The New Adventures of Dean and Mrs

Early in the semester we were invited to a private viewing of a documentary produced and directed by one of Todd’s faculty members about pirate radio in Britain in the 1960s. Briefly, these were unlicensed radio “stations” broadcasting from ships anchored in international waters; however “legal” the broadcast from outside the territorial limits, it was considered illegal to listen to these “unauthorized” broadcasts. There is so much more to the history that I won’t go into, mostly because I have a terrible memory and don’t want to do Wayne a disservice for his beautifully done documentary.

The event was hosted by a couple well known to the college at The Vineyard in Havre de Grace, a lovely little two-room wine bar with a delightful array of tapas, flatbreads, and charcuterie. Todd and I were among a group of maybe 15, including the president and vice president of the college and a handful of other (I perceived) important people.

We met our hosts outside as we arrived; she is a French ex-pat who had just received her US citizenship mere days before and he a retired man of politics who in casual conversation shared a memory of his time in Reagan’s White House. My jaw almost dropped before I remembered to pretend I met people like this all the time. She was a beautiful, petite woman with an open face and a smile that lit up a room, and we discovered we had the restaurant blood in common as she used to own a restaurant in France for about ten years. It was a bit more difficult to find things in common with a man who served in Reagan’s White House, but I was enthralled by his stories. He was unpretentious and kind.

Next up: Todd decided he wanted to have a “casual” faculty meeting. At our home. I repeat, AT. OUR. HOME. I tried to talk him out of it. I tried to encourage him to have it in a neutral location. I suggested it was “too soon” to have his faculty to his home, as many of them were still getting to know him. What better reason to do it then? was his response.

My subtle suggestions went over his head. He will himself admit to being oblivious and I – the wife – can attest to that on a much more intimate level. But we’re not talking about that right now. In any case, one day I noticed that he had posted the date and time on our refrigerator, and it was clearly a done deal. He wanted me to take off from work that day. I took a half day and spent the two days before cleaning the house like Cinderella before the ball, scrutinizing every corner of the house.

It’s funny, the things you’re willing to overlook in your daily life when no one is coming over. And then a party is planned and suddenly the gray cobwebs in the cathedral ceiling that have been here since we moved in are looming large, and you see every chip in the paint, ruminate over the downstairs bathroom that has needed a renovation since time began, and rethink every décor decision you’ve ever made. I was stressed.

BUT. They came, they introduced themselves (I’d only met Wayne and an English professor I’d introduced myself to at Wayne’s event), brought wine, and graciously thanked me for opening up MY “beautiful” home to them. It wasn’t a particularly large turnout, but the folks that came were quite comfortable sitting around my kitchen island and outside on the deck, which was swarming with honey bees like we’ve never seen before. For the first time in a long time I fell back into my old shy habits, standing back and taking in their conversations from an outsider view. I was in my own home so I wasn’t uncomfortable, but I just found myself slipping into caterer mode, watching and working silently around them.

Todd’s assistant introduced herself and I said, “I’m so sorry,” and she laughed out loud, asking me if I wanted to kill him for having this event here and I laughed with her. She brought me a bottle of rose, since Todd had told her I’d become recently very fond of them. I sat outside with the group batting away bees, listening to them and realizing with surprise that some of them didn’t even know if the others had children. All told, Todd’s intent was a success.

About a week after my accident, we were invited to the President’s Circle Dinner at a nearby county club. This dinner was for all the donors to the college, and Todd was invited to be one of the speakers – presumably because he is the inaugural dean of a newly re-formed division and, as I teased him, I think the president wanted to show him off.

We arrived in a downpour and were greeted at the entry with name tags to put on and advised that seating was open. Translation: sit anywhere you want. Former shy girl doesn’t do well with this arrangement, and I was eager to find a table before everyone else sat down. We met a lovely couple at the table we chose, had lively conversation, and exchanged business cards by dinner’s end.

This was, believe it or not, the first time I’ve seen Todd speak to a large crowd. At the risk of sounding all gushy, he amazes me. He’s so good at public speaking. I was so proud, and he was not just a little bit humble when he returned to the table and asked me if it sounded okay. This is the same boy I fell in love with – the one with the earring and the leather motorcycle jacket – the quiet artist with the simmering temper, the longhaired motorhead who fixed his own cars and drove fast, and loved me intensely. And that night he stood before a crowd of 100 donors in his suit and tie and spoke like a college dean. I’m sure no one in high school would have ever predicted this outcome.

As for me, these new experiences bring my life to light, as the people we meet on these occasions are politely interested in what I do. I’ve spent more than half my life in the restaurant business desperately trying to escape. I tell them I grew up in the business and, while I don’t tell them I know I’m good at it, I say I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s time-consuming and steals precious time away from loved ones.

I’ve recognized and without shame can say that I don’t have any aspirations of some grand career – I never have, really – and it took me until the last year or so to acknowledge it without feeling like it’s wrong. I was a stay-at-home mom for a very long time. I enjoyed that. I wouldn’t have changed it for anything, and the restaurant gave me the freedom to continue that after the divorce. But today I work a day job, which I love. I get to interact with people, love the people I work with, and leave the job where it belongs – in the office.

I also tell them I’m practicing a bit of old-fashioned wifery – I am here to support my husband’s new direction and look forward to the down time we get to spend together. I even have the fancy apron.

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Where I’ve Been – October/November Edition

Today is a quiet Sunday. I’m alone in the house. The kids are away and Todd went off early to finish a deck, because working 60 hours a week teaching and serving on several committees isn’t enough to keep him busy. I woke at 6:40 this morning, because that’s what it means to be OLD. I know this because my 91-year-old grandmother goes to bed around 6 every night and wakes up at like 4 a.m.

Now my soul is leaping out of bed like a deer, dragging my body out like an F250 dragging roadkill behind it. I can’t stay awake at night anymore, and I’d like to say that it’s okay but recent sarcastic comments from my husband are spoiling my delusions.

Anyway. I got up at 6:40 this morning because my bladder. Another happy development to the process of aging gracefully. But as I am forever the optimist and always counting my blessings, I won’t complain since it could be worse – like the inability to control the timing of the large intestine, which I vigorously pray isn’t hereditary.

So I woke up early on the ONLY day I actually get to sleep in with the worst kind of headache – the kind that hurts far worse when lying down. A half-pot of coffee, two loads of laundry, and another useless attempt to remove adhesive from my kitchen floor later, and I’m trying to convince myself that it’s Sunday and I can skip the housework and treadmill and go back to sleep. It’s hard to maintain the underachiever of the household title. I don’t know why my motivation to get stuff done is higher on weekends, but this is bullshit.

Underachieving aside, since my last Where I’ve Been post Opac’s football season came to an end with a breathtaking 1-9 record. I ran Veruca to softball practice two nights a week and attended all but two games. I have no idea what their record was. V is a born athlete and improved her game and gained unexpected status as a great catcher. She takes the game seriously, got frustrated with the girls who didn’t, and now wants to do travel team next Spring. On that note, her Little League team won the first place title last Spring and she now has a plaque in her name.

Todd and I attended the 16th birthday party of our neighbor’s son – a motorhead of sorts who also loves Mustangs as much as we do. He has a “car show” with a plethora of old cars including his own vintage Mustang and Todd and I drove our collection up there for the occasion. And then there was The Cruise. Everyone jumped in a car and we cruised around our area, ending at an ice cream shop before returning to the party. Three of the girls jumped in the convertible with me and the girl riding shotgun tuned the radio to all sorts of 80s (!!!) music and the three of them were loudly singing along. Fully enjoyed my middle-aged self, even if it was somewhat tempered by my anxiety over the alarming level of the gas tank.

I had multiple fun trips to the dentist last month, which I mentioned before. I had my mammogram, which was also fun because how many body parts can you actually watch flatten down to an inch without passing out?

I’ve been happily working extra days and realized how much I want to not be home on weekdays anymore. A year ago it was a daunting thought – how to go back to work full-time and manage our lives. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to get the part-time job and then put in so many extra days. We made it work. And I’m ready for more.

In true V fashion, Veruca decided she wanted to go to her bff’s neighborhood on Halloween night. Another big Letting Go moment for me. So I dropped her off with her meter and a handful of hard candies, although who was I kidding? I knew she’d be snacking from her newly acquired loot. Her cell phone was fully dead, so she had no phone with which to reach me or I her – another moment of OMG-I’m-going-to-hurt-you. But – I let her go anyway and entrusted her to the higher power.

Meanwhile, back at home, I turned on the porch light and waited. And forgot Sabra, who barked like a ferocious beast safely from two rooms away when the first doorbell rang. I handed out candy to the little girls who were intuitively not afraid of my doggie, and then parked Sabra’s pansy-ass in the bedroom with the door closed. Waiting for trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood is like waiting for water to boil, so I decided after the 3 masked boys (who were no strangers, btw) left that I would just leave the basket on the porch and go sit on the couch. Soon after I heard a ruckus and they were back and, as I watched from the window, rummaged through the candy and took more – but left behind candy from other houses. I had to laugh. At least they left something behind. And admitted to it, on the bus the next morning, to V because they’re all friends.

Opac turned 17 at the end of October. He and I planned to go to New York for the day, but the weather wasn’t very accommodating so we bagged it and went to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Since football season ended he’s been eager to get behind the wheel, he says because he wants senior option next year but I think it also has to do with someone something else.

So Wednesday I sat in the passenger seat while he drove us into town. It was okay. I was okay. Until he approached the left turn back into our development at the breakneck speed of 35 without braking. Apparently Todd heard about it, because I was instructed not to grab onto the door handle “like that” “when your son is driving” because I’ll make him nervous. Fine. Next time I’ll just freak out after he mows down the neighbor’s tree.

Happily, Neph made an appearance on the Sunday after O’s birthday, to bring presents in a bag that he’d accidentally spilled Chinese food in (only Neph, I swear), and then overtook the kitchen like the good old days, fixing himself a pannini from the leftover cold cuts and lox. Got leftovers? Have Neph.

Other things:

Painted the guest room and subsequently developed a sore arm, and soon noticed a large swelling on my elbow. Had an x-ray and guess what? Nothings’ wrong – just minor osteoarthritis. Fuck middle age.

I went back to the chiropractor for an adjustment, thinking my neck is feeling great but something is causing these daily headaches, and now he’s focused on relieving the pain in my elbow.

We had a our annual JDRF fundraiser at the restaurant and I gave my one annual public speech, which this year (I think) went far better than last year’s alcohol-laced debacle, which I thoroughly owned and apologized for this year.

Todd, who loves me more than I sometimes deserve, went over to the place to check out the giant metal chicken I was so excited about, ‘cause he fully intended to bring that bitch home and surprise me when I got home from work. $225. Guess what? She’s not living here.

We had a long overdue date night at Iron Hill Brewery, which was lovely and was also my first drink in nearly 3 months. I was serious about giving up drinking, and I seriously lost 11 pounds to date. Yesterday morning I was down 13 pounds, but that could be blamed on the previous day’s unintentional diet of only fruits and vegetables, which I’m sure was subsequently undone last night at my cousin’s wedding where I decided one glass of the house wine (which turned into more – the tally still under dispute with Todd) wouldn’t hurt, and no doubt caused the monster headache this morning.

But who doesn’t love a wedding? I had a great time. I used Rent the Runway again, another Marchesa Notte, which was lovely but difficult to dance in during “Shout!” The sleeves don’t allow much give in the upward direction so now I have the cocktail dress equivalent of rug burn on my shoulders. I danced the night away with family and friends, including one new friend who proclaimed himself the choreographer of our little circle and soon we were leading the congo line and generally making a fantastic spectacle of ourselves while the millennials sat at their tables looking on like spectators at the zoo. Though I only expected to dance the slow dances with Todd, we had a fantastic time dancing to other songs like a pair of handicapped ballroom dancers.

Thanksgiving is a mere four days away and I forgot to get the turkey out of the freezer until this morning. If you’ve ever bought a frozen turkey, you know that thing is still gonna be frozen on Thursday morning if it hasn’t been in the fridge for at least a week. If there was ever a power outage in July, we could keep the insulin cold for two weeks in a cooler with one frozen turkey.

More to come.

Where I’ve Been – September Half-point Edition

In keeping with the life-in-the-fast-lane theme mentioned in my last post, I’m now going to regale you with tales of a week in the life.

The next day was Opac’s second game – away again – and, while the teams were more evenly matched than the previous week’s and we got on the board, we lost. It didn’t help that the refs weren’t calling all the fouls and gave away a touchdown. Opac is on the kickoff team and has less playing time this year, so he spends most of the two+ hours in a maddening pace up and down the field. I’m conflicted between wanting to see him get out there and being grateful he’s not up against linemen who outweigh him by 70 pounds.

Saturday after work Todd and I attended the memorial service of a friend and colleague who lost her battle with cancer, in a packed auditorium at the college. There has been an awful lot of cancer in the community, including Todd’s boss who has been battling for several years. His condition at the service bothered me more than Laura’s passing. He was terribly weak. And, when he moved toward me to say goodbye, he fell at my feet. It was terrible and left me shell-shocked. He and Laura are people I’ve known – they both attended our wedding.

After, Todd and I went to an art show in the city. The venue, Y Art, is a beautifully minimalist white space with warm lighting care of the sculptured lighting of Donna Reinsel, who shared the exhibition with Todd’s colleague Robert Creamer. Bob’s work is breathtaking. The l-shaped space has a long gallery hall with a bar at the end, opening up into a larger rectangular gallery. It quickly got crowded. It’s unusual for me but I found myself suddenly overstimulated, so I stepped outside alone into the warm late-afternoon breeze. Usually I enjoy social conversation, but not on this day.

We had chosen a restaurant in Canton for dinner and we arrived to a festival in the park and hundreds of people, so we opted out and headed out of the city for a more quiet dinner with the in-laws. Got home with every intention of going straight to bed but was met with a massive pile of dog poo. Because a busy week isn’t a busy week without shit or a hacked up hairball.

Mom’s dog was staying with us and gets nervous sometimes apparently. Earlier in the week there was a horrifying mess of diarrhea on our bedroom carpet that I was so sure was Sabra because she was avoiding me like the plague, but it was Mo who had shit stuck to his white ass so who knows??

Sunday morning Todd left for my dad’s to help him with car repairs and to bring home a hot tub – yes, a hot tub – that friends were more than happy to give away. Lucky us!! I had to pick my mom up at the airport. We all got back at the same time, mom headed home, and I took on vacuuming up Mo fur with a vengeance while the men moved the monster into its new resting spot.

Monday I filled in at work and Tuesday I went for a looong overdue skin check. I was worried about a red spot on my nose that turned out to be a broken blood vessel, so it’s great to be old. One personal care appointment down without incident. And then….because they can’t all be problem free…Wednesday morning I woke up at 4:30 with substantial pain in my mouth so I called the dentist, and several hours later found myself drooling, in the middle of a root canal.

I was lucky to have it done the same day, since Thursday was a 12-hour shift and Friday was my usual 9 hour day. He put so much Novocain in my mouth that the pain was gloriously and instantaneously gone after the first shot, and for several hours after I was numb from my right eye all the way down to my chin. It’s an interesting sensation to feel your nose running and yet not be able to feel your nose.

Friday night lights again – this time at home –against a championship team who gave us our annual ass-whoopin. But we did score two touchdowns, so our boys are at least getting on the board. Opac spent most of the time pacing the field again until he was called in to play lineman a few times. It drives me mad, because it’s hard to locate him since he’s always on the move and I don’t want to miss him when he’s on the field. He doesn’t seem to understand that it’s hard to follow a number in a sea of orange jerseys.

Saturday was another busy day at work – between all the beginning of the school year illnesses and flu shots. I rushed home and off to V’s softball game, in what had to be the hottest day for a game this year. Several girls from the team never showed up and didn’t call, including our best pitchers, and so our girls were fighting hard for what ended up a loss. Likely sixth graders who were coming off of their North Bay trip and figured they didn’t have to be there since they’d missed practice all week.

But V did us proud – acting as catcher and then scored the first run of the game. She is definitely a born athlete. If she keeps at it, she’s going to be one formidable player.

Things are slowing down for a bit, thankfully, just so I can get some projects done around the house and get back on the treadmill and back to riding again. After hitting a wall a month ago, I quit drinking and changed my diet and I’ve lost 10 pounds. And I feel great. Running is still out, though, thanks to my knee and not my brain – which sees the upcoming 5ks and wants to get back in it.