baby development

Friday, July 29, 2005

Random Questions of the Day

The following questions were posed for discussion on an online group I belong to. I figured I might as well answer them here. A few I had to think about a minute.

How do you relax? I love bubble baths, but not in the summer. In the summer, a Cosmopolitan seems to do the trick nicely. I also like to treat myself to a manicure and pedicure every once in a while. I also like to sit in the dark and listen to Latin music - but then I'm crossing the fine line between relaxing and getting in the mood - not good if there's no outlet for that, because at that point, I'm just in the mood and frustrated - so much for relaxing/

What brings out the animal in you? Soft, slow, warm, moist passionate kissing. Then, once we're into it - a little explicit talk and some "grab and slap" can kick things up a notch too. A fresh from the shower man with a smooth shave who isn't afraid to tell you what he wants just can't be beat.

How have you met most of the people you have dated? Church, school - and as an adult - on-line. I think it's been fairly traditional until I was 30.

How do you feel about public displays of affection? Where do you draw the line? Hand-holding and hugging are fine, and closed-mouth kissing is alright too. But if you're going to involve tongues and/or genitals - I don't care to be a witness. Get a room.

What is the most creative way you have introduced yourself to someone? I once wrote my name and number on the bill at a restaurant when I paid the waiter. The he called, came over, and I ended up "hurting his manhood" after he tried to assault me. I will never do that again.

How do you prefer to be approached by someone interested in you? Offer to take me out to listen to some good music. Better yet, just tell me you find me attractive and interesting - and that you'd like to get to know me better. After that, I'm always happy to help you take it from there. You shouldn't have to do all the work yourself.

If you could be famous for one thing, what would it be? Singing.

What is your favorite song? How does it make you feel? Satie's Gymnopedie #3 - it makes me remember what being in love feels like.

What family member are you closest to? I was closest to my grandmother before she died 3 years ago. Now, it would be my mom.

Did you have an imaginary friend as a child? How would you describe them? I had a whole set of imaginary friends - they were horses that I named after desserts and such. They were named: Grassy, Merangue, and Whipped Topping. I was a strange kid. I would sit on my swing with one leg on each side, and ride the swing sideways to mimic riding a horse and I would talk out loud to them. I bet my parents were worried.

Do you consider monogamy a must in a relationship? I suppose it's not much of a relationship if it's not monogamous, now is it?

I realize these weren't the most stimulating questions ever written, but I found it entertaining to answer them - and to waste more time on a Friday afternoon at work finishing up half-written blogs.

Things I Will NOT Put In A Nursery

Saw this set on ebay, and thought - "Wow. Interesting choice." Sorry, Neil, I know you love all things John Deere, but this is taking it a little far. Okay, back to nesting.

OK, God - Now What?

My husband and I had a very disappointing (albeit expected) initial visit with the reproductive endocrinologist. He does not think I am ovulating regularly, even though I have monthly cycles now that I am on Metformin. But Michael's diagnosis and prognosis was even worse. Apparently, his first semen analysis in January showed only 4% of his swimmers were "normal" in morphology. This last analysis in July showed 0% - yes zero. And there exists no viable treatment option for male infertility. (Just shows you how research has always considered childbearing a woman's issue and responsibility). The head resident at UK felt that even artificial insemination would not work because there weren't enough "good sperm" as he put it. He said he thought our only chance was Invitro fertilization at $10,000. Though we have good insurance, it does not cover a penny of anything related to infertility. Even today's office visit was $180 out of pocket - for a very short visit that told me what I already knew.

The main doctor said he wanted us to try three rounds of artificial insemination, and that after 3 rounds if I wasn't pregnant, then the only chance would be Invitro. Just like that. He wrote a prescription for Clomid, told me how to take it, and to come back in after I'd taken the first round to have the ultrasound, they'd show me how to inject myself, then my husband and I would come in together to do the actual insemination. The cost of all this is $500 each month.

I don't know if I can do this, or if I should. We have only been trying for a year now, but at age 34, we do not have a lot of time to try. Michael is open to doing it, or not doing it. He wants me to make the decision because it is (and always has been) more important to me. The diagnosis means nothing to him, and in some ways, I envy that. I wish it meant nothing to me. I wish I knew what to do. I wish it didn't hurt. I wish there was some black and white answer to all this.

It'd be great if God could just send an angel to appear and tell me what I should do.

I keep thinking about how I would feel if I didn't try this route. Would I always wonder "what if"? But what if we go these three rounds, pay $1500 out our own pockets, and end up with nothing but disappointment? Would I hurt worse? Wouldn't that money be better spent on a child who needed a home and a family to love him or her? I went back and looked at the faces of the children on the SNAP website. And I cried right here in my office. They are beautiful and broken and hurting - more than I am. They have no permanent family. They have been abused and abandoned by a family would could not or would not care for them. And here I am hurting because I can't even have a biological child. How dare someone abandon a child. They have no idea the gift they have been given. I keep looking at a picture of a beautiful little 3-year old girl named Jasmine. Why do I keep looking at that picture?

I can tell God's wrestling with me. I just hope he doesn't have to break my hip in order for me to get the point (Genesis 32: 24-32).

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Nesting Foster Mom-To-Be

Gradually my already natural compulsions to buy things have gone haywire. I find myself sidetracked during my workdays thinking about things I need to buy for a foster child who hasn't even arrived in our home. I read Cindy's blog as she and her husband create a playroom and a nursery and post pictures of the process. Oh, my husband is lucky we are renting the place we are in now - or he'd see sawdust flying! I'd be painting and shopping and taking vacation from work just to get things ready. Apparently, in my mind I already am.

I've never done the "nesting" thing I've read about (or at least I don't think I have) - until now. I have the urge to paint and hang things, and assemble furniture, and re-decorate. I have the urge to look at cute, fuzzy, fluffy, and cuddly things. Most folks who know me, know full well that I do not gush over babies, look in the baby and children's departments, or think about things like consumer product recalls of children's products. Now, I am a full-blown expert. I could rattle off the names of recalled cribs, bassinets, and strollers for the past 10 years (so as to avoid buying one at a year sale or consignment shop).

I have been shopping on ebay for crib bedding (yet I have not yet bought a crib), and ooohing and aahing at all the cute sets while wondering why I couldn't stop. I'm making lists in my head of big things to buy: crib, mattress, changing table, changing pad, glider rocker, crib bedding, baby bathtub, and the obligatory Diaper Genie. Then I think about a slew of little things: diaper bag, baby wash, shampoo, diaper rash cream, powder - the list goes on and on. I've spent time looking a mobiles only to have my mother remind me about infant development - that infants can't focus well, and that they are quickly overstimulated. Hence, mobiles make very little sense. Apparently, research has indicated that a smiley face drawn on a paper plate is more stimulating to an infant than those $40 fancy schmancy mobiles. In conclusion, cute mobiles are for parents, not children. Research even indicates that the fussier we make a nursery with colors and patterns and baby accoutrements, the more fussy a baby we are likely to have. Mom suggested white, black, and red for the nursery in bolg geometric patters. So much for Peter Rabbit.

The rational side of me tells me not to do much of anything yet because we have no idea when a child will be placed with us, or if the child will be a newborn or a toddler. We don't even know whether to expect a boy or a girl. And the feminist in me a particularly disturbed at how early the gender stereotyping begins - before birth! I have yet to find anything sports-themed in anything other than blue - forget mixing baseball and pink. Girls get bedding sets in frilly pink with flowers and butterflies. Boys get trucks and puppies. You can even buy John Deer or Nascar crib bedding for your little bundle of joy. Yes, nothing says "cute little baby" quite like Nascar.

I'm not sure how much longer I can hold off on going out and buying a crib. There are so many choices, it's overwhelming. Convertible, 3-in-1, 4-in-1, and 5-in-one sets. There's white, natural, cherry, and all kinds of finishes in-between. Some cost as much as my king-size bed did. Then there are the plain old cribs. They are just a crib - period. I like those. There are no bells and whistles. It is a crib...for a baby. When baby outgrows it, I will buy a toddler bed. There - I have decided...I think.

The biggest thing that this "nesting" has me doing is obsessing about buying a house. I think a kid should have a yard. When I was told to "go outside and play", I didn't see pavement - I saw grass and trees. My husband had the same experience, and neither he nor I grew up wealthy. I looked at new condos for sale, and thought that would be perfect. Then I thought about having a child living with us, and it seemed sad. Where would a child go play? In the parking lot? In the street? I guess there are a lot of kids who do just that. But I want to do better. I want to be able to set up one of those little wading pools in the back yard in the summer, and a badminton net, or croquet. I want to be able to hide Easter eggs, and string up Christmas lights in the yard. I want to plant flowers with my kids, and teach them about birds and plants. Yes, a house is a definite must now. Again, my poor husband does not have the least bit of understanding about my "gotta do this now" rush. He'd be perfectly happy to live in an apartment forever. he does not think about new cars, houses, or, well - the future much. He's a live-in-the-present and be content with what you've got kind of guy. In many ways, that's a blessing - a man who's content with what he has doesn't demand a lot of his partner. But I digress.

So, I'm nesting. I need a "Nester's Anonymous" meeting. We can all sit around and admit to not sleeping because we're designing nurseries and children's rooms in our heads. And then we can laugh at the people we've become. After all, I rather like this new me. She's pretty giddy, and she's 34, and she'll make a very good mom.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Not "Picture Perfect" Foster Parents

We have been asked to submit pictures that will go into the file on us as foster parents. We have been asked to include pictures of us, pictures of our home, and even pictures of our pets. The problem is - we are not "picture people".

There are times when I am in other people's living rooms and notice their pictures. Some people even have recent pictures adorning their desks at work, or the walls of their homes. It seems foreign to me. I believe in my house there are more pictures of famous musicians than there are pictures of my husband and I.

For example, here in my office at work, I have three pictures of my husband and I. Two of them are lovely professional pictures in a side-by-side frame. These pictures were taken three years ago. We look like we have aged at least 5 years since then. Another small picture is one we had made a year ago - at WalMart. Yes, WalMart. My girlfriend and I were playing around and wanted to go get some 'el cheap-os made, and I decided to drag my husband along so we could have some more recent pictures of the two of us. They turned out OK.

There has only been one picture of the two of us taken since then - and it did not turn out. It was taken last month when we were at the zoo - and it got double-exposed. So much for that idea.

To add to the problem, I have been shopping for a digital camera...for well over a year now. I have no idea what to look for, or how to just commit to one and go buy it. I keep fearing I'll make a dreadful mistake and end up with a $300 piece of junk I can't even sell on ebay.

I called my mother today to see if she had any recent pictures of she and my dad. Apparently not. The most recent pictures they have were from my brother's wedding 8 months ago. She did, however, offer recent pictures of the cat and my brother's new puppy. This did not help. Clearly, I am not from a picture-taking family. But I do remember there being a lot of pictures taken of my brother and I when we were growing up. After age 18, the picture-taking ceased. The older I got, the more I hated having my picture taken. It seemed to only chronicle my weight gain and the aging process (which I know is natural, but still hold some stigma for women).

My husband has loads of pictures of he and every ex-girlfriend he ever had - he still has them. But the only pictures he has of he and I are the various snapshots taken at our wedding. (No, we did not have a professional photographer there - don't get me started on that one. My husband didn't think we needed one, and was therefore a royal pain in the ass and I ended up giving up since I didn't live in the city we got married in and did not know a single photographer.) These pictures, in addition to being fairly poor quality, are now over a year old. And they are wedding pictures. We have no "this is us on vacation", or "this is us at the beach", or "this is us in the snow", or "this is us by the Christmas tree". Nothing. Three years together and we have no pictures. Perhaps I should just go with pictures of Michael and his ex-girlfriend. At least he looks happy in those.

It's really quite sad. Here I am about to put together a lifebook for a foster child, and I never even put one together for the life I have with my husband. I guess there wasn't much to celebrate. If you don't have children, what do you take pictures of? Vacations? Well, if you don't take vacations, what do you take pictures of? Outings with friends? Well, if you don't get together with friends...You get my point.

We have nothing to put in this photo album of us. My husband's life consists of the same routine - he gets up, showers, sits at the computer and writes, he runs a few errands to the store or post office, returns to sitting at the computer, grabs a snack, more computer, plays on ebay, reads ESPN news online, writes some more, watches ESPN or shops for sports gear on ebay while I make dinner, eats dinner with me while watching Jeopardy, then does the dishes, returns to the computer while I pick up the house, watch some TV, and get ready for bed. On occasion he will go to bed with me. Other times he will return to the computer again until 1 or 2 am. And the next day it starts over again. On Saturday he may get out of the apartment with me while I do some shopping, or running errands - otherwise, he is either in front of the TV watching a game, or in front of his computer - or both if he brings his laptop home. Sundays are to church and home, and maybe out to lunch - then he watches ESPN the rest of the day, and returns to the computer at night to "work" before Monday hits. This is not the picture of excitement, but he says he likes his life like that because he is content. Sadly, I have fallen victim to the monotony. I no longer cruise through the paper and online looking for cool things to do on weekends. I sit.

In the past, I have gotten a hotel room out of town somewhere only to be sorely disappointed when Michael wanted to do nothing but watch TV in the hotel room and sleep. No big photo opportunities there.

You might wonder what happened to summer. Did we not have vacation days? Yes. Did we take them? No. Why? Because my dear husband was never motivated to go anywhere or do anything. When I ask, he says we can "do whatever you want to do. Just let me know." Uh-huh. Okay, I get it. No thanks. He actually asked me last week if I wanted to go anywhere this summer. And he has to start teaching classes in three weeks, and as far as I know he's not prepared to teach any of them. And now I'm at a spot at work where I can't take vacation because we're in a bind. If I had scheduled it like normal people do, I'd have been able to take it. But now, we are out of luck.

Now, I'm feeling like the part in the movie Greencard where the couple frantically takes pictures of themselves in all sorts of pretend situations with a Polaroid in hopes of convincing people that they have been together for a long time and done all kinds of exciting things together.

Frankly, this makes me worry. I'm worried that a poor child would have a boring life with us. From the start, I knew it would be up to me to do things with this new child-to-be. I just hope there are more pictures taken and more real living done once he/she comes to live with us. Right now, there's just nothing going on worth capturing. Perhaps I need to just get off my butt and go do things on my own - and start handing a camera to complete strangers and asking them to take a picture of me. Then, at the very least, I'm got some Kodak moments.

Monday, July 25, 2005

On Foster Parenting - Not Just Kittens Anymore

Occasionally, life seems remarkably good. Since Friday, I have felt better in many ways than I have in a very long time. And my life may very well some ways, into a stressful, chaotic mess. Michael and I are becoming pre-adoptive foster parents. Friday afternoon was our first home visit with the social worker. We will have another visit in a couple of weeks.

For three weeks now we have attended classes at the Kentucky Cabinet that have been training us for this new adventure. Our initial thought was to look into foster parenting as a transition until we could conceive our own children. Unfortunately, between my PCOS and his two tests indicating subfertility, IVF would be our only chance to conceive (if that - and we find out more this coming Friday). We made the decision to become certified to take an infant with the knowledge that if the birth family cannot be rehabilitated, we would adopt. This process will likely take at least 2 years before adoption becomes a real possibility. A court will not terminate parental rights for at least 15 months.

I am saddened by the social myth that people become foster parents for the money. Trust me, the stipend will not be nearly enough to cover the expenses we incur. We will receive a small daily allowance for the child, reimbursement for most of our daycare expenses, basic health care for the child, and WIC. If we adopt a "special needs" child, the adoption legal fees are covered by the state. Our child would also receive free college tuition in the state of Kentucky. We will be responsible for clothing, most food, and "extras". This means those $12 packs of diapers that only last a couple of days will come our of our pockets. Eating out, movies, toys, and all - out of our own pockets.

Sadly, I thought "special needs" only referred to older children, or those with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities. But "special needs" apparently also refers to bi-racial and African-American children as well - even perfectly healthy babies. We are now on the waiting list to become foster parents for one of those "special needs" bi-racial babies. (For those of you new to my blog, I am pasty-white and my husband is African-American.) We would, however, take most any child and do our best to provide a good home - despite our many weaknesses as more mortals.

There is no guarantee that this process of foster parenting will ever result in us being able to adopt. The goal of foster parenting, after all, is to provide a good home for children until they can return to their birth families. Sadly, anywhere from 25-50% of children never return home. Websites will tell you that 75% return home. Social workers will tell you about 50%. I know which one I'm more likely to believe.

On Sunday, we purchased our first baby-item. We bought a car seat. I'm not sure my husband knew just how close I came to hyperventilating. But we did get a good deal - an Eddie Bauer car seat for $40 - in Big Lots. God bless Big Lots.

You might be wondering why we made this purchase so soon. After all, our classes don't end until August 11th. Well, tomorrow night we are getting fingerprinted, and after that is completed, our file and mounds of paperwork will be finished. When the social worker was about to leave our house, I asked her if we should hold off on buying a crib until we hear something. She said, "No, you should go ahead and buy a crib - at least a bassinet or something. Oh, and you should buy a car seat." And just like that - she was out the door. Over the course of our conversation, we learned that we could get a call as soon as our fingerprints have been run - even before our social worker has typed up our profile. At most, we will probably have a child placed with us within 3 months.

So, this week I will be fighting the heat in the parking lot and trying to install a car seat (after appropriately cleaning out the assorted junk that has taken residence in my back seat). Sometime in the next few weeks, we will also be buying a crib and mattress (unless we arrange to borrow one from someone at church). I'm also assuming a stroller will also be in order. Depending on age, we'll buy the obligatory high chair as well. The expenses seem astronomical, yet we will have to save receipts to "prove" we spent money on the child. (Imagine not spending it on the child? How on earth does that happen?) I also imagine that once the child arrives, we will purchase a second car seat for our other car. Friends have told me you do NOT want to keep swapping a car seat from one car to the next, or find yourself stuck somewhere without one and needing to tote a child from point A to point B.

The assortment of baby accoutrements astounds me. I was mystified as I stood in Wal-Mart trying to make sense of the various types of car seats for various sizes of children. I left convinced I would own no fewer than 10 car seats by the time my child no longer required one. Crib shopping on line has become like a disease to me. I am convinced I will find one that can be delivered to my door for a reasonable price if I just look at enough websites. I need to be slapped. Someone just needs to tell me to take $300, pick one, and have it delivered. Oh, and they don't come with a mattress either - that's extra! Can you imagine going shopping for a bed and having someone tell you the price is just for the headboard, rails, and boxspring?

Our guest bedroom is a far cry from child-friendly. There is a dresser with a mirror, another small chest of drawers, and a nightstand by a twin bed. There is one large book case and a small bookcase underneath the window. The closet is completely full of Michael's clothes and baseball cards (baseball cards also fill the larger bookcase). There is no cable in that room, but there is a small desk-top stereo. There is no color scheme whatsoever. It has been more of a storage room and the room my girlfriend, Megan, crashes in when she comes to visit. It certainly needs improvement. It at least needs some color and life in it. The beige curtains and black and white Ansel Adams prints on the walls look more like people who are trying to keep children away.

We have much to do and much to learn. We will have little to no warning. The most warning we would get would be if a newborn would need to go into foster care within a few days when it was ready to leave the hospital. Most likely, it will be a call in the middle of the night to come to Child Protective Services. Until then, we will keep working as usual and keep trying to "get ready" the best ways we know how.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

IV Cont'd: I Pass on a "Boring" Life

There is a reason I'm not Mrs. Tamara Boring today. That reason happens to be my husband. Did I make the right choice? Only God knows the real answer.

Joe and I continued to see each other on the weekends, with one of us driving to the other's place. When he came down to see me, I'd meet him at the door with music playing and candles lit, and he'd scoop me up into his arms and we'd dance in the livingroom and pretend we were really good. I'd come up to his place on occasion and stay Saturday nights in a hotel and sing in his church on Sunday morning, have lunch, and ride with him as he drove Madison back to her mom's house. And I'd sit on the sofa with him as he'd cry that it would be two weeks before he's see his daughter again. We'd pray about our relationship, and hope for the best.

I'd drive home, and think about Michael. I'd pray to God to make the thoughts go away.

One fateful day I drove about halfway to meet Joe and Madison for dinner out. Afterwards, we went show shopping for Madison at a Payless near the restaurant. As we were parting ways that night, and Madison was sitting in the truck watching for us to kiss goodnight, I kissed Joe and said those fateful 3 words. And my universe tumbled. "I love you, Joe." He looked slightly surprised. He did not say it back. He might have said, "Wow" or "Thanks" or something else lame like that. I was mortified. I got into my car with a smile on, but I cried all the way home. In a later phone conversation I discovered one possible reason for his reaction.

"Tamara, do you think you will ever get back together with Michael?"
"No, why?"
"Because you still love him."
I would have said I didn't, but I had sworn off lying figuring God would surely strike me dead for lying to a preacher.
"He doesn't want me. He made it clear."
"But you need to see him again. You need to find out. You can't keep hanging on to him, or you'll never have a healthy future."

Joe was right. I had talked about Michael a lot. He had taken up the last year of my life, and despite all of my online dating adventures, I had never gotten over him. There were many occasions where I'd return home from a date, and cry on the bed until I fell asleep. I felt I was somehow betraying Michael, even though he had already moved on and had experienced at least one other new intimate adventure of his own. I missed Michael madly. Throughout the summer, I called Michael every now and then to tell him I missed him and loved him, and beg and plead with him to let us see each other. He would never agree to it. He had broken up with me in March, and it was now late early fall. Why couldn't I just move on?

Strange as it was, the closer I drew to Joe, the more I missed Michael. Somehow, I felt like my life was about to end as sure as it was about to begin.

Then one day I called Michael yet again. He was cheerful that day, and said the new issue of Esquire had arrived. We had shared this silly tradition of him reading a column to me each month about what men need to know about women (written by a female guest contributor each month). He'd read them to me over the phone, and then I'd share my perspective as to whether they were right or wrong. This month's Esquire had arrived and he cheerfully asked if I wanted him to read it to me. "Sure!", I happily responded. "OK, I'll go get it", he replied. As he did, my heart sank. Michael was my past - Joe was my future. I had to stop this nonsense. When he got back on the phone I stopped him. I told him that I shouldn't have called, and that we shouldn't do this anymore. I told him I was seeing someone seriously. After an incredibly long silence, Michael tearfully commented that he hoped he was nice and that he must be very special. I told him that he had a daughter who looked like me. "Lucky kid", Michael replied. I started to cry. I'd always wanted a family, and Michael didn't. I was a wreck.

I didn't see Joe for a while. I had a writing deadline I was trying to meet. But I couldn't write. The words didn't come, and my thoughts were scattered.

I called Michael and explained once again that I had to see him. October 22nd. I said I'd bring my laptop and sleep on the sofa. I told him I'd stay out of his way. I said that if it didn't work out, I'd go away for good. I just had to know in order to get on with my life. Finally, Michael said OK. And my heart stopped.

Though my weekend with Michael was less than stellar, I didn't call Joe again, and he never called me. We never even said goodbye to each other. We never really broke up. Somehow, we just knew. I called him after the new year, after Michael couldn't seem to get himself together to figure out if he wanted to be with me - the same old routine all over again. Joe was dating an elementary school teacher at Madison's school. Wow. He had moved on. He didn't ask about Michael - the don't ask, don't tell policy. I figured he knew. He probably even knew that I was calling because the holidays didn't work out very well at all for Michael and I. It was a tense but pleasant conversation that wasn't at all like the many we'd had before. Clearly life and love had moved on.

I don't know what happened to Joe. But, I think I missed Madison the most. At least she could say "I love you" back. And she reminded me how much I want to be a mom. For that, I am eternally grateful.

IV - Part II: My "Date" With Madison

As I drove to Alpharetta, I called my mom in a panic. I told her what I was doing and how crazy this was, and how nervous I was about meeting Madison. What did I know about 7-year old girls? Mom laughed and reminded me that I had been one, and asked what I was taking her.

"What am I taking her? Huh?"

"A gift, Tam. You are taking Madison a little gift, right?"


"Oh, Tam, have I not taught you anything? You need to take her a little something to make friends with her. But don't give it to her right away - find a good time maybe tomorrow after the cookout. Just tell her how much you want to be her friend."

"Mom, I'm on the road. What the heck am I supposed to do now?"

"Ever heard of Wal-Mart? I'd find one real quick if I were you."

"And what do I get?"

"You'll figure it out."

Over the course of the next hour of my two-hour trip, mom called back several times with "ideas" from she and my father about what to get for Madison. A little pair of earrings? A box of paints? A pretty hair bow? Little girl nail polish? Lip gloss? Oh man, this was harder than we thought. And then, on my way in to the hotel that night, I passed a Wal-Mart. Surely, my idea would come sometime in the night and I could pick something up in the morning.

As I attempted to find my way to the restaurant, I found myself miserably, hopelessly LOST. This is no way to impress a man. I rang his cell phone and a small voice answered, "Hi Tamara!" "Well, Madison! Hi! How are you?" "Hungry! Where are you?" "I'm lost" "DADDY! Tamara's LOST!!" Joe then took the phone, and ended up having me turn around and find my way to an exit and wait for him. He talked me through the whole thing, then jumped out in front of my car, and guided me back to the restaurant. Madison jumped out of the SUV exuberantly.

Taking advice from my mom, and asked Madison about her cheerleading that Joe had filled me in on. Immediately, Madison was off like a shot telling me all about the new uniforms and shouting out random cheers at warp speed as she skipped toward the restaurant ahead of us. Joe just put his arm around me as we walked toward the restaurant. He looked down at me, winked, and smiled. I guess I passed the initial meeting test.

After we finished our appetizers, and before dinner arrived, I excused myself to find a restroom. Madison looked inquisitive as I made my way up from the table and to the restroom. The stall I was in had a door with slats in that allowed you to see and hear a little of the world outside. As I sat down, the main restroom door opened. I suppose no other stalls were occupied, giving it away that I was most likely inside the stall with the closed (and locked) door. A little face ran up to the door of my stall and said, "Hiiiii Taaaaammmmaaaaarraaaaaaa!" (Much giggling) "I fooooouuuunnd yoooooouuu!" (More giggling). "Hi Madison", I replied while peeing. "I wanted to see if you needed any help. Girls always go to the bathroom together." Ah, she was learning young about "the rules", I noted. As I flushed the toilet, she bolted out of the restroom. I washed my hands and powered my face, and made my way back to the table. Madison slid down into her chair and grinned, and I approached the table and acted like I was going to tickle her - but I just bumped foreheads with her and grinned right back. Joe and his dad really had no idea what had transpired between the two of us. And it didn't matter. Joe apologized, but said as soon as I'd left the table and gone in, Madison took off after me and he couldn't catch her before she made it into the restroom. I said it was no big deal, and that girls go to the bathroom together all the time. Again, Madison beamed. She ate very little at dinner because she was more concerned with watching me than she was with her food.

As the evening ended, Joe's dad drove away from the restaurant after the traditional "nice meeting you's" and Joe got into his SUV with Madison and they had me follow them to the hotel. Joe attempted to kiss me goodnight without Madison seeing - but that was not to be. She had smashed her little face against the window so she could see every possible thing.

The next morning after I'd gotten dressed, my cell phone rang and it was Madison who had started singing:

Are you alive, awake, alert, and motivated?
Are you alive, awake, alert, and motivated?
I'm alive, awake, alert.
I'm alert, awake, alive.
I'm alive, awake, alert, and motivated.

Apparently, this was a song she had learned in school recently. And she wanted to share the love with me. She asked if I wanted to meet her and Joe at the Starbucks across the street from my hotel. We planned to meet up in an hour. In the meantime, I ran to Wal-Mart and knew exactly what I was after.

I went to the jewelry counter and picked it out without hesitation. The sales lady put it in a cute giftbox and after I paid I slipped it into my purse and was on my way. I made my way to Starbucks and settled into a big comfy chair with my enormous caramel latte and a book. Pretty soon Madison came bounding through the door and crawled up into my lap to give me a hug. Joe smiled down at the two of us, and went to the other side of the place to stand in line for coffee. Meanwhile, I told Madison I had gotten her a little present. I took out the tiny box and she carefully pried it open to find a little sterling silver ring with an amethyst heart. She gasped as if she had been given a diamond. She went to close the box, but I asked her if she wanted to put it on. She nodded, and I took it out for her and put it on her ring finger. She held her left hand with her right and admired it quietly. Then, all of a sudden she jumped out of my lap and bolted across Starbucks looking for Joe. "Daddy! Daddy, look what Tamara got me!" Joe looked confused, and sat down with us. I waited for him to disapprove, but he looked at the two of us like he'd never seen anything more beautiful. He took his time admiring her new ring and telling her how great it looked on her. It was a tiny little ring, but it was apparently perfect. Madison would not leave my lap while we drank our coffee. She laid her head on my chest, and I thought, "Oh no, please don't make me like you. Please no. I already like your daddy way too much. Not you, too."

In the parking lot, Joe pulled me into him and hugged and kissed me. "You bless my socks off", he said, while looking at me in wide-eyed wonder. I felt warm again. "Thanks. It's my pleasure."

We made our way to breakfast, and afterwards it was time to head back to the house. Joe needed to pick up some things at the store for the cookout later, and asked if I wanted to follow them to the grocery store, or go on to the house. Madison then interjected, "Daddy, Tamara and I can go to the house while you go to the store." Uh-oh. I was no officially worried. Joe, on the other hand, was not. He got the garage remote control out of his car and handed it to me, telling me the door was open inside. Great - now I had his only child and entry to his house. I followed his directions and made it to the house in one piece - but emotionally frazzled. Because once in the car with Madison, the real fun began.

She picked through the tapes I had (my car only had a tape player) and saw nothing she liked. She turned on the radio and found some station that seemed to suit her, but turned it back off again.

"So, what's your favorite flavor of ice cream?", I prodded.
"I like all of them." Good answer, I thought.

She asked if she could look in my purse. I thought for a second and figured it couldn't hurt. She found a couple of miniature perfumes that I kept in my car - and she proceeded to try each of them on herself.

"Are you going to marry my dad?" I prayed I would not wreck the car.
"Well, your dad and I care about each other a lot - but that is something we would talk about a while from now. You would be the first to know." And just as I started to relax, another question came.
"Do you want kids?" Again, more prayer.

She had found various containers of mints and tic tacs, and put one of each in her mouth. She found some face power, and put some on herself, and then reached over to put some on me.

"Yes, I do." I smiled, knowing I could answer that one.
"If you married my dad, would you want me to be your kid?"
"Absolutely. I think you would be a great kid."
"I think you'd be a good mom, too."
She found some berry flavored lip gloss and puts it on her tiny lips without a mirror. It smeared, but she puckered her lips at me, and I grinned back at her.
"I want you to be my mom." Panic set it.
"Well, you have a mom who loves you very much, and she will always be your mom, no matter what."
No response from Madison, who is still digging through my purse and is now counting my change from my wallet. I give it another try:
"I bet your mom is beautiful."
"She is", Madison replied quickly.

And just like that, the depth of the conversation shifted.

"Wanna see my room?"
"Of course, Madison, I'd love to see your room"

Once inside, we headed upstairs where she proceeded to tell me every detail about everything in her room. I admired everything appropriately. She put a sticker on my chest that said "Madison" with a teddy bear on it. I had been tagged. Apparently now I was property. She then pulled an assortment of books off the shelves and asked if I wanted her to read to me. I accepted the offer, only to discover what she really meant was would I read to her. Halfway through the book, we heard the garage door open.

"Hide!", Madison whispered. "Under the bed!"
Heavens, no. Does she not see how big I am? Apparently not.
Thank God the bed in the upstairs guest bedroom was high off the floor.
We crawled under it together and tried to keep from giggling.
We heard the door open and Joe call out, "Hi girls. I'm home."
We giggled quietly.
We kept quiet as we heard Joe climb the stairs.
"Gosh, I wonder where they are." he said as he made his way into the room.
Madison couldn't help herself and wriggled out from under the bed.
"We were hiding, Daddy!"
"Oh, were you now?"

I wriggled out with some degree of difficulty and found that I was covered from head to toe in dust bunnies and carpet fibers - even in my hair. Madison had run downstairs to inspect the contents of the grocery bags.

Joe lifted me up in his arms, smiled, and told me how beautiful I wam - my lint-covered self. He said he could smell the perfume all the way downstairs.

As Joe prepared food, Madison and I went for a walk down the street to feed carrots to the neighbor's horses. It was then I realized that the day had really been my date with Madison. Joe was just the chaperone.

Adventures in On-Line Dating IV: The Only Man Who Could Ever Reach Me Was The Preacher Man

His name was Joe. Joe Boring. I am not lying. Had fate carried different plans for us, I could have been Mrs. Tamara Boring. Have mercy. That alone is sufficient reason for keeping your last name post-marriage. But I digress...

A little about Joe - he was just a couple of years older than me, a pastor of a church in Alpharetta, GA, into sales with another job during the week, divorced, with a 7-year old daughter named Madison, and a re-married ex-wife who lived about an hour away who had custody of Madison (more on that in another blog).

Joe had left a message on my cell phone the night I'd left Mike's house admitting to myself there was no future for us as a couple. Joe and I had only e-mailed each other so far, and the last exchange we'd had he asked to me to answer the question "What is it like to be in love?". I replied with the following:

It's like eating cold watermelon on a hot summer day. It's the feel of soft, cool green grass between your toes. It's your favorite song that you love to sing at the top of your lungs. It's the feel of a down comforter on a chilly fall night. It's the stillness of a dark night illuminated by fireflies. It's like everything you've ever felt before rolled up into one - yet, it's unlike anything you've ever felt.

That's pretty moochie now that I look back on it. But Joe said that of everyone he'd ever asked that of, I was the only one who's response made him feel something. Wow. That was the message on my phone - and he wanted to talk soon.

Several days later, I was at work late and my cell phone rang again. It was Joe. I got up and closed and locked my door, and we talked for more than an hour about all sorts of things. And we laughed and laughed. And we prayed together and thanked God for our new-found friendship and asked that he lead us where we were to take it. When I hung up, I realized I was flushed and warm. Whew - what was wrong with me? Was I ill?

Over the next two weeks, Joe would call me in the middle of my workday at the office - just to see how my day was going. He was doing a lot of traveling with work, so he would put his phone on speakerphone mode while he was driving. We'd usually end each phone call with a little prayer of thanks to God, and with anything that was going on that was of concern. Sometimes at night, he would call and talk to me just before heading to bed in another hotel room. He called once while parked looking at Lake Michigan as the sun was setting. He said it made him think about his new friend, Tamara, and how nice it would have been to share this sunset with her (ME!). Wowzers. I was hooked, and we'd never even met.

But one night, he said he had told some folks at the church he pastored about this woman he'd met and been talking to. His friends were worried that if he didn't get to Columbus to meet me soon, someone else might snatch me up. (There were no other prospects at the time, but I made no effort to correct him.) We agreed to meet one Saturday afternoon - at my place. A bold move for Tamara! Since I had seen his picture, there were no surprises in the looks department. He was a huge man - 6'4" and probably pushing 300 lbs. But he looked adorable, and we gave each other a great big hug as soon as he walked through the door. We just grinned and giggled as we both held hands with our arms outstretched as we pretended to "inspect" each other. He had gone to UGA, and the since the dawgs were playing that day, I wore red just to be funny. He got the humor immediately, and liked that about me (even though I had graduated from UF and was therefore NOT a UGA fan, to say the least).

We had lunch downtown, and before the food arrived the waitress asked if we had been dating just a short time. We laughed and asked why she wondered, and she said, "Because you're holding hands across the table and you look so damn cute." We laughed so hard people were turning around to see what was so funny. After lunch, once we were back in his car, he asked if I wanted to see pictures of his daughter. (Gulp - I had never dated anyone with children before). "Of course", I exclaimed. Oh, she was so beautiful - she looked like I did when I was 7 - dark brown eyes, and long, straight dark brown hair. I didn't have to pretend when I told him she was about the cutest little thing I'd seen in a long time. He had her every other weekend, and that day his mom was watching her so he could go on this date with me. He told me that it was important that any woman he got involved with want to become Madison's step-mom. Oh mercy. I didn't know if I was ready for that, but I sure did like Joe a whole lot.

Back at my place after lunch, we crashed on the sofa to catch the end of the GA-Auburn game. Afterwards, we were catching another game that wasn't nearly as interesting when Joe asked, "What do you keep lookin' over at me and grinnin' for? What are you thinkin'?" I declare, out of nowhere popped my answer without hesitation: "I was wonderin' if you were going to kiss me." He laughed out loud, and then said he had been sitting there wondering how to ask permission. No permission needed. Well, we had no problems in the area of "chemistry". But being a good preacher and following his own teachings, he stopped there. Damn it, I really needed sex too. It had been so long! But we giggled and watched the end of the game, and Joe headed back. He called me from the road, and said that he was so giddy he'd forgotten to ask if I wanted to pray together before he left. So, we prayed together over the phone.

Of course, after that I burned up my cell phone calling every girlfriend and then my mom to report on my good fortune in the date-department.

The next day after church, I got a call from Joe - asking if I'd like to drive up to Alpharetta and have dinner with him and his Dad and Madison (his daughter), stay the night (he offered to get me a hotel room nearby), and then have a holiday cookout the next day with his daughter and his mom. Without hesitation, I accepted the offer, and as soon as I could shower and pack a bag, I was off like a shot.

But all I kept thinking about was meeting Madison. I'd never dated someone with a child. What would meeting her be like? How come he was having me meet her so soon? What was that about?

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Adventures in On-Line Dating III - Jar Jar Binks Man

One of my early matches on eharmony was Mike. Mike was (and still is) a middle school teacher about 45 minutes north of Columbus. For all intents and purposes, Mike seemed like my ideal match. He was a Christian, never married, educated, a teacher, and he wanted to get married and have a family - and he wasn't pussy-footing around about it either.

We met at a Chinese restaurant in Columbus - my territory this time. He was a great conversationalist and we had a marvelous time at dinner. But he was definitely not my type physically. He was average height, not exactly in shape, kind of frumpy, and balding. Now, balding is not bad if you cut the rest of your hair. Mike didn't have a comb-over, but how he did like to wear his hear was almost as horrendous - he wore it shoulder-length. Oh, mercy. It was rather Gallagher-esque. Why would an otherwise intelligent man do this? And he didn't have a great deal of fashion sense. But everything else was really quite nice. He was gracious and polite, smart and rather funny. I figured he'd clean up well - I could always send him to my stylist and buy him some new clothes. He seemed "workable" at least (wink, wink).

I invited him back to my place for coffee, and he accepted. And we ended up...drinking coffee. Amazing, really. I completely enjoyed myself with Mike. He enjoyed himself, and I liked that tremendously. We talked about our education and the classes we taught. We talked about church and our family backgrounds. Tame and wonderful things were what our night was all about. I was pretty content, truth be told. On his way out, he asked if I'd like to get together 2 weeks from then for dinner and a movie. Great!, I thought. I was genuinely pleased to at least have a plan for companionship and conversation. He liked me when I was being myself, and that made me feel good. We hugged, and kissed on the cheek. It was awkward, but sweet.

He emailed the next day to tell me what a great time he'd had. I replied in kind, and added that it was a shame I had to wait 2 weeks for great company again. He replied - "Why wait?" So, that next weekend we were out again, doing the dinner and movie thing. Again, not much in the romance department, but we had a great time. Throughout the weeks ahead, we would email and talk occasionally in the evenings about our days as we planned for the start of the fall semester of teaching. During the weekends, we went to West Point lake several times, and one weekend we went to look at houses for sale in the area just for fun. I drove up to visit him a couple of times during the week in the evenings just to grab a bite to eat and chat for a while.

Mike once came to Columbus to go to church with my friend Megan and I. He took us to a Presbyterian church he thought we might like. Um...we didn't. Megan kept making these little faces at me during the service and I wanted to crack up. Mike, who was sitting to the other side of me, was dead serious. Megan and I were used to a bit more "lively" of a service, to say the least. Throw in some clapping or hip-movement for cryin' out loud. Megan's Aunt Pam met the three of us for Chinese for lunch. Megan and Pam were not impressed with Mike. At time he could come across like a "downer" - skeptical and jaded about numerous things. At various points in the conversation, he went off on one of his "hell in a handbasket" trips that I'd grown used to (and actually found mildly amusing in small doses).

You're wondering when this story "goes bad", right?

Well, I knew Mike was a Star Wars fan. (Echos of "here goes" can now be heard throughout cyberspace.) Correction- I knew he was a huge Star Wars fan.

I also knew Mike lived with his aging father - in the same house he had lived in (sitting down?) his entire life. Yes, Mike had gone to college nearby, and had never not lived at home. Oh, sweet mercy. Now, I understand that he was an only child to older parents, and that his mom got sick with cancer pretty young, and Mike stayed home to help. And I understand that his dad got older, and eventually got sick. But Mike, come on now.

So, the first time I visited Mike, I also got to meet his Dad. He was a kind and gentle (and frail) man you had to yell at while looking right at him in order for him to hear and understand you. I liked him - and brought him a homemade apple pie the next time I visited.

But the scene in Mike's bedroom and office were a little too much - for even me. As I walk into Mike's home office, the first thing I see standing before me in all its splendor is a life-sized Darth Vader. Standing next to Vader is a life-sized Darth Maul. Maul is clad in all his garb along with a WWF wrestling championship belt of some sort. Hmmm. I spun around to check out the rest of the room. There was a light saber under glass, and next to that was a life-sized version of Han Solo frozen in the carbonite. "Wow, that's quite a collection", I managed to eek out. "Ah, wait 'til you see my bedroom", Mike replied. Oh dear. Yes, in his tiny bedroom at the foot of the bed stood a life-sized Jar Jar Binks (the character you really wanted to see die because he was so annoying). I asked if he intended to keep these things long-term. He looked puzzled at the mere question.

In addition to our many commonalities, Mike and I also had several striking differences. I simply couldn't see myself with Mike for the rest of my life. And in all fairness, I couldn't keep pursuing a relationship with someone knowing that truth. But he knew it too - he wanted to live in West Point, GA for the rest of his life. There was absolutely nothing in West Point - except Mike's memories, and his job. Even the mill had closed down, and the lake had become more polluted over the years. I dreamed of moving to a metropolitan city and getting out and doing all kinds of things. Clearly, this wasn't going to work.

The night I realized that on a drive home from West Point, I got into my car and had a message. It was from another guy I'd met on eharmony. It was the first time I'd heard his voice. It was Joe. He wanted to talk. I call that perfect timing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Adventures in On-Line Dating II - Charles

My first eharmony dating experience was with Charles. I should never have met Charles, but he seemed nice over the phone. He was about 12 years older than I was, but after my commitment-phobic experiences with Michael, I was ready to meet this marriage-minded man. We agreed to meet at The Cheesecake Factory in Atlanta, GA. It was more of a drive for me, but I enjoyed meeting men on neutral territory, and there is little between Columbus and Atlanta.

When I saw him, I was mortified. He was about 5'9" 200 lbs, and had more Grecian formula in his side-parted black hair than I'd ever seen in person. He was wearing grey polyester pants and black orthopedic-like lace-up dress shoes. His shirt was an 80's style oxford dress shirt that looked like he's had it since the 80's and a floral print tie. I looked like I had just shown up for dinner with my dad - only my dad is handsome, and looks younger than this guy did. I gave him a hug (after all, we had talked on the phone several times before) and we made our way into the restaurant. When our food came, he offered to say a blessing, which he did - it was nice, and I'm sure it was heard by all the surrounding tables. We tried to talk about things we had in common, but there was little. Come to find out, his biggest hobby and fascination was that he was a member of the Andy Griffith fan club. Oh boy.

After a "nice" lunch, I made the fateful mistake of keeping my deal to go with him to a park. (I should have faked food poisoning). And the biggest mistake I made was getting into HIS car. Yes, slap me now...I'm an idiot. His car had little in it, but the seat was absolutely covered with dog hair from his dog that he likes to take for rides - and I had on black pants. I was nice and laughed it off as he apologized for the dog hair. Once in the car, I saw the well under the radio - a can of spray mace. Oh dear God. I should have jumped then, but I didn't. We drove around and around the area until we found a park. We got out and found a picnic table, and we sat side-by side on the same side of the table. I tried to talk with him about his various past jobs and career moves, but I had never met a more boring person in my life. Then...

In one swift and smooth motion, Charles leaned down and grabbed my right foot and lifted it up so it was sitting on the park bench. He then quickly removed my shoe and placed it on top of the picnic table. (I was at this point, rather weirded out). He then runs his fingers along the underside of my foot and asks if I am ticklish. Well, anyone who knows anything about tickling knows that you are usually not ticklish unless you are in the mood to be tickled. And I was feeling nada. Then he removes my dress sock, and tries again. Still not ticklish he discovers. (I'm not saying much, mind you.) And then he tries the other foot, removing my shoe and dress sock and placing them on top of the picnic table. I am now nicely dressed, but barefoot with my shoes and socks on the picnic table, and my feet on the lap of a man who looks like a child molester. By this point, I had begun to feel panick. Remember, we had taken HIS car to the park. I had to be nice until I could make it back to my car which was parked all the way back at the restaurant. So, I did. I continued to try to make conversation while he rubbed and played with my feet. Periodically, he would ask if it felt good, or if I liked it - and when I didn't say much, he'd comment on how tough I was to get through. I started to pray for a way out.

Just then, a family came walking through the park with bags of food - looking for a place to eat. I jumped up, grabbed my shoes and socks, and cheerfully offered them the table we'd been sitting at. Charles looked discouraged, but not surprised. I pulled back on my socks and shoes and once again jumped into the dog-mobile and rode back to the restaurant. I wasted little time getting out of his car - and he asked me to keep in touch. Neither of us ever called or contacted the other again.

On the drive back home, I called my friend Carol to recount the miserable story. She laughed so hard she started choking, and she suddenly declared, "You had a date with a foot fettishist!"
"I did not!", I retorted. "How stupid are you?", Carol asked. "Oh man, I did. Eeeeeewwwwww. Aaaaaaahhhhhh." And we laughed and laughed.

I called my mom to tell her how the date went. I told her everything except the feet thing. I didn't want her to worry. And I didn't want her to feel guilty for not teaching me better.

It took me a while to get over that date. But it didn't keep me from trying...
(to be continued)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Adventures in On-Line Dating

Jar-Jar Binks Man, "I Love You" Golf Boy, Foot-Fetish Andy Griffith Man, and the Preacher Man are four of the most entertaining stories I have from my summer of on-line dating.

When Michael broke up with me during that fateful spring of 2003, I was hell bent on getting right back in the swing of things. I needed to date!

I decided that I was through with trying to meet men the conventional way, so I decided to venture into the world of internet dating. I tried and met a few fascinatingly raunchy people. It was quite the experience weeding out folks with email or a single phone conversation. People who have a difficult time getting beyond asking me, "So, whatr ya doin'?" don't score very high in my book. There was Jim, the guy in Dayton, Ohio who wanted to photograph me in lingerie, and kept emailing me pictures of things he would like to see me in. There was Mark, who was a self-absorbed investor in Atlanta. And there was Eddie James, who worked for Bell South and drove a sweet little red convertible BMW. He sent me pictures of him on the beach wearing nothing but bluejeans. Sweet mercy. There was also the guy who did nothing but email me telling me how he'd like to brush my hair.

One of my most memorable Matchmaker dating experiences was with Joey, a "golf pro" (well, he worked in the golf pro shop and played a lot anyway). He lived about an hour out of town, and drove in to meet me for our first date - dinner with me and my girlfriend Carol. (I was always cautious about these initial meetings). Come to find out, Carol had once worked for this guy's dad, and had known him when he was a little kid. Figuring things were safe, after dinner Joey and I went to see a movie. To this day, I cannot remember what we saw. I only remember not being able to concentrate on the movie. Joey got a little happy-handed, and kept kissing my neck and asking if I wanted to leave the movie and go back to my place. I tried to politely tell him I'd actually like to watch the movie. I was disappointed because I thought he might be a nice guy. Turns out, he was quite nice - and quite desperate and pathetic too. Back at my place I offered him a drink and we sat on the porch and talked a little. But soon it was time for him to head out - and he went in for the kiss. I turned my head so he missed my lips - and he kind of half-caught me - then this statement: "This is exactly what I've been looking for. I love you, Tamara." Whoa, nelly. Hold on Sparky. I told I'd had a nice time too, but that I didn't want to rush anything. I spent the rest of the summer trying to get him to stop calling me and proclaiming his love. My girlfriends referred to him as "I Love You Golf Boy". I declare they don't even remember his name.

After that, I decided to get off Matchmaker and give the much-advertised E-Harmony a shot. I took the free personality profile which took me no less than 2 hours to complete. I wondered about the quality of people I might find. After a bitter phone conversation with Michael that made it clear he was not interested in reconciling, I slapped down $250 for a year's membership to eharmony. Let the dating begin!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Nothing Entertains Like an Ex-husband

Brian is a man of many surprises. His unpredictability is downright predictable. And on a day like today, when I feel the proverbial rug being yanked out from under my feet for reasons I am too distraught to even blog about, knowing what he is up to somehow makes me grin.

When I called him earlier this week to ask about some old paperwork, he was excited to inform me that he and his wife Stacy are moving at the end of September. Where? Columbus, GA. Yes, the city he and I lived in together for 5 years. Yup. And they are going there this weekend to look at apartments. He wants to move back to the same apartment complex we lived in before. Why? Because (drum roll), he had decided he wants to pursue acting full time.

"Wow, Brian, that's awesome. Good for you.", I managed to get out while trying to sound excited. I was stunned. He's 36 years old. He's acted or served in some capacity in dozens of shows over the years - but nothing above the Springer Opera House in Columbus, GA. Now, it is the state theatre of Georgia. But he has never had a lead role there. There's a reason for that. He's not attractive. He can act alright, and sing alright, and he can be pretty funny on stage. But that's because he's funny looking. The only formal training in acting he's ever had has been high school and classes at the community college 15 years ago. But the man fancies himself an actor.

One of his major complaints throughout our marriage was that I "didn't support his desire to be an actor". This is true, I did not. How dare me think he needed to work in a job that would pay our bills and get us out of debt. How dare I rain on his parade. How dare I think he needed to earn a college degree, or have a stable career.

Late in our marriage I decided he deserved a shot (though I do don't know why). So I paid a professional photographer to do his headshots. I created an acting resume that I had a printer put on the back of his 8x10s. I paid for him to take voice lessons every week. I bought him volumes of books of monologues and music books and sheet music. And we went to UPTA auditions in Memphis, Tennessee with two friends of ours who also wanted to audition. After all was said and done, he was offered 2 jobs - one to do puppet theatre for a 9 month season for about $500 a month, and one offer to join a gay singing group called the Prides. Oh boy. He accepted nothing because we could not afford to LIVE if he did either of these - and well, the offer from the Prides hurt his...pride. SO, we returned home. He continued to appear in shows at the Springer Opera House, and after he moved to FL, he worked with the Barn Theatre again. He never earned more than a couple hundred dollars for any show he ever appeared in at the Springer. This did not even pay for gas money and the money we had to spend on food and Brian's love of special theatre makeup. My parents often reminded me that if Brian had time and energy for theatre, he darn well had time to get a second job to get us our from under all this debt.

Well, years later, and he and Stacy are going to be in the same spot. I feel no pitty for her. She, like me, made her bed. She'll learn how comfortable it is.

Neither he or Stacy have a job there. But he says she will "get a job in the mall". And he's convinced a woman he works with at his optical store now is going to find him a job in Columbus. Yeah, okay. Brian was also very excited because he called and talked to the directors at the Springer who have already told him he's going to be in Guys and Dolls. He exclaimed, "And I didn't even have to audition - sight unseen!" Wow. Good for you, Brian. I'll bet Stacy is proud. I, on the other hand, am just praising God that's not my life anymore.

But at least he keeps me entertained.

The Story of My Ex-Husband

On a muggy Florida afternoon in the fall of 1987, I walked into a choir room to meet my fellow performers in the college show choir (Ah - visions of red sequins and tuxedo-clad geek boys and big hair for everyone). The geekiest boy of all was Brian - all 6 foot 4 of him - lanky but chubby in all the wrong places. He was all arms and legs and no ass (I mean negative assage - the kind that actually curves inward). But there was also a Paddington Bear-like quality about him that screamed "Take me home and feed me". He claimed that when he finished college, he was going to go to New York and become and actor. I admired his chutzpah. He had done a lot of acting in community theatre, and I took him up on an offer to see him in Caught in the Villain's Web - a kitschy melodrama (is that redundant?). I toted my little brother along for the ride, and we went out for Chinese food after the show. Brian considered that our first date because as he exited my car at the end of the evening, he gave me a little kiss. "Eeeeeeewwwww", exclaimed my brother from the backseat. Brian and I hung out together for a few months, then I dropped him for Keith - a cute French horn player in the orchestra (OK, so I had a weakness for musicians). It was a temporary trade-up. Keith ended up being an odd bird himself, but I'll tackle him in another blog.

Fast-forward to the summer of 1991. I was still "sort-of" with Keith (whom my parents detested) and home for the summer from UF. One evening, I was watching Love Connection with my dad when a local commercial came on for a carpet and flooring store in a city just south of where we lived. The spokesperson for the commercial was none other than Brian. Oh dear Lord. And I had to get in touch with him. (Anyone who knows me knows full well the lengths I will go to once I set my mind to something.) I called information for the city he used to live in, and got his sister-in-law who gave me his phone number. I called his apartment, and got his roomate, Randy (an appropriately named chap who told me I had "nice jugs" within moments of meeting me the first time - and who ended up being the best man at our wedding) who offered to date me (sight unseen) if Brian wasn't interested. Oh mercy. Seemed Brian was in a rehearsal at a theatre in my hometown for their summerstock series. He was appearing in a summerstock production of Working, the musical based on the Studs Terkel ethnography. They called him out of rehearsal to take my call. He had no idea who this "Tammy" was who was calling him. It took a while for him to figure out who I was. He and a fellow actor stopped by after rehearsal that night, and we spent some time catching up. I liked how he looked - grown up a little, and I was on the prowl anyway. This was a recipe for disaster, and the disaster started in my driveway with a kiss. The next few nights repeated the same pattern. A few nights out a karaoke bars, and the summer was coming to a close. I had to go back to school. And I had to tell Keith. What transpired over the next few months was nothing short of a tornadic.

Three weeks after I returned to school, Brian came up to visit me over the weekend and proceeded to ask me to marry him (sitting there on the sofa with the two of us in our pajamas). He produced the tiniest "engagement ring" I had ever seen. (I was embarrassed to show it to anyone it was so small). Weeeeee! My head was spinning and I said "Yes" and that was that. The next week, he packed up all of his belongings into his car and moved into an apartment that I paid the deposit on for him in Gainesville. It was a 1-bedroom, 1-window studio apartment in Sundown apartments (where you really didn't want to be when the sun went down, coincidently). Unable to hold it in, I announced to my parents over the phone about 2 months later that Brian was living in Gainesville now and we were getting married. They were less-than-pleased. He had not finished school - in fact, he had only managed to earn several music credits in 4 years of community college. He was eeking out an existence mooching off everyone in sight.

The next weekend, my father and my pastor (I am not kidding) drove the 3 hours north and while I was at school (unbeknownst to me) took every last one of my possessions out of my place and dumped them in big black plastic garbage bags on Brian's apartment doorstep (he was inside - but did not come to the door). I got back from class to find the mess. My parents demanded I drive the car back home I was driving (it was in their name) and relinquish it, or they threatened to come get it. I did as I was told, and they sent me home on the bus. A girlfriend came with me for support. My parents had also gone to the bank and closed out my checking account (which my mother had her name on). Oh, the control freaks they were/are.

Brian and I lived on hamburger helper and cereal (it was cheaper then) in that one room apartment with my cat. He was working as a carpet cleaner with Stanley Steamer. But that lasted only a few months because Brian found it too demanding to get up so early in the morning and come home so late, and work so many hours (oooh, poor thing). He then took to a string of telemarketing jobs. I had to drop out of school because everything I had was gone and I couldn't pay the tuition. I took a job temping as a secretary and finally got a full-time job as a secretary at Shands Hospital. The next year we moved into a nice 1-bedroom apartment a few miles away. I declare we did not even need a moving truck. We strapped whatever we couldn't fit into his car trunk to the roof of the car and made multiple trips. Nice, real nice. Eventually, Brian got a job as an apprentice optician and he seemed to like it. We started to be able to save up money.

A few months later I returned from a conference in Miami and decided I wanted to go back to grad school...and move to Memphis to do it at UM. Brian, of course, thought "Cool." Six months later we moved and I started back on my Master's degree there. Brian got a job at an optical store, but was quit within weeks because he claimed the people "were out to get him". Eventually, he was able to get a job with Lenscrafters and all seemed to be okay. But bills piled up with me in school full time and only making $5,500 a year in graduate assistant stipend for 2 years. I got my first credit card to help up "get through". Brian started making cash advances to go to Tunica to gamble. He also loved to take his paycheck to Horseshoe casino to cash it there because you got a scratch off card to win double your paycheck (of course, he never did). he would "pocket" his paycheck minus whatever he took out to gamble with, which was usually $100 or so. I would go with him and friends of ours on occasion. What started as a once in a while thing became bi-monthly, weekly, and then multiple times a week. It was the beginning of the end. I had depressive panick attacks so bad I would black out. Still, I pressed on. In 1995 I had an affair - and denied it when Brian asked about it.

By the time 1996 rolled around and we moved to Denver so I could do my PhD, it was long over between my husband and I. He moved out in 1997 to go back home to FL to live with his sister, but returned several months later. During that time, I was in grad school full time and teaching 2 classes per quarter to pay for tuition and earn a whopping stipend of $7500 a year. Brian worked for Lenscrafters in Denver and then Sears Optical - and earned $30K a year. So, our combined household income those 3 years in Denver was less than 40K before taxes. And he lived and spent like there was no tomorrow. We left Denver in 1999 and I was ABD (all but dissertation) on my PhD and I took at job at Columbus State University as a new professor. My starting salary in 1999 was $35,500 a year to teach 4 classes a semester. I had to teach summers as well to help make ends meet.

Brian worked 20 hours a week at the Sears optical in Columbus for a few weeks, then took a full time job at Eyeglass World. He was fired several months later for insubordination. He was out of work for months. He took a job in the mall managing the World of Science store. They were bought out by Natural Wonders and he was let go. Again, no work for months. He took a job as manager of Walden Books in the same mall. He decided to quit after he was written up several times and threatened with termination. He finally found a job with Valley Rescue Mission overseeing their thrift stores. They even gave him an old car to drive.

But by the end of 2000 we were $45K in debt on 8 different credit cards. I was too proud to declare bankruptcy and I didn't want that in my history. I wanted to clean up my own mess - so we handed over our cards to a consumer credit counseling group and started the process of digging out of debt that will end this October. 3 more payments and I wil be free of every bit of debt I had with that man. I imagine I will not know what to do with myself.

The pressure was simply too much, and I filed for divorce in 2001 with his knowledge. He even came to the lawyer's office in lieu of being served the papers. We wrote the settlement agreement there together in the lawyer's office. It was so easy, it was frightening. Shortly thereafter, Brian was terminated from his job with Valley Rescue Mission and opted once again to move back to Florida. This time he moved in with him mom. He took all of his clothes and our big TV, his game system and games, and our computer and printer (remember - I was trying to finish my PhD - and now I had no computer in my house, and I was broke).

Brian quickly met Stacy via an online dating service. He started seeing her when he was living with his mom, and then quickly moved in with Stacy. They got married 2 weeks before I married Michael. Interesting how the world works. She was the Assistant Manager of the Disney store in the mall down there, but she lost her job when the store closed. She now works at FYE. Brian had held several jobs in optical stores adn continues to do community theatre - and he makes about $200-$500 per show. He seems terrifically happy. So, when I called him earlier this week to ask about some paperwork - he revealed what will be his latest (mis)adventure. He continues to be a source of great entertainment, at least.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

...And Then There Were Five

Apparently there is a dearth of pet foster-parents in Lexington. My poor husband ended up picking up three siblings of the other two kittens we already had in our home. They are all reunited (...and it feels so good) and happy campers in the front bedroom. When will people learn to be responsible pet owners? **sigh**

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Way the Cookie Crumbles

This cookie didn't crumble on it's own. I had to break it into its various pieces. It reminds me of my marriage. I'm always willing to accept responsibility for the good things that happen, or the progress that is made. I am much less willing to acknowledge the ways that my behaviors have led to the brokenness we experience as a couple.

I've been behaving better lately. I don't pick fights with my husband the way I have in the past. I used to like the attention, the intensity, and the making up. When he raised his voice with me and looked me straight in the eyes, it confirmed that he was alive and felt something. But now, I'm feeling more settled. I'm settling and grappling with the contradictions between the pop culture expression and its literal meaning.

Kurt ( a fellow blogger and bibliophile) reminds us that settling is often our choice. It is a lie when we women (and some men) say we do not want to settle. We get married because we want to settle (although it could be argued that most of us truly have no clue what we want when we marry). He reminded me that settling means establishing something permanent and stable. Yes, Kurt, that is indeed what I was seeking in my marriage - the whole "'til death do us part" thing that my husband was so reluctant to have in our wedding vows. He scoffed, "I cannot promise you that - it's the stuff of prophets. I can only promise to try. That is all." But on many levels, he was so right. We can promise to try. I'm not even sure we can promise to give it our best. (I can't even tell my boss that).

Kurt wrote that "[T]aken literally, 'I don't want to settle,' means, 'I don't want to establish anything permanent.'" I tried to argue with him in my head, and then I tried to create new semantic rules. I imagined a new genre of wedding songs with titles like, "My love, I'm settling for you." Or, "Settle Along With Me" (a la Mary Chapin Carpenter).

So, what don't I want then, if it's settling that I do want?

Um, I want to live - so I guess dying - yeah - I don't want to die. Ah, but we are all dying. We are terminal - and our disease will allow us to eek out about 75 years on this planet. Damn. I'll try again.

Ah, to have the best - yes, I want the best. So, I guess that means I don't want less than perfect things. But I am less than perfect, as is my husband. And I expected him to want me as flawed as I am, and I wanted him too. Flawed argument there. Strike two.

She takes a deep breath and tries yet again. OK, I want to get what I deserve. Yes, I deserve all the things I listed in a previous post. I deserve all of it! (Insert righteous indignation here). Tamara pauses to think about what she truly deserves. She can think of little. Even her government only promises her life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They don't even promise I will be happy - but I can sure try. So, basically, I deserve a shot. A chance. And that's exactly what my husband gave me. He has tried. And he hasn't gone anywhere. Perhaps I got exactly what I deserved.

Perhaps this settling thing is alright. Maybe my ex-husband was right when he said that no one will ever be able to make me happy because me expectations are too high. Maybe my ex-boyfriend, Keith, was right when he told me that no one would ever be able to put me on a pedestal high enough to satisfy me. Maybe I really wasn't ready then to settle.

It's been over a week since I had sex (since we came back from Cincinnati). I haven't begged for it, and when my husband showed no interest, I went to bed. And I haven't bitched and blamed and argued. I haven't slept well either - but that is my fault. I relied too much on sexual fulfillment to "help" me fall asleep at night, and not enough on just enjoying falling asleep because I'm tired. I think I like being married to my husband more than I like sex. I really miss having a great sex life. I've thought about having an affair, but I remember what it did to me the first time I was married. I think for now I'll just settle for/with with my crumbled cookie. He's funny, damn sexy, and (on most days) sane.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

New Foster Kittens

My husband just retrieved these cutties from the Lexington Humane society this afternoon. Awwww. They will need 3 weeks of foster care to get big enough and old enough to be vaccinated and altered.

It really breaks my heart that people aren't responsible enough with their animals to spay and neuter them. These two will likely find good homes within days of returning from foster care, but there are rows of cages full of adult cats at the humane society. Over 12,000 animals came through the Lexington Humane Society last year. Only 3% of stray cats were ever claimed by an owner. So sad.

Well, at least I feel like this is doing my small part to give these little guys love and affection, and plenty of good food so they will get used to humans and make really great pets for someone. And the good news is that these two will never reproduce and contribute to more unwanted and abandoned animals. I wonder what I will call them? I still don't think they are as cute as Fuzzy.

Tennis, Anyone?

Little things continue to amaze me. Yesterday my husband picked me up for lunch, and we decided that after work we would head out to the park and...(you ready for this?) tennis. Play should be in quotes. But the important thing is that we went.

I had played tennis during my teenage years and in college when I was healthy and slim. I even took tennis lessons in the summers, and played with my mom and younger brother who had a pretty good game by age 10. Once in college, my game became racquetball because I learned how nice indoor courts were for not having to chase balls. And, on the off-chance that I didn't have a partner, I could practice by myself. But I figure the last time I had even touched a tennis racket had to be at least 13 years ago - and at least 75 pounds ago.

My husband, on the other hand, plays tennis quite well and has taken lessons and plays on a quasi-regular basis. And he is in pretty good physical shape. And he is competitive.

I was worried that the evening would not go well. I was worried about looking like the hippo from Fantasia. I was worried I would embarass him or frustrate him with launched tennis balls soaring over the gates and into the neighboring courts. I was worried that he would resent the wasted time out there. I worried I wouldn't even be able to hit the ball.

It felt strange to hold a racket again, and to hit the ball. I had trouble getting my serve over the net, but Michael was encouraging - telling me I needed to toss higher, or not hesitate as long on the drop. Finally, I was getting a serve over the net from time to time. I could return some of his, and by the end of the night we were able to hit the ball back and forth. He complimented me for going after shots, or hitting them solidly. He was so nice and patient, it was unbelievable. (That, coincidently, was very sexy.) He told me that it would take a while to break myself of the habit of swinging straight across instead of slightly up.

My desire here isn't to over-analyze our evening. I just wanted to acknowledge how nice it was to get outside and spend time together without worrying about big pressing life issues. I slept well, too - unaided by medications. Of course, I was worn out.

Before we fell asleep last night, my husband rolled over toward me and said, "You looked good out there tonight." I giggled like a school girl. I couldn't help it. I didn't know wether he was talking about my body or what - and come to find out, he was talking about my abilities. He said he was proud of me for not being afraid of the ball, and for "attacking it". I fell asleep with visions of me being tough. And it felt good. I like to think I'm a tough cookie.

I'm proud of myself for getting out there, and for not letting my fear control me. I'm grateful for the little things like hitting around a tennis ball to get my husband and I to smile for a while...together.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Best Commencement Address Ever

Above is a link to the text of the commencement address given by Steve Jobs at Stanford on June 12th. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. I was inspired to make a few changes, and I wasn't even there to hear it. Great speech.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

My Trip to the OB/GYN

Lord have mercy - the yearly visit to the lady doctor. Could I have some humiliation with a side of embarrassment and discomfort please? After the duck-lips and KY jelly and the ritual scraping, I did not want to return to work. I did - I am a trooper! But I am blogging instead of working. Tell you anything?

Well, I'm now on pre-natal vitamins, and I'm not pregnant. Seems that new research on women trying to conceive says that pre-natal vitamins are a must, even up to a year before conception. Wowzers. So, I'll be taking a new vitamin just released in March - OptiNate. Apparently, it has this new omega-3 DHA stuff in it. I'd better be getting darn healthy for all this effort.

Seems the Glucophage has helped with my PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). I now have menstrual cycles almost-regularly, and apparently am ovulating also almost-regularly. This is better than nothing. At the very least, it decreases my risk of endometrial cancer and diabetes. It will also decrease my risk of miscarriage should I become pregnant.

So, what if my husband and I decide to work things out between us and "go for it" in terms of trying to conceive? Well, if he goes through his own fertility testing and everything checks out OK on his end, we have a variety of options.

We may do a uterine dye test procedure that will cost me about $400-$600 but tell if there is anything wrong with my uterus and/or fallopian tubes. The wonders of technology. As I understand it, they would inject dye into my uterus and fallopian tubes to check for any abnormalities. The process hurts, and requires antibiotics, and costs about $400-$600 according to the doctor, but insurance may cover some of it. If that shows abnormalities, the key is then to treat those. If nothing, and hubby's fertility is good, then we go to phase 2.

Phase 2 would be me taking Clomiphene to get me to ovulate more/more regularly.

If that didn't do anything on its own, we could do "insemination" - not to be confused with invitro-fertilization. Insemination involves me taking the Clomiphene, then HCG injections to force me to ovulate. At that point, we drag my husband in, do "semen washing" and give it a little go-juice booster, and "turkey-baste" me (essentially). Wowzers. That procedure, with insurance, will still run about $1000. Of course, most folks have to do several rounds of turkey-basting for it to take. We could try the insemination several times (most couples have to try several times).

Since I am at greater risk of miscarriage, should we decide to do this (should being the operative word here), I would stay on the Metformin (glucophage) for the first trimester and use a progesterone cream. Sounds wonderful, right? Also, I would have a good chance of developing gestational diabetes, which is at least treatable.

The last resort is invitro, which does the Petri-dish fertilization and implantation – that is upwards of $10,000 per shot.

How long we want to wait before we do anything else is up to us.

So, I guess the real question is for us to figure out how long we have been "trying" and how long we want to continue to "try". She said at our age she would not recommend waiting longer than 1 year of trying before moving on to the other options since they will also take a year at least to get through. So, we have to ask ourselves whether we think we have been trying or not, and for how long we think we have been trying. This is an odd question. I just know we have to be on the same page before we do anything else.

She does not think it would be wise for me, with PCOS, to try to have any children after 40 - too much risk of miscarriage, or ovarian issues, and birth defects. So, she sent me on my way to "talk to my husband". Yippie! At the very least, we are not a boring couple.

All this is exhausting - mentally, which leads to physically.

This would be so much easier if I could just make myself not want to have a family. Wonder if there is some switch they can just shut off? You'd think all the screaming kids at the ballpark this weekend would have changed my mind. Nah. Just made me wonder how much of those dads actually wanted to be dads, and how many of them were just faking it. I also wondered how many of those men could just walk away from their kids because they never really wanted them in the first place. (Oh, I need to stop - I am jaded. I'll blame it on the pap.)

Sexy is as Sexy Does

"What first attracted you to Michael?", folks asked me when I came home from the November 2001 NCA conference and couldn't stop rambling about him.

"Everything", I'd coo. (Tamara makes the universal sign of "putting a finger down my throat".) I felt like it was everything. Now everything seems to piss me off. But he's still damn sexy. And as pissed off as I might get, I still find him drop-dead gorgeous.

So, what constitutes sexy? Inquiring men all over the world want to know.

But why trust me on the issue? What are my credentials, you might ask.

Well, I'm a woman. I have a vagina and I like it.
I've had sex with men (more than a handful - let's keep it at that).
I have 42DD breasts - that's gotta count for something, right?
I have an MA in communication, and stopped just shy of finishing my PhD.
Somehow, I feel the first three count for more.
Do I need more than that?

So, here's what I find positively sexy:

Sexy men have a brilliant mind and a quick wit tempered with a know-how about when to keep your mouth shut.

Sexy men have a seemingly endless supply of touching techniques. Sexy men know how to cuddle, caress, pet, grab, grope, fondle, tickle, flick, pinch, lick, suck, nibble, tease, slap, spank, rub, and massage. And they bring out the toolbox of techniques at just the right time as well as the completely unexpected time.

Sexy men are full of surprises. My sexy man got out of bed and went and gassed up my car and bought me a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut all while I was in the shower getting ready for work this morning. Now that is sexy. Damn, he's confusing.

Sexy men admire you with their eyes and smile at you.

Sexy men know how to kiss, and they know it involves hands and fingers, eyes, lips and tongue, and sometimes even your entire body.

Sexy men shave. I find it very hard to believe that most women would have wanted Constantine Maroulis or Bo Bice from American Idol in their bed as is. As "bad boy" as we might like them, we still want them to clean up and shave. Nothing screams "I don't give a shit about my appearance" quite like a man who hasn't made friends with a razor recently. A moustache and goatee can be wicked sexy - but clean up the rest, will ya?

Sexy men make the first move at least as often as you do. No matter how long the relationship has been going on, a sexy man will find a way to fondle you in the kitchen, or tell you how hot you make him while you are sitting next to him on the sofa watching something very non-sexy on TV.

A sexy man pursues you and fights for you. When the chips are down and the tension is high, a sexy man makes a decision and goes all out. He doesn't wring his hands worrying about the possible negative outcomes.

A sexy man focuses on the future instead of the past. He doesn't save memorabilia of ex-girlfriends and ex-wives. He creates memories with you, and actively plans for your future. He makes it clear that you put the relationships of his past to shame. He is outwardly grateful for you.

Sexy men openly share their fantasies, and don't worry about how bizarre they might seem. Sexy men pursue the fantasies worth fulfilling and want to fulfill yours.

Sexy men don't have careers that make up their entire identity. Sexy men play and relax and laugh and have friends.

Sexy men don't complain. They take aches and pains and problems and setbacks in stride.

Well, my sisters - how's that for starters? Anyone care to further contribute to the list?

Friday, July 01, 2005

WWHAYD - What Would Hoops and YoYo Do?

extremis malis extrema remedia
"extreme maladies for extreme ills"
Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The air conditioning went out in my car - during record high temperatures in Lexington.
My marriage is failing.
I'm exhausted, angry, axious and depressed.

Who do you turn to for advice for life's greatest questions?
This morning I asked Hoops and YoYo.
The conversation was surprisingly uplifting, so I figured I'd pass along their advice.

They said they would go play in the pool, eat Bugles, ice cream, doughnuts, and fudgecicles. They would laugh a lot and run all around shouting "wooo hoooo". They would celebrate that its summer.

They said not to worry about my car - that sunshine and warmth were good, and that I had my own private steam room on wheels. Others should be so lucky.

Hoops and YoYo said I looked stressed and should get away for the weekend and hang out with other people besides just my husband. So, I took their advice and the hubby and I are going to Cincinnati to go to the zoo and see a ballgame. The presence of other people will mean my husband has to open his mouth and speak. He does surprisingly well with other people, which is why it would be difficult for anyone to believe he hardly has anything to say to his own wife (says he "doesn't have anything worth talking about"). I'm also looking forward to the buffer zone. I can't be a bitch in front of other people (well, I could, but I have too much pride).

So, I'm trying hard to do what Hoops and YoYo would do. I'm going to do my best to enjoy myself this weekend. I hope to see lots of cool animals, enjoy good company of others, and watch some great baseball. The rest will wait.