Dealing with disappointment

by anon de plume via creative commons

Ever since the first time a boy said, “I’ll call you” and didn’t, I’ve had trouble coping with disappointment. I figured like other things in life: learning how to balance a checkbook, checking the oil in your car, knowing what RSVP means, I’d get better at it.

Yeah, not so much.

The past six weeks have been the ultimate “I’ll call you, babe.”

Instead of a phone call, we’ve been waiting, waiting, and waiting, then losing hope, then worrying, then wondering what legal action we might pursue, to get money owed to us. Money earned for hard work. Money that was to finance our Christmas. Big money. Money to pay bills. Money for milk and cat food and gas for the car. Money to get us through the lean, post-Christmas weeks.

While I waited for the mail every day, I moved through the spectrum of emotions: denial, anger and depression. I suppose I’m at acceptance. Maybe.

Isn’t this The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Aside from the first Christmas after my father died (which felt hollow and forced as we went through the motions) and the one following my divorce (not having my only child on Christmas Eve was hard), this has been a bleak season.

Before we knew, we began planning an amazing Christmas. We plotted one really nice gift for each family member. We ordered tickets to Greenfield Village, we decided to host dinner on the 25th, something we haven’t been able to do in a few years due to our financial hardship. We even talked about getting away for a few days.

My husband bore the brunt of this disappointment, as he’d planned it all out so carefully. I bore the brunt of the added stress, as I’d spent so much of the money before it arrived. Neither of us could have predicted this outcome. Anyone who has ever been on shaky footing financially knows that one bad turn of luck picks up speed at a scary pace, especially when you are slowly rebuilding your safety net. It doesn’t take much  to rip it to pieces.

I said yes to social events, but I felt myself entangled in the growing web of white lies. I lied to spare other people the story during this happy time of year. I lied to protect myself because such stories are inadvertent invitations for constructive criticism and suggestions on how we might “do it next time” or worst of all, some veiled appeal for money. I was very careful to stay sober. Once not too long ago, lubricated with alcohol, I talked.

I retreated to reflect. I was all over the place. One day happy that I could have a simple, low-budget holiday, relieved of shopping mall and tree trimming duty. The next day I was bitter with disappointment. Every Facebook post, almost very blog entry, was of something wonderful happening to someone else.  I felt like I was watching it all through a one-way glass.

Finally, we had to concede defeat. We called to cancel, reschedule, decline. We pared the holiday down to its roots: candles and stockings and gifts only for the children (thankfully I’d shopped in advance). Our hosted dinner became a potluck. We confided in our closest relatives and they came through for us. I suppose that is the real meaning of Christmas. I have gratitude for these acts of kindness.

Throughout all of this, I’ve been reminded that it could be so much worse.  This is true but it has not helped ease the disappointment.

I’d like to say I was able to take the long view here and see that this is just a blip on a continuum of constant change. I think both my girls sailed through OK. One is old enough to understand; the other still young enough to enjoy the simple pleasures. Even my husband seems to have moved on.

So much more could be said about fiscal responsibility of families as well as businesses, the excesses of the holidays, unrealistic expectations and my own stubborn behavior.

But I am done. For now.


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PrompTuesday: a childhood friend and a cheat

A post I’ve labored over for a week vanished. It’s not really Tuesday unless you’re living in the past, which I am not most of the time, but I am desperate to forget the lost post. So, I’m jumping on San Diego Momma’s bandwagon a day late AND with a repost. Her prompt:

Describe your closest childhood friend
–from June 2009


This was my wardrobe for six years

Like many of you, I found a childhood friend on Facebook.

We were best pals in grade school, where we both wore our itchy wool plaid uniforms, stiff white blouses and knee socks. The two of us, along with a few others, formed a “Batman” TV show fan club. This involved tying our jacket sleeves just-so around our necks to double as super-hero capes. We made some type of “utility belt” out of paper and tape and staples. We often fought about who got to play Batgirl.

I have other hazy memories of those days:

  • Pedaling my bike home as fast as I could to beat the buzzing, flickering street lights that awakened at dusk.
  • Marveling at how her big, happy family occupied a house the same size as our family-of-four’s home.
  • Wishing I could take her freckles, which she didn’t like. I thought freckles gave a face character and depth.
  • Planning out our whole lives and how we’d play a role in each other’s future.

Then my family moved after 6th grade.

My pal and I exchanged a few letters, called each other once in a while, then our fading friendship became lost in the fast-moving currents of life.

Earlier this year, as I was sifting through big boxes containing the relics of my life  I found a packet of letters held together with a rubber band. They were from my old pal. I wondered what had become of her.

A quick search on Facebook and a mutual “friending” put us back in touch. A while afterward we agreed to meet.

As I drove to the little coffee house, I flashed back to last fall when I volunteered at a local campaign office. Turns out one of the organizers was a classmate of mine in high school. Had he not pointed it out to me, I never would have recognized him. I never would have known what happened to that well-muscled jock I rode the bus with freshman and sophomore years.  While I casually flirted with him on those bumpy rides to and from school, I knew he was out of my league. Last fall, I saw the future of a teen girl’s fantasy. It features a cranky, balding fat man.

Meeting up with the past is always a tricky business. Exciting. Scary. As my friend waited for me to arrive, I’m sure she probably tossed around in her head some highlights of our friendship: How I was like a monkey on crack. A skinny, wide-eyed monkey on crack who logged a lot of time in the principal’s office.

Facebook does allow some idea of how a person looks today, where she works, and how she votes or what books she reads. So a meet-up shouldn’t be a total shock. But virtual connections are not the same as sit-down chats over steaming mugs of coffee.

I stepped into the coffee house a few minutes early, hoping to at least place myself in a flattering way, armed with a cup of something caffeinated. It turns out she was even earlier. She’d already ordered her coffee and was engrossed in a book when I spotted her in the far corner. She was the same freckle-faced girl now living inside a grown woman’s body. Same smile. Same laugh. Same good humor and good nature. Whatever life had tossed her way, she’d caught it, dealt with it, and kept on going.

We didn’t have too much trouble starting a conversation or keeping it going. We found that we shared similar views on a number of issues. Sure, our lives took very different paths, but not in ways so divergent that we couldn’t find common ground.

I wondered if we would have remained close friends if my family had not moved.

I wondered how different I would be today.

I wondered if she still liked Batman.

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Life in the city, Part II

The thing that amazed me the most about yesterday was how quiet and orderly everything was on the outside. Trees stood at attention. The sun moved along its course without obstruction. Cars parked evenly within the white lines.

On the inside? It was crazy. Heart banging around in my ribs like a caged squirrel. Breath coming in short bursts. Brain firing off a thousand what ifs?

Remain calm, I told my head. My body wouldn’t listen.

A phone call minutes earlier at the bus stop tripped my panic button. Maybe caffeine played a role. I’d just arrived in my car from the coffee shop drive-through. Otherwise I’d have been on foot. As I cut the engine, I grabbed the buzzing phone next to me.  It was a fellow parent and book club member (Tonight was our monthly meeting.) I expected something routine. “I’ll be late” or “I’ll bring wine.”

Instead: “The schools are on lockdown; there’s been a shooting …”


The crazed squirrel burrowed in my chest began scratching and clawing in earnest. “What? Where? Ohmygod, our kids are out there.” I sprang from the car toward the corner.

Cell phone pressed to my ear and run-walking, I wasn’t really listening anymore …” my son said the kids were hiding under their desks at the high school …  I just marched over there and told them  … “

I looked in all directions at the empty streets and sidewalks. Where did this happen? I looked in the faces of the waiting parents. They were calm.

They didn’t know.

As I opened my mouth to pass on the news I noticed for the first time the thumping of police helicopters overhead.

They are not releasing any students from the buildings until the police call off the lockdown,” my friend said.

As we parents stood on that windy corner, looking around in confusion, wondering  if we should stay or go, I called the school. Amazingly, I got through. The answers to my questions were short and curt and then the line was dead. What it came down to was I had to do some hunting. Depending on whether she boarded a bus, Girl from the East was either in one place or she was in another.

Where the hell was my Girl? And was this gun-toting shooter lurking in the bushes somewhere nearby?

I’m no good behind the wheel when I’m rattled. In my efforts to find her, I turned the wrong way on the wrong streets that became dead-ends. Finally, after what seemed a ridiculous amount of travel within a few miles, I arrived at her school. No chaos. No crazed crowds as I’d imagined. Just order and quiet.

Although we wouldn’t know many of the details until later, when our children were safely within the walls of our homes, there was an incident, perhaps a botched robbery attempt, that resulted in gunfire and an injured young man on the grounds of an alternative high school near our home, one that caters to out-of-district adults.

I parked and walked toward the school doors. I quickly tried to figure out how to arrange my face. Sometimes I’m bad about this: smiling in the face of grief, scowling in the glow of joy.

Turns out it didn’t matter. We all lined up inside the doors, said our child’s name, waited for that name to be announced over the PA, and then waited some more for them to come to the front lobby.  I stood there, one among many worried adults, wondering what to say to my child on the car ride home.

And then there she was, a vision of innocence in her flowered tights, side pony tail, and  Hello Kitty lunch box swinging at her side. I hugged her in a desperate release of worry.

To my surprise, Girl from the East was unfazed by the whole thing. The kindergarteners were told they would not be boarding buses and they accepted it without question. To my horror I realized how vulnerable they are at this age. I realized that such things in life: guns, people using guns to hurt other people or get what they want, crime, drugs, desperation, the malaise of poverty and ignorance, all were things outside her purview. She is an innocent.

And today, just another day in the city (this city for sure, but maybe yours, too) I realize how quickly one thing can change into something else, or be scary for a while but OK in the end, and that maybe it’s important to take a moment to be thankful for the latter.


Update: This guy is still at large, according to the latest news.




Another first

Girl from the East is on the verge of six.

Her life thus far has been a series of milestones, from the subtle shifts that hatch a toddler from a baby, to the major leap from preschool to elementary school. She’s reading chapter books, writing words independently, and balancing on a two-wheeled bicycle.

One so-called rite of passage that has escaped her experience is the fast-food kids meal, particularly the McDonald’s Happy Meal.

My Girl is picky.

I am picky.

Most of us in this household do not eat meat. The rest eat it rarely. Unless we are on a road trip or desperate, we avoid fast food restaurants. When we do go, Girl eats french fries and those clever apple fries they serve at Burger King.

So, when fellow blogger Melissa invited me to take part in an event to launch and critique the new Happy Meal**, I figured Girl from the East would be a great candidate. She wouldn’t know a new Happy Meal from an old one.

I worried I’d be opening a can of worms. After all, I don’t want her to become a Happy Meal addict, like Girl from the West was for a while. (Oh, the mistakes of first-time parenting.)  I reasoned that since she’s waited this long, and since I explained this visit was a special event, it would be no big deal.

Once we arrived at the restaurant, which featured one of those indoor play structures, Girl kicked off her shoes and socks and leaped on the structure like a caged monkey set free. While she ran, jumped, and swung around overhead, I nursed a medium coffee.

When the meals in a box arrived, Girl easily chugged two kid-sized chocolate milk bottles. (Not the first time in her life.) She ate all the packaged apple slices and swiped some of the grapes and apples from my fruit salad. She ate most of the scaled-down fries and some of the chicken nuggets. Then it was back to playing air hockey with the kids.

I’m still wary of overly processed and packaged foods. Even after this experience, I’ll be limiting our visits to the we-need-to-burn-off-some-energy-and-it’s-too-cold-outside-for-the-park kind of days.

My take on the new meal? Four apples slices are not enough. My girl eats a whole apple in one sitting. Why skimp on the “healthy” part of this meal, Mickey D’s? Why not offer carrot sticks or sliced bell peppers, too? Oh, and stop with all the packaged dipping sauces. At least a few fruit, vegetable, yogurt, and oatmeal options on the menu justify a return visit to the playscape.

Here’s the bottom line: A fast food restaurant is what it is. I’ll give them credit for trying. After all, if you want your child to eat healthfully, you obviously make other choices. McDonald’s isn’t going to become McWholeFoods is it? My experience in parenting teaches me that what children are given to eat becomes the norm. If junk food options are removed from the menu, then they are not eaten and are quickly forgotten.  With both of my girls, it was not until they began spending time around their peers in a school setting that they began craving and demanding candy, juice boxes, and other treats.

So far, Girl hasn’t asked for another Happy Meal.

The best part of this event? Girl burned off all that energy and fell asleep in the car on the way home. Early dinner. Early to bed. Easy night.

Happy mom.

** Speaking of new things, this is my fist disclosure disclaimer. I was not paid to write this review. I participated upon invitation by another blogger and was given a $10 gift card and a tote bag with discount food coupons for eating and critiquing the new menu options for McDonald’s restaurants.

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