Dating and the Laundromat

The other day my husband and I actually got to go see a movie together—it was not animated and it was not rated G. Needless to say, it was a big day for us. The movie itself was awful but thankfully we had a bucket of popcorn to distract us. But even eating my body weight in popcorn couldn’t keep me from thinking about the storyline. The movie was about the dating antics of twenty-somethings and I think it was intended to be a romantic comedy but the funniest thing I saw in that theater was the woman in the row ahead of me who pulled an entire submarine sandwich out of her purse to snack on during the film.

I couldn’t help but look over at my husband and smile, thinking about how grateful I am to have him. The first reason is because he never brings oversized sandwiches into movie theaters and secondly, because he saved me from the hideous world of dating.

Fun, excitement, desperation, and degradation all rolled into one huge ball of confusion we commonly refer to as dating. I’ve been out of the dating scene for over ten years now and have threatened my husband with bodily harm if he ever leaves me. Okay, we love each other a lot too, but fear is a good motivating factor and the fact that I am the only one he trusts to fold his underwear properly has sealed our marriage in foreverness.

But I can still remember the utter frustration that came with dating. The first hurdle to dating is where to find date-worthy people. Someone once told me that the laundromat was a great place to meet people so one day I grabbed three weeks of dirty clothes, a bottle of Tide, and a hundred dollars in quarters and went to find myself a man.

What I actually found was a creepy guy with a parrot on his shoulder washing a comforter with a picture of The Last Supper on it, a woman who took off the underwear she was wearing to throw into the washing machine, and an old Portuguese woman who swore at the change machine each time she passed it.

I decided to stick around and do my laundry because how else was I going to get rid of all those quarters and unlike the woman I saw earlier who shimmied out of her underwear, I had run out of clean undies the previous day and it would feel good to wear undergarments again. I had to force myself not to look at the man with the parrot because I was dangerously close to yelling, “Ahoy, Matey!” and I don’t think he was stable enough to get the joke. I did, however, join the little old Portuguese woman who was swearing at the change machine and she really seemed to appreciate my support.

I had one last load of laundry in the dryer; it was a load of towels and a few pairs of those big, comfy, cotton undies that no woman wants to admit to wearing; I had already folded all the cute pairs and hid them under some jeans, away from the prying eyes of Captain Parrot. I found myself mesmerized by the tumbling of the load of laundry, watching it intently like the ninth inning of game seven of the World Series. Wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly when a very good looking guy walked up and stood right beside me.

He made some small talk then I saw him glance at the dryer I was using. I was fairly certain that he saw those giant cotton undies tumbling around, so I quickly made up a story about how I do laundry for a home for the elderly. I got so into my story that I threw my arms out for emphasis and ended up slamming right into the change machine. “Damn it,” I muttered under my breath. Right then the old Portuguese woman came running over and high-fived me then swore at the change machine.

That good-looking guy backed away slowly from me like I had parrot on my shoulder. I knew this was a bust so I just said, “Hey, that woman over there isn’t wearing underwear, so you might have better luck with her.”

I was just  thinking I could probably get used to dating a man with a bird fetish when I remembered some great advice someone once told me, never settle for anything less than the fairytale.

So I didn’t.

 

Getting Older

Getting older. We are all doing it. Every minute. Every day. I’m older now than when I started writing this sentence. Sometimes I focus too much on the dark side of getting older. Like the fact that the box boy at the grocery store now calls me m’am instead of miss; every wrinkle cream commercial seems to be targeting me specifically and losing 10lbs is no where near as easy as it was when I was twenty.

Recently I have been trying to think of all the ways that getting older is a good thing. So far I have come up with: you finally have found the answer to the nagging question of bangs or no bangs; you know exactly what kind of alcohol you like and exactly how much you can drink without risking damage to your shoes; and you truly have enough life experience to look back and reflect.

It’s during my moments of reflection that I appreciate my age the most. I can look back now and see years and years of love, mistakes, laughter, darkness, kindness, tears, and redemption. I can also now see how all these parts of my life melded together and made me the woman I am today–a woman I love and respect. And believe me, that was something I never said when I was in my twenties.

This time of reflection is where I can recognize the mistakes of the past and let them go like leaves caught in an autumn breeze. It is that easy. Yes, getting older brings the wisdom to know what is worth hanging onto and fighting for and what isn’t worth your precious time. You learn the importance of forgiving others as well as forgiving yourself.

It’s a humbling process to look back on your life and see how every step, wrong or right, led you to exactly where you needed to be.  There is a certain kind of comfort that comes with that knowledge–a security that your path is going somewhere and ultimately, it’s going somewhere beautiful. That’s not to say that there won’t be headaches and heartaches, but your path will continue. The views will change with the seasons and so will you.

Sometimes I wish someone would have told me all of this when I was younger. But then I think back and I’m sure my mom did tell me, I just wasn’t ready to listen. This is one of those lessons that simply can’t be taught. The answers we all want out of life can only be found by living life–by opening the door, stepping out, and living. We need to learn all we can learn about others and about ourselves. We need to live with compassion and remember we have the strength within us to pick ourselves up after we get knocked down, no matter what knocked us down.

Getting older is a privilege and comes with great responsibility. We are the authors of our stories. We remember the mistakes of the past only long enough to right them in the future. We set the example for our children, not of a perfect life, but of a lived life, full of struggle and setback and also full of beauty and victory.

 

Birth

Six years ago. It doesn’t feel like six years. Well, maybe it does.

Six years ago today my husband and I found love at first sight. We found it looking into the eyes of our beautiful baby girl. All I have to do is look at one of her baby pictures and the memories surround me like a warm blanket: her head full of dark hair, those tiny hands, and that sweet baby smell (the freshly powdered smell; I’m still trying to forget the other smells that emanated from that girl).

I’ve also tried to forget the forty hours of labor that preceded my daughter’s entrance into this world, but so far I’ve had no success. Everyone I knew told me their birthing horror stories but to be perfectly honest, I quit listening once they got to the “water breaking” part. These stories just reminded me of high school geometry: something I should be learning but it just didn’t seem applicable in my life. And ladies, let’s be clear here: never share your stories of the birthing battlefield to a new mom. These kinds of stories are best shared with women who have already been in the trenches; don’t scare the rookies with words like “mucous plug.”

My husband and I checked into the hospital on a Sunday for a scheduled induction. I did my hair, make up, and nails before we left. “I want to look good for the pictures when the doctor hands me the baby.” It made perfect sense to me at the time.

The nurse took us to our room and I ordered the customary ice chips. My husband and I laughed and figured we would have a baby in just a few hours. Oh, the flawed thinking of two birthing class drop-outs.

I never realized how many people would become that familiar with my cervix, but all night nurse after nurse came in to check on my cervix. Apparently I have one stubborn cervix; the next day was Monday and still we had no baby. Tensions rose and I started to rethink this whole baby thing.

“Maybe we should have just gotten a dog,” I tell my husband.

“Probably, but we should at least see this through.” He’s always so good in high-stress situations.

It soon becomes clear to me that the doctor is mostly just a mystical presence sending orders via phone to the nurses. The next order that’s given is pitocin. Pitocin, I’m almost certain, is Latin for “Holy hell here come the contractions.” I’m really starting to regret dropping out of that birthing class but I really needed a churro, so I made my husband take me to Disneyland that day. Damn that mouse and his delicious and strategically-placed-all-over-the-park Mexican pastries!

One of the nurses suggests that I get up and go for a walk. Yes, a walk. I’m connected to a machine feeding me a sadistic, intravenous cocktail that makes me feel like I may split into two, I haven’t eaten in 24 hours, and I have no underwear on. Yes, a walk sounds delightful. After one lap around the maternity ward, my husband escorts me back to my room. Apparently, no one really appreciated the trail of profanity I created as I went for my little stroll. I can’t help it, I don’t remember how that instructor said to breath through the contractions, so I making due with swearing through them. Cursing: it’s always been one of my best coping strategies.

Another sixteen hours later, another check of my cervix and a nurse declares that I am ready to push. The nurses are like a well-rehearsed orchestra as they magically turn the labor room into the delivery room. Another nurse appeared with five nursing students and asked if they could observe.

“Well, I’d usually say no, but since my knees are currently shoved up to my ears and I’m squeezing a human being out of my body, come on in! I hope you’re not easily offended because swearing may be frowned upon in the hallway, but I plan on letting a few off-color phrases fly here in just a minute.”

I realize it’s now Tuesday. We checked in on Sunday. I haven’t eaten, I haven’t slept, and any hopes I had of looking presentable in pictures is now laughable. I’m sweaty and all I really want at this moment is a cheeseburger and a nap. And mascara. I really need some mascara.

My OB comes in so I know things are about to get serious. My husband takes his position at ground zero. What a guy; I may have gone through 40 hours of labor, but I can’t even imagine the unspeakable horrors he witnessed down there and yet he is still able to function in society without any discernible side effects.

Two hours of pushing and then, a baby. Upon hearing her cry, I panicked. I had no training for this. Sure, I had dolls when I was a kid, but mostly I just cut their hair and then forgot them outside in the rain. That’s not proper motherhood training. There’s no way I’m cut out for this.

Then the doctor handed her to me. Our baby. In my arms, finally. And somewhere deep inside of me, a mommy switch was turned on and I was overcome with a love so strong it almost hurt. Right then my sole purpose in life became to protect this gorgeous baby girl.

Here we are six years later, still loving and protecting this sweet little girl. Our baby.

And I haven’t left her out in the rain yet.

 

Running

Running. It used to be an obscure idea to me, an action I would only consider if something big and hairy were chasing me. Wait, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t have run. I would have been the quintessential dumb blonde who backs herself into a corner and gets ripped to shreds while screaming at decibels only dogs can hear. At least that girl always has good hair. Big hairy thing–1, screaming girl who wouldn’t run–0.

So I started running. Not to say that my fear of horror movie monsters was the only catalyst; I also have an unhealthy and overdeveloped competitive streak. I kept hearing people talking about the Color Run–that 5K where you get blinded by tinted powder every kilometer. It’s a no-pressure race that’s meant to be fun. What better race to inaugurate me into the world of running. I also had a friend who had run it in 39 minutes, so my goal became to finish it in 38 minutes.

I got myself started on the treadmill with one of those training programs where you walk, then run for a short period of time, then walk again. I have never watched a clock more intensely than when I would run those couple of minutes, all the while thinking how impressive it was that I hadn’t taken a breath in a full two minutes. I could only focus on one thing at a time, so at first I focused on my legs and breathing was left by the wayside (I figured: I breath everyday, but my legs haven’t run since cooties were a health concern). Surely breathing was overrated anyway.

It wasn’t long until I got off the treadmill and started running outside. This is where I was introduced to the runner’s arch enemy–the dog on a 40 foot retractable leash. The 40 foot dog leash–for people who want to take their dog for a walk, but don’t want to be seen with it. The only thing worse than the 40 foot leash is the unleashed dog. I encountered more than my fair share of unleashed dogs when I began running outside. I would be running along at my happy pace and a dog would appear. Fortunately, I’m known for my catlike reflexes and I would jump over the dog. Unfortunately, jumping always seemed to trigger my swear reflex and I would string together obscene words and phrases that I’m still not entirely sure even made sense. I got into so many altercations while running that I contemplated running in a disguise. I thought a nice Amish beard would do the trick; no one would ever suspect the Amish to be swearing like a truck driver.

Soon I discovered where I could run dog-free. And slowly, I built up my endurance and my confidence and I was running at longer intervals. I decided to put my legs to the test and run some hills. I used to see people running uphill as I drove by and the anguished looks on their faces would scare me and make me wonder if I should stop and ask if they needed medical assistance. Now I know it’s not a look of anguish, it’s a look of power and strength because you pushed yourself way beyond what you thought you could do.

I got so into my training that I was ready for my first 5K long before the Color Run so I entered a Mother’s Day 5K. My first race. I had no idea what to expect. I was completely amazed by what I saw: thousands of people of all different abilities warming up and cheering for each other. I was pumped. The race started and I felt strong; I ran my fastest mile ever then paid for it in my second mile. I wanted to give up but then I saw a little girl holding a sign that said, “Go Mommy Go!” She wasn’t my little girl, but she was cheering for everyone who ran by. That was just the push I needed. I was re-energized and I had the finish line in sight. I caught a glimpse of a woman trying to pass me as we rounded the corner. That’s when my competitive nature took hold and I thought, “You better either fly by me or you’re going to have to earn it, because I’m not just handing it to you.” I kept running faster so she couldn’t pass. I finished before her and beat my goal time of 38 minutes with a time of 37:55. Upon reflection, I suppose the Usain Bolt pose I struck at the finish line was a bit gratuitous.

I used to hesitate to call myself a runner; I didn’t think I was good enough. But running has changed me. I’ve grown in my endurance and as a person; it’s not about how fast I go. For me, running is about that moment when neither of my feet are touching the ground; in that split second I’m flying, I’m free, and I am a runner.

Even now, when I’m running I’ll come to a hill looming in front of me that seems to say, “No, you can’t.” That’s when I adjust my hat, turn up my music and tell that hill, “Yes, I can.” And I’ve discovered that’s the key to life: find a new hill to conquer everyday.