Monthly Check In: February

February 2020: 1000 Hours Outside Challenge

As you know if you read my January check in, our whole family got sick at the end of January and we remained sick for, wait for it…THREE WEEKS! Unfreakingbelievable, but there you have it. So February pretty much did a number on us. Still and all here’s where I’m at with my NYR’s:

Continue Practicing Gratitude

I’ve been sending out thank you cards to all the wonderful people who bring me extravagant joy. I’ve continued putting lovely slips of paper in my gratitude jar at the end of the day and it helps keep me focused on grounded. I’m not sure I would get such a kick out of my kid saying things like “oh come on!” as he tries to lawyer up and finagle his way into something if I weren’t paying this attention, so I’m grateful for gratitude (too mushy? A bit. But still true). I’m in the black on this one.

February 2020: Gratitude Jar
February 2020: Gratitude Jar

Continue Spending Time With Family and Friends

Family gets a D+ on this one. We had to skip our family meet-up in February because we were sick. Friends are a little further ahead this month because I had my once a month meet-up with my very best girlfriend and we’ve managed to make it to some events with other friends around town. Unfortunately, we have still not reinstated the weekly dinners with friends because we were sick. So while we are once again not keeping up as much as I’d like, we are still keeping up and I say we’re in the black on this one, too.

Continue My Self-Care Regime

I am still somehow managing to get my 3 times a week sauna time, and I had my monthly massage in February. I also went on a short bike ride with the kids, and I’ve been doing a lot of walking and continued working on a project that includes carrying around heavy things and bending and stretching and stuff, so while I’m still not actually doing the exercise I had in mind, I am still exercising. My non-inflammatory eating has been getting back on track. Not only that but there were actually a couple days in February where I wanted to wear some eyeliner and mascara so I did (if you know me you know this is a huge deal as I never wear makeup). I’m in the black on this one, too.

Spend More Time Outside

We’re still doing the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge and except when we were all too ill to walk more than ten steps, we’re getting outside for a little while every day, and lately we’ve been getting outside for much longer each day. I still haven’t had a chance to see how we stack up to others doing the challenge, but I’m really glad we’re doing it and I think it’s making a marked difference in how our kids sleep and eat. We’re in the black on this one, too.

Write for One Hour Every Day

Eek! So, when we were sick I definitely missed two days. I missed two other days this month when I was just too drained to write. I’m not pleased with having missed four days this month, and I hope it’s a one time deal for the year.

Submit at Least One Piece for Publication
Each Month

As I said in January once I started looking into how this works I realized this was not a legit goal for me to have for this year. None of what I have written in the past is anything I’d want to submit currently and none of my #writeonehour pieces are eligible to be cleaned up and submitted because they’ve technically already been published here on my blog. So, kinda stuck. I’m thinking this is a better goal for 2021 and in the meantime I’ve adjusted the goal such that I’m reading and learning more about publication so that when the time comes I’m prepared. In fact, I went to a lecture at my local library tonight that was given by a literary agent and was all about getting published. She also recommended some books I’ve read and others I haven’t, so I ordered the ones I haven’t read. Thus, while I haven’t submitted anything for publication I am learning about doing it and I’m in the red on my NYR but in the black on my long-term goal.

Read at Least One Book a Month

I was only able to finish two books in February as opposed to the five I finished in January, but it’s still enough to keep me in the black on this NYR and I’m stoked.

Take a Stained Glass Making Class

I’ve discovered a local woman who gives classes to beginners and she has a class coming up in March and another in April. Sadly, my youngest isn’t prepared for me to be gone for a minimum of six hours a day two days in a row, so I can’t take her class this Spring. I contacted her directly and she suspects she will have another class in the late summer and another in the early fall, so I’m still hopeful I’ll be able to make this NYR happen this year; huzzah!


For as much as we were sick in February, I’m actually amazed at how well I’m doing on my goals. I’m very disappointed I missed four days of one hour writings this month but I’m also trying to give myself a little slack: being sick with two kids and a husband also sick is no freaking picnic and I was absolutely doing my best. In the red on five out of eight may not be great, but it was my best this month.

How are you doing on your New Years Resolutions? Are you meeting your goals? If you’re having trouble, take a look at my post on Achievement and let me know if it helps you!

Major Life Shifts

There were some kids at the playground today who have no problem talking to adults; you know the kids I mean? They’ve been raised by parents who treat them as equals, usually homeschooled, and they believe their thoughts have just as much value as anyone else’s regardless of age or stature. These kinds of kids are amazing, always blow my mind, always make me want to be around them and keep me on track to have my children grow up like them. At any rate, there were these kids at the playground today and we got to talking.

“What would you name your kid if you had another baby boy?” she asked.

“Oh, I can’t have any more kids. I had a surgery called tubal ligation that’s also called having your tubes tied and it made it so I can’t have any more kids,” I replied.

“But if you could, if you found out you were having another baby, what would you name him?” she asked again.

“I don’t know. I’m not really good with names,” I answered.

I could tell she wasn’t satisfied with my reply. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with it either but it’s true: I’m terrible with names. I had a dog named Boy. I had a fish named Blanca. I am not the queen of unique and awe inspiring names. But my dissatisfaction was more than that. Because lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. It comes from so many places, but mainly seems to be a convergence of the knowledge that I am currently nursing my last baby, there will not be another and I need to savor this time, as well as the feeling that this will never end and I will never have a life that doesn’t revolve around a booby vampire.

Which is ridiculous. I acknowledge and accept that it is ridiculous. It is also how I feel (and yes, I also recognize that incredibly long sentence does not constitute a “feeling”).

There’s this thing happening around me to the people I love, they are all experiencing major life shifts: divorce, publishing their memoir, buying their forever home, losing their partner to death. Major life shifts. And I feel like it’s all passing me by, there are no major life shifts for me. On the one hand: hooray! I don’t have to deal with all the stress (or excitement) of a major shift. On the other hand: eek! My life has stalled and I’m only forty.

Oversimplifying, untrue, and ungrateful. My life is amazing and I am very grateful: I have a husband I adore after never thinking I would ever want to be married, I have two children who are all things epic in this world after giving up hope that I’d ever have children, we have a roof over our heads, food in our kitchen, vehicles to get us where we want to go, the very best dog in the world, and a sauna to help us live forever. If I were to write the story of my life it would be terribly boring because there’s nothing to complain about.

And yet….

We all have things that get to us about our lives even when our lives are the kinds that other people would trade us for. It’s natural. When my first was born and we were having the most unbelievable nightmare of a time with his poor colicky self, when the first four months were quite literally a hell and neither my husband or I were getting any sleep and we heard phantom crying in the rare moments when the baby wasn’t actually crying, when we were deep in the trenches of this miracle we’d been gifted I posted something online about how I wasn’t sure when or if I would ever sleep or shower or leave the house again and one person replied to me that I should stop complaining because I’d wanted this and brought it on myself.

And while that tells you everything you need to know about that person (ie: they have zero sense of empathy and are highly likely an -ic personality of some sort), it also does something else. It tells you, or in this case me, that if I ever want anything ever again I can’t voice it or I’ll never be able to ask for empathy from anyone who knew what I wanted if the wanting once delivered is in any way sour. It effectively silences me.

Should the white privileged cisgendered woman who has everything be silenced? Probably, yes. There are too many of us talking when we ought to be listening. I get that. And also, no one should ever be silenced. We all have a right to be heard and more than that, we need to be heard, we need to be understood, we need to have someone say “holy shit, mama, that’s some craziness, I’m so sorry you’re going through that. Is there anything I can do to help? Want me to bring you dinner?”

And that’s all I’m thinking about when I’m talking to this sweet girl who wants to know what I’d name the baby I can’t have. The baby I don’t want, because I’m forty and I already have two kids, and I feel like there’s still so much I want to do with my life but it’s all on hold until these two beautiful humans have grown up enough to not need me, and I don’t want them to grow up and not need me because they are everything to me even as I need them to stop needing me so I can make some major life shifts happen even though they are the major life shift that is happening, and so we go round and round and round the crazy that is my head.

I recognize that most of the people who follow my blog do so for the fiction content. I appreciate that. I really do. I also hope y’all don’t mind these occasional forays into my life. There are just some nights where I sit down to do my one hour of writing and no one wants to come talk to me. The characters are silent. But my brain is bursting with whatever event occurred that day that I haven’t dealt with yet or whatever feelings came up that I haven’t worked through yet, and those days…if I try to write fiction I end up writing this tripe I can’t even handle writing it’s so awful. So thank you, I appreciate you, and the fiction will be back (but not tomorrow night cause tomorrow is the end of the month and I need to do the monthly NYR re-cap).

~~~That’s one hour~~~

The Husband

“I think,” she took a deep breath, “No, I feel like,” she let out an exasperated growl and took a deep breath letting it out audibly before saying, “My husband hates women.”

“That’s interesting,” the therapist said, tilting her head to the right a bit, “you are a woman. Does your husband hate you?”

“No,” she laughed a short, tense laugh, “No, my husband obviously loves me.” She stopped and put her head in her hands for a moment before raising back to a sitting position, head raised, hands and arms at her sides. “You’ve never met my husband so there’s nothing for you that’s ‘obvious’ about his love for me,” she said, using her hands to form air quotes around the word obvious, “I know my husband loves me. This has nothing to do with our marriage. It’s that,” she sighed, unsure how to continue in this new way where she is supposed to state clearly what she needs, wants, and means, rather than asking questions, deflecting and subverting to another, or couching her desires behind feelings that aren’t in fact feelings. “My husband loves me, and hates women, all women, even me, despite loving me at the same time.”

“How does that work?” asked the therapist.

“So, for example, I love my mother. I love her very much. My mother is also toxic, as we’ve discussed repeatedly, and I’ve had to remove her from my life. I still love her, but I can’t be around her. And it’s kind of like that for my husband, only, he actively hates all women, and he doesn’t seem to understand that it’s true. So even though he loves me wholeheartedly, he also hates me just by virtue of my being a woman, and he doesn’t even know it,” she smiled, not because what she’d said had been pleasant, it was anything but; she smiled because she’d just made perfect sense. She’d just said exactly what she was thinking and feeling without excusing herself or apologizing for herself or hiding behind words that made what she had to say sound soft and sweet instead of the harsh reality that it was.

“How do you feel, being married to a man who loves and hates you?” asked the therapist, in what appeared to be a moment of uncertainty.

“It’s odd,” she said honestly, rubbing her hands up and down the outsides of her thighs a couple times, a gesture that both removed the sweat from her palms and massaged the goosebumps that had appeared all over her. “I can’t decide if I’m going to stay with him or not.”

“That’s certainly something we will need to discuss, but you haven’t said how you feel.”

“Right, no, I just,” she licked her lips and her eyes flicked up to meet the therapists eyes before flicking back down, “I feel I married myself,” she was startled by these words, these words that were not feelings but a statement meant to sound better wrapped in the soft cushion of “I feel.”

“Do you hate women?” asked the therapist.

“No, not at all, I mean, I’ve always been a bit afraid of women,” she realized she was lilting so her statement sounded like a question. She cleared her throat and began again, “I’ve always been a bit afraid of women, it seems like we are harsher on one another than men are. And we’re much less predictable and honest, at times. I realize this is all generalization and clearly not fair to all women, myself included, but what I mean is, in my experience with men and women, I always know where I stand with men because they’re so transparent, whereas with a woman I’m always anxious that I’m only seeing what they want me to see.”

“Do you only show people what you want them to see?” asked the therapist, on solid footing again, knowing exactly the answer to the question she’d just asked but unsure whether or not her client knew.

“Yes, I do. And I didn’t even realize I do it until just recently. All these things we’ve been working on, they’ve allowed me to see that I am exactly the women I’m afraid of. I don’t speak my mind for fear of upsetting someone, instead I say things in an offhand way or ask things even when they’re not questions.”

“Have you always thought your husband hates women or is this a new idea born of the work you’ve been doing on yourself?” the therapist asked.

“I’ve always known he was a little afraid of women but it wasn’t until Hillary ran for president that it became clear he actually hates women.”

“How did Hillary running make it clear that your husband hates women?” the therapist asked.

“He was just so angry,” she said, shaking her head at the recollection, “he had no way to explain what he was so angry about and he hid behind things like ’emails’ and ‘liar’ and said things like ‘I’m all for a woman president, just not that woman,'” she said, emphasizing that with a scowl on her face, presumably the scowl her husband wore when saying the quote. “Ugh,” she grimaced and looked back up to meet her therapists gaze, “but now here we are, Elizabeth Warren is running. She’s a prime example of a woman who is calm, intelligent, has a proven track record of doing what she says, has a plan for literally every freaking thing you could ask for, absolutely destroys the other candidates in the debates,” she takes a deep breath knowing that she’s getting a little heated, a little excited in her explanation, “a perfect candidate not only for president but for our first female president, and what does he say?” she asks rhetorically, squinting her eyes a bit before sitting back against the chair and throwing her arms out, “‘she’s too aggressive.'” She throws her arms back down at her side, “how can you, I mean, what about,” she dissolved into a growl before taking yet another deep breath, “no one says Trump is too aggressive and the guy is a batshit crazy bullying asshole. And did you see that interview she did with what’shisname?” she asks.

“Chris Matthews?” the therapist asks.

“Yes!” she nearly yells, “if anyone had a reason to be ‘aggressive’ it was Warren during that interview and yet she didn’t lose her cool once, not once!”

“Is your husbands depiction of Warren as aggressive the reason you say he hates women?” the therapist asks.

“Yes and no,” she bobs her head, “that’s part of it, I mean obviously using words for a woman as a negative that are the exact same words you’d use for a man as a positive is a problem, but it doesn’t necessarily mean hate. No, but it’s all a part of it. Like a symptom of his disease,” she starts laughing, “dis and ease, that’s exactly it, he is uneasy with women and it’s also a sickness. Has there ever been a more perfect word?” she asks, again rhetorically, as she continues, “It makes me sad. And angry. I’m so sad that he hates women, I’m so sorry for whatever happened to him in his life that he hates women. And it makes me angry because how can I not take it personally? And how can I possibly stay with him, knowing that he hates me, even though he doesn’t understand that he does?”

“Do you know what happened to you that you were afraid of women?” the therapist asks.

She leans back against the chair and stares up at the ceiling for a minute before answering, “I’m not exactly sure. I can’t remember any women ever saying or doing anything to me that made me afraid. If anything it was all the warnings I heard from boys and men around me as I grew up, all the warnings they gave one another about women, said within my earshot or directly over my head or sometimes even to my face, a sort of, ‘don’t you grow up like that,’ sort of thing.”

“Would your husband have grown up hearing those same warnings?” asks the therapist.

“Oh, I’m sure of it,” she says without taking a moment to contemplate, the answer immediately on her tongue before the therapist had even finished asking.

“Does knowing that give you any empathy towards him?”

She nods, tears slowly falling down her cheeks, “yes,” she nearly whispers, her voice getting lost in a need to swallow, “I feel very sorry for him, and I do wish he could come to see it, but I also know he has no interest in therapy. I know he doesn’t believe that his problems can be solved by anyone outside of himself. And so,” she spreads her hands in a gesture of letting go, “I think I need to decide if I can live with someone who hates me because I know how much he loves me, or if I need to remove him from my life, like my mom.”

“This is a lot to think about. I wish we could continue talking about it because I think we could get somewhere better with just a bit more time. Unfortunately, I have another client in a few minutes, so we do have to end on time today. I’m going to ask you to promise not to make any major decisions over the next week. I know it may seem like I’m asking a lot, but this is very important. I’m asking that if you notice yourself moving towards a place of finality towards anything major a purchase, a trip, your husband, that you instead stop and consider it an experiment. Say to yourself, ‘what would happen if I pretend I moved forward with this decision,’ and then imagine the possibilities. Go down all the possible roads you can think of, but only in your mind. Is that something you can commit to this week?”

“I think so,” she said, stretching out the word think into multiple syllables.

“Excellent. Really. Excellent. Next week. Same time. No big decision until then,” the therapist said, hand on her shoulder as she guided her out.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

A Good Guy

She knew he was a good man, for reasons she could probably list if she had the time and inclination to sit and list them, but the reason she could always give if she thought anyone would understand was that he’d once patted her butt and been shocked and dismayed by the action. The look on his face and his stammering were all the proof she needed that he was a good man. Although a bit more explanation could help those who weren’t there and might not otherwise understand.

The thing was: he was her step-dad. Normally you hear of a step-dad patting a teenagers posterior and you think: disgusting, abuser, rapist. And all for good reason. The thing was, he had done it reflexively, out of habit, because that’s what he did to his wife, her mom. It was his silent and gentle, “I love you,” given usually when she was in the act of doing something that showed her love and appreciation for him: making dinner, bringing him a cup of tea, covering him with a blanket when it was chilly. A soft pat, pat, pat on her rump.

The night he patted her they were all three in the kitchen making dinner together. Rather than have one cook in the kitchen responsible for the whole shebang, they’d divvied up the chore such that he was making the main course, her mom was making the salad, and she was making the veggie side dish. They were all talking about their day, and she had gone to fetch her parents each a glass of wine. She gave her mother hers first and earned a “thank you, sweetie,” and hug for her efforts. She’d taken the other glass to her step-dad next and he’d said, “mmm,” taking a sip, “thank you,” and then patted her butt.

Everyone froze. He immediately began to turn red and apologize and then stammer through something that sounded somewhat like, “I didn’t mean…was that…I don’t know….” Before he started sweating too profusely she and her mother, both looking at each other the entire time a question in one another’s eyes, began to smile and laugh. “Was that okay? Is it okay to do that?” he finally asked. Mother and daughter looking at one another still, replied together with identical shrugs. “I guess so,” she said. “I think it’s okay,” her mother said.

Despite their affirmations that they both understood completely that there was nothing sexual or untoward meant by the gesture, despite their affirmations that they both knew he was simply using the only sweet and loving gesture he’d ever learned in a habitual manner on the incorrect recipient. Despite it all, he never once repeated the gesture. It had embarrassed him, shaken him to the core. The very idea of himself being seen or thought of as anything other than a good man was more than he could handle.

And while she was perfectly okay with it, aside from the fact that it was awkward because she understood that the gesture on it’s own could be construed as sexually intimate despite knowing wholeheartedly that it was not meant that way when done to her, she was also sad and relieved that it never happened again. She knew he loved her like a daughter. She knew he would do anything for her, just as he would for his biological children. She knew. And she knew he was a good man. Still. It had been nice for just a moment to know that she had received a token of his affection that his biological children never had. She had been treated extra special, just once. Even if it was comical and accidental.

It was not an event she could tell anyone about though. She knew that without anyone having to tell her. Not that her mother or step-dad would tell her she couldn’t talk about it, or imply that, or in any way ask her to keep it secret. They were good people. And despite it’s lack of sexual meaning, she knew that she could never tell someone “he’s a good man because he once patted my butt and was mortified,” because they wouldn’t understand. They might say, “oh my gosh, that’s too funny,” or they might say, “wait, he did what?” or they might say, “are you sure you’re okay with it?” But what they’d really be saying, what she knew they were really thinking was, “that’s dirty and I bet it’s just a matter of time before he tries something else.”

Which is why when she walked out of her room naked to go to the bathroom on a weekend when she thought she’d heard her parents leave for breakfast, and instead ran into her step-dad fixing the leaky sink faucet she’d been begging him to fix for weeks, and it was her turn to be completely mortified. She was also even more sure that this was a story she could never share either because people would say things like, “oh my god, I would just die of embarrassment,” or maybe, “dude, that’s super awkward, what the hell were you doing walking around the house naked?” or maybe, “wait, you did what?” But what they’d really be saying, what she knew they were really thinking was “that’s dirty and I told you it was a matter of time before he’d try something else.”

It wouldn’t matter that when she realized he was there she immediately “eep”-ed, turned around, and flew back into her room, slamming the door behind her, turning bright red and leaning her back against the door, her head hanging down in shame. It wouldn’t matter that he stood in the bathroom for a few minutes, trying to figure out what to say before walking towards her door (not too close), and saying, “hey, you know, it’s no big deal. I didn’t see anything. I should have warned you I was down here. That faucet is fixed now. I’m going back upstairs. It’s really no big deal,” and then walking up the stairs and away from the red-hot shame she knew could be felt for a mile around her person.

She knew he was a good man. She knew she could explain how she knew that if she was given enough time, but it would be things like, “he’s thoughtful about birthday and Christmas gifts,” and “he always asks if I need any money when I go out with friends,” and “he says I can call anytime for anything if I don’t feel safe or I need help,” and everyone would nod at those things and think “yeah, he’s a good guy, I guess. I mean, those are things a good guy would do.” But they wouldn’t really get it. They wouldn’t really know deep in their bones that he was a good guy. Because she’d never be able to explain it. No one would understand. But he was a good guy.

~~~That’s one hour~~~


She was so in love with him. It had only been a few months, but she’d fallen hard. She had all these rules in her head that she tried to live by when it came to love, rules created from past experiences where things had gone wrong and she’d decided to learn from her mistakes rather than repeat them. So even though it had only been a few months, and even though she’d fallen hard, she tried to keep perspective. She told her best friend all about him, of course. “Have you told him you loved him?” her friend asked.

Rule #1: Never Fall In Love Before Dating a Minimum of Six Months

She knew within two weeks that this man would be trouble for her rules. He was all the things she’d decided she needed in a man, and so many things she wasn’t sure she could handle. They met every single evening for dinner and drinks, their dogs by their sides on the patio. They discussed everything from religion and politics to children and retirement. They were so in sync with one another, even when they disagreed, that she began to understand why people wanted to marry their best friends. In a way, he was her new best friend. But not really, because she still went home and told her actual best friend more about him. “When are you moving in together?” her friend asked.

Rule #2: Never Think You Know a Man Before Living With Him a Minimum of Six Months

They decided to move in together, why not? They spent so much time together anyway, it was a logical next step. They discussed their respective separate spaces and chose to live in hers. They went through their respective separate spaces and decided which of their things they’d live with and which of their things they’d put in storage (they kept his bed, her couch, his coffee table, and her dishes). They were now able to have even more sex, which they both considered a bonus. Now there were opportunities in the morning upon waking, at lunch time if they could both make it home in time, the regular pre-bed sex, and of course all kinds of extra sex on the weekends and in the occasional middle of the night when one or the other had gotten up to pee in the freezing cold and they snuggled up together to warm back up. They were madly in love and after only four months felt they’d lived together forever and also like they’d wasted so much time not moving in sooner. “When are you getting married?” her friend asked.

Rule #3: Never Get Married

Every married couple she knew was miserable with very few exceptions and she could count those on one hand. She came from a “broken home” and so did he. They agreed neither one had any intention to get married. And that was that. But as the years passed and their love only deepened one or the other would occasionally remark upon why they weren’t married. The idea that getting married would automatically mean they’d begin to take one another for granted, or that their sex life would immediately cease, began to seem ridiculous. Marriage as an institution doesn’t mean any of those things, it’s the people behind the marriage and whether or not they can maintain appreciation for one another. They were married a month later. “When are you having kids?” her friend asked.

Rule #4: Never Have Children

They’d discussed kids enough times while dating. They both wanted them but were also afraid. Everyone they knew with kids never slept, had sex, or seemed to love each other anymore; their lives were all about their kids. And maybe that’s how it has to be in the beginning especially, with young children, but they didn’t want that. They debated and decided to leave it up to nature to decide. They stopped using protection and were pregnant within a month. It was fast. Perhaps a bit too fast. But they were both thrilled, reveling in the idea of a family, old traditions they could continue, new traditions they could create, the type of parents they wanted to be, the possibilities for who their child would be. They were confident they would do things better, different, they wouldn’t let their relationship fall to the child executioner. “Are you going to have time for me?” her friend asked.

Rule #5: Never Lose Sight of Your Friends

Anytime people start new relationships they seem to lose their friendships. It’s the excitement of someone new, the thrill of spending as much time as possible with this new potential mate, friends tend to fall by the wayside. It happens. But she’d refused to let it happen to her after it happened that first time. She’d learned her lesson. She always had time for her best friend, or made time. With the birth of her first child she completely lost track of days, weeks, months, a year. Her time was taken entirely by the little life she’d created and now nourished and bathed and clothed and held. She hadn’t realized how long it had been since she’d seen her bestie, hadn’t even considered that it had been a year, until she realized it had. She celebrated her child’s first birthday and the very next day called her friend. “You’ve survived! Are you divorced yet?” she asked.

Rule #6: If You Have to Separate Keep it Amicable

They wanted different things. He wanted sex every day and weekends with his buddies down at the lake. She wanted someone to take the baby for an hour everyday and someone to share the cooking. They’d fought about these things multiple times and finally decided they didn’t want to reconcile. They preferred to go their separate ways rather than try to repair the road they’d been travelling together. And so they got divorced. The most amicable divorce anyone had ever heard of: they treated one another the way they wanted to be treated, splitting custody fairly down the middle, splitting their assets fairly down the middle, agreeing to an every-other-holiday schedule rather than trying to split holidays in half. They’d long ago sold everything they had in storage so they decided who would take what (he kept the bed, she kept the couch, he kept the coffee table, and she kept the dishes). They sold the house. “Let’s go out this weekend,” her friend said.

Rule #7: Never Go Back

Their separation was so well executed that they began to wonder why they separated at all. They still loved each other, especially as they spent time apart, and time with their child who was so much each of them it was maddening. Perhaps they’d rushed into the divorce. But she’d learned from the past: never go back because there’s a reason it didn’t work the first time and that reason is still there. When it was her weekend without their child she spent time with her bestie. When it was her weekend with her child she spent time being the best parent she could be. She began meeting new people by virtue of her new free half-time, new parents, new single parents, new single men. She even dated a few times, but no one that measured up to her ex-husband, no one who could be half the father to her child that he was. “You just need to sleep with someone else,” her friend said.

Rule #8: Never Sleep With Someone To Get Over Someone

She was wrong. All wrong about rule #8. She ended up having a few too many drinks with a single dad friend and one thing led to another. The next thing she knew she’d had sex. With someone other than her husband. For the first time in years. It was a revelation. It was also awkward, and sloppy, and not actually the best ever, but it was also different and freeing and somehow snapped the anchor keeping her from moving on. She was suddenly free to see all the ways that her new life afforded her the things she’d been wanting or needing but hadn’t been able to vocalize. She saw clearly that what she wanted was exactly what she now had: half-time freedom. She could be the very best parent she could possibly be for half the time and the other half of the time she could read with abandon, fix popcorn and a glass of wine for dinner, and binge watch television, all with no repercussions. This was the life she’d never knew she always wanted, and now she had it.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Life Gets In The Way

My youngest is surging toward a wonder week and driving my husband and I completely batty with lack of sleep; our oldest remains unaffected, as preschoolers often are. I obtained roughly two and a half hours of sleep last night. This is not the worst it’s ever been, but it’s the sixteenth night in a row that I’ve gotten four or less hours of sleep and it’s beginning to make me more than delirious, it’s making me see things and hear things and want to cry for no reason. This is not a big wha-wha post: oh, poor me, I have kids and don’t sleep and my husband left me and took the dog and there’s no beer in the fridge and my geetar broke another string…. It’s just a post to explain that #writeonehour every night is hard on nights like tonight.

Nights like tonight I’m done. I’m so tired I can’t read, I’m so tired I can’t think of a single thing to write about, I’m so tired I don’t even want to zone out in front of Netflix. It’s bad y’all. It’s bad in terms of first world problems though, and I know that, and I try to keep that in perspective. This too shall pass. The youngest will make a huge stride forward and sleeping will return to normal and in ten years I’ll have a hard time remembering just how little sleep I managed to function on. I get that.

This is not bad. What’s bad is laying in a hospital room with your toddler, your newborn at your feet, while you do your best to comfort your child who had to undergo emergency surgery after battling the worst kind of pain over and over again and being sent home each time, told it wouldn’t happen again, only to return. That’s bad. To wake up every two hours, crawl down to the bottom of the bed and contort yourself to fit sideways so you can breastfeed your baby where they sleep so you won’t wake them when you’re done because you want to be able to crawl back up to hold your toddler for another two hours before the baby needs your boob again.

The stress of your child in pain. The stress of not crying while your child is in pain. The stress of worrying your child doesn’t trust you anymore because you’ve been telling him what the doctors have been telling you which is that he won’t be back, yet there he is; over and over again. The stress of your child having to undergo surgery. The stress of not crying when they say your child needs emergency surgery. The stress of being in a hospital. The stress of your child being well enough post surgery that they want your child walking, and the screaming sound of his pain when you tell him he has to stand up. The stress of getting him to stop screaming, by sitting with him in his pain, begging him to take deep breaths before he throws up. The stress of telling him he has to walk, and going through the screaming/breathing/pain thing again. The stress of not crying as your child cries. The stress of your child finally recovering well enough to go outside only to step on a bee.

That was one of our worst moments. A moment that lasted nearly a week; months really if you count all the times we went to the hospital only to listen to our child scream in pain as they treated him, again, for this thing that would “never come back.” If you take into account all the trips leading up to the emergency surgery, it was six months of one of our worst moments. I debate whether or not that was our worst moment, and can’t be sure. The extended period of time that it took makes me think it wins. So much collective stress, and even now anytime I hear that particular scream I worry that the thing that can now officially “never come back” is back…why wouldn’t it be when we’ve been told so many times it can’t come back and then it does…like freaking Jaws.

The other debatable worst moment is when our oldest was jumping on the couch, which we tell him not to do, have always told him not to do, but which he was doing. And then he fell and slammed his chin on the edge of the couch, jolting his head backwards, hard. He began to cry and I rushed to hold him and then…nothing. Literally silence. He was floppy. He wasn’t breathing. I was convinced he was dead. I was convinced I was holding my dead child in my arms. My husband and I were both petrified. He demanded I hand the child over, which I did, but worried that I shouldn’t because we shouldn’t be moving him, because it could be a neck injury. My husband, who knows CPR, didn’t even consider doing CPR, because he was also convinced he was holding his dead child in his arms.

And then: magic. Our oldest came to, but wouldn’t or couldn’t open his eyes. And kept saying “it hurts” but couldn’t define where or what. Off we raced to the emergency room. Halfway there he vomited. Within a couple minutes he could open his eyes. Within a few more minutes he was talking as though nothing had happened. We debated going back home, but we were halfway to emergency and I was still terrified something could be wrong. We continued on our way, they did a scan and revealed no hairline fractures of any kind and sent us back home.

And of course we’ve had our share of minor cuts and scrapes and falls and tears and bandaids. We also have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and clothes on our backs. We have much to be grateful for. There is really very little to complain about, and is sixteen days in a row of less than four hours sleep really that bad? Yes. And no. Would I rather have eight hours of sleep tonight followed by a trip to the ER tomorrow or less than four hours of sleep tonight? I’ll take door number two, please and thank you.

This is our life right now. I knew coming into this NYR about #writeonehour that life might get in the way. And it has on occasion, like when our entire household had the flu and there were two days where I literally did nothing and writing was so far beyond my abilities that I didn’t even notice not doing it. I thought seriously about not writing tonight, about taking the youngest and going to bed and letting him climb all over me as he’s unable to sleep, because even with him climbing all over me I’d still be getting snippets of sleep. I seriously considered it. But then I thought about how things could be worse, how sixteen days in a row without sleep is not so bad, is not something that I should allow to derail me from my goals.

So here we are. You have a bit more insight into my life. As unexciting as it is. And hopefully tomorrow we’ll be back on track for a better post.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

The Invitation

The invitation could not have arrived at a worse time, or a better time, depending on how you looked at it. It marked one year since she’d left a nearly ten-year relationship, with a mound of debt (now paid off in full with the exception of her car payment), turned thirty, and moved in with her parents (how else could she have paid off a mound of debt in a year?). In the meantime, she’d made absolutely no progress on buying a house, and no progress on finding a new mate. Receiving an invitation to a wedding was a kick in the teeth, an invite to a destination wedding meant it was slightly less-so.

It was odd to receive the invitation at all. Since they’d been roommates in college, the ladies hadn’t connected more than once in real life and rarely spoke on social media or via text or email. At first she felt it was a pretty clear case of being invited to ensure another item on the registry was purchased. The more she thought about it though, the more she decided that perhaps this was her feeling sorry for herself and not the truth of the matter which is that they had been relatively close in college, they had tried to keep in touch, and they’d been close during a pretty traumatic event which tends to breed a closeness that otherwise wouldn’t exist. She took the invitation in hand, re-read it, and decided to sleep on it.

The next morning she woke to the sound of water rushing through the pipes in the wall: her parents were awake. The reminder that she was once again living with her parents was all she needed to pick up the invitation and check the yes box. If nothing else it would be a weekend away from her life in a state she’d never been to and maybe she’d even get laid (that happened at weddings, right?). She dropped the accepted invitation in the mail on her way to work and bought a gift online during her lunch break, that night after work she went online and arranged her flight and her hotel room. Then she settled in to wait the four months until the wedding.

When she arrived at the airport four months later there was a shuttle waiting to take her to the hotel. She collected her bag and enjoyed the absolutely gorgeous scenery along the ride. She’d never been out east in the fall and the foliage was astounding. She’d seen pictures of course all the reds and yellows and oranges, but in person it was just breathtaking. When she arrived at the hotel she checked in, put her bag in her room, grabbed the wedding itinerary from the desk top, and went right back outside again to continue marveling at the mountains and the leaves.

After about twenty minutes in the chilly air she was ready to return inside. She found the bar, ordered a beer, and began perusing the itinerary. There were all sorts of moments where she was expected to assist the bride in this or that task, and it was only then that she realized she had no idea how to do any of it. For example, assist the bride in getting ready for brunch…what in the world did that mean? Was she no longer able to dress herself? Had something happened that she was unaware of, something that prevented her friend, the bride, from performing her own dressing or grooming functions? There was a moment of panic as she read just how many of these moments there were over the next 36 hours.

“Hey, you made it!” said a familiar voice behind her as she felt a hand come down on her shoulder.

“Hi! It’s so good to see you, it’s been so long. You look great! Still doing stand-up?” she asked as they came out of the obligatory hug. It was the bride’s brother, Jordan, and you couldn’t ask for a man more adorable, kind, or talented.

“Yup, sure am. I’m getting to where I’m booking some pretty big places with it, too, which feels nice. I’m not saying I’ll be getting my own HBO Special anytime soon, but it’s getting big and that feels good.”

“I’m so happy for you, you deserve it,” she said smiling and thinking about nothing but his smile and also how good he smelled and also how there was absolutely no way anything was ever going to happen between them and how that made it both sad and safe.

“How about you? I heard you were buying a house?”

“Yeah, well, trying to. Ha! That’s been an ordeal. There’s a lot out there, but not that I can afford or can afford to fix, so” she laughed and took a deep breath, “still living with my parents,” she finished sighing.

“I hear ya, I had to move back in with mine, too. It’s not the greatest. But, it’s also not forever and totally worth it in the long run. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself,” he laughed. “So, Tracy is going to be crazy busy all weekend and I’m not really sure how much of her you’ll get to see, but the rest of the bridal party really wants to meet you and we’re hoping you’ll spend your free time with us?”

“Oh, wow, the bridal party? I hadn’t expected,” she began before realizing that she didn’t actually have any plans except the wedding itself, “sure, that’d be great,” she said.

“Want to come now? We’re all supposed to be getting together for dinner and drinks in about five minutes in the lobby.”

“Great,” she said, “I’m all paid up here,” she finished her beer, and left a couple bucks on the bar under the bottle, then followed him out to the lobby.

She met the entire wedding party, minus the bride and groom. Some of them she’d actually met once before at an event they’d all attended, one of Jordan’s first stand-up gigs if she remembered correctly, but the rest were all brand new faces and not exactly friendly. She was introduced all around and did her best to remembers the names that went with the faces, but that had never been her strong suit. She was grateful when they all determined it was time to head over to eat and the attention shifted away from her arrival.

At dinner she mostly sat quietly listening to everyone else banter. It was clear this group was pretty close. She laughed here and there but mostly she just listened, and in listening realized, she did not like these people. They were shallow, self-absorbed, and had way too much money. How had they all become Tara’s friends? Or Jordan’s for that matter. He seemed to be getting along just fine, not finding any of it awkward or distasteful. She realized they were all looking at her and that she’d been too busy in her own head to notice what had just been aimed at her.

“I’m sorry, I was in my head for a moment, could you repeat that?” she asked with a slight abashed smile.

“I was wondering why you came when it was an out-of-town wedding and you haven’t seen the bride in years,” said the woman with the indescribably long black hair, perfect figure, and cat eyes that were as much due to her snarky nature as her make-up talent.

“Tara invited me,” she stammered, shocked at being asked something so rude, and surprised that everyone at the table appeared to be waiting for an answer rather than looking in their laps or away or feigning any sort of understanding about just how rude the question had been. She looked to Jordan and saw that he too was looking at her, although he had the grace to look down when she caught his eye.

“I think what Tammy means is that it costs a lot of money to go to a destination wedding, and you and Tara aren’t really as close as you used to be,” Jordan said starting out sounding like he was defending her but mumbling by the end as he realized he was just stoking Tammy’s fire.

“Clearly this is a small, intimate wedding for the closest family and friends, and it just seems odd that you came,” Tammy said, “I’m not trying to be mean, I’m trying to understand why you said you’d come.”

Not trying to be mean my ass, she thought, “I just thought Tara wanted me here, hence the invitation. If that’s not the case I had no way of knowing that and it’s a little late for me to change my RSVP,” she said, as she picked her napkin up out of her lap, “at any rate,” she continued, “I think I’ll head back now. Thank you for a lovely meal.” She grabbed her purse, opened it and took out forty dollars, leaving it on the table by her plate and walking out.

She was mortified. And livid. And reminded once again that she had no place. She didn’t belong at home with her parents. She didn’t belong at this wedding. She didn’t have a home of her own, or a lover, or a pet, or a child. She was just herself, unmoored.

Why did Tara invite me, she wondered. Was she hoping I’d say I couldn’t come and send a gift? Why risk that I’d say yes, which I did, and now here we are. Had she counted on the fact that we hadn’t seen each other in so long, had she banked on it? If that’s the case she should have been too embarrassed to send me an invite. If you don’t want to risk me attending you shouldn’t risk inviting me. It made no sense.

She figured things would be better the next day, the day of the wedding. By then she’d see the bride, actually get to see Tara, and she was confident that in seeing her she’d understand everything. All would be revealed. She returned to the hotel and her bed and slept with the conviction that tomorrow would be better.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Thick and Thin

She was worried their friendship wouldn’t last much longer. It had always depended upon one of them needing the other: a broken love relationship, a lost job, a death in the family. Whatever it was it was always one of them being a rock for the other one and then switching, or not, sometimes the rock was the strong one for a few events in a row before slipping into the role of the weak one. At any rate, they always went back and forth, they were never both rocks and they were never both weak. Perhaps things would be different if they’d ever been able to occupy the same role comfortably. Perhaps.

As it stood they’d both been in a place of strength for months. They’d texted less and less often, seen each other in person fewer times each month, and stopped making future plans to see each other. There was something about them not needing one another to lean on that caused them to also not need one another at all, for anything. It was sad and inexplicable. Did they really have nothing to say to one another unless one of them was falling apart?

She’d considered creating some drama, a fake spiritual crisis, they were approaching forty after all. She considered pretending that forty was a terrifying prospect for her. She didn’t think she could pull it off. And she also realized that if she had to lie to her friend to keep her friend, perhaps the friendship wasn’t worth keeping. She finally decided she’d set a date to see her friend again and explain that she’d always be there for her, but that she no longer wanted to limp along pretending they were more to each other than a crutch. The prospect of the conversation saddened her and relieved her.

The day they’d set to meet up dawned like any other: stunningly beautiful sunrise, she got ready to leave like always, and everything was just so. They arrived at the restaurant within moments of one another, hugged in the parking lot on the way in, and then entered together getting seated right away. They made small talk while they waited to place their drink and food orders, then sat in an awkward and fidgety silence waiting for their coffees to arrive.

The coffee arrived hot and beautiful: little foam and espresso artwork on top. They admired each others foam for a moment before clinking mugs in a cheers and taking their first sips. Their collective “ah’s” of appreciation drew a few stares from neighboring tables and they laughed at themselves. Surely they could save this friendship.

“So, I wanted to get together today because,” she cleared her throat, “well, it seems like things have really been going well for both of us and for whatever reason we aren’t really talking anymore,” she laughed and took a sip of her coffee.

Her friend took the opportunity to jump in, “yeah, I’ve totally noticed that too. It’s strange, right? I mean, I love hearing about how happy you are and I love being happy, but I feel like our happy’s don’t mesh,” she shrugged, unable to express exactly what she meant.

“Oh my gosh, yes! I agree! It’s just like that. When I’m having a hard time there is no one in the world I need so much as I need you. But when things are going well, it’s like I tell you but I don’t get that same feeling of connection as I do when it’s something bad. It doesn’t make sense and it just leaves me feeling…” she waved her hand in circles, looking for the description of her feelings.

“Empty? Like, it takes away your good feelings to tell me about your good feelings, whereas when you tell me about your bad feelings you feel lighter but also fuller?” her friend interjected.

“Yes! That’s exactly it. Feeling bad, I have to talk to you to feel better. Feeling good, I talk to you and I feel worse. But I don’t understand why. You’re amazing. You’re absolutely my very best friend ever. I don’t understand why I can’t share good and bad with you equally.”

“No, I get it, because I feel exactly the same way. When something major amazing happens, of course I want to tell you right away because I share everything with you, but then somehow the awesome starts to wear a little the moment I share it,” her friend concurred.

“So what do we do? I don’t want to lose you as a friend,” she said, reaching out across the table and holding her friends hands in hers.

They looked into each others eyes for a moment and then laughed, separating their hands and drinking from their coffees. Their food arrived and they began eating.

“This place is the best,” she said, licking some Hollandaise sauce off her lower lip.

“Definitely the best,” her friend agreed. “Okay, so how about if we continue to meet once a month for breakfast, like this. If things are going great, we just have breakfast, the end. If things aren’t going great we can still start the day over breakfast but then rather than ending the day, we continue it to lean on one another. Does that work? I mean, coffee and breakfast once a month even when our lives are fabulous only makes our lives more fabulous, right?”

“That’s true. I like the way you’re thinking,” she said, “and maybe, even if things are good we can still continue our day after breakfast by going to a movie or an event or something? Just because our fabulous lives and our fabulous breakfasts are over it doesn’t mean we can’t do other fabulous things together, it just means we can’t talk about our fabulous lives,” she laughed and drained the last of her coffee.

“Yes! I love it! I love this plan!” her friend exclaimed. “And I have to say, I’m so glad. I was really worried about today. I came here this morning expecting to have to friendship break up with you and it was making me miserable.”

“Me too!” she said, her right hand going to her chest. “I’ve been a bit miserable about it and was trying to figure out how I could spin that unhappiness into something more, something that would allow us to continue on as before.”

They laughed at each other and themselves.

“And also, I’m really happy for you. I hope you know that. I’ve been so glad you finally got all the good things you’ve earned in this life coming to you,” she said.

“Thank you. I agree. I mean, I agree the same thing about you. I’ve always felt you got dealt some pretty crap cards and you’ve managed to play them beautifully and come out on top,” her friend said, smiling.

“So, do we want to start today? Go somewhere after breakfast?”

“Definitely. Do you have anything in mind?” her friend asked.

“Well I was thinking I’d head over to the garden show over at the stadium today. Does that sound fun?”

“Absolutely! That sounds perfect. And I’m in this awesome walking challenge on my step counter so that would help me get in the steps I need to crush my competitors,” her friend laughed.

“You have a step counter? Me too! I just got one to track my sleep, which it turns out I’m getting even less of than I’d thought, so that’s not cool. But otherwise I love it. I’m surprised by how much I enjoy all the bits of info it tells me about how I spend my day. And the reminders to move when I’ve been sedentary for too long.”

“Isn’t that the best?” her friend agreed. “You should join my challenges, if you’re into that kind of thing. I usually go up against a couple ladies from work. They really keep me on my toes.”

“I’d love to!” she said, “want to carpool to the garden show and you can make us friends on the app while I drive?”

“Excellent. Yes.”

“And it’s my treat for breakfast,” she said, “you bought last time.”

“Okay, but then I get entrance fee to the garden show,” her friend said.

“Fine by me,” she laughed, “it’s free.”

The check arrived, she pulled out some cash and left it in the book. They smiled at each other, and simultaneously asked, “shall we?”

“This,” she said, catching her breath between laughter, “this is what I was hoping to save.”

They hugged and walked out, chatting about what they hoped to find at the garden show and whether or not they thought the step counter craze would last. And I’m so bored by this story that I can only say thank goodness:

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Do Over IV

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

When she finally (finally!) arrived in Los Angeles, despite the creepy guy with a neck tattoo that kept winking at her the last few hundred miles and the old lady who sat down next to her even though there were tons of open two seat spaces throughout the bus, she exited the bus with her bag in hand, walked a handful of steps and then stopped. It was chaos. There were people and buses everywhere. There were homeless people on the sidewalk out front, someone talking to themselves and rubbing their head with their thumb and forefinger sitting on a bench just outside the depot doors, and there was a urine smell pervading the entire area.

Her first thought was, what have I done. This was followed quickly with, never judge a book by it’s cover. She shook her head, hiked her bag up firmly into her hand, and walked through the depot and out the big glass doors and into the city. She walked around for a good half hour before she was in a neighborhood that felt safe enough to stop and sit for a minute, which she did as soon as she came to a little park with some benches. She needed food, a job, and a place to stay, and she needed them in that order. She also knew she didn’t want to head back the way she’d come. She sat and listened to the birds in the bushes, watching as they’d peek out at her, see if she had any food, then retreat back to the safety of the leaves.

Hunger got the best of her and she decided she’d rested long enough. She heaved her bag and continued walking west. As she’d hoped the neighborhood continued to improve and soon became rather swanky. She stopped at the first coffee shop she saw, it would do for food and liquid fuel. She noticed a help wanted sign on her way in and considered it would work out for more than she’d expected.

The cashier looked at her and then at her bag as she walked in, gave her a half-smile and said “we don’t allow camping, company policy; you have to purchase something to sit down and I have to kick you out after an hour unless you make another purchase.”

“Uh, oh, I just, um, I just arrived here and wanted coffee and something to eat and maybe,” she gestured back over her shoulder towards the sign, “ask about what kind of help you need?”

“Here’s the application,” the cashier replied after digging around under the counter for a second, “what’ll you have?”

“Coffee, biggest you have, and,” she looked over at the pastry display which was mostly empty, “which is better, the muffin or the scone?”

“They’re both too sweet. The scone is more filling though.”

“Scone it is, thanks,” she said.

She paid and took the application and her bag over to a nearby table. She began rustling around in her bag for a pen but the only one she could find was the one from the car salesman who’d insisted she take it. She didn’t want to use it but she also didn’t want to have to ask to borrow a pen. She finally decided to use it, who would notice? and she sat down to start filling out the application.

“Sorry about the camping remark,” the cashier said as she brought the scone on a plate and her coffee in a large cup, “I wasn’t trying to be rude, it’s been a long day. I’m Christy,” she said, sticking out her hand for a shake.

“Sarah,” she said, accepting the extended hand, “Um, so, when I said I just arrived, I mean I just walked off the bus. The application here wants all kinds of stuff like bank accounts and I,” she took a deep breath, “I don’t have any of that yet.”

“Do you have a place to stay?” Christy asked.

“Not exactly, I kind of figured it was more important to get a job than to get a place,” she replied, blushing at how naive she sounded.

“Oh boy,” Christy said taking a breath and sitting down across from her, “let’s not fill out an application just yet. We have a really high turnover rate here, really high. My boss has started paying new hires cash every Wednesday until they’ve been here two weeks and knows he’s going to keep them on, so let’s just see how you do. If you work out, you’ll have all the stuff you need for a formal application by then, right?”

“Right, definitely!” Sarah said, biting her lip.

“Normally I’d have you start on a midday shift, like right now, but it’s too late to start that shift so you’ll have to start on an evening shift later today, if you can?”

“Absolutely, yes, I can,” Sarah said, eyes lighting up.

“You’ve got a few hours if you want to go look for a place? There’s always stuff available this time of year because school is out. There’s probably a bunch of places listed in today’s paper,” she got up and went over to a table by the front door holding a stack of hastily patted together newspaper sections. She came back holding the real estate section and set it down on the table. “Look near the back, the stuff in front is all for sale.”

“Thank you,” Sarah said, “thank you so much. I really didn’t expect…”

Christy cut her off, “just show up for your shift tonight and be ready to be on your feet the entire time.”

“I will,” Sarah said smiling.

Christy got up and went back behind the counter. Sarah tried not to pay attention to what she was doing, there’d be time to learn the job later, right now she needed to focus on a place to live. She followed Christy’s advice and turned the entire section over, starting at the back. She realized she had no idea where the different neighborhoods were and that they were all more expensive than she’d expected. She looked over toward Christy who was busy cleaning out the pastry display.

She finished eating her scone and realized she’d only circled four possible places, all the ones that were cheapest. She stood up, picked up the now empty plate, and walked back up to the counter. “Thank you for this, and for the paper.”

“No problem,” Christy replied, “you find anything?”

“Well, I’m not exactly sure,” Sarah replied, “I’ve circled a few but I don’t really know the area, so I’ll go check em out and see I guess. You have any advice?”

“Yeah. Don’t go south of the Ten or east of Western Avenue.”

“Right,” Sarah said, not knowing what any of the meant, “thanks again! I’ll be back on time and ready to work. Jeans okay?”

“Of course, and we’ll give you a shirt to wear. You a small or a medium?”

“Medium,” she replied, as she turned and walked back to get her bag and what was left of her coffee. “See ya!”

She headed out to the street and turned to keep walking west. The paper wasn’t going to be helpful without knowing the area. So she just walked and kept her eyes open. Surely there’d be apartments or houses or something. But after twenty minutes it was all still businesses. She decided to turn south and in less than a couple blocks was in a neighborhood. She started walking back west looking for signs.

All the houses were cute and small with perfect little green lawns in front and great big trees out by the sidewalk. This would be the perfect area to live, she thought, but there weren’t any apartments. She’d seen lots of people jogging over the last hour and she finally decided she’d stop the next one she saw. Sure enough a woman with an incredibly long ponytail, unbelievably short shorts, and a tiny bra came running her way. Sarah waved and said “excuse me.” The jogger didn’t slow and Sarah realized she had ear buds in. She turned as the jogger started running by and began to run with her.

“Excuse me!” she tried again.

This time the jogger saw her out of her peripheral vision, did a double take, and then stopped to run in place and pull out an ear bud. “Yeah?” she asked.

“Sorry, I was just wondering if you know of any apartments around here?”

The jogger looked up and down the street and said, “not here, you’d have to go west or south, this is all houses for a few blocks. You looking to rent?”

“Yeah, I just got to town and I have a job and everything, but I haven’t figured out where I’m gonna live yet.”

“Where ya from?”

“Oh, pfft, a long way away,” Sarah looked down at the ground and waved her hand in an over the rainbow gesture, “it doesn’t matter,” she said smiling, hoping that would be answer enough.

The jogger shrugged, “we’re all from somewhere. There’s a house a couple doors down, I know it’s always got different people living in it every few months so I think they rent it to students. You might want to check there.”

“A house? That would be amazing,” Sarah said, “which one?”

“That one there,” the jogger said, pointing across the street to a cute little craftsman style cottage, “the green one with the white trim.”

“Thank you,” Sarah said, “thank you so much!”

“You’re welcome. I’m Holly, by the way,” the jogger said, “if you move in you’ll be seeing me every day. This is my regular route.”

“I’m Sarah. Thank you again, Holly.”

Holly put her earbud back in and waved as she ran off. Sarah hoisted her bag, looked both ways across the street with cars parked up and down both sides but none driving, and headed to the little green and white house. With any luck this would be home, she thought.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Do Over III

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

By the time she finally finished with the car lot and sat in the loaner Chuey was supposed to drive her to the airport in, she only had about forty-five minutes to execute the next part of her plan. She took a deep breath and turned to her driver.

“Chuey? I know you’re supposed to take me to the airport but there’s a bus station a few blocks away and it would save me so much money if I went home that way. Do you mind?” she asked.

“Nah, that’s cool. I drop you there,” he replied, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel.

True to his word he took her to the bus station, helped her get her bag out of the back and then gave her a mock salute-wave. She smiled and saluted back then walked into the station towards the departures board. From this angle she could see in the departure screen the reflection of Chuey as he got back in the car, pulled out of the space he’d been in, and drove across the street, parked in the lot, and walked into the coffee shop. That’d been about what she expected. The boss had given him time to take her to the airport, and he was going to use that time.

She laughed under her breath, and turned to look at the line of people waiting to buy tickets. Third from the front was a woman who looked pretty New York: black and purple hair, sensible walking shoes, and a fabulous little skirt and shirt outfit with the jewelry to match. But she was too close to the cashier, it’d be risky. She continued scanning the line. There, near the end, a young guy with a backpack and a duffel bag. He looked like a student and he looked kind of New York, but also not, kind of country. She wasn’t too sure, but he was her best bet so she approached him.

“Excuse me, um, is there any way you’re going to New York?” she asked.

He pulled the earbud out of his left ear and said, “New York? Yeah.”

“Great! See, I bought this ticket earlier for New York but now that it’s almost time to go I just…I can’t. I don’t belong there, I don’t belong here! I need to go home, only they don’t do refunds and I’m out of money, and,” here she let out a little whimper and hoped she could get a tear or two to roll down her cheeks. Gulping she continued, “I just need to get home. If you’ll take my ticket and buy me a ticket going as far west as you can for the same price as New York? I’d really appreciate it.”

He looked at her hard. Then he looked behind her and around the depot. “No refund, huh?” he asked, clearly not expecting a response. “How do I know this is a real ticket?”

“Oh you can take it. I’ll sit right over there,” she turned and pointed to a chair, “and you can ask the cashier, they’ll tell you it’s real. I promise!”

“I’m not saying yes,” he replied, “but I’ll check this out and let you know.”

“Thank you,” she said, “I’ll be right there,” she pointed again and then walked over to the seat. She waited and watched as the line advanced and soon he was talking to the cashier. She could see him, and he could see her, but if the cashier tried to see her, they wouldn’t be able to; the angle and the cashier’s little building were all wrong. She saw him hand over the ticket and then take the ticket back. She saw him get out his wallet, pull out some cash, and then put his wallet back. She tried not to act too excited as he walked towards her.

“Okay. So, here’s the thing,” he said, “I don’t know how far west you need to go, but I figure you can’t get much more west than Los Angeles,” and he handed her a ticket.

Her jaw dropped open and she read Los Angeles on the ticket. “You bought me a ticket to LA?” she breathed.

“Well, whatever kind of trouble you’re in, if New York can’t fix it, LA’s the only other city that’s got a shot,” he replied.

“But that’s…it’s so much more than a ticket to New York,” she said.

“Yeah, well…yeah.”

“I want to pay you back,” she said firmly, looking into his eyes.

“That’d be great,” he said, “I don’t exactly have a lot of extra money to spend, but I don’t exactly expect to hear from you again,” he laughed.

“No, I’m going to pay you back, as soon as I can,” she said, “how do I reach you?”

He slid his backpack off his back and rustled around for a paper and pen. “Use your back?” he asked.

She giggled and turned around, automatically reaching up to swipe her long hair out of the way, remembering too late that it wasn’t there. She could feel him writing on the paper, a line here, a curve there. It suddenly felt intimate and she considered exchanging her ticket for one to New York after all, but shook her head quickly. Stick to the plan.

“Alright,” he said, and she turned around to see him folding the paper in half, and in half again. “I hope to hear from you, miss?”

“Sarah,” she said, “I”m Sarah. And I will pay you back, mister?”

“John,” he said, “I hope you find what you’re looking for in LA.” He handed her the paper, put the backpack up on his shoulders, grabbed his duffel, and began walking out to the buses.

She grabbed her bag and went to the bathroom, finding an open stall, walking in, bolting it closed behind her, and leaning against the door. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding and fumbled while holding the duffel to open the note:

“They do exchanges, so whatever you’re up to, be safe. If you really do want to pay me back, or look me up: John Stihl, SUNY Oneonta, Psychology Department, 161 Fitzelle Hall, Oneonta, NY 13820.”

She folded the note back up and put it in her pocket. She didn’t know when or how but she would pay him back. In the meantime she had work to do, her bus would be leaving in twenty minutes and she still had to get rid of her phone. She didn’t know much about how those things worked, but she’d seen in a movie that people could use them to find you. She pulled it out of her pocket and bent the two pieces away from one another until they snapped. She put the two pieces back in her right pocket and searched her left pocket for a coin.

Leaving the bathroom and heading for the buses, she stopped by one and dropped down. She shoved the two pieces of phone under the tire with her right hand.

“Can I help you, ma’am?”

She turned and stood up to see a security guard. She smiled and held up the quarter in her left hand, “yes, sir! I just found this quarter. Do you hang on to that stuff or is there a lost and found I can take it to?”

He smiled and pushed his cap back a bit, scratching the hair that’d been stuck under the brim. “Well, now, I don’t expect anyone’s going to come looking for a quarter. You just go on ahead and take it.”

“Thanks!” she said, putting it in her pocket and continuing on her way, looking for her bus. With any luck he’d be thinking about telling his girlfriend or roommate or someone about the sweet young lady that found a quarter and wanted to turn it in, and not thinking about what she looked like or what she might have been doing.

She found her bus and walked on, looking for a seat just a couple seats in on the driver’s side. She wanted to be close to the driver in case any weirdos bothered her but not so close that she could be seen from the doorway. She sat down, pulled a sweatshirt from her bag and folded it into a pillow. She put the sweatshirt against the window and her head against the sweatshirt. Now if that guard came around her bus looking for a second glance to add detail to his story he wouldn’t see her.

She settled in for what she knew would be a very long ride. Grateful for all the good luck she’d had. Grateful for all the helpful people she’d met. Missing that chocolate croissant from that morning and wishing she’d thought to bring some food with her.

“Never mind that,” she told herself, “your name is Sarah Jones and this is the beginning of the rest of your life.”

~~~That’s one hour~~~