Day 4: Meet The Parents

Yes, I fell off the wagon of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge, but I haven’t given it up entirely. Thanks for being so patient for this next installment: Day 4—Meet the Parents

What can I say about my parents? I am probably closer to them than the average 30-something—not only because I currently live with them. I have a very open and honest relationship with my mom and dad, sometimes too much so. Yet I appreciate that more than not really knowing them at all.

Src: joyerickson.wordpress.com

We have a complicated history, partially because my parents have a complicated history. I grew up thinking we had a perfect family. That’s what everyone said. My two older brothers and I had cool parents who were still married to each other. My dad played bass in my brother’s rock band. My mom looked many years younger than she actually was, and she somehow managed to be everywhere for three kids who played three or more sports each. My parents never argued. They gave us so many things, both tangible and intangible, and our family trips were legendary.

Yet behind all that were some secrets that I discovered by accident when I came home from school one day at the age of 12 or 13. A few years later and over the course of time, a story came out about my parents that I was shocked by. I felt betrayed, as if I didn’t really know them as well as I thought I did. Their marriage hadn’t been as perfect as I thought it had been. My parents were human and flawed!

After therapy and many, many talks with my father, I have reconciled my visions of my perfect family with a great childhood with wonderful parents who struggled more than I ever knew. I recognized the strength and courage they have, the amazing capacity for forgiveness, grace, true love that withstands the storms and battering of time and comes out even stronger and more beautiful as they grow into their older years.

My parents have aged gracefully, looking and behaving years younger. They still hold hands, truly enjoy each others company and love to travel together, whether it’s a short ride to Vermont to see the foliage or a trip across the country, to take in all the tastes and sights on Park City, UT. They will be renewing their vows this December on their anniversary.

They are very proud grandparents now. Watching my father grow into the grandfather role is a beautiful thing. In my early childhood, I don’t have as many memories with him as I’d wish beyond teaching me music, but he made up for it with art projects, storytelling, road trips, brainstorming for school projects and just by being a cool all-around dad as I got older. So seeing him so active in the lives of my very young niece and nephew and having so much fun with them is awesome.

My mother is such a beautiful person, inside and out. She was always there in my childhood, reading me stories at night, teaching me all the things that would make me succeed in school, cheering me on at my sports games and meets and always being an ear for me to talk to and a shoulder for me to lean on. She is still so much that way today.

Both my mother and my father have been amazingly supportive and patient as I have been on this incredibly long and frustrating, sometimes quite scary, struggle with my health. They have been there with their time, their presence, their love and their cheers.

My dad has challenged me not to give up and to fight harder to get where I want to be. He has driven me around kingdom come for the last almost two years.  He has sat in doctor’s offices, steered the wheelchair, driven me to dates, town hall meetings and interviews, while also taken me to run my errands. I have thanked him many times with words and hugs, but I stunned him when I got him an iPad for Father’s Day.

When he said, it was too much, I replied, “For the times when you have to wait for me in the car or waiting room for so long. I can thank you so many times with words, but I just want you to know how much I truly appreciate how much of your time and energy you give for me.”

My mother shifted her life to work out of the home full-time so that she could be there for me whenever I needed her care. I know it was very stressful in the early days when my health was so chaotic, and it meant so much to me just having her sitting next to me while she typed away on her computer—I wasn’t alone.

Today was her last day of work. She dropped off her badge and computer, and happily retired. It gives me great joy to see the woman who has worked so hard for our family to finally get some rest. She will sleep. She will travel. She will have time to rediscover her passions and discover new ones for the first time. She deserves an incredible retirement. Both of my parents do together.

I love them both more than I can possibly express in words. They are an inspiration, two of my best friends and the best parents a girl could have.

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Blog Day 3: First Love, Mix Tapes and Combat Boots

In my senior year of high school, everything seemed to be falling into place as it should. I was accepted into all the colleges I applied to and could attend my dream school. I was eager to start the new chapter of my life all the way across the country, but for the time being, I was committed to making the last months of my childhood count.

Bye Bye Birdie -amazon.com

I was one of the stars in the school musical that spring, and one of the boys for whom I had secretly harbored a crush, who played my father in the musical, had given me flowers on opening night. I was tickled until I realized he had also given flowers to my “brother” and my “mom.”  While I knew he did like me romantically, we never went there, but we’d been playing a silly dance most of high school and even a couple years in middle school.

Growing up in the suburbs where I thrived yet still never quite felt I totally fit in, at least when it came to real romantic relationships, was another reason I was looking forward to getting out of my town: new blood and hopefully new mindset. And truthfully, I was sort of glad I had kept mostly out of the messy world of dating—I had seen how it had derailed too many of my former friends.

Still, since we spent so much time together through the weeks of rehearsal, I somehow found myself venting about my past romantic ups and downs to my musical “mom.”

“I have a friend that I think would actually be good for you,” she said. “He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known.”

I asked her why she wasn’t dating him, but I knew her type: a boy with an edge. He wasn’t it. The one picture she had of him left me uncertain if I would find him attractive in person, but I was willing to give it a try. He had the Vania seal of approval, after all.

Dianthus and Letter Source: onlinedatingschool.com

My future boyfriend was a freshman in college at the time. It sounds old-fashioned to think of it now—in the age of IMs, text messaging and having entire relationships play out on Facebook—but because he didn’t live close by, we began our courtship with letters. You know, those things you write longhand on actual paper, stick in an envelope with a stamp, and the other person receives it in a day or even longer.

Through these letters, C and I shared our interests, our hopes, our dreams and our fears. I learned the gentleness of his heart, how he’d help an elderly stranger get out of his car, by physically lifting him. I knew which movies made him cry. I knew what his family life was like, that his father had been born in Poland and came here at the age of 11 and this his older sister also still lived at home.

And then, C introduced me to the magical wonder of mix tapes. Songs from bands and I’d never heard of like Screaming Trees, Dinosaur Jr. and The Pixies were carefully selected and arranged to be the best musical experience, telling a story from the heart. After all the heavily produced pop I’d digested after an early childhood of hair metal bands, I never realized how music could be such a personal expression, yet its universality could touch the hearts of young adults all across the country.

We eventually got up the courage to talk on the phone, and we spent hours every night, finally feeling like we’d found someone of the opposite sex who truly got us. The mix tapes got more personal, conveyed specific meaning and emotion. When I received them in the mail, and eventually in person, I felt like I was getting a little piece of him.

John Constantine by ~xEmoxRazorbladex

Our first date, a double date with Vania and one of C’s friends, was a disaster. We were awkward around each other, and his physical presence didn’t match what I’d envisioned in my mind. He was more than a foot taller than me and had an imposing physical presence with his wide upper body, prominent sideburns and black combat boots on very big feet.

Somehow, though, we got over our awkwardness. Our phone calls up to our second date got more intimate as we imagined what it would be like to kiss. After we experienced the beauty of that, accompanied to a mix tape with plenty of Sinatra, it was obvious that we were falling quickly for each other.

That first summer together was full of beautiful memories. Holding hands on walks in the park. Talking for hours on end about anything and everything. Sharing favorite movies and TV shows (Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, MST3K, etc.) with each other. Introducing each other to our families—more on that later.

C was a brilliant artist. I allowed him to draw me, but I fell in love with his pictures of other characters. He was fascinated with graphic novels, and he got me to nurse an obsession for Sandman especially, but also Books of Magic.

That summer we also shared some magically awkward times.  Having fun with some peanut butter, and getting caught half-clothed with a cop behind a huge flashlight at a park after dark. Attempting to go past third base literally on a baseball diamond, only to get the town cops discovering us a little bit later again. Finally getting right in my house downstairs, while everyone was asleep upstairs.

Before I left for college, I went with my family to Europe. We were heartbroken to leave each other, but I couldn’t get out of the trip. In the end, I was so glad not to miss that incredible experience with my grandmother, parents and one of my brothers. We wrote each other every day and kept those letters to give each other when I got home.

Not too much later, I went to college all the way across the country, in California. While I missed him, I was also very excited to be in a brand new place, meeting cool people and experiencing great things. Meanwhile, C was at home getting more lonely and depressed, and his Italian mother was giving him hell for dating a girl who wasn’t his “race.”

Don’t ask me what came over me, but I actually wrote a several pages long letter to this woman sticking up for myself as an individual and as a sum of my parts. I told her how much I loved her son and never wanted to hurt him, that I respected him and her. However, I told her it wasn’t fair to make him feel bad for following his heart. We never became friends, believe it or not, but she talked to C about my letter and apologized. From that point on, she became a little more open, a little friendlier.

Src=http://www.cute4mobile.com/missing-you-a-lot/

Anyway, I digress. C and I were young kids in love. C was the one left behind. He felt sad that I was having fun without him. I felt guilty that I was discovering new things without him. We talked about our relationship, how we could keep it strong if I stayed in California. Long story short, I made the crazy decision to drop out of school and move back East.

Yes, you can guess where this all leads. But first, there were some really good things that came out of this. My journey as a singer/songwriter really blossomed during this time. I wrote dozens and dozens of songs. I wrote fiction, I wrote an editorial that was published. I started working with children. By the summer, I was so itching to be back in school that I started attending classes back home.

As for C and I, I managed to get him to take a trip to Washington D.C. with me. He was biggest cheerleader and champion for my writing. We met each other’s extended families. We had sleepovers.

But I eventually found myself restless and resentful. This wasn’t my life anymore. This was his life that I was trying to convince myself and everyone else was ours.

I withdrew from our relationship long before I finally did the right thing and end it. By then, I had gone back to California. I felt guilty but I was starting to be happy again. A really good friend was turning into more. I loved my classes and liked my new roommates. I was having fun taking full advantage of all the great things the Bay Area had to offer. I knew C would never forgive me. But I had to be fair to him and let him go.

I believe it was a year or two when we next corresponded again. We broached the subject of seeing each other just to say hello, at a mall with his best friend along for support. He eventually canceled because he told me he was still in love with me, still in too much pain. A couple years later, even after he’d dated someone else, he wrote that he still had never really gotten over me.

Tattooed couple -Brendan Ó Sé

Then, silly ol’ Facebook happened. Once I joined and he finally joined, I tried to add him a couple times, just so I knew he was okay.   He ignored me again and again. Then, one day, out of the blue I thought, he added me. The next day, I saw his status changed to “married” and numerous photos of him and his new bride. There were a perfect pair–big folk with numerous tattoos, and most important to me, they looked truly happy together.

It was so surreal to see photos of his parents and brother and sister again. His mom looked as bitter as ever. His little brother was all grown up. I later saw his sister at a grocery store, but she had her nose in the air as usual and didn’t see me. She recently got married as well.

Life moves on. Letting go enabled C to move on and find the perfect woman for him. It allowed me four years of a truly loving and happy relationship with that friend who quickly became my boyfriend. And I’ve had so many other eye-opening experiences since then.

C taught me how to open up my heart, how to truly communicate with someone—about both the good things and the hard things, and he taught me what love was really all about. I’m only sorry I didn’t honor that love as much as I should have, as much as he deserved.

The 30-Day Blogging Challenge, Day 2: What’s in A (Nick)Name?

Air Jordan Logo -watchmykicks.com

We live in a society that is fascinated with nicknames. There’s a bit of the poet in all of us, perhaps, trying to add some color by describing people through the use of nicknames, like Ginger for a girl with red hair, and the self-explanatory Slim, Curly and The Refrigerator. What better nickname for a superstar basketball player known for his incredible leaping ability than “Air Jordan”?

Nicknames are also a way of branding ourselves. This is a generation obsessed with marketing, as we’ve had commercials speaking and singing to us since we were babies. Who is better an example of self-promotion and marketing than Sean Combs, the rapper, producer, “singer” and ”actor,” but most of all, businessman and promoter. Combs claims he was originally nicknamed “Puff” because he would huff and puff when he was really upset as a kid. Combs has tried on different nicknames from “Puff Daddy” to Puffy to P. Diddy to Diddy as he’s reinvented himself throughout his career again and again.

He’s not the only one who recognizes the power of name branding. You know who people are talking about when they call up the nicknames of performers like JLo and Ice Cube, athletes like A-Rod and Macho Camacho, and reality stars Snooki and JWoww of Jersey Shore fame. Is it really that hard to call a guy Alex? No, but being called A-Rod is infinitely cooler—and therefore more salable.

-spicegirls.wikia.com

While some, like former first lady Lady Bird Johnson, take on their nicknames as if actual names—Bird was the name she used on her marriage license—other nicknames just stick, whether people like them to or not. Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh and Sporty of the Spice Girls have nicknames that stuck with them long after they first made worldwide fame with the British pop group. They can’t go anywhere or do anything without a reference being made to their Spice nicknames

An actual news headline from earlier this week reads: “Scary Spice has a baby girl.” I wonder how the children of Melanie Brown aka Mel B. will react when she tells them her superstar nickname was Scary Spice. Lucky for Victoria Beckham, Posh is one of those nicknames that fits like a glove. Besides, people seem to forgive her anything for having a sexy soccer star Becks as a husband.

And yes, we’ve even formed nicknames for couples by morphing their first names. The former couple Bennifer was Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez aka JLo. Brangelina, the hottest couple du jour, is Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. What that says about the age we live in when even the superstars among us lose their individual identity once they are paired up is frightening. Yet the media keeps selling it to us because many of you out there must think it’s super cute.

Anyway, speaking of cute. Back when I was a little pigtailed girl first doing cartwheels and rollovers, my gymnastics class called us the “Tiny Tumblebees.” Being especially short and slender for my age, Tiny Tumblebee was adopted as my nickname by many who knew me when. Imagine my surprise when I went in to teach a kindergarten class in my hometown for the first time when the woman across the hall comes over exclaiming, “My Tiny Tumblee!”

Folks, it’s been almost 30 years since I was officially a Tiny Tumblebee, but this family friend will always remember me as that. Actually, I find it kind of sweet that she remembers me so cutely. Though I’d have preferred she not call me that in front of my own tiny students.

Another athletic nickname came from my jumping ability. I have always had a great vertical jump, which has always given me pride, being particularly petite. So one of my brother’s best friends used to call my Frogger. Having an Atari, then Commodore 64, at that period of my life probably helped inspire that nickname as well.

Another nickname from childhood is “Née” or even worse “Née-Née.” Only one of my uncles and my childhood best friend’s mom can call me Née-Née —it still gets a serious cringe but they’ve been calling me that all my life. Don’t know what it is about that nickname, except that it makes me feel like I am about four years, wearing pigtails and about to be asked if I want some Kool-Aid with my graham crackers.

Two longtime childhood friends—and @jackfrombklyn, for some reason—have the privilege of calling me Née. If it’s said condescendingly, I will secretly be plotting out ways to trip you up with some jump rope and then shake the end of my pigtail in your ear.

As an adult, the nicknames become more random. Starting in college, Puffyhead has become the universal nickname when my hair is all curly and au natural, nothing done to it after a shampoo, condition and slight gel except let it dry. No, it’s not an afro. It’s just full and curly. Flathead is its complete opposite, when the flattening iron or a great straightening treatment has made my hair bone straight, flat on my head.

My college boyfriend called me every version of bean he could think of: Bean Head, Cocoa Bean, Sugar Bean, etc. This was our anecdote to sickeningly sweet pet names. Later, these actually became my pet names for my pets.

Finally, the most recent nickname that I became especially attached to, which isn’t so recent at all, is SexySweets. Sweet, original and flattering. The V-Man called me that for four years, even during the long spell when we weren’t a couple.  The name is bittersweet for me now, as many endings are.

30-Day Blogging Challenge, Day 1: Me in a Nutshell

Inspired by Miss Jess Downey, I have decided to start the 30-Day Blogging Challenge. Most of my readers know I tend to write long, emotional entries about the ups and downs of my dating life. I thought this would be a nice alternative to get me in the habit of blogging more regularly and to perhaps allow me to reveal a side of me that you don’t often get to see.

So first, a little about me: I am, as my pseudonym implies, single in my 30s. This is a rarity. While this blog has revealed a serial dater, I am more a serial monogamist. Except for brief interludes, I have basically been in serious romantic relationships since the age of 17…until more recently, hence this blog.

In addition to blogging about dating and relationships, I write about health and wellness. It’s a subject I know more intimately than I ever expected I would, and I have turned it into my strength, rather than a weakness. I also am on leave from being the editor/writer for online daily hometown news.

I currently live in Connecticut again, where I grew up. With my parents, and there is an extremely good reason for that. I also live with my 5-year-old cat, who is not my substitute child, though he sure is loved.

And now for 15 interesting facts about myself.

1. I have lived in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Connecticut, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. Yes, Las Vegas, baby!

2. Up until grade 5, I wore my hair in braided pigtails nearly every single day of school. I was long known in my hometown for those and my begged-for tumbling displays at recess.

3. After locking myself in the bathroom when I was a kid, I never close any door at my home all the way shut…unless the niece and nephew are sleeping over because I need those precious hours of sleep in the morning.

4. I have traveled cross-country several times and been to Toronto, the Bahamas, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, England, Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands, Thailand and Nepal. Has that satisfied my wanderlust? It’s only just scratching the surface.

5. The reason I went to Toronto was to meet a man I stumbled across on the Internet…back in the ’90s. We had spent a couple months IMing, video chatting and talking on the phone beforehand. I still count it as one of the best weeks of my life.

6. While I have had multiple sprains and strains growing up as a competitive gymnast, soccer player and track and field athlete, I only broke a bone once. It was in Germany when I was 16, insisting on playing soccer with the boys just like I had since I was 5. After the hard fall, I kept playing, and in fact didn’t get treated for it until I was in France several days later.

7. I am 5 feet and have been a lightweight most my life, but I am very strong. I have literally pulled down trees, yanked out bushes, and carried sheet rock more than twice my size. I was an indoor rock-climbing maniac thanks to my arm strength. In middle school, I broke the record for doing the most pull-ups for a girl. A little more than a year ago, I finally broke my own record. Not bad for an ole’ gal.

8. I was 17 when I had my first real kiss. I was 17 when I had a lot of other firsts.

9. I am the proud aunt of an almost 4-year-old nephew and an almost 2-year-old niece. They are adorable, funny and incredibly smart.

10. I have a strong fear that I will never be able to have children of my own one day, biologically or otherwise.

11. I tend to organize potato chips by size and M&Ms by color before I eat them.

12. I am a true melting pot, with African, Bulgarian, English, French and Native American heritage (and probably more.)

13. I haven’t been legally been able to drive a car since January 2010 for health reasons. It is one of my biggest frustrations.

14. I hate reading directions, but I am a great troubleshooter, creative cook and baker as a result.

15. I have recorded an album, become a professional writer, traveled to incredible places, swum with the dolphins and knocked off so many things from my “bucket list.” But I still think that bucket list won’t carry much weight for me until I find that lifelong love. In spite of everything, I’m still a romantic, so sue me.