Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | May 31, 2013

After Divorce: Surprises of the Single Life

If you’ve read any other entries here at It Never Rains in Seattle, you’re aware that my marriage fell apart largely because it was strictly platonic, and I wanted a complete marriage while my then-wife… didn’t. At least, not with me.

While my marriage was not my first long-term relationship, I was also no stranger to the single life before getting married. I’d gone for long stretches of time without a romantic partner, and by the time I was married, I had spent many years living on my own as well as many other years with roommates or housemates who were lovers, or platonic friends, or indifferent acquaintances. It was a shame that my marriage turned out to be more of a roommate situation than anything else, but I did not dread going back to being single if it meant that there would be once again room in my life for easy solitude (something not available to me during our marriage) as well as the possibility of romance. Or, at the very least, hot monkey sex.

Commenters on this blog cheered me on, in anticipation of the joys that the single life can bring. And I looked forward to it. And now I’ve settled in quite nicely, enjoying creating a new definition of “home.” I get to enjoy time with my kids, and time by myself. (Granted, sometimes when I’ve had the kids for a long stretch, the first evening without them takes a little bit of adjustment.)

I’ve enjoyed quality one-on-one time with good friends of mine, I’ve attended some small parties, and I’ve even hosted a time or two. I’ve certainly enjoyed exploring a new relationship with my girlfriend, who is as stimulating in intellectual conversation as she is in, um, non-verbal communication. It is often frustrating that she and I live so far apart; our visits in person are far less frequent than either of us would prefer. Yet, I have to say that I also enjoy living in my own place with my own ebb and flow. I can cook when I want to, and I can order take-out when I want to, and there’s really only one person who sets the menu in my house. When I don’t have guests over, anyway. Or the kids. Well, you get the idea.

Single life agrees with me. At some point, I may find myself blending my household with another’s. When that happens, that will be awesome, too. But for now… yeah, single life is working out just fine.

Except for this one thing I never expected.

As you may recall, I had torn the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in my knee during a freak knitting accident toward the end of the marriage. Penny and I were still living together. I had surgery to repair the ACL, which left me without a functioning right leg for a week or two, and that first week of convalescing was truly a drag. And while Penny and I were facing the strain of losing our house and our marriage, she nonetheless made sure my pain meds were handy and that appropriate food and beverages were within easy reach. She kept the kids from jumping on the bed, and gave me time to rest undisturbed. We still had our high-stress moments, but hey, that’s what married people do.

Flash forward a bit to this past Christmas season. We’ve moved to separate households, settled into new routines with the kids, finalized our divorce. By this time, we live about half a mile, maybe a mile away from each other. It’s the holiday season, which means my employer is in “shut down” mode. What better time to schedule some necessary but non-emergency surgery than when I can’t work anyway because of this shut down? (I’m paid hourly, so I’d prefer not to take time off for surgery during normal working weeks.)

The surgery in this case is to repair an “incarcerated umbilical hernia.” That’s a fancy way of saying my guts were trying to escape out my belly button, and that had to be stopped. So, yeah, it’s necessary. But it won’t become an emergency unless and until my guts actually manage to escape. The trick is to have the surgery before that happens.

Building a bionic belly button is nowhere near as involved as cannibalizing your hamstring in order to rebuild your knee. By all accounts, I’m told to expect to take a week off of work, but that really, I should be back on my feet (and eating real food) later the same day of the surgery. Very good.

BUT, because the doctor wants me to have general anesthetic, I must have someone drive me to and from the surgical center. You’re not supposed to drive just after you’ve been knocked out with narcotics, apparently. And they also insist that I have someone sleeping over in case anything happened and I needed help (and couldn’t take care of myself) that first night after the surgery.

That’s what one might call a “non-option”.

If I could have gotten away with it, I would never have even told Penny about the surgery. I find myself increasingly disinclined to have her involved. But, I need her to take the kids during the days that I otherwise would have had them for the first few days after the surgery. A good friend of mine is kind enough to take me to and from the surgical center, and he even joins me for pizza and a movie after I’ve had a brief post-surgical nap. So. Work taken care of, kids taken care of, and transportation taken care of.

But no, I do not have anyone stay over with me that first evening. My girlfriend lives out-of-town, and I don’t want Penny involved, and most of my friends are married with their own families to tend to, while my relatives live just about anywhere in the country but here.

My recovery moves along generally fine, although I notice my blood pressure getting a little spiky for a while. It’s this last point that brings up a very real consideration: what if I were to have a heart attack during convalescence? Hmmm?

As a forty-something guy, I’m not as vulnerable as an eighty-something might be when it comes to sudden illness or injury. But even so, the single life doesn’t mean the same to me as a forty-something as it did when I was in my twenties, either: I’m more at-risk, not so much because illness or injury is more likely, but because immediate intervention is less likely.

Believe me, I don’t sit around worrying about this stuff. I have so many other unlikely scenarios to obsess over. Rather, I mention this because it’s an interesting revelation to find that singlehood at this age is different from when I was fresh out of university.

Fortunately, there have been other, more pleasant surprises about re-entering the single life in my mid-40s. For example, the sex is much better….

Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | May 22, 2013

The end of one chapter and the beginning of another

And if I had the choice,
I’ll take the voice I got,
‘Cause it was hard to find.
You know, I’ve come too far
to wind up right back where I started….
–Concrete Blonde, True

It’s been a while since I posted here on my public, albeit pseudonymous, blog. I’ve been busy. I’ve been retrenching. I’ve been rebuilding.

When I started this blog, with an entry entitled The Beginning of the End is Still a Beginning… Right?, I was struggling to come to terms with the increasingly inevitable end of my marriage. By getting my thoughts out onto these pages, and engaging in such constructive dialog with you, my faithful readers, I was able to navigate the treacherous waters of divorce without upending the entire enterprise. The kids are doing well, and Penny and I have been maintaining a healthy co-parenting arrangement. I’ve begun the long, slow process of getting my financial house back in order, and I’ve done what I can to strengthen my already healthy relationship with my boys.

Somewhere along the way, I seem to have lost my voice. I’m not referring to my speaking voice (although, oddly, that has happened, too; my singing/speaking voice still hasn’t fully recovered from a bout of laryngitis a few months ago), but rather, the part of me that is Inris. The keeper of this blog; the teller of this tale. If the chapter of my life entitled Marriage and Divorce has drawn to a guardedly successful resolution, what’s to be the tone of the chapter to follow? Having addressed the concept of Not This, I’ve been still at a loss to pick up the thread of Then What?

I’ve been maintaining a kind of holding pattern, during which the fog that has enveloped my mind for the last few years of my marriage has begun to clear. It’s not quite yet obvious to me what’s next, but some options are falling away, and I’m starting to feel recovered enough to head off soon on some new adventure.

Certainly, a large part of the next chapter of my life involves being the best father I can be to my boys. I suspect that part of what comes next will also involve having to address the damage that was willfully (though, impersonally) done to me by certain financial institutions. While I have a fine job at the moment that is helping me to pay the bills, there will also have to be some deliberate decision-making regarding my near-term and long-term career goals. So, yes, all of this will help to shape the story of this new chapter in my life.

But there also needs to be romance. Let’s face it: one of the primary reasons my marriage failed was the lack of romance. So, now that the marriage is over, there’s room to let some love back into this story. But how is that going to work out for a mid-40s, single father of three who divides most of his time between work, kids, and recuperation?

Would it surprise you to learn, dear friends, that there can, indeed, be romance after divorce, even for this jaded heart?

Because, the next chapter does, in fact, begin with yours truly starting a conversation with a beautiful young woman who is smart and sexy, and who speaks my language.

She’s got kids of her own, so we have that in common. She’s coming out of a marriage that has had some serious problems, but she is trying her best to make sure her new path is as healthy as possible, with ever an eye toward considering what’s best for her boys.

Her three boys.

Yes.

I know.

She loves me for my body as well as my mind. It’s so weird just to even type that out loud. That after such a very long dry spell, some welcome rain is making its way into this parched  life. Mrowr.

She surrounds herself with good, honest people; she strives for integrity in all that she does. She keeps me intellectually honest. She demands respect, and she gives it, as well. We share overlapping senses of humor, taste in music, and pop culture references.

For all of that, there really is only one complication.

You see, I live in Seattle.

She lives in Arizona.

Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | October 22, 2012

Teach Your Children Well

One thing that my ex and I always had in common was a desire to have kids. Lots of kids. And for a variety of reasons — none of them particularly scientific — we always expected that we would end up having girls. Lots of girls.

So, of course, we ended up with boys. Lots of boys.

Only boys.

Not too long ago, on the occasion of our oldest’s birthday, Penny mentioned her observation that our first-born is already “more than halfway out the door.”

The notion caught me off guard. Wait! Wait a cotton-picking minute!

Back in the beginning, back when my ex was my fiance and our lives before us were filled with promise and hope and opportunities and boundless possibilities (ie, you know, before reality and all that), we had all kinds of ideas of things we wanted to teach our daughters. Such as: it’s okay to be smart. It’s okay to pursue your interests, regardless of how society has typically categorized them. It’s okay to have sex if you want to, and to not, if you don’t. It’s okay to be strong. And it’s also okay to be feminine. We wanted our girls to be as fluent in the languages of math and science and literature and pop culture and history and love and philosophy and self-respect and respect for others, as deeply as their talents would allow. Penny and I had both, in our separate experiences, seen how pre-conceived gender roles (and sexual repression and so many other issues, including disrespect and incivility, the growing celebration of ignorance in our country, etc.) can harm both individuals and society as a whole.

And then we had boys, and that was fine, too. Boys, like girls, are awesome.

And I always knew, in the back of my mind, that to honor what we had in mind if we had raised girls, we would need to have a corresponding set of guiding values for raising our boys. In general, I think we’ve been doing okay. We’ve nurtured our boys’ natural love for science and math and stories and history and physical activity and music and movies and so on. We’ve worked on dignity and respect and politeness and kindness and “playing well with others.” They’ve been introduced to religion and philosophy, and we’re starting to get into politics as well. We also expect, one of these days, to deal with more advanced concepts, like closing the @#$%! door and picking up the @#$%! laundry off the bathroom floor. And peeing *into* the toilet instead of all over the floor. I imagine that girls grasp that last concept much earlier than boys, for reasons that have nothing to do with brain development.

As they get older, gender roles are also starting to become a more relevant topic, as well as sexuality, romantic relationships, and picking appropriate nursing homes for their aging and decrepit parents.

I was making dinner for the boys the other day when one of them asked to help. Making dinner is a little different experience from whipping up a box of prepared brownie mix, where all the boys really do is help stir and then fight over the whisk or spoon when it’s done. And it occurred to me… there are a lot of specific things I want my kids to know by the time they leave the house. Beyond the generalities of having “a love of learning” and “playing well with others.”

With Penny’s remark about how we’ve already gone past the half-way point as far as our oldest is concerned, it’s time to get serious.

So, it’s time for me to flesh out a list of “things I want to teach my children (or make sure they learn) by the time they leave the nest.” And I’m asking you, dear reader, to let me know what’s missing from the list.

Teach Your Children Well:

General Concepts:

Critical Thinking — using logic and assessing evidence to arrive at good decisions

Creative Problem Solving — adapting to change and making the best of it!

The Scientific Method

Character and Relationships:

Respect for yourself

Respect for others

Right and wrong

Being a good partner (business, romantic, creative collaborator) and, on a related note, being a good friend

Understanding different kinds of relationships and roles, and how they can change

Principles (integrity, dignity, kindness, generosity, loyalty, honesty, self-confidence, humility)

Facing tough choices

Acting decisively

Taking stands

Having a sense of humor

Balancing taking risks with playing it safe (or, “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em”)

Subject matter:

The basic academic subjects (math, science, history, literature, language, social sciences)

Popular culture (a basic familiarity with the classics as well as contemporary movies, music, dance, literature, video games, spectator sports)

Creative arts (play an instrument, compose a song, write a poem, act, orate, paint, photograph, design a page layout, sing, dance, draw, animate, script, cook)

Religion, Philosophy, Spirituality, and Skepticism — in theory and in practice

Government — in theory and in practice

Special topics: racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry — recognizing and avoiding/combating

Technology and tools

Animals — identifying, plus general care and feeding

Plants — identifying, plus general care and cultivating

Specific skills:

How to study / how to learn the answer to an academic question

Survival skills (swimming, first aid, CPR, starting a fire, tying knots, building a shelter, mountaineering, martial arts, jump starting a car)

How to cook at least five different meals

How to perform at least one magic trick

How to drive (stick and automatic)

How to pick locks

How to negotiate

How to compromise… up to a point

How to navigate

How to recognize, handle, and use weapons (also, as appropriate, how to avoid/defend against same)

Hunter safety — even if my kids never hunt, this is a must

How to use the internet safely

How confidence schemes work, and how to avoid them

How to build a book case

How to write a computer program

How to play card games

How to pick what wine goes with dinner

How to make an elevator pitch

How to deliver a speech

How to prepare for a job interview

How to wash dishes. And laundry. And perform all those other chores that make for a more pleasant home.

How to win with grace

How to lose with dignity

————

Wow. That’s a long list. And I know I’m leaving a lot of things off of this list by sheer oversight. It’s also not overly specific. Just as I was beginning to prepare this post, a friend and fellow blogger posted to her site some thoughts about how boys need to be raised to treat girls/women with respect. Her points are dead-on. But if I were to get to that level of detail on every point on my list, I’d be typing for days. Still, I’d like to hear what you think. Be as specific or general as you like. I’m sure I’ve left some things off because I just took them for granted (“don’t eat the yellow snow”). But others I may have left off the list either because I simply forgot to mention them, or perhaps hadn’t even considered them. Maybe you think I should take something off the list?

My ultimate goal is to give my boys the tools they will need to be good men. What are your thoughts?

Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | June 11, 2012

Welcome to my Mid-Life Crisis

I think once or twice, as Penny and I were going through our divorce, the idea was gently suggested that perhaps our break-up was the result of a mid-life crisis. Those of you who have read a decent-sized chunk of this blog will know that nothing could be farther from the truth. The question was not, ultimately, why the marriage finally fell apart so much as how had I managed to stay in it for so long.

I even bumped into another old friend this very day and, once more, had to catch him up on the goings-on of this past few years. While we didn’t touch too much upon the foreclosure and all of the financial woes that led up to it, the divorce and how it required me to pull back from my former activities did. And I found myself saying all the same things over again: no, nobody did anybody wrong, nobody cheated, we remain committed co-parents, we have true fifty-fifty custody, but the marriage was broken and could never be fixed, etc., etc.

Naturally, I did not go into what I meant by the marriage being broken. (And if you’re new to the blog, and if you’re curious, I’d suggest you start by just reading the first dozen or so entries of this blog to see how we reached the end of our marriage.)

But that said, even though having a mid-life crisis didn’t contribute to the end of my marriage, the end of my marriage didn’t necessarily prevent the onset of having a mid-life crisis.

What the intercourse do I want to do with my life?

What did I do to get here?

What do I have left in me?

What do I want to be/do now that I’m here?

And a couple of years ago while the divorce was underway, and my financial house of cards had to be rebuilt, and my dear friend Gabe was dying of cancer, and just before I tore my ACL and needed surgery to rebuild it… my mini-van pitched a fit.

I don’t recall if I blogged about that here; I suppose I probably did in one of my “my life is a country song” posts. But what happened in a nutshell was this: the electrical system went haywire one morning while I was driving to work. It was a hot, sunny day. The A/C wouldn’t come on, but suddenly the windshield wipers did. The power locks began locking and unlocking and locking and unlocking. The engine hitched and jerked and began losing horses at an alarming rate. I barely managed to pull off the highway and get to a gas station that was immediately next to the off-ramp.

Taking the key out of the ignition didn’t stop the electrical shenanigans. The wipers kept wiping. The locks kept locking. It was a struggle for me to finally get the front door open. Yes, my friends, I was locked *inside* my car. But I got out, called the nearest shop I trusted, and they arranged towing, etc.

The point is, as with my knee soon thereafter, the minivan gave me reason to stop trusting it. So, I stopped. And once other matters were brought under control, I gently began a slow, methodical search for the vehicle that would eventually replace it.

I looked at other minivans. But, well… I’m not a minivan guy any longer (to the extent that I was), and there’s only one model of minivan made any longer that is available in AWD. I test drove it, and I didn’t really like it.

I looked at the Ford Flex… a practical family car with AWD and a goofy, boxy, retro look. Having four-wheel or all-wheel drive is a must for me. And goofy, boxy, retro looks actually kinda appeal to me. My first car was a goofy, boxy, mid-sixties thang. The Ford Flex evokes that era’s station wagons. I was okay with that.

Somewhere along the way, it occurred to me that I would like a convertible. But convertibles, in general, are not terribly practical or kid-friendly. Then there’s the problem of what conventional convertibles tend to say about their owners. You know… like how the Miata (excellent vehicle though it is) screams out, “Hi! I’m gay!”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I don’t want my car telling lies about me to the lady-folk out there, okay?

Or the BMW Z3, which screams out, “Hi! I’m a rectal cavity!”

Or the Porsche 911, which screams out, “Hi! I’m compensating for something!”

(Please accept my apologies if you, gentle reader, drive such a vehicle. I’m not talking about you, whatsoever. Rather, I’m just saying that these are the lies your car is spreading about you.)

I have no recollection of how the idea first entered my brain, but somewhere along the line it occurred to me… wait a minute! Aren’t Jeeps convertibles?

The Jeep Wrangler is.

And aren’t they AWD?

In fact, they are 4WD, which is even better.

And aren’t they awesome in snow?

That’s the rumor.

And don’t they have room for my kids? And groceries, too?

The 4-door version has plenty of room for both.

And… But… would they be fun to drive?

Well, to find out, a test drive would be necessary.

So while I’ve been quietly looking at vehicles for over half a year now (I started my test driving research during a snow storm last winter and discovered that the Ford Flex is well up to the task of handling nasty weather), the pieces started to fall into place when I test drove the Jeep Wrangler. With the top up. With the top down. On the highway. On the back roads. Yeah. Yeahhh. That was the vehicle I was looking for.

A week after the first test drive, I bought one.

I still have the mini-van. It’s trade-in value was roughly minus-$1,000, but it still runs, and it still has a little bit of life left in it. I have plans for it, and I’m hoping that I can prolong its life some while I begin using the Jeep as my primary vehicle. But… yeah. The Jeep.

Ahhh, the Jeep. Driving around with the top down on a sunny day just can’t be beat.

Thus my mid-life crisis kicks into gear.

Next, I suppose, there’s the matter of finding a girlfriend who is ten years younger than I am.

Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | May 21, 2012

When Different Becomes the New Normal

Our youngest just turned four years old.

A couple nights ago, I was reading to him and his next older sibling. This was a new book to us; a story about the Bear family. There was a storm, you see, so Baby Bear woke up Papa Bear because he was scared, and Papa Bear lifted the covers and let Baby Bear get into bed where he could cuddle up all safe and warm between Papa Bear and Mama Bear. (I was curious as to where this was going to go, given that I let my own Baby Bear sleep in my bed whenever he asks, which is only every single night.)

“Daddy?” my little one interrupted. He asks more questions than these short books have words. “Daddy? Why are the Mama Bear and the Papa Bear sleeping in the same bed?”

[please pause a moment.]

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my four-year-old asked me why Mama and Papa would sleep in the same bed.

Penny and I have been living separately for about a year and a half. Our divorce hits the one-year mark right around now. (I haven’t actually memorized the date, and I deliberately didn’t post news of the divorce *on* the date that it happened, so I’d have to actually find the paperwork in order to be sure of when, exactly, the divorce was finalized.)

It’s amazing, though, how quickly our “new” life became normal. The youngest takes our new arrangement for granted. And truth be told, his big sibs continue to seem well-adjusted, too.

And while the kids seem all happy and well-adjusted… I haven’t even gotten around to defining my new life yet!

I guess it’s okay to model being a healthy, single dad who is comfortable flying solo to my kids. At the same time, as some of my faithful readers have surmised, I have not been staying home, alone, with no one to talk to when the kids are with their mother.

But I’m also thinking that at some point, it’ll be time to model being a healthy dad in a healthy, grown-up relationship. I want my kids to know what a healthy relationship looks like. There’s no rush, and I’m not going to push it, nor bring home someone before that someone is likely to play a role in their lives.

Still… that question…

Wow.

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