A Very Special Day

I’ve not had a chance to really write about my wedding yet. I have some reflections to share and I promise that when I get a longer free moment, I will sit down and write them all here.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words…. so here are several for you to grok on this “fusion” video our wedding photographer created. These are some of the best pictures in a pile of wonderful proofs he’s given us to go through to select for our wedding album. I think this video captures the spirit of the day–nay, I daresay, it captures  the spirit of Crow and Heidi. I relive that magical day each time I view this video or look at our pictures!

It’s been only a month, but I’m so happy to have Crow as my husband. I hope I’m happier each year that we are together. That much happiness seems impossible. But I believe we can make it happen. I hope we have a very long and happy life together!

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Once in a Lifetime

A lot of people in my life right now don’t know that I was widowed. I’m not hiding it, but I’m not advertising it either. I’ve had chances to correct people, but I’ve let them slip. It’s just easier that way. At a time when I’m involved in a major, wonderful change in my life–a change I don’t want sobered by some depressing back story that is only slightly relevant to the current situation–I just feel it’s better to leave the topic of my widowhood untouched.

I’ve just switched jobs. Out of sympathy for those around me, because it always causes people to behave awkwardly, I’ve not corrected anyone when they have made comments that suggest that I’m planning my first wedding ever. As far as anyone knows in my current job, and some other aspects of my life (like newer members of the bike club and Crow’s friends and family), I’ve been single all these years to 38.

I’m mostly fine with this. I’ve even been careful not to bring up prior knowledge of what it’s like to plan a ceremony and go through with the entire thing. Sometimes I say something like, “Well, you know, people RSVP, but there’s always someone who shows up who didn’t RSVP and someone who did RSVP but doesn’t show up.” I guess they figure I know this from past experience planning parties in general. I’ve left a few hints like, “The day will go by so fast, I won’t remember any of this.” I guess they assume I’m making these statements based on the experiences of friends who have gotten married before me. God knows I’ve had plenty of experience as a bridesmaid for proof.

So when people refer to my coming wedding to Crow as a “once in a lifetime” event, I just inwardly cringe.

Once in a life time.

Yeah.

But this is my second time. And it’s not because I got divorced. I didn’t fail in my first marriage. My first husband didn’t fail me. Life, I guess, failed the both of us. Or rather, Mike’s poor heart failed him.

I want to respond, “Well, it’s not my first time. But it’s equally as important!”

I feel almost as though admitting to having been married before takes something away from what people think about my marriage to Crow. As though he were some sort of consolation prize. Or an emotional and spiritual fix for a girl who lost her first love to tragedy. I’m silent about my first marriage because I want people to value Crow’s marriage to me with just as much value as they would have placed in my marriage to Mike (if they were there to witness it).

For those in my life who were around to witness my wedding and marriage to Mike, I only hope that they can see the two events as completely separate. I don’t want people to compare one wedding or one relationship to the other because I don’t. I love Mike and Crow in completely different ways because they are completely different people who knew a completely different version of me at utterly different stages in my life. One does not replace the other in my heart; they each occupy their own spaces. It’s easier for me as a widow to understand this concept, I think, than it is for someone who has not lost a spouse to comprehend. It still seems as though bringing up my first husband in a conversation makes people feel as though I have not completely healed. And I have.

There is an amazing double-standard, I’ve learned, with how one is supposed to grieve and remember a spouse as opposed to a relative or friend. If I bring up missing a grandparent, as I do often, no one bats an eye. People don’t even behave as though they are uncomfortable. When I bring up Mike, the air becomes still. No one breathes. The subject is touchy. Is it because people treat romantic love as something less important, easily replaceable? Or is it such a sensitive loss that people don’t know how to react? If the latter is the case, why are people so quick to advise others to find a replacement love? No one tries to suggest that someone should fill the gaping hole left in my heart from the loss of a grandparent with another grandparent (or grandparently type person). A widow needs the very same consideration… there is no “fix” but we learn that while we miss our loved ones, we can still build new relationships, not as replacements to the old, but as magnificent additions to the many relationships we’ve experienced in the past and present.

I struggle with words of finality. There are lots of events in life that could be considered “once in a lifetime.” The day that I got to stand front row and center at a U2 concert, right at Bono’s feet, might be considered a once in a life time event. Except, well, it could happen next tour too. Or something better could happen (I could get pulled on stage by Bono!). Each and every experience I’ve had at the seven U2 concerts I’ve attended in my life provides a very special memory. When we mark events in our life as more special than other moments, I think it takes something away from all the other wonderful moments of our lives. I don’t really feel that it’s fair to label any event as being so special it can only ever happen once.

After all, I found love twice.

I’m not only one either. From all the blogs I’ve read on the internet, it’s clear there are a lot of widows and widowers out there who have lost and found love again. Love is not something that can happen only once. Connecting with someone enough to want to share your life with them can happen multiple times. You just have to be open to the possibilities. And you need to realize that the human heart is big enough to share with many people. Each love is unique and special.

Perhaps we can call every special moment for exactly what it is, leaving out a count and finality. I’m getting married to Crow. Period. It’s a very special day for both of us where we publicly vow to commit a life together, a life we promise to share as long as either one of us is alive. Now that is a very special moment in both our lives.

Cycles

Well, it’s been a long time.

I know, I know. There are no excuses for what is apparently the longest I’ve ever gone without posting to my blog.

But I’m going to try excuses anyway.

Let’s just say that I’ve bitten off far more than I can chew lately. I guess it wasn’t complicated enough that I was planning a wedding and making numerous changes to the new old house that Crow and I bought. No, I had to take it a level higher. I applied for and accepted a new job. True, the environment at that other job was so miserable that it was literally painful to walk into that place every day. And then I got passed over for a raise at time when I felt the most financially drained. I could have stayed there and accepted the comfort of complacency… But no, I had to go looking elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong. The environment at the new job is 100% better. And the work a bit more challenging as I’m the only technical writer and I’m tasked to create something out of nothing for a software product that is long past needing some comprehensive documentation. Both of these are good. The benefits are better, the pay is better. Good, good, good.

But why now? I ask myself every day. I could have gotten by at the other job, miserable, but using half my brain to focus on the wedding and the house. Oh, but, I’m a restless one indeed!

And then there’s my personal writing. I was going a long so well on my goals, motivated and inspired. I had joined a writing group and I felt even more compelled and inspired to write. So I was trying to squeeze writing in between everything else I was doing. I’ve got two open novels that are begging for me to work on them.

I turned in to my writing group a rough draft of something I’d been working on. It got devoured whole and regurgitated in a lump at my feet. Or at least that is how it seemed to me. I cried the whole way home in frustration. I’m not entirely sure I was just crying about the review, though. It was probably part stress. I broke down because, I don’t know, some part of me pridefully believes I’m instantly brilliant without a lot of work. Stupid, right? It’s been a long time since I’ve done any serious fiction writing that I’ve let anyone read and I think it showed in the piece I submitted. I was ashamed of myself because somewhere along the line I lost the fire I had when I was younger. Not that I was instantly brilliant then either. I just had a lot more confidence about myself and I could take criticism easier. I’ve gotten brittle and faint at heart in my elder years. Lack of exposure, I guess.

That was in March, the day before my birthday (NEVER submit your art for review the day before you’re birthday). It launched me into a depression that I’m still not sure has completely lifted. Well, for the first time since November (and NaNoWriMo), I haven’t touched either of my novels. I’ve gone into the file and looked at them, messed around a bit, and then just lost interest. All the fun is gone. From just a few words from people trying to help me with my art.

I think my frustration stems from the fact that somewhere within me I believe that my writing is my last chance to having a career I actually enjoy. Which is completely and utterly stupid. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, the chances of making actual money solely from being a novelist is mighty slim. It’d probably more likely that I’d win the lottery. It’s definitely not a career possibility. It’s just a fun hobby that I have to figure out how to do on the side.

At this point in my life, I know that the best I’ll probably ever achieve is to self-publish something. (And I would do it right by hiring an actual editor.) Again, hobbyist. Not a career. I know I’m not instantly brilliant or even brilliant. Period.

It’s like this blog. I write it really for myself but I know that I don’t have many real readers. I have a few trolls who spy (and I suspect are people who know me in real life and enjoy trying to hurt me). A few friends who read with passing interest. My mom. I guess I haven’t felt compelled to update this blog for those same reasons….

Anyway, my point is, the problem with believing that my writing is my last chance to career happiness is that when I hit a road bump–such as criticism, no matter how constructive–it becomes a real obstacle. It’s the deflation I need, though, to come back down off of cloud 9 and back to reality. It’s the reality that made me cry. The reality that I faced a long time ago and I’ve faced over and over and over again.

I think I can go back to the writer’s group once things calm down over here. Maybe after the wedding and the honeymoon. When I’m ready to focus on my writing, and I’ve accepted the reality that I’m just doing this for fun, I will be able to face the group again. I’ll go back humbled. I’ll listen intently. I’ll be a little less arrogant about my abilities.

Crow pointed out, though, that it was a huge step at all for me to show my writing to anyone, which is something I haven’t done (other than my memoir piece about losing Mike, which has to be the best thing I’ve ever written) since college. So it’s progress.

What else has gone on in the past four months?

We have finally put some sort of covering (blinds, curtains) over every window in the house. At last. After a year.

I planted a red bud tree in my yard. They are such beautiful trees and not only did I get to enjoy its flowering beauty this past spring, but I’m now watching its pretty red heart-shaped leaves quiver in the breeze.

Together with my mom, we tore out some ugly bushes in front of the house, removed some pachysandra in the entryway of the house, and replanted a flowerbed in the entry way that also wraps around half the house! We planted a bunch of hostas, some day lilies… The purple salvia Crow’s aunt gave me last year miraculously survived the winter. Two of the three plants are now blooming happily in the front flowerbed. Crow bought me some coleus and begonias and I put those in the shadier areas.

Crow built a huge 9 foot fence around what is to be our vegetable garden. We planted six fruit trees there (2 plum, 2 cherry, 2 peach) this past weekend. I planted tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, and some basil. We still have some other veggies to plant–lettuce, spinach, corn, squash. I admit that the garden was a little over ambitious… But… why not?

I competed in Calvin’s Challenge with a migraine headache and the left-overs of a flu. I felt awful the first 70 or so miles of that ride. I couldn’t eat because I felt nauseous. I almost SAG’ed out in the middle of the second 50 mile loop. But after laying down at the rest stop for a bit, and sucking down one of those awful goo gel pack things (which was strangely inoffensive in my state), I found a second wind (called a tailwind) and I completed the entire 12 hour race with 122 miles. Not as grand as 2011’s 154 miles, but still a notable effort considering how sick I felt for the greater part of that ride. And I won a silver medal!! There were only two women in my age group.

(Somehow the words of my friend Joanna keep coming to mind, “Heidi, if you used half the effort you do in cycling with your writing, you’d be a star.” Ha. Probably true. Where’s the stubborn tenacity I have while riding when I’m writing?)

I commuted to work by bike once thus far.

I sold my Stow house at the beginning of May! No more paying 1.5 mortgages! No more payments to utilities I wasn’t using. I was a little sad to let go of the house, though, after all the work and money I’d put into it. I’d transformed it nearly into something that was my own. The kitchen–the one big room I never got to remodeling–was just a sad reminder of the dreams I had for it. I hope the new people do something fabulous with it. I like where I’m living better now… But I believe I was actually attached to the Stow house.

It’s been a journey these last several months. A bit of change. Some adjustment.

I’ve noticed I’ve started falling into new patterns. Older ones left over from perhaps my life with Mike are falling away. It’s a lot less painful than I thought it would be.

People are wrong when they say that a relationship doesn’t change you. Or that it shouldn’t change you. The fact of the matter is, when two people come together, they become an entirely different being at some point. A new person exposes you to new experiences. You find new interests together. You get into new habits together. You change some of your old habits to accommodate the other person. And vise versa, if it works. It has to go both ways to work. There’s an adjustment period… But then one day you catch yourself enjoying gardening, picking up new catch phrases from the other person, making references on you and he understand. Sometimes you even catch yourself doing the laundry differently (I used to wash everything in cold!). It’s weird. But exhilarating.

Slowly, bit by bit, the wedding details are falling into place. I’m looking forward to my special day with Crow… and especially for the three weeks following where we will do what we do best together: explore the natural world. I’ve not had more than an extra day off of work since last summer and even that was a working (on the house) vacation. I really need some time away. I feel so tired and exhausted.

I hope that when I return, I’ll feel fresh again about writing. I still want to do NaNoWriMo (though I’m not sure what I’ll write). I still want to take some bass lessons (it’s out of the question at the moment, I’m not going to throw myself even more off balance). I’ll do what I need to do to get back on track. And I’ll try to update this blog. For what that’s worth.

Dream House

When I started looking for a house in 2005, I felt myself gravitating towards the Akron area. More specifically, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I had the fondest memories of my life with Mike there–we used to hike some trails, ride along the towpath, hang out in Peninsula. When Mike died, I found hiking an activity that grounded me and gave me meditative focus, a place to put all my pent up sadness, anxiety, frustration, and I would spend hours hiking various trails within the Cuyahoga Valley. My relationship with the park was both joyful and bittersweet. I was ready to face it again after I went through the whole process of leaving the area when I sold the house I shared with Mike, moved to the east side of Cleveland for a little over a year, moved to Colorado, and then returned again Ohio and the east side of Cleveland. Since Mike’s death, I have struggled with finding a place I could call home and feel like it was truly home. I think all that moving was symptomatic of my inner turmoil. I was just trying to find a place where I fit.

I ended up moving back to the same town where I lived with Mike. In fact, less than a mile from the condo we shared. I felt like it was proof that I was through the roughest part of my grieving because the memories of my life in that town no longer haunted me. The ghosts had dissipated. The town had actually changed just slightly. Some restaurants we enjoyed were gone, replaced by new ones. I spent some time re-remembering the back roads to all the useful places one needs to go.

And, of course, I returned to the Cuyahoga Valley. This time, as a cyclist. Cocky and full of the spirit of a Coloradoan, I was convinced that I could take any hill in Ohio on my bike because I’d spent hours climbing passes on a scant few rides in Colorado. The Cuyahoga Valley told me that I had a lot to learn. My first road was Quick and it was painful. I remember thinking, “How is it possible this hill is so hard?” I guess I never realized that while long, the roads in Colorado tend to be less steep than the windy, abrupt ascents (in some cases, “walls”) that line the Cuyahoga Valley.

But I explored the Valley quite a lot those first couple summers. And along the way, I discovered this quiet little rolling road in the woods with a dozen or so houses nestled in the trees. People lived here! “This,” I thought with a smile, “would be an awesome place to live.” The same thought always came to mind as I cycled along that road on various rides with my bike club–some of them in the mysterious darkness of the late fall–for the next seven years.

Fast forward to 2012. Crow and I are starting to look for houses together. Nothing formal, just looking things up on Zillow and then driving by to check them out. If they were vacant, we’d peer through windows, walk around the yard, try to imagine ourselves in those houses. We had an idea in our mind of what we were looking for and we hadn’t found it yet in our cursory, informal search.

Our Tuesday night club ride has the same route every week. And every week, it goes along that road. I told Crow more than once how cool it would be to have a house on that road because I was still thinking it every time we went down it. He shared my same enthusiasm for the thought. But it was useless to wish for something impossible. So we continued looking at houses from afar.

And then one Thursday night Crow and I went for an evening ride on a warmish spring evening using that very same road to get to a hill we wanted to climb. The miraculous happened–one of the houses had a For Sale sign up that had not been there when we road by with the club on Tuesday. I saw the sign but was slow to react. Crow had already stopped and was pointing. We dismounted our bikes and walked them halfway up the driveway until curiousity urged us to leave the bikes behind and walk around.

The house was vacant so we looked through the windows.

There appeared to be three bedrooms. Check off one requirement.

Two car garage. Check.

Spacious kitchen. Check.

Ranch style. Check for Crow who has spent several years living in the top floor of an apartment and had no desire to have to lug groceries–or anything–up stairs again, ever.

Huge open living room with vaulted ceilings. Check for me. I’ve always wanted vaulted ceilings or a loft.

Big windows facing the beautiful property. Check, check.

A screened-in porch! Bonus points all around.

We walked the yard a bit. It appeared as if the yard bordered the national park. There was wide open space in the back, a little hill behind the house, and some ravines on both sides of the property. My head began to fill with visions of snow-shoeing out the backyard in the winter.

It was hard to hide our excitement. I took a picture of the For Sale sign for the agent’s phone number. Crow called the next day and we saw the house from the inside the very next day during my lunch break at work. I hate to say it, but I fell in love.

I tried not to fall in love. Because, you know, there could be hidden problems with this house. And also this house’s location was definitely desireable for anyone who has a love of the outdoors and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was a really nice layout on 2.9 acres of land.

We learned that the house’s water is provided by a cistern–a strange concept for this city girl. Apparently, wells were are not popular in this particular area because the water is supposedly very high in iron. I soon warmed up to the idea of a cistern, though, when I realized that it is filled by collecting rain water–a commodity in Ohio–that falls into the gutters from the roof. (The water undergoes a purification process from equipment in the basement, of course.) How green is that?

I’d have to get used to a septic tank. Totally typical for just about all of the places Crow and I desired to live. Heating oil for the furnace and hot water tank. Again, pretty typical (though some use propane, and we agreed we could later switch if we wanted). The only “city” utility provided is electricity. So very rustic. For me. Crow, who spent some of his teen years on a farm with the same conveniences, was completely calm about all this. Which helped.

Small sacrifices, I think, for the location. One of the rationalizations I used to get past my unsure feelings about such a setup was that all the other houses on the same street had similar situations. From all appearances, those houses were in good shape and lived in. I also got the sense from the realtor that the seller–a trustee to the estate of the original owner–had a love for the house.

The interior of the house itself is in decent shape. There are full bathrooms–one full bathroom in the master bedroom, check!–that are in desperate need of some TLC and updating. A full basement with an extra room for storage or a work room. Wood floors in the living room and hallway. All three bedrooms have old carpet in desperate need of replacement. It definitely was going to require some fixing up. But even with all those imperfections, I could see what the house was and what Crow and I could eventually make it into.

We spent the weekend doing everything we could to get our ducks in a row so that we could put an offer in on the house–getting loan pre-approval, signing a real estate agent, and, believe it or not, evening visiting a few open houses in the area.

We put a bid on the house the following Tuesday.

Our offer was accepted after going back and forth the obligatory few times. We got it at a very reasonable price given all the updates the house would most definitely need.

We went through the whole long and drawn out process of inspections, appraisals, and waiting on the loan to go through. It was a long month. We missed our original closing date by over a week. We were on needles and pins for weeks, saying nothing to our friends or family about the house out of a shared paranoia that something would go heartbreakingly wrong.

But finally, that day came. We signed all the papers.

We got the keys on Monday.

We’ll be spending the next week preparing the house for us to move in (painting, wiring, cleaning) and then  packing the stuff at our own places.

We’ll move in June 23-24th.

Our dream house is no longer a dream.

A Rose By Any Other Name…

The number one question I’ve been asked lately–after, of course, the date of the wedding–has been: Are you changing your last name?

If you’re a long time reader of my blog, you might be aware of my thoughts on this subject. Being a feminist, I do question the tradition of a female changing her last name on marriage. Having gone through it before, I am completely aware of what a pain in the ass it is to change your last name. It was even more frustrating when I decided to change my name back to my maiden name in 2005 because unlike a divorce, there’s just no clear order (such as a “divorce decree”) for the law to see a direct connection to changing your name back it its original form. I guessed by the many baffled looks I got when trying to do the name change that widows don’t often put their name back to their maiden name. Maybe because most widows are old and they were their married name longer than their maiden name. Maybe because other young widows have children with whom the last name represents a connection. Maybe some people just don’t bother to change it back. For a lot of personal reasons, however, I had to.

When I went through the process of getting my maiden name back, I brought copies of my birth certificate, marriage license, and Mike’s death certificate. Sometimes that wasn’t enough information because the death of someone else–even your husband–does not necessarily make a connection to a name change. Even though the death certificate does contain a field for Surviving Spouse that indicates the maiden name should be used, if female. Looking over Mike’s death certificate last night, I realized my name is actually on his death certificate twice: once with my maiden name in the Surviving Spouse field and a second time with my married name in the Informer field (because I was the one who called the ambulance, I assume). So you would think that would be enough proof of my identity attached to Mike’s. And wouldn’t you assume that a birth certificate trumps all? It’s obvious I wasn’t trying to invent a new name all together.

Still, it was even harder to change my name back to my maiden name than it was to change it to my married name. Such a fuss, in fact, that I did not change my name on everything. I was in the middle of changing my name when I bought my house; therefore, my house title and all of my utility bills are in my married name. Recently when I went to buy a new car, I realized that my car title (I bought my car in 2003) was in my married name. So, of course, there was a bit of a fuss with that. I had to run around town the day after I bought the car trying to straighten things out between the title company and the dealership.

Needless to say, the name change thing has never ceased to be painful. I’m still kind of caught between two identities. And now I’m about to get married again. So I made to mull over the whole issue again.

I would have voted to keep my last name. But in fairness to Crow, I took his feelings into account. I suppose there is somewhat of a lack of unity in keeping two separate last names when you’re trying to build a single family. And, I admit, that sharing names appeals to the romantic in me. I did seriously contemplate hyphenating my maiden name with Crow’s last name since, unlike my first married name, this would actually work without causing a brain aneurism for anyone trying to pronounce the entire name. As I thought about all the situations in which I would have to give my full name–and how long it takes to say even this simple hyphenation–it seemed like more of a hassle than it was worth. People are still unsure about hyphenated names. Even if there is clearly a hyphen in the name, people don’t seem to understand what it means or how to deal with it. I’ve spent all my life–both married and unmarried–with names that are apparently difficult for people to pronounce or spell without specific guidance. I always spell my name when asked it–even my first name since people can’t seem to spell that either.

Hyphenating also doesn’t solve the problem of having to go through the whole odious name change process, as I’d still have to go to the Social Security office, the license bureau, and then mail out marriage licenses to every credit card company and bank I use (which are numerous).

And then, I thought, is it really fair to the Crow since I did change my last name for Mike? He didn’t express any jealousy over the issue, but I felt it was a little unfair to him. As if I was saying that there was something less about my relationship with Crow that I wouldn’t fully embrace his last name like I did Mike’s. I know, I’m over-analyzing the situation. But I think if roles were reversed, and it was my name a man was taking or leaving, and he was a widower who changed his name the first time, I might feel a little miffed.

Even though I spent days going through the same thought process about changing my name for my first marriage, I ultimately decided to change my name. Because… well, I loved him and I wanted to be a member of the “team.” Not for his family or anyone else. For both of us. I know that I have similar feelings about Crow. And I guess I can’t go around life assuming that the same scenario that prompted me to dump my first married name would happen a second time around should anything happen to Crow. I have to give people the benefit of the doubt.

I feel that changing my name–knowing fully what a pain in the ass it is to do–is almost a commitment of sorts. It’s like saying that I trust that our marriage will work out. That I won’t have to go through this whole mess again no matter what. I think I’m sacrificing a little something to make a statement to the man I love that I believe in us.

So, the short of it is: I am changing my last name.

I know. Shocking.

When I told Crow that I decided to change my last name, he said, “Well, I’ll go with you to all the offices where you need to sign the name change forms, if you want, as moral support.”

I was touched. He realizes the sacrifice I’m making for him and he’s offering some comfort through the frustration of legalizing the name change! That statement alone assured me that I’d made the right decision.

My only amendment to agreeing to the name change is that I am going to use both my maiden name and my married name–sans hyphen–whenever I submit my writing to publication. I won’t use my given middle initial in that case. It will simply be my first name, maiden name, and last name–the maiden name looking as though it were a middle name. When I really thought about it, I realized that it was having my maiden name attached to my writing that was most important to me. And I know I want Crow’s last name on whatever I write as well since he’s so passionately supportive of my attempt to fulfill my lifelong dream of publication. I want him to be a part of my successes as well.

Engaged

Last Friday, Crow and I hosted a beer tasting party at my house. Many of our friends had expressed a desire to try beer outside of their usual comfort zone, so we decided to indulge their curiosity by picking up numerous beers–some of which we had never even tried–and having a tasting. In true Crow fashion, the party went well beyond the parameters of a casual gathering of friends as he created a truly beautiful setup with areas of my living room and dining room designated for each type (ie, porter, stout, pilsner, etc) of beer. He bought silver buckets that we filled with ice and placed the beer into and–to my surprise–he decorated the space between the buckets with beautiful globe lights. Yes, a simple party is not a simple party when Crow has his hand in decorating it.

One of the many beer stations at our beer tasting party. I made the little signs describing each beer.

It looked really awesome. We had little 4 oz drinking glasses (which can be used again in future tastings) for everyone to use so that they could sample each beer without too much of a commitment. We didn’t get as many guests as we would have liked (we invited over 40 people, but only about 15 were able to show). However, it was one of the best nights of my life because, unbeknownst to me, Crow had an additional little surprise event for the night.

I was standing by one of the tables, pouring a sample of beer into my glass, when our friend Kevin asked Crow if he’d ever attended some event that I assumed had to do with mountain biking. Crow replied with a quick, terse, “No” and walked by distractedly. I thought how odd that behavior was–Crow was usually very outgoing and friendly–and I wondered what was wrong.

Then, Crow called for everyone’s attention.

“I want to talk about these beers over here,” he said, standing in front of one of our stations. And then he looked over at me with a mysterious smile. “Actually,” he continued, “I want to ask Heidi a question.”

And before I even had time to think about what he could possibly be asking me, he dropped to one knee while simultaneously removing a white box from his pocket. My heart thudded loudly in my ears. Oh, no, you didn’t, I thought, excitedly and nervously. In front of everyone!

“Will you marry me?” he asked looking up at me with the happiest smile on his face.

Crow proposes to Mars Girl. Dr. McCoy presides over the proceedings.

I kept covering my mouth to hide my overwhelmed expression. I think I’m a little embarrassed by my reactions to emotional things like this in public–I’m always afraid that my reaction won’t look genuine enough so I cover it up behind my hands. I think I giggled a little like a girl. A few “oh my Gods” might have come out.

Mars Girl folds in disbelief and shock. But happy disbelief and shock.

And then I answered, forgetting all the eyes on me, “Yes!!!”

I took the ring in the box Crow proffered me. It was exquisitely beautiful and Crow picked it himself–a marquis cut diamond surrounded on each side by a deep purple amethyst stone of similar shape, pretty little diamonds in the band on each side. It sparked in the light. I slid it on my left ring finger as he stood up. I hugged him, my hands shaking and my heart fluttering. I couldn’t believe what had just happened, even though we’d discussed marriage already over the last couple of months. I had told him that I didn’t want to know when he planned to propose to me or even that he’d bought a ring. So I really was surprised. It was perfect.

Mars Girl hugs her fiance.

Thanks to Susan Spinelli, a friend from our bike club, for capturing the moment for us so that we could have it forever.

Mars Girl, still too shocked to do anything but hold onto Crow.

Mars Girl admires the beautiful ring.

More hugs!

So happy they don't know what to do with themselves.

The happy couple, now fiance and fiancee!

And… the moment you’ve been waiting for…. the beautiful ring…

A unique ring for a girl who loves purple.

The proposal was one day after my 37th birthday. I can’t think of a better way to start the next year of my life. We’re thinking of a July 2013 wedding date… Suddenly, the future is looking very busy… But very, very exciting!

Things aren’t always what they appear

A little Valentine’s Day story for you.

All winter, I obsessed about a ski liftie who worked at the local resort to which I have a season pass. He was cute and about my age. I thought he was flirty. My friends thought he was especially flirty whenever I was around; they swore up and down he did not act the same way with them as he did when I was riding up the lift with them.

So friends to whom I confided this secret lust kept trying to get me to ask him out. Okay, it wasn’t so secret–all my Facebook friends and Twitter followers knew.  Still, I wasn’t about to go asking some guy out with knowing his relationship status beforehand. I don’t like to do anything where I have half a chance of losing before I even have begun. As working as a liftie is an “outside in the cold” sort of activity, he always had gloves on and so I could never see if he had a wedding ring. We did exchange names one of the weekends I was up there. It took four hours of skiing for me to work up the nerve to ask him even that.

Anyway, last weekend, I was at this local resort with my friends. They were egging me on to go ask the guy out to the Winking Lizard with us after skiing. The two girls were even willing to go so far as to go back outside–even though we’d been drinking beer for about three hours–to make one final run on the hill my liftie was working to ask him out. I flat-out refused, even though my two friends were half-way booted up.

Fortunately, one of my girl friends is braver. She instead started fishing around for information from the various employees. A little bit like high school? Probably. But there was no stopping her. She, as well as my other girl friend and their husbands, were convinced this guy liked me.

Anyway, of course, it turns out he’s married. Ha. Figures, right? All I can say is that I felt an utter sense of relief that I never took anyone’s advice and embarrassed myself by asking the guy out!! Can you imagine the humiliation? Now he’ll never have to know I was crushing on him and I can keep going to the resort without suffering embarrassment. This is why I play it safe always. And I wait for guys to ask ME out. I told everyone going into this situation that the fantasy is more fun to live with than the reality. I almost feel kind of sad because the fantasy is gone.

I think this story also goes to prove that no one really knows if someone really means more with their apparent flirting than friendliness. Or if they are even flirting at all (I have my doubts). Like I kept telling my friends, I didn’t think he was interested in me at all; he was simply a really friendly guy. Which is probably what contributed to making him so damned cute. Still. You just can’t go about mistaking friendliness for anything more than friendliness. This is always what got me into trouble when I was in school. I used to have these guy friends, and I would form a crush on them, and then as soon as I told them, they would back off, sometimes even stop talking to me all together. Because I always interpreted their niceness wrong.

But the same has happened to me too. Guy friends have revealed themselves as wanting something more to our relationship. I hate having to turn them down because I know what it feels like to be on the wanting side of the fence. We all get our wires crossed in this big wide world where we’re all trying to find a connection with someone. Most of the time, it just simply doesn’t work out for any of us. It’s very rare when both parties are both available and equally attracted to each other; it’s a mysterious science, an indeterminate chemistry. Sometimes when it all works out, life still has a way of taking it all away. Like what happened with Mike.

Fortunately, I have never felt I needed anyone. I still don’t. And the older I get, the more independent I become, the less I need anyone. I’m becoming set in my ways, less pliable to change. It may be harder for me to live with another person. But who knows. At any rate, it’s not happening any time soon. And I’m okay with that. It’s not stopping me from living.

Today, in memory of the last Valentine’s Day I spent with my one and only soul mate (thus far), I wore the last Valentines gift I received from him–a gold necklace with several little amethyst hearts. Diamonds are overrated, and actually kind of boring. But amethyst… ah, the beauty of purple is divine, royalty! And my husband knew that. I wore the necklace with the set of amethyst earrings my beloved Grandma H gave me some years before in memory of two very important people in my life who regularly indulged my love of purple… Love–romantic or otherwise–is sacred and must be remembered on a day like this. Even if  this “holiday” is just a marketing ploy to get people to spend more money…. We don’t need just one a day a year to declare our love for one another; we have 365 days a year to do that.

Of course a single person would say that.

Eh, well, I tried.

Dating Eligibility Flowchart

I crafted the flowchart below recently in considering my dating deal breakers. It’s funny because in the geeky inner workings of my brain, I actually thought out the hierarchy just like a flow chart with the more significant questions on the top to weed out immediately what characteristics I know won’t work with me. I distributed it jokingly among my friends just to test the waters and some of the more experienced among them found it quite a wise and practical thing for me to do. The way I look at it is, you should have a clear idea what you’re looking for before you head out into the wilderness of the dating world. This way you can avoid making costly mistakes (like I may have done in the past). A little re-evaluation time is good.

Potential Dating Flowchart for the 30+ Year Old

Now… If only I can figure out a way to distribute to this to all the eligible bachelors between the ages of 35-45 in the Northeast Ohio area….

True, there’s always room for spontaneity. But I think asking these questions upfront saves a lot of time.

Unfinished Business

Yesterday I was at going-away party for a friend in which I encountered–as I knew I would–an ex-boyfriend. Knowing that I would see him there, I had thought that I would eventually find a way to just tell him that I was sorry for the way I treated him when we were together, that I realized–at last–that I’d been a complete and utter ass to him. Which, really, is probably the way I treated several of the guys I’ve dated since re-entering the single world as a widow. Not all my exes, mind you, but the ones who I probably dated a little too soon after Mike’s death. Before I was ready. This guy–we’ll call him T–was definitely someone I mistreated because I wasn’t quite ready to date. Even though I’d been widowed for a little over two years when we started dating. But, as they say, everyone grieves at their own rate.

I started dating T about a month before I moved to Colorado. I hadn’t really planned it that way. I’d known him for about two years–some of that time while I was married–as we were coworkers and I needed to go to him often for technical information. It wasn’t anything more than a friendship even after Mike died and I found it kind of comforting to have a friend to talk to once I’d moved away from the town Mike and I had been living in. I was lonely a lot that year and it was nice to talk to someone who didn’t expect anything out of me, who didn’t know my husband. T asked me out a few times–once to a ballgame, which I perceived as a completely innocent friendly gesture and once out to see one of the Harry Potter movies. It was after the second get together that I realized we were really, kind of, on a date.

At the time I was planning my escape to Colorado. So I really wasn’t looking for any romantic attachments. Our second date was about a week before I was about to go on vacation, which was really a smoke screen (as far as my job was concerned) for some job interviews I’d lined up in Denver. The second date kind of messed me up. When I realized that I was finding myself attracted to a guy friend, I thought it was at the worst possible moment. It wasn’t a part of my plan. I tried to keep my distance from him to stay on course with my dream of moving away. As luck would have it, my trip to Colorado taught me two things: 1) I really wanted to live in Colorado, and 2) I really, really liked T. Absence, for even a week, makes the heart grow stronger? This was in a time before Blackberrys and iPhones. I didn’t even have a laptop. I spent the evenings of that week popping in and out of the Kinko’s by my hotel to use the internet so that I could pick up T’s email messages.

Anyway, I ended up getting a job–the one I wanted which was considered a transfer to the Boulder office of my company. Within two months of our unexpected relationship beginning, I was packing up to leave for Colorado. T helped me move out there, driving with me all the way out, helping me handle the moving van drivers and unpack my stuff. He hung out with me the first week as I moved in and prepared for my new job. He started to plan to come out to Colorado too.

Which he eventually did. And it should have been great. The perfect happy ending to a widow’s sad story. Except, once he moved out there, I did nothing but push him away. I think part of me really wanted to try to branch out on my own, build a new life out there, and stand on my own. I felt like his moving to be with me made me weak. So our relationship began to crumble. I was super-critical towards him. I accused him of not understanding the kind of pain I’d gone through in losing my husband, which led into philosophical debates about how I should view my experiences as a widow. He really may have understood me. He may have even been right about how I should have handled myself. I just needed an excuse in my head to feel justified in pushing him away.

It wasn’t all bad, though. We did have a good relationship when I let him in. Unfortunately, once he moved out there, neither of us seemed to try very hard at seeking friendships outside of our relationship with each other. He didn’t love Colorado like I did and was only there because of me. In the end, when our romantic relationship was clearly over (because I had built a stone wall around my heart), he made plans to return home. Suddenly feeling alone in a strange land, stinging in the aches of loss, I decided to sell my house and come home too. Yeah. A breakup is what brought me back to Ohio. I never really admitted that aloud to anyone, not until the last couple of weeks as Ohio winter begins to set in and I’ve been again asking myself why I ever came back. I turned around and came back because I couldn’t deal, alone, with the grief of a break up. How pathetic is that?

I’m not still in love with T and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. T’s married now. I’m totally happy for him because I’m told that they make a great couple. I’m not jealous or mad or anything. In fact, part of me is happy that T now understands what it’s like to love someone in the way that I loved Mike. Not that I really doubted that T understood love like that–no matter what I told him in anger. I just think that now, I don’t know, maybe he could empathize with my loss in ways he really couldn’t before. I really want him to be happy.

The only thing I wish I could do is apologize to T for being so horrible to him when we were dating. I’m pretty sure there was some emotional damage done back then and though he’s over it now, I still feel like I should apologize. Mainly because I’m supremely embarrassed about how badly I behaved back then. I was on a course for self-destruction. I was very lost and I was dragging people down with me. I wish I could tell him that the person he knew back then was not the person I wanted to be.

Of course when you plan these grand confessions, you never end up finding the right moment to get the words out. As I arrived for the gathering, T was crossing the parking lot into the restaurant as I was turning in in my car. He looked up and waved at me. For sure that was a good sign. But I spent about a half hour after that trying to find the party (they were tucked away in a corner of the bar I didn’t see) and by the time I arrived, the party was at full swing and loud. I greeted my friend–our mutual friend–and started talking to her. T was standing there and I totally avoided eye contact with him. His wife was standing next to him and I felt kind of out-of-place. I didn’t want her to misinterpret my actions so I was trying to act uninterested in seeing him. There’s a really weird tension between an ex-girlfriend and a wife. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel like I’m being judged or accused of something I’m not doing. Like I might at any moment try to snatch the ex-boyfriend back or something. So I said nothing. I didn’t even say hi.

So, of course, T being the better human, laughed and said, “You’re allowed to say hi.”

Which embarrassed me into silence. I said hi–coldly, dispassionately–and then looked away. Ugh, talk about the wrong signals! Now I looked as though I were mad at him. Childish, childish!!

I figured I’d have a chance later that evening to amend my completely grand faux pas. After I’d had a beer to loosen my lips, make me a little less morose. However, about twenty minutes later, T and his wife said their goodbyes and left. The moment I’d been planning for the last several days would never come. I was left feeling kind of angry and frustrated. I needed to get this thing off my chest at last. Maybe it was for the best, though. No need to beat a dead horse, especially this late in the game. And, really, I suppose the only person I’m going to make feel better about this whole thing is myself, right?

Grand confessions and apologies a side, though, I’m still kicking myself that I treated him so coldly, thus completely proving that I am totally the witch he remembered dating. Why can’t I just act normal? It’s so hard trying to be friendly with a former lover. No matter what you know or accept about the status of your relationship (or lack of one), there’s still always a tension there. I guess we really aren’t meant to commingle with each other after we’ve broken up. But it’s just sad. I could have showed him through my actions that I was sorry by greeting him with a friendly hello. I hate when I act like this. It does not represent the person I want to be. From the song “Acrobat” by U2:

I must be an acrobat
To talk like this and act like that

Once again, I came out looking like the fool. In retrospect, I realize the only way I could have come out on the winning side of this encounter would have been to given him an equally as cheerful hello. Maybe we could have actually exchanged a few words. Why do I let my emotions trip me up all the time?

Winding Down

We’re entering a patch of Indian summer this weekend. It’s kind of nice after four days of rain and gray skies last week (which included the weekend). I rode to work this morning. It may be the last time I do it. It was about 43 degrees at start time, and then I had to wait until about 7:15am for the darkness to let up a little. Yeah, I have a bike light (and a frakking bright MiNewt at that) but I’m not entirely comfortable riding in complete darkness, though there is somewhat of a holiness in it. You just can’t go as fast as you want–you have to make sure you only ride as fast as you can react to what enters the beam of light in front of you. So I waited for dawn to begin. I only have a narrow window in which riding to work is practical or feasible. I like to be out of the house at 7:30 at the latest as that will get me to work around 8:30. It takes about a half hour to clean up and do my hair before I can start work. So I can’t really go in any later as that would get me in after 9.

Anyway, as you can imagine, I was a tad cold this morning. I don’t like cold. I have to minimize on what I would normally wear on a cold day because whatever I wear in the morning has to be packed in the warmer afternoon, and after my clothes in the rack pack, there’s not really a lot of room. So if it doesn’t fit into a jersey pocket or my full rack pack, it’s not getting worn into work. Today I wore a short sleeve jersey (my new STP jersey!) over top a wicking under shirt. My core felt warm, but my extremities–arms, fingers, feet–suffered the most, though it wasn’t too bad. I had on tights over my shorts. For some reason, tights always make me feel heavier. I felt great all the way until I had to climb Snowville. Ugh. One week off from a commute to work (due first to bad weather, and then a cold) and I’m back to ground zero, it seems.

I left work around 6, which is my usual to avoid traffic as well as make up for my 30 minutes of prepping before actually beginning my work day. Of course, my last six miles were in the dusk light. Which I didn’t mind so much. It was kind of thrilling in a way. Much more thrilling than starting a ride in darkness, ending one in darkness seems kind of spooky, exciting. It was only 7:23 when I got home, but it looked like summer 9:30. Ah, how time just passes by. It’s October: the end of the cycling season, the waning of the year.

I don’t know what happened this year. It’s not just me; everyone else is remarking how fast it was. Are some years faster than others? Did we all just end up in some sort of worm hole? The science fiction blog cast I listen to–Escape Pod–had a story a month or two ago where all the people in it found out they were living in an algorithm designed to see how people deal with certain social scenarios. What if we’re in some such computer simulation? What if someone pushed fast forward through some boring part of the simulation and we all felt it and here we are? It could be true. God is just a bunch of computer geeks programming us. Huh.

I’m not sure there’s anything remarkable to say about 2010… It just was. I did a lot of riding. I had a great trip to Seattle. There was a lot of stuff in between but I don’t remember most of it. And here I am. On a warm October evening, sitting in my backyard with a campfire, typing away a directionless blog entry on my new netbook. And so it goes. I suppose it was a good year for some. Lots of hook ups going on in my bike club. Good for all those people. Yipee.

I switched jobs in August. I left the world of tech writing to return to the world of quality assurance where I get to break things on a daily basis. To be honest, my work life has never been better. I feel respected in my current position. I’m asked my opinion on things. I get to learn new stuff. I think I work well with my team lead. I just had the busiest week of my life since joining the company two years ago and I feel like I’m contributing something to the company. Job satisfaction sure makes it easier to go into work. Believe you me, it’s a much more pleasant work environment when you feel like you’re a valuable member of the team. This experience in QA is a lot better than my previous one. In my previous experience, the developers had their cubes upstairs and stuff got sent down to us to test, out of the blue. Well, I mean, they were assigned to you by your supervisor. But on a new enhancement, all you got were some specs and some notes. You had to figure out how it worked or you went upstairs to talk to the programmer. There was very little room for interpretation. We didn’t have Project Managers (PM) to intermediate. We had little say.

However, in this job, I’m aware of what is going to be created before the developer works on it. My team lead has to make sure I understand what change is going to be made, and then he asks me to contribute customer tests for it. I can ask questions and make suggestions. I’m listened to. It’s great. When I turn in a possible problem from testing, I’m greeted with a good attitude rather than a defensive one. I don’t think I’ve been happier in a job in a while.

The whole vibe of the company has changed since we restructured earlier this year.  I don’t think it’s just because I’ve switched jobs, either. Everyone sees a bit less stressed and little happier. The new PMs are slowly injecting some order into the chaos. A lot of people have changed positions (like me) and I think this has allowed people who felt stuck to find something more interesting to motivate them. I’m excited because we really seem to be making improvements. And I’m finally not bored. I’m constantly challenged. I think I will be staying here for a while. Maybe I can finally beat my record of 5 years of employment with one company…

I think in order to do creative writing, I needed to not be technical writing. Truth be told, I really hate technical writing. Like everything else in my life, it took going back to it to realize that I didn’t want to do it. Losing my husband really put me off course for a lot of years. I may still be off-course (I have a lot of issues with death still), but at least I’m going off in my own direction again. Like I was before Mike met me. Everything up until now seems to have been a long struggle to figure out who the individual of Heidi was. Yeah, nearly 10 yeas of crazy post-Mike Heidi has brought me here. It shouldn’t have taken this long, but here I am. I’m finally comfortable with myself enough to say that I like being alone. I’m okay being alone. I am not looking for someone to replace the gap Mike left. I could live the rest of my life like this. I am doing the things I want to do–travel, cycling. I don’t need anything else. Others may pity me for remaining single or not having children, but they shouldn’t. I’ve not stopped living. I’m doing just what I want and I don’t have to report to anyone. This is where I was headed when I met Mike. So I’m finally me again.

I really don’t have time right now to be involved with anyone, anyway. I’ve got too much going on. I’ve got my cycling, first and foremost. And soon I’ll be skiing. I’m pretty sure no one wants to do these things as often as I enjoy doing them. I’m performing a sermon at my church. I’m taking care of a lot of things in my bicycle club. I’m training customers on a webinar next week. I’ve got a full life. This is not a line I feed to myself to make me feel better; I truly believe it. People who would pity my situation would not understand from my perspective. You don’t need a significant other or children to have a complete life. Sure, those things are great. But not everyone gets them. And if it doesn’t happen to you–if it never happens to you–you can’t stop breathing. There are other unimaginable possibilities for life. We all don’t have to tread the same path to enlightenment… Besides, some people’s enlightenment is other people’s jail (like me, having children).

I didn’t meet my New Year’s resolution to get something published. However, as evidenced by all those blog entries, I’m finally working on the stories that would possibly comprise said memoir. I think also that I’ve had a lot of growth this year by branching out. I’ve let the inner Heidi–the one who really does like to lead things–come out by offering to teach training classes at work and do this sermon (which I’m still writing). I’m pushing myself beyond my boundaries. It’s been so easy in the last ten years to just let things happen around me. I know that I enjoy doing things where I’m in a kind of training or speech-giving role (okay, I’m an attention whore), so I’m trying to overcome my fears to do them. Secretly, I’ve been harboring a desire to become a worship associate at my church. But, sshhhhh — don’t let anyone at my church no that. Ooops. Too late?

Anyway…. I can’t say that I feel completed. But I feel like I’m putting my boots on and marching forward. And, also, I’ve found happiness in U2 of the late. There’s rumors of a Pittsburgh show and I just may buy a ticket for a second round after my much postponed concert that has been rescheduled in June… Not quite a groupy; just a 2-concert groupy. What can I say? Me and two million other people are U2 fans….

So, that’s where I’m at now… Just filling you in… Stay tuned. I’m bound to return to writing interesting things once this sermon is out of my way…