Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Needles and Pins

I had two goals for this afternoon: pick up my wedding dress from the tailor, and sneak home for five uninterrupted moments with my latest issue of Real Simple (I know, I know) before my kids came home from playing at their friend Nicky's house.

First stop: the tailor. My tailor is a wonderfully loud and affable Polish woman named Lucy who lives a block away from me. Her house is immaculate, with tile floors in every room and marble cherubs mounted on at least one wall in each room. She is adorable in her velveteen jumpsuits, her accent is thicker than gravy, and she is in constant company of her precocious two-year-old granddaughter. More importantly, she knows her stuff when it comes to the sewing machine.

I tried on the dress for my final fitting. It was flawless. After I changed and was getting ready to leave, Lucy motioned for me to move to another room, where she spoke in hushed tones:

"I'm on my second marriage. My first husband died. So far, everything is okay. But I will tell you this..."

Lucy bent her head lower and looked at me with her eyes nearly skimming the bottom of her brows.

"Keep some money, tucked away. Because you never know. You never, ever know with these men."

Ah. Advice. I was due for some.

Brides and expectant mothers probably receive more unsolicited advice than most people. It's usually well-intended, if a little off-putting, and it usually comes from those who have lived through it all or, more likely, those who think they've lived through it all, know it all, and need to tell you all about it.

Blushing brides and first-time mothers might bristle at unexpected advice and the intrusive tummy rubbing. I sure did. When I was engaged to my ex-husband, I took advice with an ocean of salt, considered my sources, and sometimes honestly believed that I knew everything there was to know about relationships, life, love, and happily ever after. But I didn't discount everything I heard. There was lots of wisdom thrown my way, and it's come in handy throughout the years, especially during my separation and divorce.

Turns out I didn't really know everything.

As I get ready to walk down the aisle (actually, it's more like up the stairs, but anyway) for a second time, I don't get a lot of advice. Most people either know or assume I'm making the right decision, especially as a mother whose life choices directly impact the lives of two precious little boys. If they think differently, they're wise to keep their mouths shut about it. I still might not know everything, but I do know what's right for me--and my boys--in my heart.

There are those, however, like Lucy, who feel the need to remind others that it's better to be prepared for the bitter surprises in life rather than simply counting on promises to carry us through. Yes, it's a jaded way of looking at things, I suppose. But it's practical, too.

I should have my own stash of cash. And the difference this time around is that Ian would agree: We should each have our savings (and each of us does), if not out of fear of the day we might find ourselves alone, then for the days we need to contribute to the cause of our life together. We're a team, after all. And one person can't carry the whole bench.

I nodded at Lucy and smiled. "You're wise, Lucy. And you're right: You never know, do you?"

"Never. Be prepared to take care of yourself, and you'll be fine no matter what. Look at me. I'm 50. I can tell you this," and she wagged a nicely manicured finger in my direction, "I will be able to take care of myself."

After that, she wished me luck and sent me off with my dress covered in plastic against the day's cold rain. I returned home, brought in the dress, let out the dogs, and put on the kettle for tea. I kicked off my shoes and sighed deeply. I had about 15 minutes before the boys were home from Nicky's. Just enough time to read a little from my new magazine that I had bought yesterday. Just enough time to unwind.

On the kitchen counter I found a note from my grandmother, who had spent the morning with the boys before they left for Nicky's (the boys are on February vacation this week). In her perfect handwriting, still steady at nearly 80 years old, Grandma wrote that the boys had been wonderful and everyone enjoyed the morning at home.

"P.S." she wrote. "I borrowed 'Real Simple'."

I shook my head and stared at her handwriting, noticing to my left a small pile of change I had left on the counter this morning. I picked it up and tossed it into change jar next to the telephone, saving it for some other rainy day.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Couples Yoga Funtimes on Saturday Night (Or, What Would Leo Think?)

So I dragged Ian off to a couple's yoga class on Saturday night. It wasn't hard to convince him to go. He had just taken his first yoga class a couple of weeks earlier, and he loved it. What's more, the two-hour couples yoga class was going to be capped off with an awesome Indian buffet, catered by Zaroka.

That's all he needed to hear. Ian was in. "Sure. Yeah. Let's go." So I signed us up, and off we went.

It also helped that our friends Jim and Jesseca were going to be there, too, although Jim didn't know that yet.

We arrived at the studio on Putnam Ave. It's a converted former firehouse with high ceilings and great, expansive hardwood floors. I had studied there for my 200 hour yoga teacher certification, and whenever I return to that studio it feels like home. I'm so comfortable there. At the risk of sounding like a dippy hippie, the place has a great "vibe". I mentioned this to Ian as we rolled out our mats and set up our little yoga nest for the night.

"Yeah, well...I'm sure this place was home to lots of stag parties and lots of bad things back in the day," he snickered.

"You you have to go and ruin it?"

"I'm just sayin' was a firehouse, Moira."


The place was packed. They clearly overbooked, and the couple running the class even said as much. But we all managed to fit in--there's always room to squeeze one more body into a class. Space in yoga class is kind of like a loaves-and-fishes scenario. There's always enough, even when it seems impossible.

Bill and Kristin were a couple of cute, newlywed yogis running the class, and they eased us into the night with some simple poses. There was a lot of yoga-talk, obviously, with references to "heart-opening" and "energy" and even "the clear, cloudless blue sky of the heart".

Ian is not a macho man. Yeah, he's a gearhead, and yeah he loves baseball...and even hockey. But he prefers European bikes to Harleys. He's not much of a football fan, and although he LOVES Formula One racing and other European circuits, he never watches Nascar. In other words, he's a snobby gearhead. A snobby gearhead who likes nice watches, herbal tea, and a can of PBR. The guy is full of contradictions, which is one of the reasons why I love him.

And there he was: A snobby, tea-drinking gearhead in yoga class with his little fiancee who has been doing yoga for 11 years. There might be nothing macho about him, but he's still very much a "dude". And the dial on his dude-gauge was turned up just a little bit that night for the occasion.

Bill and Kristin brought us into easy pose (cross legged, or "Indian style"), facing each other with our hands intertwined. They then instructed us to bring our foreheads together and gaze into each other's eyes, as we contemplated our heart chakras opening. As we brought our foreheads together, the look in Ian's eyes was an unmistakable, "WTF?"

We pressed our "third eyes" together. "I wish Leo was here to see this," Ian whispered. Leo is the old and old-school bartender of Rudy's infamy. The thought of him witnessing this scene made me crack up. And of course, since the room of 60 people was absolutely quiet and peaceful, I couldn't stop laughing.

I tried to keep a straight face. Bill continued guiding us through a meditation of sorts. "Imagine the deep, blue skies of your partner's heart..."

Ian whispered. "Football. I need to watch football."

I was shaking with stifled hysterics, with silly noises escaping me like bad gas that has nowhere to go but OUT.

Bill continued on, saying something about the songs in our hearts.

"Nascar," Ian whispered.

That did it. It's a wonder I didn't piss my pants. I felt like I was back in Catholic School with Renee, trying so hard not to laugh during the consecration at First Friday mass. I could barely keep it together.

The rest of the night proceeded similarly, with other couples clearly experiencing the same, stifled--and in some cases, explosive--laughter during various poses. The first hour of the class went by quickly, and then it was time to give each other a Thai massage. It felt AMAZING. To cap that off with a full plate of yummies from Zaroka was just bliss.

Jim and Jesseca seemed to have a good time. They positioned their mats in front of us, and we chatted it up for a long time during dinner after class had ended. They had wisely brought clothes to wear out for a drink after class. Not us. We didn't think that far ahead. The Playwright across the street from the studio beckoned, but we didn't budge. Well, Ian didn't budge. "I'm not going out for a beer in my pajamas," he announced. Fair enough. Girls might look cute in yoga gear. It's a different story for guys.

We drove home, totally relaxed, yawning, bellies full of good food. There was something so absolutely beautiful about spending those two hours together on the mat, trusting that each would support the other in poses that were absolutely foreign to most of the men in the class. It felt great to laugh together over nothing but the pure enjoyment and silliness of each moment and pose. It was a real lesson for how we should approach all of life together as a couple. We can support each other and trust each other. We can lose our balance and get back up again. We can try new things and have fun with them. If something doesn't feel right to one or both of us, we don't have to do it. We can hold hands and laugh through it all.

And if we're at a loss as to what to make of a situation, we can always ask ourselves "What would Leo think?" If we still don't get an answer, we'll just throw on a football game.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Airing out the Trees

We're enjoying a welcome thaw here this week. Temps are in the 40s and it feels downright balmy. This winter has really lived up to its name. We've had a consistent snow cover since December, weeks of cheek-biting cold, and enough shoveling for one year. It's early yet. We could still get hit with several snowstorms between now and the "official" end of winter. But for now, we'll take what we can get.

Seizing the moment--and the relatively warm sunshine--I darted home at lunch today to let out the dogs and throw the ball to Cee Cee for a bit. It was a nice break, and I don't often go home at lunch, seeing as it can be rather hard to want to go back to work once I've gone through the mail, played with the dogs and enjoyed a sandwich--standing at the kitchen counter while eating. I think all people stand at the counter when they eat alone.

I didn't dread returning to work today, though. I simply enjoyed throwing the ball to the dog and seeing patches of grass and dirt for the first time in weeks. It's been a long winter. Not unpleasant, just long. And although I'm not a big fan of winter, I prefer a snowy one to a long, grey cold one that yields more rain than white stuff. Even so, we've had a lot of snow for one year. I'm ready to see robins again.

As I pulled out of the driveway on my way back to work, my neighbor Ed was rolling several trees out from his garage. They're fruit trees that he keeps safe in the garage throughout the winter. But on warmer days, he rolls them out for a bit of direct sun and air. They can't withstand the harsh winter, and they would surely die if they were left out in it for long. But a quick breather is okay. As he rolled them out on little dollies, he waved, and I waved back. It was nice to see the green trees, looking lucious and summery, against the muddy, grey backdrop of this week's Big Melt.

In less than six weeks, Ian and I finally tie the knot and get on with it, "it" being the post-wedding life, which I envision including many lazy days in the backyard with the kids, the dogs, some new plantings and some old toys. The countdown to this has been enjoyable, and at times very stressful, even for a simple wedding, which ours will be. The hardest moments have been in dealing with my own panic, which has nothing to do with the wedding and everything to do with how I handle stress of any kind. But the rough patches have and always will be temporary. They can temporarily endure for weeks and even months, but they're still temporary. The whole experience has taught me so much, and I was obviously ready, if not willing, for the lessons.

In my excitement for spring and all that it brings--flowers! baseball! warm days! bumblebees!--I am also grateful for winter's crawl. It has afforded me some extra game nights with the boys and time alone with each of them. This past weekend, I enjoyed a few hours out with Sean, hitting the arcade and then the bookstore, where we each picked out a few things that we read together later while sipping hot chocolate at the coffeshop. I love time alone with each of my children, one-on-one. It's something I don't get too often. I'm thrilled they have each other and that they are not only children, but sometimes I want them each to myself. Just for a while. It's always time well spent.

But winter is receding, and Spring is coming faster than we realize. Tonight I will sign up the boys for this year's little league season. Then I will pick up my wedding dress, which is ready at the tailor's. When I come home, I will look for Ed's fruit trees. I'm sure they'll be back in the garage, waiting for the day they can come out for good again, providing shelter and refuge during the warmer months, instead of seeking it.