Just when you didn’t think things could get worse…

I hung up the phone in disbelief.

My childhood friend and her two kids had just spent a week visiting me in Michigan. We went to the zoo, ate picnic lunches, stayed up late watching movies and reminisced about our high school antics. Life was not perfect, but it was good.

At least that week it was good.

But when she returned home, the life she knew had disappeared. Her husband confessed to having an affair. He wanted the four bedroom house to himself, trying to reason that it was just too big for her to manage on her own. In fact, while she was visiting me, he had already started packing up her things, found her and the kids an apartment and paid the deposit. He wanted her out in a week. She was horrified and numb but compliant. I had suspected for years that she had suffered emotionally a daily barrage of insults and complaints. The strong independent young woman I had known when we were fourteen had vanished, replaced by an insecure and fearful mother of two facing the daunting task of walking away from more than a decade long relationship.

“How in the world am I going to get three people moved in a week?” she cried in desperation, “I can’t believe this is really happening.”

I quickly made arrangements for my children, double-checked DW’s schedule and bought a plane ticket. It was a short flight, but filled with anxiety. All I could think about were our years of sleep-overs, double dates, secret sharing, singing music at the top of our lungs and the crazy school projects we worked on together. I pictured us crying over boyfriends, girl drama and parents. There wasn’t anything a couple of milkshakes and curly fries from Jack in the Box couldn’t fix. But this was different. This situation was going to take time for her to sort through, grieve and recover. The least I could do was help make the load lighter.

She and I stood silently in the middle of the living room. The house looked like it had been ransacked by an army of thieves. Pots and pans lined the kitchen counter. Papers and books spilled over desks and chairs onto the floor. Clothes and toys were piled four feet high in every corner. A small walking path marked the route from the main living areas to the bedrooms.

“He told me everything I wanted to keep needed to either be out of the house or packed up and stored in the dining room by Monday morning or else he was going to get rid of it,” she said flatly.

As I surveyed the damage, it seemed an impossible feat. At the moment there wasn’t even room in the dining area to store boxes. So my first order of business was to clear out that room and only leave the furniture she wanted to keep. I started pointing to items, and when she nodded her head in response, I marked them with a sticky note. After a few hours it finally felt like we were making some headway. Stacks of tightly packed boxes replaced the clutter, all contents clearly marked for easy retrieval. For every two boxes I packed, my friend only packed one. She sifted through everything with a sigh, remarking on a memory or feeling that the item invoked. I also noticed that she was packing things that more closely resembled trash than treasure.

I grabbed an empty tape cassette cover out of her hand. The list of songs were in my handwriting. It had been a mix-tape I made her in high school but the tape was nowhere to be found.

“Why are you keeping this?” I asked, “The tape is gone.”

“I just don’t want to forget anything,” she replied.

It was clear that we needed a break. The weekend was half over and the girls were getting hungry. My friend’s mother was also there trying to help with the kids but she needed to get home too. Just then, we heard someone come in through the back door. Heavy footsteps lumbered towards our side of the house, followed by the quick steps of two little girls. Standing in front of us was her soon to be ex-husband, clutching his car keys and shaking his fist at us.

“What the hell is all this?” he shouted, waving his arm at the stack of packed boxes.

My friend grimaced and stayed in a crouched position on the floor. I stood.

“This is as far as we have gotten today, ” I said, “It’ll look better by the time you come back on Monday.”

“I don’t remember giving you permission to take so much stuff,” he grumbled.

My friend stood up quickly.

“Well I don’t remember giving my consent to be forced out of my house!” she shouted.

Both voices erupted, barreling over each other in sharp punches. My friend’s children and mother stood in shock as the emotions of both my friend and her husband unraveled.

“Nana, you need to take the kids to McDonald’s,” I said slowly. The tension in the room had spiraled to a point of no return. Words like asshole, shithead, bastard and cunt cluttered the air and I didn’t want the kids to see or hear anymore.

No one moved.

“Nana, you need to take the kids to eat now,” I said more forcefully, walking over to the girls who were now crying. Trying to get the three bodies out the door was like moving marble statues. Finally I was able to escort them to the car, buckled the girls up and kissed them each on their head.

“Everything will be okay,” I promised, “I’ll take care of mommy.”

I watched them drive off.

Entering the house, I could hear his deep booming voice, “I FUCKING want you out now!”

I hurried into the living room just in time to see him pull his right arm back, balling up his fist in a fury. Without thought, I stepped right in between them. His eyes widened in horror.

“Go ahead,” I said, “hit me. But I can guarantee that unlike your wife, I WILL press charges.”

We stood there staring at each other for a minute. My heart pounded wildly, waiting.

Slowly, he put his arm down, turned and walked out the door.


Every week you’re invited to join Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop by responding to one of the provided writing prompts posted each Tuesday. The directions are simple:

    • Choose a writing prompt from the list provided that inspires you most.
    • Write.
    • Come back this Thursday and paste the URL from your post into the list of links that will be displayed…this way anyone can click on your post thumbnail and head over to your place to see what you wrote.

To view more detailed instructions on how this weekly meme works, check out the Writer’s Workshop FAQs.

Writing Prompts:

1.) Share a Whitney Houston song that meant something to you.
(inspired by Mama Mary)

2.) Just when you didn’t think things could get worse…how did they get worse?
(inspired by Confessions of a Semi Domesticated Mama)

3.) Create a reverse bucket list that names the top ten things you never want to do.
(Inspired by The Hairpin)

4.) A memorable day at work.

5.) Share a story about a sibling.


Differences of Opinion are Well Received

One of the things I love best about blogging is engaging with a community. Opinions evolve. Perspectives change. Sometimes I see how inaccurately I projected my thoughts or even how off the mark I was by the responses in the comment section. I welcome your feedback and would like to take a moment to respond to a couple of great comments from yesterday’s post.

This first comment comes from Sandi Ormsby of Ahhsome.

“Personally: I’m not interested in reading about someone’s divorce. Even if they are in the public eye, announce it, and be done with it…everyone should be allowed some common courtesy, some dignity to move forward without their spouse. We don’t need to gossip or offer opinions.

BTW, re: “We want to hold on to the hope that our dreams can come to fruition, that our lives will not fall to a national statistic…” well said, but I don’t think divorce is causing her to lose that dream or even damaging it. Her happiness is just being altered a bit.”

Celebrity divorces are announced daily, it seems. I was at the salon getting my hair done this morning, chuckling at all the weekly magazine subscriptions laying on the tables. They are riddled with hook-ups and break-ups. I think what struck me the most about Heather Armstrong’s announcement was how much attention it is receiving from more respected news sources, if that makes any sense.   She seems less of a celebrity to many of her followers and more of a friend or personal acquaintance. There are many bloggers that I read so often that I feel like I know them, personally. In fact, there are a handful that I consider friends because we interact outside of the blog world, albeit only through emails and text messages. Every time I hit “publish”, I am forever sharing a piece of myself, good or bad. Sometimes, there is an unsettling feeling knowing complete strangers have a very limited opinion of who I am.

The second comment comes from Kathleen at Richwell Ventures.

“Of course it IS nice to see people succeed, but you mean, “and never fail”, and good luck with that. She did succeed, just not indefinitely. I don’t know of this woman or how long she has been married, but I do know that the only constant is change.

I do empathize with her. It SUCKS. It’s devastating, I have been there, heck who hasn’t, but the potential death of her marriage does not automatically destroy her future, nor negate the blessings she has had up to this point. It just changes, and we endure – or don’t.”

I do agree with Sandi that everyone needs to move forward in their own happiness – however that may look. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that fans won’t speculate about the circumstances or outcome, it is in our nature to have an opinion, even if it is based on nothing concrete, mere assumptions. My hope is that the Armstrong family has good communication and a loving support system. And yes, Kathleen, I suppose it is a bit naive of me to want to see long-term success without failure. Maybe what I really hope is that we are able to succeed with minimal failure. I fail at small things every day: lose my temper, forget to pack someone’s book, start dinner too late, etc. But the one thing I don’t want to fail at are my relationships. Those are the things I hope to keep close, protect them at all cost. Although I know that comes with a price too sometimes. I also agree with Kathleen, because I know personally the devastation of divorce. It certainly was not my intent to imply that divorce would cause someone to lose or damage a dream. But it is the end of one dream – until the next one is envisioned. Happiness is a choice, I believe, although some days are much harder to find it than others. I never went in to my first marriage thinking, “let’s just see how long we can keep this going“. Obviously, my dream was a life long journey. The journey just changed, but in the end, I found a different happiness, a different dream, and a different future.

My dream now is to follow my creative interests and write more professionally. I want to build a better blog, start a book and even do some public speaking again. But the biggest part of that dream, is having my kids and DW at my side. That is the part that is sad to see – the end of a partnership. Even though I know there are always opportunities to build new ones.

First Dates

This week’s memoir writing prompt by The Red Dress Club, asked us to fill in the blanks:

The first time I ______________-ed after ____________________-ing. The word limit was 300.

Man, he’s cute and looking at me.

Did I shave? My pits, definitely, but I don’t think I shaved past my knees. At least I don’t have granny-panties on. Thank goodness I didn’t eat dessert with lunch today. When was the last time I cut my toe-nails? Good grief, he hasn’t even said hello and I’m worried about what I look like with my clothes off.

“Hi, my name is Emily, nice to meet you.”

Nice to meet you? What is this, an etiquette lesson?

“Sure, I’ll have another beer, thanks.”

He’s much cuter up close than he looked across the bar. I can’t believe my girlfriends ditched me. He’s a little young, but maybe he won’t care. 

“Where do I go to school?”

Awesome, he thought I was in college.  Then again, he hasn’t seen my stretch marks.

“I’m not a student, just working.”

Can’t blame a girl for working.  This is going great. Conversation is flowing.

He’s even walking me out to my car!  Please ask for my phone number. Please?

“Huh? Car seat?”

Crap. The car seat. And how nice, naked Barbies and Blue’s Clue’s training panties are sitting in the seat too.

“Funny you should ask, actually…”

Truth or lie?

“That’s my daughter’s. I’m a single mom.”

He doesn’t seem too fazed. We’re still talking. Maybe he’d like to see some pictures, and hear about daycare, and my crazy schedule, my age and my ex-husband…oh my gawd…shut up, shut up, shut up! His  eyes look vacant.

Wait, what’s that?

“You have something on your face.”

Crap. He backed away. I shouldn’t have licked my finger before wiping his face.

“Yeah, it was nice to meet you too. Goodnight.”

When the Truth Didn’t Hurt

This post comes from a weekly memoir writing prompt provided by The Red Dress Club. This week’s RemembeRED prompt was to write about a time something seemingly terrible happened,but looking back, it brought something wonderful.

“Come over,” she said in response to my sobbing.

Sniffle, snort, snort.

“Really, you think I’m going to make a fun addition to your New Year’s Eve party?”

“Maybe not, but I can’t stand thinking about you all alone over there.”

I was 27, divorced and a single mom of an almost three-year-old.

In a New York airport, my parents and brothers were preparing to bunker down for the night until the snow subsided enough to allow flights to leave. My paternal grandfather died unexpectedly after Christmas. Money for an airline ticket was nonexistent, coupled with the fact that I didn’t have reliable child care or time-off from my hourly job. I really felt like I had let my Dad down. His heart was broken over the loss of his father, a man I admired and loved too and yet I couldn’t go with them to say my goodbyes. I couldn’t kiss my Baba in her grief, comforting some of my own.

My body felt small and disjointed, like I was Alice sipping from the bottle marked, “Drink Me”, watching walls and doors tower above me. Life outside was suddenly becoming out of reach and very much alone.

“Just come, okay?” she insisted.

Hours later I found myself clad in jeans and a t-shirt, staring blankly at couples I didn’t know, trying to absorb the celebrations. Unresolved tears still burned behind my eyes, thinking not only about the funeral I had missed, but the haunting grief of my own failures.

“Hi,” said a deep voice, “My name is DW. How are you?”

I stared blankly, wondering how in the world I was going to answer this. He didn’t know who I was, but my friend had already pointed him out as her single brother-in-law visiting from Michigan. He was leaving Texas the next day to drive miles and miles away.

“Nice to meet you DW, I’m Emily,” I replied, swallowing my pride. “I guess the polite thing to say would be I’m Fine because it would take more than a couple bottles of wine to tell you how I really am.”

Here was his chance to run in the other direction.

“Well, I don’t have any wine but maybe this beer will do.”

Like a paper cup that has held water for too long, my story began to seep out, draining emotions, fears and aspirations. DW listened to every word. It was dawn before our conversation ended and surely a relief to him that I had to go home finally. Maybe it was because I knew our paths would probably never cross again that I revealed so many truths. For the first time in years, someone had really listened without condemnation or pity. In fact, DW had pointed out all of my strengths and successes. He saw beauty in my pain.

48 hours later the phone rang and I said, “Hello?”

6 months later I said, “I do.”

On June 9th, we will celebrate our ten-year anniversary.

Just as handsome today as when we met

Pottery and Leather

Apparently the traditional gift for someone’s 9th wedding anniversary is pottery, while the more modern gift is leather. Pottery and leather? Really? Knowing that more than 40-60% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce and that the median length for a marriage is only 11 years, you would think that either pre-paid marriage counseling or an attorney on retainer would be a better anniversary gift for a couple. I also don’t buy into the idea that there are such things as “soul mates” or that people can “fall” in and out of love. Mature, healthy and romantic relationships take work with a level of commitment that is unconditional. I am no stranger to marriage either, this being my second, so why then do we continue to dive into such an unstable and heart-breaking contract?

Because, when you get it right – everything is right.

First kiss as a married couple.

Today is mine and DW’s ninth wedding anniversary. There are days that might feel longer than others, but the years have slipped by as effortlessly as breathing. The secret? Selflessness and honesty. We will never see eye to eye on everything, but as long as we tell each other the truth, there are no false pretenses or a marriage built on sand. There is also an equal amount of respect for one another. We also don’t have an expectation that marriage is about a 50/50 agreement. We both put in 100% effort and attention as often as possible. It drives me crazy when I hear couples complain about who does more chores than the other. I mean really – if you want the dish washer emptied, just empty it for cryin’ out loud! My mother-in-law once commented that she loved how every morning I would ask the simple question, “Is there anything I can do for you today?”. I didn’t get married to be taken care of, but to share a life with someone, to make someone else’s life fuller than the one I had on my own. It is very clear to me, especially after nine years, that DW got married for the same reasons. We try to be transparent with one another all the time. It is a choice. People are foolish if they think that they won’t make a connection physically or mentally with someone else ever again in their lives. That’s why it is so important to protect your relationship – don’t put yourself in situations that breed affairs. Don’t neglect your spouse or take them for granted. You have to commit to being both physically and emotionally available – in sickness and in health, through the good and the bad. I truly believe that most marriages can be saved if bothparties would simply make a choice to make the other person a priority over themselves. (However, I am painfully aware that there are the exceptions.)

Being announced as Mr. and Mrs.

If you haven’t followed my blog, then you might be surprised to find out that DW and I met and married within six months. Our engagement happened less than three months after we met, and was a long-distance relationship. The key here was communication. The phone was our main source of contact. Talking was the most frequent type of intimacy that we shared, plus when you are whispering hours into the night to a voice, and not distracted by sex, you tend to be more open and honest. There really wasn’t one thing we didn’t talk about – family, religion, past relationships, work, values, children, marriage expectations. And for a woman that has spent most of her life worried that all she had to offer was her looks or her body, it was one of the first times that I finally felt loved by a man (other than my father) for what was on the inside.

I sang When You Wish Upon a Star

DW and I met in Texas at his brother’s New Year’s Eve party. My brother-in-law, KW, and I had known each other since 6th grade (my children like to announce to his new girlfriends that “my mom kissed my uncle once” only they forget to include the fact that we were like 12 years old at the time.) KW and I had been friends through middle school, and occasionally crossed paths during highschool and college. All that time, I had never realized he had an older brother. I came to this party under the assumption that there were not going to be any available men, and that everyone else invited was married. It was my intent to just come hang out for a couple of hours, welcome in 2001 and head home to bed fairly early since I had to be at work first thing the next day. Plus, I really wasn’t feeling very well and coming off an extremely tiring divorce. But when I got there, I met DW and was taken hostage by his charm and ability to make me feel like the most beautiful and important person in the room. We talked for hours – I know that I said way more than I should have, but what did I have to lose? The man was going to be driving back to Michigan the next day, and we probably would never see each other again. I didn’t realize until later how shy DW really was, either. Every so often he would excuse himself to get a quick shot of courage. By the end of the evening he was fairly intoxicated to be perfectly honest, and I was completely sober (amazing, I know). But the next day he drove two days straight back to Michigan, while I nursed myself back to health (it turned out I didn’t feel well because I had bronchitis). My wish was that he would call when he got home, but I was trying not to get my hopes up. Elation escaped from every pore the minute I heard his voice again on the phone.

Our family 9 years ago.

The first time he came back to visit, he surprised me at my work with a bouquet of flowers as soon as he had gotten off the plane. I remembered exactly what he looked like – his deep blue eyes, boyish smile and broad shoulders swept me off my feet all over again the moment he walked into my store. However, I didn’t find out until his toast at our wedding reception that he really couldn’t remember what I looked like and hoped that I would spot him first. The flowers were a decoy, to get my attention just in case I didn’t recognize him either. He only remembered that I was short and smiled a lot. His hope was that he would be able to find me by listening for my voice. Looking back I do remember that there was a brief glossy-eyed look as he stood in the middle of the store, waiting for someone to approach him. I assume that he was relieved that he hadn’t been wearing double thick beer goggles the night we met. Either that, or love truly is blind.

Our family today.

Our rehearsal dinner was wonderfully hosted by my Grandfather in his back yard. We had skirted tables, catered dinner, live music and an overflowing wine bar. (I think it was the first time I ever got drunk in front of my parents – there is even video of me singing Patsy Cline while my baby brother played the guitar!) Afterwards my BFF and I headed back to our hotel room to have one last girls night together. Because once the honey-moon was over, I would be moving to Michigan.

I couldn’t help but look at pictures this morning of both the dinner and our wedding. So much has changed in nine years. My Grandfather, as well as an Aunt and Uncle have since passed away. My brother-in-law is divorced and my baby brother is engaged. I now have two beautiful girls and my parents have moved to Virginia Beach. Even my best friend has long since been divorced and finally engaged to the “right one”. The one thing that has not changed is mine and DW’s relationship. It is still transparent. We still madly love one another unconditionally. Every day is a gift and we try our best not to take each other for granted. The most obvious quality in our marriage, is that neither one of us settled. We didn’t think, “well, I guess this is the best there is” or “I think I can live with this”. I also understand now that I am worth the effort, that life is worth the effort.

We are so cute

Perhaps pottery represents our spirits as vessels waiting to be filled with the years of marriage. A vessel that can help nurture and quench a thirst for companionship and friendship when it is full of passionate and honest libation. Pottery starts as clay in the hands of the potter. It can be shaped and molded a dozen times before it is baked. There are endless possibilities of what the final design will reveal about the artist’s vision of their work.

And leather? Well, you’ll have to use your imagination.