Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Happy Hour

From Mental Floss: "Every Friday, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else's reply, whatever you want. On to this week's topics of discussion..."

(Now that I actually have followers of my blog, I’d love to see your responses in the comments here. Tell me what you think, friends!)

Do you have a special place you go when you really need to concentrate? Where do you do your best work? Any old study tips you want to share?

~ Well, I’m pretty sure I answered this about five minutes ago. Click here to read my thoughts!

What new For Dummies book would you want to work on?

~ I don’t know that I’m enough of an expert on any one topic to work on a For Dummies book. I prefer to know a little about a lot of different things, rather than being an expert on one topic.

Whether it was intentional or not, what’s the strangest place you’ve ever slept?

~ I don’t recall falling asleep anywhere particularly interesting. However, I do have the gift of falling asleep anytime I’m a passenger in a car for more than 30 minutes.

What’s on your summer reading list?

~ There are so many books on my to-be-read list! I have five library books waiting on me at home, and about 15 on my library holds list (so I’m waiting in line for them). And for the first time in years, I haven’t finished a book yet this month! I’m currently reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m enjoying it, and I want to finish it, but I just haven’t been very interested in reading lately. I hope this attitude will change quickly, or I’m going to have to stop all my library holds.

When I finally finish Never Let Me Go, I’ll be reading: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

My Best Thoughts...

I do my best thinking in the shower. This would be fine, except that I take relatively long showers (usually 10-15 minutes). And since I have the short-term memory of a gnat, I’m afraid of forgetting all the things I thought of while I was wet. Almost every morning, I emerge from the shower chanting a cryptic list. Today’s list was: receipt, bathing suit, coupons. After work today, I have to exchange a bathing suit, so I needed to get the suit and receipt. Then I’m going grocery shopping, and didn’t want to forget my coupons.

My second-best thinking spot is in the car. While I’m driving. Since I have a long commute, I’ve resorted to sending text messages to myself. Again, these are always cryptic. I don’t worry about misspelling words, as long as they’re recognizable – I just need something to jog my memory.

All this occurred to me while I was in the shower this morning, and I continued to mull it over during my commute. Here’s my explanation: I’m an extremely organized person. I cannot function without lists. And I throw myself full-force into whatever I’m doing. I’ve noticed an almost palpable sense of shifting from home to work (in the morning) and/or from work to home (in the evening). I think the reason I have so many ideas in the shower and on my commute is because I’m in the process of shifting. I’m forming my to-do list for the day (both for work and home) in my mind. I’ll often think of tasks at work that are sitting on my desk or will be due soon, and decide what needs to be done that day and what the rest of my week looks like. Depending on my mood, I’ll mentally organize my day and the rest of my week. By the time I get to work, I’m ready for my day, and I have a gameplan for accomplishing what I need to.

I like the fact that my mind is working even when I have mental downtime. I just wish my memory could keep up with all the ideas I have!

(Edited to add: while this post was publishing, I checked Mental Floss to see if Friday Happy Hour had been posted yet. You won't believe what the first question is!)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Impending Chaos

I work for a commercial property management company that specializes in medical buildings. In November 2010, my office managed approximately 288,000 square feet. At the end of December, one of our campuses was sold, and our portfolio dropped to 132,000 square feet. Because a new building was under construction on a campus we already managed, nothing was added to our portfolio. The last six months have been relatively quiet and laid-back. Before I was hired, my boss did not have an assistant, so I’ve been able to organize the office and put into place systems that have it running pretty smoothly. I’ve been busy enough to keep from being bored, but quiet enough to have downtime when I need it.

Those days are over, at least for a while.

The construction is almost complete, and we will take over the building by July 15. In addition, we will be moving our office to the property before the end of July. Opening a brand-new building is not easy. In many ways, it will be a very complicated dance, requiring intricate coordination. New tenant spaces will be finished-out by contractors, and city inspections will be required. Leasing agents will show vacant spaces to prospective tenants, and will want them to meet the management staff while they’re visiting the campus. Maintenance issues will arise as building systems are brought online. Oh, and I’ll have to unpack and set up our office.

I’m not complaining. I love my job, my boss, and my coworkers. My new office will be a 15-minute commute in the morning instead of a 40-minute one (my evening commute is longer, but will still be reduced by half). Plus, I’ll no longer have to take toll-roads. The cost of my commute will decrease by at least one-half, and I’ll be putting about 20 miles per day on my car, versus the 50+ miles per day I put on now. When your vehicle has over 100,000 miles, that’s a good thing!

Still…I’m not looking forward to the chaos the next 60 days are sure to bring.

Monday, June 20, 2011

35-Year-Old Baby

Women always say that men are babies when they’re sick. I think there is a reason that, for many years, I’ve joked that I’m a man in a woman’s body. When I’m sick, I’m like a 3-year-old who missed her nap.

I’ve been fighting a cold for over a week. I was very tired all of last week, and Thursday I had a sore throat and swollen glands. I felt a little better on Friday, and tried to tell myself it was just bad allergies. But yesterday afternoon, the cold won. This morning, I’m officially sick. And I’m very, very grumpy.

I am 35 years old. I know that I should act like a big girl, even when I feel awful. And I try, I really do. But my head is full of snot. My throat hurts. My teeth hurt (sinus pressure always does that to me). I feel feverish, though my temperature is barely elevated. And I have zero energy, but I can’t sleep because I can’t get comfortable when I lay down. I feel like crying and/or having a temper tantrum.

J. has class this morning and won’t be home until noon. I’m glad for that. I know I’m a handful when I feel this way. I’m needy and whiny and a general pain in the ass. At least he’ll get a few hours of peace before he has to deal with me.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Dad

I have a complicated relationship with my dad.

I am my father's only biological child, and the only girl. I bear a strong physical resemblance to him, although I look more like my mom as I get older. Dad doted on me when I was small, and I idolized him. I was 8 when he and my stepmom married, and I can mark that as the point our relationship began to deteriorate. The development of my strong personality over the next ten years didn’t help matters. My dad is very traditional, and he has simple values. He’s not one to spend a great deal of time discussing feelings. He works very, very hard, and just wants to come home to dinner and no drama. My introspective (and sometimes confrontational) nature is confusing to him.

When I first saw the Steve Martin remake of “Father of the Bride,” I was a sophomore in high school. I dreamed of my own engagement, not because I wanted to be married, but because I thought my dad would behave very much like the Steve Martin character. It didn’t turn out that way, and I was disappointed. My dad has made a lot of decisions and done a lot of things that hurt me. These were not malicious; my dad made the best choices he knew how, and – like many men – he tends to be clueless. Things that I notice or that matter to me completely elude him. But I’ve done things that were hurtful to him, too. We just have such different thought processes that it’s sometimes hard to relate to each other.

Over the last couple of years, and especially over the last six months, I’ve been making a real effort to put the past behind us. My dad will be 61 in August. His dad and granddad both died before they were 70, and since my dad has never taken care of himself, I have to face the very real possibility that we don’t have that many years left.

My dad was the first man I ever loved, and the first man who ever loved me. Even when we don’t agree or understand each other, I know he’d do anything he could for me. Even at 35, I’m still thrilled to be Daddy’s little girl.

In honor of Father’s Day, here are some of my favorite photos of my dad.

January 26, 1979 - Dad was 28 and I was 2:

Spring 1999 - Dad was 48 and I was 22:

May 14, 2011 - Dad is 60:

Happy Father's Day to my favorite dad!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Happy Hour

From Mental Floss: "Every Friday, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else's reply, whatever you want. On to this week's topics of discussion..."

(Now that I actually have followers of my blog, I’d love to see your responses in the comments here. Tell me what you think, friends!)

What incorrect (or invented) words for everyday objects did you, your siblings or your kids dream up?

~ When I was a kid, I used several incorrect words. Two that I still use occasionally are: “eteeont” for elephant (rhymes with don’t) and “soapy pillows” for sopaipillas.

When I was growing up, there was no greater villain than the local guy who burned down the Sizzler. Who was your town’s “worst case scenario” resident?

~ I don’t remember any stories like this when I was growing up, but our parents did scare us with kidnapping stories. Of course, all parents were afraid after the infamous Adam Walsh kidnapping in Florida in 1981. Then, in 1985, a six-year-old girl was kidnapped in my hometown and later found dead. I think we grew up even more afraid of being kidnapped than other kids. I attended high school with the victim’s older sister, and even as a teenager, thinking about it gave me the willies.

What was your favorite book on the day you finished high school? Do you still hold it in high esteem today?

~ No idea what my favorite book was, but I do have a list of books I read during my last two years of high school. It’s interesting to see how much my tastes have changed. Back then I read lots of John Grisham and Dean Koontz, two authors I rarely read now. But I also enjoyed Stephen King and Tom Clancy, two authors I still read (although I choose by a book’s subject, rather than reading every book they release).

What’s the most tremendous garage sale item you’ve seen?

~ I’ve never been a huge fan of garage sales; I call them junk sales. When J. and I were first dating, I cringed every time he wanted to stop at one. However, in our current neighborhood, they are often a great place to find books and DVD’s very, very cheap. I’ve been known to buy a book or DVD, read or watch it, then sell it to the local independent bookstore for more trade credit than I paid at the junk sale. Our neighborhood sales are also great places for furniture, if you get there early.

Our Fairy Tale (New Tab)

If you haven't already, please check out the new "Our Fairy Tale" tab, above. It's the story of how J. and I ended up together. And it's loooooooong. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Enjoy! (And feel free to leave comments about "Our Fairy Tale" on this post.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thoughts on Literature

Some of my reader friends set challenges for themselves each year. These challenges may be reading a certain number of books, crossing off all the letters on an A-Z list (using book title or author's name), reading certain genres, etc. In 2011, I challenged myself to read four classic novels.

Though philology may be my great passion, let’s be real: the vast majority of my book choices are fluff*. Perhaps 15% of the books I read in a year are literary fiction, and another 5% are non-fiction. Every year I say: “I’m going to read at least one classic novel this year,” but it never happens. I decided my chances of success in 2011 would be greater if I chose the novels ahead of time, rather than have the abstract idea of “four classic novels.” My selections were:

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The reason I picked this challenge is simple: classic literature is wasted on teenagers. We all were force-fed classics in junior high and high school. In many cases, our teachers had taught the same books year after year, and they were as bored as we were. Plus, we were teenagers! We were utterly unprepared for true understanding of Dickens, Shakespeare, Twain, Hemingway, et al. I began thinking how much more we might enjoy this work if we read it as adults, once we had some life experience under our belts.

Recently, I came across a list from when I was in school; it shows the books I was assigned each year from 7th to 11th grades. Three titles, in particular, caught my attention: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes. I distinctly remember reading each of these and discussing them in class. On some level, I understood the message the author intended, but I think that understanding would be much, much deeper if I were to read them now.

The Metamorphosis describes a man, Gregor Samsa, who wakes to find he has turned into a giant cockroach. He is a virtual prisoner in his own home, and the family he has sacrificed to care for quickly tires of caring for him. As his humanity slips away, Samsa realizes the futility of every man’s life.

Kafka’s The Metamorphosis was written in German and first published in 1915, and it seems very little has changed in a hundred years. Every man struggles to find his purpose and passion in life, but often the tedium of day-to-day life replaces his quest. Inevitably, this man will one day wake to find that he no longer recognizes himself, and that his sacrifices have gone unappreciated and may even be resented. If only the average 16-year-old could get that message: to be who he is, to do what drives him, and to never, ever apologize for seeking his purpose!

Dostoevsky used his own life as a template for Crime and Punishment. It is the story of a young man who lives in poverty with no hope of escape. Raskolnikov commits a murder in order to steal money from his victim, but convinces himself that the murder is altruistic. As he is sought by authorities and eventually punished, Raskolnikov struggles between his actual motives and what he believes his motives to be.

We’re all guilty of not owning up to our motives. It’s so much easier to let ourselves believe we’re making the altruistic choice, when we’re really taking the easy way out. A woman stays in a bad marriage so her kids can have both parents; truth is, she’s afraid she can’t make it on her own. A man commits suicide because the world (and his own daughter) will be better off without him; truth is, he doesn’t have the strength to face the consequences of his actions.

At its core, Don Quixote is a study of the differences between perception and reality. After reading many romantic stories, Don Quixote sets out across Spain with his “squire,” Sancho Panza, to perform his own chivalrous acts. But these men are not a heroic knight and his squire; they are average men seeking an extraordinary life. With the help of those he meets along the way, Don Quixote explores truth, perception, imagination, reality, and his own heart.

Truth is based on perspective, and there are very few things in life that are true for all people, all the time. Reality, therefore, cannot be reduced to facts. It is dependent on each person’s perspective. Every single thing that has happened to me over the course of my life affects how I perceive the present moment. Life is not simply cause and effect. Life is not simple. But we are not so different from our ancestors; if we ignore classic literature, we miss the opportunity to see a part of who we are.

I admit that I did not finish reading Don Quixote in high school. I was burned-out on school, and I could not make myself read another page of that book. And I admit that I don’t believe all “legendary” authors deserve that status (I’m talking to you, Ernest Hemingway). But if you enjoy reading, find the classic literature section in your local bookstore. I hope you’ll find something that interests you. They take longer to read than the average New York Times bestseller, but these books are classics for a reason. Those of us who love books must take the time to appreciate these great works of art.

*Fluff – books that are entertaining and easy to read, but that have no real literary value.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Family (New Tab)

If you haven't already, please check out the new "My Family" tab, above. It contains introductions to (and photos of) my household.

Enjoy! (And feel free to leave comments about "My Family" on this post.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I’ve been thinking about friendship, who my true friends are, and the way I define “friend.” A chart of my friendships could be drawn in three concentric circles. The inner circle is made up of family* and consists of very few people. The second circle is the largest by far, and is made up of people I genuinely like but to whom I am not extremely close, whether that’s because of conflicting schedules, physical distance, or the newness of our relationship. The third circle is smaller than the second but larger than the first. This group consists primarily of people I communicate with only on Facebook. Generally, we attended school together, and were close at one time, but have no real desire to be close again (in most cases because, as adults, we are vastly different).

This post is about the first circle. The people in my innermost circle have certain things in common: They love me unconditionally. We are able to disagree without arguing. They support me 100%, even if they don’t agree with my choices. They are there for me, in whatever way they are able, always. These are the people I could call at 4 am to talk through a problem. They’re the ones who would drive an hour if I was stranded on the side of the road. They are the ones who will laugh with me, cry with me, and raise hell with me. They *are* my family. Because of our schedules, I may not see or even talk to these friends that often, but when we connect, it’s as if no time has passed at all.

With that said, I’d like to introduce you to my friends (excluding J., since he deserves a post all his own):

I met J.E. when I started kindergarten at Tisinger Elementary in October of 1981. Almost 13 years later, we graduated high school together. We were friends in school, but I don’t remember a time when we were BFF’s. We lost touch after graduation, but she found me on Myspace in September 2006. I received a message from her just days after R.J. announced he was leaving me. J.E. was separated from her husband, and there were many, many nights she stayed on IM with me for hours, talking around and around the whole situation. At that point in my life, I was closer to suicide than I’ve ever been; it is no exaggeration to say that she saved my life.

J.E. is the funniest person I know. Her sarcasm level is an 11. She likes people even less than I do. She enjoys her vices, and never apologizes for who she is (or, at least, she shouldn’t). She is the most loyal person I know; even when being loyal hurts her, she hangs on. She’s a fantastic friend, and a phenomenal mom. Oh, and she’s a tad bit artistic: you can see her website here.

In June 2001, I went to a job interview. K. was the company’s receptionist. She was kind to me, in small ways, while I waited. I got the job, and we became friends. When I married R.J. in February 2003, she was one of four people who knew we were getting married that day. When she married in March 2004, I was her “honorary” bridesmaid, since her bridal party was set before we became friends. And when she left her husband in March 2005, she lived with me for several weeks until she could get into her own place. I nursed her through her divorce, and two years later, she nursed me through mine.

K. is incredibly determined, and she works harder than anyone I know. She has different tastes than I do, which exposes me to music and books that I might not otherwise have discovered. She’s CFBC, and it’s wonderful to have that in common with such a close friend. It takes a while to get to know her, because she can be quiet, but she’s amazing. Laughing with her over a glass (or three) of wine is one of my most favorite things in the world.

When I met V., I didn’t expect us to become friends. She started working with me in 2006, and I was assigned to train her. She was very quiet, and she’s from California. I didn’t see that we’d have much in common, but we do.

I had trouble with how to write this paragraph. There's so much I love about V., but it's difficult to articulate. She and I are very different, but somehow our friendship works. She recommends books that are a bit off-the-beaten-path, and documentaries that are certain to get me thinking. She’s crafty, and she loves to cook. She has been my teacher as I try to bring healthier and more natural eating habits into my home. She (and her husband) share my politics, so we spend a great deal of time discussing current events. She’s also my favorite sounding board on philosophical matters.

These women are the closest thing I have to sisters. I feel so blessed to have them in my life, and I would do anything for each one of them. As I know they would do for me.

*Family: Your family is made up of the people who love you unconditionally. You may or may not be related to these people by blood.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Where Am I? (New Tab)

If you haven't already, please check out the new "Where Am I?" tab, above. It's an introduction to me, my philosophies, and the reasons I decided to write this blog.

Enjoy! (And feel free to leave comments about "Where Am I?" on this post.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Happy Hour

From Mental Floss: "Every Friday, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else's reply, whatever you want. On to this week's topics of discussion..."

(Now that I actually have followers of my blog, I’d love to see your responses in the comments here. Tell me what you think, friends!)

1. What can’t you bring yourself to throw away?

~ A baby photo of my ex-husband. It’s a very cute picture, and when we were married, I kept it in my jewelry box. After we divorced, I came across it under some other sentimental items in the box. I hated to throw it out; it was taken circa 1979, so I know his mom doesn’t have a copy. I intended to return it, so I put it away where it would be safe (but out of sight). And four years have passed.

2. What specific movies weren’t you allowed to watch (as a kid)?

~ I don’t remember being forbidden to see specific films, although my mother was overly concerned about movie ratings. I was 11 or 12 when the PG-13 rating was introduced. And I distinctly remember arguments where she would say, “It’s not appropriate for kids under 13!” And I would say, “You’re going to let some anonymous person decide what’s appropriate for me as an individual? I’m not an average 11-year-old!”

3. What Are You Reading (and do you recommend it)?

~ I just started Reading My Father by Alexandra Styron. She’s the daughter of William Styron, author of (among other things) Sophie’s Choice and Darkness Visible, a discussion of his descent into depression. I read Darkness Visible a few months ago in preparation for Reading My Father. I really, really hope to get some solid reading time in this weekend so I can give this book the attention it deserves!

Next up will be Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Let's Hope I Never Have to Appear in Court...

...because I will NEVER place my hand on a Bible and say the words, " help me God."

Let me make this clear: I am fully aware that the concept of “separation of church and state” does not exist in the United States Constitution. The phrase was coined in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury (Conn.) Baptist Association on January 1, 1802. (You can read the unedited text of the letter on the Library of Congress website, here.)

Because the Danbury Baptists were a religious minority in their state, they were concerned that the freedom to practice religion was a favor granted by the state, rather than an inalienable right. They believed that Connecticut might – at some point - seek to establish a state religion, and though they knew Jefferson had no control over state laws, they hoped that if Jefferson publicly expressed his belief that there should be no official state religion, the individual states would respect it.

In their letter to Jefferson, the Danbury Baptists said (in part), “Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty--that religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals…”

I believe with every fiber of my being that church and state should be separate. What, exactly, does that mean to me? Among other things, it means:

- “In God We Trust” should not be printed on our money

- “Under God” should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance

- There should be no reference to “God” in public schools, public government, or any publically-funded organization. There should especially be no formal prayer during organized school events.

This discussion was prompted by the recent ruling of Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery, which states that speakers at a public high school graduation ceremony cannot call on audience members to bow their heads, join in prayer or say "amen." I posted a status update on Facebook praising this decision, and was rewarded with an immediate firestorm. Some quotes from my “friends” :

- “Somebody please tell me exactly where in the US Constitution I can find the "separation of church and state", because I've looked and I can't find it in there anywhere. Hmmm..."

- “In a nutshell, he was against the government interfering in the practice of religion.....which is exactly what happened in this ruling."

- "Yep. It's a concept run amuck in the 20th century. A huge group has their rights infringed upon so a small group or individual doesn't get there wittle feelings hurt. Disgusting."

- "It amazes me that one person has a problem with this and now nobody can do it. If the kid doesnt want to pray.....don’t’s pretty simple.”

Sweet baby cheeses, people! WTF are you thinking??? We’ve already covered the issue of “separation of church and state” appearing in the Constitution (which, btw, I did not even imply in my original status update – not sure where that came from). The second comment says this ruling interfered in the practice of religion. Umm…how? Unless public high school graduation ceremonies have changed a lot in the 17 years since I graduated, it is not a worship service, therefore no one is practicing their religion. Comment #3 says: “A huge group has their rights infringed upon so a small group or individual doesn't get there wittle feelings hurt.” Well, a “huge group” of people opposed desegregation, but it happened, because it was the right thing to do.

The right of the individual to his own opinion is (or at least should be) absolute. To me, this all comes down to one thing: can the individual walk away? If a private business wants to post religious billboards, or close on Sundays so their employees can attend church, I have no problem with that. If a zealot wants to stand in the street and talk to passersby about Jesus, it’s fine with me. If an individual student wishes to pray silently at any time, even during school hours, that's great. If a group of students wants to form a club that meets on school grounds before or after classes, they should be allowed to. I don’t even have a fundamental disagreement with people knocking on my door to share their faith (although I do point to the “No Trespassing” sign and close the door). In all those situations, I am not a captive audience.

However, if formal prayer or other reference to “God” is included in a high school graduation ceremony, city council meeting, Congressional hearing, polling place, etc., my only choices are to ignore it or leave the gathering. If I am offended and leave, my voice is silenced and my right to participate in my government is violated. Many people say the non-Christians are making a big deal out of nothing (see comment #4, above). They say if you don’t want to pray, you don’t have to. And it’s true that a Muslim, Pagan, Jew, Buddhist, or agnostic can sit quietly during a Christian prayer. They are not being forced to convert to Christianity. But that’s not the point! The prayer – for which they are a captive audience – is not to THEIR “God.” And THAT is offensive to me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

You plan, God laughs

On my drive into work this morning, I was thinking about the traditional American timetable of adulthood. Here’s what most people intend:

1. Graduate college
2. Get married
3. Develop a career
4. Buy a house
5. Have children

I’m sure that timetable works quite well for a few people. But for most of us, even if we’re planners, life doesn’t turn out that way. A college (or high school) education gets sidetracked because of a pregnancy, so the couple marries. Maybe a career never happens, and the couple gets by on a lifetime of jobs that pay the bills but aren’t what they once dreamed of being when they grew up. Maybe the couple never owns a house of their own.

Some would say that this couple failed, that a good life is a series of steps that must be followed in a set progression. I say that attitude is bullshit.

I’ve always loved Smashmouth’s song “All Star,” especially this part of the chorus:

“Didn't make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb
So much to do so much to see
So what's wrong with taking the back streets
You'll never know if you don't go”

I believe in planning, but life cannot be mapped out, which is good. What fun would it be to know everything before it happens? We just have to hold on tight, hope for more good than bad, and grab every opportunity that comes our way.

I left home before I graduated high school. I attended community college for one semester, then transferred to a university 200 miles from home. I moved there, and my boyfriend, R.S., tagged along. I was in school one semester, flunked my classes because of illness, and moved back home, boyfriend still in-tow. R.S. and I lived together 5 ½ years, during which I worked full-time and took a few classes in community college. When I left R.S., I was 24 and single for the first time in my adult life. I partied with friends, I dated, I had FUN. I met R.J. at work, and we became friends, and then became more than friends. 2 ½ years after meeting, R.J. and I married. We separated 3 ½ years later, and our divorce was final about a year after that. I worked, returned to school, and tried to regain my footing as a 31-year-old, single woman. I moved back to that university town but never returned to school. J. and I reconnected, he moved to be with me, and we got married. We moved home to Dallas.

So here we are. We both have baggage from our pasts. I work full-time in a job I love that may or may not become a career. J. attends school full-time. Neither of us has ever owned a house. Money is tighter than it often is for a couple in their late 30s. We don’t travel as much as we’d like, for a variety of reasons. We own one older car that thankfully still gets us from A to B. We do not intend to have children together (J. has two sons who are - unfortunately - not a part of our life; we hope and have faith that will change someday).

Have we failed at being grown-ups? Have we failed at life? It's true that we took “the back streets” to arrive where we are today. We had fun; we did and saw a lot of things. We learned what works for us as individuals, and what we need to be happy. We realized that money isn't everything, and that life is often simpler when you’re just getting by. We know that fun evenings are spent at home with our pets, not in a bar. We know that we are each 100% committed to the other, to our marriage, and to the life we are building together.

We hope to someday own a home. We hope to park two new-ish cars in the driveway. We hope to travel. But if we don't get to do those things, it’s ok. “You'll never know if you don't go,” remember? We would not be who we are if we’d taken a traditional path. The fact that we took the “back streets” is not something to be ashamed of, or something we need to justify to anyone. Besides...I think the traditional path looks pretty damn boring.

I have a good friend who recently broke up with her live-in boyfriend. E. is 19, and just finished her sophomore year of college. She and her boyfriend began dating in high school, went to the same university, and lived together for one year. They intended to marry after they graduated. I was concerned about that, having once been 19 myself, but I knew it would work itself out. E. sent me an email about the break-up, and in it she said, “If it’s meant to be we will find our way back to each other but we each need time to grow up and be independent.” I wish I’d realized that at 19. Hell, I wish I’d realized that at 28!!! E. is smart, loving, beautiful, and funny. She will be a wonderful schoolteacher, wife, and mother someday. But I hope she’ll follow some “back streets” first…that’s how you find out who you are. Sometimes, we look back on the wonderful things that happened over the course of our lives and realize that, at the time, those things derailed all our plans for the future.

You plan, God laughs.

May 2011 Book List

Everyone knows I’m a voracious reader, and I’m often asked for recommendations. I decided that on or around the first of each month, I’ll post a list of the books I read the month before. I give each book a numeric rating, from 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent. I do not generally rate non-fiction works; those will be shown with a rating of N/A.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe - Rating: 4

Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman - Rating: 3

Horns by Joe Hill - Rating: 3

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell – Rating: 5

The Small House Book by Jay Shafer – Rating: N/A

What You See in the Dark by Manuel Munoz - Rating: 5