Exes and Owes – Part Two

November 11, 2008

I’m writing about the things that are raising my internal alert level to, like, magenta. (You know: I’ve gone beyond plain old orange & red, here, people.) What started as a single post morphed into a series. Depressing, but true. You can find part one here.


One of the other things keeping me up at night is an outgrowth of the strange interconnectivity of this technological age in which we live. Like half the planet, I’m on Facebook (but no, I’m not linking to my profile, because I’m still semi-anonymous here, remember?) and about two weeks ago, I got a friend request I never thought I’d see.


Dylan Brown* wanted to be my friend.




I have to back up a little bit for this story, so bear with me. Dylan moved to our town about halfway through high school. I can’t remember now if it was in 10th grade? Or over the summer before 11th? But we became friends pretty quickly, since we shared so many classes (taking the Honors and AP track really narrows down the crowd – and my graduating glass was just shy of 200, so it was already fairly small.) He sat behind me in my junior year math class and geometry has just never been so fun. I remember choosing dresses that would flash a LOT of thigh when I crossed my legs at my desk, knowing he’d be looking over my shoulder. At first, we were both dating other people, but when those relationships came to their natural high-school end, we gravitated toward each other.


He was, to be frank, my ideal boyfriend. Smart? Oh hell yes – planned to major in physics or some mathematical field in college, and was already getting the grades to make it possible. Sweet, sensitive, funny? He charmed me in a dozen ways. Left notes in my day planner weeks ahead of time, had a sentimental nickname for me, gave the best bear hugs, understood my emotional rants about my parents. He was a Christian, and both of his parents were in lay ministry. He had two sisters and a mom he *adored* – and he got along reasonably with his father. Oh, and have I mentioned? Good.looking.man. Seriously. I’m petite – 5’2”, and probably in the 110-120 range at that point in high school. He was 6’3” and 270-odd pounds of solid muscle. Defensive end for our football team – he could literally pick me up and carry me around campus. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his smile, or his laugh – he had an easy laugh, a quick sense of humor, and one that never went for a cheap shot or easy target (at least not with me – with the guys in the locker room, who knows, right?).


We were together from somewhere in the middle of my junior year until the late winter or early spring of my senior year. It wasn’t a perfect relationship – my parents were not happy about their white daughter dating a young black man, and found every excuse in the book to keep me grounded, on restriction, and away from him. But for the circumstances we were up against with them, and considering that we were young and in high school – it was good.


I loved him.


And then I got scared – we’d both gotten our acceptances to college. I’d be on a full academic scholarship in north Georgia, and he’d be on a full football scholarship in South Carolina. So I suggested that we should take a break, and not go off to college “committed” to each other, but leave ourselves open to our new surroundings – and we broke up. I don’t think that was what I had intended, but maybe my memory is off. I spent the last months of my senior year heartbroken – because I hadn’t just lost my boyfriend, I’d lost one of my best friends, and my first love. That small world of our classes and friends didn’t understand my decision and mostly took his side – so I was suddenly on the outside of our group of friends. It was a bad way to end good experiences (both the relationship and my high school years).


Months went by – summer passed, and we both went off to college. Then one day, during my first semester, we were suddenly back in touch. I don’t remember the details – did one of us email the other? Was it instant messenger? It couldn’t have been a phone call, because we didn’t have cell phones yet. However it happened, that first contact spiraled and blossomed into a rebirth of our relationship. (Yes. The whole long-distance romance I’d been so sure wouldn’t survive, the reason I’d dumped him and caused all my own grief and sadness the year before. It was suddenly thriving.)


We talked on the phone, we emailed, he even found a buddy with a car to drive him more than halfway so that we could spend a weekend together. When he got to my dorm room and threw his things on the couch, he mentioned that he had something in his bag for me. My heart almost stopped beating – I thought he was going to propose. It wasn’t a ring; it was a teddy bear, but he’d seen the look on my face. He knew without my telling him what I’d suspected was in the bag, so he asked me, “What would you have said? If I did have a ring in here?”


I looked into his eyes, and I told him the truth: “I would have said yes.”




Life has a way of being cruel and unusual. On my next visit home, my parents saw the extra miles I’d driven the past month and started up the Spanish Inquisition. When I revealed that all that driving had been to pick up Dylan for our weekend visit, all hell broke loose. They told me, in plain and simple terms, that I had a choice to make. I could either break up with him, again; or I could continue in a relationship with Dylan, and be cut off from my family forever. I had 30 days to decide.


But then, somehow, that’s not how it ended. I’m fuzzy on the details, but I got a couple of late-night, drunken emails from him. First, an email that confessed to cheating on me and never really loving me – and then a phone call the next day, when I was still shocked and stunned by what I’d read, telling me that his roommate had logged into his email account and sent it as a prank. I thought he was scared by the ultimatum from my parents, that he was afraid I’d choose him over them and we’d be stuck with each other forever, that we were too young to be deciding our whole future. Then a second email came, saying that our whole new relationship had been a ruse – that he’d been angry about how it ended in high school, and had sought me out for the chance at revenge. That he was now sleeping with Z, a mutual friend of ours from high school, and that they laughed together about how I’d fallen in love with him all over again. At that one, I blocked his emails and stopped answering calls. I wasn’t sure if that was truth, or another prank from his roommate – or had the first email been true, too? – and my 30 days was nearly up. I couldn’t risk losing everything again. This time, I just lost him – but I kept my family, and I kept all my friends.




So two weeks ago, the friend request. Ten years eases a lot of hurt, and I was honestly glad to see that he was at least alive, somewhere out there. I clicked “confirm” and read his message – topped off with his old endearment (or, hell, maybe he calls everyone that now, I don’t know) – and I replied. Just the basics: where I’m living, how long I’ve been married, Smooch and Doodlebug. When he replied, he said he was glad to hear that I was well, and apologized for “being an asshole.”


And then my sleepless nights took a new turn. I awoke at 2:00 a.m. from an inside-out, Twilight Zone dream in which I was married to Dylan, not Gruff. And Dylan hadn’t cheated on me, hadn’t helped me rack up debt, still looked like his chiseled high-school self, and looked at me with utter adoration. You know those dreams that scare the shit out of you? It was one of those. I woke up with my heart pounding – I felt scared, I felt ashamed. My subconscious had betrayed me! Why was my mind playing the “what-if” game, wondering how life would have gone with the man I loved…. before I met The Man I Love?


A few days later, I logged into Facebook and got an alert that Dylan had posted new pictures. I couldn’t help but click; he has a beautiful wife (who I think looks a little bit like me, only taller, thinner, and probably cuter) and two adorable children. My dream rushed back to me – and I closed the laptop with a bang. It’s dangerous territory, isn’t it? It’s too easy to glamorize an old relationship – to disremember the bad parts, to exaggerate the good parts – and to use it to compare would be so wrong. I don’t WANT to compare.


So we’re still Facebook friends, and that’s about it. Hopefully all my other – bigger, more legitimate worries – will crowd this out of my mind and it will be just another forgotten chapter in an old, forgotten history of an old, outdated relationship.


X’s and O’s (An American Girl) – Trisha Yearwood

Slow dance, second chance
mama needs romance
And a live-in maid
Fix the sink, mow the yard,
Really isn’t all that hard
If you get paid

She used to tie her hair up in ribbons and bows
Sign her letters with X’s and O’s
Got a picture of her mama in heels and pearls
She’s trying to make it in her daddy’s world
An American girl
An American girl

Well she’s got her God
and she’s got good wine
Aretha Franklin and Patsy Cline

She used to tie her hair up in ribbons and bows
Sign her letters with X’s and O’s
Got a picture of her mama in heels and pearls
She’s gonna make it in her daddy’s world
An American girl
An American girl
She’s an American girl




*total pseudonym, I swear


And then I went to get my free Starbucks.

November 4, 2008

Obama HOPE

We only waited about 15 minutes in our voting line this morning, but Gruff and I were prepared: a hot cup of coffee in my travel mug, a diaper bag stocked with snacks and a change of clothes, Smooch’s mini backpack full of toys, and the travel potty and an extra blanket in the understorage of the stroller, just in case we were outside in a line for hours. Because however long it took? We were going to vote this morning, and it was going to be worth it.

Exes and Owes – Part One

November 3, 2008

Over the years, I’ve battled anxiety in different forms and fashions. As a kid, I had a brief struggle with mild agoraphobia – fears about being alone in big crowds – that resolved by the time I entered middle school. What was left behind was, I think, some form of social anxiety. (I know – I probably ought to “see someone” about it, but it doesn’t interfere with my daily life, so I’ve just left it alone. I’m still uncomfortable being in big cities, I hate to make most phone calls, and I get horribly nervous with any kind of confrontation. Unfortunately, those are all things that you just have to do at some point in life, so I usually just do it. Lately, my anxiety level is getting worse, and I’ve been hoping that writing about it will help. Originally, I planned to do a whole post about all this crap that’s torturing me right now, but it became something so long and unwieldy that I decided to split it up over multiple posts. Gee, aren’t you a lucky reader?


I’m not the only one. I keep telling myself that, hoping that by the 8 millionth time, the refrain will really sink in. My mind and body will eventually relax, the anxiety that is gripping me with razor-sharp nails will let up, and I’ll stop worrying about, oh, ya know… everything.


I’m not the only one who is in a wee bit of a panic about money right now. On one hand, that simple fact does make me feel better. If I were, say, the only woman who was laying awake nights trying to calculate all the bills that will be coming due in the next two weeks versus the balance in the checkbook and the next pay date – well, then I’d feel lonely and isolated as well as ashamed and fretful. On the other hand, misery doesn’t always love company; it seems that no matter where I go, I see headlines or hear news blurbs about the terrible economy, and all of that information doesn’t help me put it out of my mind. Instead, I can’t escape it. And I really, honestly, don’t understand the stock market and half of the other “economic indicators” that the pundits and experts keep going on and on about, so I get all scared and in a lather just over the darn inexplicability of it all.


I’m just flat-out scared. My husband and I both have good degrees in decent fields – but it turns out we’re one of those families they talk about on the news. The ones who are just “one crisis away” from being in BIG trouble. Oh, sure – residency is a guaranteed job for the next couple of years, so unlike millions of American families I’m not facing the specter of possible looming unemployment. But if anything else goes wrong, like if the furnace quits in the middle of the winter or if the car breaks down, then I don’t think we’d be able to pay our bills. And that’s a really horrible thought, especially when you’re getting ready to bring another baby (and all her requisite financial obligations) into the family.


I’m not the only one with pregnancy hormones making everything seem a little worse. And before you get too worried about me, I have discussed my general state of anxiety with my midwives – for a few reasons. For one thing, an awesome aspect to midwifery care is that my visits generally go beyond the basic “pee in a cup, check your weight, listen to the baby’s heartbeat” quickies that I got with my old OB. There is always time to talk, time to check in on my overall state of mind, and bringing up a rising anxiety level fits right in to the flow of conversation. For another thing, I wanted to find out what medications might be safe for me to take that would help me get a better night’s sleep – as it turns out, plain Benedryl or Tylenol PM are both acceptable choices – since I used a prescription for Ambien during my pregnancy with Smooch. And finally, I wanted to make sure that my chart was flagged for extra follow-up after Doodlebug arrives, because I’m aware that having an anxiety problem before a baby is born puts me at higher risk for PPD once she’s here.


Money. Anxiety. Money anxiety. It’s sort of all the same thing right now for me – but at least I’m not the only one.


X’s and O’s (An American Girl) – Trisha Yearwood

Phone rings, baby cries
TV diet guru lies
Good morning honey
Go to work, make up
Try to keep the balance up
Between love and money

She used to tie her hair up in ribbons and bows
Sign her letters with X’s and O’s
Got a picture of her mama in heels and pearls
She’s trying to make it in her daddy’s world
She’s an American girl
An American girl.

Social Anxiety and Summer Sitting

May 4, 2008

I really thought I was past this point in my life, but apparently not. I’m going to have a summer job. At least it’s a darn sight better than that year I worked at a seafood restaurant all summer. I came home from that job every night exhausted, with my calves aching from standing up for my whole 6 or 8 hour shift, and completely depressed over the state of my tips in a tiny, rural, South-Georgia town.

And then there was the summer I worked at a furniture store. I’ve never been a good salesperson, and I was 18 – what did I know about purchasing a bed or a couch or a washing machine? That was an exercise in futility, but the owners went to my church and I think they just wanted to help me out as I tried to make money before I headed off to college.

This year, I’ll be babysitting two boys – 6 and 8 – four days a week, for eight weeks. Their family goes to our church (notice a trend in how I get my jobs?) and their mom posted a flyer a few weeks ago looking for summer childcare. I tore off a strip and then agonized for eight days about calling her.

Gruff thinks I would benefit from a little antidepressant or antianxiety medication, sometimes. I mean, I don’t know why – I’m generally a very happy (some might even call me perky!) young woman, and even though new places and new people freak me the heck out, years of moving and being the “new kid” have forced me to develop coping skills, so I manage to find new friends, new circles to move in, everywhere we go. When I was a kid, I did have a mild little case of agoraphobia that lasted for about a year. (It was right before another upcoming move, and in retrospect I think it was my way of acting out my fear of moving, uprooting, and starting over. I just didn’t want to go anywhere new, or anywhere without my family, for awhile. When I did– when they made me– I had a few panic attacks. I think that if my parents had reacted less to it, it probably would have resolved sooner on its own. But that’s water under the bridge now.) These days, I may fret and worry before a new social situation every once in a while, but I always make myself go – and I always have fun once I’m there. My one remaining “social anxiety trigger” is making phone calls.

This is FUNNY to people who know me well. I talk on the phone with my mom several times a week, usually for over an hour at a shot. I call my brother once a week or so for similarly long conversations, and I call a few of my friends who I’ve left behind in various states as often as I can. Those phone calls I love. Those phone calls make a long day better.

But calling someone I don’t know? Say, to offer up my services as a capable babysitter? Or, you know, to order a pizza?! Oh, good grief, please don’t make me! I know, that’s ridiculous. The pizza guy does not care a whit about me. But still, I hate doing it. Gruff has probably ordered 96% of all the pizzas we’ve consumed, because I whine and gripe and procrastinate doing it, and finally he takes the phone and makes the call so we will get our pizza delivered before the next Ice Age hits.

So, getting back to my summer job. I finally mustered up my courage (after a well-timed verbal jab from Gruff, I admit it) and made the call. As usually happens when I worry excessively about something, it went Fine. No Big Deal. (Will that help calm my nerves the next time? Nope. But thanks for trying.) The boys’ mom, J, was sweet and friendly, and we discussed the basics of what she needs. We ended the phone call with a plan to meet face-to-face after church on Sunday and a deal to each speak with our respective husbands.

On Sunday, we met briefly, and then on Friday she came over to our house. My biggest worry at that point was negotiating my pay – I knew that I couldn’t do it for the wage she paid her sitter last year, but I didn’t want to sound mercenary or rude in asking for what I considered fair. Gruff and a friend of mine really helped bolster my confidence, though – they had both pointed out that I’m a GEM of a sitter. I’m a fellow mother; I have an impeccable driving record; I’m an experienced (and nationally certified!) early childhood educator; and because I’m an otherwise stay-at-home-mom, I’m pretty flexible about the hours and days I’m available. I felt a little bit like Stuart Smalley, repeating all of that to myself, but I managed to croak out my request for the hourly pay I had discussed with my husband.

Can you even imagine the relief I felt when she smiled, and said she’d have to talk it over with her husband to be sure, but she thought that was completely reasonable and do-able and “well worth it?” Oh, internets, I did it! I stood up for something to, basically, a stranger – and I did it nicely, but I still managed to get what I wanted!

I made a call, did an interview, and found a job –at a price that’s worth it– that allows me to stay home with my son and make a great little extra income for a few months (which will go a long way to paying off credit card debt and reducing my overall financial stress). I’m so proud of myself… See, who needs Xanax?


Sweet Hour of Sanity (or, Bloggy Giveaway #2)

April 22, 2008

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks!

So, in case you hadn’t heard, I have a two year old son. He is adorable (he gets that from me), and funny, and pretty laid-back (he gets that from his father). But he is TWO. And every few weeks, he seems to go through a patch when he is even more TWO than usual.

When that happens, I have a parental coping mechanism that kicks into gear. It’s called my Sweet Hour of Sanity. (Actually, I just made that name up on the spot for this post. How’s that for truthiness?) On those days, when Gruff calls to say he’s on his way home from work and chat about our day, I mention that I need to get out. So after dinner, and bedtime, when Smooch is all tucked in and none the wiser, I grab my bag and my keys and I unplug from the Mommy grind for a little while.

The routine varies – sometimes I meet a friend for a quick bite and window-shopping. Sometimes I go to the fabric store to get inspiration for a new project. But by far, my favorite way to unwind is to hit the corner Starbucks (my pick for spring? Decaf iced skinny cinnamon dolce latte.) and then our local library. This is the first library I’ve ever visited that allows you to bring drinks inside – and they have a beautiful outdoor courtyard, plus multiple comfy couches, chairs, and tables, and lots of free outlets and free wireless access. Sometimes I bring along my idea notebook and jot ideas down; sometimes I bring my laptop and write; sometimes I grab a book from the stacks, prop up my feet, and lose myself in a story. But no matter what I do, I head home an hour or so later feeling refreshed and ready for another day with my busy boy.

So this giveaway is my attempt to give you, dear reader, your very own Sweet Hour of Sanity. Your package will include a wonderful book by Charles Swindoll, Getting Through the Tough Stuff (because, my friends, we have been through some major tough stuff at the House of Fizz), a designer original coffee-cup sleeve handmade by yours truly, and a $5 giftcard to either Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts (I’ll let the winner choose which one she’d prefer). Convincing your husband to watch the kids while you leave the premises is totally up to you, though – sorry.

This giveaway is open to anyone with a US mailing address. Just click over to my Etsy shop & check out the coffee cup sleeves, then leave a comment on this post by Friday, April 25th telling me which one is your favorite. Make sure to enter your email address in the little box (it will NOT appear on my blog; I will not put you on any mailing lists, I swear!) so I can get in touch with you if you win! I’ll use a random number generator to draw a winning comment on Monday, April 28th, and post the winners here after emailing them.

Are your mouse fingers getting tired yet? I can’t BELIEVE how much clicking I’ve done already… and the Carnival’s not over yet! Don’t forget to check back – I’ve got one more giveaway up my sleeve!

Thoughts on TV

February 11, 2008

Michelle at The Monk’s Wife raised the question of television the other day – do you love it? Hate it? Something in between? Why do you watch – do you even know why? I got sucked right in to the conversation, because I have a love-hate relationship with the tube. Read the rest of this entry »

Heart Lessons

February 8, 2008

I’m posting today at Midwest Parents about a bad bloodwork result, reflections on what I saw growing up, and how to go about making better choices for my own health – and to set a better example for Smooch.

While I was at home, I saw a mom who could put away a half-gallon container of ice cream all by herself every two days. I saw a mom who frequently bought a bag of candy, chips, or other snack food on her way out of the grocery store, and ate most of it (she usually shared a little with us kids!) by the time our car was back in our driveway. I saw a mom who didn’t exercise – even walks around the block – and who really didn’t ever have time by herself away from our family.

(Continue reading…)