly determined to stay single until I was the ripe old age of 25. My newly engaged second roommate had confirmed that plan with all her "John says . . . " and John-knows-all attitude, her mindless doting and her transformation from a 19-year old into a 42-year old following the gift of a ring. I really didn't know her pre-engagement but in my mind her impatience with all our silly fun was a direct result of her upcoming marriage which meant she had to shun us in favor of being adult. That held no appeal for me whatsoever. So I resisted getting pushed toward marriage and mostly without too much thought or effort.
But the pressure started that night as I cuddled up with what I considered a rebound consolatory boyfriend when he whispered "I want to marry you" into my unsuspecting ear. I don't know if I physically jumped but inside my stomach flopped and I held my breath. It was one thing for him to insist he loved me, quite another for him to suggest something as far off as marriage. I was 19, he was 18. I had plans. Big plans. I wanted to finish college. I secretly wanted to go to law school but dared not utter that desire to anyone. And despite my very poor church attendance, I thought maybe I wanted to go on a mission.
So I told him "I want to go on a mission". To which he responded "Okay, but that isn't for two more years."
"Wouldn't you be willing to wait for me?"
"But you don't really even go to church."
"I know, I've started going again and I have been thinking I need to get back on track because I have always wanted to go on a mission," I insisted. Which was all true. My new roommate was very active in her church attendance which was helping me baby step back into activity myself. And Mitch was in no position to talk. He got his girlfriend pregnant and dropped out of high school after he was kicked off the basketball team for doing speed.
Uh, yeah. I know. What was I thinking?
Well, that Valentine's Day I was thinking fairly clearly. We both agreed we needed to get more involved in church and head back to the straight and narrow together. I thought I had successfully deflected or at least deferred his marriage talk. . . .
to be continued.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
- Pearl Jam
- Metallica (never seen them or ever had any real interest in them but I feel this would be nostaglic and entertaining somehow - especially after Guitar Hero)
- Jack Johnson
- Kanye West
- Phil Lesh & Friends (even if last time I walked back to camp during their performance)
- The Allman Brothers Band
- The Raconteurs
- Death Cab for Cutie (another repeat!)
- BB King
- Sigur Ros!!!
- Ben Folds (another great repeat)
- Bela Flek is back
- Aimee Mann
- Donavon Frankenreiter
Just to name the ones who jumped off the screen at me as bands I am most acquainted with and enjoy the most. There are others I will need to start sampling online to get more familiar - like Lez Zeppelin some all girl all zeppelin band that sounds intriguing. Michele and Dan let me tag along with them two years ago and we had a blast! View a few pics here and a list of who we saw here. Tickets go on sale next Saturday the 16th at noon EST. The festival is June 12th to 15th and I definitely want to be there. Who is with me? Michele, I'm looking in your direction . . . will you be firing up the motorhome this year? I will try and get Eddie Vedder (or someone) to sing happy birthday to you! And seriously, shouldn't Pearl Jam's littlest fan see him perform live?