Why Our Conversations on Parenthood Always End On A Pregnant Pause

Last night, I dreamed that Warrior Poet gave me the nod for us to start trying to get pregnant. I was clearly surprised by his definitive declaration on a topic that usually inspires his vagueness. I reminded him that I would need to wean myself off some of my medication first, so if he were really ready, I would have to start doing so pronto. He reassured me that I was physically strong enough to get through the journey, that he would be there to support me every step of the way. With the extremely lucid details, the dream felt so real. But alas, it was just a dream.

It’s not surprising that the question of ‘Will we or won’t we—or should we or should we not—not have children of our own?’ has been on our minds. A co-worker of WP’s recently urged him (and us) to decide soon whether we want them as we’re rapidly approaching our 40s. And for the last couple years, my lady parts doctor has been reminding me of the ticking biological clock. And after we made it official as husband and wife, our friends have been increasingly encouraging us to be parents—citing our wisdom, compassion, encompassing perspective and emotional stability. Plus, we’re just so darn fun, ha.

But it seems like there are just as many reasons to not have kids as there are to have them.

What You Give Up to Get

While abstractly we both feel that we’d be fairly decent parents, the logistics of parenthood raises questions. Are we willing to give up so much of our freedom and mobility? Are we financially mature enough to start saving and planning for the expenses of raising children?  And are we prepared to lose our precious sleep? And if not, would we consider adopting older children? The sleep depletion is one of the most important factors of early parenthood to me, as a sleepless me always means a much sicker me.

My health, of course, is also a huge question mark. Would I go into remission with pregnancy, like many of my friends, or would I be one of the unfortunate women with serious, chronic illness who get significantly sicker when carrying a child? It can be a real struggle on my off days to shower, cook and take care of things around the house, let alone manage anything or anyone else. Would I crumble trying to manage a child, or simply get more efficient with my energy and time?

Keep Your Head In The Game

“Keep Your Head in the Game” Danielle Guenther Photography

I also wonder if WP could handle the noise, mess and distraction of children, especially when doing dishes in his hearing zone alone can set him off. As it is now, when he comes home from a harrying day of work, sometimes it takes an hour for him to even decompress enough to take me fully in. Once we have dinner, he physically and mentally shuts us down, and it isn’t long before he nods off. On the weekends, he needs his long escape into gaming when he’s not at the gym—at least until the sun starts to go down. I can’t help but wonder if I would wind up raising a child mostly on my own?

When I had more of a village surrounding me, I had more confidence in taking on the myriad challenges of parenting. But now that we live more than an hour away from our families and almost all of our friends, I can’t help feeling like we exist on an island even without kids. Of course, we’re still fairly new to this area, and I could make more an effort to connect with a community here now that the weather is nice and I’m feeling significantly more physically energized and mentally awake again.

Other Perspectives on Parenthood

Last weekend I was fortunately pepped up for a couples’ night out with friends, which was really fun and emotionally nourishing for us both. Toward the end of the night, the men and women split up as the guys went on to have one more drink, and we gals sleepily settled at a table to chat. While the boys were likely talking about martial arts and their manly adventure trip coming up, the girls wound up talking about children and parenthood.

The sole mother of the group had previously let the cat out of the bag that she and her husband-to-be will be trying to get pregnant next year. Now, she informed us that an abnormality in her baby-making hardware meant that her time for having more children was also running out, although she’s only in her late 20s. She lives for being a parent and is an incredibly doting and nurturing mother to her school-aged son. For her, it’s especially important to her to have more children while she’s young and able.

My doctor has also been urging me to be aware of the passing of time as I am already considered a high-risk pregnancy, and that risk jumps exponentially beyond 40. Of course, I’d like to be able to simply cite the research that claims older mothers have better educated and more physically resilient children. But with an autoimmune disorder that affects blood clotting, I have to be a bit more realistic about the physical risks of older pregnancy to both a potential child and to me. That is not to say that if we’re having children, I’m going off the birth control tomorrow. It just means that I realize I can’t just postpone making a decision for another five years without consequence.

Our other friend is in her mid-30s—and like WP and I—she and her husband are both on the fence about having children of their own. They both absolutely love kids, but they are open to adopting. They also, like us, are content being the great aunt and uncle to their nieces and nephews and the children of their friends if life passions lead them elsewhere.

FB-expecting-a-babyNow when I was younger, I absolutely wanted a soccer team of children of my own, but as I’ve grown older, the urgency of that desire has faded as reality kicked in. I didn’t meet my lifemate early in adulthood. I lost the overwhelming baby-making desire that threatened to derail my life in my 20s. Years and years of chronic illness forced me to alter my perspective a little bit and put more focus on self-care and self-love first. I’ve certainly enjoyed the role I’ve been able to play being a present and active aunt with my niece and nephews, literally watching my niece being born and caring for the older two when the third was born. I love playing soccer with them, reading to them, learning from them and snuggling them. Yet I also have been grateful to step back in hectic times and moments of exhaustion.

This indecisiveness of WP and me is what always causes the conversation about potential parenthood to simple fizzle out into ellipses…Unanswered, equally as unsure. And having and raising children should be one of the most important decisions you make in your life. Shouldn’t you be sure? Shouldn’t you decisively say, I definitely want to bring new life into this world—or at least to help raise new life in the world?

A friend who is a father says it doesn’t work as neatly as that. He says nothing could have prepared him for experience of parenthood, both its challenges and its immense rewards. His certainty about being father only has strengthened with time and experience, he tells me with the awe of one on the brink of bringing in his second child. Sometimes, he says, you have to take the leap.

As WP and I try on and grow into what it means to be man and wife, we have answered questions and uncertainties as they present themselves. We are forever defining, refining or clarifying our needs, desires and approaches. In time, we always make the choice that’s best for us. And I have no doubt we eventually will when it comes to parenthood, as well.

Why We Need a Step-By-Step Guide From Proposal to Parenthood

We're Engaged, Now What?

Src: howheasked.com/ Amy and Jordan Photography

Last night, I found myself awake way past my bedtime looking at rings on the Internet instead of indulging in one my favorite pastimes, reading myself to sleep. I laughed at the amazing absurdity of it all, as I scrolled through webpage after webpage. It certainly wasn’t how I expected to be spending a late Monday night—or honestly any night in the near future. But then neither WP nor I was expecting our dinner out after he got home from work last to turn into an engagement celebration either. However, that’s exactly what it became.

The Surprising Proposal

One of the things I love most about WP is his desire to have a formal follow-up on any significant conversation we have. In the past, several men I dated avoided serious, emotional discussions like the plague. Thus, when I had something important to discuss or a confusion to clear up, I got used to zipping my lips to avoid discomfort, awkwardness and conflict. It wasn’t something of which I was proud. Not surprisingly, it did not contribute positive to relationships. With so many words and thoughts left not expressed, I was often left mentally gnawing over things until I got so frustrated that I exploded like a shaken soda can.

In this particularly case, I wasn’t sure I could trust my memory of where WP and I left things the previous night. We’d confirmed without doubt that we absolutely wanted to marry each other, but what exactly did that mean? Had that been a real proposal?

Fortunately, as soon as we sat at the table for dinner last night, WP commented on what a mind-blowing conversation we’d had the previous night. “I keep thinking, ‘Wow, did that really happen? Did we really say we are getting married?”

He expressed some disappointment over the lack of surprise involved in the mutual proposal. There was no elaborate, grand romantic gesture, no bended knee and no ring to present. We told each other everything, he said, so a proposal could never really be a complete surprise anyway.

I reassured him that there were plenty of things we could still carry on with an element of surprise, like picking out the engagement ring. I enthused how I receive grand romantic gestures from him regularly, more than anyone else I know. Just the other day, he expressed how he’s still trying grasp how amazing I am, in his eyes, and how he can be worthy of it all. He revels in my physical touch and waxes poetic during our long, stimulating conversations and in the middle of an achingly tender embrace. He openly expresses to others who are important in our lives just how precious I am to him.

All these gestures wrapped together mean more to me than being presented with a ring at the peak of Mt. Sinai.

So We’re Getting Married, Now What?

So We're Getting Engaged, Now What?“So what happens next? What do we do now?” WP asked me, as we shared our appetizers of lamb lollipops and homemade hummus with scrumptious bread.

I shrugged, laughing. “I have no idea what happens next,” I admitted. “I guess we start planning.”

We talked about the type of ceremony we might like to have, where and why. We talked about whether we wanted a ceremony with just the two of us followed by a party with everyone, or to have our closest family and friends there. We talked about the need for a ring—WP wants to pick it out a ring together. Once we have the ring, then we can officially announce the engagement to everyone. Then we can really plan a wedding. And deciding on the honeymoon will be the fun part.

Why We Need a Step-By-Step Guide From Proposal to Parenthood

While the whole process baffles us, we will take it one phase at a time. I was never a girl who planned her wedding down to the detail. I don’t have a collection of ideal bridal dresses, wedding locations or cake ideas. I don’t know who all will be in my wedding party if I have one. So last night, I decided to get on the ball and start a Pinterest board for engagement rings that speak to me.

In such unfamiliar territory, I feel like we need a step-by-step guide from proposal to parenthood. I am so grateful for the next best thing—a really close friend who loves planning weddings. After a brief counsel with her about rings, I’ve decided I will share the Pinterest link with WP and tell him to surprise me with the one he chooses. He can present it to me in a romantic fashion, and then we can publicly announce our official engagement.

And what after that? We’ll play it by ear.

What The Wedding Is Really All About

“Do you think I’ll be a good husband?” WP quietly asked me later that night in bed.

“I know you’ll be a great husband,” I said.

“I’ll do everything in my power to be the best husband I can be,” he said. He expressed his confidence in me as a great wife, and, if it comes to, mom. “I think we will be wonderful for each other.”

After last few years of loving each other, comforting one another, cherishing each other, and being there for each other—for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, I agree. I believe we will do more than just fine, until death us do part.

Honoring Your Unique Relationship When Preparing to Take The Plunge

Src: salainen.tumblr.com

Src: salainen.tumblr.com

‘Tis the season for love and marriage. Not only is it summer—the most popular time of year for weddings—but we’ve also reached that point in our lives where most of our friends have already gotten married and are having kids, or they are planning to. My ex, The Redhead, just got married after less than six months of publicly courting his now-bride on Facebook. An old friend I made traveling in my teens just posted pictures from her wedding to FB. One of my teachers from a recent yoga teacher training also got married yesterday. And sometime this week, friends on an island will enact the elaborate proposal Warrior Poet’s best friend has planned. The celebration of the commitment to love is infectious and has us considering the best way of honoring your unique relationship when preparing to take the plunge.

WP and I were settling in bed for the night and doing a last scroll through our respective FB feeds last night, when he called out, “Why are there so many engagements and weddings happening right now?”

“It’s just that time in life,” I replied, flipping over on my side.

It had been a night of deep conversations, covering political power, spirituality, technology and oneness. After a pregnant pause, I said, “You know I want to get married to you some day,” quietly into the dark, before quickly mumbling about how there was no rush or pressure. I knew he needed to get fully settled in his new job, and I needed to accomplish landmarks with my writing and health first. I took an anxious breath and allowed him to fill in the silence.

And so I bravely and more boldly opened the door to talking about the elephant in the room—or at least the one in my head. After three years of our love and bond growing stronger, deeper and even closer with each passing day, two years of blissfully living together, and the end of our 30s right around the corner, marriage is on the mind. My friends and extended family frequently ask if a wedding is on the horizon. I tell them not to hold their breath, but that we are blissfully in love and are deeply committed to each other and our sacred relationship.

Even as I say these words to the people in my life, even as WP makes tender, beautiful soliloquies about our love and bold declarations about our life together and the promising future, I still find myself curious if growing older together means marriage and kids. It’s not that I need it to happen tomorrow. It’s not that I need it to happen at all, as long as the commitment of our souls is there. Yet even we outside-the-box folks still sometimes find ourselves wishing to celebrate the sacred ties behind conventional rituals.

The conversation that followed after I uttered those last words was beautiful, romantic, enlightening and reassuring. It would take the magic out of those moments to share them fully here. However, I will say that we both truly share the desire to get old together, to lovingly parent (if we so ultimately choose), to grow and learn and enrich ourselves side-by-side.

As such, WP declared that a sacred vow requires uniquely honoring our rare and remarkable bond. Neither the proposal nor the ceremony of commitment is to be taken casually or lightly, nor should it be made saccharine with corny and cliché actions and words. We take time to honor and show gratitude for our relationship regularly, and that reverence for our love needs to be reflected in both a proposal and wedding, WP explained. It needs to be done from the heart in the singular way that only WP (and I) can do it—and that takes some time, imagination and delicate deliberation.

“I only plan to do this once in my life,” said WP. As one of the most momentous decisions and events in life, I completely respect how he wishes to honor it. So I will patiently and happily continue to live our cohabitating couple life as he meditates on exactly when and how to move into the next, big stage of our relationship.

After we sleepily ended the conversation, we held each other and cuddled for a long time before tenderly and passionately making love. That’s what you do with the love of your life after you declare your commitment to spend the rest of your days together. Peaceful sleep soon followed, swiftly and sweetly.

Reasons Why I’m Not Sorry to Celebrate The Road of Romance Not Taken

Woman Faces A Fork in the Road

Src: lawandborder.com

In the three years that the Warrior Poet and I have been together, there has only been one major pothole in the road of our romance that was disastrous enough to potentially split our bond forever. In hindsight, this heart-wrenching rift only lasted approximately a month. Yet there was tremendous risk that bullish stubbornness—after the shock and hurt of rash words and actions—would have kept us from ever finding our way back to each other. Another path, another person, had appeared on the horizon in the interim and could have been pursued further. If I had, we wouldn’t be entering this next, exciting chapter in our relationship—in my life—that we are now: A new leg of the journey that brings us to a whole new level of abundant lifestyle, focus and commitment to each other. Thus, there are so many reasons why I’m not sorry to celebrate the road of romance not taken.

I watched that other path, that other person, recently enter a riveting, new chapter in a relationship he eventually found after I called things off and chose to give WP an honest, second chance. If I were a decade younger with fewer relationships behind my belt, if there were no WP, perhaps I would have leaped into dating Path Not Taken. Maybe I would have been blind to the red flags of emotional immaturity and insecurity, instead focusing on the fun and playfulness of being two kids hanging around. However, time and experience have made me wiser.

I’d already dated the playmate, confusing an affectionate buddy for a long-term, loving companion. I’d endlessly tread the waters of dating a Peter Pan afraid of making real commitments and “growing up.” I learned the hard way that nothing I would say or do would change transform him from a boy into a man. I’d been the light and guide for the lost bull in a china shop, looking for someone to show him the way back to himself. I was left emotionally (and financially) depleted and feeling lost myself after all that giving with little in return.

Why would I deliberately choose to go through all that again with Path Not Taken when the door re-opened to the emotionally open man whose own life experiences led him along the same path I was on as well? This was the man who loved with both passion and tenderness that I returned in full-force, and who was playmate, best friend, cheerleader, dream-builder and lifelong companion all rolled up into one.

When I shared the recent news of Path Not Taken with my mother the other day, she said, “I’m so glad you made the right choice.”

A Dancing Couple

src: blog.findable.in

I too am overjoyed that I followed my heart to a path that left no room for what-ifs or regrets. I feel extremely grateful that I made the best decision for me (and WP), which in turn allowed Path Not Taken to also have the opportunity to find and fully grab hold of someone with whom he was eager to build a life.

The Path Not Taken and his lady share a passion for travel, fitness, style, cars, coffee and desserts. Like him, she is extremely playful and childlike; in photos, she constantly sticks her tongue out or crosses her eyes. She seems to be the perfectly playful partner to inspire him to take the big leaps in life. I find myself both extremely happy and excited for him and the adventures ahead as they move across the country to live in an area I know he’ll really love. Whatever lies on the path ahead for him and his lady, he too must be celebrating the road of romance he found instead.

Ditching the Debris of the Past to Embrace the Fresh Start of the Present

Sleeping On the Wrong Side of BedStepping into our new place on moving day a few days, it immediately felt like home, and I felt the heavy weight on my shoulders from the last several months of life’s frustrations gently lifting. It is truly amazing how being in a different environment can have such a dramatic effect on one’s outlook. When you feel warmly welcomed and openly embraced in a new setting, moods brighten, energy increases, creative blocks lift, attitudes positively shift and the daily grind feels like far less a burden. Ditching the debris and decay of the past and embracing the fresh start of the present, it even feels easier to be a more positive and supportive partner. Getting into bed that first night, I felt completely ease as I fell asleep, and I slept soundly—until 4 a.m. The next night I was wide-awake at 2 a.m. What could be driving the dichotomy of a joyous and calming new life and the disruptive nights of sleep? Was it something as simple as sleeping on the wrong side of bed?

For the last two years that we have been living together, Warrior Poet and I have had a specific side of the bed—he on the right, and I on the left. Middle of the night bathroom breaks weren’t so disruptive as my side of the bed was so close to the door that there was nothing on which to stumble. Most of my furniture and clothing were in a smaller room adjacent to the bedroom, so there was little else besides the bed and night tables.

Now, our bedroom was full of furniture—and of course, that first night was also full of unpacked boxes. When I woke up to the sound of restless feet shuffling together on the sheets in the wee hours of our first morning here, I stumbled in the unfamiliar dark before taking a huge spill after tripping over a suitcase, which was in the middle of the floor. I slowly cautiously made my way back from to the bed, getting in on the right side of bed, as my main bureau fit best beside it. After an hour to an hour-and-a-half of tossing and turning, with sore bones and a stinging abrasion on my hand, I was finally able to fall back asleep.

The next day, I woke up ready to attack the day, despite my disrupted sleep. I completed unpacking boxes for the kitchen and finished the fun task of finding a home for the dishes, glasses, cutlery, pots, pans, oils and spices. Easily the biggest and most beautiful kitchen I’ve had as an adult, I was thrilled to be able find a proper home for everything we currently own and to realize we still have a copious amount of cabinet and counter space left over.

With that settled, I tackled the clothes, towels and sheets that had built up during the extremely busy week before the move and that had gotten dirty and dusty during the move. In our last home, the old dryer broke early on and stopped heating, so one medium to large load of laundry easily took most of the day to dry. Towels, sweaters, jeans and gis hung on chairs in our big ballroom, drying stiffly and uncomfortably. Our new home has a new washer and dryer, and a load of laundry completely dries in less than an hour and half. My excitement over the ease of doing laundry now prompted me to do four loads that first full day in the house alone.

Attached to the laundry room is a modern bathroom filled with a dizzying amount of storage space. I got to work unloading and organizing towels and toiletries. My overflow of personal care products were just lined up in lazy rows on the shelves—I would have to return to the task later to make a more pleasing and accessible arrangement.

Modern KitchenNext, I made my way back to the bedroom, also with impressive storage space. The new room was significantly bigger than our last place, allowing us to store both my big bureau, one of WP’s dressers, two night tables and still have plenty of room to navigate around our king-size bed. However, my favorite part of the bedroom is the row of cedar closets that extend to the tall ceiling. One closet has two, long stacked racks to hang clothes on, and the other has one long rack for clothes and other miscellaneous items, with plenty of room for shoes and a near-full-length mirror. WP put his second dresser in the third closet, which perfectly fits under his rack of clothes. In the hallway is a deep storage closet to put all of our out-of-season clothing. After years of living in clutter, not knowing where more than half of my clothes were if I even remembered I still owned them in the first place, every item of clothing now has a proper home that I can clearly see and access. Instead of dressing in whatever is closest and clean, I can now outfit myself with intention, reflecting my own style and personality.

Just as I was running out of steam, my mother arrived for the late afternoon until WP got home from his first day of work. Both exhausted by the day’s end, he and I grabbed food, a prescription at the pharmacy and groceries to last us at least through the middle of the week. At home, we chatted on our bed, eating through whoopie pies and reminiscing over relics from childhood before reading ourselves to sleep.

Again, I slept incredibly soundly—until 2 a.m. I was either too hot from the humidity or a bit too chilled from the fan, and WP was starting to encroach on my side of the bed. His phone began incessantly flashing with light, which further woke me up. I rested in bed for a while in hopes that I would soon return to sleep. Eventually, I had to escape to the kitchen, where I began writing. After a couple hours, heavy rain began to fall, dousing the steamy stickiness in the air. I decided to return to bed, though I remained awake until after 6:30 a.m. Hoping I would be able to sleep late, my circadian clock (and the activity upstairs) kicked me into alertness again shortly after 8 a.m.

Mentally shot, after breakfast and dishes, I returned to the physical work of unpacking boxes. Now that WP and I are sharing an office by necessity in this house, I worked to delineate our work zones in the room. I staggered the desk placement on each long wall and consolidated my files and notebooks. I unpacked books and decided which to store as reference materials in the office bookcase and which to serve as a resource or inspiration in my yoga room. I felt freed and empowered as I released the clutter from the office and set up a work area that would inspire me.

When WP got home from work, we began decorating our main room with our photos, trinkets and doodads. WP put one of our favorite art pieces on the wall and then started setting up his side of the office. He put together the futon in the living room, rearranged the furniture in the bedroom and began to organize his own clothes. After we took all the now-empty boxes down into the basement, we embraced each other and marveled at how the new place was slowly starting to look like home.

After WP made our first homemade dinner in the new kitchen, we headed to the bedroom to start watching our weekly shows on the laptop. Cozied up on our pillows, we discussed what might be waking me up in the middle of night. WP offered to switch back to our normal places, but I decided I would give my new side of the bed one more night’s chance. Again, we read until sleep over took us. And there I slumbered until 8 a.m. the next morning.

I realize now that my mind and body weren’t protesting over a new side of the bed. I was simply taking time to wake up to the reality that this gorgeous place was really ours. Gone were the water leaks that looked like states and countries; the girly, colonial-style wallpaper; the sinking floors, broken windows and cracked floors. In its place now was a modern, cared-for home that begged to be filled and embraced with love. This morning, I am ready to get back to my creative work and fully enjoy this beautiful new space that is now clearly ours.

Untangling Crossed Signals in Relationships

Miscommunication in couples

Src: twoofus.org

From the moment he walks into the house at the end of the day, an hour earlier than I expect, I can tell he’s already in a state. He looks at me with joyless eyes as he gives me a half-hearted hug. He engages in conversation politely, but the normal lively spirit isn’t there. He says he is simply tired, but I feel like my words suddenly either bore him or annoy him to no end.

When we finish with dinner, we chat about work and a new app he wants to invent. When I ask questions, he seems defensive. I stand to bring the dishes back to the kitchen, scraping some leftover off the plate. Without looking at him, I can tell he’s irritated by the sound so I quickly head to the kitchen.

I return from rinsing off dishes, and he has logged into Facebook on the computer/TV in the main room. I don’t think he was expecting me back so soon. As I begin to fold the freshly laundered clothes, including some of his own, he comments about a ridiculous post by one of his friends. He talks in a mocking tone, though he is part of that online dialogue, I point out. When I try to get at whether he’s being sarcastic or serious about his observation, he is visibly annoyed, cutting off the conversation and closing out Facebook with a “Whatever.”

After finishing laundry and putting my clothes away, I return to the living room and find the lights turned off and him nowhere in sight. I call out for him curiously, and he says he’s going to read in the room before disappearing again. Taking that as a sign he wants to be alone, I change my direction for the night. I do the dishes after all. I read for a bit. I do yoga for a bit, and then I read some more.

Somewhere during this time, we cross paths in the kitchen, and he reaches out for a hug. “Sorry for my lack of exuberance,” he says. I shrug it off, with a typical, “It’s okay,” even though I’m not quite sure what he means.

Src: Ink361.com

Src: Ink361.com

I know when he needs his space, I must respectfully give it to him, without questions, or there will be problems. Our relationship almost derailed permanently two years ago this month for taking his distance personally and for pushing too far, with attitude, about the way he disappeared. In similar situations, I’m still walking on eggshells, but so it is. I understand this occasional need for sudden space, after more than a year and half of living together, but I still wish he was able or willing to warn me ahead of time—or that I could read auras of mood immediately to ensure no feathers are needlessly ruffled.

In the middle of the dark, I grab my cell phone and send him a message on Facebook. I tell him if he needs more extended time alone to just let me know, and I’ll get away for a couple days. I think to myself, maybe it will give him a chance to miss me (and I him). Maybe not seeing each other at all for a couple days will remind him of how interesting and desirable to be around I can be.

When I am finally ready for sleep, I hesitantly go into our room and get into bed. Even though he’s fast asleep, I feel waves of discomfort. I’m still processing today’s sudden change in temperature of our interactions, plus the cough of my cold is picking up again. I head to the couch, where I run through the cycle of cough, toss and turn, sleep, and repeat.

At 5 a.m., I wake up with gooey cobwebs in my eyes. My body no longer feels comfortable balled up on the couch. I decide I’ll go back to bed, to have any chance of falling back asleep. Unfortunately, my cough picks up to an almost constant refrain. After more than half an hour, I can tell he is fully woken up by this. And I am too. I hear him get up, go to the bathroom, then head back to his office. I cough and cough, rolling onto my back, eyes closed, willing myself to fall back asleep.

He’s likely watching porn, as per his early morning routine. I imagine him deriving more pleasure from rubbing it out alone in the shower than the blowjob I had been planning to love him up with the night before. Before I was given the freeze out. I’m not upset; just tired and bewildered.

I wedge another pillow under me, raising my upper body. My cough begins to wane. But it’s too late for more sleep for him, for m….

An hour later, I awaken. He hasn’t said goodbye to me for leaving for work. This disappoints me a little, but I’m too distracted by my cold to get truly upset. That’s when I hear him walking the hallways. He’s moving slowly this morning apparently.

I get up and go to my “office.” When he gets out of the shower, I go into the bathroom to wash the cobwebs out of my eyes. He is standing in the kitchen, getting his bags together when I get out. I decide it’s ridiculous to wait for him to talk before saying anything.

Img src: jeanneguy.com

Img src: jeanneguy.com

I apologize for waking him up so early with my coughing. He says he’s sorry my cold is so bad this morning. After a hug, he tells me not to overdo it today. I tell him that I’ll try. My IM goes unmentioned and hasn’t been replied to. I don’t know if he even noticed I wasn’t in the bed most of the night.

With too little sleep, it’s going to be a long day for both of us. I’ll definitely want to tread lightly in our interactions tonight. Hopefully we’ll both wake up on the right side of bed tomorrow, and neither of us will feel remnants of eggshells under our foot.

Why You Don’t Need a Ring on it For Christmas

FB EngagementsSo last night and this morning, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I saw the beaming faces of multiple, old classmates announcing their Christmas engagements. While it’s a somewhat predictable time of year to propose–and where’s the fun surprise in that–I was genuinely happy for these women who are well deserving of lifelong love. But I must be completely honest with you—I was surprised by the twinge of envy I also felt. While I don’t consider myself a romantic traditionalist in general, a part of me couldn’t help wondering when—if—I will reach that exciting milestone in my own relationship.

There are a few things I share in common with my newly affianced friends. We’re no spring chickens. I’m the youngest, having just turned 37 two weeks ago. While we’ve never been married, all of us have been in more than enough relationships to genuinely recognize authentic, enduring love when it is staring us in the face. Our relationships aren’t new. Loved ones have long inquired when to expect the big day and babies. Friendships and families have blended. Lives and residences have been entwined.

In my case, I’ve been with Warrior Poet for more than two-and-half years now, and we’ve been living together for a year-and-a-half. He’s been by my side through the best and the worst of times. We’ve been each others cheerleader, champion and best friend. We have three families and a supportive circle of friends with whom to share special events together throughout the year. And in a couple weeks, we’ll be taking a trip of a lifetime together to one of the world’s most romantic cities and then to one of the most magical countries. Thinking about this, I was immediately chastened by how greedy and selfish it was to wish for more right now.

Christmas Love BouquetIn one of my FB groups, a woman posted about her disappointment that, after four-and-a-half years of a relationship, she wasn’t proposed to over Christmas. She said the only thing she wanted for the holiday was a commitment. People quickly responded to remind her that there is not time clock on commitment and that everything happens in its own, right time. While one couple got married after seven months together (15 years ago, btw), it took 16 years for another couple to get engaged. Yet the most sobering response was from a woman who said that while she understand the disappointment of the girl with no Christmas ring, there were many who wished that they had even a taste of what she already has—someone in her corner, someone by her side when the going gets tough.

It reminded me how important it is to recognize and express gratitude for the blessings we do have now. As single people, we can be grateful for the opportunity to really get to know ourselves, for the time to become our best selves, and for the experience of growing more complete and content on our own. If we’re in relationships, we can be grateful to have someone who sees, accepts and loves us for who we really are and has faith in who we can become. We can cherish the nurturing and support we receive. We can marvel in the process of getting to know each other even more with each passing day and the experience of our shared journey together. We can celebrate the continued acts of loving and the commitment it takes to show up for each other day in and day out, whether we’re wearing a ring or not.

What Couples Uncover When Chatting About Their Unique Relationships

Src: Flickr Creative Commons/ellenlove

Src: Flickr Creative Commons/ellenlove

This past weekend we went to a housewarming party, where we got to spend time with a few of our favorite couples. As always, the Warrior Poet and I learn so much from our conversations with them, giving us further insight into how others relate successfully and unsuccessfully in their romantic endeavors. Two interesting things arose in conversation that night—how couples communicate (or don’t) and how couples deal with conflict.

One of the surprising statements of the night was that having a max of 15 or so minutes of meaningful communication per day was the reality for others. “Neither of us are big talkers,” the guy in one of the couples explained. They enjoy being in each other’s company, but not don’t feel the need for much chatting. Another couple gets in fights frequently over communication blunders and misunderstandings.

WP and I exchanged knowing glances—our days wouldn’t be complete without some serious downtime talking with each other about more than just a play-by-play of our respective days. Whether we are discussing our goals for the next steps in our respective careers, contemplating the cosmos or trying to solve the world’s crises over lack of resource, or we’re making up parody lyrics or ridiculous names for our brood of non-existent dysfunctional children, a day doesn’t feel complete without looking into each others eyes and really jumping into each other’s minds for a good chunk of time. Two-and-a-half years into the relationship, we continue to lose track of time some nights because we’re so busy talking about whatever comes up.

Admittedly, we haven’t been together for more than a decade; as much as we already know and understand about each other, we still delight in discovering even more. And we don’t have children, which takes up a lot of time, attention and energy for parent couples. Nor are we a workaholic power couple spreading ourselves too thin to have the energy to do much more than the necessary check-ins. Yet, we also have our own, full lives we’re living.

I am working on building my own business, am constantly educating myself and following a half dozen passions—while also dealing with health and financial stress. WP’s work life is consistently frustrating, and he is extremely driven in his pursuits outside of work and rarely gets home before 8 p.m. at night. Yet on the two days we both work from home, we make an effort to briefly check in throughout the day. And each night, we eat dinner together and spend time in each others company until falling asleep.

Admittedly, sometimes the night is full chill mode of listening to podcasts or watching something or the computer. Or we decide to wind up the night reading side by side in bed. Sometimes, WP gets home late and exhausted, and we have barely enough time to prepare and eat dinner before he falls asleep. Yet, whatever we are doing, the time together is paramount, and we enjoy the time we carve out to talk to each other, no matter the topic. It’s what makes us feel happy and complete.

The other big thing that came up in our couples’ conversations the other night was how conflict is resolved. One couple is aware that it is made up of two, explosive and stubborn individuals. The longest they’ve gone without talking was a full week, which I cannot even fathom. The individuals in the other couple both hate conflict, but the man can’t stand leaving things unresolved for very long so he initiates airing things out. The rare times that things get weird between WP and me, I’m usually the one who has to bring up the topic to get us to directly address it.

Interestingly, yesterday I got on WP’s nerves because I was washing dishes while he was trying to cook meals for the week. I thought I was doing a good thing by cleaning new dishes that he would was going to need for the baking. He started sighing loudly and eventually went to sit in the corner and got one the phone until I was done. I left the room in an annoyed huff, mumbling, “I was just trying to wash the dust off the dishes for you.”

I sat and stewed for a while. I know WP is very sensitive to people and sounds, and it can drive him crazy not to have full reign of the kitchen when he is cooking. Yet he does all the cooking, and I feel better when I can do anything to help. Sometimes this is tolerated, but yesterday it was not.

It made me feel badly that I was just another annoyance to him at the time. I know how territorial he is about his kitchen at times and that I can’t take this too personally, but I would much rather have had him say something than just very audibly and dramatically sighing in annoyance over something that lasted less than five minutes. So I clung to my hurt feelings for a couple hours, though he seemed fine.

But after watching thought-provoking documentaries together, he initiated discussing the global issues the shows brought up that were much more significant than a kitchen showdown. Any awkwardness that had built up dissipated, and I openly engaged in the conversation as usual. No harm, no foul.

I know, like any couple, we can still improve on our communication, especially when neither of us is feeling at our best. We like to assume we can read each other’s minds, and get frustrated when it’s not always so. Yet I’m grateful that these moments aren’t very frequent and almost never lead to frustrated outbursts or tears. Neither of us thrives on such things.

It’s different strokes for different folks, and that’s what makes observing and learning about other relationships so fascinating. Different personalities have their own ways for navigating through the landscape of their relationships and making things work for them. Sharing our varied experiences can be a great way to learn from each other…and it definitely makes for entertaining group conversations.

How to Recognize What We Desire Most Comes From Within

This past Saturday morning, I woke up to find a photo of a bare-chested man in my inbox. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not going to complain about the view. However, its unexpected appearance was surprising to me for a number … Continue reading

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CA votes on bill for safety and accountability in adult film industry, performers plead to keep stringent industry health protocols and privacy

This morning, California voters are faced with a vote regarding regulations in the adult film industry. Sponsored by Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation introduced by California State Assembly member Isadore Hall (D-64th), AB1576 would require adult film industry (AFI) performers to use condoms at all times. It also includes a controversial government mandate on testing and requires all producers to keep health records of their models’ results indefinitely.

“[It] will look to make all adult filmed in CA require mandatory condom use and will criminally penalize anyone charged with violating it. This is not just professional shows; this includes ALL webcam models, amateur performers and personal web content trade,” AFI performer Steven St. Croix wrote on Facebook. “We have to stop the intrusion of the government in our personal, private and professional lives.”

More than 500 performers have signed a Free Speech Coalition petition opposing the bill. Independent groups representing adult film stars, such as the Adult Performers Advocacy have joined the petitioners and the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry trade group, to oppose the bill. The petition will be presented in Sacramento today at an Assembly Appropriations hearing.

Lorelei Lee is a performer and vocal opponent of the bill, calling it “insulting and paternalistic.” In a YouTube video by AFI performers that encourages voters to oppose the bill, Lee said that the bill would require CDC requirements for testing that, according to her, are much less stringent than the requirements in the industry. “And these are performer-developed requirements, performer-development safety and health protocols that have been extremely effective,” she said.

FAIR (For Adult Industry Responsibility) claims that AFI performers have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) than the general population. According to FAIR, a 2012 study found 28 percent tested positive for gonorrhea or Chlamydia.  In 2011, a study found performers 34 times more at risk for Chlamydia and 64 times more at-risk for gonorrhea than the general LA County population. Female performers were also 27 percent more likely to have a repeat infection in one year. They also claim that 23 performers employed by the AFI tested positive for HIV between 2004 and 2010.

“On porn sets in the last decade, there has not been one onset transmission of HIV, despite what you may have heard,” Lee said. “Active performers who have tested positive have done so after an exposure in their personal life. And the moratoriums that have been put in place after those positive tests came to light prevented the HIV from being spread to other active performers.”

The state Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media cleared the bill for vote on April 29.

“For too long, the adult film industry has thrived on a business model that exploits its workers and puts profit over workplace safety,” Assembly member Isadore Hall said. “The Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media soundly rejected the opposition’s arguments because they were based on fear, not facts. The fact is adult film actors are employees, like any other employee for any other business in the state. A minimum level of safety in the workplace should not have to be negotiated. We need to begin to treat the adult film industry just like any other legitimate, legal business in California.”

Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that at least two adult performers, Cameron Bay and Joshua Rodgers, became infected with HIV in the last year while working in the industry. Both Bay and Rodger testified in favor of the bill.

“AB 1576 expands and broadens worker protections for all California’s adult film workers on a statewide basis,” said Weinstein. “We are grateful that Assembly member Hall has shown the courage—and the vision—to recognize that workers in the adult film industry are entitled to the same safeguards and worker protections that any employee in California is, and we will do whatever we can to help pass this legislation.”

Weinstein has been in hot water with AFI performers since he fought the FDA approval of medication Truvada for use by people at high risk for HIV—including sex workers—to help prevent transmission of the virus. Weinstein allegedly called the HIV-prevention pill “a party drug,” and used plentiful resources to fight the drug’s approval.

Nina Hartley, a performer and registered nurse, called the bill “a solution in search of a problem,” during testimony before the state Assembly in April. “There has not been a single case of HIV transmission between performers on a regulated adult film set in over ten years, and yet they treat us like a threat to public health, using shame, sexism and fear-mongering to dismiss our concerns about privacy, discomfort, rights and safety.”

In the video featuring AFI performers who oppose the bill, Christian Wilde said that the AFI performers are safe and careful, and “don’t need outsiders telling them how to do their jobs properly and safely.”

Performer Anna Fox said, “I feel that every performer should have the right to choose whether or not he or she wants to use protection. And I feel that our testing definitely works for us.”

Wilde opposes AB1576 for imposing on his privacy. “[The bill states] that every performer would have to disclose very sensitive, personal and medical information to every studio that they shoot for. And not only that, the studios could keep that sensitive information and on file indefinitely,” he said. “And I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a very drastic break of personal privacy.”

In another PSA, Lee expanded on how the bill would impact performer privacy. “If our personal medical records are being kept by a content producer, that means not just a very established organization, like Kink.com, where we have airtight record-keeping,” she said. “It means anyone in the Valley who is shooting porn out of their bedroom and keeping your medical records who knows where.”

According to Stop AB1576, the bill would compromise performer safety and privacy, as well as choice. It would also drive adult production out of California, with a loss of a multi-billion dollar industry.

“This bill is written by people who have no understanding or knowledge of the way the industry actually works and what regulations might actually be helpful to performers,” said Lee. She added that performers lack a voice in this bill.

“The actual effect of the bill would not be to have condoms to suddenly appear in all porn films,” she said. “What would more than likely happen is that the industry would move to Nevada or underground. And if the industry moves to Nevada or moves underground, what happens then is the degradation of the health and safety protocols that we performers have spent over a decade getting into place…So this bill would make us less safe.”

Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition said in a statement, “Performers shouldn’t have to give up control over their bodies. We are a small community, and not always the most political, but outrage has come from all areas of the industry — gay, straight, trans, fetish, studio and independent — to fight against a bill that criminalizes sex between consenting adults.”

Lee added, “This [bill] shows a total disregard for performers’ autonomy and threatens a vital safety infrastructure that we have spent ten years building…If the bill becomes law, it will, in fact, harm the people it claims it will protect.”

Wilde said that by voting no on this bill, AFI performers can “continue giving you the quality of work that we are destined to give.” He added, “We need our voices heard. We need our advocates out there—our fans who love us and watch our work—to take this into their own hands and help us get out the word…To say ‘absolutely no, thank you’ to this bill.”