My Wife Will Die Before Me

Barring a horrific car wreck, aneurism, or other freak accident in which life stumbles from my mangled body, chances are high that due to our 10-year age difference, my good health, and my wife’s Chiari Malformation, she will die before me.

My wife’s disease, Chiari Malformation, is a brain disorder that is progressive and dangerous. I could lose her as early as age 60 if not sooner if she needs a second or third brain surgery, which is 20 years from now. At that time, I’ll be 50, about the same age as my mother when she lost my dad to lung cancer. Watching mom experience life as a widow has been both equally inspiring and terrifying. She survived the trauma. She is happy. And although I know I would survive losing my wife and so would our children, I still cannot help but selfishly wonder what will happen to me.

These thoughts occur most often when I see older couples sitting down at the table next to me in a restaurant, one sweetly caring for the other. She will take his cane and lean it carefully against the wall. He will help her, fragile as a glass trinket, sit and scoot under the table. Sometimes these thoughts plague me when we hang out with our friends, many of them older than me. I get jealous. Most of them are partnered, taking fabulous vacations, and vivaciously pursuing life. What is going to happen to me when I am their age?

What about our children? In 20 years, our children will be 26, 33, and 35. I was 26 when I lost my father, and shrink away at the thought of our kids dealing with the death of a parent at a critical stage of adulthood as I did. Will I be strong enough to help them?

Depressed yet? Hold that dreary feeling for a moment before you let it drop.

I am lucky. My wife is the perfect fit for my quirky, anxious, creative, and loud personality. She is the yin to my yang. She is patient when I am not. She is the quiet pause when my brain storms. On our honeymoon, she jogged back to our car to grab granola bars and the container of expensive organic almonds to give to the homeless teens in the park. Though our children are at an age where we vomit money for their education and care, she pushed me to take the risk of quitting my job and pursue my dreams. She loves me with a ferocity written about in novels and screenplays.

Yes. I have accepted the likelihood that my wife will die much too young. She may be robbed of seeing daughters marry and meeting grandbabies. I will be widowed before I should be expected to be ready. I will be far from retirement age, with plans all laid out for how she and I will travel; plans that will likely never come to fruition.

But even knowing what fate has in store, I would never trade living every single moment with this incredible human being for the next 20 years for anyone or anything else. One breath of a moment with her is worth the pain of a million absent her.

I am blessed.

Trading Bandwidth for Bonding

My family on a black out Friday snapped a quick picture before putting cell phones away in favor of family time.
My family on a black out Friday snapped a quick picture before putting cell phones away in favor of family time.

Story originally published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less” on April 19, 2016. 

At our house, we can watch T.V. shows and movies on four television sets, two tablets, two computers and five cell phones. We can play games on all thirteen of these “smart” devices too.

But when I walk into the room and see all of my children, who are six, twelve and fourteen, with their heads bent over slick screens, fingers typing away and faces awash in artificial blue light, it doesn’t feel “smart” to me. It feels unnatural.

I’ve read the blog posts by “experts” wagging their fingers at parents who allow their children hours of butt-sitting, game-playing, social media-scouring and television-watching time on screens large and small. “It’s unhealthy,” they say. “It promotes sedentary lifestyles. There’s no brain enrichment.”

I’ve read the other blog posts by “experts” claiming time on electronics is time well spent. It can be a time for learning, a time for socializing with friends or expanding creativity and imagination. My six-year-old would gladly testify in a court to defend Minecraft as more than just a game. My older girls would swear social media is the best way to get to know their friends, “No different than you, mom,” referring to when I spent hours talking on the phone with the cord stretched all the way into the closet.

I’m no judge and jury. I convict myself guilty of too much time on social media and reading news websites. What I do know is that a time came when I felt disconnected from my children. Perhaps this is where the unnatural feeling originated. Buried in their online worlds, my children were not poking their heads out to breathe. Or say hello. Or say anything to me other than, “I’m hungry.” They were growing, changing and making new friends, deciding on a new favorite color or maybe even developing a new skill. They were finding a new favorite online celebrity to follow. I’d ask questions, but get no answers. “Fine,” doesn’t really describe how one has been doing lately.

The hours of screen time had to be cut. Our family had become more connected to the online world than each other. My motherly instincts screamed at me to fix this.

One of family crafting projects was painting monochromatic bells.

One afternoon after work and school, backpacks cratered on beds and dinner boiling on the stove, I walked into the living room and looked over my family, heads bent down over their various tools to plug in online like plants in need of water.

“Listen up, family,” I said. “I think it would do us some good to have time when all electronics are turned off. We will call it a black out night, and instead of our noses in screens, we will make art and play games. We will talk about whatever you want. We can plan our summer vacation or be silly. I don’t care what we do and I’m open to suggestions, but absolutely no electronics, including cell phones, during this time.”

I braced for the whining.

“Cool! Can we paint bottles? I’ve seen some designs online I’d like to try,” Mackenzie, the middle child, responded.

“I have an idea too. Let’s do a fire in our fire pit with outdoor games,” said Madison, the oldest.

The youngest chimed in, “Can we color together? I’d like that.”

I was stunned. This was not the reaction I expected. Instead, my children agreed, and we listed several ideas for our black out days. We decided Friday evenings would be a good start since we rarely have plans.

For our first black out Friday we built a fire in our fire pit, roasted all beef hot dogs on sticks and made ice cream s’more sundaes, played football and talked about space travel, stars and planets as the sky began to darken and sparkle. No cell phones or other electric devices were allowed.

We painted donated bottles one evening for our family bonding time.
We painted donated bottles one evening for our family bonding time.

The second black out Friday we colored in coloring books, but not just any coloring books. I purchased a nice set of colored pencils and “adult” coloring books, which are full of small details to shadow and take a long while to complete. We ate homemade pizza and talked about our favorite colors, our favorite seasons and our favorite classes. I taught them about the color wheel.

We built an art room where we teach the kids to paint. No electronics allowed, of course.

By the third black out Friday, my children were turning off their tablets and cell phones ahead of time. I found them, dark and abandoned, tossed about the house.

It hit me. They were enjoying this as much as I was. They needed time to connect as a family as much as I did.

Spending less time in virtual reality strengthened our family bonds. Now we spend more time updating the status of our relationship with each other than any of our social media accounts. Who knew unplugging could lead to feeling so plugged in?

Thank You, Denver, For Helping Me Feel Normal Again

Denver. Joggers and bike-riders dressed in yoga pants and other breathable material pound the streets, littering them like beer bottles and cigarette butts adorn the roads of our hometown. My wife and I must move aside to allow them past.

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My gorgeous wife loves to hike as much as I do. Here she is posing with the mountains.

From the runners to the waitresses to the girls discussing rebuilding their website at the table next to ours at the all organic restaurant, almost everyone is around my age, 30’s and 20’s, and drip with hospitality and kindness. The ladies sitting near us in the busy and eclectic eatery we chose for our first lunch to kick off our honeymoon all carry mod clutches. In Denver, women carry either a small clutch, backpack or mailbag. No one lugs their wallets in fat, over-stuffed purses I’m used to seeing around at home. I’m glad I chose a mailbag for our trip.

We are two married women, and in Denver, no one cares.

One of the girls discussing social media traffic wears new boots with a lace white dress, and her friend dons a chevron-patterned maxi dress with a large triangle of fabric cut out in the front to show off her midriff and back. It’s either work out wear or stylish and fab garb one sees on mannequins in shop windows. I’ve yet to see anyone in public wearing slouchy clothes or PJs, all too common in our local Wal-Mart. Nearly everyone is skinny, skin aglow and healthy from their gluten-free diets. The jogging, clean mountain air, and vegan restaurants probably contributes. I feel like I might be able to relate to these women, even though I feel small and country in their presence. We all are enjoying selections from the all-organic menu common to most of the restaurants here. If only Kentucky would catch up.

denver blog mountains
Pike’s Peak, Colorado’s tallest mountain visible from wherever we traveled. We took a train to the top.

Here, there are lesbians and allies everywhere. No one stares at us when we hold hands or pop kiss after a shared joke. Gawking seems illegal. We blend in at every clothing store and café and on every street. We are two married women, and in Denver, no one cares. I feel so comfortable. For the first time in my life, I don’t feel different, and no one treats me like I am. When the locals ask where we are from and why we are visiting, we respond we are on our honeymoon, and they all smile widely and offer their sincere congratulations.

One guy in his late 20’s hiking behind us on a trail said, “That’s awesome, ladies! Did you have to come here or could you marry there?”

“You girls are going to love it here,” was another’s response at the bed and breakfast.

“Hi girls! You ladies from here? We just want to make sure you girls aware of the lightning dangers,” said a husband and wife in their 60’s hiking down the mountain towards us. We had been holding hands.

I didn’t realize how badly I missed being treated like I am normal until I was finally treated like I am normal. (If only Kentucky would catch up.)

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The Capital Hill Mansion Bed and Breakfast where we stayed two days in the city before heading out to the mountains. Our stay was fabulous!

Even the physician and urgent care nurses were unabashed by the news I am married to a woman. After learning I had contracted strep, I casually asked if this meant an end to our honeymoon romance, gesturing to my wife. She buried her chin in her chest blushing from my direct, unfiltered question. The doctor placed his hand on his hip, laughed and responded, “Of course, honey! But you’ll be good to go in about 48 hours as long as your fever is gone.” He smiled and chuckled. I had expected awkward silence and a straight (no pun intended), dry answer. One of the nurses had even conceived a child with her partner using a donor and artificial insemination – the first lesbian I’ve met in 7 years who had gotten pregnant like me. To finally relate with someone on this level and trade our stories … it was golden. (To compare, this is how I was treated at an urgent care center recently in my home state.)

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I loved writing on the balcony of our bed and breakfast.

Resting on the balcony of our third floor room of the historic bed and breakfast owned by a nice gay couple, I hear a rhythmic thud nearing me. I lean forward in the iron rocking chair to peer over the adobe balcony. Sure enough, it’s a jogger. I never want to leave. I can’t help but think if I could somehow pack these gifts of hospitality and being treated like I’m human in my suitcase, tucking them in safely alongside the trinkets we bought for our kids, then perhaps it’d make returning home a little less pensive.

 

 

But … We Were Wearing Matching Shoes

Her name was Laura. Dressed in matching mint green scrubs top and bottom, she brought out the white papers that moments before, had been clipped in a clipboard clasped in my clammy hands while I scratched on them with a germ-covered pen.

The white surgical mask was itchy on my face. I didn’t like breathing in my recycled breath, making the mask wet. I can’t stand a wet face.

My head throbbed. My body radiated heat through my denim shirt and white tank top, yet I was freezing. I had gone out to drop off some copies of a magazine to the organic store I interviewed for a story, then decided to do some shopping while out. My reality aligns beautifully when the book store is located beside the art supply store.

The symptoms hit me like a Mack truck. One minute, I was reading the back of Jeffrey Deaver’s The Steel Kiss, and in the next the shelves are whirling and the words are blurring. I felt the heat rising inside; the vertigo twisting my stomach into nausea.

I put the book down on a completely different shelf than I had removed it, and took off to the parking lot. I had been caring for my stepdaughter for the past two days as she recovered from a 103.3 flu-induced fever. The doctor had informed us she was highly contagious, and warned to watch for symptoms as I had been exposed to her more than her two sisters or her mom, my wife of four and a half months.

This is craptastic.

My head pounded as if a hammer was beating my temple. I sat in my car, searching Google for the nearest immediate care center. I had a busy week scheduled after the weekend, meetings and deadlines to meet as my freelance writing business was picking up and doing very well. I had scheduled myself about 60 hours of work, and nowhere on my calendar had I written in “lying in bed with the flu.”

Finding my target, I set out to get tested and hopefully a Tamiflu prescription.

maskAt the counter, the check-in woman smiled and asked me to sign in. I explained I needed a mask as I suspected flu. She handed me one, and I asked her which way it went, blue-side or white-side out. She didn’t know, looked at the back of the box and told me white side out. She handed me a clipboard. Since it was my first time there, I had a litany of forms in which to scrawl my life story.

I complied, and returned the clipboard to her with my I.D. and insurance card. Since the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing marriage for samesex couples, I was finally able to marry Amy, my soulmate. We had been engaged for months, waiting on this decision before planning our wedding, as I insisted upon a “real” wedding with all the legal-binding consequences. After our dream wedding, my wife added my birth daughter and I to her union insurance like every other normal family has been able to do. It was the best insurance coverage we had ever had, and was saving my family so much money.

My insurance card, therefor, has my wife’s name on it. We hyphenated our last names so we could each match our children’s last names. Her birth children being Coulters and me and my daughter being Anglins, we changed both of our last names to be Anglin-Coulter.

The check-in lady ran the insurance, and I paid my co-pay, then sauntered back to my chair to slump and despise my surgical mask some more.

I watched as my forms were carried to the back, then Laura, in her mint green scrubs, brought the flapping papers back to the check-in lady, pointing and saying something about them being confusing. I couldn’t hear the check-in lady’s response, but watched as she pointed at the forms. Laura’s face screwed up and crunched in confusion, her eyebrows pressed together in a way that looked like two caterpillars kissing on her forehead.

Can I please just get tested, get my prescription and leave?

Laura opened the door at the side of the room, and called for me by my first name. I stood and smiled, then remembered she can’t see me smiling through my stupid itchy, surgical mask.

Her mouth formed a tight, thin line forcing the wrinkles around her lips to pronounce. She stared at me a few seconds longer, then dropped her eyes to her paperwork and made notations I couldn’t see.

I entered the holding area and started to lay my keys and phone down in preparation for weighing, but Laura asked that I take a seat. I sat.

“Your form was very confusing to me,” she said.

“Confusing?” I said.

“Yes, I didn’t understand why you were listing ‘Mary’ as your name in some places and ‘Amy’ as your name in others,” she said.

“Amy is my wife. I listed her under the spouse section. I’m on her insurance,” I said.

Laura stared at me. She looked to be in her late fifties, and was not well practiced at keeping her expression neutral.

I continued, “We decided to keep both of our names and hyphenate so we match our children.”

Her mouth formed a tight, thin line forcing the wrinkles around her lips to pronounce. She stared at me a few seconds longer, then dropped her eyes to her paperwork and made notations I couldn’t see.

“Any allergies?” she asked. Her tone sounded curt.

“Not to my knowledge,” I said.

I dropped my eyes to the floor. I could feel the tension from her thicken and surround me. As if the mask wasn’t suffocating enough.

She was wearing grey and white Sketchers with white shoelaces and a bit of light blue detail, the exact same tennis shoes I was wearing. Amy had bought them for me for Christmas. They have memory foam on the inside and are as lightweight as paper on my feet, perfect for my days shopping and walking around the neighborhood. I wonder where Laura got her shoes.

I looked up at her. She had a gold cross pinned to her nametag. She glanced up and noticed me studying her, and took a small step back.

She asked me to put my arm on the table, and wrapped my arm to take my blood pressure. She lightly pressed her stethoscope to the crux of my elbow, keeping her eyes down. I did too, and looked at the pink polish on her nails. They were done professionally. I liked the cotton candy color. She made a few more notes and picked up her paperwork.

“Follow me,” she said. She did not make eye contact again.

I followed her to my designated exam room, thinking it strange that she didn’t take my weight and height, but I didn’t want to have any more conversations with her, nor did I really want to know how much I weighed.

The nurse practitioner came in to confirm a flu test was warranted, then sent Laura back in to do the test. Without words, she pushed a Q-tip into each of my nostril holes. I gagged and coughed. She handed me tissues, then left. Pulling the mask down, I wiped the water draining from my eyes and blew my nose.

I texted Amy. My concerned wife had been blowing my phone up wanting an update on my condition.

Flu confirmed, I awaited Walgreens to fill my Tamiflu prescription. I sat in a chair near the window willing the headache to subside so I could make the drive home, texting Amy for the third time that she did not need to come and get me.

My thoughts lingered back to Laura and the immediate care center. I wondered whether she had noticed we were wearing the same shoes.

 

 

The New ‘Sex-venture’

IMG_3449 (3)Several months after beginning to date my future wife Amy, I discovered that although she was almost 10 years older than me, she had little experience playing with toys in the bedroom.

I, on the other hand, had researched and explored the gadgets with wonder and awe throughout my adult life. My curiosity to know what that shape dildo feels like versus that material on a vibrator wrestled with my wallet. The things were so costly, but I managed to own a few. I had to part with them all when my last relationship ended, because well, the thought grossed me out. I didn’t want to continue to use something an ex had used on me, or I on her, no matter how many trips through the dish washer the sex items took. Plus, there’s the emotions attached to such memories, and it certainly felt wrong to use them on someone new.

So I was toy-less when Amy and I met and eventually began making love. I hadn’t gotten around to replacing any, and asked one night if she had something we could play with.

“I’ve never used one, actually,” she responded.

My mouth fell open. I assumed most girls experimented with at least one gadget during their lifetime. She was in her late thirties. Also, Amy had been with other women before me. I was sure she was breaking some kind of lesbian code, wholesome as she was. A former Baptist Sunday school teacher, sweet as country apple pie but sharp as a tack; she was from a nice family. It would seem dirty and inappropriate for them to ever discuss such things. They didn’t.

Well, I do.  

“We must remedy this immediately!” I told her, and on our next date night when the children were all away, we visited one of the naughty stores in the city to buy a new toy of our own. (A point at which I knew things were getting really serious and had potential for long-term.)

I was sure she was breaking some kind of lesbian code, wholesome as she was.

She carefully and thoughtfully inspected the wall of sexual offerings, not at all embarrassed, as if we were picking out window dressings together.

I was mortified. I hated looking at these in public and getting stared at by the dirty old men who rush to the movie section and back out the door. Perhaps it is vain of me to think they may be imagining me in ways I don’t wish to be imagined by them. But it makes me uncomfortable.

I actually ran into a co-worker at one of these stores once. He was a vice president at the corporation where we worked. There he crouched looking at the lesbian films, and there I stood with my warming lotion (thank goodness it was only warming lotion). He smiled and said hi, grabbed a movie and walked off leaving me standing in a puddle of horror.

The memory burns my cheeks crimson to this day.

Amy asked me a question from time to time, like whether I had tried the giant, dark dildo boxed and sitting on the floor, too big to fit on a shelf. I playfully pushed her shoulder, and she grinned, knowing better.

She asked the girl behind the register about the clear, glass vibrators encased and displayed with surrounding light away from where customers could imprint them with their oily fingers.

I loved her patient curiosity. I loved that she was gladly willing to take this erotic adventure with me.  She had not hesitated, and did not make me feel weird about it.

Together we settled on a rubber vibrator with two ends, one small and cone-shaped for Amy and the other slightly bigger with a classic shape for me. (Like these.) With this one I could play a larger role in Amy’s experience with her first toy. Romantic, right?

We brought it home to take a spin. We unpacked and washed it, inserted the batteries, then undressed.

“How does this work?” she said, picking up the instructions to read for proper use, an IT geek ever careful with technology, even technology for vaginas apparently.

IMG_3450 (1)

“Put those down. Here, give it to me and I’ll show you,” I said.

She handed me the grey toy, heavy in my hand. This one was different than others I had tried. I applied a bit of lubricant to wet the dry skin. I turned the knob and it buzzed to life.

“Oh!” said Amy, surprised by its vigor. She giggled and said, “Okay, now what?’

“Lay down on the bed, and put your end in,” I said.

She did, and her face changed to an expression of uncertainty.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Yeah, this just feels weird. I don’t know. Let’s just keep going.”

“Hold up my end for me,” I said as I crawled on top.

Just as I was almost in position, my end of the toy slipped from Amy’s fingers. She had bent it back waiting for me to get settled, and the lubricant was a little too slippery. Then bam! The tip of the heavy rubber dildo slingshot forward and beat my clitoris right in the center like a dart hitting a target.

I fell over on my side and landed on the bed; my legs instinctively closed tight as a clam. I pulled my knees to my chest in an effort to box up the pain. My eyes rolled back in my head.

The hurt was like slamming my thumb in the car door.

I recall a time when I was in the seventh grade playing kickball with a boy named Jason in P.E. class. I kicked the big, red rubber ball with all the muscle I good manage, and it nailed him right in the crotch. He curled up and crumbled to the floor, crying in pain; his hands gripping his groin.

Jason was avenged by a charcoal-colored, two-ended vibrator. If only he could know that all these years later, karma finally caught up with me. Except I had no wall of fabric between me and the hard rubber. It was a direct hit.

Amy began to cry – tears of laughter. She reached forward to put a hand on my knee. I could feel her shaking while she tried to stifle her giggles.

“Are … you…. Okay?” Amy managed to speak between breathless, poorly suppressed laughter.

“Ohhhhh,” is all the sound I could grunt in response. But my mind screamed, “Put it away! Don’t come near me with that thing ever again!”

I didn’t blame my future wife for collapsing in a fit of hysterics. Roles reversed, I would have done the same. How could she not? Comedic as the initial assault appeared, she worsened after seeing me finally pull myself out of the “C” position and crab-walk, spread-eagled to the bathroom to inspect the impact.

I rejected help offered; my pride as bruised as my labia.

“Honey? Are you okay?” Amy asked after several moments, laughter having released her breath.

“She’s purple,” I said.

Keeping my legs apart as far as I could to walk, I returned from the bathroom and dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt, then collapsed on the bed. I closed my eyes and begged for sleep to take me from the throbbing pain at my core. Amy watched from her position next to me, a look of both guilt and amusement played across her face.

“I guess the party is over. You don’t want to meet George?” she said smiling, holding up the rubbery weapon.

“We’ve been introduced,” I said.

I didn’t want any further discussions with him.

Chasing Ghosts

 

IMG_2886“You cannot stop the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can stop them nesting in your hair.” – Eva Ibbotson, The Dragonfly Pool

Yesterday was my last day employed by the bourbon distillery where my father worked 17 years.

I made it 31 months.

It wasn’t that I didn’t inherit his stamina and work ethic. My co-workers were interesting, good people, with laid back, comedic and gossipy personalities one grows up around in a small town. Time tick tocks a little slower down in the valley where the distillery rises up above the tree lines.

Dad began working there when he was 19 until he was 36 years old. I was 12 when he got a better job making more money at a federal prison. He passed away at age 50 of lung cancer about 10 months after diagnosis. I was 25 years old, five days before turning 26.

Despite being an adult with a mortgage, paralegal career and a one-year-old daughter, the devastation of his loss brought my knee caps to the kitchen floor.

It happened after I called my brother to deliver the news. It had to be me to tell him. I knew it had to be me.

IMG_2583

Sometimes we are able to close the door on our emotions long enough to accomplish a difficult obligation. That’s what I did. I did it for months before dad let go of life. I knew I’d have the rest of mine to leave the door wide open, but not in front of him, or my brother or my mother. Not while hope and strength were needed as a priority to push us all through the treatments, hospital stays and filing for Social Security based on terminal diagnosis.

All until that moment when I hung up the phone with my brother; strength evaporated and took hope with it.

I knew part of me was going to be different from this point forward. I was not wrong.

My brother and I would join thousands of people who had lost parents, some young, and many who were much older than us. There’s an understanding expression in the eyes when we see each other, because it’s not possible for another human being to understand what it feels like to lose a parent until it happens. Not even if I were to craft a hundred metaphors to describe the feeling.

I wager the experience differs as well for those of us who were close to our parent, like I was with my father. (No, I’m certainly not saying it is harder or worse for me, but different.) We were so much alike, and we were best friends.

About two years after grieving dad’s death, I received a Facebook message from a friend working at the distillery letting me know her position would be open soon. She asked if I would be interested.

Here was a chance to meet many of dad’s former co-workers who I’m sure could tell me stories I hadn’t heard. I was tired of my commute to my current job and was feeling guilty about spending so much time away from my family, so I took the job.

I was right. Within a month, I had gathered many hilarious stories about my dad’s antics and humbling tales about his kindness. A few folks wandered to my desk just to meet “Otis Ball’s daughter” and tell me what a great person he was. I soaked it all up like a little shriveled plant thirsty for water. These were his memories brought to life through people who knew him well, and I had gained unfettered access.

My connection with my deceased father is so strong, I feel it even in death. Perhaps the pain comes from my inability to create new memories using our connection. Surely others left behind in the light of the living feel as I do. I was lucky. I had found a way to discover old memories which were new to me.

The job was easy, simple office work. I knew I was overqualified. Hearing about dad’s life from co-workers fed my soul, but the work didn’t. I was a writer. My passion lives inside words scrawled on a page. I liked challenge. I liked to help people.

Somewhere on my journey chasing my father’s ghost, I had forgotten my passion. So after several months soaking in the atmosphere where my father had spent half his adult life, I slowly began to write again, and realized I wasn’t supposed to be there anymore. Dad wouldn’t want me stuck in place on his behalf, a place I didn’t belong. A place where my talents were not utilized.

So I left.

I am pursuing a fulltime career as a freelance writer. When I switched majors my sophomore year in college from Physical Therapy to a double major in English and Communication, my father said, “How are you ever going to make any money doing that?”

me and dad collegeHe was laying on the concrete floor of the carport at home, fiddling under my car. The forest green Honda Accord was making a crazy scratching noise. He had the tire pulled off minutes after my arrival.

“I will,” I said, though I really wasn’t sure myself how I was going to turn words into cash. I was seated on my tire watching his greasy elbow move this way and that.

He turned his head and faced up at me to make eye contact. “Show me,” he said, then turned his attention back to the mechanics of the car he helped me buy.

Well, dad. I’m showing you now.

 

 

5 Things to Do While Snowed In with Your Mate

snow love

By Mary Anglin-Coulter

Now safely home in your mate’s arms after a slippery drive in from work, you and your mate have had enough of the news predicting a foot of snow on the ground. You’ve stared at weather radars so long, you are starting to see phallic shapes and crawling polar bears instead of looming snow clouds inching across maps. It’s so treacherous outside, neither you nor your mate are going anywhere for a while. 

That’s the best part about snow days. The world forces us to pause. So what are you going to do with your stolen time with your sweetie?

Here are five things you and your sweetie can do to take advantage of your time home alone (a hint, none of these include chores):

1. Take a nap.

One of my favorite things to do with my love is nap with her. Hordes of studies outline numerous benefits for couples who sleep together. One such researcher found sleeping together eases anxiety due to a boost in oxytocin (Andrea Petersen published in The Wall Street Journal). Really, what better time to snuggle down in your warm bed or by the fire when hell has literally frozen over outside? Just sleep on it instead of worrying. Were you at work right now, you’d be wishing you were home in bed. Now is your chance. Bonus: A survey by Cotton USA found that couples who sleep naked together are happier than couples who sleep in pajamas or clothes.

2. Make love.

Since you’ll already be in bed in the buff with your honey, you may as well have a taste. Besides, you likely won’t have any unexpected knocks at the door in the near future. (And if you do, the bastard is probably mental for getting out in this mess so I advise not to open the door.) So shut the blinds. Turn down the lights. Light a candle or two. Take your time. Enjoy foreplay. Neither of you are going anywhere in the morning. You have all evening, so set a slow pace. If things heat up too quickly, go a second and third round. You should have lots of energy after your nap!

3. Wine and dine.

Cook a meal together. My spouse and I do this regularly but there’s something about slowly preparing a high maintenance meal and taking our time cooking it that is quite romantic. Make appetizers. Make salads. Make a delicious roast and a banging apple crisp. Then live off the leftovers for the next three days. Of course, this means you would have needed to brave the mad rush of the stores in anticipation of getting snowed in, unless you happen to be stocked up.

During or after dinner, add your favorite 80 proof drink and then add two more. Hell, you’re not driving. Work is cancelled. When was the last time you and your partner enjoyed drinks out of company with others? Or actually had a long conversation without an electronic device within five feet of you? Maybe you’ve missed the other’s increased charm or silliness as they imbibe. Now you get to privately enjoy the parts of their personality only revealed when alcohol draws down their inhibitions. But be careful to avoid touchy subjects like ex-girlfriends or overbearing in-laws lest you risk being snowed in with a steaming mad sweetheart. That would certainly be the opposite point of this article.

4. Netflix it.

I’m so over the whole “Netflix and chill” saying which drips all over social media these days, but I still gladly partake in its practice. It provides the perfect excuse for snuggling. While the snow falls silent out your window, start a new series you both enjoy, or pick a movie you watched while you were dating, before mortgage and responsibility complicated your love. Turn the heat down to encourage staying close, make coffee and share a blanket. Allow and encourage conversation during the show. “Na uh, she did not slap his mama!” Remember, the point is to connect with each other.

5. Play games.

Laugh! Bust out that old naughty card game he or she bought you for Valentine’s Day as a joke. Turn on the Xbox and build a beach house on Minecraft. Be playful. Even while playing a board game, you can provide the focus and attention we crave from our loves.

As we rush around our world, we feel so inconvenienced when an event like a snow storm forces us to slow down. See the positive instead. Yeah, you might miss that meeting you prepped for all week, but now you have time and energy to work on something that matters more: your relationship.

© Copyright Mary Anglin-Coulter, LLC

 

The Parent’s Snow Day

snow dayMy phone began ringing at 5 am. It’s mom calling to place me on alert. My daughter’s school is closed for a snow day, she informs. She works at the board of education and is often privy to this information before the school uses all of technology’s bitches (text, the elderly email and the more elderly phone call) to tell everyone else.

Great.

I have to get up now, 30 minutes before the alarm bells pry open my eyelids because school closings don’t often translate to work closings.  In fact, for my current job at the bourbon distillery, they never do. People gotta’ drink, I suppose. I could use one now.

So out of bed I roll. Into the shower I crawl. Into a uniform I stumble. All the while listening to my phone ding, bang and ring with alerts school has indeed closed.

A decision I must make. Damn. Why the hell am I channeling Yoda at 5 o’ clock in the morning?

Anyhow, to make this decision I must first know whether snow is yet on the ground. I peek out the bathroom window. Snow is impending. This means I can safely transport my precious cargo, Madi the lucky first grader, to her great grandmother’s house for a day of pjs and crap she shouldn’t be eating while I work and watch the roads ice over.

Time to deliver the news. I flip on her bedroom light. She doesn’t flinch. It’s an hour and a half too early for her.

“Madi bug. Wake up baby. Snow cancelled school. Just put your shoes on and I’ll take you to nani’s house,” I say as I grab her bumble bee-shaped overnight bag from her closet and hurriedly fill it with a change of clothes and a stuffed kitten she named Sparkle.

Who knew if school would be on tomorrow. I’d still have to work. The roads would still be too unsafe to have her out, so we usually opt to keep her in one place instead of risking transport on bad roads. Hence the bee bag.

All of this before 6 am. I’m supposed to be clocked in by 7.

She raises up and rubs her eyes.

Instead of putting her shoes on, she looks out the window and informs me that there isn’t any snow on the ground so she can ride the bus.

Snow is coming I tell her, trying to rush. I ask her again but a little more stern to please put her shoes on and to just wear her pjs. Mommy still has to work and we have little time to make it to grandma’s before I’ll be late.

She puts her shoes on while I run to the kitchen to gather lunch. Do I have leftovers to bring? I can’t remember. It’s too damn early to think and I don’t have time to look. I grab a frozen meal and stick it awkwardly in my purse, the corner of the box jabbing my arm pit when I pull my bag over my shoulder.

My sleepy 6-year-old appears in the kitchen with shoes on. I coat her and zip her up.

Out the door to the car we go. In my rush, I didn’t think to heat up the car, and I certainly don’t have time now. I thank the universe for garages so we don’t have frosted windows to deal with.

Madi, starting to wake up a little now, begins talking from her booster seat in the back.

“But mom I just remembered. Is it Wednesday? Summer was going to bring cupcakes for her birthday,” she says.

I must proceed with caution. I hear disappointment and sadness in her voice. Combine those with the general early morning crankiness she inherited from yours truly and you get tears.

“Well I bet Summer will just bring them the next time school is in,” I said, pinning hope on Summer.

Madi continued to voice her concern. She didn’t think it was fair to cancel school on Summer’s birthday. She wanted to wish her a happy birthday on her birthday, not after. And the cupcakes may not taste as good. She didn’t cry, but she was really bothered.

I was struck with how different our worlds are, mine and hers. Her absent cupcakes are my early morning mad dash because of snow.

No, my sweet baby girl. I won’t get a cupcake today either.

wig

“Sex in a woman’s world has the same currency a penny has in a man’s. Every penny saved is a penny earned in one world and in the next every sexual adventure is a literary experience.”

-Harry Golden

Occasionally, I like to spice things up for my wife, Amy.

I bought a wig online a couple months ago. It was the first time I purchased a wig I didn’t intend on wearing Halloween. The locks are a reddish auburn, a color I would never try on my hair. But I wanted something different.

The wig arrived and I quickly hid it in my bedside table. Weeks passed. I held onto this wig, super nervous about revealing it. Amy never has any idea what I’ve purchased be it a new toy or lotion or outfit or whatever until I call her back to the bedroom and then bam! There I am with whatever sex-venture I’ve planned. I’m careful with my timing, spacing out our sex-ventures and making sure we’re both feeling good and energetic, and that the kids are out of the house.

A couple nights before Christmas, we were alone. Finally. The kids were off with other plans. We began making out on the couch. Though normally I would be thinking about her and our making out and touching, my mind was on the wig. I decided the time was right.

“Stay here,” I whispered and back to the bedroom I went to get ready.

I changed into lacy, black panties, the ones that accentuated my hips and round bottom. I darkened my eyeshadow and did up my eyes heavy with eyeliner, drawing a point up from my eye lashes. I brushed on blush and slid on a little lip color. I put on the wig unsure of how to line up the wig’s part with my face. I pulled one side down and adjusted the back. I tousled the long, wispy bangs covering my forehead. I couldn’t remember the last time I had bangs. I arranged the long curls to lay just so down my breasts and back. My hair was long, but the wig’s locks extended down about six inches longer to just a few inches above my belly button.

I walked to the mirror. I looked like I belonged at Trixie’s, one of the long-running local strip clubs.

I decided to go forward. Amy had been waiting a while at this point. So I lit two large candles, turned off the lights and called her back.

I heard her footfalls in the hallway. The door was ajar and she peeked inside. There I stood in wig, overdone eyes and curve-accentuating panties. She pushed the door the rest of the way open. Her expression read absolute shock.

I expected a giggle.

“I thought you were going to dress as Mrs. Claus,” she said.

She walked forward and touched the ends of the wig hanging below my breasts, nipples peeking. She wasn’t smiling. Just staring. I leaned forward and put my arms around her waist and drew her near. She lightly touched my waist. We kissed deeply. I leaned back and looked into her eyes and still there was no positive emotion. She looked confused.

“You don’t like it?” I asked, my feelings starting to burn. Maybe I don’t do it for her anymore as I used to. Maybe that’s part of marriage. I’ve always heard the flame extinguishes, but this soon? We’ve only been together a few years.

“You’re not you. You don’t look like yourself. I feel weird even kissing you, or touching you,” she answered, her hesitant body language reiterating her words. She stood just inside the doorway, her hands barely touching my waist. Usually she grips, grabs and pulls me to her, even tosses me around a bit.

I didn’t understand her reaction, and it pricked my ego. I felt a fear realize. I did look as ridiculous as I thought I might, standing before her nearly naked save wig and panty. 

She’s always loved every… I mean every… crazy idea I get for our bedroom antics. She’s up for it all. This was the first time I’ve ever received a negative response from her.

I loosely crossed my arms, asked if she wanted me to take off the wig and explained I hadn’t pinned it down. She affirmed and pulled it off revealing the blonde and brown twisted swirls of color on straight, fine hair down my back I’ve worn most of the time she’s known me.

“There’s my wife. This is who I want,” she said, finally smiling.

Her comment soothed my damaged ego but I still didn’t understand. I uncrossed my arms. It was just a wig. I asked how the wig was different than one of my outfits. She explained the outfits didn’t severely alter my appearance like the wig. That girl didn’t look like me and she hated it.

“Transforming yourself neck down and some make up is okay but please don’t alter your appearance so much that I can’t see you. I need you to look like you,” she said.

My heart exploded. My wife doesn’t need some version of me. Just me. I’m enough.

The rest of our evening was, well, rather amazing. And now I’ve got a wig for sale if anyone is interested. Tested but never used.

 

 

 

writing-1560276

I’m doing it.

I’m beginning to live a dream where I write all day everyday and make a living to do it as a freelance writer.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

-Henry David Thoreau, (Walden)

My favorite things to write about revolve around relationships, a subject I am passionate about and so felt it the most suitable topic of my blog. I write about all relationships – friends, family, lovers and interactions with strangers – the good and the bad.  I love to think about human nature and to describe it in a way in which other folks may relate. I explore the dark side of human nature, as well as the love. I have a skill for describing emotion and for dunking my readers into the sea of a situation so deep, they know how it may feel to be a parent, to be in love or to be stabbed in the back without ever having experienced these things. Other readers like to read a description of an emotion they’ve felt that they could never describe before. To relate.

Aside from writing true tales of emotional experience for readers to experience or relate, I’ll also provide useful information and tips regarding love, sex, marriage and kids.

Enjoy.

If one is so inclined to need a bit of writing for your own blog or business, a resume, content for email, articles, or whatever kind of content you require, please feel free to contact me at mary@anglincoulter.com.