27 July 2006

What makes a fortune, fortunate?

" I've been in this world awhile
And I've seen a lot of country
Many days and many miles
All various and sundry
I've had my way and I've had my fun
And I've had my chance to run free
Burning hot beneath the sun
Freezing cold and wintry" ~ James Taylor

I had lunch yesterday with two wonderful friends. We settled on a Chinese restaurant near the office of the Magazine for whichI am currently writing a couple of features. Of course, this is one of those restaurants that have the "nice" fortune cookies, the kind you could share with your family and friends without blushing, but it also has the naughty fortune cookies, the ones you would most probably, ideally, share with someone very close to you - like if you were married or something along those lines.

Wouldn't you just know that my "naughty" fortune cookie came with not one, not two, but three fortunes - one more risque than the next! Never before had I managed to score a fortune cookie with three directives that are way too frisky to print on a PG-rated blog.

I then turned my attention to the basket containing the "nice" fortune cookies. Most of these don't have fortunes so much as little sayings, reaffirming truths you already know by heart. But mine was a little different, which sort of made-up, only slightly, for the fact that I had to give my "frisky fortunes" away...I think I'm holding a resentment here! :-)

But I loved the sentiment I drew. It was sweet, optimistic and it bespoke of something to look forward to. I like having things to look forward to - well, I like having positive possibilities looming in my future. Who doesn't?

Now, I'm not saying I live my life according to the dictates of a fortune found in a cookie in a Chinese restaurant, but why not believe it? If I choose to believe it, what can it hurt? Maybe there is a pleasant surprise waiting for me! Maybe anything is possible.

"Pleasant" has been the best descriptor of the last week and unexpected surprises have popped up from the craziest places imaginable. Of course, this hasn't been an easy run of late, but it's by no means been miserable - considering everything that's been going on. Work has been fine...and funny - and I've had enough freelance assignments to keep me out of trouble, but not so much that I haven't had time for a swim here and there, or tea with friends.

Maybe what I notice, most of all, is the startling absence of tension. I didn't really understand how tight and stressed my life had become, until everything, including my outlook, began to relax. It suddenly feels safe enough to take a deep breath, inhale the glorious scent of summer, and kick back just a little. It must be akin to how a turtle feels when he pops his head out of that hard, oppressive shell. It feels tenuous at first and you wonder what might be lurking that might qualify as an unwelcome surprise attack, but when you poke outside and realize that there is nothing to be afraid of, you really do feel an enormous wave of relief and, if you have been preoccupied with unhappy events, you can't imagine how amazing that feels. It IS like sunshine and it feels very warm and you begin to feel just a bit more brave - that shell is starting to feel almost weightless. I don't even think I need that shell any more.

Sometimes, you just have to stop and smell the daisies that you didn't even realize were in your path. That's a great thing! Of course they're white, with yellow centers...the best ones are.

You can be certain I will be on the look-out for anything resembling a pleasant surprise - as the stress begins to recede, it leaves in its wake room to notice all kinds of nice things, such as how wonderful it is to slice through the water on a late summer afternoon and rinse off the whole day in a series of flips, or how precious it is to make, and nurture, friendships, both old and unexpected new ones from a place I'd all but forgotten, and oddly enough find so nice (and funny!) to remember.

"Good things happen when you least expect them." Good things HAVE happened, and I had no expectations. I plan on being immensely grateful for the many pleasant surprises that have already littered my path this week. Everything else is gravy...and I really like gravy.

And, of course, I am grateful that Alta Vista still has an Italian translator!

23 July 2006

You're a daisy if you do...

...I'm a daisy and I will!

What just happened here?

That's the question of the day. And it's a valid one, maybe even one I've been avoiding like a writing deadline on a topic I have no interest in, because I knew the answers wouldn't be so forthcoming or painless to revisit. But I've spent a lot of time looking back. And I absolutely needed to do just that.

I stay very busy, and that is quite by design. It's the whole uniquely human coping mechanism called "denial". Now, it's not been so much a question of denial because, truth be told, I am the one who decided it was time to throw the towel in and move on, but that should not for one-second be mistaken for an action that was impulsive, frivolous or made on a whim.

The weeks leading up to my recent split were painful, confusing and comprised of some of the most unpleasant days I've ever experienced. The past few weeks since the break-up have been spent reliving the last, wheezy moments of life in a relationship that was almost pre-destined to fail.

It's been easy to stay busy - since the split of 24 June, I have had a lot of things on my plate and I've placed many of them there because I kind of figured out, after months of working a gazillion Sudoku puzzles, that when I am busy working them or living my life with lots of tasks and appointments competing for my attention, not to mention a cadre of friends determined to keep my mind on what is and what might be as opposed to what never really was, I've had hardly any real time to examine the pieces and try and understand how it all fell apart.

When a relationship, particularly a marriage, ceases to be, it's a death. Something that once held a lot of promise and was steeped in hope and optimism, just plain didn't make it. What I've been doing these past few weeks is very similar to what it's like when someone you love dies - there is the initial shock, the wake, the funeral, the visits and arrangements and managing of details such as opening new bank accounts, taking that ridiculous hyphen off my name and even changing the signature on my E-mail settings. There are things that demand immediate attention and that's a good thing, because I wasn't ready to look back quite yet - it would be way too painful and I would hurt, possibly cry and eventually become angry - and of course I KNOW I have to walk through all of those steps before I arrive at the threshold of the door to acceptance. Duh!

In all fairness, however, I grieved the demise of this relationship many weeks and months before its final hours. The last three weeks before it all went south, I felt sort of like someone who's been told by the doctor that someone precious is basically brain-dead and it's just a matter of pulling the plug. The EEG's, the CAT Scans, the thorough search for any possible signs of life have been exhausted. But as we all know, such a barren vegetative existance can stretch on for days, weeks, months and even years. Sure, there are always the occassional stories of miracle recoveries, patients who have been in a coma, death seemingly only a power surge away, who actually come back to tell the tale. But that's a rare event, probably on a par, statistically speaking, with winning the powerball lottery on the same day you're struck by lightning...for the third time.

These days, I find myself rearranging my clothes in a closet that suddenly has a lot more room, and "a lot more room" takes on a life of its own because many things suddenly become more spacious - the furniture, my driveway, the dining room table, and my bed. Even the attic now has room for more junk.

And yes, even my name is suddenly shorter. I never truly was a hyphen kind of woman and maybe that hyphen was subconsciously essential because there were things that never felt quite right. Or maybe I just liked the sound and appearance of Susie Parker better than Susie Perry or Susie Parker-Perry. Who knows?

But after the crowd disperses, and the guests take their leave, and my daughter boards a train back home to Manhattan (she only flies if it's a European Itinerary), life settles into a strange routine - strange in that something or, more to the point, someone is missing. There is a vacuum - an empty space - a bare spot that used to be taken up by a whole person and whether a break-up is inevitable or premature and unnecessary, when someone moves out, space is created and you have to readjust. There's just no way around it. Like the elephant in the living room that everyone pretends isn't really there, you can only look the other way for a finite period of time.

When my kids were small and it was time for a booster injection or an unannounced flu vaccination, they would initially protest and then beg for a few minutes to get ready and steel themselves. I usually gave them a minute or two so they would feel as if they had some control over the proceedings and then, in spite of the repeated protestations that they weren't ready yet, I would nod that it was time. Of course, all that extra pre-shot time did was allow them to become more tense and deal with the dread a minute or two longer, when in reality, the pain of the injection was never as bad as their imagination lead them to believe, and it was over with before they knew it. They were always so pleased with themselves following the shot - relieved beyond belief to have THAT over with, and proud of how brave they were. However, before they arrived at "I'm glad that's done!", they had to experience the sting of the needle. There was no way around it!

It feels very similar to what I feel right now - the last of the possessions are no longer in my home and if you were to walk through the rooms of my house, you would never know that anything was different. My bedroom contains only my clothes, the bathroom doesn't hint that there used to be two Sonicare brush heads where there is now one, and there are no photos on display that might hint a marriage had taken place, or that one had recently fallen apart. The tangible elements are erased, but it's those intangibles that aren't quite so easily swept under the berber carpet or disposed of with the kitty litter.

Even when it's the right thing to do - "when it's too late, baby, now it's too late. Though we really did try to make it...", as Carole King sang many years ago, it doesn't mean that it's not heartbreaking, painful, difficult and, while you can hide those photos on your Flickr Account and make a choice not to revisit them, you can't always turn-off the slideshow in your mind so easily. There is no software program with which human memory can be deftly and spotlessly eliminated. It's just as well, really, because if there was, I would probably need an updated driver and be on the phone to tech support for who knows how long?

And eventually, I find myself alone and finally with some time on my hands, and I start to look past the last gasping days of a marriage, and I remember that a year ago on this day, I was returning from a honeymoon on the Outer Banks. Life was exciting, exhilarating and everything felt possible. It was fun trying to figure out where to put wedding presents, what photos to place in frames, and it was even cool to find someone else's clothes in my closet because I stepped into a marriage with every intention and expectation of success.

Who knew that all of those "firsts", were also the "lasts"?

I look back at all of those things, "One year ago today, we went to the beach!", "One year ago today, we attended "The Lost Colony" and drove around for at least a couple of hours following the play, trying to find a local restaurant still open because we had forgotten to eat." One year ago today, we had bright yellow sheets, vases and vases filled with daisies still fresh from our wedding and there was a red VW Beetle in the driveway. We would come home from work, chop up a salad and head for our room, eat dinner and watch an old movie on Turner Classic Movies, and I'd usually fall asleep before the movie ended and have to find out what happened to Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant the next day. One year ago today, I had happily abandoned my practice of sleeping with the light on, because I was no longer sleeping alone and it felt right. One year ago today, I had hope.

One year later, I still have hope, but in something different. A future. And a determination to enjoy the present.

Of course, I miss the good things. In between the really dreadful and, ultimately, irreparable circumstances, there were nice moments, happy times and it was so grand stepping off the dating game. Never in one-million years would I imagine that one small year later, I would be back to sleeping alone with the light on, trying to figure out which remote works the DVD player.

Now I know that much of what was going on was a lot of smoke and mirrors, and that the facts and figures that were reluctantly turned over to me, uncovered the unwelcome reality that life as I knew it was about as stable as a house of cards in a hurricane. Hardly anything was what it was supposed to be, and try as I might to make sense of a lot of it, I couldn't explain it all away because I am, at my core, no fan of fiction and eventually life requires clear vision and the truth eventually wiggles its way out. Thank God it does!

This weekend, I have been going over events in my mind, recalling moments, revisiting photos, and playing scenes from something that looked so promising, but never really was. The experience of doing this has been, quite honestly, cathartic and I know I had to have this weekend and indulge these memories and look at them for what they were and, even more importantly, what they were not. I'm not exactly thrilled by the prospect of being single again, because I'd been single for ten really long years and I'd had enough dating for something like three lifetimes. I was never a fan of small talk, and nothing is worse than sitting through a four hour date that shouldn't have lasted more than five minutes. I hate that I'm going to have to be polite and gracious and find myself not returning phone calls again. I am not looking forward to dessert when I want to leave before the salad.

But what I would hate even more, would be to continue with a relationship that was about as stable as sand, and living each day in fear of what new, unwelcome surprises might pop up and take me down even more. What happened is much easier to deal with today, than it would be three, five or ten years down the line.

The other day, I asked Katie how long they thought it would be until I should consider dating - just how long should I be in mourning? She both laughed and said, ummmm...like...now. "It's over, too bad, so sad, get on with your life.". My friends and daughter tease me and nudge me forward, challenging me to get on with it - go have some fun, they say. I will in time, I promise.

I was married just long enough to know that I was in a doomed marriage, and reaffirm the fact that I still respect and love the institution and I refuse to ever give up on meeting the right man, at the right time, in the right place. I believe it will happen someday, and probably when I least expect it and I look forward to that, but for now, I am re-learning how to be single again. It's a lot like riding a bicycle, right?

Fortunately, in a dark sort of way, I have enough reminders not to expend too much time wasting the present by mourning the past; In the form of messages, e-mails and folks around me who, should I be completely brainless enough to wonder if this really had to happen, will swoop right in and reiterate for me that it absolutely did. "Look toward the future!" they will encourage me, and I will do just that.

But I am grateful for this weekend of introspection and even the happy memories that have conspired to make this a bittersweet collection of hours and a skip down a bizarre memory lane. I needed this time alone with myself, my thoughts, my memories, my regrets and my hopes for the future. I am glad nothing was so pressing that I would have, yet again, been too distracted from engaging in the inevitable. I am glad I have saved chats from the first innocent days of our relationship, the ups and downs of our courtship, and the queer wedding proposal that was wrapped in way too much drama. I am absolutely no fan of drama or histrionics and I try to avoid those who practice such traits whenever possible. I am glad for the memories and easily accessed written words, both sent and received, that reaffirm my decision and serve to jog my memory should I wonder if this was the right thing to do.

"Everything happens for a reason!", says Vaness and Katie. "If you hadn't got married, even though it didn't work out the way you had hoped, you wouldn't have been working here and you wouldn't have formed the bonds that are real and solid and dependable," and I wouldn't have had the opportunity to live many experiences that have made this a wild and crazy twelve months. As crazy as it sounds, even during this weird year, the positives are far ahead of the negatives. It's not even close.

I come from a family of stubborn, obstinate people who really do know how to adjust their sails in the direction of favorable winds, and I am so grateful they don't tolerate self-pity, because few things are more unattractive and unappealing. There are no victims here and I bristle when people express too much sympathy or offer too many condolences or go on and on about how terribly unfortunate it is that things turned out as they did. I find it annoying and while I am a lot of things, an object of pity will never, ever be one of them.

Thank God I work around strong women who feel the same. Thank God my genes are infused with resilience and a practical durability and would never support descriptions of "frail" or "weak". I am drawn toward strong people, and I come from the same. I may occasionally need prodded, but pampered and indulged? Thanks, I think I'll pass. I don't accept invitations to attend, nor do I host, pity soirees. Life is too short. I'll take laughing over crying every single time.

It's OK if you feel like expressing your sadness over the painful dissolution of a relationship - sure, go ahead and tell me that you're sorry it worked out the way it did, but then let it go. I certainly plan to and if I can, you might as well join me. And for both of our sakes, please don't tell me you saw this coming. I've never met anyone with dependable psychic abilities and the truth of it is, even if you didn't have a lot of hope that the marriage would endure, do us both a favor and keep it to yourself. It will save me from having to make an amends and it will save you from hearing what I might say that would necessitate the need for me to apologize to you later. Actually, a couple of people have made this remark to me, but I would most certainly wager they won't make that mistake again. I'm just saying...

I started this post with the question, "What just happened here?", and I've spent the weekend examining the answer: Newsflash!!!!! It failed - things weren't as they seemed and not all surprises are good surprises. Period. I hate that it happened but I am at peace with the decision. It couldn't be repaired. End of story.

Do we all stop living and be glum for the rest of our lives? Not a chance.

It's time to get on with it. I spent the requisite time mourning and grieving the demise of the relationship and, while I know it was necessary and a step not to be skipped, I have read enough old e-mails, old chats, and goodness knows more than enough bull shit and it's time to move forward because, frankly, I'm really bored with it.

"What just happened here?" I looked at things from every facet and they all pointed toward the same answer. It was unanimous. The tribe has spoken.

Maybe it's no huge mystery why I love daisies more than any other flower - they are strong, sunny, perky, sturdy and the darn things will grow and thrive just about anywhere.

Just like me.

18 July 2006

Safe Travels Katie - We love you

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened!" ~ Dr. Seuss.

Indeed, it was a week brimming with lots of things to smile about. Today wrapped up Katie's visit, and what a fine week it was. I think we squeezed just about as much fun and activity as anyone could from seven precious days.

All too soon, it was time to take Katie to Fayetteville to catch Amtrack, the train which is now taking her back to her new "home" in Manhattan.

What a change this evening was from the experience of saying goodbye to her when I left her in Manhattan on May 17th. I can't remember crying as hard as I did on that lonely day at the hotel we were staying at and I can't recall feeling more alone. It was worse than being alone. The only word I can use to describe it was feeling bereft. I wasn't alone on the return trip to Wilmington that painful day, but I might as well have been.

Tonight, when it was time to hug goodbye, of course I was sad to see her leave, but what a difference two months and completely different circumstances make! There were no tears, no feeling of "aloneness" or the horribly empty ache in the pit of my stomach. The lingering bleakness that I felt on the flight home back in May, was blessedly missing as we made our way back to Wilmington. I felt more in control, my life feels so much more manageable and I truly do feel like I am on the right path. I made a painful course correction, but it needed to be made in order to move forward.

Rather than bemoan the reality that Katie is NYC bound, I am grateful that she is happy, filled with joy and eager to see her incredible boyfriend. I am so thrilled for her, for both of them, in fact, because I have a sneaking suspicion that John is as anxious to have her home as she is to get there. What a wonderful feeling that is. How could I wish for anything less than her happiness? John has all of my respect and admiration. Katie has all of my love.

Thank you for a wonderful week, my dear. John, thanks for sharing this sprite with me.

Katie, your love and support, along with so many others, has made these past few challenging weeks so much easier to handle. Your sardonic, deliciously dark sense of humor made yesterday, what could have been a really difficult time, a downright fun day with new memories that are precious and sweet to recall.

Next month will find Katie's father, Tim, Justin and Stephanie, experiencing NYC for the first time and how much fun that will be for them! Katie should be rolling back into town some time in October and as for me, I need to come up with a good excuse, as if I needed a better one than I already have, to make it up to Manhattan at some point in September. It is so fantastic to have something wonderful to look forward to.

A tale of two goodbyes...

Tonight, I looked at a photo of the angst-ridden, sad "me" who told Katie goodbye on May 17 and the "me" who told Katie goodbye this evening. I completely recall that May 17th photo and I remember the pain and discontent swirling around inside of me; few times I can remember feeling so much despair. The photo taken tonight barely looks like the same person and, though it was a heckuva tumultuous two months, it had to happen or, as they say in AA - it took what it took. Not only did my watch start ticking, but I swear someone turned on the lights, opened the shades and finally allowed the sunshine to wash over everything.

17 May 2006

17 July 2006

It's stunning how beautiful everything looks after a storm. Life is an exquisite adventure.

It's a brand new day.

16 July 2006

Good friends, good family, good times!

"Jump in, let's go,
Lay back, enjoy the show
Everybody gets high,
Everybody gets low
These are the days when anything goes...

Everyday is a winding road
I get a little bit closer

Everyday is a fading sign

I get a little bit closer
To feeling fine..."

~ Sheryl Crowe
The weather turned dark and electrifying, but that only served to move the party inside and most certainly didn't dampen the mood. Guests began arriving around 6:30 and things broke up at around midnight. It was so much fun having everyone over, sharing good food, a lot of laughs, smiles, memories and future life forecasts!

The Day In Pictures...

Justin and Katie ready for company and food.

Justin, Susie and Katie waiting for guests.

Joe and Vanessa arrive!

The guest of honor and her happy grandparents!

Hanging out with Joe and his "biker-chic" girlfriend

Most of all, the evening was about celebrations - of family, good friends, and the gift of another day of life.

You can see more pictures of the evening by clicking here: Katie's Cook-out!
Katie, I think it's safe to say that everyone loves you and what a wonderful treat to have you with us for a week! We miss you, John!

Now we're going to head out and rent a couple of videos, order pizza, kick back and drink a sweet tea toast to this wonderful summer day - and laugh at life.

14 July 2006

The art, and gift, of time...

You can file this one under strange and bizarre.

Almost exactly two years ago, my Movado wristwatch, which was a gift from someone I used to know, stopped working. Of course, I was upset because I loved that watch. I always have loved Movados and when I received this in July 2003, I was thrilled. So when it stopped working in August 2004, I took it back to the Whitehall Jewelers, where it was purchased, and was told they would inform me if the "problem" was still under warranty, and what it would cost, if anything, to repair it.

A few weeks later, I heard from the jeweler and he informed me that the problem was not under warranty and that it would cost $450 to restore it. This didn't make sense to me and, of course, I argued (nicely) the point, but he was adamant and said nothing could be done.

I thought about it and decided that as much as I loved that watch, I wasn't going to spend $450 to fix the problem. I brought it back home and every time I would see it, I would wonder why this really good watch decided to stop working out of the blue. (Ok, so I did swim with it a few times - I have since discovered the difference between the terms "water proof" and "water resistant" but still, it was a freaking Movado we were talking about here.

For some strange reason, and maybe not so strange because I am nothing if not tenacious (stubborn), I took the watch back and tried again. Could they send it to wherever they send sick Movado watches and check again to see if it was under warranty? Please? Fortunately, I dealt with an unsuspecting new sales woman, and I didn't bother to go into the history and questions surrounding the "warranty". She took it, noted the name it was bought under (my former fiancee), and said she would call me when it came back.

Weeks passed and weeks turned into at least three months. One day I took a call from the new (and improved) manager of the jewelry store who was full of apologies, because it would seem the watch had been overlooked and never made it to the Movado Sick Watch Hospital/Factory. He profusely offered his regrets and said, because of the time this watch spent sitting in his store, it would be sent to the manufacturer and repaired free of charge, even if it was not a warranty covered item.

Yesterday, when I was stealing a couple of hours in the pool, I suddenly thought of the watch and wondered where it was and if it missed me. A few minutes ago, my phone rang and, though I didn't recognize the number, I took the call anyway (rare for me). It was the manager from the jewelry store, pleasantly informing me that my watch was ready to be picked up and was "as good as new". I wondered if I should even ask, so I gingerly inquired, "And I owe nothing, correct?".

"That's right, this was our mistake and all you have to do is pick it up.".

I broke out into a huge smile. Yes!!!! I am so excited to be rejoined with my watch! On the way to work today, I shall swing by the store and remove my trusty, reliable (but not elegant!) Seiko Mickey Mouse watch, and return to my wrist one of the few pieces of really nice jewelry in my possession. I have also practiced repeating many times in the last few weeks, "Water resistant ISN'T the same as water-proof." No more swimming or showers for this watch. I don't even think I'd take it out in a rainstorm!

Now, it should be noted, that I am not a jewelry aficionado by any stretch of the imagination. I can appreciate nice stones and intricate pieces and lovely diamonds, but it's not something I've ever really pined for. I have received some very beautiful diamond earrings, birthstone rings, and a couple of interesting bracelets over the past ten years, but to say jewelry is a passion? No, not at all. Books are my addiction, no question.

Having said that, for some strange reason, I have always appreciated Movado watches and I'm not sure why, other than they strike me as elegantly understated. Maybe it's because they have no numbers on the face and allow you the option to decide..."is it really ten past one or ten past two?". I have no idea. I just love them. Not quite as much as I might love a shopping frenzy at Barnes and Noble, but close. Definitely close.

The really weirdest part of all of this, and I can hear Vanessa saying in her "knowing" sing-song voice...(she sees the good in everything!), "Everything happens for a reason." You see, this watch ceased operation, two years ago, within a week of meeting the person who very soon will no longer be my husband...(it sounds better than "ex", don't you think?). In fact, he was with me the first time I returned the watch to the store and was told, a few weeks later, that it would cost $450 to repair. I don't think he was too disappointed that it couldn't be fixed, given that it was a gift from a former relationship, but I was - though not enough to fork over the money to repair it.

And now, within weeks of making the very difficult decision of ending this marriage, the watch I had nearly given up on, is being returned to me, free of any repair charge and fully functioning. It is operating on all cylinders, and so am I.

I can't help but see some kind of parallel or a mystic, ticking sign. Naturally, it could, and probably is, purely coincidental, but maybe it IS about letting me know that I am doing the right thing. I think I'll go with that.

And now, I will go and get my watch and look forward to some "time well spent".

13 July 2006

A Triple Header...

"Amtrack is a railroad of lies..." ~ Katie Parker, commenting on the fact that her train arrived 1 1/2 hours late Monday Evening.

Yes, she is still full of wisdom, utterly understated and can still make me laugh like no one else on the planet.

Of course, we were all overjoyed to see her! She was delivered from the train station courtesy of her two friends, Hilary and Chaundra, and then she was warmly embraced by her family. We didn't want to let go!

How does she look after spending two months in New York City? Absolutely fantastic. She is positively glowing. I don't quite know how to express it, but there is an unmistakable difference between the young lady I left May 17th, and this young lady who walked back into our house Monday Evening.

It's not like she's "grown up" because, truth be told, Katie was born "grown up". She's always been decades older than her physical age. She came out that way! However, the something that is different is a some sort of ambiance of contentment. Yes, I would say contentment and, dare I use the term, happy! Whatever is in the water in Manhattan, most obviously agrees with her. I have a feeling that, while it's obvious NYC is the place for her at this time, I think this new persona may have more to do with John than location, location, location. I base this on the fact that rare is a conversation where his name is not brought up...several times. And when she is not alluding to something John did, said or both, she is talking about how much she misses him. That's when you know she's about to make a phone call, or receive one. It's nearly reflexive. And of course, after the phone call, she immediately fires of the Mac Book and they chat. :-)

I love seeing her so happy. Seeing her happy makes me happy. She is nothing short of joyful!

Tuesday, she went to work with me and hung around the salon and even answered the phone a couple of times! Of course, everyone at work was thrilled to get their Katie fix. Vanessa and Marco were all smiles and hugs and kisses when they saw the kid. Her "best" friends have been calling, dropping by, picking her up for this, that and the other thing, but fortunately in between all that, we have had time to catch up ourselves. Every night this week we have found ourselves in my room, drinking tea until at least 2 or 3 AM, talking about who is who and what is what, where we are both literally and metaphorically and, of course, we discuss our dreams, hopes and wishes - for each other, as well as ourselves. We've had the best talks.

She reports that Wilmington hasn't really changed and that it's like it was the day she left which she finds comforting. She doesn't want it to change. She is drinking copious amounts of sweet tea, that nectar of the South, and she's pretty much smiling just about all the time.

Today I had an appointment to do an interview at UNC-W Cameron School of Business to report on their new Youth Entrepreneurship Program, and met some very talented professors, assistants and, best of all, kids...lots of kids, between the ages of 11 and 16 who were eagerly engaged in learning about what it takes to nurse a dream or passion from concept to realization! I was enthralled at the equal parts of dedication and attention, as well as fun, they brought to their task. This is the third year of the program and from where I stood, it looked highly successful.

I was accompanied by the beautiful Sarah Bon, editor of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, who stood in as my photographer and a fine job she did. I always enjoy Sarah's company and today was no exception. What a beautiful way to spend a sunny July morning, on a bucolic campus with interesting, brilliant and engaging people.

After I arrived back at work, we had a meeting and then I returned home where I hung out with Katie and then had a nice two hour swim in the late afternoon sun. In between turning flips, I read and almost went to sleep in the chaise. Maybe those late-night chat fests are catching up with me as well!

Tonight, Katie, Stephanie and I had a late evening dinner downtown at Elijah's. The weather was perfect, warm and humid like a southern summer evening is supposed to be, and the company couldn't have been better. I enjoyed both girls so much and I savor these golden moments.

My father spent the afternoon working diligently to clean out my vehicle which I am hoping to trade in on a VW Beetle in the not too distant future. He completely detailed the interior, cleaned out way too much junk that was left in it and, I don't think once during the period of time that it was used for "other purposes", it was ever touched in terms of cleaning up. It's not all that much fun cleaning one's own mess up and it's certainly not fun having to go back in and clean up someone else's, which has been the case in several areas of the house, patio and shed. Nevertheless, after a LOT of work on my father's part in heat in which he should never have been working, he has it looking, after 16,000 plus miles and a lot of unnecessary and careless abuse, almost brand new. As always, he applied his attention to detail and did a stellar job. Thanks Dad! It's a shame it was "turned back over to us" in that deplorable condition. Live and learn, right?

It's been a very sweet day followed by a very enjoyable evening. Life really is good.

We are all enjoying our Katie visit. I'll have more photos and a full report of Saturday Nights Soiree. I hear Vanessa is all prepared to do her best Gladys Knight & The Pips imitation. It doesn't get much better than that.

Stay tuned for an update.

09 July 2006

In her mind...In ALL of our minds...

Katie's about to go to Carolina!

I just came inside after tossing twinkle lights on the flowers and shrubs around the pool in my backyard. Anything that didn't move, got a strand of white, starry twinkling lights and the reflection on the swimming pool, was rather dazzling. To help illuminate the ambiance, what looked like a full moon to me, appeared to shine moon beams upon me as I went about my work. I must say the finished product was tastefully festive.

Tomorrow Night I will have the wonderful pleasure of welcoming my daughter, who is arriving from Manhattan and is going to spend a week with me. I just can't wait! It's only been slightly under 2 months since I told her goodbye from the Marriott in the Financial District, where I was staying, but I swear it feels like two years! I've missed her tons.

Of course, I am charged with having a steady supply of sweet iced tea at the ready. And, naturally, iced tea requires ice! After returning home from work yesterday, Stephanie and I went out on a mission to select a new compact refrigerator for my office. We saw several we liked, but not exactly the one I had in mind. Today, my father and I went out looking again and we found the PERFECT one. It's black, sleek and is made-to-order! So now we can have ice, cold fruit, chilled soft drinks AND iced tea.

Next Saturday, all of Katie's Vida friends, and a few others, will be convening at my home for a swimming/grilling/"Katie we're happy to see you!" party. In attendance will be many of my favorite friends and how much fun it will be to see everyone outside of a work environment. Everyone is bringing a dish or dessert, there will be music, hopefully not too many mosquito's and lots of laughter.

I must admit the timing couldn't be better. The party will fall one day before what would have been my one year anniversary, so this gathering will be extra-special and the perfect alternative to sitting around allowing my thoughts to take me back to a year ago when everything felt like it held so much promise, but in the end, was more illusion and built on a very precarious foundation.

Life goes on and how wonderful that it does! There are still moments when a wave of sadness washes over me and these past two weeks still feel so surreal at times, but mostly, I feel grateful and I know in my heart that this is the best decision. Of course, the best decisions don't always come easy or painless, but you have to make them to move forward in the direction that you know is right and true. I also take comfort in the blessing that the demise of this relationship happened now, rather than 3 or 5 or more years down the line. Facing this now will save all of us a lot of future turmoil and additional unhappiness.

So I have determined that this week will be positive, happy and I will celebrate that I have my daughter home for a week. It is precious - all of life is - and I don't want to squander my "now" by wasting time with regrets and thoughts of "what might have been". I am a realist at heart and I prefer dealing with facts and, the fact of the matter is, I am doing just fine. I am moving right along with my life, with determination, focus and the expectation of good things. Given the positive and upbeat parents that raised me, and my son and daughter, who relentlessly cheer me on, I know of no other way to approach this new chapter in my life.

I am choosing to take my cues from Emerson, who so wisely advised...

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense"

My spirit still remembers how to soar, and I've no interest in any more nonsense.
Tomorrow IS a new day.

05 July 2006

Thank you...

You can't see it, but my deadline is looming above my head, just out of camera range, like the Sword of Damocles. Of course, I know of no other way to work. I wanted to say thank you to everyone who sent a sweet E-mail and condolences on our heartbreaking loss of Tabitha and also, others of you who have sent encouraging E-mail with regard to the challenges we are working our way through. It means a lot to me when someone takes the time to send me their thoughts and best wishes and I each E-mail is precious.

And yes, the fact that I'm writing this means I am procrastinating and it would not be out of the question that, even though it's 11:46 PM and I have to be at work tomorrow morning for another ten hour stretch of fun times, I am inclined to go dive in the pool rather than sit at this desk. It may wake me up or it may send me to sleep - I'm fine with either outcome.

Thanks for reading me and please, keep in touch!

03 July 2006

Saying goodbye to a special feline friend...

Today, as I mentioned recently, was my parents 60th wedding anniversary. My parents did nothing out of the ordinary in terms of celebrating this milestone because, truth be told, I think they have found every day they are together, the best present possible.

Many times I have written of my home and spoke of it in terms of a zoo because, well, with one large dog, several finches and four cats, there's a lot of wildlife in this place, and that's not even factoring in the humans who call this place home.

I am ever so heartbroken to report that today, we lost one of our cats - not the oldest three, but the youngest, wildest, craziest, most mischievous baby who also happened to be my Daddy's best buddy. How many times I have watched him walking to the shed in my back yard, Tabitha walking right on his heels, following in his footsteps, hanging out with her guy.

In the evenings, it was not uncommon to see Tabitha sprawled out, purring peacefully, within arms reach of my father as he sat at his computer. I think she just wanted to be close to him, as so many of us do, because this wise, wily cat could sense that my Dad is good people.

Before Tabitha, my Dad was never what one could call a "cat person". He didn't hate them, he just didn't have any special affection for them. In other words, he had never been "chosen", which is the term I use when a cat decides you are worthy of their time and attention.

Justin talked me into adopting Tabitha in March 2000, when we lived in Amarillo, so Tabitha was a Texan and a wild and wooly Texan she was. She paid no attention to the fact that my father was never terribly enamored of felines, she marched right in his room and charmed him into loving her right back. And love her he did.

They shared so much time together, she tagged along for yard work, parked herself as he worked on ancestor sleuthing, and every now and then, you would see her sticking her nose in his pipe tobacco, sneaking a nibble. She always knew that when he finished dinner, there would always be a morsel or two set aside with her name on it. It was part of their routine, she would wait patiently for him to eat his fill, and then she would walk over and eat a treat or two from his hand.

Saturday evening, my parents returned from the store and with both doors open and the side van door ajar, as they were taking groceries out, Tabitha slipped in and hid herself well. The car wasn't started again until this morning, when my parents left to go run a couple of errands. As my father was opening the door of the van for my mother, they discovered Tabitha dead on the driver's side floor of the car.

I was sitting out by the pool, baking my already sunburned skin and had my nose in a book when I noticed my Dad walking around the garden. I absently asked him what he was doing and he said he was looking for a special spot. As he passed me on the way to the side gate, I inquired as to what he was getting ready to do? More cucumber plants is what I was hoping for. He told me not to ask any questions. Of course, I asked more.

A few minutes later, just as I was about to dive back in the pool, I saw him again and this time he was carrying a black trash bag. I could tell by the shape of the plastic that it most definitely wasn't cucumbers plants. It was then that he told me what had happened. I just couldn't believe it. And then, I cried. A lot.

I watched my Dad as he reverently began digging and gently laid Tabitha's body into the hole. I cried as much for the pain my Dad was feeling, the loss of his little buddy, as I did for Tabitha. Tears fell down his face as he covered her with dirt. It was heartbreaking. It wasn't a very happy way to spend a 60th wedding anniversary.

I called Katie in NY and when Justin got home, I told him and after he processed the information, he walked over to my Dad and put his arm on his grandpa's shoulder and expressed his sorrow. My Dad's heart was broken because he loved that cat. Our hearts were broken because it feels so helpless to see someone you love so much, experience a loss and the pain that goes with it and you know there is nothing you can do but just be there.

Katie wrote her Pops a sweet E-mail and she most certainly put things in perspective for me when she shared that when she first heard my voice when I called, she was instantly afraid that something had happened to one of her grandparents and, though she loved Tabitha dearly, she was relieved that her Granny and Pops were OK. I'm so glad the news wasn't what she feared. I'm sorry it was Tabitha, but so grateful to have both of my parents.

After dinner, Justin walked outside where my Dad was still working, and took a Giant Magic Marker and wrote Tabitha's name on a paving stone which is now her grave marker, there among the cucumbers and tomato and pepper plants. "Tabitha Cook - 2000 - 2006". It was such a "Justin" thing to do and it was poignant to see my Dad appreciate his grandson's gesture.

Sure she was just a house cat and, as my daughter mentioned, Tabitha probably spent way over nine lives in six years and we never really expected her to live to old age - she was just too adventurous, too wild, and admirably untamed.

I've always heard that you can "own" a dog, but you can't ever truly "own" a cat. A cat chooses you. Almost from the beginning, Tabitha chose my Dad and I commend her on her great taste. In cat terms, this feline lived a good life: Six years ago on Mother's Day, she celebrated by taking out a family of birds who built a nest way too close to the ground. A few months before that, on the evening of my 41st birthday, Tabitha turned up after three days out. She'd had a fight with a car and the car won. Her bottom chin was separated and split from the gum to the point that the ER Vet had to insert a button and attach it with a paper clip under her chin so the bottom plate would heal back to her lower jaw. This kept her down for, maybe, a day and a half.

It will be strange not seeing her waiting patiently for her "after dinner" treat from my Dad's plate. It will be odd to walk in and not see her lounging asleep on his filing cabinet. I'll even miss seeing her occasional offerings of freshly killed glass lizards, frogs and the occasional squirrel. Tabitha was a true "hunter and gatherer", but most of what she gave was love. I always respected her refusal to become completely tame and play by the rules. There was something truly wild in her nature and she was simply a gorgeous tabby of a cat.

We'll miss you Tabitha. See you on the other side of the bridge.

Rainbow Bridge

There is a bridge connecting Heaven and Earth.
It is called the
Rainbow Bridge because of all its beautiful colors.
Just this side of the
Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows,
hills and valleys with lush green grass.

When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place.
There is always food and water and warm spring weather.
The old and frail animals are young again.
Those who were sick, hurt or in pain are made whole again.

There is only one thing missing,
they are not with their special person who loved them so much on earth.

So each day they run and play until the day comes
when one suddenly stops playing and looks up!
The nose twitches! The ears are up!
The eyes are staring and this one runs from the group!

You have been seen and when you and your special friend meet,
you take her in your arms and hug her.
She licks and kisses your face again and again -
and you look once more into the eyes of your best friend and trusting pet.

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be apart.

Author Unknown

Double Your Trouble...

One week from today, iced tea in Wilmington will be a hot commodity. That's right, Manhattan's newest and finest is gracing us with a visit and we are beyond excited.

Gosh it feels like I haven't seen my Katie in forever. In reality, it's only been about seven weeks, but I have missed the sprite! She's on a mission to over-saturate herself in southern humidity and sweet iced tea. I'm on a mission to soak up as much fun as I can with her which won't be easy and I may have to stand in line, but I'm willing to do what I have to do for an audience with her Manhattan Majesty. It's what you do when you give life to a legend.

I will, without a doubt, be snapping photos left and right. I can't handle these droughts. I mean, you really do get accustomed to having a smart ass around.

Katie has sorely missed the south's finest drink and I've sorely missed Katie. I hope we both get more than our fill.

I imagine lots of late nights, a fair amount of coffee intermingled with the tea, and laughing at really stupid things and crying over some seriously sad stuff.

I look back on the two photos taken that faraway day in May when I left my little girl in the big apple. What a hard day that was! I didn't cry that much when we had to put Freeway to sleep - but, then again, I have known Katie longer than I knew Freeway. Plus the fact that I gave birth to her and all that stuff. :-)

That's not to say that Freeway wasn't a mighty fine dog. She was just a bit snippy and basically hated Cassie with a passion. To this day, Cassie holds no grudge and you have to respect that.

Of course, one of the reasons for this impromptu visit is because of the recent changes, which I'm sure is the same reason her text messages have been more obscurely bizarre and amusing than usual. I think it's part of that whole "circle the wagons" stuff that families do when difficult times visit. A million times a day lately, I find myself grateful for this crazy family of mine. They're on such a thinly disguised mission to keep me busy and pre-occupied and how can you not love people who go to such extreme measures?

Case in point: It was almost 100 degrees this evening and I was in the attic boxing up things that need to be picked up, so with the heat indices it was probably 110 where I was working. Justin arrived with an order for me to go downstairs. Now. I could tell he wasn't going to accept any excuses. It turns out that he had made some soup and I was going to eat it. Period. End of discussion. I exchanged glances with Stephanie, who was sitting to my right at the table pretending to read Harry Potter, though I really believe she was acting in the role of "under-cover prison matron", because she looked at me as if she was all prepared for any sudden moves or signs of escape. I wasn't really hungry, and they really didn't care. The soup really was great - the love behind it was priceless.

They're both so adorable.

Perhaps we can talk Nina (John's Mom) into joining us for lunch during the week Katie is in residence. We'd love to see her again and give her a proper beach lunch. John has one of the nicest people in the world that he calls Mom, and the extended clan is just as lovely.

Mostly, I would like to find a not so crowded parcel of beach and sit in the sand and chat with my daughter (and my son if he's not working!). It's not so much what we will or will not talk about - it's more about being in the same space and I would love to share some space with Katie. I need that right now and, prescient faerie that she is, I'm sure she intuitively knew it.

Of course, we'll have to do the whole "goodbye thing" again, but I'm thinking this time it won't be as raw as it was in May when I left her. That day was hard for so many reasons and when I left her, it was the singular feeling of "aloneness" that hit me with a searing, soulful pain.

Certainly saying goodbye was a catalyst, but it wasn't the basis for the turmoil that was brewing. That was one of the worst feelings I can remember experiencing in recent history and, truth be told, it was a harbinger and I knew instinctively I was in for a sea change. OK, so it turned out to be a bit of a tsunami, good thing I know how to swim. And thank God for all of those lifesavers at the ready. And no, I'm not referencing the candy.

Can't wait to see you, my dear.

02 July 2006

After the rain has fallen...

"After the thunder's spoken,
After the lightning bolt's been hurled.
After the dream is broken, there'll
Still be love in the world." ~ Sting

Obviously, I am still in a "Sting state of mind..." - and that's, OK. :-)

It's been a long, emotional, challenging week but the good news is, we all survived! Of course, one could dwell on the negatives surrounding the big recent change, but why do that? I don't care much for negatives, so I choose not to go there.

The good things that happened between June 25 - July 3rd:

~ I received immeasurable love and support and good wishes from my family, my friends and even some people I have never met.

~ My family and even my animals surrounded me and made me feel safe, gave me courage and checked on me so much that I need never question if they love me. They made that abundantly clear.

~ My son and his girlfriend, Stephanie, prepared dinner for me! And then demanded I come and eat it and it was really good.

~ My daughter sent me funny text messages and called often. She also surprised me by announcing she was coming to visit in a couple of weeks. I can't wait to see her.

~ I was offered two new interesting writing assignments which should keep my mind occupied and out of places it doesn't need to go.

~ With Justin and Stephanie's help, we cleaned the aviary, culled the flock and it looks pretty awesome. I'm down to six birds, and so the upkeep will be much easier.

~ I cleaned my patio and my backyard now appears more like the private retreat its always resembled rather than the cluttered mess it became. We can open our blinds in the living room and see a beautiful sight and all of my father's great landscape work and a sparkling blue pool.

~ I finally dove in my pool for the first time this season. The water was great and it finally feels like summer. I only did about 100 flips. I thought I should pace myself, first time this season and all.

~ My friends have called and popped in for visits and it's been wonderful to sit in the backyard and drink a lot of iced tea and just talk.

~ I planted more flowers. I still love daisies most of all, but I'm expanding my horticultural horizons.

~ I fell asleep this past week before midnight - every single night.

~ I have received love and support from people I never thought would step in and offer me a hand.

~ Vanessa gave me a lift home the other night and now has no excuse not to come back for a long visit! Vanessa definitely keeps me in line. She may be tiny, but this is not a woman you would ever want to cross and I mean that in the best possible way.

Sometimes when I am about to do something really stupid or my mind becomes muddled, I swear I can see this one particular look (and perfect white teeth) she flashes in my general direction when I just know she's thinking, "What am I going to do with you?". Vanessa is no nonsense, practical, organized and such a great story teller! If I could only get her interested in computers and gadgets, she would be darn near perfect. When I speak of anything slightly hinting of electronics, is the only time I see her become confused and she behaves as if I am speaking in a foreign tongue. If you stay away from electronics, she is at the top of her game and a force to be reckoned with. I can see why Katie chose her as a "Second Mom" or, who knows, maybe I'm the "Second Mom" and Vanessa's "Chief Cook and Hairdresser"!

~ My friends at work have decided I need a pool soiree and they have decided it will be "pot-luck". They prefer that I only provide the tea and the pool - two things I can manage without making anyone sick.

~ I sat outside and looked at the stars for the first time in ages. I even made a few wishes.

~ I'm eating very healthy and enjoying it.

~ I'm revisiting things I used to enjoy, and discovering that I still do.

~ So many times this week when I was bordering on a "low", teary moment, something, or someone, materialized out of the blue to lighten my mood and reconfirm my resolve - so often that I don't believe for one-second that any of it has been coincidence.

~ Vanessa made me REALLY blond in an effort to insure that I don't think too much. But before the peroxide touched my hair...

~ I successfully worked a five-star Sudoku!!!!!!

~ I have spent more time outside and less time in my office.

~ I've been diving into books recently purchased, and there is nothing like becoming lost within a Nathaniel Philbrick story. I'm reading his latest offering, "Mayflower". It's fascinating.

~ I've hung new photos in my office.

~ Thanks to Vanessa and Joe, I may have found a slightly used VW Bug.

~ At the end of a difficult week, as crazy as it may sound, I feel unexpected peace and a sense of purpose - two things I hadn't felt in much too long.

Of course, its been a difficult week. It had to be - a marriage breaking up is no easy ride. There have been a few moments that I have felt lost, scared, disoriented, and just plain confused. I know that's expected and I also know that, with time, it will pass. But I also feel a strength I didn't even know I had and I don't think I've done anything completely crazy this past week. There are reminders all over the place and it is sad. I will be coming up on what I had hoped would be a happy first anniversary and that loss stings. I know it is important to feel that pain and to walk through it and I am doing just that, because you have to walk through it to get to the other side. There are no detours or side roads toward personal growth and wisdom.

I have no interest in pretending this marriage didn't happen because that's just silly. I went into it with great expectations and all of the hopes and dreams that people have when they get married. I had them, too. My gosh I waited ten years to give it a try and ok, so it didn't work out like I would have hoped, I know it was a sincere effort. It is also essential for me to remember that the past year wasn't without its share of joy and happiness and by no means could I ever say it was horribly bad. It wasn't. There are no repugnant tales of misbehavior and no third parties were involved on either side. I can't even muster any ill will or negative feelings toward the man I married last year. He has many wonderful traits and I can only wish him well and I know this is no walk in the park for him either. Dan is handling things just like the kind, mature gentleman he is. No ugly, uncivilized scenes - and he is behaving with an admirable sense of decorum and kindness.

It's not just a personal loss for me - both of my kids were very fond of Dan and love him, and I know that he loves them as well. I hurt for Katie and Justin, my parents, Dan, his family and I hurt for me. There is no need for character assassination or painting a bad picture of someone I loved enough to marry and will, on some level, always love. I have no mud to sling and I don't intend to make any because I think too much of him and what he meant to our family. I hope for only good things for him and I mean that with all sincerity.

I know that with time and the perspective it offers, we will both find our way and I'm betting we'll be more than fine. I know it really is going to be ok.

On a happier matrimonial note, my parents will be celebrating SIXTY YEARS of wedded BLISS and I do mean bliss because I swear, my Mom and Dad had to be a match made in heaven. In the 46 years I've been around, I have never met two people more suited to each other than my parents. I am in awe of that accomplishment and I am so proud to be their daughter.

As for marriage, I still have nothing but the highest respect for the institution and I hope someday that maybe I'll get it right. I haven't given up on it and I'm much too optimistic to rule out the possibility that I just might find myself in the right situation...someday. Hey, it took James Taylor three times and he seems to be pretty happy now. Maybe I'll get there, too.

As for now, I plan on taking each day as it comes, squeezing as much joy as I can out of every experience and learning as much as I can from the things I get wrong. Even with all of the ups and downs that come with living life, it's still the best ticket in town.

Life is still pretty wonderful.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! Thank you for your example and for loving me through everything.