Category Archives: pete

the assumption pitfall

There are few things that get me in more personal trouble than my tendency to assume things.  Yes, of course I’ve heard the old saying that “To assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me'” and I swear that I don’t mean to assume things… but I do.  As an adult, I’ve realized that there is a certain arrogance inherent in an assumption — basically what we’re saying is that we are so smart that we can discern what someone else is thinking or feeling based on selected, minimal, or even no evidence.

It’s no wonder that our assumptions are wrong at least as much as they are right.  But because humans tend to ignore information that contradicts our belief structure, I think we generally place more weight on memories of the times our assumptions were correct.  “Aha!” we cry, “See?! I knew it all along!” This reinforces our future reliance on our brilliant ability to assume conclusions that may or may not true.

Crises of self-doubt result when our assumptions are wrong, so I think we try to avoid addressing those head-on.  Admitting that we based decisions, hopes, dreams, or even just directed emotional energy toward something that was born from a very flawed assumption is pretty hard to swallow sometimes.  And it seems like when we do face the fact that we relied heavily and to our detriment on a flawed assumption, everything from mild embarrassment to complete self-loathing can occur, depending on how erroneous and painful the actual truth was.

Most of my assumptions tend to the negative, although there are some ridiculous, Pollyanna-ish exceptions in my past that still cause me to grimace in shame.  But, if I’m being honest, I know that most of the time, when I’m scared and uncertain, I’m assuming a poor outcome will result and rationalizing it under the “Assume the Worst; Hope for the Best” rubric.  And we all know how easily this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is a whole other post in itself, I think.

I think that most of the time we cling to our negative assumptions out of fear — fear of being duped, fear of repeating past mistakes, fear of being wrong.  Basically, it’s fear.  And I think that we cling to our positive assumptions out of hope — hope that things are not as they seem, hope that they will resolve themselves, hope that if we wish hard enough, it will be true.  So, basically, it’s hope.

Both kinds of assumptions are bad news in relationships.  In my relationship with Pete, he assumed certain things about my feelings and about us, based on his own feelings and wishes, which he projected onto me.  As a result, he was far more upset at our relationship’s end than he might have been if I had realized the assumptions he was making and made necessary adjustments.  He was basing his assumptions on what felt like good, solid evidence, but mostly he was just being hopeful, and there’s really nothing wrong with that.  It just sucks when you’re wrong. We frequently see this kind of post-break-up assumption in the form of our expectation that the object of our desire will “come to their senses” or “see the light” and realize how special and wonderful our relationship was.  Sometimes this does happen, but it’s pretty rare, isn’t it? A couple of years ago, my friend Annie had a boyfriend of four months, Ned, who simply refused to accept that her feelings for him were never as deep as his for her.  Months later, he was still blathering on about it and resenting her for being heartless and moving on.  Most of us have been in Ned’s position at one point or another, and it definitely feels terrible.  But clinging to assumptions that are nothing but false hope is one of the worst forms of self-torture.

Conversely, in my relationship with James, I have made many erroneous negative assumptions, again based on what felt like good, solid evidence, but was mostly just fear.  I have a long list of moments when I was too petrified to ask a pointed question, lest my worst fears be confirmed.  So instead, I clung to my assumptions, which were generally worse than any reality might have been.  This is a particularly insidious kind of assumption, as it allows you to beat yourself up with the assumed facts first, and then go round two with yourself when you discover the error in your assumption.  Good times all around, for sure.

Assumptions are pretty easily avoided, of course.  “Just ask,” would seem to be solid advice in this regard.  But it’s not really that easy, is it?  Because we can be blinded by both hope and fear, and most times we’re not even aware that we’re assuming.  It’s only that pesky hindsight that usually shows us how fast we traveled Assumption Road toward Conclusion City.

So, I don’t have any answers to this particular problem, except to say that I’m really working on it in my own life. And I hope it will get easier. Or at least I assume so.

assumption sign

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Filed under dating, general musings, pete, relationships

the heart wants what it wants (or why love doesn’t always make sense)

I had a conversation with a friend recently about how the heart seems to have a mind of its own.  It yields when we want it to remain strong and resolute, clings when our brain is clamoring that there is no hope, and refuses admittance to some people who seem to be a really good fit.  For centuries, poets and balladeers have struggled to make sense of the unpredictability of the heart, while psychologists and social scientists have attempted to explain and understand its irrationality.  But I don’t think anyone has figured it out yet.

When “Pete” and I broke up last month, he (and other, well-meaning, male friends) attempted to convince me of the reasons why we belonged together.  These reasons consisted primarily of apparent similarities in our present lives, family structures, and goals.  They were concrete, they were rational, and they were the kinds of similarities on which online dating algorithms rely heavily.  I listened quietly to Pete (and those friends), and noticed that how I felt did not seem to enter into the equation.  The fact that my feelings toward Pete had changed as a result of the natural evolution of learning more about him and us seemed almost irrelevant.  The facts and evidence of our suitability were there and acknowledged and so, it seemed, should trump any reservations my heart was expressing.  In fact, at one point I even said to Pete, “Love is a matter of the heart, not the mind.”  To which he replied, “I don’t think that’s always true.”

I had a more visceral and emotionally aggressive reaction to his words than many people probably would, because, for me, that was an important and clear demonstration of how differently we approach relationships and think about love.  I do not expect love to be practical.  I do not expect love to be a matter of adding a column of numbers and reaching an immutable conclusion.   I see dating as gathering qualitative, not just quantitative, data about how we fit (or don’t).  The greatest loves of my life were amazing qualitative fits and seemed completely wrong for me quantitatively.

I think of quantitative similarities as the kinds of things you might find on someone’s “life resume” — cultural upbringing, religious background, education, relationship experience, socio-economic status, parenting style, geographic proximity, level of professional attainment, etc.  Qualitative elements might include outlook on life, values, dreams, physical attraction, curiosity about the other person or the broader world, or a sense of relating to someone on a “soul” level instead of or in addition to an intellectual level, etc.  When couples share quantitative similarities, they seem to line up and “fit” in ways that are obvious and identifiable to almost anyone.  These couples make sense to us.  Successful couples who do not share quantitative similarities are often considered “opposites” and we lump them into the “Opposites Attract” adage.  I would argue that they are likely not true opposites, but that they share commonalities that are not as easily perceived to outsiders.

But the heart doesn’t always make sense, and I would argue that no one falls in love –truly, madly, deeply in love — with their partner’s quantitative traits.  I do understand that most people are attracted to people who are similar to themselves in these ways, but I don’t think those similarities alone constitute love.  They contribute to comfort, companionship, understanding, and ease.  But you can have all those things and still not have love.   I think that people who have both similar life resumes and a deep and abiding love often point to the quantitative data to show their compatibility because that is more easily explained and understood, even though it is actually the qualitative elements that bind them so tightly.

But regardless of what is true for others, my heart knows what it wants, and I have learned the hard way that to allow my brain veto power over my heart is disastrous for all involved.

I have met many, many men in my life whom I’ve wished I’d felt more for.  Men who were good, practical, honest men but whom I absolutely did not want to wake up next to every morning forever.  Sometimes, my heart will play along for a while, seeming to appreciate or warm to a guy who appears to be a good fit on paper.  And my brain cheers and crows victoriously.  But soon enough, my heart sheepishly admits that it simply isn’t real, and my brain rages at the heart’s apparent unwillingness to get with the general program.  But my heart persists, unfazed by my brain’s tantrums.

I’ve also spent many sad moments begging my heart to relinquish its attachment to men with whom a future is not possible.  As I’ve written before, it took me 4 years to get over Parker… to stop using him as the measure for every other man I dated.  Four long and mostly lonely years when my heart whimpered and pouted and cried out for him, even as my brain forced us on lots of dates and through a couple of meaningless relationships.

I guess I simply do not believe that we can force ourselves to love someone anymore than we can force ourselves to stop loving someone.  We love who we love, whether we should or not.

I think, to a very large extent, this is true for most of us.  Our heart wants what it wants, and then we cite the quantitative data to support that decision so that it feels more rational and right to us.  I also think that, for many people, the quantitative data lines up more neatly and more consistently than it does for me.  For instance, I was a lawyer.  A lot of lawyers enjoy relationships with similarly educated and/or employed mates.  I’m sure this is because most of the people who choose my profession are somewhat similar in nature.  But here’s the kick for me — not one of my close friends from law school is married to anyone remotely similar to them in profession.  In fact, my two best friends from law school are married to a Broadway producer and a sales manager, respectively.  This is not surprising to us because we three were very dissimilar from most of our law school classmates.  We were slightly odd, slightly different.  And it is those differences that speak loudly in relationship contexts, I think.  On the flip side, I have friends who are much more representative of their chosen fields of endeavor and they do seem to select people who quantitatively match them.

So, when someone argues with me over why I should or should not love someone, I find it pretty perplexing.  Am I not an intelligent, emotionally-aware woman capable of understanding and expressing my feelings and desires?  I am not particularly impulsive, nor overly judgmental of minor faults, but I do know what I value, what my dealbreakers are, and how I want to feel in a relationship.  Are those not a good enough basis to make a decision without facing an appeal that is, to be honest, a bit patronizing? And furthermore, I would absolutely, positively never want to be with someone that I had to convince to be with me.  Sure, it’s tempting to make those arguments, but if you persevere, what have you really won?  Reluctant love? Love by forfeit?  Don’t we all deserve more than that?

And what of our friends who are still aching for a love that is no more?  Why do we expect them to simply “get over it”?  Why do we value the ability to forget so easily what we once thought so special? Maybe we, as outsiders, don’t value their love as they do, but does that even matter?

Time and experience are great teachers.  They have the power to guide us gently and tenderly into great love, and they have the power to eventually guide us out, as well.  They alone influence our hearts, I believe.  Not our minds, not our friends, not our life resumes.  They abide by no rules or algorithms.  They follow no trend or dictate.  And if it were any other way, love would be far less special, far less rare, and far less magical.

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the smile in my voice

Last week, I was on the telephone very late one night, when Sabrina came into my room to tell me she was nervous about some things at school and so couldn’t sleep.  I briefly interrupted my conversation, reassured her and told her to go back to bed.  I would come tuck her in and check on her when I finished my conversation.

The following morning, as we were in the kitchen preparing breakfast, the following conversation ensued:

Sabrina:  Who were you talking to so late last night?

TPG:  Hmmm… Who do you think?

Sabrina (spoken with authority): Well, it wasn’t Pete.

TPG:  Really? How do you know?

Sabrina (shrugging):  Because you didn’t have your smile in your voice.

As often happens in my parenting moments, I was struck dumb.  Dumb by her wisdom. Dumb by her perception.  Dumb by her ability to so beautifully and succinctly capture in words the happiness I feel when I am sharing time with Pete, even over the phone.

But later, reflecting on the conversation, I was also aware of how profound that moment probably was for Sabrina, albeit unconsciously so.  What did she learn in that small moment about dating, how a man should make you feel, what falling in love might look like?  I often forget that I am constantly on stage for my daughters — they are critics in the front row, taking subconscious notes of my behaviors, my values, my choices.  My actions and words broadcast messages and lessons to them all day and in every way, and most times I am thankfully unaware of their scrutiny.  But every once in a while, it hits me.

I want my girls to have relationships with men who treat them so well and enrich their lives in ways that I cannot.  I want them to feel accepted and valued and safe.  I want them to fall in love without fear of that love being returned.  I want, someday, to overhear a conversation between them and their guy, and hear a smile in their voice.  And if I do, my heart will sing.

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Filed under dating, happy endings, love, pete, relationships, single mom

sure you’re in a relationship, but do you know how to “have” one?

My independent spirit, natural reserve, and aversion to needy men has often led me to men who are emotionally unavailable in some fashion or another.  Nice men, with one notable exception, but not really ready or able or willing to truly sink into a relationship, embrace it, and let it naturally evolve.  Sometimes these men were badly damaged by previous relationships (romantic or familial), sometimes they were shy to the point of being closed off, and sometimes they were just fun guys who had no real desire to go deep emotionally.  Whatever the reason, I have spent a lot of time in relationships in which I reached for my partner, only to have my hand close on nothing but air.

My therapist likes to talk about how some people simply “don’t know how to have.”  I refer to them in my head as “Have-nots.”  They basically are incapable of embracing and being genuinely happy with a new, healthy relationship, so they find ways to sabotage it.  These people often feel, deep down, that they are not deserving of a truly amazing relationship.  Guilt, shame, regret, or fear can cause them to pull away from anything that feels genuine and authentic.  Have-nots are hesitant to be really known by anyone, out of fear that rejection will somehow follow, and they worry that they won’t be able to sustain a real relationship.  Some Have-nots hide behind being “too busy” or “too hurt” or some other “too” to avoid really digging deep and creating something incredible.   It is easier and safer to be in something with clear and distinct boundaries and limits, so a deep and sincere intimacy isn’t ever really possible, but neither is heart-breaking pain.  When Have-nots encounter someone who is open and giving and loving, who attempts to create something real with them, they often react with irritability, confusion, or even anger.  Usually, their own inability to get close is blamed on the other person, who is often characterized as too demanding.

I think, like most emotional issues, this “inability to have” is a spectral thing, and I know that I have vacillated along the spectrum at different points in my life.  There have been definite and clear periods of my life when I have not been certain of what I deserved or able to give much, and other times when I have been open and loving and discovered myself involved with someone who was not.  Sometimes I have figured this out on the first date; other times it has taken months (or even years — yikes!) of mixed signals and roller-coaster emotions before I finally realized it.  Sometimes I’m the one sending the mixed signals, but more often I’m the one trying to decipher them.  Either way, it’s exhausting and unproductive and sad.

In fact, I have spent so much time in relationships like this, that I had pretty much forgotten what it feels like when it’s not.  I’d forgotten what it feels like when it flows easily.  When I don’t feel insecure about anything.  When I feel free to raise uncomfortable subjects and have them addressed.  When there wasn’t something hanging out there, like a dark thunder cloud in the distance, leaving me wondering how we’d handle that when it was overhead and whether it might do us in.

But I am, apparently, learning.

Somewhere in the darkness of my recent depression, when I wasn’t consciously analyzing anything, my subconscious was working out some really big questions.  And when I emerged from that darkness, I carried with me a quiet certainty, a soulful knowledge of what I wanted and deserved.  I didn’t feel like I needed to chase it down or apologize for it or worry that it wouldn’t show up.  It simply was, as much a part of me as my red hair or the freckles on my nose.  And then Pete appeared.

Pete could easily be a Have-not. The stories from his marriage, divorce, and subsequent life upheaval are epic and sad.  I can only figure that he survived them because he had two little girls depending on him and a strong core of integrity around his own actions and decisions.  He could easily have become bitter, resentful, and closed off.  But he didn’t.  He is open and present and available.  Steady and unwavering.  Patient and kind.  He has even, for his daughters’ sakes, negotiated a courteous relationship with his ex-wife; something for which I really admire him, especially given her behavior.

I think Pete’s ability to have — to truly, happily embrace our new relationship — is indicative of his strong sense of himself.  His unconscious sense of self-worth, of knowing that he deserves someone amazing and that he can be amazing, too.  He isn’t gun-shy about us, he doesn’t back-pedal or run away or over-analyze or freak out and blame me.  He doesn’t get defensive when I raise something touchy, and he goes out of his way to show me that I’m special to him, that he respects me and likes to spend time with me.  In turn, I don’t worry about anything — where our relationship is going, whether he cares about me, whether we can handle the challenges of four young girls while still carving out time for each other, and on and on.  I just know that we’re both here, happy and excited and wanting to see where it all leads, and applying our best selves to the effort.

I love that I can be every version of myself around Pete.  I love that he constantly surprises me by showing me more of himself that I wouldn’t have guessed at.  I love that we share an optimism about our relationship that allows us to playfully imagine lots of fun things in the future.  But I think the thing I like best is being able to finally be kind and loving toward a man and him wanting to have that, without reservation or holding back.  There is something particularly beautiful in telling someone how much you value them and seeing their face light up with delight, or doing some small thing for them and seeing them appreciate it without attaching some negative connotation to your motive.  These are simple things, but they are also the things that create trust in each other and faith in the relationship.  And I believe that those are the things that sustain you later on, when the initial blush of the new relationship fades.

So, I think being able to really have a relationship must also be important to its long-term sustainability.  I think that knowing that you and your partner both value what you have is huge.  And being able to look at each other and agree that you’re both lucky is priceless.  The rest I’m still figuring out, but that I know for sure.

Me and “Pete” 🙂

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target date

Last night, after I attended two Back-to-School picnics with my daughters, Pete and I stole away for some special, quality time alone.

At Super Target.

That’s right, folks.  We went grocery shopping together.  I helped him pick out a new shower curtain, and he stood gamely by while I picked up a new blush compact and some bagels.

This is what passes for romance when you’re both single parents of two small children each.  Sexy, no?

But, to be honest, it was really nice.  We strolled along, him pushing the cart, me holding his arm.  I poked around through the handbags (I can’t resist handbags anywhere) and he weighed in on the ineffectiveness of using 3M Command Strip hooks to hang up towels.  We kicked off our shoes to test drive the bathmats, and he made jokes about what a shame it was that the bedding section didn’t actually have any beds to, you know, “try out.”   Weaving through the aisles, we chatted aimlessly about the kids and work and various bits and pieces that I don’t even remember.

What I do remember is how nice it felt.

When my marriage was in shambles, I read a book that very plainly laid out, in question form, whether your marriage had the necessary ingredients to re-establish a good union.  One of the points that struck me — hard, in the gut — was the question of could you do nothing with this person and still feel that you passed the time pleasantly?  Without the benefit of a fun schedule of activities, the company of friends, or expensive toys or vacations.  Could you, quite simply, just be with that person and still feel fulfilled?  When I read that section of the book, I felt my heart sink.  My husband and I had long ago reached the point where, without some pleasant distraction, the air between us was heavy and sad and tense.   It seemed like it had been ages since we had been able to just be together — just us — and enjoy each other.  I didn’t know where we had gone wrong or how we had gotten off track, but when I looked over my shoulder, I saw that the road behind us was thick with overgrown problems and resentments.  There was no going back.

But from that sad moment, I extracted a valuable lesson:  to cultivate and nurture the simple times.  When a couple is first together, everything is fun because you’re still learning about each other, hearing stories, exploring your relationship.  But later, after the first few months or years, it is all too easy to begin to disengage.  To begin dividing chores and duties, spending less time together and more apart, developing common interests and experiences with people other than your partner.  Until one day, you have traveled so far away from each other down divergent paths, and the road behind you is too thick to find your way back to each other.

One of the gifts of divorce, if we choose to embrace it, is the chance to be more mindful in our choices and our patterns; to make different mistakes than we made the first time; to recognize how patterns established early on will influence and direct the course of the relationship in the long-term.  We can do things differently, and hopefully find a different result.

I’m not talking about being hyper-vigilant or over-analyzing everything and suffocating the natural evolution of a relationship.  What I’m getting at is recognizing and acknowledging the good stuff you share and protecting it because you value it, making course corrections as necessary to preserve it, and not allowing the noise and stresses of life to distract you while the relationship goes off the rails to crash and burn in a fiery divorce.  I get that this isn’t easy, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be easy every day, all the time.  I know that when my ex-husband and I married, we understood that there would be “hard times,” but we imagined them to be akin to the struggles we faced with my daughter’s health, and the financial scares of my husband’s lay-offs.  We congratulated ourselves on weathering those times quite well and solidly as a couple.  But we didn’t fully understand that perhaps the hardest part of a relationship is just keeping it healthy.  Healthy bodies can sometimes withstand even a severe, acute illness, but unhealthy bodies can be laid low by simple viruses.  Our divorce was definitely precipitated by lots of small viruses, rather than one, massive heart attack.  I believe the same is true of relationships —  and it is far harder to restore them to health once they are unhealthy than it is to maintain their health in the first place.

So, I am busy noticing the easy things and the simple times and remembering that it’s important to nurture the aspects of a relationship that you love and value; to not take them for granted as somehow being inherent in relationship, unchangeable and constant.  Because even those wonderful elements that come so easily in the beginning can fall away over the years like sand through our fingers unless we are conscious and present in our attempts to keep them full of life and energy.

I know that some days will surely suck — we’ll argue, we’ll be sad, or we just plain won’t like each other that much.  But the only thing I can do to protect us from those days’ damage is to celebrate and reinforce all the awesomeness we’re creating now.  Even when that awesomeness happens in the aisles of a Super Target.

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Filed under dating, divorce, love, personal growth, pete, relationships, single mom

dating in the shadow of the Disney princesses

When my daughters were toddlers, my then-husband and I tried our best to resist the Disney princess phenomenon, but faced with the marketing juggernaut that is Disney, coupled with 5 sets of grandparents (you read that correctly), it was a losing battle from the outset.  So we surrendered and decided to fight the battles we could win, like potty-training and eating food with utensils instead of fingers.

For those of you who have not raised daughters in the last 15 years or who did so while living under a rock, the Disney princesses reign supreme among preschool and early elementary girls.  Their stories, songs, personalities, and clothes are committed to memory and little girls’ fascination with and loyalty to them eclipses anything witnessed during the Beatles or N*Sync crazes.  The princesses are a pastel brigade to be reckoned with.  Truly.

My ex-husband and I have spent countless hours correcting the values, norms, and expectations spoon-fed to my daughters by the Disney marketing division, and we ultimately agreed that surrounding them with strong, authentic, amazing women who lead lives that do not involve tiaras or talking animals was probably the best antidote to the Disney Kool-Aid.  I still believe that, but there are times when I realize the dizzying power of the tulle and fairy godmother set.

Case in point:

On the way to the airport for our family vacation a couple of weeks ago, my 9-year-old daughter Bryn announced that she and her BFF, Amanda, Pete’s daughter, had decided that Pete and I should date now.  Furthermore, she revealed, in order that she and Amanda could become sisters, we should also marry.  This would, apparently, create no hardship on either Pete or me, because the girls had already planned the wedding.  Nine-year-olds are selfless that way, I suppose.  Unbeknownst to them, of course, Pete and I had already had our first date without any facilitation on their part.  (Surprisingly enough, sometimes grown-ups manage this without the help of 4th-graders….)

Then earlier this week, Pete’s daughter Amanda asked why I was being invited to yet another family dinner.  In his typical matter-of-fact way, Pete replied that it was because we were dating.  Amanda made an “icky” face and that was the end of that.  Or at least until after dinner, when we were parting ways and Pete, in full view of his parents and children, planted a sweet kiss goodbye on my lips.  His 7-year-old daughter, Amber, squealed and commenced teasing him as I walked away, smiling to myself.

The following day, I received a phone call from my daughter Bryn, who is with her dad this week.  She was breathless and so excited her voice reached pitches that surely only a dog could hear.  She was, of course, calling for confirmation that Pete and I were dating, having heard the news from Amanda.  I confirmed the news to her, and then experienced the ear-drum piercing scream that is unique to 9-year-old girls who are exceptionally happy.  I allowed her to revel in her joy for a minute and then tried to remind her that dating is merely about two grown-ups trying to decide if they like each other in the way and to the degree that would cause them to want to a be a real couple.  She acknowledged my words, but I could hear her mind already planning wedding gowns and horse-drawn carriages.

The next day, Bryn was at Pete’s house (again) playing with Amanda, and they treated to Pete to a performance of a hip-hop routine they’d composed called, appropriately enough, “My Mom and My Dad Are Dating.”  Poor Pete.  Thank goodness he’s not the kind of guy who gets scared off easily, or these two would have him in a dead sprint away from me for sure.  Fortunately, I had warned him that this would happen, having been through it once with James.  “Remember the Disney princesses,” I told him.  “Right,” he replied, “they fall in love at the ball and get married the next day.  Happily ever after.”

Yep.

Once I get my kids back, I’ll remind them about my many lectures on dating and falling in love and choosing a mate.  It will likely have little consequence at this juncture, but it certainly bears repeating.  After all, I’m competing with years of animated bliss and immediate devotion.  No amount of repetition is too much.

In all seriousness, though, one of the silver linings of being a divorced, dating mother, is the opportunity to show my girls first-hand the trials and tribulations of dating.  Obviously, I don’t share the nitty-gritty details, but the general outlines of what dating is, how it plays out, the risks we take and why we take them — all of these things are useful lessons to young girls who will someday experience the same joys and heartbreaks they witness in me now.  And, hopefully, their memories of my experiences will lend me a credibility when providing dating advice, guidance, and rules that I would be less likely to have were they to think I had met their father an eon ago across a crowded ballroom and married him the next day.  Their friends are already more likely to confide in me their crushes than to tell their own mothers.  Apparently my dating status assures them that I’ll better understand the fragile happiness and humiliation of crushes, and I honestly think I probably do.

So, while Bryn and Amanda are busy overseeing the animal menagerie that is creating my wedding dress and selecting the palace we shall all reside in after the happy day, Pete and I will continue to laugh about it and get to know each other the way real people do — one date a time.  No glass slippers needed.

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sunny days and the kitchen sink

It is said that you must taste the bitter to appreciate the sweet.  Earlier this year, I was drowning in the bitter. But now it’s raining sweetness.

When I take stock of my life right now, I am amazed and grateful.  I wonder at how blessedly different the landscape looks now than it did this winter and spring.  The first half of this year was punctuated by loss, regret, and fear.  It seemed that every time I stood up, I was knocked backward by yet another setback.  I lamented to my friend Katrina that I felt like I’d turned into a giant whiner because every time she talked to me, it was one sad tale after another.  She immediately pointed out that I wasn’t whining — it was the crazy reality of my life.  From appliances failing one after another, to work stresses that sometimes played out in the newspaper, to the on-again/off-again game with James, to tax bills from hell, to deaths and divorces, it seemed like I couldn’t get any relief from the onslaught.  Even just thinking about it while typing has made my heart start pounding again.

BUT….

Then I remind myself that I am — thankfully! — in a different place now.  Granted, life is not perfect, but after all that bitter, it sure does feel sweet.  There are so many pieces of sweetness that I’m appreciating right now, and I could write gushing posts about every one of them, but today I’m going to treat you to the bit of sunshine that is occupying my mind the most lately:

I’m going to call him “Pete.”

Pete is a man I first met 4 1/2 years ago at his daughter’s birthday party.  We were both separated, but did not form an acquaintance until a couple years later, when his daughter, “Amanda,” and my daughter, Bryn, became BFFs.  The usual playdates and sleepovers ensued, but I had started dating James and so didn’t think about Pete — or any other man — in terms of dating material.  We would talk on the soccer sidelines, and about the girl drama our daughters and their friends engaged in, and occasionally, we’d run into each other at outdoor summer concerts, where we’d chat and dance a little bit.  It was, basically, a friendship borne of connection through our kids.

And then I decided to replace my kitchen faucet.

Under normal circumstances, that might sound like a non sequitor, but if you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ve surely noticed that my life reads more like an episode of “Friends” than a Disney princess movie.  So here it goes…

Financial constraints had set me on a do-it-yourself bender, and I decided to finally tackle the ugly and old faucet in my otherwise acceptable sink.  I watched a YouTube video, pulled out the “Handyman’s Guidebook” my dad had sent me, laid out all the necessary tools, and set to work.  Two hours later, I was hot, sweaty, and in tears.  The nuts holding my faucet to the counter were corroded and not budging.  I had pushed and pulled and made two trips to Home Depot for new wrenches before I gave up and called Annie to announce my failure and lament having to call a plumber because I couldn’t loosen a few nuts.

A — “Don’t call a plumber just to do that!  Call a guy we know to just help you unscrew the nuts.”

TPG — “Okay.  But who?  And you know I’m not good at asking for help.  And don’t say James.”

A — “What about Pete?  He’s such a nice guy, I know he’d do it for you.”

So, I hung up the phone with Annie and called Pete.  After stumbling through an awkward explanation of how I really don’t like to ask people for help and he shouldn’t feel obligated at all and no hard feelings if he said no, I told him about the nuts and asked for his help.

P — “Sure.  I’ll come over tomorrow night.  What time?”

I audibly exhaled my relief and promised him a beer for his trouble.

The next evening, after loosening the nuts in two quick tugs, Pete stood in my kitchen, Corona in hand, and talked to me as I finished installing my new, shiny kitchen faucet.  As I completed the task, my mind turned to the long to-do list still awaiting me that night, but Pete continued leaning on my counter.  Hmmm…

TPG — “Ummm….. Want another beer?”

Another beer in the living room turned into dinner at our local Mexican restaurant, and I went to bed that night with my to-do list untouched and wondering if maybe, just possibly, I had been overlooking a great guy right in front of me.

A couple of weeks later, we both helped move Annie into the house she’d bought (Yay Annie!!) and Pete introduced me to music by my now new favorite band, and shortly after that we had our first date at an outdoor concert.  I left two days later for a trip to visit my dad, which could have signaled the quiet fade-to-black that often follows first dates when there’s nothing to go on, but instead I heard from him every day.  Sweet, funny, consistent texts and phone calls that made me want to know more.  And since I’ve been home, that’s what I’ve been doing.  Spending time with Pete and his daughters (and even his parents, who were visiting), getting to know him better and discovering lots of delicious sides to him that I’d never have guessed it.  He is solid and smart and honest and kind and has the prettiest green eyes I’ve ever had the pleasure of gazing into.

It has only been a short time, and I have no earthly idea where this is going or how long it will last, but it is beautiful and sweet and fun.  A part of me hesitated to share it here, because it is still so new, but I think it can be useful to see the beginnings of things, as well as the ends.  So much of blogville is devoted to heartbreak; I thought I’d offer a little sunshine to my small corner.

Besides, I promised to be real here and this is really where I am.  I am happy again, for the first time in a very, very long time.

Life is good.  And so am I.

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