Monday, January 25, 2016

Burying the Lede (Or How I Started Dating Again)

In journalism, "burying the lede" is not putting the most important point of the news in the first sentence of a story.

So. Fine. I won't bury the lede. I'll just get it out there right in front: I started dating someone. I think he's awesome. He's a ginger with a handsome beard. We are still in the giddy stage. We are probably nauseating when we're together. Just ask our children.


I didn't (and don't, literally as I'm writing this) know how to tell the blog world.

Except for a handful of posts about parenting or family life, I haven't been really big on sharing personal stuff on the blog.

I'd like to say that's because I'm all noble and sensitive and other people's lives are involved and I have to respect their privacy and (insert the ethics of that whole ball of wax here). Sometimes that's very true, but in this case it's highly fragrant horse shit. Probably. I think I'm just a big chicken. I'd rather talk about garage door replacements than (gulp) feelings. Gross.

Feelings about a boy? Even grosser.

I'll just look down at my own feet and blush while I talk. 

I hadn't dated for close to two and a half years. That was partly a conscious decision and partly easy-as-falling-off-a-log, because when you're a woman in your late forties and have a family to raise, the dating world doesn't exactly feel the tragic loss of you and come begging for you back.

If you're my age and the only free time you have is spent at the grocery store and in the school pick-up drive, one is not running into a ton of eligible dudes. Or any. If I had any additional free time, I didn't want an awkward coffee with a total stranger. I wanted a nap. Secondly, I knew myself well enough to realize my self-esteem, however sturdy, wasn't sturdy enough for the creepy and harsh evaluations that happen on dating websites.

Between not having anyone ask me out (see? Nobody's interested) and feeling just fine without anyone in my life (see? I don't need anybody), it seemed easy enough to just kick the idea of dating again on down the road. Indefinitely.

But being single and totally independent was beginning to be not so much a status as it was becoming an identity. An entrenched one. Maybe even a permanent one.

Why? I don't have a good answer. Maybe I felt like I had something to prove, that I was a Tough Girl, and could Handle My Life. That was the glossy magazine version. But maybe it was also part of keeping my hands so tightly on the steering wheel of my life that no new directions--meaning risky, uncontrollable, unforeseeable directions-- were possible. I'd decided this was how my life was going to be. It was predictable and safe. Deep down, I wasn't exactly sure how I felt about that.

Somewhere in the middle of all that emotional toughness/caution and October a guy named Tom asked me out. Without really thinking about it much one way or the other, I said yes.

I surprised myself more than I can really explain. Now, three months later, I am still dating the cute red-haired boy from homeroom class.

We've known each other a long time. Thirty-six years. Because our school assigned students to the same homeroom for the entirety of junior high, Tom and I spent time together every single day for three years beginning when we were twelve and thirteen years old.

It would make for a ridiculously adorable story if we held hands under the desks back then, or had a crush on each other, or something. But nope. We did not. We were homeroom classmates, friendly and good-natured ones. That was it.

In high school we had separate circles of friends and never had class together; we lost touch completely after graduation, only connecting again decades later on Facebook. Even then it remained platonic for many years, until now.

My memory of him from our youth is one of kindness, dependability, and personal integrity-- all the things that didn't seem to hold much interest when I was in high school and dating boys who were mainly about cigarettes, rusted-out Camaros, the Scorpions, and rebellion.

It was profoundly reassuring to rediscover those better traits in the grown man so many years later. Instead of a single awkward coffee with a total stranger, it has been one date after another where laughter and holding hands seem completely natural.

Just don't think for a minute this is a fairy tale, though. He's red-haired, and I'm Irish. We are passionate. About things like how much dishwasher soap is enough, apparently.

The relationship is clearly already in crisis. Or it's Wednesday. 

Perhaps the more realistic photo from that first selfie session is this one. I don't remember exactly what he'd just said, but it was equal parts funny.....and exasperating. I'm not sure whether I'm going to slug him in the arm but either way I have to stop laughing first, and he's obviously quite pleased with himself no matter what I decide.

In that respect, maybe it isn't so much different than junior high. It just took us 36 years to notice each other. But in the end that part doesn't matter so much. It has been worth the wait.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Closing a (New) Door on 2015

It's January 2016, but I have to go back to November 2015. Mid-November, actually, on an unseasonably warm weekend. 

Regular readers may remember that I spent a large part of our really $%^#-ing rainy summer of 2015 scraping, repairing, and painting the north side of my garage: 

This may have been the last time you saw it: 

There was still a purple door. A purple door that wasn't actually a proper exterior door, but an interior hollow-core closet door. A purple interior closet door that was rotting off its hinges and had a broken doorknob and had to be nailed shut to keep it shut. 

While my Dad and I had planned to get to it multiple times over the year, other things always got ahead of it, and we ran out of time. 

But in November we had a weirdly warm and gorgeous Saturday, I had some good help, and this happened: 

It's nothing fancy. Just a basic builder's grade steel exterior door. But with a window, because I wanted the option of a little more daylight in the garage. 

Honestly, I thought the gaping hole in the garage looked better than that purple door. 

While we were at it, we put the same kind of light fixture on the garage that had been installed on the front of the house a couple summers ago. I like consistency in that sort of thing. 

Here's an overexposed cell phone shot of that ugly purple door being carried out of my existence. And a clue. A clue to my help for this project, and uh, something new going on in my life. Or a someone new. A dude. Can you tell how bad I am at this? Anyway, more later, when I figure out how to write about something personal on a blog in a way that doesn't make me want to break out in hives. 

Finally, just before Christmas we got the door fitted with new trim, as the old was dry-rotted beyond saving. We primed it, but it still needs paint and a bit of caulk here and there. I took the photos mid-snowstorm!

And here's a corner view: 

Now a before: 

And after again: 

And as hardy as Midwesterners tend to be about their winters, that was the last of the outdoor carpentry until spring. We've been on a different, indoor project in the new year. That is, when I'm not fighting my urge to hibernate--pajamas, books, coffee, movies, naps. Balance in life is important, right? 

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Greetings 2016: Good Stuff Can Happen

This is what I posted on my personal Facebook page on the last night of 2015, while I was watching old episodes of Firefly with my 16-year-old and struggling to stay awake:

"The big happy lesson of 2015: not everything can be planned or should be, and really good stuff can happen if you let yourself go, let yourself walk straight into it. In 2016 I hope to keep walking straight into it. Happy New Year, everyone." 

It's true. I'm known as an over-thinker and by the time I get around to acting on anything in my life I've long had a well-thought-out plan with every step and every possible outcome of those steps considered. I'm really into heavily scripting my life. It feels safe. Improv feels dangerous. Terrifying, even.

And no, I'm not much fun at parties.

While I don't think it's a negative personality trait as a whole (super-sensible girls never end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and really, at my age that just sounds tiresome and expensive rather than exciting), there are some negative consequences to allowing careful planning to become paralyzing over-thought, not even counting the party thing.

I learned this last year that you can have everything so tightly planned and so rigidly decided that there's really not any room for.....anything much. Anyway not anything the way real life happens--messily, jumbled cares and joys, and without any guarantees.

Not only did it bring progress on my house to a standstill, me unable to make any decision at all let alone some big ones I've got looming out there on the horizon, it made me unable to set any new goals for anything else in my life, either. You can control yourself right out of any future, and by the middle of the year I was getting pretty close to that point.

This sounds like a depressing way to start the new year, doesn't it?

That's where the big happy lesson comes in.

I suppose it would be too big of a shame if the over-thinker carefully planned a moment to "let myself go, to let myself walk straight into" the good stuff that happened this fall. It did not happen that way. I'm still trying to figure out just what did happen, actually. All I really know is that I went the opposite direction than my plans, did it without much thought as to why, and now find myself in an entirely different place in the beginning of 2016 than where I thought I would be.

It's the reason blog posts have been non-existent for months. The over-thinker, ironically, is still trying to make some sense of it, even though it has been good stuff. What the hell is wrong with me? Old habits die hard, if at all.

Then again, I love so much where this is going, even if....and this is huge for me.... even if I didn't plan it down to the last detail.

I know I'm discussing this in huge generalities right now, and I hope readers will temporarily forgive me. I'm trying to grasp the edge of this the only way I know how--as a writer--and for that reason I'll be blogging more posts in January. Like I said, I'm going to keep walking straight into it. I'm going to let things happen in 2016. How about you?