Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Universe Conspires...

... to take care of me. It's quite surreal, actually.

I've been quiet here because I finally found the courage to sign on the dotted line and file for divorce. I'm sick to death about it, and yes, I cried when it came to the actual moment. Nonetheless, it is done. Once I knew what I wanted, I felt like taking action toward it was the powerful course. (What I want is the house, by the way. So please direct your cosmic attention toward that. The thing I've learned here is that you people are powerful!)

So, anyway... I was being quiet. The petition was the ONLY thing on my mind, but I didn't want Dave to find out through the blog that the papers were on the way. I'm not sure what I did want there, but it seemed polite that he should find out first.

It is also true (and we inch closer to the point, here) that yesterday was the 27th anniversary of the day we got engaged. All in all, a very low week. The path through this horrible process has been nothing like a straight line. However, since about the end of November, it's been roughly on the upswing. The difference between knowing that this is a little dip in the road and knowing that every single day is the worst day of your life and that tomorrow probably will be a new low as well.... well, that difference is everything.

So, anyway... I was being quiet. (Seriously, I'm working on the point, here.) But people didn't stop taking care of me. (Aha! We're getting there.) I got e-mail, discussion group postings, phone calls from people I haven't heard from in a while, even a letter from a friend from college. I had been worried that I was going to turn into needy-deranged-Andrea again, and she is no friend of mine. But you guys didn't let it happen.

I love you all. I know that I don't deserve you and your specialness, but I am so grateful you're here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

So, Here's a Thought

I know this will only be possible for people who live in Dekalb-more's the pity, really. We could have fun with this. Here's my thought.

What if anyone interested signs up with me to cook for Hope Haven, the local homeless shelter? We could either meet at my house and get it all done in one afternoon. Or we could each volunteer to be responsible for a part of the meal, and we could gather it and deliver it together. What do you think?

It's kind of a large undertaking for one person, although I've done it. But if we split it among 4 or 5 people, it would be entirely manageable. We could act on our commitments to social justice and our comments in the previous post about the tragic state of affairs in homeless shelter kitchens.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Days and Nights with Homeless People

I'm sure you've figured out that's what I'm doing these days. These people have a lot to teach me, and I need to make space and time to pay attention to that.

But first can I rant about the food?

I promise that the people in our care are not calorically deprived. Donations come in fast and furious. And the deal with the program that I'm involved with is that clients use ALL of their food stamps to buy food for the house. We help plan menus, and they take turns cooking.

This ought to work.

We also know that malnutrition is a disease of poverty, and that one can be both obese and malnourished. We also know that eating the wrong things consistently informs one's palate, so that soon enough the wrong things taste better than the right things.

So here's the thing. Dinner, apparently, must involve big hunks of meat. And heaven forbid that it involve a vegetable or a piece of fruit. I suggested a vegetarian night, and you would have thought I was suggesting that we feed the children arsenic. Like macaroni and cheese will kill you. But no, macaroni and cheese has to have hot dogs in it. WTF???? We had fish tonight. Salmon -and I am not making this up- is apparently cow tongue, so no one would eat it. I know you thought it was fish, but what can I say? You were misinformed.

I am no nutritional zealot. I watched myself reach for chips rather than an apple, when they were right next to each other. So I can't exactly claim the moral high ground here. But tonight I started bringing my own dinner -yogurt, grapes, and a bottle of water. I didn't need a huge dinner because the kids and I went out for lunch. People thought I must have joined the Pritikin Order of Ascetic Eaters ;)

And darn it, now I know people are watching what I eat. So I have to be good. But I'm actually tired of eating crap. Who would have thought this day would come? I've planned my menus for the week, and I'm bringing healthy, vegetarian stuff for my at-work meals. I won't need to make a comment; I'll just eat. We'll see where this takes us.

And please, for the love of all things holy, if you donate food to the homeless shelter, have it be healthy food. We have enough white bread, stale Entenmann's muffins, and tortilla chips to last until the second coming.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Car Didn't Land on my Head

That sounds much more dire than it was. Nothing bad happened. It's just that on the way to work this morning, I had a weird experience.

I was following one of those gigantic car-transport trucks. You know the ones. They must have an actual name. Somebody ask a 4-year-old boy; he'll know. We were on the road that leads up to the interstate on-ramp (Peace Road, for the cognoscenti). There are stop lights on this road. While we were stopped at a red light, the driver of the truck gets out and starts climbing around tightening the straps on the cars being transported.

This is not a particularly comforting sight when you're stopped essentially at this guy's tail pipe. I must have had a fairly alarmed and confused look on my face, because the driver signaled that all was well. But HE looked alarmed and confused, so I didn't know quite what to think.

So then and there, and weighing in how my life has been going, I decided that if by the end of the day no car had fallen on my head, I would call it a good day.

And cars stayed off my head.

So... the moral of the story is "set your standards low enough and you won't be disappointed." Or more positively, remember to be grateful for the good that does happen.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Crying in my Car

I spend a lot of time in my car. I have a 40 minute commute to work these days -except if I only allow 40 minutes it becomes a one-hour commute. It's some heretofore-unknown-to-me commuting law, apparently.

An unrelated fact (one would think) is that I hardly cry anymore. There for a while I was just a bucket of tears. I thought surely soon I would run out of salt water in my body. There must be a limit, I figured. These days, though, I'm mostly too busy to be sad.

But the minute I get in my car for the commute I get sad, and soon I start to cry. Sometimes it's a song on the radio. Sometimes I just have that "wouldn't it be nice to tell Dave about what happened at work?" feeling -which is followed immediately by the "he doesn't care" realization, which makes me cry. Or sometimes, I'm just exhausted and drained and frustrated that my life has come to this, and I cry over that.

But on the way to work today, I started to wonder if this is all just operant conditioning. Just like the ringing bell signaled imminent delivery of food for Pavlov's dog, maybe the car signals sadness for me. That journey of a thousand miles that began on October 8 (the one fleeing my marriage, I mean) involved quite a lot of crying in the car. Do you suppose that some prehistoric part of my brain thinks the car is the problem????

Would that it were so simple. But I'm up for the possibility that a new car would solve this problem ;) A cute little Mazda Miata, perhaps?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Don't Stop in the Middle

Can I just say that women way overuse birthing metaphors? It's annoying. And what's doubly annoying is that I'm about to use a birthing metaphor. Sigh.... a thousand apologies for the limitations of my metaphorical thinking.

I'll spare you the gory details. Let's just say that it took 70 hours to get kid #1 birthed, and 24 hours for kid #2 to show his pretty face. Long labors like that give you way too much time to think. And somewhere in the middle, I realized that a) I wanted to quit and b) I couldn't quit. Every other single thing in my life I could quit if it got too hard. I didn't always quit, of course, but I knew that I could have. Once you're in labor, though, the only way through it is through it. There's no stopping in the middle and asking someone else to do it for you, if it's so damn important that it get done.

Getting through the first labor and then doing it all over with the second one taught me that I can get through really hard things when I have to. And there's merit in knowing that you can buckle down and endure when there's no other choice. And, the very act of that endurance changes you. Perhaps it allows for the possibility of the parenting to come, I'm not sure. But really, I am going to spare you the parenting metaphor. I have some principles.

Of course, I now find myself in another one of those transforming times. And I don't seem to be in charge of the trajectory. Nothing -absolutely nothing- about where I now sit has anything to do with my choices. Some good has come from this time, no question. But there's still pain and discomfort and none of that certain-joy you feel when you know you're doing the right thing.

The next-right-thing in this whole process has frequently felt enduringly awful. And I'm far enough into it now that I have more choices. I could quit some of this personal transformation. All Dave cares about is that he not have to spend any more of his life with me. What I make of me-without-him is entirely up to me.

I want to go back to the known, the safe, the predictable. I want that so very much. But I've done that so many times before - aborted personal transformation when it got too hard. (Oh fabulous. Now we're into abortion metaphors.... Note to self: buy thesaurus.) There must be some middle ground that allows me to intentionally but still radically transform myself. I think if the only possibility is that I fling myself into this process and hope for transformation, I'll find that too scary and I will just quit. Gentle transformation -is there such a thing?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Who Am I?

My thoughts on women changing their names at marriage have, possibly, been a little off the feminist beaten track. I took my husband's name, as I'm sure most of you know. I figured you have to have some man's name, and at that point in my life I pretty much rejected further association with my father. I would be more tolerant of his weaknesses and limitations now, but the decision had to be made then.

So I took a new name as a symbol (to myself only) that I didn't have to be defined by my father. But now what do I do? Divorce is inevitable, apparently, and I have this name linked to a family that doesn't want me. And I've had that name longer than I had the other. Who the heck am I now?

My professional reputation, such as it is, is all with this name. Only my siblings and my mother even know the old name, probably, so changing back to my former name would be confusing to my friends. A soothing truth is that my children have this name. Sharing their name isn't essential, certainly, but is comforting and a little grounding right now.

Latching onto that might just be another manifestation of the dangerous tendency available to women of defining themselves through their children. And of course I'm more than my name, but I have to have one. And I don't know exactly what I want here.

Which leads me back to the feminist policy-making. What could I possibly tell a young bride? "Don't change your name because 26 years later he could turn into a duplicitous scumbag, and then who will you be?" You can't say that when everything is hopeful and new and when the focus should be on permanence and commitment. But I do sort of wish I'd thought more about that possibility, and that I didn't have this permanent-feeling symbol that I turned my heart and identity over to someone who much later rejected both.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

First Sentences

I borrowed this idea from Lisa, who got it from someone else I think. The idea is to find the first sentence from the first post of each month for last year. It's a way of determining what you were really talking about and maybe to determine what the theme of the year became. Mine, as you know, didn't end like it began, to say the least.

January: "I watched An Inconvenient Truth last night." OK, we started the year out being cause-y.
February: "Hanging out with a group of Indian women, I met their children." This is from my India trip, and could be construed as social justice related. That was the goal, anyway.
March: "We have now established the upper bound for the endurable amount of time spent away from marital...ummm.... comforts." Ummm.... not so much with the social justice. This post was about sex, and the strain on the marriage of living apart. If I had only known that I was the only one not getting any sex!
April: "A few months ago, I blogged about Bishop Bruskewitz, Call to Action's excommunication in his diocese, and the Vatican's upholding of the excommunication." My fairly regular Catholicism rant... I like to imagine that these posts are related to social justice issues.
May: "I tell knitting students that all we knitters do is take perfectly good string and tangle it up." OK, a knitting post. It's part of who I am. At least I wasn't whining about sex or my marriage falling apart!
June: "Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear." The last of the Friday Random 10, as it happens.
July: "Rachel has a March of Dimes memory bracelet here: Rachel Grace." Poor sweet tiny Rachel... we miss her.
August: "Our neighbor, fellow parishioner, and colleague Dave Changnon (a specialist on climate change, as it happens) took these pictures of our flooded hometown." This was the only post in August, and it wasn't until the 25th. Now there's a clue -in retrospect- that something was dreadfully wrong.
September: "The first year students are here and wandering around in wide-eyed wonder." A post about kids growing up and taking one's own children off to college. I kind of liked that post, actually, but it wasn't really related to social justice.
October: "My marriage was falling apart around my head, and I couldn't think about anything else." Uh oh... here we go.
November: "On the last horrible day of living with my husband, I was e-mailing my siblings about every half hour." Still whining... but I was still homeless, too. Some whining was certainly justified. I was certainly still terrified, if that's any kind of justification.
December: "I feel almost competent this morning." At least for one day, things were looking up for me. Yet, it must be conceded that it has been a long time without a social justice post.

So, here's the tally:

Social Justice (very broadly construed) posts: 3
Marital Whining: 1
Family posts:2
Knitting posts: 1
"Oh my God, the sky is falling" posts": 3
Knitting... the weather...miscellany: 2

I need to get back on topic to be fully who I am. On the other hand, I think we started to build some real community when my life fell apart, and I so desperately needed you guys. Maybe theoerical social justice stuff, while important, needs a human face.

Anyone else want to volunteer for this year? I'm plum worn out!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The 18-month Plan

This started out being New Year's Resolutions. It's sort of trendy to not like resolutions, but I like them a lot. I use the new year as a good jumping off point for hoping and dreaming. I work backwards from the hopes and dreams to an actual plan. From the plan, I derive daily and weekly tasks that move me forward. And yes, I carry the plan around with me all the time. I haul it out and look at it when life seems like it's going nowhere -or nowhere good. Social work students will recognize this as nothing more than the case planning we do with clients. It's just that I'm my own client -which must be illegal ;)

This year, as you all know, things got knocked awry. So I need more than a year to get some of these things done; it's more like an 18-month plan this time. The categories are just for my amusement.


Weigh 110 by August (N's graduation)
Train for a triathlon –whether or not you do one!
GITAP (long-distance bike ride)
Daily yoga practice
Have people over for brunch regularly
Build a wine collection
Keep a bottle of good champagne in the fridge
Find a neighborhood bar
Exercise 6 days a week
Maintain relationship with Sarah the wonder-hair-dresser
Rock climbing –the goal is weekly climbing, but I’d settle for twice a month –in March, become a member
Get better work clothes
resume daily riding as soon as the weather allows
go the gym at least three days a week
set up workout room and yoga space

Figure out a way to do this relationship demise thing gracefully and how to survive it.
Send birthday cards
Get an address book
Update it
Write to out of the area friends
Update emergency contact information
Get a will and advanced health care directives
Update funeral arrangements

Buy the house
Get a new furnace and central air
Re-create the gardens
Buy some new furniture -new couch and some outdoor furniture
Focus on safety, security, and grace

Professional; Financial; Educational
Re-learn to do a cartwheel
Take a few yoga workshops
Think about the next job –craft the plan
Write the preemie knits book
Get the preemie pattern book published
Work for the 18 months I promised at Hesed House.
At 12-month anniversary, start looking for the next thing. Keep working until you find it.
Keep planning interesting things at the yarn shop.
Attend an international conference.
Keep the idea of a social justice institute alive in your heart and mind -what can you do to make it a reality?
Retirement planning, in this brave new single world :(

Spiritual; Communal
Find a volunteer opportunity that nurtures you and does some good.
Buy flowers once a month
Join a book club
Donate blood
Become an NPR member
Get back to buying organic and fair trade whenever possible
Advocate for bicycling in town and elsewhere
See if Newman can still be your spiritual community -haul your sorry self back to church!
Reconnect with almost-lost friends
Nurture connections with all friends
Daily meditation as part of yoga practice

Expeditional; Recreational
Go to the movies once a month
Travel outside of the US
See live music and dance
Stay up dancing until the wee hours of the morning
Sib trip
Start planning for a volunteer vacation –internationally
Figure out a way to go to an international conference.
Save for Tuscany trip

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Purple Luggage Goes to Tuscany

One of those goofy sayings in my family is "you have to do it to do it". It's just another way of saying that you can't just think about doing something, or talk about it (which heaven knows I can do ad nauseum), or wish about it. You have to do it. "It" could be buy those earrings, call that guy, go to graduate school, or, in this case, go on that trip.

OK, the trip isn't for a while -more than a year, to be truthful. But today, I sent in a deposit for a hotel (a castle, really) room in Tuscany. I'm going. I've always wanted to go, and it's going to happen. I can't really afford it, but I have plenty of time to save up for it.

And today I saw sweet purple luggage on sale, and decided that it was a sign from the universe. I now have pretty purple luggage, which will be easy to spot on the airport luggage carousel. As a symbol that I really mean it, I bought the luggage, even though I have no trips planned for months. Well, actually, I have no trips planned at all, but probably there will be one somewhere this summer. But I have luggage and a passport, in case some exotic possibility springs up on short notice ;)

I haven't done much traveling on my own. Organizing the travel and the tickets and the passports and exchanging money, I let Dave do all of that. Enough! I'm doing it this time.

Anybody want to go to Tuscany a year from June? You have to do it to do it!