#328 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Are you able to share a piece of yourself? Do you have an hour a week to make a difference in someone’s life? Perhaps they could use a friend.

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#328

Befriend someone

Do you know someone who doesn’t have a big social circle? Do you know an older person who is lonely or actually… alone? Are you aware of someone who recently experienced a traumatic loss? Is there someone in your environment, at work or at church, who appears to be alone more often than not?

Are you able to share a piece of yourself? Do you have an hour a week to make a difference in someone’s life? Perhaps they could use a friend.

While carving out an hour from  your week may seem cumbersome or downright impossible, imagine bringing a summer of sunshine to someone else’s grey cloudy life. Imagine that someone chooses to live – actually makes the decision to stay alive – because you take an hour from your week to share kind thoughts and a little light. Imagine that someone counts the hours that pass by until your presence graces their path again next week.

Maybe it’s a kid who doesn’t have anything to go home to… or a widower who is tired of eating alone night after night. Your kind gesture to behave in a friendly manner to this person who may feel isolated and alone could mean the difference between a life of loneliness and a life of hope.

Be mindful of the people in your periphery. Pay close attention and then offer your friendship. It’s free to give and relatively cheap to maintain. The benefit is amazingly measurable when we take the time to…

Befriend someone.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#352 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Best friends call us out on the shit we dish up for ourselves. We tend not to defend ourselves to them the way we may our spouse or partner. Because we don’t question their love for us, we generate very different reactions by their challenges and we take in more of what is said.

My goal is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#352

Schedule friend time

This is one of those happy life tips that we innately ‘know’ and yet it is the one most frequently thrown on the back burner. As we build careers, family, and homes it seems that friendship moves steadily down to the bottom of our priority list.

I say… move it on up!

I postulate that the reason our friends stay our friends for so long is that we don’t live with them 24/7. Unlike our life partners and children, our friendships get space. When we are frustrated with our friends, we go home. When we are disappointed, we let a few days go by before we call. If we aren’t really on the same page- we take a break until the memory fades. And then, regardless of the pejorative infraction, we rally back together to enjoy the connection that is often impervious to the daily stressors we experience in our familial relationships.

Our friendships ‘feed’ us because they are often without expectation. They can be a ‘resting ground’ where we go to step back and gain perspective. Our friends are almost always voices of reason while simultaneously having our back. Spending time with friends allow us to regenerate and realign our attitudes. They provide a platform for fun and laughter; for stillness and acceptance; for reflection and honesty. And spending time with them needs to be more important than weeding our garden or changing the sheets.

Best friends call us out on the shit we dish up for ourselves. We tend not to defend ourselves to them the way we may our spouse or partner. Because we don’t question their love for us, we generate very different reactions by their challenges and we take in more of what is said.

If your life is short on time (like it is for many of us), double duty some of your errands by asking a friend to tag along and have lunch or dinner along the way. Chores are more fun and often more productive when shared with a friend and laughter. Some of my favorite memories are those everyday tasks that were shared in friendship.

Don’t forget a weekend trip or two throughout the year as well. Time away from home where your focus is on yourself and wrapped in friendly acceptance and fun cannot be undervalued. One’s ability to be a better parent, partner, and worker is elevated when friendship is also valued and incorporated into life.

Take a quick look at your calendar and …

Schedule friend time.

 

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Photo on Foter.com

Growing & Going Deeper

He was modest, so modest in fact that I didn’t know how to behave.

Continued from Choosing Love

“If you want to have the kind of relationship that your heart yearns for, you have to create it. You can’t depend on somebody else creating it for you.” ― Gary Zukav

I found it fascinating how easy it was to have a man in the house again. Harlan was there a lot because as a single mom, it wasn’t all that easy for me to just leave. Sara was not yet driving and so I was generally required to take someone, somewhere. Harlan lived about fifteen miles away from me and had a different sleeping schedule so the hours we could steal for any alone time to build upon the budding romance were few. Most of the time, we shared our time with my girls.

We did love to take our drives, though. We were both on a Starbucks kick back then and so to sneak in a block of ‘us’ time, we would hop in the car after dinner and run up to where it all started… our local Starbucks and take a long way home while we ran through our days. It was on those drives that we created a vision of our life together. He knew that I couldn’t get married or live with anyone as a restriction of my divorce agreement unless I wanted to forgo a significant amount of alimony and so we talked about how to navigate a close relationship but within stringent boundaries. I wanted him to wait for me but there was still seven years until I had any real freedom without financial strings. It was a lot to ask, I thought. He said he would take it one day at a time.

When I met Harlan he claimed that he was but a minute away from hopping on a sailboat and escaping the town where he had been raised. Some of the memories there were dark and haunting – worthy of burying and escaping. I didn’t want him to go anywhere and meeting me – loving me – put a huge wrench in his long-term plan. I worked diligently to help him renegotiate a vision of his future; one that included me.

His work as a Graphic Artist in a small print shop was just a ‘fill in’ job until his house sold – that was the only thing keeping him local to me. My entrepreneurial energies kicked into high gear when I realized that the community in which I lived was void of the kind of services he currently offered where he was employed. We began to build a blueprint for developing a retail business in the community where I lived so that he would be right around the corner. I figured that if he could make money and build a foundation here, the motivation to stay would be much stronger.

One of the things people say about me is that I am a ‘doer’. When I get a thought in my head, it often leads to manifestation. Sometimes, it gets ‘almost there’ and other times it gets there and fizzles but most of the time, the things I try at least get started; and I’ve started a lot of things! This wasn’t my first array into building a business so I used all of the accumulated acumens to lay out our options.

The Universe heard me and I knew God was helping when the necessary components came perfectly into play. We found a location – it came with an apartment – but it had to be converted into retail space. Harlan had a year of recent experience (and a lifetime before that) of reconstruction and so we bought a building and began our first joint project. In reality, it was the second one… the first construction project we engaged in together was building a shoe rack for the laundry room at my house. It was a shoe cubby actually and held more than twenty pairs of shoes which are nothing when there are four females in one house. It was still early in our relationship and frankly, I was on my best behavior. If the shoe rack wasn’t perfect – no biggie… it was in my laundry room.

This project was a little bigger… we had to gut a residence down to the studs, tear out walls, put in beams, construct a forty foot ramp, include a handicap accessible bathroom and shore the flooring up to fit commercial building codes. It wasn’t an initiative for the faint of heart. All the while, I was still a single mom and a full-time grad student. “No problem,” Harlan says… “I’ve got two months of income set aside and I’ll do all the work”. Our budget was strict and we began the end of June with a deadline of August 25. We were all traveling to Puerto Rico for my little brother’s wedding over Labor Day and needed to open for business – to start making money – as soon as we got back.

This is the kind of thing people who have known and loved one another for decades don’t’ attempt for lack of temperamental discipline. We had only known one another for six months and our naiveté may have been our saving grace. We learned a lot about each other in that two months. We learned that we sometimes speak a different language. We learned that we are both always attempting to help. We learned that we have defenses and triggers.

Harlan and I are well into middle age at this point – each with histories rich in disappointment, rejection, and betrayal of some kind. Each experience having left a scar and a story. The end result is an array of defense mechanisms that become exposed at the most interesting times. We learned that I am a perfectionist (cough, cough, sigh) and we learned that he is too – in a different way and with different things. I could take a shoe and pound in a nail – as long as the nail goes into the wood. He, needed just the right hammer – the one designed for that type of nail – before pounding could begin. And saws… there are so many kinds of saws! Just give me a damn blade!

We sat on the front porch a time or two ironing out a misunderstanding, attempting to reconcile how we each felt and trying desperately hard not to repeat mistakes from relationships past. We mustered respect in our disagreements in a way that had never existed in my man/woman interactions before – it was so refreshing and enlightening to see and experience a difference of opinion that didn’t end up being a confrontation and all out fight. We learned that the way we use common language is sometimes different – our words have different meanings and we learned to navigate the differences.

As we continued to learn from one another – not just construction tidbits but also how to trust one another’s judgement and value our experience, we developed more and more emotional intimacy – our friendship grew in and around the love that we had proclaimed to feel toward one another. We easily laughed with each other and continuously found topics to fill our conversations. At the end of each day we were tired and spent but found energy to cuddle as we drifted off to sleep.

Harlan was a kind of man that was new to me. He was modest, so modest in fact that I didn’t know how to behave. He didn’t seem to have the same kind of ‘expectations’ that others had in my life… going to bed and cuddling didn’t need to lead to anything else. I literally was able to enjoy the experience of feeling his arms wrapped around me and know that I was loved even though we just laid there – drifting off to sleep – we were together and it was nice. My love grew deeper.

Brewing Storm

As good as everything looked on the outside, there was trouble brewing at home.

“…I don’t just wish you rain, Beloved – I wish you the beauty of storms…”             ~John Geddes

Hubby and I never did fall into a comfortable sexual pattern; it was a constant challenge for me… our libidos were simply mismatched. No matter what I gave, how I performed, or how many boundary barriers I broke through, it didn’t seem to satisfy his needs. He wanted more. Always. The stories and ideas that I had read about in Forum magazine or the movies that we had watched became tame in comparison to the things that he asked of me. I gave, he asked for more. I stretched, it wasn’t far enough. I struggled constantly to meet what I interpreted as sexual demands – they weren’t but I always felt that if I didn’t conform to his desires then he would just get them filled elsewhere – and so I breached every value boundary I knew to have. I was once again, trying to raise children, run a household, work, and satisfy a husband who had no limit where sexual satisfaction was concerned.

The core problem here wasn’t that he was in some way sexually deviant – I try not to experience judgment in this regard. First, because I admittedly enjoy physical pleasure but secondly because human sexuality is a complex and non-linear aspect of our existence. What was essentially problematic for me is that I felt complete and total disregard for MY comfort level, my limitations or values. It wasn’t ‘what’ he wanted to do per se – as I was willing to try almost anything – it was a lack of respect for my wishes when my interest clashed with his. On many occasions, I felt belittled and bullied with comments of “you’re a prude”, “get over it”, or “grow up”.  I was led to believe that there was something wrong with my sexuality because it didn’t match his. Sadly, there were few people I could talk to about this – you don’t exactly (or at least I didn’t) sit down for coffee with a friend and say “does your husband want you to …. ? Most of the time we ladies ‘dance’ around the subject and I definitely did that but it was typically limited to the most outer circle of the things I really wanted to know.

I was having some female plumbing issues during these years which, precluded me from enjoying a fully active sex life ALL the time. Frankly, it was somewhat of a relief for me. I felt justified to ‘take a break’ or gather myself when my body wasn’t compromising with his needs. In my mind, it was a respite of sorts. Well, kind of. Life was just easier when he was a happy guy so, HIS basic needs were met as much as I could help it. When the doctors suggested I get a partial hysterectomy as a final solution to my matters – all I could think of was “Shit – that makes my body available 24/7/365.” Because “no” didn’t really go in my house. While I was never physically forced to perform sexually, I do feel (seeing it in retrospect) that I was bullied, emotionally pressured, and quasi-badgered until I caved – to keep the peace; to be a good wife.

Slowly, I opened up to Abee, I figured a sister-girlfriend was probably as close to a non-judgmental person as I would find and when I shared my frustrations and fears with her I experienced some emotional relief. It probably sounded like I was bitching and complaining and perhaps I was. I was at my wit’s end with finding a way to compromise with and feel respected by Hubby. She and I talked often, sometimes several times a day. Depending on what was happening at home we would close our office door and fail to get any work done. She became my confidant and I no longer felt alone with this problem. Our lives became enmeshed. She was engaged but was only able to see her fiancé on weekends. During the week, our relationship was so symbiotic that life was just easy. There were two of us doing practically every job, not just at work but taking care of mom, caring for my kids, cooking, shopping, etc…  When her fiancé came on the weekends, we all got along well so our ‘downtime’ became shared time as well.

Abee’s twin lived across a couple of states and sometimes I wondered if this was what it was like for them – a sister so ‘in sync’ that it was as if there was only one of you. Maybe that’s why it was so easy – Abee already knew how to merge. I don’t really know, but after a while, it felt like the lines got blurred but by then I was dependent on the help and on the emotional support. I ignored the discomfort and kept going.

Mom and Abee were fixtures in our home – or us in theirs. I loved having family members so close by, not just because I was sharing life with my mom but because my girls were sharing theirs. She would come to chorus concerts, girl scout events, and help with school projects. Abee was always there to help us with birthday parties, coordinating outfits, or making dinner. She was becoming quite the teen advisor / mentor our daughters, many times overriding the need for ‘mom’ because she was so much younger and ‘cooler’. I was glad that the girls had someone like that in their lives. Every young girl needs someone besides a mom, to model.

Abee’s engagement broke off when the long-distance thing just couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t that simplistic of course and it was hard on her. By then, Mom was physically healthier and they relied on one another for just about everything. They became partners – in their combined ‘singleness’, they became dependent on one another for comradery, daily living, and financial support. They protected one another from the outside world. We were right there with them in what we believed to be the essence of family.

At work, Hubby and I continued to offer Abee more responsibility as she consistently demonstrated tremendous competence. Hubby and Abee traveled more together and they became a powerhouse team, propelling us into even more success. Our dreams were coming true. We had been outsourcing our HR needs and our ‘rep’ was a brilliant kid (relatively speaking) who I eventually convinced to work for us full time. We began to groom him to take over for me – managing the administrative duties of our office so that I could be more involved with the girls. Financial freedom was just around the corner and our vision was almost fully realized.

As good as everything looked on the outside, there was trouble brewing at home. The sexual tension that existed between Hubby and I was at an all-time high. Our fighting about it was me attempting to find a mid-point – a center where I could feel comfortable but it just wasn’t close enough to meet him. We didn’t know how to fight well and our fights were often verbally abusive – although I couldn’t give back as much as I got; I just didn’t have the vocabulary. I gave up time after time, in a mass of tears, once – huddled in a corner, on the floor, as I wrapped my arms around my legs and felt my spirit drift away.

Broken

There is no way to explain the feeling one has when you discover your beloved partner has been lying and deceiving you for any period of time.

“The worst pain in the world goes beyond the physical. Even further beyond any other emotional pain one can feel. It is the betrayal of a friend.” — Heather Brewer

It happened and then it was over, in the matter of seconds. Instantly, I thought I had imagined it. Dee gave me a gift and I opened a beautiful dress, size 0-3 months… Baby Emily could wear it right away. She left after a while and I confronted Hubby about the experience of having them arrive together and share ‘a moment’ with the baby. “What is going on?” I begged him to answer the question. He continued to negate any accusation that I threw out, telling me “nothing was happening” at every turn. Essentially, everything I presented was dismissed as nonsense as soon as it was spoken. I wasn’t convinced. Something was happening and I could feel it. My mind and body were alert… they perceived danger as if there was a railroad crossing stuck in the up position; you knew it was trying to warn you but nothing was stopping you from moving ahead.

We took Em home and rolled along as we have always done. My mom came to help in any way that we could think of – she was a baby whisperer. Hubby was a great help as I adjusted to a different sleep schedule but it was summer so everything was more relaxed than during a typical school year. I thanked God for Francis on a daily basis. His help and support was irreplaceable. I wasn’t relenting on the feelings that existed so strongly, so unsettling – about Dee and Hubby’s connection and its breach of boundaries. We argued about it non-stop and I was insistent… we would have to stop being friends. For some reason, I needed Hubby to buy into the plan of not entertaining a friendship with Dee and Tom. My impression was that he was rather hesitant to agree. It fueled my anger.

Mom knew something was off but since I wasn’t offering an explanation, she left for ‘the farm’ (my grandparent’s home) after a week. I turned into someone I didn’t know. For a couple of weeks, I was tenacious with my demands that he agree to stop any and all contact with Dee. I was tired, hormonal, and suspicious – extremely toxic combinations by any measure. The icing on the cake for me was when I took Ems to the doctor for typical post-birth weigh in. She had an eye infection that the doctor said was common with certain types of sexually transmitted diseases. She asked me if there was a possibility for that to be the case and I honestly couldn’t answer… I was in an almost state of nausea these days.

I went home and confronted – once again – my husband, with the information from the pediatrician and he imploded. He was defensive and angry. I made a decision in that moment that our relationship with the Gregg family was over. With or without STD’s – (a panel had been completed on both me and baby Em) – there were too many questions surrounding the camaraderie that existed between those two people.

The panels were negative and I was accused of making up information in order to trap a confession; I referred him to the doctor for validation and verification. I went to Dee’s home. I called her from the driveway and asked her to meet me outside. She came out and made some reference to how great I looked (after giving birth only two weeks prior, I was wearing my own clothing – a response to the stress I was experiencing). I told her that I did not like what was happening at home, that my husband seemed obsessed with her and there were too many issues coming between us for our families to be friends any longer.

Her face changed. She appeared apologetic and scared. Her eyes became emotional and wet, her breathing changed. It was interesting to watch – in a matter of nano seconds, she became contrite and sheepish. There was something unexplainable in her demeanor that unleashed a knowingness in me… “you’ve been sleeping with him”… it was almost a whisper from inside of me and I watched in horror as she shook her head in an affirmative nod. She was confessing – there in her driveway under a late July sun – to sleeping with my husband. My good friend … the mom of my child’s friend… the wife of Tom… my friend… no, not a friend… a bitch.

I said nothing. Mentally, I was screaming “I knew it… I’m not crazy… I knew it”.  I walked back to my van in slow motion without a sound in the universe interrupting my thoughts. There was nothing. There was a void of pain, of anything really. I was once again on auto-pilot yet my heart was racing and breathing was difficult. My entire body was simply trying to fuel my nervous system into automatic action – keeping my heart beating rhythmically and my lungs moving in unison to inhale and exhale appropriately. I started the automobile and backed out of the driveway while I picked up my cell phone and called my mother. “I was right, they were fucking… all along, they were fucking”, I couldn’t say anything else. She said she’d be there in a few hours and hung up the phone.

I called Hubby on his cell. “I want you out of my life… you have 24 hours”, and I hung up.

There is no way to explain the feeling one has when you discover your beloved partner has been lying and deceiving you for any period of time. It really does not matter if it was once or two hundred times – the fact that you didn’t listen to your hunches – to the fiber optic strands that ran through your life in neon colors to warn you – it sends you into a flat spin. It stops time. In the moment you realize that you were a fool, the world takes on a different weight and it all sits on your shoulders. Couple that intense emotion with the idea that your ‘friend’ – someone you confided in and trusted to be on your side regardless – also violated the faith allowed yourself to develop. Faith that she would ‘have your back’.

It seemed as though I had always doubted him, it wasn’t a surprise that he would delude me although in all honestly, I had just begun to trust that this ‘spontaneous decision’ I had made was the right one… that it would work out. I had allowed myself to believe in love again. He had given me all the clues but I ignored them and now I was going to end my marriage, or rather, he had ended it by being unfaithful, by lying in my face, by cheating on me.

I got home and picked up my baby. I sat with her and sang as a river of tears began their flow across my face.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy

Denial Meets Crazy

My thoughts were like a hurricane, reeling and robbing me from the joy of the moment.

“A bad friend is is worse than an enemy, an enemy you can see and avoid, but to detect an insincere friend is hard” – Bangambiki Habyarimana

I sat there in disbelief, shaking my head as if to clear the image or thinking that I would rewind the last 30 seconds of my life. I kicked his other leg – hard. “What are you doing”, I asked him -there on the spot. “What?” he responds with attitude. There was surprise in his voice as if he was challenging me to go further. I didn’t. I sat there watching though. I replayed the evening over again in my mind.

I wound the clock back to when Dee and Tom arrived with the beer – that beer that had been requested so casually, so intimately. I recalled conversation that flowed so easily, so familiar, almost as if Tom wasn’t even there with us. I remembered – now suspect behavior – Dee getting up to use the bathroom; a second or two later Hubby got up to get more beer. They came back to the patio together. Again, Hubby goes inside to pee, Dee goes in to grab more snacks. Now that I was thinking about it, this pattern existed through the evening without regard for Tom or me and here he was playing ‘footsies’ under the table, right in front of me.

I know what I saw. I watched his foot intentionally move against her leg, not in an accidental manner, but with purpose, along her calf up to her knee and she was smiling. I looked up to see her glancing at him with recognition I didn’t know existed but only for a microsecond and then she looked at me with normalcy.

I felt sick. Terribly sick. I was questioning the exchange almost as quickly as I felt it. His questioning response, her normal gaze in my direction – was I imagining all of this? I kept watching but it didn’t happen again – that I saw. I didn’t know what to do – should I cause a scene and get mad? Did I really see that? Should I alert Tom to my fear? What about my friend? I couldn’t believe she would be a voluntary participant in this… she’s my friend, a good friend. Jesus, what was happening?

Everything was spinning in my mind, I had to go to bed. That was what I did – I went to bed to process, ignore, deny, file, shuffle, replay, and reject thoughts that didn’t fit the vision of my life. I just couldn’t fully accept the idea that a friend of mine and my husband would engage – literally, in front of me – an inappropriate series of gestures … it simply wouldn’t compute. I ignored the details and allowed myself to carry on as if everything was as it had been. I woke up, got the kids ready for school and went about my day. I didn’t talk to Dee for a couple of days but she eventually called, asking me if everything was ok. I said “yes” and we continued as we had been – spending time together with our children. I did defer on the ‘family time’ somewhat as a precaution but I didn’t find another reason to be concerned.

Michele came out to visit one afternoon and as usual, I shared some of my concerns with her. I explained that I had questions but that they were unfounded and I was being ‘careful’ and yet something felt unsettled. She was – as always – my friend and validated my feelings genuinely. An hour or so after she left, she called to tell me that she had seen Dee’s van parked in the lot at Hubby’s office that day on her drive home (it was normal to pass that way as the office was on a main thoroughfare).  Of course, the nausea signal in my stomach returned with a desire for there to be some simple explanation.

Later that day Hubby was home and we were – as usual – sharing our day. I mentioned Michele was there most of the day and he proceeded to tell me that Dee had been at the office because she was thinking about leaving Tom and wanted some advice. While we weren’t attorneys, it wasn’t uncommon for people to ask our counsel about divorce and financial matters. That reason resonated with me. Dee had been really unhappy in recent months. Tom’s travel schedule had him out of town most of the week, most of the month, most of the year so far. It was lonely for her. She was raising three children predominately by herself and it was hard. When he was in town, he had little time for her frustrations. It made sense that she would ask Hubby his advice. I told him that her car had been spotted there and he got upset that someone had been looking – Why was I playing detective? He wanted to know. Clearly, that hadn’t been my intention but his defensiveness caught me off guard. All I could think was, ‘chill out’.

My radar was on full screen. A week or two later, I was at the office and found toys there that hadn’t been there before. Hubby claimed they were for Dee’s son when he was at the office last, but something about that statement didn’t calculate correctly… I had babysat for her recently – was it the day he was speaking of? It didn’t make sense. I attempted to address some of my concerns with Hubby but each time, I was rebuked. My “imagination was overactive” he would claim.

Mid-summer arrived and so did baby #4. Emily Lyn – named after my favorite Aunt, a woman who has more grace in her little finger than I do in my whole body – was born early July. In fact, we call her our boom-boom baby as I am sure after watching fireworks, she was just too curious about all the ‘fuss’ she heard on the outside and decided to make her entrance. I was overjoyed to be welcoming that little on into the world and knew in my heart that since God had made the ‘baby decision’ for us, she would be a special blessing. Not that the other three weren’t of course…

Ironically, I was in the same hospital room as Michele had been just two weeks before when she delivered her little girl…. Our lives paralleled so tightly.

Em was born at 3 am on a Saturday and by six, Hubby left to get some rest. Later, Grandmom brought the kids down to see their new sister and once again we felt like a big happy family. We have video of that day and it’s still as precious to me now as it was then; seeing the gentle embraces from one sister to another.  By Sunday I was ready to go home; moms don’t get any rest in a hospital but the doctors wanted to keep us til Monday morning. Dee had called and wanted to come see the baby that afternoon. I was happy to have some company.

Hubby arrived early afternoon and within a few minutes Dee walked in. Coincidence? My thoughts were like a hurricane, reeling and robbing me from the joy of the moment. I felt paranoid and irrational. I recall a distinct sense that they had driven together and I may even have asked but of course, it was a silly question – even in my mind. No one would admit to that, right? Hubby picked up baby Emily in his arms and was cradling her softly – a very proud father. Dee walked up and stood shoulder to shoulder with him, oohh’ing and aahh’ing like anyone who loves babies would. Both of them had their backs to me and like a photograph that is snapped for a permanent record of a moment, my mind recalls that instant. I felt invisible sitting there in my hospital bed while by husband and my best friend were holding and googling over my baby.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy

The Status Quo

Unfortunately, under all of the positive, there ran a constant current of sexual discourse that had been present since the beginning.

“One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything’s fine today, that is our illusion” ― Voltaire

Francis started seventh grade and we enrolled Sara in a preschool program close to home. The teachers were warm and loving and she treasured going there two mornings a week. It was my first experience with the traditional ‘suburban mom’ protocol. Someone organized a coffee morning for the moms, allowing us to become more familiar with one another. As may be typical of this kind of gathering, a few of us generated an immediate connection. One woman in particular – I will call her Dee – was super friendly; we seemed to have a lot in common.

Dee and I quickly established a rapport as we recognized how many common interests we shared. We would stand outside of the school in the mornings chatting away as long as the kiddos we still had in the car either napped or played nicely. We each had three children although our oldest and youngest were very different ages. We loved to cook. We loved to sew. As weeks went by we drew closer and the friendship deepened. I was still talking with Michele almost daily but Dee filled another gap in my life, offering local comradery. We developed the habit of spending those two mornings a week together, either running errands or sitting with our coffee and planning our family dinners. Her husband travelled most weeks for work and since my marriage was either hot or cold, we seemed to fill a companionship need for one another.

One evening in the late fall as it was just beginning to turn really cold, Dee’s heater went on the blink. I was talking with her by phone as I prepared to leave for a cake decorating class I was taking weekly and suggested that she come to our house for the evening. Hubby had heard me talk about Dee and the children incessantly and as our home was large, there was plenty of space in the basement rec room for Dee and her kids to bunker down for an evening. I let him know she may be coming before I got home and left for class.

Later that night as I pulled into the driveway, I saw her car and was really glad to know that my friend had taken me up on the offer. At least she would be warm until the furnace was repaired the following day. I hurried into the house and found them – Hubby and Dee – drinking a beer and having a grand time laughing, stating that they were sharing stories of one thing or another – getting introduced. I joined them. We were up fairly late but it was the best kind of ‘sleep over’ and I was just a little sorry to know that she would be going home in the morning. As it turned out, she had to stay one more night before the heat was completely repaired. It was time that cemented our bond. Our friendship grew.

We began spending time together as families. Her husband was generally home on the weekends and so at least bi-monthly we would take turns hosting one another (and family) for dinner and movies or cards. Generally, the kids got the movies and we intended on cards but rarely completed a game. We laughed, told stories, and talked about children. The men shared common interests as well, even if most of them centered around cigars and beer. We spent a lot of time together. It wasn’t long before Dee would call our house if she needed help with something midweek while Tom was out of town. Hubby would run over and fix whatever needed addressing; sometimes we would do it together. Tom was always grateful. The ‘helpfulness’ was reciprocated. If I got sick, Dee would show up with a complete meal – kid friendly – and include a six-pack of Hubby’s favorite beer. One winter evening the four of us had attended a comedy show in town but had driven separately I think. I specifically recall that on the way home, we discovered them on the side of the road with a blown out tire. Hubby stayed with Tom to address the problem and I took Dee and her babysitter – home. Being friends with them was easy and comfortable.

Also notable in this time period is our change in Church affiliation. Our pastor was deepening his fundamentalist perspectives and many of them fervently contrasted with some of our individual core beliefs. Although we definitely enjoyed the community and the musical elements of the worship services, the sermons (and expectations) were developing further than our spirits were comfortable with. We instinctively knew it was time for a change. Fortunately for us, a new Lutheran church was being started in our area and we were introduced to the founding Pastor by way of a family friend who had been part of his old congregation. He was seeking charter members and with our ‘spiritual pioneering’ expertise, we were easily recruited. Once again, we were insanely involved in the operations of a young faith community.

This time around, the tradition of the Lutheran service / doctrine was more pronounced. In actuality, we were challenged to introduce any contemporary components mostly due to the aging demographic of the people who were showing up on Sunday. We held services in a school cafeteria but everything else reeked of old customs. It was comfortable for me although it dampened my spiritual growth temporarily as it wasn’t tested –  openly at least. We were both participating in several areas as neither one of us felt as if we could say no to God.

For the most part, our lives were full. We had a new house, a new church, a new baby on the way and we had just branched out on our own professionally. For the first time ever, we were not affiliated with any other ‘entity’ or group. Hubby became a ‘sole practitioner’ and I was his associate. My role was administrative and extra support when the occasional need occurred for my area of expertise. Most of the time I worked from home at night – after everyone was in bed. I didn’t earn an income from working as we already paid the full Monty of self-employment tax. Had I taken an income from our business, we would have paid double. (P.S. – Don’t ever do this!! Each person should be contributing to Social Security so that you have a genuine earning history.)

Our financial situation was pretty rough during these days. Starting a business takes a fair amount of capital and financial risk and we worked in a commission only based business. We struggled to make ends meet and got really creative with when to pay Peter and put off Paul or vice versa. I made a pound of hamburger stretch for two meals and repurposed everything WAY before it was cool to do so. One of my favorite things to do was go ‘yard sale’-ing. In fact, I looked at it as an adventure! At least, that’s what I told the girls. On Friday mornings I would put them in the car (with a properly packed diaper bag) and grab my map that had been routed and planned based on how much gas money I had that week.  I bought clothes, toys, household items, and Christmas presents at yard sales and auctions whenever possible. Actually, I had a reputation for doing so too. People eventually would ask me to be on the lookout for an item on their own wish list. Essentially, I learned how to make a little go a long way. It was my contribution to our goals of building the business as most of the money we made, went right back into it.

Unfortunately, under all of the positive, there ran a constant current of sexual discourse that had been present since the beginning. It never went away, just ebbed and flowed from day to day or month to month. Sometimes it was okay, others it was unbearable; it was never just good.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy