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Sometimes ‘goodbye’ is all you need

“But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so!”
And Max said, “No!”
The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws but Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye.”

– Maurice Sendak, “Where the Wild Things Are”

* * * * *

BoatI said “goodbye” to someone today, and in a way I felt a lot like Max getting on that boat.

My “someone” wasn’t and isn’t a monster, but like Max and his Wild Things, he is someone I’d had great adventures with, laughs, funny moments, thoughtful moments. We shared our lives and our families for almost three years, and when it ended a few months ago, we talked about being friends. That’s really what we had been for most of the time we were together, we reasoned, so how hard could it be?

We never really got the chance to find out. Shortly after we broke up, my “someone” met a new someone. “It was a surprise, totally unexpected,” he told me.

I was – and am – happy for him. The more time that passes since we ended it, the more I’ve come to realize we were a good fit as friends, but not as romantic partners. As much as we were alike, we were also different, and in ways that would eventually have mattered.

We still talked about being friends, but I knew even as we talked it wouldn’t happen. He would mention getting together for dinner – and I reminded him that his new someone might not appreciate it. The fact that we’d been romantic partners, no matter how much we know now that it was more like a friendship, will always get in the way when either of us has a new “someone.” It would for me – if I had a new someone in my life, I doubt that he would understand my wanting to go to dinner with a recent ex-boyfriend, and I know I would not be at all understanding if he wanted to go to dinner with a recent ex-girlfriend.

And I began to see the signs, and the signs began to bother me. Where once, even after breaking up, we’d instant message or text each other occasionally, they just stopped. He stopped “liking” my posts and pictures on Facebook. Pictures of the two of us together started disappearing from online photo albums. There was just … nothing.

I began to feel bitter and resentful, and then reminded myself there was really no reason to feel that way. I, too, have moved on, in different ways. I, too, know that the end was a good thing.

Can we be friends? I don’t know. Maybe. He’ll always be important to me, and his family will always be in my heart. I’m sure if I were to run into him we would be civil – friendly, even. But for now, anyway, that’s all there is.

So today I said “goodbye” and wished him well.

And got into my private boat and sailed away, ready to face the next adventure.

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My car is out to get me

JalopyIt’s no secret women – particularly single women – have a love/hate relationship with their car. Oh, sure, it’s a grand mechanical masterpiece that gets us from here to there, carries our children and friends, totes all of the loads from shopping and moving and picnics and ball games.

But some devilish imp full of mischief lies underneath. It’s almost like the Bad Child, the one who seems nice and polite and sincere on the surface, but who spray paints graffiti on your garage when you’re not looking. It’s the part that makes the car put off a God-awful noise that persists until you take it to the mechanic, and suddenly it’s gone, or that makes it burn gas so incredibly fast – until you’re trying to empty the tank so you can use your Fuel Saver card to the get the maximum benefit.

I’ve had my car for a little more than two years and it’s served me well – a handful of trips to Chicago, one to Denver, several to Galena and Cuba City, and countless trips to Carroll and Altoona to visit family. It’s the first car I’ve had with remote start, which I have come to absolutely LOVE in the Iowa winter, and the remote lock and entry helps me find it when I can’t remember where I’ve parked.  There have been no major repair issues, and I’ve had it serviced regularly. It’s a good car.

A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s house later than I should have been on a “school night,” and I pressed the unlock button on the key fob as I walked to my car. When the car knows you’re coming (because the doors have been unlocked) the headlights and interior lights come on for safety – so you can see your way to the car and see inside. This time, though, the passenger headlight didn’t come on.

Great.

Normally I wouldn’t have worried too much about it – but I live in a smaller city, about 18,000 people, where the crime rate is low and the police force gets bored. I’ve lived here for four years and have had five run-ins with officers on patrol: twice when I was driving my son’s old car and got pulled over for the light over the rear license plate being out, once for driving a friend’s SUV in the middle of the day to pick up a piece of furniture and she had a headlight out, once for not using a turn signal and once when my now-ex-boyfriend and I were on the sidewalk next to my apartment with my dogs at midnight one night and he had a bottle of beer – and an officer pulled over and made him pour it out.

Needless to say, driving into my community with one headlight out at 11 p.m. made me just a little nervous. Fortunately, it wasn’t my turn to be pulled over.

The burned-out bulb bothered me, though. I live across the street from a mechanic’s garage and I know they’d replace the bulb – but I never seem to have enough time in the morning, and they’re closed by the time I get home after work. So last week I went to the store and bought a bulb ($22! Holy cats!) and planned to change it myself.

Except I don’t know how. And I couldn’t figure it out. And my car didn’t have the owner’s manual – which presumably would have told me how to do it – when I bought it. And I didn’t think about Google.

For 13 days that light has bothered me. Every time I unlock the car when it’s dark, the shadow of where it should be taunts me, like a classroom bully: “Nyah nyah nyah, you’re going to get pulled over!”

I hated that light.

Today my son’s car is having issues so I took a last-minute vacation day to help him take care of those. Since I was home, I took the car across the street to have them change the bulb. They were busy at the time and told me to come back in a half hour.

A few minutes after I got home, my phone rang. It was the mechanic – none of my lights were out. They all worked. They. ALL. Worked.

I told him it had been out for nearly two weeks, and how I’d come to discover it was out. They hadn’t tried the key fob yet, so he told me they’d try that and I could come get it in about 10 minutes. When I went over, the new bulb was still in the package, still in the bag.

And the old headlight was shining brightly at me.

Sometimes … I really hate that car.

 

 

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“All representatives are busy helping other customers. Please remain on the line …”

dT8xa6GTeIt really shouldn’t be so hard to give the Internal Revenue Service my money.

I mean, if they don’t want it, I’m more than happy to hold onto it. But I know they do want it, and if I don’t move heaven and earth to get it to them I have no doubt they’ll move a few firewalls from my bank account to take it themselves.

Let me explain first by saying this: I am not a tax evader. I pay taxes with every paycheck – even a little more than is required – and file my taxes diligently before April 15 every year. Every. Year.

What I am, though, is a single mom (even though the “kids” are now young adults and one lives on his own) living on a single person’s budget (child support ended when The Youngest turned 18, college or no) and someone who can generally find a place to put any extra income that comes my way.

That said, in 2009, 2010 and 2011 I ghost-wrote or co-wrote three books, and received healthy advances for each of them. Those checks were very nice to get, especially since I still had two teenagers in high school for the first two of those years. Those checks helped with school expenses, clothing, car expenses as the kids got older, and just bills in general.

They were very, very nice to get.

What those checks didn’t do was pay their own taxes. There were no taxes taken out of them (think “contract worker”) and I failed to set anything aside. With any of them.

To say I took a beating when it came time to file taxes was an understatement.

I set up a payment plan the first year, and it was so easy that when I forgot/neglected to set anything aside with the second book, I extended my plan. By the third book extending the plan just seemed like the right thing to do.

The payment plan wasn’t a big deal, just a set amount paid every month. The IRS sends me a ticket stub, I send it back with a check. Easy peasy.

Easy, that is, until you’re late. The IRS doesn’t like you to be late.

What happens when you’re late – even a day late, I’ve since learned – is that you only get so many of those before the IRS determines you’re in default. When you’re in default, they stop sending you the payment tickets. When they stop sending you the payment tickets, you have no real address to forward your payment, and you can’t go online to set up a payment plan or pay on your existing plan because, well, you’re in default.

So … I was in default. And I didn’t want to be. I wanted to pay the IRS the money I owed, and I really, really, REALLY didn’t want them just taking it out of my paycheck or my bank account.

I scoured the website for a contact number. I called the local office only to be told, via message, that that office doesn’t offer live telephone help. I scoured the website again. And again. Finally I found a toll-free number (well, it’s the IRS, so I’m sure it’s only kind of free) and called. After going through six (or was it seven?) prompts to get me to where I needed to be, I received a message telling me my expected wait time is “15 to 30 minutes.”

Yeah. Right. This is the federal government, after all.

A mere 57 minutes later, I heard a click on the other end of my phone (“Oh, God, no, please don’t disconnect!”) and then a ringing. Then Brian or Mike or Steve, Badge No. XYZ, came on the line to see what he could do to help.

“I just want to give you money, but I don’t know how to do it,” I said.

I highly doubt he gets many of those calls.

In less than 20 minutes, Brian or Mike or Steve, Badge No. XYZ had me set up with an online payment plan, an extended due date and a free pass for October (“… although you’re certainly welcome to make any kind of payment you want in October, if you’d like.”).

It really shouldn’t be that hard to give the IRS my money …

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Online dating: Do I, or don’t I?

Online datingI can’t do it. I just … no.

No, this isn’t me whining about my breakup – I mean, yes, breakups suck, but if you do them right they’re a growing process that doesn’t have to end with bitterness and hate. That’s what I hear, anyway – this is the first one I’ve had that’s following that plan.

What I’m dreading now is entering the whole dating scene again. I’m not looking to jump into another relationship, and who knows if I’m really even looking to date anyone right now. But I have been scoping things out on the digital sites and I’ve gotta tell ya’ – it’s kinda scary out there.

On a whim. when I was mad at my ex-boyfriend (breakups are a huge blow to your ego – there’s going to be some anger, even if it’s fleeting), I filled out a profile for one of the online dating sites I used to be on, added a few pictures and posted it to go live. Then I took a look around at some of the men who were on the site.

The majority of the photos were ones I’d seen before – when I was on the site three years ago. I’m not saying they were the same men – they were the same pictures. One complaint I heard from several men the last time I was “out there” was that women posted old photos, or didn’t look like their photos when doing in-person meetings, so I found it particularly interesting that a lot of men – and I mean a lot of men – are still using the same photos from three or more years ago.

Then came the emails. I swear sometimes there’s a code in something I post – a code even I don’t understand or see – that tells men if they have any kind of odd line or strange way of approaching women, I’m the one they should try it out on, just to see if it works. “You look like you’re nice – we should go out sometime.” “What kinds of things turn you on?” “How do you feel about …?”

Ugh.

I hid my profile, thinking maybe I just wasn’t ready yet – it hasn’t been that long and I’m in no hurry. Then I remembered all the great stories I was able to tell (like this one, and this one, and even this one) and thought, if nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. Maybe I should let the profile be public.

But, wow – I’m really not looking forward to it.

 

 

 

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The thing about breakups …

Note: This is not a quest for sympathy or well-wishes. I greatly appreciate your thoughts, but one of the reasons I put this post off for so long is because I made it through the hard part. – Molly

Let’s face it, breakups suck. No matter how amicable, how cordial or how mutual they are, they still suck. Injured heart

Sometimes, as with my recent breakup, the more amicable they are, the more they suck. Rather than having that anger/distrust/rejection/fury that comes with a cheat or a liar, you have … nothing. Hurt and sadness. As we were putting an end to our 2 1/2-year relationship as a couple, we were still telling each other how much we loved each other. We made the obligatory “let’s be friends” promise, but unlike most times those words are spoken, I think we actually meant it. We severed our romantic ties a little more than two weeks ago, but we still chat often.

That’s probably because we really are friends. In the 29 months that we were together, there were no fights – no angry words, no yelling, no arguments. There was one topic on which we disagreed, but conversation – although tears were involved – was just that: conversation. What we did do in that time frame was build a great friendship.

Still, the breakup – like any – still sucks.

Breakups suck because of unfulfilled plans. There are so many little things we were going to do – go to the Quad Cities to see a ball game, go to his favorite breakfast joint before it closed, have the first Christmas in his new place, get all the kids together on Christmas Day to see the final installment of “The Hobbit.” Then there are the bigger things: next summer’s vacation (sadly, the breakup came just two weeks after we had a fabulous vacation in Denver); a “someday” trip to Ireland; trips out east and out west. Many of those I can still do on my own, if I want, and some of them I will. Most, though, I probably won’t.

Breakups suck because, as adults, they’re not just between two people. Two whole families broke up. My daughter created close bonds with his daughters and their children. My son became good friends with the guys in his family. We met and loved each others’ friends. I felt like we were one big family – I loved his kids and grandkids and enjoyed all the time we spent with them. I had a great relationship with his mother, and my parents loved him like they never loved anyone else I’d been with.

Breakups suck because, eventually, you begin to see the holes, the places that the relationship wasn’t as “perfect” as you thought it was. I knew we weren’t perfect, but I honestly thought we’d be riding off into the sunset together.

And breakups suck because the landscape has forever changed. Where once there may have been a clean slate, there is now a “record.” A broken heart mars the playing field.

But breakups are also a time of growth. I don’t regret having given him that chunk of my life – despite the one issue that persisted, it was a very joyous time of my life, where I felt loved and cared for and comfortable. Incredible new people are now a part of my life, in some big or small way, because of him. I learned things and went places I’d never known before. And I pushed myself because of him – not because he asked me to, but because I wanted to be a better person for him, and for me.

And for those things, I will always be grateful.

* * *

Note: Snark will return with the next post. I promise.

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I laugh at your school supplies

20140824_143656You know that Staples commercial, the one with the father pushing his shopping cart down the aisles of the store, skipping and laughing and tossing flower petals along the way?

That’s me this year, only instead of being exorbitantly happy about sending my kids off to school, this year I’m celebrating the relief felt by my wallet.

For the first time in 17 years, I don’t have to buy school supplies. Not a notebook, not a backpack, not even a small rubber eraser.

<insert your own vision of me doing the happy dance here> (You’re welcome.)

My kids, at ages 19 and 22, have made the conscious decision to put off college until they know what they’re really and truly passionate about. Why spend the money, they contend, if they aren’t sure what they want to do? And – since they’re both happily working full-time jobs (albeit at meager wages) – I applaud their logic for now. As every parent does, I want my kids to be happy and successful and to live comfortable lives. That’s my wish for them. The definitions of “happy,” “successful” and “comfortable” are theirs to create.

In the meantime, I’ve been walking blissfully past all of the crayons and notebooks and folders and protractors and too-expensive calculators they’ll likely never use again. I gave a smirk and a nod to the parents scrambling for the school supply lists and hoping they’re not too late to fill it before classes start.

So maybe there’s something to this whole “getting older” thing, after all …

 

 

 

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Still recovering from vacation

20140803_145557I have a vacation hangover.

True, getting away for a week to the beauty of the Rockies and the “newness” of Denver (my first visit to the city that lasted longer than a 2-hour airport layover) was, literally and figuratively, a breath of fresh air. I needed that vacation, more than I even realized. It had been six years since my last vacation, and that was a whirlwind weekend in Phoenix where I stayed with a friend/cousin. There have been overnight getaways but nothing like this, where I actually had the opportunity to unpack things and leave them for several days before rounding them up again.

We’ve been back for a little more than a week now and I still haven’t gotten this blog written or posted. When I’m not at work, sleep always seems to get in the way.

But here it is – a bit more on the wonderful trip to Denver.

Our first full day in Colorado we went to the mountains, driving to Mount Evans. Although I’d spent seven years in Alaska growing up – Dad’s uncle helped built the Alcan Highway and told great stories to his nieces and nephews, making my dad determined to live there one day – I still found myself caught up in the peace and the beauty of everything the mountains had to offer.

Young mountain sheep

Young longhorn sheep

We drove to the summit of Mount Evans – 14 miles up (the highest paved road in North America, according to the website) and 14,000 feet above sea level. On our way we had to stop for young longhorn sheep, and a mountain goat (yes, there’s a difference) met us at the top.

Mountain goat

Mountain goat

The drive up was interesting: I remember once we left Alaska my dad would tell stories of the mountain roads we had to take to get to our hiking destinations – long, winding roads barely wide enough for two vehicles, with steep mountain going up on one side and going straight down on the other.

I didn’t remember the roads being as treacherous as he made them seem, and I do my dad is a bit of a storyteller (blarney runs deep in our blood), so I just dismissed it at a bit of an exaggeration.

Then we drove up to the summit parking lot at Mount Evans. Mountains straight up on one side, straight down on the other, and despite the steady speed of about 25 mph, there were many curves on which we slowed down considerably.

Ummm ... don't look down.

Ummm … don’t look down.

I drove us up, Mark (thankfully) drove us down.

Once we got to the top, I found myself experiencing a bit of altitude sickness. I got a little dizzy and had a hard time drawing a deep breath at first. My speech was slurred, almost like I was drunk, and I just fell a little … off. I sat down and took some breaths and started to feel better – until I realized how cold I was. The outside temperature at the base of the mountain was 85 degrees; at the peak, it was 50.

Our second full day, Monday, was a trip to the Denver Zoo. It was hot and there was little breeze, so many of the big animals weren’t out. Mondays must also be the day zoo staff clean the cages, so to speak, so in some exhibits we saw humans instead of the lions or bears we were hoping to see.

The last night in Denver, Tuesday, included a Rockies-Cubs game with club level seats Mark’s daughter and son-in-law had won at an auction. There were a couple of firsts that night: I’d never seen the Cubs play live, and I’ve never sat in club level seating in a baseball stadium.

One of the things that was most striking about our vacation was that we traveled nearly 800 miles from home to learn just what a small world it really is. Either Mark or Nate, his son-in-law, was almost always in some kind of Hawkeye gear and that drew the attention of many people in our hotel and in the places we visited – not because they were interested in learning more about our state but because they were from our state. There were at least a half-dozen families from Iowa staying in our hotel at the same time we were there, most of them from Eastern Iowa. One of the ushers was originally from West Branch and still has family there. The restaurant we went to on game day, Stadium Club, was first opened in Iowa City, and a customer at a nearby table grew up in Iowa and moved to Denver just five years ago. Even the owners of the marijuana shop we visited (we were in Colorado where it’s legal – the curious cat in me had to go in just to see what it was like) were from Iowa – one was a University of Iowa business school graduate.

It’s always a nice reminder that, no matter how far you travel, you’re never too far from home.

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