Driving in the Rain

Note: This story was written from my mother’s perspective. And it’s her 80th birthday!

My fingers run over the bumps on the oven as I count slowly: 1, 2, 3. I turn the dial so the arrows line up under my finger tips and then I turn my head as I hear a noise. Only three minutes ago, Alec had run out of the house in a rush to meet up with friends. His sneakers didn’t make much noise on the wood floor and then I heard the door open and close. I decided that it was time to start the chicken for tonight’s dinner. The sounds of rain pounding heavily on the roof mean that a warm meal will be welcome for whomever will be around.

Pamela was somewhere in a back bedroom reading quietly. She could disappear for hours in her books and then I’d lose track of where she was. When she reappeared, she’d move slowly and quietly in her sock covered feet. Then a sound would come from behind me – so close that I’d be startled and scared.

Now the noise outside starts up again. Slamming car doors, angry murmurs growing louder until the door swings open again and the smell of damp earth and a cold wind snake their way into the house.

“The car won’t start” he shouts from the doorway. From another room, I hear Pam jump up and come into the living area to see what’s happening. Alec yells again, “I tried to start the car, but it won’t start. I can’t get the engine to turn over. Maybe I’ve flooded it.”

Pam is walking towards the front door. She’s going to help him. From the kitchen, I yell back, “Sorry, honey.”

They both disappear behind the closing front door and silence descends. I feel the kitchen counter top, the alternate pattern of tile and grout, smooth and rough pass under my fingertips as I round the corner. Then, in a moment of faith born of practice, I leave the kitchen landmarks and head towards the next landmark: the dining room table and chairs. I find the top edge of a chair back and the front door is opened again.

Pam shouts in, “We can’t get the car started.”

68 VW Bug

68 VW Bug

I know how to start the car. It’s a simple matter of getting the car up to speed and then popping it into 2nd gear. Outside is my 7th VW bug. The one I bought from the factory in Germany and brought over in a ship when we moved to California. I can get the car started – but – and now frustration floods through me – I haven’t been able to see well enough to drive for the last 12 years. I’ll have to explain the trick to the kids. By now their frustration level is so high, it’s going to take a while until they’re calm enough to learn.

They’re both inside now. I can hear the hard breathing, smell the wet clothing. If I listen hard enough, I’m sure I’ll hear drops falling onto the floor.

I start to explain the process when Pam stops me. “We have one shot at it and you’re the only one who knows how to do it. You get it going while we push.”

I protest, almost whining, “I can’t see where I’m going.” When it rains this hard, the world becomes a sea of grey and black. The contrast which I rely on for some visual feedback is lost in the sheets of rain, grey asphalt and dark trees.

“It’s OK. We’ll roll the windows down and tell you which way to steer. We’ll be safe in this quiet street. It’ll be fine.”

“OK.” I shrug and put my hands out to find the wall between the front door and the dining room.

“I’ll get it.” Pam says and in moment she’s back with a jacket. As she hands it to me she’s careful to tell me which part is in my hands so I can put it on more quickly. Then I follow a wall to the front door, carefully negotiate the three steps down to the walkway. It’s light gray and this gives me enough contrast from the dirt edging that I can get myself to the car.

Without a word, my children have spaced themselves like body guards. One is behind me, the other one at the car door. They are silent unless it’s to warn me of an obstacle.

Alec says, “The car door is over here.” I follow the sound with my arms outstretched, palms up, until I touch cold metal. The car is red. I see dark grey. I slide into the drivers side seat. It’s a rush of emotion in one movement. Excitement, fear and hope all flood through me as my hands slide into the familiar place on the steering wheel. Then my feet find the pedals: Clutch, brake and accelerator.  I look up. The garage door is a vague dark shape with a slight light edge. If I really had to drive, I’d crash in a moment.

The kids’ voices ground me in reality. In this time and place, I can rescue them like I did so many times when they were younger. Only now I can’t rescue them without their help.

Alec yells over the rain to release the brake. I feel the click and then the car moves as I release the foot brake and disengage the clutch. As we back out of the driveway, my hands instinctively push the stick shift into each of the gears. I need to be sure of finding 2nd gear when the time comes.

It’s cold, I notice as the windows are both down. I start to hear them call – Pam from the passenger side window, Alec from the driver’s side. “Left, turn left. Straighten out.”

They push the car into position in the street and I hold it in place with the brake. The car is facing downhill towards the dead end. Pam was right. We have one shot at this.

Through the windshield I now see light grey with a dark grey frame. This part of the road has oak trees on the right. The houses to the left are irregularly spaced dark shapes. And in front: Grey rain and grey asphalt. It’s a sheet of uninterrupted grey.

“Ready?” It’s Alec calling to me.

“OK,” I yell back. And then the movement starts as I release the brake. I’ll have to feel the right speed and then pop it into gear.

Through the open windows come more directions. When I hear left, I turn slightly left. When I hear right, I turn slightly right. The kids are laughing as they push their blind mother down the street in the heavy rain. They tell me later that I managed to steer through every puddle in the street. I can feel the speed. It’s time. Car in 2nd gear, clutch out slowly, and the car judders and then sputters to life. I rev the engine like I’m at the Indy 500 and then, when I’m sure it won’t stall, I open the door and, for the last time, leave the driver’s seat.

Advertisements
Posted in Family Life | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Exhausted by living in California

You know that getting through all the healthy California living hoops has become vaguely ridiculous when in the same morning – before work – you manage to do all of the following:

  • Empty out buckets of shower water onto the garden vegetables. There’s a drought, so each drop is precious.
  • Treat the vegetables with organic neem oil (mixed with shower water) for powdery mildew.
  • Pour the rest of the shower water over my feet standing in a garden bed to wash off the oil and water mixture.
  • Pick young swiss chard leaves from the garden for you ultra-healthy morning smoothie (Soy milk, OJ, berries, greens, bee pollen, flax seed, grated coconut, chia seeds, goji berries and protein powder).IMG_1840
  • Carefully put aside the chard stems into the scrap container to feed to the special worms in the wormery later on.
  • Drink your smoothie with green tea, not black. You don’t use any honey (yes, honey, not sugar) with green tea unlike the 1/2 teaspoon you use with black.
  • Measure out this week’s vitamins in a day-by-day container.
  • Take today’s set of vitamins.
  • Add zucchini pasta to your lunch container so you’ll eat more vegetables.
  • Realize that you actually own a kitchen gadget that makes zucchini pasta.
  • Yes, the zucchini is from your garden. Yes. It’s organic.
  • Choose the best two home grown (did I mention they’re organic?) tomatoes for your lunch salad.IMG_1839
  • Look at a twist tie that you use for tying up bags of bin goods at the health food store. Effortlessly translate “6022” into “raw almonds.”
  • Wash all the dishes with as little water as possible. On then off, on then off, on then off goes the tap until they’re all done.
  • Throw out the plastic tea cup you got from drinking low sugar Boba tea the night before. Carefully check that the lid of your plastic container is recyclable. Whew! It is. Regret that the straw isn’t.
  • Feel guilty that after all this, you’re out of time and you’ll have to drive instead of bike 9 miles to work. All that carbon footprint! After all, you managed it yesterday!

Forget about Jewish or Italian guilt. What about the guilt at not living up to the California pure living dream??

Finally, I grab the keys – and drive my (dusty) car to work.

 

Posted in California Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Which father?

My father died almost 17 years ago to the day. I speak very little of him. I’d like to say “surprisingly little.” But maybe it’s more like Thumper so wisely spoke in Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.” The few times that I speak of him now, it’s in a few words which make clear that there is not much positive to say about him. This despite the fact that he supported me financially far beyond the outlines of the divorce decree and when he was dying said that I’d done well with my life. When I said that he’d been part of that success, he pushed back and insisted that I’d done it myself. It was oddly through his dying that he gave me a measure of my own strength.

There is someone I’d really like to acknowledge today. My Dutch family had 10 adult children. And the 5th one of them became known over the years as my second father. When my parents divorced, my brother and I would spend most of our summers with my father in Europe. But he couldn’t spend the entire summer on vacation. Instead of hanging around at his house, he’d ship us off to friends and, mainly, to his brothers and, sometimes, his sisters. Number 5 in line (with 10 uncles and aunts to remember, counting off in order is a great way to keep track of everyone) had children closest in age to my brother and me. He lived in a small village with farms all around and a huge river at his doorstep. And he’d spent a lot of time working in English speaking countries, so everyone in the family spoke English. It just worked. So, we’d find our way on a train across a couple of countries to the Netherlands to stay with Pith (said Pit) and his wife, Mieke for weeks on end.

driekoningenplein 6.org

La Licorne

For us it was a revelation. They spoke politely to each other. Consulted each other quietly and respectfully on various issues. Their house ran as smoothly as one can with young children. The Dutch, and them in particular, live in an orderly daily rhythm that we were simply unfamiliar with. And we fell into line. It wasn’t perfect for them to have us. Alec and I squabbled – a lot. But if Alec and I had long lasting marriages and relationships, it was in no small part to this experience of domesticity there in the farm cottage by the Maas in the small village of 250 people.

Later on, when I would visit throughout my turbulent years of teenage-hood, early 20’s and then into marriage, announcing my first pregnancy first to Mieke at one of the many family reunions, they were my reference point for life as it should be.

He had trained as an engineer, as I would. Only he stuck with it. He was a builder of things and houses. They eventually bought a 13th century armory, romantically called La Licorne (the unicorn), around the corner from the farm house and rebuilt it. As we visited both my brother and I were pressed into service along side his long-suffering children to build and paint until it was all done and dusted. Then he didn’t stop. His garden was a marvel with grapes and espaliered apple trees. He built beautiful 4 poster beds and refinished stand alone kitchen cabinets that he brought back from his work in Pakistan. When he retired he wrote a three series book of fiction about the family that used to own the house when it was part of the castle next door. When he showed me the book, he then took me downstairs to show me how he bound each copy by hand.

But that isn’t all he built. He and Mieke put me back together and let me know that I was a valuable person over and over and over again – after each setback in life. It was such a refuge that my ex-husband used to say that it was the only place in the world where I could sleep well.

When my father was dying, Pith sat at the end of the hall and waited. When it was over, he quietly stepped into his newly promoted role as father. He kept me company at the funeral directors and helped me flesh out the service, invite people and then, on the day, spoke about his black sheep brother with humor at their different religious points of view.

He’s older now. The armory is sold since the circular turret staircase became a burden to their knees. They live in a spacious apartment with all their belongings arranged in a different, but no less elegant and strangely familiar order. When I visit, there is a 4 poster bed to sleep in. And yes I still sleep well. And if when I come back to California, the man I now sleep next to is a builder who speaks respectfully and thoughtfully to me, maybe he is a reflection of this second father that took the place of the first.

 

Posted in Family Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Gift

ClintonHer face stares out at me from the newspaper. I keep looking at it. Keep wanting to put in $1.50 in quarters into the newspaper machine and do something I haven’t done in years: buy one. Keep it. Hold it quietly to my chest. Cradle it in my arms in wonder.

Yes, she’s the candidate for president. I don’t know her. I’m pretty sure that I don’t even agree with everything she stands for. And yet. And yet. She stands for me.

When Mandela was freed and when Obama was elected – that touched my heart. When gay marriage was legalized, it all made me so proud for how accepting our world had become. It was a long haul from being asked to witness the wills of gay men dying of AIDS in the 1980’s. And now I realize that with this one change today, the world may actually be ready to accept me.

I am no longer young. No one gives me a second glance. And there are times when I get to the end of the day and the couch calls me. It calls to me like iron is called to a magnet. Lying down feels safe. Closing my eyes will make the world go away for just a little while. I won’t have to fight it for a short time.

The house that needs cleaning, the garden that needs tending and any issues the children have, they can manage on their own. And work has given me a few hours when I can legitimately not answer an email. Joe is not there to give me love, but then I don’t want to be company anyway. Not right now.

The picture. I look at it again. Arms outstretched. Smile. Happy. Accepted. Winning!

Many years ago I was given a gift. I cradled the black shiny stamped handbag in my arms. Unable to talk. Unable to thank the woman who gave it to me. It was perfect – and she had given it to me. My reaction was so odd that she later asked if I’d liked it at all. I liked it so much I kept it long after it fell apart. The insides finally disintegrating all over my belongings. Like now, I could only be quiet – stunned at the generosity of the most beautiful of gifts. It seems, now, who I am has also found an echo of widespread acceptance. Maybe my strength is no longer as much of a threat to others. Maybe I have intrinsic worth I don’t have to fight every day to prove.

Maybe at this new found gift, I should let out my tears and dance in the street so that everyone will know just how excited and happy and amazed I feel. And maybe I’ll just hold this feeling close and let the tears of joy fall inside.

 

 

 

Posted in California Living | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Christmas 2015

This year my life is like that of an experienced, long-standing product. I have a history and a solid foundation as I head into 2016.  In 2015, there’s no overriding ‘Theme’ as in other years. No rushing from experience to experience; crisis to crisis. Instead life has gone on for one more year. I seem to have, contentedly, traded excitement for happiness.

IMG_1052

Pam and Joe in Glasgow

A couple of years ago, I planned for a new direction for my life – one without Colin. In January 2013, I applied for a divorce. Slowly (yes, oh, so slowly), my life has followed this path. So stay tuned for few revelations, few exceptional features and stand out moments. This is a life where happiness has found a home and progress is measured in hours spent holding hands while watching sports on TV. After the last few years, I call that a resounding success.

This is also the year that the divorce was finalized. It was a year spent in a total of 7 court appearances and negotiation sessions. My brother, Alec, was my lawyer and I couldn’t have hoped for a more sensible approach to this difficult situation. I spreadsheeted my way through years of bank statements to present to the court. Many nights, I didn’t sleep for worrying about an upcoming hearing. Along the way, I became single (yeah, April 30th!). And I managed to keep myself calm while being called many, many terrible things – and just produced another spreadsheet to show that, once again, the facts were on my side. In the final days, the negotiation happened in a flash and Colin is moving out in early January. Two years after filing for divorce, I won’t have to look at him in my house again. I think that we are both relieved.

IMG_0117

Tea and Biscuits – Hawaiian style

If the divorce has been sad, my life with Joe has been incredibly happy. We went to Hawaii in March – my first visit ever – and just walked, checked out the chickens on Kauai and enjoyed being on beaches by the sea.

In June, we spent a week in Europe. It was great to see my Dutch family. Joe coped with meeting each and every one of 8 my aunts and uncles in just a short while. And then there were the wives and respective children to sort out! He didn’t cut and run screaming down the road, so that’s a good sign. We then travelled overland from Glasgow to London in under three days before flying home to California. We came home dog tired!

IMG_1006

Els, Mieke, Pam, Lidwien, Madeleine and Pith in Boxtel, NL

The following Friday I flew out to work in Australia for a few days. My first trip down under – ever! After that, Jane and Gary welcomed me in Sydney for a couple of days of non-stop talking and a wonderful day of being a tourist in Sydney. And since the end of July, I’ve worked pretty much non-stop. Remember what I said, for me, life has been pretty uneventful.

IMG_1140

Jane and Pam in Sydney Harbo(u)r

There have been some difficult losses: Uncle Jan, Deborah and Jamie Clark’s dad, Richard. There was one small grace: during the trip in June I managed to visit both Uncle Jan and Debs so I did manage to say goodbye to them.

 

IMG_1074

Debs, Pam, Brian and Aidan in London

Later on, Adair spent almost three months in Europe with his girlfriend, Mary arriving back safely in early December. Thanks to Jolien, Frank, Pith and Klara for hosting them for so long. Mary took some truly beautiful pictures during their trip. Check them out on Instagram. Adair has come back and is headed back into school with a renewed focus and clarity of purpose.

 

Adair and Whillow Paris

Adair & Mary/Whillow in Paris

 

 

In between hard Computer Science and math classes at De Anza College, Aidan has dismantled many things in the house in his focus on learning basic physics and electronics. He passed his engineering design class, but in the process, no longer has a working bike. He also has two dead motorbikes in the garage which are waiting for the weather to get a bit warmer to get to the next stage. One outcome is that there are always a few grease marks on the doors which I wipe off when it builds up. Overall, he’s happy.

IMG_0850

Amara’s birthday party

He also gets along much better now with Amara. They share friends from the Cupertino High School drama department so the house fills up with flamboyant teenagers until it subsides into silence as they both head off to work and school. Amara has also gotten into climbing so over these holidays, three of us were at Planet Granite learning how to safely drag people up and down climbing structures. I’ll get my final qualification tomorrow, I hope.

 

IMG_1416

Pam’s car buried in snow

We did have one small little adventure. Just before Christmas, Aidan, Amara and I went skiing at Kirkwood in the Sierra Nada mountains. We were snowed in for an extra day, discovered that their car had REAR wheel drive (and yes, the chains were on the FRONT tires). While dealing with the chain issue, I quickly tucked my car away in a quiet part of the main parking lot. This meant that when the roads were open and the kid’s car had the chains on the rear tires, it took a snow plow and a couple of shovels to uncover my car. Once we were hot, wet and tired from shoveling out the snow, we headed down the mountain as quickly as possible – back to civilization – and Christmas preparations.

 

 

IMG_1426

Simple Christmas tree this year

The football game is on, Joe has made a simple dinner and so, I’m headed for the sofa to hold his hand and watch the teams compete for a slot in the Super Bowl. Have a wonderful New Year and a Happy 2016!

Posted in California Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Zulu Experiment

C, c, c, c, we clicked. Q, q, q, q, we locked our tongues against the roof of our mouths and pulled down to make the deep click written as the letter q. Then came x, x, x, x – “Just pretend you are getting a horse to move,” the teacher explained. Well, we had 7 horses on the farm, so that sound was easy enough. Now try and use it in a word: amancane – small, umgwaqo – road, Ixopo – a local town.

HUniversity of KZNere I was on a Tuesday night in the capital of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg. The university offered courses in Zulu. And unlike in the time of Apartheid when white teachers taught white people, I had an actual Zulu person teaching me. South Africa has 11 official languages. The most widely spoken African language is Zulu and it is spoken all over the province of KwaZulu – the place of the Zulu.

I lived in Zululand on a farm 45 minutes out of town down a very minor highway and then onto a road that ended up becoming a dirt road not far past the turn off to our farm. I managed it in 45 minutes. As one of our friends who lived on the road to ‘Maritzburg’ once said, “I saw Pam driving her low flying plane today.” Out farm qualified as “the back of beyond.” DHL wouldn’t deliver packages to us, so we would pick it up at their office, or the bank manager would allow us to deliver it to the local bank and then he’d pass the packages out the window after hours when we knocked on his office window.

In an urban setting like Durban, just over 1 hour away on the coast, you could get away with just using English. Not on the farm. At times, we had 30 people working for us and they all spoke Zulu. To get around the intricacies of learning Zulu, farm managers spoke “Fanagalo”, a pidgin Zulu with lots of orders and derogatory terms: umuntu (man), became ‘munts’. And most of it was based around barking orders. And I wasn’t interested in learning that way of talking to people.

Maybe some history will help. In 1966, my parents left Rhodesia and moved to Vienna. My father spoke German, but my mother didn’t. She decided to learn Hoch Deutsch at the university. I learned Viennese accented German at Kindergarten and often corrected her grammar. But she spoke with a beautiful accent – not with the guttural sing-song of the Austrian accent like my brother and I did.

So, 40 years later, I repeated the pattern – and up the ante. If I took the first class on a pass/fail basis, then I couldn’t take the next level up, so I paid the fees and here I was, 20 years older than most people in the class, learning Zulu – for credit.

C, c, c, c, q, q, q, q, x, x, x, x… Only I had a secret up my sleeve. I had learned French and Italian in a formal way. I could take the grammatical structures I had learned as a framework for learning this new language. “So that’s an adjective,” I’d ask. “Well, sort of,” she’d say and then use a word for another part of speech that I’d never heard of in the context of an Indo-European language. I’d chose to learn a language that merged bits of words into one big word: Noun, verb, object, indirect object suck together merrily in one incomprehensible sound soup where bits of the word referred to an earlier part of the conversation: “Ngihamba ekhaya. Mina ngiwasha izingube. Asimbonanga

When I learned a piece of grammar, I’d track down other ones like it and learn them all at once. Lists of nouns, verbs, adjectives which were then swapped in and out of sentences to create more and more sentences. Knitting a language together one part of speech at a time.

And then I had to pass the tests. When I learned French, I tried to get smart during an oral exam and use complex grammar. I barely passed the test. Now I kept my sentence structure simple: “I go to the store” Ngiya esitolo.  “I have three children”: Nginezingane ezintathu.  And when the teacher gave us tips on passing the test, I didn’t second guess her. If I was supposed to fill in a grammar chart at the beginning of the final exam, I would. And did. My final score for the term was 89 – second in class to the girl with the Zulu father. I may not have had the memory of a 20 year old, but I had the strategy to succeed that is learned with age. This year I’ve studied Mandarin. I also teach people how to pass a Product Management qualification. The Mandarin has been much harder than the Zulu. There are more moving parts: characters and tones among others. Brute force practice seems to be the only way to tackle it, but I’m making headway and crowing with joy when I recognize a character in a street sign. For anyone who walks around with me, I issue a blanket apology. And for my students? I teach them the most effective system to pass the test and if they choose to follow it, they do.

Angikhulumi zulu. Ngingalwazi zulu

I am not Zulu. I do not speak Zulu. But by taking the time to learn Zulu I learned much more.

Posted in South Africa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas 2014

Christmas. Each of the last 5 years has seen such a different state, location and feel.

2010: We were all in Cumbria. 5 of us. A family with a large tree. Presents placed under it after a long night of wrapping. I reeled from the tragedy that had happened when James was killed in June, but still cooked the beef roast.

2011: In California with my brother’s family. We booked a 2 week visit to use up the air miles before they expired. The trip finished with a last minute reconciliation with my mother orchestrated by Colin. Then back to dark Cumbria where it was so dark that we couldn’t recover from jet lag for many, many days.

2012: A three week visit back to California in March became a permanent move. A new job and then all three kids with me in a small apartment. The tree was a small pull up tower in red tinsel. And Colin was on Skype on the iPad with his beanie on in the large, cold house in Cumbria.

2013: We were together in a larger place. I no longer shared a room with Amara. For a while, Colin chose to sleep outside in a sleeping bag while I had my room upstairs. Later he moved to the sofa. At Christmas, he bought me a small gift. I was so annoyed at his reneging on a promise to get a job, any job, that I didn’t bother. Profoundly estranged, I made a New Year’s resolution to free myself from the marriage.

2014: A new beginning in the making.

But maybe I can back up to the beginning of 2014. In the first couple of days of January, my brother, Alec, who is also a family lawyer, helped me file the divorce paperwork. It had been over a year since we’d decided to end the marriage and I needed the legal paperwork to catch up with my reality. Since then Colin has been very difficult to deal with, but still lives under the roof I pay for. So be it. At least I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and, for once, it would not be a train headed for me at speed.IMG_0371

My birthday went well with a walk in the hills and lunch in Palo Alto with the kids. In March, Aidan turned 17 and has enjoyed shooting up in height to leave his sister behind. He has been wrapped up in designing lighting for drama productions all over Santa Clara County. And now he also works at Wing Stop.

Adair was so happy when he discovered the joys of studying subjects he was interested in at Junior College. He started the unlikely family tradition of working at Wing Stop, but has moved on to better paid work elsewhere. And Amara danced her heart out with the

Amara, Alisa and Aska in DisneyWorld

Amara, Alisa and Aska in DisneyWorld

Cupertino High School dance club. She grew even taller (or did I shrink?). A dance competition in Florida was one highlight of the year. I joined her for a marathon 3 day competition and Disney World experience. And came home with very sore feet. When she turned 15 in May, she calmly informed me that she’d be getting her driving permit when she could in 6 months’ time.  And she’s due to take her test any day now. And I’m getting very nervous!

But in the background the divorce proceedings continue. Colin has remained in the house, still does not work and we do not talk. In April, the situation really degenerated over money and the net result is that Adair moved out to get away from the stress. He now visits regularly, and he’s safe and happy living with a friend’s family.

Amara helping me out with the Second Sunday Lunch. I'm not great at taking selfies.

Amara helping me out with the Second Sunday Lunch.

I have been active in the Unitarian Church in Palo Alto. This includes participating in the writing group, joining a discussion group, helping out with the Second Sunday lunches. And now, I’m even an usher once a month. One night after the discussion group finished, I asked another person in the group if they’d be willing to watch the movie ‘Noah’ with me. This turned into a couple of movies and then when he brought up working on his career, I piped up that I had a lot of materials on career and life coaching from research I’d been doing at work. I suggest that we could do co-life coaching and so we’d meet at various places to talk through career plans.

To my mind, this was innocuous stuff. I have many male friends and it’s all very platonic.  And then one day in June, the world somehow shifted and Joe became much more than just a friend. I’d like to say that I had carefully planned this change in course, but the joke is that I was thinking of a way to find him a nice girlfriend. It just turned out that the girlfriend was me.image

We spend lots of time together and in October he moved to a larger apartment around the corner from my house. I wander back and forth: checking on the kids, watering my garden and picking tomatoes, zucchini, bok choi, swiss chard and broccoli which are then split between the two houses. Thank goodness as the kids are all very sickIMG_0626 of zucchini. My garden has flowers, too, much to my delight. And I’ve planted bulbs in both gardens, so I’m looking forward to a succession of flowers in the springtime.

IMG_0525My work has also changed dramatically. Brian at the 280 Group called me back to train Product Managers at a large client. I’ve worked with a team of really smart people to update 5 classes and generated some interesting ideas in doing so. Recently, the workload has been huge, but the work is very rewarding, exciting – and, yes, fun. The company is growing and so it’s an exciting place to be.

The kids are busy as teenagers usually are. IMG_0672Adair and Aidan work and go to Junior College. Aidan is in a special program where he takes all his classes there for his last year of high school. Amara has really focused on her studies and her grades are doing much better. I’m very proud of her making some hard adult decisions on how she spends her time. The boys grew up accepting the hard choices that have to be made. Amara has now come of age. And it’s fun to come home to a bunch of often giggling teenagers – most of whom are not mine. InIMG_0866 preparation for Amara’s Winter Formal, I spent 5 hours shopping with three girls for their special dresses. It was a privilege to be allowed to participate and give advice – and they all looked beautiful on the night.

After more than 6 months, the kids seem happy and are getting used to the idea of their mom having a boyfriend. The boys talk to him occasionally. And Amara even helped him choose my Christmas present.

IMG_0712So, 2014 started with a desire to move my life beyond my marriage. And I’ve moved so far beyond it that the light I see is one of a new sunrise. I went backpacking for the first time in 20 years. I went skiing again, only this time, there was someone to hold hands with on the lift back up – even with gloves on. I smile during the most mundane of chores that we do together. I am happy.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.IMG_0868

Posted in Family Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment