Table for Two

This is how we started out.

After I do’s were said, rice was thrown, gifts were opened, and a long white satin dress was cleaned and stored away.

In a small apartment with little to call our own, our table for two was sometimes the couch; an old wooden box we called a coffee table pulled close with two dinner plates on top.

We worked all week, we hung out together, ran errands, tried to exercise, watched TV, and just spent so much time together.

I can barely remember how that felt.

For about seven years, we just enjoyed being us.

Then we became a family. Life was never quite the same. The craziness and fun of new parenthood was so much better sharing it with someone I loved so much. I knew he would be such an amazing daddy and he was. Still is.

Seventeen years later, we sit more often at that table for two again.

Not the couch, but our massive dining-room table, made to seat a crowd.

Not just two.

Our son gone to college; his 13 year-old sister busy with soccer and BFF’s. This is what we hoped for, what we planned for, for all of those years in between. For our kids to be healthy, happy, busy, and doing what they wanted with their lives.

And they are.

And now when we are alone and the house is quiet, I am remembering so many reasons why I said yes all those years ago. Why it was so important to keep the you and I part right there with the mom and dad part.

Because eventually we are back at the table for two.

And I wouldn’t want to be sitting with anyone else.

At the Wrong Party

I’m pretty sure you’ve been there before.

Wistfully gazing across the restaurant at the table-full of Pretty People. They are all laughing, sharing fancy hors d’oeuvres, wearing clothes that hail from Nordstrom rather than Target.

Or maybe you are usually at that table.

Good for you.

In my work with elementary school students, I am lucky enough to attend an annual conference. We put a lot of work into this event, both putting on a workshop for other attendees and taking on another task related to the set-up or daily running of the conference. This year our “extra” task involved checking in and wrapping approximately 50 gift baskets that were to be auctioned off as a fundraiser.

We set ourselves up in a conference room the night before and prepared to put in the long hours necessary to get things ready. Armed with tape, scissors, yards of raffia, rolls of cellophane wrap, and large caffeinated beverages we were ready.

But we were not sexy.

We were comfortable.

After several hours of organizing, taping, sweating, and tying raffia bows a large group of hotly-dressed women peeked into our conference room, asking a one word question.

Allergan?

Not only did we have no idea who they were looking for, but they were quite obviously not with the elementary school employee crowd.

And they were seriously hoping we weren’t with their crowd.

They were totally decked out: shiny halter tops, designer jeans with miles-long inseams, cute wedge shoes, flat-ironed hair, and glittery eye-shadows.

We had flat hair that had nothing to do with an iron.

After several more groups came through, we finally determined that there was an event going on somewhere in the hotel called Girl’s Night Out, sponsored by Allergan. Three-course dinner, wine tasting, and goodies rumored to include coupons for free Botox, Latisse, and/or fillers.

Um, free? I was quite obviously at the wrong table.

Later that night, my co-worker was up in her room with the door propped open as she waited for a colleague to come by.

In walks a strange woman, who starts to chat her up about how nice her room is and helps herself to the snacks on the table. My friend isn’t quite sure if she’s being robbed or taped for a new reality show.

Turns out, this woman is a nurse who was hired for the Girls Night Out event and she’s pissed. They promised a free meal and didn’t come through, so she’s reduced to roaming the halls and scavenging for snacks.

Then she comes up with a revenge plan.

“OK,” she says to my friend. “Come with me. You’re my old friend Hannah, from out of town, and I’ve been waiting for you for hours. You’re finally here and ready for your consultation. Are you in?”

“Wait,” my friend says, “you mean I’m getting Free Botox?”

“Oh no, you’re not Botox material. You need fillers, for sure.”

On any regular day this comment alone might be deflating, but at this particular moment?

It’s a free ticket back to her youth.

And just like that, my co-worker came away from the conference renewed by the keynote speakers, energized by the informative workshops, and armed with a gift card for $600 worth of fillers.

I am envious beyond belief.

And I’m still waiting for my place at that table.

Dreams

It’s been one whole week since my son left for college.

You’d have thought I would have posted several tissues-required posts about it all by now.

That’s usually how I roll.

But the words didn’t come this week. They stayed trapped in my head or lurking beneath my fingertips, struggling to come together on the keyboard and form more than two complete sentences.

Or at least a Facebook status.

*********************************************

He asked me to make sure he woke up on time the day he left. His alarm clock was already packed away; iPod set aside in one box or another.

When enough time had passed that morning and he hadn’t been seen, I went to his door and waited outside just a bit. I waited remembering how many times I had lingered outside that very door, listening for a horrible cough or maybe just waiting to tuck a little boy into bed.

We keep the door closed all of the time now. I like to say it’s to keep the still puppy-ish dog from stealing socks and school papers but it’s really because teenage boys are quite messy.

If you have one, you know.

I opened the door quietly, not wanting to startle him awake.

And there he was, in his big boy bed, peacefully sleeping.

Quite the big boy now, complete with two-day beard stubble on his face and size eleven feet hanging over the end of the bed.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen him sleeping, actually.

I have always been one to linger by the side of cribs and big kid beds, watching my children sleeping and wondering where their dreams were taking them. It mesmerizes me to watch them like that; so innocent and fragile, so full of hope and promise and dreams.

So for a few moments that morning, I lingered. I stood by his bed and took in the absolute breathtaking wonder that it is to gaze at your very own child. Fragile yet strong; small yet mighty; so young yet somehow so old.

We’ve raised him to this point and now it’s his turn.

And I knew exactly where his dreams were taking him that morning.

For Better or for What?

Today is my 24th wedding anniversary.

There must be some mistake, since I used to think only old people could have been married this long.

We have now been married longer than we were single. It blows my mind.

People often ask hubs and I, “What’s your secret?” which then leads to an awkward silence, since we aren’t really sure we have one.

The more I thought about it, I realized that the real marriage secrets to success are pretty simple. Sure, the marriage counselors and divorce lawyers would love for us to think otherwise. But I think I found the secrets just by studying the pictures in my wedding album.

Once I dusted it off.

Simple Secrets to Marriage Success

1. Always smile and listen when your spouse is telling you something that in no way pertains to the event or situation you are currently in. Like the wife who explains kitchen paint colors in great detail during a sudden-death overtime NHL game. This obviously pertains to the picture above, where hubs is clearly explaining to me how great the donuts were at the coffee shop that morning and that he changed the oil in his car last night.

2. Surround yourselves with friends who like to have fun. Being around other goofy people has always brought out the best in our marriage.

3. It’s not always all about you. Sometimes you need to take a back seat and let someone else take the wheel for a while.

4. When you’re feeling rather cranky and a fight may be brewing? Get some food. Sometimes the only thing between you and an epic battle with the spouse is a big plate of mashed potatoes.

5. Be careful what you throw. That pelting with 15 bags of rice may have stung a bit, but the wrong words thrown at a loved one can leave scars for a very long time.

6. When words fail you, there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned kiss.

So to my wonderfully patient, funny, supportive, loving, and handsome husband…a very Happy 24th Anniversary!

I can’t wait for the next 24.

Tooth or Dare

There is a certain amount of annual overhauling maintenance that comes with the territory when you’re over 40.

I suppose that’s the case at any age, but since I don’t like visiting the doctor for any reason, I haven’t always been the best at keeping those annual dates.

But since the fastest way to look 46 older than I really am would be to start losing my teeth, I’ve been pretty diligent about my every-six-months dental visits.

But I hate them.

The only reasons I keep my appointments are:

  1. My fear of losing my teeth
  2. The amount of money my parents spent on braces
  3. My love of corn-on-the-cob
  4. The funny chick who cleans my teeth

Yes, I love my dental hygienist. She’s a mom with two younger girls and a crazy puppy. They go camping, her girls play soccer, and they live in our same smallish town.

So even though my mouth is wide open for 80% of the time and I’m drooling, we still have pleasant conversation.

It’s like a mom’s night out, except without the martinis.

With spit up and ugly bibs, minus the babies.

This morning I pushed myself out the door, arguing (you know argue with yourself too) that at least I wouldn’t have to go back until Christmas and I could have a nice chat with what’s-her-name (because for all my liking her? I never remember her name).

I chugged the last of my HUGE mug of coffee, brushed my teeth a second time for brownie points good measure, and was out the door.

So when some other lady-who-cleans-teeth came out and called my name?

This is where the appointment went down hill.

She led me all the way to the room in the back, a room usually reserved for the pediatric patients. I briefly wondered if I would get to pick a prize, since my daughter got a Rubik’s Cube and a teddy bear just last week.

“I’m Kathy and I’ll be filling in today,” she finally admitted. I wanted to say filling in for who? so I could remember my favorite gal’s name, but I couldn’t speak.

She cranks my mouth open and starts scraping. No questions about the kids, my summer plans, my pedicure, or what the weather is going to be like.

Nothing. Just scraping.

Keep in mind that I chugged that HUGE mug of coffee.

After some more scraping, digging, and generally offensive poking around she gets out what I think is the water-pic thingie.

“I’m going to use this on the stains.”

Stains?

(Mental note: switch to white wine)

She proceeds to use a tool that I know has never been used on my pearly whites before. It’s not that regular water-pic thingie that they use to fill your mouth with an insane amount of water until you gag.

This thing? Like a power-washer for your enamel.

With a sound like nails on a chalkboard (if you are my age, you know that sound).

Tiny jets of water are spewing into my hair, onto the face I actually made-up for the occasion, and down my throat.

I didn’t need any more water down my throat…or had you forgotten the HUGE mug of coffee I chugged?

The over-40 bladder is not something to be taken lightly.

Finally she declares me stain free. Actually she doesn’t declare anything, she just stops pummeling my teeth with highly pressurized water.

And we move on to the polishing and the other water-pic thingie.

Cue full bladder.

The more I hear the sound of the polisher and the whish-whish of the water-pic thingie filling my mouth, the more I need to use the restroom.

Mouth filling with water….whish-whish….

At what point in this torture would I even be able to get up? Not while being blasted or polished or water-picked.

When I almost can’t stand it anymore, she suctions out my mouth and asks if she should raise the chair to an upright position while I wait for the dentist to come in.

I take my opening, not caring that I’m wearing a dry smudge of spit and an ugly blue paper bib.

I excuse myself and practically run down the hall to the beautifully appointed bathroom which I know I’ve helped pay for over the years.

Ahhh.

Back in the chair, the dentist chats me up, asks several nice questions (which I can answer, since he isn’t torturing me with tools), and I’m done. Back after Christmas.

Whew.

Next up? My annual OB/GYN appointment. I love my doctor; she’s a mom and she’s funny and just makes it so much easier to force myself to keep my appointment.

I just hope she doesn’t call in sick.

Why I’m So Hot

I can feel his eyes on me as I dress and move towards the door.

“I thought for sure you’d do it today,” he says through sleepy whispers.

My gaze drops to the floor and I sigh, “Not today; maybe next week. I’m just not ready.”

He mumbles something and rolls over, not wanting to press the issue. How can I explain this to him in a way that he’ll understand?

I can tell by his reaction he thinks I’m a certifiable basket-case; a nut; a kook.

But he’s called me on it, and he’s right.

I’ve developed a phobia of sorts.

I just can’t bring myself to wear shorts this summer.

And today? We hit the 100-degree plus mark.

They taunt me from the drawer with their short legs and breezy leg openings. In their neatly organized piles sorted by color and fabric, they promise summer fun and cuteness.

One pair even has pleats that I carefully ironed last fall before putting them away for the last time.

But was it the last time for the season, or the last time at all?

I’ve always been a shorts-in-the-summer kind of gal, always made sure that I had all the basics covered: a white pair, a dressier pair, denim, khaki, and maybe a crazy plaid pair. Funky cut-offs for the beach; snazzy linen for brunch.

But plans like that were made with legs that I haven’t seen in a few years.

Not the legs I’m hobbling around on these days.

Lately I’ve become rather fond of knee-length short-type things (Bermudas?), skirts that end at the knee, and capri pants. All of those styles that cover that back part of the leg. You know, the longest part.

My ankles are rather nice, thank you very much.

As I get closer to that looming 50th birthday in a few years, I find that even though I’m comfortable with myself, I’m not so comfortable subjecting other people to the horrors that age is bestowing on me.

While my legs have always been pale, now that paleness is accentuated with purplish veins like the doodles of a distracted middle school girl.

In purple Sharpie pen.

Knees are never really sexy, but mine are now encased in baggy skin. Where exactly did the fat under there go?

It quite possibly migrated north and stopped for a layover on the shores of my belly button.

That explains a lot.

And don’t even start on the exercise thing. I suppose that exercise alone would transform my legs, make them shorts-worthy in no time. Or possibly make the veins even veiny-er.

If I were willing to commit to it.

I even went shopping, determined to find the pair of shorts that I could actually wear with confidence this summer.

If I thought my legs looked horrid at home, they looked like abstract art under the tragic fun-house lights in the dressing room at Kohl’s.

Do they do that on purpose? Is there a hidden camera show I’m not aware of that taunts middle-aged women with cute clothes, then lures them into a room with hideous lighting and crazy mirrors?

If there is, I was a contestant.

This battle isn’t over, but for now?

Shorts:   1
Sherri:   0

Flash Mob Frenzy

Flash Mobs* are all the rage these days.

Liz at a belle, a bean, & a chicago dog was involved in one at the Blissdom conference. She didn’t tell a soul and she rocked it.

They had one in my own little town just a week ago, right in the middle of downtown.

I’ve been thinking that I would love to be in a Flash Mob.

Then I realized that I actually have been…

Hot Flash Mob

Participants: Group of 8 middle-aged women attending their twice-monthly meeting at work.

Setting: Small conference room; oval shaped conference table surrounded with 8 chairs that recline slightly.

Scene: A nice spring day, temperatures in the low 70’s, after lunchtime.

Scene opens in the conference room as three of the participants enter with their work files and large soft drinks from various convenience stores or fast-food joints.

One by one they enter and talk amongst themselves, until the Boss Lady enters and sits at the head of the table. Everyone chooses a seat and gets their files out of their tote bags.

Agendas are passed around and the meeting begins.

First participant appears to be listening to Boss Lady, but suddenly begins to fan herself with agenda.

Others pretend not to notice, until second participant fans herself with her hand, then takes a huge gulp from her soft drink. After she finishes the drink, she holds the cold plastic cup up to her cheek and sighs.

Boss Lady picks up agenda and fans herself briefly, then continues.

Second participant continues to hold plastic cup to her cheek while first participant fans herself with agenda.

Third participant, who was previously texting during the meeting, jumps up and interrupts Boss Lady, asking is it hot in here?

Fourth participant then grabs portable fan from Boss Lady’s office down the hall and places it at the end of the room. When the fan is turned on, a collective sigh is heard in the room. Several participants lean back in their chairs and close their eyes.

After a few more minutes of enjoying the fan breeze, fifth participant states that it’s still too hot and gets up to open the window.

Window won’t open easily, so participant one and three also jump up to help. Participants two and four start fanning themselves with agendas again. Boss Lady removes her cardigan sweater.

 Participants six, seven, and eight (who previously appeared fine with the temperature) begin to show signs of discomfort. These include rolling up sleeves, removing shoes, and more fanning with the agenda.

The peak of the Hot Flash Mob ensues, and all participants are either fanning themselves, standing near the open window, sticking their heads in front of the fan, or pressing their cold drinks to their faces.

One by one, the participants begin to feel comfortable again, almost as quickly as they were overcome with heat.

Meeting adjourns, drinks are emptied, agendas tucked away.

Until next time…

*According to Wikipedia, a Flash Mob is defined as “a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire.”