Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our Fairy Tale

If I hadn’t started smoking, I might never have met J.

My best friend H. and I started smoking when I was 15 and she was 16. No one in our families smoked, so we had to be careful not to smell like smoke too often (and to have an excuse if we did). We started hanging out at a pool hall. One day, I saw a guy walking towards us, with a friend tagging along behind. He was cute, and I remember rolling my eyes because I assumed he was coming over to talk to H. (as was often the case). Instead, he talked to me. I was 17 and J. was 20.


Over the next several months, I saw J. at the pool hall. He’d occasionally call me, but we never got together. In early 1994, J. told me he was looking for a job, and I helped him get one at the restaurant where I was working. We worked with a great group of people, and had a ton of fun. J. was a player, and usually had several girls hanging around, in addition to his on-again, off-again girlfriend. I didn’t care that he had a girlfriend, so we often snuck into the walk-in cooler to make out. One night at work, J. asked if I wanted to go to the park with him after we got off. He says now he didn’t think I would go, but I was wild back then. It was very late when we got to the park, and we ended up having sex on a park bench.

I was a senior in high school, and had zero interest in getting serious with a guy. In fact, I deliberately dated guys who had girlfriends, just so I didn’t have to deal with a full-time boyfriend. Still, there was something different about J. He had a way of getting under my skin; I hated the fact that I liked him so much. We spent a lot of time flirting and kissing, and a lot of time arguing. I even threw a heavy ceramic platter at him in the restaurant kitchen one night. I just couldn’t get him out of my system, no matter how crazy he made me.

In December 1995, I left Dallas to attend university. J. and I lost touch, but I never forgot him. I still remember exactly what I was wearing when we met. I’d think of him at random moments several times a year. And I always thought of him when I saw a pool table.

In early 2008, my life was in shambles. I’d gotten divorced, moved away from Dallas (again), and been dumped by my loser boyfriend. One night, while thinking of how happy I’d been when I was younger, I thought of J. I immediately looked him up on Myspace, and before I could talk myself out of it, I sent him a message. I honestly wasn’t sure if he’d remember me, but he replied to my message within a day, including his phone number and asking me to call him. I was so nervous before calling, I almost couldn’t do it. Over the next two months, we talked as much as possible. One day, I was talking to J. during my lunch break, and a coworker asked who I was talking to that made me glow, which of course, made me glow even more.

J. had moved to Illinois to be near his older son, who was 19. In early May, he asked if he could come visit me, and we planned for him to come down over Memorial Day weekend 2008. He would travel by bus from Illinois, through Dallas, down to Bryan. I was excited about his visit, but I was also very nervous. Even though I felt a real connection to J., I hadn’t seen him in over 13 years. Now we would have three full days together! When J. was somewhere in Iowa, he received a message from me telling him not to come. Of course, he couldn’t just get off the bus in Iowa, and he didn’t know what was going on in my head, so he thought he could change my mind. J. continued on to Dallas, where his family is. I also drove into Dallas that weekend to see my mom. I never replied to any of J.’s text messages or answered his calls.

J. went back to Illinois after the weekend in Dallas, miserable. He’d had a horrible trip, first with me bailing on him, and then spending the entire weekend arguing with family. He kept trying to reach me, and we finally talked a little. I couldn’t explain why I had canceled on him, and he was understandably hurt and upset. Somewhere in the conversation, he let slip that he was staying with a girl. When I pushed, he admitted that he’d been seeing her before he came to Texas to see me. I was furious. I called him every name in the book, and told him he hadn’t changed one bit in all those years. He said that he hadn’t made any commitment to me; hell…we weren’t even dating! He couldn’t understand why I was so angry. I told him it didn’t matter, because I’d obviously made the right choice by telling him not to come. I said I didn’t want to talk to him anymore.

Over the next seven months, J. would occasionally send me a brief message on Myspace. I would reply, but I was still hurt and didn’t want to talk to him. I’d gotten back together with the loser boyfriend, but things were really, really bad. He and I finally broke up for good in January 2009, and he planned to move out of our apartment while I was in Dallas over a long weekend. By chance, J. sent me a text message on that Friday, and asked when I was planning to be in Dallas again. (He had moved back a few months earlier.) I told him I was coming on Saturday afternoon, and he asked if he could see me. We made plans for Sunday.

I was very nervous that day. The date with J. was a big deal, and I was scared to death. My relationship track record was awful, and my ex was moving out of my apartment that day! The timing couldn’t have been any worse. We went to a local area with lots of bars and restaurants. We sat and talked at a couple of different places, but after a couple of hours, I started to panic again. I told J. I needed to get back to my mom and grandma. I know now that he was very disappointed, and went home that night thinking I didn’t like him at all. We sent texts back and forth all evening, and J. asked if he could take me to breakfast before I left town on Monday morning. I agreed, and we had a great breakfast. When I was leaving, he took my hand and said that he knew I had a lot on my plate, and that he didn’t want to complicate my life, but that he liked me and wanted to see what might happen. We shared a very brief kiss, and I was gone.

That was January 19, 2009. It was all downhill from there.

J. and I talked on the phone for hours every day during the next week. We were brutally honest with each other about all the baggage we were bringing into the relationship. We both knew that this wasn’t the beginning of an everyday relationship, and we put everything on the table. I drove to Dallas again on Saturday, January 25, 2009, and we said “I love you” that night.

J. proposed to me on February 14, 2009 in the park from all those years ago. The bench was gone, but we still managed to find our spot. It was so romantic – I couldn’t have imagined a better proposal!

After much back-and-forth, we decided that J. would move to Bryan. I had a stable job, and his job was about to end, so (we thought) it made sense. J. moved to Bryan on April 5, 2009. We were married on August 28, 2009.

Our first year together was very, very hard. It was extremely difficult for J. to find a job, and the loser boyfriend had ensured I was behind on all my bills. We had no money. J. was struggling with a chronic illness. Life was overwhelming, but our relationship was strong. We never argued, even during the most stressful times. In April 2010, with the help of our families, we moved home to Dallas, and our life improved incredibly fast.

We now live in the area where we had our first date. Our family has grown to include three cats. J. is a full-time student and spends all his spare time tending to our home and family. I have the easy job of going to work every day – I wish we could stay like this forever! In many ways, I’m glad that our first year was so hard. It was hell at the time, but we got through it together. If a brand-new relationship with as much baggage as ours had can survive that, then we have a real shot at “til death do us part.”

I know now that when J. was on the bus in 2008, he never intended to return to Illinois. The girl he’d been seeing loved him, but he didn’t feel the same. I know that I panicked and told him not to visit me because I saw the same thing he did: once we were together, we would never be apart again. After my divorce and relationship with the loser, I didn’t ever want to love again. I thought my heart would never heal; if it did, I sure as hell wasn’t giving it away again.

But here’s the thing, and I know it sounds so corny, but J. and I both believe it: we were meant to be together. I sometimes wish we’d gotten together when we first met. We could be celebrating our 15th anniversary by now! But if we’d been together then, we would not be together now. We weren’t ready in 1994. And we weren’t ready in 2008. What we have now is so good; it was absolutely worth waiting for.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking this is a strange fairy tale. Every girl grows up watching romantic comedies and Disney princess movies, but it doesn’t take us long to figure out that real life isn’t that way. I was jaded about love before I graduated high school. Then, when I was 32, I learned that fairy tales *do* happen. They don’t involve glass slippers or poisoned apples or mermaids with legs, but J. is my Prince Charming. We tell each other, “You're not perfect, but you’re perfect for me.” In this relationship, even when things were at their worst, I never gave a thought to leaving, not for a second. Neither did J.

It’s still difficult for me to believe that this much happiness is possible. Sometimes I worry that it will all go away. But I don’t let myself think that way for long. Will we live happily ever after? I don’t know…but we are happy now, and that’s plenty.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Friday Happy Hour (on Saturday)

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 are some things you learned the hard way?

~ I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way, because I’m the type of person who has to make every mistake for myself. I think the most valuable thing I’ve learned is to not place much value on material things. It’s important to have enough money, and not having to watch every penny is wonderful. And, of course, it’s great to have money to play with and to spend on nice things, but in the end…it’s just stuff. It doesn’t really make you happy.

What’s the oldest food product currently in your house?

~ Probably a can of pineapple chunks in the very back of my refrigerator. I think they have been in there for a year, but they don’t expire until 2012. I’m sure I’ll get around to eating them before then.

If you could ask any plot question to any famous screenwriters or directors, what would you ask?

~ I could come up with a specific answer to this question if I thought about it for a while, but I don’t feel like doing that. So I’ll give a general answer: I’d like to ask how they didn’t catch some of the glaring plot errors that have made it onto film. I’d also like to ask a few writers/directors why they chose to end a particular film in a certain way.

If you had to go back and attend one fictional high school in the time period it was featured, where would you enroll?

~ I would not go back to high school in any way, shape, or form - period.

Friday, August 5, 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 was the going rate for baby teeth in your house?

~ I don’t remember what I got for most of my teeth, but when I lost my last baby tooth, I got $5. I guess mom figured she would give me a bonus, since it was the end of the line.

Have you ever prevented a robbery?

~ Yes – see the story here.

Have you ever taken a class online? Did you have a good experience? Did you learn as much as you would have in a traditional classroom?

~ I’ve never taken an online class, because I don’t trust myself to be disciplined enough. Also, I don’t think I would get nearly as much out of the class as I would in a traditional classroom.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

100 Things...

This is my 100th post. In honor of that milestone, I wanted to write a list of 100 things that make me happy. This was *much* harder than I expected; it has taken me weeks to put it together.

Here's the list (in no particular order):

01. Having a BFF who has known me forever.
02. The first page of a new, eagerly anticipated book
03. "Then" by Brad Paisley
04. Crossing the last thing off a to-do list
05. Happy hour margaritas on a patio on a beautiful, early-spring afternoon
06. Finding the perfect card or gift for a loved one
07. The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee
08. The beginning of the Christmas season
09. Seeing a formerly close friend and realizing the inside jokes are still funny
10. Trying a new recipe and having it come out perfectly
11. Receiving mail that isn't bills
12. Dallas Farmers Market
13. Baseball
14. Scrapbooking
15. Independent book stores
16. Crate & Barrel
17. Finding that a friend shares an uncommon opinion with me
18. Online friendships
19. When J. makes a joke that makes me laugh so hard I cry and my stomach hurts
20. "History in the Making" by Darius Rucker
21. Loving and being loved in return
22. Being silly
23. The fact that J. only takes off his wedding ring in the shower
24. Making a friend smile
25. "Modern Family" on ABC
26. Giving the stink-eye to snooty bitches
27. The first day with a hint of cool air in the breeze after a long, miserable Texas summer
28. British comedy (especially Eddie Izzard and all things Monty Python)
29. Weddings
30. Sitting on Santa's lap
31. Weekend marathons of tv shows I love, containing episodes I've never seen
32. Really good, really bad movies
33. Chocolate-chip cookies fresh from the oven
34. Getting to payday with money left in the bank
35. The realization that my fingernails are shaped just like my grandmother's
36. Naps
37. Puppy kisses
38. Baskin-Robbins ice cream
39. Coming home to J. every night
40. Receiving a compliment on my work from a customer/client/tenant
41. Whole Foods Market
42. Exploring my feelings while writing posts for my blog
43. Wearing my wedding dress to work
44. Floating in my in-laws' pool on a gorgeous summer afternoon
45. Slow, steady, cool rain on a day when I can stay home and curl up with a book
46. Breakfast at Original Pancake House
47. Getting a new handbag
48. Days when my boss says, "We're closing early today," for no good reason
49. Being accepted into the family 100% by my in-laws
50. A compliment from a stranger
51. Hearing a family story I've never heard before
52. The Container Store
53. Kitty voices
54. Cook-outs
55. Storehouse Furniture
56. Watching J. play pool
57. Performing random acts of kindness
58. Fresh fruit in the summer
59. Hearing my dad say, "I love you, kid."
60. Re-reading emails and text messages from when J. and I were first together
61. Spending a few hours with all the memories packed away in my cedar chest
62. Daydreaming with J. about the house we will own someday
63. Siciliano's
64. Learning something new
65. Classical languages, especially Latin
66. Roller coasters
67. Driving through downtown Dallas every day on my way home - I love this city!
68. Godiva chocolates
69. Garden gnomes
70. Flowers
71. Beautiful graffiti
72. Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center
73. Fireworks shows
74. Schnauzers
75. Jim Shore figurines
76. Photography
77. Watching sports: MLB baseball, NBA and college basketball, and college football
78. Magazine subscriptions
79. Northpark Center mall
80. Animal rescue groups and people who foster animals
81. Getting lots of groceries for a little money thanks to ad-watching and coupon-cutting
82. The first day of feeling better after being sick
83. Robert Fulghum
84. Bedtime snuggles with J.'s cat, Keke
85. Conspiracy theories
86. Doing touristy things in Dallas
87. Invisible Cats
88. Knowing that I can take care of myself (but that I don't always have to)
89. All things Rachael Ray
90. Random kitty craziness
91. Talking about books with other bibliophiles
92. Falling asleep next to J. every night and waking up next to him every morning
93. I Can Has Cheezburger
94. Shopping for scrapbooking supplies
95. A perfect cup of coffee
96. Plotting my revenge, and then being the bigger person
97. "Love Song" by Tesla
98. Perfectly-timed attitude adjustments from the universe
99. Hearing a song I really love on the radio
100. Counting my blessings

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Daydreaming...

I need a break from the craziness that has been my life for the last couple of weeks. It’s nothing bad; things have just really chaotic at work because of our impending move. This is also a very busy time of year for J., since he’s finishing up his second summer class and getting ready for the fall semester. This is the time we have to get everything lined up for his 2011-2012 financial aid, and his school is difficult, to say the least, so it takes real effort.

With that said, I thought I’d daydream a little.

I was raised on cars. My dad has worked for a local Ford dealership my entire life. His favorite game to play in the car with me was “What kind of car is that?” He would point to a nearby car and ask me to identify it. When I was three or four years old, we were playing our game, and I identified the car as X (I have no idea what kind of car it was). He said, “No, sorry, it’s Y.” And I said, “No it’s not, Daddy, look at the hubcaps!” Baby Carol was right, and a family legend was born.

I love cars, especially American muscle cars, and most especially the Ford Mustang. My first car was a 1988 Mustang with a 5-speed transmission. I also owned a 1999 Mustang and a 2002 Mustang, and a 2004 Mustang convertible. These days I drive what will get me from point A to point B, and that’s fine with me. J. and I have way more important things to do with our money right now than blow it on a car payment. But someday, I look forward to having a completely impractical sports car again. That car will probably be another Mustang, and that will be fantastic.

However, in my daydreams, that car is this – the Audi TT Roadster:


Sigh...I love this car way more than I should.

Monday, August 1, 2011

July 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.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut - Rating: 4

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - Rating: 5

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen – Rating: 4.5

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – Rating: 4.5

Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp - Rating: 4