Endings and Beginnings: An Update

Life has been extremely busy lately. Good busy, but busy nonetheless. So quick updates:

  • It’s the end of my semester, and I can’t believe how quickly time flew by. In the last week, I had a standing ovation from one class and incredible notes of thanks from several other students. This teaching thing, yeah I like it. Now the time-consuming part – I’ll be spending the next few weeks grading papers… (But I’m on the fall and spring schedules for next school year, which is awesome!)
  • B and I continue to talk daily. We closed the restaurant (again) on our last date, spending more than six hours talking and laughing and smiling without any concept of what time it was. (“Why does time seem to stop when I’m with you?” he asked when we realized it was 2 a.m. and the restaurant was closing.) At least one friend has asked if B and I have kissed. No, we haven’t. He continues to be a gentleman, walking me to my car, giving me a hug, kissing my cheek at the end of the evening (or early morning, in this case). I don’t know where this will lead, and while I look forward to finding out, I’m really realistic about it and taking things very slowly and cautiously.
  • Relatedly, a former coworker messaged me this week with a *demand* to get to know one of her friends who’s moving to town in a month or so. From her message: “I am going to introduce you to a friend of mine who is moving to (CITY). Not a “fix up” unless you just happen to hit it off that way but a great single dad who is extremely bright and funny and sarcastic and I think you would be friends. Oh, and just BTW, he’s exceedingly handsome and has an adorable young son. He’s an uber liberal feminist. I would consider running away with him if invited. Just a heads up. I am not giving either of you a choice in the matter.” I took a chance and messaged him yesterday. (Thank goodness I’ve had some recent practice being witty via emails…) Also, friend was right: he is ridiculously attractive.
  • The condo fell through. Someone offered full-price, all-cash, not-contingent-on-an-inspection offer, and the bank took it. It was a huge blow to my mom, and I think she’s reluctant to look anymore. I’ve shown her a few listings that are comparable, but she hasn’t taken any steps to move on anything. I think she’ll be around for a while.
  • Ethan had first communion last weekend. It’s a big deal for a second grade Catholic schoolboy. As Ethan was getting ready in my room on Saturday afternoon, I was struck with a feeling of sadness: Mike should have been there. Mike should have been helping him get ready, put on his first suit, tie his tie, comb his hair. Mike should have been sitting with E and I during mass. Mike should have seen his son reach across the aisle to hold the hand of one of his favorite (girl!) classmates during the “Our Father.” But he wasn’t there. Instead, I brought a photo of Mike to set on the empty chair, for Ethan to hold during the service. It made Ethan happy to have the image of his dad, but it was sad to watch as he held the photo close at key parts of mass. I was taken back at how empty and sad this otherwise happy occasion made me. I was glad when it was over and we could leave. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough – to get away from the happy families celebrating together: moms and dads and the first communicant and the extended families. (But it was super nice that E’s Big Brother came to mass.)

I’m looking forward to wrapping up this school year and then having the summer “free.” I’ve worked every summer and school break since I was 15 years old, so to have three months without obligations will be completely new to me. Also completely new to me: spending all day/night, every day/night with my kids – other than maternity leaves and occasional vacation days, I’ve worked since they were born. Actually, I worked through my maternity leaves and vacation days, so this will all be REALLY NEW to me.

Once I’ve submitted the final grades for the semester, I’ll be planning daily activities with the kids, a family road trip to the Gulf Coast, and visits with friends near and far. In my mind, I have lofty expectations for the summer – I hope reality lives up to it.

The too-short, too-busy weekend

Weekends like this last one make me wish for an extra day for recovery. So much to do, so much fun, so tired on Monday morning.

It started with arriving on my alma mater’s campus late on Friday. Too late to make the formal senior banquet, but that’s okay. Instead of changing into my sassy new dress (which I’m kind of disappointed about…I’ll have to find somewhere else to wear it), I walked into the ballroom, wearing jeans and a sweater, in time to hear the last 10 minutes of the “thank you” speeches.

The bar was closed, but I smiled sweetly and asked politely for two glasses of wine – it was a long drive through crazy Chicago traffic and I needed it. I was cornered by one of the college’s executives who made a weird, sort-of job pitch. I was pinned to the wall as she was trying to talk me into submitting a resume for a newly created position, and “wouldn’t you like to talk to the college president RIGHT NOW? He’s just over there…” Um, no. I just wanted to get my drink on and have a good time. Besides, I cannot relocate the kids again so soon. Would I like to work at my alma mater? Yes. But not now. Not for several years. But, um, thanks?

I was in a particularly social mood, but none of the usual suspects were planning on doing anything that night. Everyone was going back to the dorm or had other plans. Then I found two guys who graduated with me. They were deep in conversation, but after drinking those two glasses of wine in record time, I was feeling okay with interrupting their convo and finding out what they were up to.

I’ve known these two guys since freshman year. Super nice, super fun, and of course, they were eager to continue to drink. We ended up at the college bar (it’s a dry campus…with a bar). The Midwest rains left half of the bar underwater, but that didn’t stop anyone. With only one part of the bar open and the other (soggy part) blocked off with old church pews, it was crazy crowded.

The guys and I found a table just outside the bar and drank until almost 3 a.m. when the bar closed. It was fun. I don’t usually get to spend time with these two, so siting with them and talking and laughing was awesome.

Side note: If I know you IRL from college, I need to get your perspective on one of these guys. The single one. Who graduated with me. Who was looking particularly amazing with some scruffy facial hair and a well-tailored suit. Specifically, why is this guy still single? Why has he always been single? Am I missing something?

It was a rough Saturday morning, since the board meeting started at 8 a.m. I may have fallen out of bed at one point. That sucked. But I was feeling pretty good that morning. Until the beer and brat tent. After the meeting, the board was staffing the beer and brat tent for the annual spring festivities (a go cart race for alumni and one for students). Standing over vats of grilled meat soaking in boiling beer was nauseating, given my activities the night before. I was not sad when I was told I could leave an hour early.

I left campus and went to a local florist. I knew exactly what I wanted. Finding a single sunflower, I set off for the cemetery. Mike’s grave is in such a pretty spot. It’s off a walking trail, near the river. I knelt at his grave, my knees getting soaked and grass stained from the muddy earth. It was the first time I saw the headstone. I smiled as I placed the sunflower. We had a running joke about sunflowers: I once decorated our bedroom in blue and yellow with sunflower accents. He was not amused. I tried justifying the sunflowers as “manly” flowers – they’re tall, they grow food (seeds), they’re not a girly color like pink. It became something we laughed and joked until the end. It felt playful to place the sunflower on his grave. It felt good, it felt right. (My mom was appalled when I told her that I put a sunflower out. She thought it was “awful” and mean. I disagree.)

B and I exchanged a few texts Friday and Saturday – he had a crazy work weekend, and he knew I was on campus. It was nice. I didn’t tell him about visiting the cemetery. That’s still too weird to talk about with someone I’m casually getting to know. I’m not sure when we’ll see each other next – we both have ridiculous weekend schedules through mid-May, and our weekdays are just as crazy. Boo.

Sunday was another busy day. I had brunch with two good friends from my previous employer. I miss them and the wonderful team there, but I don’t miss the hours or the work or the politics of that place. But the people – they’re awesome. We had a good visit, and I hope we can do it again soon.

Quick stop at home to get Ethan and we were off to the craft store. He has his first communion this weekend, and prep for that important event has been a major pain. It’s become focused on parent-driven arts-and-crafts. No where in the Bible do I remember anyone writing about how important it is to design banners, cut religious symbols out of felt, decorate candles, or bedazzle crosses. Yet, for the last three months, it’s been one project after another. I’ve spent at least $100 on art supplies and countless hours “helping” Ethan to decorate all this stuff. I believe the kid should do his/her own work, and I really work in a supervisory role, helping him think it out and making sure images are appropriate for the religious ceremony. But after submitting our banners a few months ago, I learned that I am almost alone in this belief. Many moms took the lead on their kids’ banners (and admitted it to the rest of us) and you’d think they were competing for an award in elaborate felt design. It was nuts. For this month, we had to decorate a nine-inch white pillar candle. And get decorations to stick on it. And make sure all images were compatible with the child’s “spiritual journey” so far. I bought some scrap-book crosses and peace doves, and used sticky dots to adhere to the candle with the words “love” and “faith” Sharpied across the top and bottom of the candle. I’m not an artsy, crafty person. I hated these projects – glad the candle was the last one. It better be the last one.

The rest of the day was filled with some outside work (yay, nice weather) and playing with the kids. Then grading. Oh my goodness, the end of the semester grading. I did not plan this well and I’m way behind.

I was already tired from the amount of activity this weekend, when at 1 a.m., Lauren got sick. Change the sheets, wash her and change her, then put her in bed with me where she played for an hour before falling asleep. Every cough and sound she made, I was on high alert so she wouldn’t puke in my bed (she didn’t, thank goodness). She was super tired this morning, as was I and Ethan, who woke up when she was crying and calling for me.

One more day would have been nice. One more day for recovery. How many more days until the next weekend? I hope it comes soon… Wait, I’m completely booked next weekend, too. Ugh!

RANDOM: Sparks/Fireworks and Handy Manly

I’ve written and rewritten this entry a million times, and it’s still not “right.” But I need to get these thoughts out of my head now, so I’m hitting “Publish”…

I had a great time with B on Saturday night. It was nice and comfortable and fun. I smile when I think about him or when he texts or I see his name in my email. (He’s started signing his emails with “Yours” and his name. It’s quite sweet.) Even friends to whom I’ve talked since the date have commented that they can “hear” my smile through the phone. And the ladies in the grief group commented on my smile and laughter last night as I recounted my weekend adventures – one of the ladies who also lost her husband and dad commented, “I like your life.”

(FYI: I’m smiling as I type this…)

Side note: Even if there’s no romantic relationship with B, I think we’d be good friends (but not Insurance Guy kind of friends!), and I’m so thankful that my first date was a positive experience. The experience proved that I CAN date, that I WANT to date, that the time is RIGHT.

But…

Two things keep swirling in my head:

  • Spark versus fireworks: I need to come to terms with the “getting to know” someone stage of dating. Having last dated in college (1995!), that step was nonexistent. I went to a small college – 1,000 students – so dating another student meant we knew everything about each other: hometowns, siblings, what (who) they did last weekend, past relationships, how smart they were. The basics. So when a boy in college took you to the Reflecting Pond and told you that he liked you, there were fireworks because damn, you liked him too – you KNEW him; you KNEW EVERYTHING about him. But things are different as an adult, especially someone pursuing a relationship through online dating. I don’t know anything about these guys, other than what they put in their profiles. (And I’m not sure much of that is accurate…) There’s a period of asking questions and telling stories and listening (and googling to make sure answers match up). Getting to know someone results in sparks and the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling. Sparks are nice, but I want fireworks. I think fireworks might come after the “get to know” stage. God, I hope there will be fireworks someday with someone…
  • Handy Manly: B is very nice. Kind. Gentle. You can see it in his eyes and facial expressions, hear it in his voice. This guy is a NICE person. And that’s good – don’t get me wrong. But…I keep reflecting on something my mom asked on Sunday: “Is he a manly man?” Well, no, not really, I don’t think so. “Well,” said my mom, “You need to find someone handy – to fix stuff. Mike sucked at fixing stuff. You need someone who’s not soft.” Now, Mike wasn’t a manly man. In fact, he was far from it. He couldn’t build or fix things. He didn’t hunt or fish. I teased that he was “handy for a lawyer” but truth was Mike couldn’t saw, hammer, or wrench his way out of a paper bag. Sure, it would be nice to have someone “fix stuff” but that’s hardly my sole criteria for finding a partner. Hell, in the last year, I’ve learned to use a snow blower, hang shelves straight the first time, and fix a leaky toilet – I’m doing okay with handy stuff on my own. But her words keep ringing in my ears… I’ve been talking to B for almost a month now; we’ve been on exactly one date – “how handy are you?” hasn’t exactly come up in conversation but I don’t get the feeling that he’s super-duper handy. I think my mom’s whole criticism stems from my dad, who was extremely handy and very tough – he was manly, for sure. She compares all men against him, but quite frankly, men today are much different from those of her generation. If he’s nice and kind, why should it matter?

Add to the list criteria other people think I should/do have: does not run marathons and handy around the house. Oh boy!

How I spent Sunday or defining “let’s be friends”

Continuing with the story of my weekend (my first date story here)…

Friday morning, a friend (the one who’s also exploring online dating) emailed to ask if I’d be interested in going to the baseball game with her on Sunday. A guy she’d been out with a few times invited her and “a friend” to the game – she’d expressed to him that she’d like to just be friends, and she’d told me a couple of times that I might be a better fit for him since they didn’t seem to connect. Let’s continue to call him Insurance Guy.

I’m not a huge baseball fan. Hell, I’m not a sports fan. But the invite to spend time with my friend, enjoy a game (and a few beers) from a suite, and possibly meet someone who might be a match seemed like a good idea. I agreed.

On the drive to the stadium, she filled me in – Insurance Guy is a nice guy, owns a successful business, has been divorced for eight years, just ended a six-year relationship, but just not into running (she’s a marathoner). The lack of his willingness to run 26 miles was a deal breaker for her. Of course, she thought I might be compatible.

Side note: While my bar is set at an average level for dating (unless you live in your parent’s basement and are unemployed and think you’re invisible and play D&D all day…), my criteria include a few more things other than “does not run marathons.”

We laughed and talked about our online dating experiences on the way to the stadium. I filled her in on my date with B. She told me that she and Insurance Guy had dinner the night before with two other couples. The dinner reaffirmed that she thought of him as a friend, and nothing more. She said she gave him the friends talk – again – the night before the game.

As soon as we entered the suite, I knew there was a problem. Insurance Guy light up when he saw my friend. He rushed over to her, hugged her, rubbed her back in a more-than-friendly way, and led her further into the room. I realized that this dude wasn’t getting the “friends” thing.

I stayed close to my friend throughout the couple of hours we were at the game. We separated ourselves from the rest of the attendees, including Insurance Guy. But there was no escaping him.

At one point, my friend and I were sitting just outside the suite. She was sitting as far away as possible from Insurance Guy;  I was closer to the suite door. Insurance Guy leaned in as far as he could to try to get in front of my friend. Instead he was totally in my personal space, his big head far too close to mine. He was trying to convince my friend to go for a walk with him. Not happening.

Insurance Guy was weird. He was entirely insincere. He made really bad jokes and had a super annoying laugh (and he laughed at his own jokes, a lot). For example, at least four times in the couple of hours we were there, he “joked” about the “touchdowns” during the baseball game. And then he laughed hysterically. We get it, dude, and it still isn’t funny.

He also sent his “friends” in the suite out into the stadium to buy him microbrews. Seems he is too good to drink the local fave national beer, which was stocked in the suite fridge. Even more disturbing, he didn’t offer my friend or me the better beer. Nope, we were left with drinking the beer in the suite – the beer he wouldn’t drink. Insurance Guy also kept talking about money – “ordering pizza here cost me $42 for one large pie” and “That 6-pack of soda was $18.” Who the F- cares, dude? If money is an issue, don’t do the suite thing.

The guys he invited to the suite were super creepy, too. One guy, a beer-bellied middle-aged balding guy, kept making reference to what a jerk he thinks the star player is. “He walks around like he has a 12-inch dick,” beer-belly kept saying – at least five times he referenced the player’s manhood. Jealous much?

My friend and I couldn’t wait to leave. Luckily, she told him we had to leave by 3, which left us only a few hours to “enjoy” the suite. Insurance Guy hugged both of us before we left – lingering way too long when he hugged my friend. On the walk to the car, I told her that Insurance Guy wasn’t on the same “friends” page, and that I thought she needed to be super aggressive with letting this guy go.

The afternoon didn’t go quite as planned, but I continued my weekend streak of laughing and smiling – albeit for different reasons than my date with B. Cross Insurance Guy off my friend’s dating list – and mine.

Coming soon: a few more thoughts about B.

First date with B

What a ridiculously fantastic weekend! I’m exhausted from laughing and smiling and good conversation and…fun.

Friday, Ethan tested for his next taekwondo belt. He did great and will be receiving his high purple belt this week. I also met with the school system about transitioning Lauren to a speech program in the fall. She’s been tested and qualifies for a special group two days a week.

But then…

Saturday was the big first date with B. I wasn’t really nervous, but more anxious. I prepared thought starter questions, in case our conversation lulled. I researched the restaurant at which we were meeting to make sure I would be dressed appropriately and to get a sense of the wine list. I checked out a few different routes to get there, since there was a baseball game and traffic was sure to be a mess.

Sporting dressy denim, a black sweater (too low-cut? Major cleavage debates happened in my head before I decided a little peak of one – two? – of my best assets was probably okay), a bright turquoise scarf (he said he favors jewel tones), and black and pewter ballet flats (I suspected he might not be too tall so heels were a no), I set off for the restaurant. In my inability to ever be late, I arrived almost 20 minutes early. I drove around the neighborhood for a while before finding a spot in the small parking lot.

I surfed Facebook for a while. Called my sister to talk about my niece’s prom that night. Listened to empowering music. And tried not to sweat (40 degrees but air conditioning blazing).

About 10 minutes before we were supposed to meet, he called. “Dammit!” I thought as I looked at his name on my phone. “He’s standing me up. I knew it was too good to be true!”

I debated letting the call roll to voicemail, but decided to answer it. His voice was slightly higher than normal. He was obviously uncomfortable.

“You won’t believe this…” he began. “I am so excited to meet you, so looking forward to tonight…” Turns out, he locked himself out of the house. Keys in the kitchen. No way in. I laughed (maybe too much, too long), told him it was okay, and that I’d see him soon. (He finally got into the house by shimmying a window in the sun porch and unlocking the back door.)

I texted with a friend, filling her in on what was happening. “I’m sure he’s dying!” she wrote. Instantly, I realized that he was probably ridiculously embarrassed. It wasn’t long before B called again. He was at the restaurant. I told him that I was parked in the lot across the street and I’d meet him in a minute.

As I walked through the lot, I texted my friend to let her know he arrived. I looked up, and he was walking across the street toward me.

He looked slightly different from his photos, but not too different. His dark curly hair was a little longer. Great smile. Intense but very kind and gentle eyes. He was dressed well – denim, white button down shirt, tan blazer. Exactly the kind of look I find wildly attractive – casual, cool, smart.

He told me there was a bit of a wait for our table and asked if I would mind having a drink at the bar first. Um…no…drink would be great. We went upstairs to the bar and he ordered a couple of glasses of wine. We stood and talked for about 15 minutes. Any initial meeting with someone new, even if it isn’t a “date,” is a little awkward – getting into the conversation groove, sizing up and drinking in the other person, finding the right amount of eye contact, absorbing the new environment.

We talked and laughed and soon the awkwardness was gone. A couple offered us their seats at the bar, and we continued talking until our table was ready. We talked, and laughed, and smiled, and had fun for two hours before we decided we probably should order dinner. We talked about everything – our childhoods, our kids, our careers (very similar career experiences), our interests. He complimented me appropriately (not too much, not too little, very sincere). It was nice. There weren’t many conversation lulls.

When dinner came, we both eyed the other’s dish and agreed to sample each other’s. Sharing food, not something I usually do – especially someone I just met. But it was comfortable and seemed right and the swordfish looked amazing (and it was). Conversation continued. We talked for another two and a half hours before we felt pressured to leave (we were the last ones in the restaurant and lights were starting to turn on, chairs were being moved, tables set for the next day).

B walked me back to my car. We stood in the cool night, awkwardness back between us. It was that part of the night when things could go several different ways, and you don’t know which way it’ll go because you can’t read the other person’s mind, and you kind of know want YOU want to do, and you’re trying to read the other person… He was staring at me, and me at him. I broke eye contact and smiled, looking down. “God, I suck at this,” I thought, smiling.

We talked about how much fun we had, and agreed that we wanted to see each other again. And then he leaned in for a hug. It was nice, the feel of his arms, and a little awkward because it was our first physical contact – how close, how tight, which way to move your head – all awkward that first time. He kissed my cheek. We said good night. I drove home.

He sent me an email about 20 minutes after I got home, thanking me for a great night and reiterated that he wants to see me again. I fell asleep (HOURS later) still smiling.

Side note: I have incredible friends. While many people IRL didn’t know about this date, a few did and the text messages, FB messages, phone calls, and emails I received before, during and after the date were much-needed and very appreciated. Knowing that there are people rooting for you, people who have your back, people who love you so much that they want to just see you happy – it’s truly amazing. XOXO

Coming soon: How I spent my Sunday (another online dating story) and Things were good with B but…