Blended Blessings

Marrying for the third time entailed blending families – not always an easy task. I had three; he had two – bookends to mine. Falling in love is one thing, but the chances that all parties will be enthused about the idea is another.

Ric’s oldest, a son, was already an adult when we met, and had his own life, so our choices really didn’t affect him. Same with my oldest daughter.

Ric and Erika

The three youngest ones, however, were still at home. We had differences in parenting styles. Being critical of each other was a quicksand pit we tried carefully to avoid, but it wasn’t always easy. Developing trust and respect, and a genuine fondness takes time. I’m pleased to say, we made it.

More than that, as a stepmother, I’ve gained a new role that enriches my life in many ways. While I refer to Erika as “our daughter”, our relationship falls outside the mother/daughter framework. She has a mother, and doesn’t need me in that role. Not sure what you’d call it – role model, friend, alternate source of support.

Whatever it is, I count it as another blessing.

Our gang

Third Time Lucky

I first married at nineteen, two years after I left home, and many years before I’d developed into the woman I would later be. We separated before our second wedding anniversary.

Certain I was fatally flawed, I jumped at the next opportunity that came along – a relationship that would produce my three children and span seventeen years.

In the end, he confirmed what I secretly believed: I was not loveable.

I would prove that to myself again and again with poor choices, until finally, in my forties, I admitted I had a problem. My picker was broken. I was choosing mates based on the wrong assumption.

What, I asked myself, would a relationship look like if I was loveable? I decided that it needed to start with myself. So I started courting me. I bought myself flowers, just because I deserved them. I took myself out to eat and focused on what I liked. I visualized what it would feel like to be loved and I set five goals to achieve before I would re-enter relationship:

  • To understand my needs
  • To be able to identify my wants
  • To establish healthy boundaries
  • To believe myself worthy of love
  • To be financially independent.

When I met Ric, I wasn’t ready. The fifth goal had not been reached. So, I told him: “I’m not ready for relationship right now. I am willing to hang out for a year, and then we can reassess.”

Golf buddies

He agreed, and exactly one year later, picked me up from work and took me out to dinner, ordering a bottle of wine to celebrate.

“Celebrate what?”

“It’s been a year; we can talk about us!”

Six months later, he asked me to marry him. I made him wait another eighteen months.

The thing about Ric is that I know that he loves me. He would do anything for me. He values my wants and needs, and my boundaries. He listens to my fears. He is my best friend.

Wedding Day

Third time has been a charm (he’d say for both of us). I am truly blessed.

A Heart Full of Gratitude

On the occasion of Ric’s birthday, it’s difficult not to feel deep gratitude for this dear man I’ve had the pleasure of sharing life with these past sixteen years.

From those first witty exchanges online to our initial meetings, I was intrigued: here was a man with intelligence and passion that listened and responded, encouraging dialogue.

How our life has grown and evolved since those early days – all to Ric’s credit. Even in hardship, he has held us up, never one to back down from challenge.

On this day, remembering all the joy, and tears we have shared, I am especially grateful for the adventures, and to have said “I do” to a man who would enrich my life for many years to come.

I hope these aging years are kind to you, my love.

Learning From Bowls

“We’ll give him a few more minutes, shall we?” The kindly old man seated across from me crossed one leg over the other and sat back as if he had all the time in the world to wait.

“The thing is…I mean…,” I hung my head in shame. “I don’t think he’s coming.”

“Ah, yes.” He picked up his note pad, uncrossed and leaned forward. “I suspected as much.”

“He went away for the weekend, you see, and he hasn’t returned yet.” How could I tell him that my husband left on Friday, and this was Monday, and I hadn’t heard a word from him? “He knew about the appointment,” I scrambled to make an excuse, “he just wasn’t sure if he’d make it back on time.”

“Do you think he wanted to be here?”

The question hit me hard. Tears caught in my throat and the best I could muster was a silent shake of the head.

“I’ve been doing this job for a long time, and I really don’t see any point of beating about the bush,” the psychiatrist said reaching for a tissue. “The fact is you and I both know he never had any intention of coming here today. He’s left it in my lap to tell you the marriage is over.”

It was the first of December, and when my partner of seventeen years did return home, he confirmed the doctor’s conclusion.

“We’ll wait till after Christmas,” he declared matter-of-factly. “That way we won’t ruin the children’s holiday.”

I hadn’t seen it coming. The shock was replaced with an overwhelming numbness that spurred me into robotic overdrive. Maintain a semblance of normalcy, I kept telling myself. No one must know! Secretly, I think I was hoping that if I acted like nothing was happening, then nothing would happen.

Inside, I was a mess. I had built all my hopes and dreams around this man. Seventeen years are a long time to commit your life to another, and frankly, I didn’t know what else to do.

The days passed, and in a fog, I trudged through, looking for meaning to the madness that surrounded me.

I just want some joy in my life, I prayed. How do I feel alive again?

The answer came during an ordinary outing with my children to the local library. I loved the library, because after I’d settled the kids in with some books of their own, I could search for myself. “Read; it will help keep you distracted,” my psychiatrist had advised. No arguments there.

Abandoned on an empty shelf, a little book caught my eye. “Everyday Sacred” was the title and the picture was of a large, red, earthenware bowl. I picked it up and flipped to the preface. It read:

This story is about a bowl.
A bowl waiting to be filled.
If what I have just written makes sense to you,
I am not surprised.
If I had known in the beginning what I was looking for,
I would not have written this story.
I had to trust there was a reason I had to write,
and I didn’t have to have it all figured out in order to begin.
I would find what I was looking for 
along the way.

– Sue Bender, Preface,  Everyday Sacred

I scooped the book up, then my children, and waited anxiously for the moment to explore Sue Bender’s words.

My soul resonated with the analogy of the bowl. My bowl had suddenly been emptied, and I would have to create a whole new beginning. Bender described the spiritual act associated with a begging bowl, in which the bearers would have to go into the streets and beg for their daily meals. The lesson: to learn to accept what we are given, each day, and to cherish all offerings. (My simplified version.)

Something inside me sang. I wanted to learn to live with gratitude and the joy of beholding the sacred in everyday.

Plans for the move started to take shape. As my husband worked from home, the children and I would move out. We found a townhouse not far from their school, and I ran into an old friend who was in the process of downsizing – she furnished the house for us. It was almost as if the Universe was stepping forward to buffer the blow. While my heart still ached, and I could barely manage to eat for the stress of it all, I also felt strangely comforted. My proverbial bowl continued to flow with abundance, and I just kept giving thanks.

Moving day was drawing near and the last thing I had to do was to arrange for a new home phone. Something in that act felt final, and as I hung up from the customer service rep, I put my head down on the table before me and felt the full weight of grief. There would be no going back. My life as I’d known it was over.

Look at what it spells. I swear a little voice whispered in my ear. “What what spells?” I spoke aloud, looking around for the source, but no answer came. Convinced I had really lost it, I turned my attention back to my new phone number. I would have to memorize it.

2 – 6 – 9 – 5 were the last four digits. 2, 6, 9, 5, I repeated in my head. 2695. Could this spell something?
I checked my keypad. And there it was:

b – o- w- l.

With no steady income and three mouths to feed, I had live with what each day brought, sometimes hardship, and sometimes blessings. It was a humbling, yet soul inspiring time of my life.

(This post originally appeared on One Woman’s Quest and has been edited for this edition. This week’s challenge is to write about books that inspire and motivate.)

The Petty Details

“If it would help, I could get you a bacon press.”

I am poised over the hot frying pan, waiting to flip a quesadilla.   Waving the spatula at him, I give him my best stink eye.

“What?”

“I thought you said you wanted to keep up the minimalist lifestyle?”

“I do, and having a tool that makes your life simpler fits.”

We are restocking items sold last year when we gave up our house and most of our material goods, having decided to re-establish a bricks and sticks home for when we are not RVing.

“A single-purpose item does not qualify as minimalist; it qualifies as clutter!”

Our eyes lock in a contest of defiance.

“This is going in a blog post!” I retort, breaking the tension.

“Well, you better write about the electric knife, too.”

Fair enough.  Earlier in the day, while he was perusing point sites (seeing how many household items he can replace with earned rewards) he filled a cart which he asked me to peruse.

“Toaster, corning ware, one pot, electric knife”, I read out loud.

“Electric knife?”

“Right there! It says electric knife. I thought we agreed we have enough knives.”

“We did, and look again – this is an electric kettle. A good hint would have been to look at the adjacent picture.”

Damn my brain, playing tricks on me again.

See what we both have to put up with.

 

 

RV-Able: Where It All Began

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a disease which affects all systems in the body and landed me in bed, barely able to complete the simplest of tasks.  Fast forward two years later, and my problem-solving husband is looking for a way to give me some life back.  This post from February 2016 explains:

RV Kidding?

One of the last things my ex-husband did before becoming an ex, was to show up with a used motor home, unexpectedly.  I won’t get into the details here, but suffice to say it was neither discussed in advance, nor a suitable vehicle for family outings.                                                     th-2(Okay, it wasn’t that bad…quite.)

So, when I met my current husband and he expressed a passion for travel, I said I was game as long as it didn’t involve an RV.  It has become an inside joke.  Every time I “act up” he threatens to get the RV.  We both laugh.

Then a week or so ago, he mentioned that if he won the lottery, he’d want to buy an RV and drive me across the country.

“Are you kidding?”  I asked cautiously.

“Just a thought.”

Then last night he kept calling out possible options:     th-3

“This one has a washer/dryer.”

“What, and be robbed of the whole laundromat experience?” My sorrowful attempt to get back to the joke.

“Or you can get sleep comfort beds.”

I would let it drop, but I know better.  This is the man who once told me he was going to get our tires changed and came back with a totally different car.  (Did I just see a pattern forming?)

“Too good of a deal to pass up,”  he told me.

Luckily, I liked the new car better.  Point is, I’ve learned that if he mentions something, he could very well be on his way to making it happen.

Today, he came home from work and before removing his coat, blurted out:  “There’s a motor home, the kind with the washer/ dryer, on sale just a few towns over.”

I really didn’t know what to say.  Apparently, he is serious.

“I just thought that if we had a vehicle with a built-in bed, I could drive you
around the country and you could lie down.”

Please appreciate that before I became ill, travel was a regular occurrence for us. Now it is just one obstacle after another to overcome, mainly that my system cannot tolerate sitting or standing for long enough to get us anywhere significant, and should we dare to override that challenge, I will be too done in to enjoy the destination.

Couple that with my husband’s compulsion to problem-solve and what do you get:  A motor home.                                          th

In the interest of compromise,  I suggested that perhaps renting one and trying it out would be more practical than purchasing one.

“Renting is so expensive!” he argued.

“More expensive than buying one, using it once, and then swallowing the depreciation value?”

With a gleam his eye, he responded:  “I could always put a sign on it reading:  Husband’s dog house.

Last time I checked, he’s googling travel routes for RVers.

I’ll keep you posted.

(Except, now you know that two years later, it is happening!)

RV-Able: Misses and Gains

FaceTime, phone calls and videos exchanged cannot replace in-person chats and hugs, especially when the recipients are grandchildren.  I miss chasing eighteen-month-old Auggie around the house, or cuddling with Sloane to “watch something”, or exploring the million why’s of Finn.  I miss my grown children, family and friends whom I value deeply.  Homecoming, I know, will be emotional and overdue.

Palm treesI do not miss the cold of an Ontario winter, how the weather creeps into old veins, cramps muscles and exacerbates pain.  I don’t miss being homebound for days because my walker won’t glide through thick slush.  I don’t even miss the home we sold and left behind to expedite this journey.

There is much to be gained in daring to venture, to risk pushing beyond the boundaries of routine existence, to drive purposefully into the unknown.  Stripped of the stresses of debt and schedules, Ric and I are experiencing each other in a way we never could before:  we are free-spirited and finding that laughter comes more easily.

We are discovering new vistas, reveling in the small moments, like scrumptious food, or the sighting of a new bird, or the marvels of how many varieties of flavoured potato chips Lays offer in the U.S.

Mostly, minus the distractions of everyday life, we have time to commit to ourselves, to developing new passions or deepening old ones. I am writing more, and have enrolled in painting lessons.  Ric and I have started birding.  He is revelling in tinkering about the motor home, learning the ins and outs of RVing.  We are focusing on making healthier choices, caring for ourselves.

As in all aspects of life, it is people who make the difference.  We have enjoyed meeting new people and the highlight to date is meeting a fellow blogger in person.  Jazz of Steps and Pauses and I hit it off immediately online, and were pleased to find that the connection continued in person.  We spent a lovely afternoon with Jazz outside of Austen, and hope to meet up again along the road.  IMG_0181

I am confident that home relationships will endure our absence, and even more certain that this adventure of ours will only better our lives.  Every day, as the landscape changes, and our health permits, I give thanks for our good fortune and the blessing that is my husband, for who else would have conceived of taking a chronically ill woman and loading her into a 40 foot motor home and driving her around the continent?  He has given me the power to define myself as something other than useless (my word) and I love him for it.

RV-Able: Loving San Antonio

“No guarantee about this RV park,” Ric said as we pulled off the highway and entered the spaghetti bowl of roadways into San Antonio.

Bit by bit we moved off the main thoroughfares onto city streets, and as we did the landscape changed drastically.  Abandoned buildings with overgrown lots popped up between commercial and industrial sites.  The closer we got to our destination, the more destitute the area appeared.

“We don’t have to stay the whole five days,” Ric said reading my thoughts.  “We can leave tomorrow.”

Traveler’s World RV Resort is situated in old San Antonio, and as we pulled into the entrance it was easy to see that the park itself is charming – in direct contrast to the surrounding area.  The decision to stay was easy.

Ric had been talking about the famous river walk before we left home.  Having been to many river walks, I thought I had a good idea of what to expect.  I was completely misguided.

Ignoring advice to hop on the bus just outside our resort, we drove into town and found a parking lot advertising wheelchair access.

SA river walk“Just go that way,”  the attendant said, pointing towards what looked like a restaurant entrance.  We walked through the doorway and were instantly transported into another era.  Below where we stood was a sidewalk cafe and beside it a narrow waterway that veered in two directions.  Low bridges along the waterway connected our side of the river to the other – a trail of hotels, shops and restaurants. None of it had been visible from the road.

A waiter directed us to a ramp and soon we were on the walkway.

“Lunch, ma’am?” someone asked offering a menu, but I was too enchanted to think about it at that moment.

“Where do we catch the boat ride?”

He indicated the direction and within minutes we were onboard waiting for the tour to begin.  The boat ride, only thirty-five minutes in duration, was a perfect way to get oriented to all that the river walk has to offer, but we stuck to the nearby restaurant due to my mobility limitations.

“How far is the Alamo?”  I asked the waiter.

“Back up the ramp and across the street a little ways.”

“Let’s try it!”  I suggested to Ric.  I didn’t want to leave this magical place.

A little ways turned out to be across two streets and up a couple of blocks – further than my muscles could muster.  By the time we reached the Alamo, I just needed to find a place to sit.  Ric sat with me (I suspect his knees were screaming too).  We sat in small island across the street from the historical setting and admired the surroundings.

Rested we hobbled back, me cursing my limitations.

The next day we ventured to the Alamo Quarry Market shopping area on E Basse Road.  It’s a beautiful area that offers a lot of different shops, although I was too tired to venture in.  We did, however, manage to have a wonderful lunch in the Canyon Cafe.  Ric had one of the chef specialties of the day:  a seafood soup, and I had blackened salmon caesar salad.  Delicious.

As tired as I was, I really wanted to see the river walk one more time and possibly at night, as we’d heard the area was lit up for Christmas, so we decided to visit The Tower of the Americas for dinner.

Tower view of SAThe Tower of the Americas is reminiscent of the CN tower in Toronto, with an observation deck, a dining floor, a bar floor, and even a thrill ride.  We arrived at 5:30, just as the sun was setting, which proved to be a perfect time.  The hostess seated us at a cosy corner table right next to the window.  So romantic.  We ordered mocktails to mark the occasion.

The menu is extensive and the prices match the view – sky-high.  When I explained to the waitress about my food issues (yes, I’m one of those), she brought the manager over to review the menu with me.  I was impressed and excited about the meal I was about to inhale.  As an appetizer, I chose the humus plate, which came with sliced vegetables instead of the pita chips.  My mouth watered in anticipation of the main entrée.

Imagine my disappointment when my plate arrived with a piece of plain fish and a side of asparagus, period.  The kitchen had merely eliminated rather than replaced the offending food items.  Although the sea bass was cooked to perfection, it did not warrant the $41 price tag.

We lingered anyway, enjoying the view of San Antonio lit up at night.  The river walk, by the way, was not visible from the tower, so that was a bit of a letdown, but it was something to see the roadways, like golden serpents, snaking in and out of the city, and the downtown area was aglow with Christmas splendour.

We left San Antonia the next morning with somewhat heavy hearts.  There had been more to see, and it really is a fascinating city.  I hope we pass this way again in future travels.

(Sorry about the photography; hopefully, I’ll get better as we go.)