The One That Got Away

I’ve said numerous times, in a sort of humorous way, that most all of my previous boyfriends are dead with the exception of one, and he’s the only one I wish was.   Dead, that is.  And it’s really not funny.

 But actually, that’s not entirely true.  My first boyfriend, whom I do still consider my “first love” is still alive and I’m happy he is.  He’s not the one I wish was dead.  He was a good guy.  I “went” with him when I was in eighth grade, I believe, and he was a sophomore.  He was two years older than me.   I broke up  with  him after a year or so and he soon took up with a senior; a girl who was supposedly very experienced in certain areas.  Except he still called me constantly.  I consider him my “first love” in a nostalgic way because he really was the first guy that I really liked and I did really care for him.   We had a blast together and he was so nice – and so nice to me.  He had his driver’s license, but I could not go anywhere in a car with him, so every morning before school, he drove his car to my parent’s home, unloaded his bike, waited for me to finish breakfast with my family, and then he and I walked to school.  He pushing his bike, and me carrying my books.   He eventually broke up with the experienced girl and went with numerous others, yet continued to call me the entire time I was in school.  I have very fond memories of that innocent time and relationship and am glad it is such a happy memory for me.  We eventually lost all contact, but years later, living two hours away from my hometown, I was a social worker for a preschool and was making home visits.  I had met the child whose home I would be visiting that day, and as I got to his home, and headed up the walk to their front door, it opened and there he stood.  My boyfriend from the 8th grade.  He said my name, as if it were a question.  I stood on the sidewalk staring at him.  He asked me why I was there and when I told him, he invited me in.   He had a house full of kids and a wife watching a soap opera. 

 Let’s jump to my college years, shall we?  I met him soon after we both arrived for our freshman year.  And from that point on, through many trials, tribulations and a breakup, we remained together for five years and were actually very proud of that fact.  That we had stayed together through thick and thin for a long time, had each changed but still loved each other, we felt was an accomplishment.  And even though I was still a mixed up, immature and unaware young woman and he had his own not necessarily healthy habits, neither of us had any doubt we would stay together and we were committed.  Then I answered the doorbell early one morning to two people standing on my front stoop taking steps toward me as they said, “there’s been an accident”.  He died in a car wreck.  That was a hard one for me.  A very hard one.  It was the 25th anniversary of his death a couple of years or more ago. 

 Then the next serious relationship lasted about two years.  He was very sweet, very nice and very devoted to me.  But he had his problems and issues, and I obviously had mine, and together we had many.  But we had many many fun and good times.  Too much fun.  And I needed it to stop.  So I left town, he followed, we tried to make another go at it because I hated hurting his feelings but I finally had to.  And I did.  Hurt his feelings.   Big time.  Lots of drama and half-hearted stalking (not the scary, mean kind, but the “can’t let go “ kind).  And then he died weeks after our last  and final run-in.  I did tell myself it was not my fault, but don’t ever think I actually believed it.

 Then a year later, the next relationship. This person pursued me because he saw a very vulnerable young woman who was fairly lost, insecure and had been through a lot and he wined and dined me with money he didn’t have and he romanced me with his charming, yet egotistical and narcissistic ways, of which he had lots.  This one was obviously a huge and stupid mistake on my part and so six months after I broke it off with him, I was not glad, but not sad when a girlfriend called to tell me he had died.  Suffocated after a drunken bender.  Oh, I was sad that there are people out there who are “like that” and believe their own bs and drink until they die, but I was not sad that this person was unable to prey on vulnerable young women any more.  I wasn’t the first and am sure I wasn’t the last.  Period.  End of story.  This story, at least.

 Then many years passed and I got married and had my two wonderful, wonderful sons.  And then years later, my husband died.  And since my husband was my sons’ father, I don’t want to go into too many details out of respect for my sons.  The point is, for this piece, is that he has passed away. 

 Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of my story of my past relationships.  I wish it was.  This is the one I wish I had never happened.  The disaster relationship that happened between my “first love” in eighth grade and my “soul mate” in college.  That would put this one during my high school years.  I was a cheerleader.  I was also the daughter of a raging alcoholic and was going to school each day amidst a world of problems at home and after nights of drunken rages and screaming.  So I was very insecure, not the least bit confident and basically very very easily led.  I didn’t know him prior to friends setting me up with him.  He was my age and played sports with the boyfriends of my two girlfriends.  I basically “went with” him because I guess I thought I was supposed to.  Actually, in retrospect, in hindsight that is so illuminating, I can see that not only did I not even like this person, we had absolutely nothing in common.  I was bookish, shy and needy.  He was boorish, egotistical, chauvinistic and chunky.  As in fat.  And not good-looking.  This should have been a very clear sign for me, that I was not making decisions for myself but rather, was letting other people and pressures influence me, because I was very into “looks”.  In any case, a healthy confident “me” would not have been attracted to him and frankly, I wasn’t.  He was also the football and basketball star.  I can’t remember the first time he slapped me.  But I remember being stunned – and afraid.  And I also remember the pools of tears that immediately formed in my eyes.  And I remember thinking, “what the hell?”.  The slapping escalated to hitting.  And then hair-pulling.  Shoving.  Choking.  And more slapping.  Bloody noses.  Bruises on my forehead and arms and legs.  But the most damage was on my self-esteem.  I went from dealing with an alcoholic father at home in the evenings to a pathologically jealous monster who beat the hell out of me just to let me know “who was in charge” during the day.  This was when I began to look down when I walked.  Because if I looked up, I might see some guy and if he saw me looking at some guy, I got pinched really hard during school and warned of what was going to happen after school and then I got hit after school.  I came to live in a state of fear.  And since my self-esteem was shattered at this point, I amazingly let it go on for over a year.  My parents had big, big problems of their own and couldn’t handle one more.  This guy made the kick at the football game that propelled our little team into the State Finals for the first time in years, so I didn’t think anyone would believe me or it would cause a bigger deal than I could handle at that point. I didn’t want to be the one who rained on the entire town’s parade.  And quite frankly, I was embarrassed; too humiliated to say anything to anyone.  I felt something was wrong with me for someone to want to hit me.  My parents didn’t even hardly spank us, much less hit us.  Some people knew it; some people witnessed it.  I always wondered why his parents never did anything, because some of these beatings went on while we were in his bedroom of their home and I just knew that they must have heard it.  And then he dumped me for the daughter of our school principal.  I was devastated.  Literally.  He treated me like I was nothing, and now I had nothing.  But the worst injustice and the reason for my devastation was that I knew no one would believe me now, because now he was tight with the principal’s family, and the principal had a fair amount of influence, and everyone would just say I was accusing him of something terrible because he broke up with me.  But I wouldn’t have been.  I just wasn’t strong enough to say I was a young woman who allowed herself to be beat up almost daily for over a year and never spoke up about it.  I do know there were a couple of teachers that knew it because they used to always pull me aside and ask if I “was okay”.  And they would ask me about the bruises and when I would tell them some lame excuse of how I got them, they would just stare at me like they didn’t believe me but didn’t quite know what to do about it either.  And one of them died of cancer and the other moved away.  Eventually, I went on to college and tried to continue on with my life.  Readers might wonder why I didn’t just leave him or tell someone, but unless you are in a situation like this, you have no idea of how it unfolds and the different emotions a woman feels while dealing with an abusive relationship.  Her self esteem plummets and she feels she has no one and nothing, and if she doesn’t have him, even abusing her, then she has nothing.  Also, because of the constant depression, worry and fear, she isn’t thinking rationally and it’s hard to summon up the confidence to speak up for herself.  One day I did leave school early, because I was afraid of a threat he made to me that was going to happen after school.  I told the school nurse I was ill, and when I was supposed to be waiting on a parent to pick me up, I just left the school and started walking home.  He saw me from his classroom, and soon I heard a car driving slowly behind me as I walked.  It was him and he asked me what I thought I was doing.  I said I was walking home and to leave me alone or I would hit him with my flute case.  He just stopped car before I knew what was happening, got out and grabbed the flute case out of my hand and grabbed me by the arm and hustled me to the car and shoved me in.   No one in the nearby homes I guess saw us and if they did, no one wanted to get involved.  This is another reason women find it hard to get away from abusive men.  They are much bigger and much faster and the people who do happen to suspect it or possibly witness it don’t always act like they want to get involved .  Also, research show that men who choke women have a greater probability of eventually killing that woman than men who do not choke.  I have to include this one more thing because it is so typical of men who beat women.  Amazingly,  after my fiancé died in college, and I returned to my hometown, this guy went around town telling everyone who would stand around long enough to listen, that my parents were trying to get him to contact me again in hopes of a reconciliation.  I think my mother wanted to beat him up after she heard that and she’s a pacifist.

 So, he’s the one that got away.  Has cheated death so far.  The one who is still living.  The one whom I wished had died, but hasn’t.

It All Started With Ree

I can’t for the life of me remember when I first happened on to the blog, I’ve recently spent a few nights before bed trying to come up with how and why I initially found Ree Drummond’s award-winning blog. I don’t think I had heard of her before I found the website. Actually, I think I found it because I was looking up the word “pioneer” on Google for a school project for one of my sons, and it came up with all of the other stuff regarding “pioneers”. But what I do know is that night was the start of this infatuation I have for Ree and her blog – and Marlboro Man and their kids and their extended family and Ree’s sister and nephew and Ree’s brother and Ree’s best friend, Hyacinth and their hired help and Walter and the rest of their pets. I didn’t even know Ree’s blog was a “blog”.  I didn’t know what a blog was.  This was just a fantastic website put together by this obviously cool and talented woman and it looked good and professional and it had all these different pages describing different areas of her life with all these great pictures. And there were advertisements – from places like Macys!!!  Real ads!!  And then there was the story of Ree. Back then her book about the courtship of her and Ladd (yes, I know him well enough from the blog to call him by his first name) had not been published yet. So, I read the story on her blog in nearly one sitting, only stopping that first night because I HAD to get some sleep before it was time to wake the boys up for school the next morning. But as soon as I was back from the morning school run the next day, I sat back down and found the blog again and started reading and finished it that day. I lOVED reading about Ree and her family. And so began my fanship (like friendship only we’re not friends) with the Drummond’s.  They have absolutely no idea I even exist on this earth. But I know a lot about them because I read Ree’s blog every morning. I think one of the things that initially drew me to Ree so much (besides her amazing blog) was that even though I figured I was probably older than she, I knew I grew up in nearly the same time period as she did, because I completely identified with all the trends and fads she mentioned when talking about her youth. And I grew up laying out at the country club pool in our town. And I live in a neighboring state to Oklahoma, where my brother now lives and I was fairly familiar with where she lives now.  I spent those first few weeks of reading her column trying to figure out if she grew up in Enid or Edmond, OK (it was neither) and just where they lived now.  AND I loved her clothes and all the other stuff she put on her blog.  I even still think about something she wrote about what her maternal grandmother said about being a “lady”.  And then I started telling friends about this amazing woman, this cool woman about our age, who had this website telling all about her life on this cool ranch, and my friends would just stare at me for a minute, and then start talking about something else. And now when the blockbuster movie comes out about Ree and Ladd, probably starring Reese Witherspoon, all my friends will go and LOVE it and I will tell them I knew her FIRST!!!, and will remind them I TRIED to tell them about her over a year ago, and they will stare at me for a little while and start talking about something else or else they will tell me they don’t remember me ever telling them about her. But I love Ree, I watch Ree’s cooking show and Ree introduced me to blogs. Only she doesn’t know she did. And she’s helped turn me into a “great cook”, according to my sons. She doesn’t know that either.

But anyway, Ree introduced me to, and then I learned about and then I happened onto Flower Patch Farmgirl and so on and so on and now I spend a GOOD part of my morning reading a list of blogs that I have in my “favorites” and it’s one of my favorite parts of my day.  I could easily spend hours clicking from one blog to another, because there are SO many GOOD ones out there and I probably only know of a very very small fraction of all the good blogs out there!  I add a new one almost daily, on the recommendation of one I already read.  I have to limit myself to about an hour a day reading my blogs.  Dogs need to be walked, house needs to be cleaned, laundry needs to be done,  bills need to be paid.

The list of blogs I read are as diverse as my personality.  I’m an Aquarius and like a lot of different things.  I love bourbonand pearls and I love Miss Janice.  I love Home Joy by Frances Schultz (is she Charles Schultz’s widow?) and I love Momastery.  I love Monograms and Manicures and Maryland Pink and Green.  I love Back Down South and Collect 5.  I love Dixie Delights and I love An Inch of Gray and . . . . . It All Started with Paint, Non-Consumer Advocate, Southern Hospitality, At the Picket Fence, Beantown Prepster, And Now We Are Six, Pink Wallpaper, Chinioserie Chic, House of Fifty, Tenth Avenue South, Centsational Girl, Ten June, Diary of a Domestic Failure, Nat the Fat Rat, Pauline Wiles, Isabella and Max, The Mustard Ceiling, googiemomma, Better After, Windlost, PeaHen Pad, Thistlewood Farm, Beard and Pigtails, The Simply Luxurious Life, fourgenerationsoneroof,, Between Naps on the Porch, It’s Official, Unabashedly Prep, Never A Dull Day, Bible Love Notes, mynottinghill and Reggie Darling.  Yes, that many and there are actually more.

I love blogs because I love to read.  And I love to learn.  And I love to look at people’s homes for ideas on how to decorate.  And I love to hear advice on raising children.  And I like to read stories about people who are trying to make a difference.  And I like to hear from others who have struggles sometimes and read how they work through them.  And I like to hear about people who are trying to be better people.  And I like to see what clothes and jewelry and shoes people like.  And I like to see how to do stuff.  And I like book recommendations.  And I like family stories.  And I also share in grief with some people who have had major and tragic losses.

I also like to write, which is why I started this blog.  It may not end up getting a lot of “traffic”, and it will probably never have any fantastic, high-quality pictures of our life (because I only take regular pictures), but so far I like it and I have two fans who live with me.  I’m sure I won’t ever win any awards at blogging conventions and I probably will never have any publishing houses try to outbid each other for the rights to a possible book of my writings and I will never have a movie made about me starring Reese Witherspoon.  But I like being part of a group of people who have made me laugh, made me smile, made me cry, impressed me, amazed me, taught me and entertained me.  All on a daily basis and all from this chair I’m sitting in now.

And it all started with Ree.

Karma – And An Open Apology

There are some things that happen in this universe that cannot be explained. Strange coincidences, bad things happening to good people, and my sons’ overwhelming embarrassment of my mere presence in most situations. And their overwhelming acceptance and approval of their grandmother’s presence in any situation. Their grandmother who never embarrasses them is my mother.
Growing up, I remember being embarrassed by my mother many many times. In her defense, I was a pathologically insecure child who was embarrassed by even my own shadow. And in her defense, my close friends loved her and liked sitting around and chatting with her, and when we were at cheerleading camp one summer, one friend became homesick and announced she wished she was “at your house with your mom and the three of us sitting on the couch together watching a good movie with a big bowl of popcorn”. So, my embarrassment I felt for my mother had nothing really to do with her, and had a lot to do with me.  And before I go any further, I want to emphasize that no one else seemed to have a problem with my mother but me.  And I certainly wouldn’t want her to type up a piece on all the ways I mortified her when I was younger.
I wanted a mother who was sophisticated looking; trim, with gorgeous clothes, and I guess who never spoke. My mother was and is beautiful, but during those years of trying to raise four children, hold down a full-time job and deal with a husband who was becoming increasingly irresponsible, sophisticated and elegant she was not. She had gained some weight, she wore double-knit polyester, elasticized pants and sensible shoes and she cut her hair in a “practical” style.  She wasn’t a member of the group of mothers I considered the “in” group, she didn’t play golf, and every car she drove was a hand-me-down from the local funeral home that my dad worked for.  Each time the funeral home purchased a new “family car”, we got the old model for our family car.  She smoked, but not while lying around the country club pool in her bathing suit with a beer or cocktail in her hand like the sophisticated mothers.  She never had cool parties on weekends with her friends, serving alcohol and exotic snacks.  She put her bare feet up on the coffee table.  She cut my bangs too short.

If she caught me out in public with the cool crowd who had bad reputations, a crowd I would desperately try to impress, she thought nothing of roaring up in her big Cadillac with MY little grandmother in the seat next to her and  my siblings in the back, giving me a piece of her mind before ordering me to “get in”.   If we were marching with the school band or performing in some other school function, she would yell our names and wave and cheer to get our attention.  Once, when she picked me up from school in the middle of the day, as we drove off in front of the whole school in her old Cadillac, the muffler partially fell off right in front of the school, meaning one end of it remained attached to the undercarriage of the car and the other end fell off, and so it was drug as we drove and I can still hear the excruciatingly loud din of the sound of a metal muffler dragging and scraping against asphalt coupled with the even louder racket a car makes when it has no muffler.  I wanted us to crash and die, but it didn’t bother her in the least, and when I was forced, literally forced by her to return to school that day, people told me they could  hear us and the car from their classrooms blocks from the school as we drove home.

As I got older, I became even more immature.  I simply cringed when my mother even opened her mouth in public.  As I became even more introverted and self-conscious, my mother became more confident and outspoken.  Her every move mortified me.  And became exaggerated in my own mind.  Her opinions sounded boastful and arrogant.  Her table manners seemed crude.  When she popped her gum, it reverberated in my ears.  If she needed help or directions, she made no bones about hollering to get someone’s attention and assistance, whereas I would rather flounder for hours on end than ask for assistance.  I thought she talked too much.

I always vowed that if and when I had children, I would be the type of mother that my children would be proud of.  A cool mom.  A good-looking and thin mom.  A mom who had absolutely no traits that would be embarrassing to a child or teenager.  Then I had my sons.

Long story somewhat shorter.  I am not a loud person; I don’t say much out in public; I am slim and I love clothing and fashion and dress well.  But what goes around, comes around and it has come around to me.  My sons don’t want me saying even the slightest thing to anyone out in public.  They don’t want me to roll down the window after I let them out for school and say good-bye.  They don’t want me to get out of the car at school for anything.  They don’t want me asking waitresses for anything and they really don’t want me to complain in a restaurant even if I have good reason.  I said something very nice to a friend of theirs recently in a store and one of my sons stormed out of there, angry and humiliated.  They don’t want me saying anything to coaches and they want me to keep my mouth shut at parent-teacher conferences.  They don’t want me cheering them on from the sidelines during games or runs.  They mumble and when I ask them to repeat it, they get mad.

However, their grandmother can do no wrong.    She now goes everywhere with us and on her cane and walker, and it doesn’t bother them in the least.  She cheers them on loudly from the sidelines and waves her cane and they don’t mind.  She talks to their coaches and teachers, introduces herself and brags on them for minutes on end it seems and it doesn’t faze them.  If I try to discreetly ask her to bring something down a notch, they get irritated with me and tell me to leave her alone.  She talks to everyone and even becomes friends with waitresses by the time we leave a restaurant and they love it.  She talks loud because she is losing her hearing and they happily repeat what she doesn’t hear.  They hug and kiss her in public in front of everyone; friends and coaches.

So this is a public apology to my mother.  I am sorry for being so rude to you when I was younger and when I was older.  You weren’t doing anything wrong but trying to be a mom, and my own insecurities about myself were being taken out on you.    And few things amaze me more and make me happier than seeing how my sons delight in having you around – and in public and in front of everyone.

Karma is a b___ch.  And so was I.

Random Acts of Kindness – or Unexpected Gifts

When was the last time you received a gift that just completely threw you for a loop because it was so unexpected and because it made you feel so good at the moment you received it?  And when was the last time someone did something so kind to or for you, that you walked away so moved?

For me, the last time either of those things happened to me was yesterday.  At around noon.  In a supermarket parking lot.

Just as I was approaching the doors to the grocery store, a woman I know was coming out of the store.  I would call her a friend, but I don’t know if we’re even familiar with each other enough to call each other friends.  I know her because this is a small town we both live in, and even though there are people who live here I don’t know, it’s the kind of community where I do know a lot of the people who live here.  She is married to a man I used to babysit for when he was a boy; whose mother I used to know very well.  They used to be our neighbors when I still lived with my parents.  And when I moved back here ten years ago, after being gone for over twenty, the boy had grown into a man and he was now married with children and this woman, Lori, is his wife.  She has also cut my hair before, and she is now my mother’s hairdresser.  She has two daughters, one of which I know of because I have heard the nicest things about her from some other mothers.  I don’t even see Lori that often.  It even takes me a minute to recognize her the few times I do see her.

So yesterday, as I was approaching the doors to the store, Lori was coming out and we saw each other, and I realized it was Lori, and we greeted each other and she said she had just seen my mother and done her hair.  As we spoke, we each kept walking in opposite directions, and then . . . all of a sudden, Lori stopped walking the opposite way and took three steps in my direction and threw her free arm around me (the other one held her sack of groceries) and gave me the sweetest, snuggest hug.  She just squeezed me.  And then she stopped and we continued chatting for a minute as we each again started walking on our respective ways, and we said our goodbyes . . .and I was so touched I kind of forgot for a minute why I was at the store.

That random act of kindness was so unexpected and felt so good that I felt like my whole being was smiling.  And I’ve reflected on it many times since then.  It’s like it made my whole day, and cast a much happier light on things that maybe wasn’t there earlier.  I wasn’t having a bad day; I was getting things done and was in a good mood.  But the fact that Lori was moved to give me a hug at that moment brought me more joy than she will probably ever realize.  I think I mumbled “thank you” but I’m not sure because it happened so fast.

And now I feel like I know Lori just a little bit better.  I feel like she must be very nice, with a good heart, and is not afraid to open that heart up and spread the love.  Her gift didn’t cost anything, it probably wasn’t planned, and I had done absolutely nothing to deserve it.  Like Grace.  And it made me feel so so good.  About Lori, about myself and about life.

Thank you, Lori.