Midway Mindset

Lessons Learned

I lived in the same house in Missouri from the year I was born until I was dragged kicking and ya’lling to North Carolina when I was 14 years old. My subdivision, Apple Hill, sat across the street from the elementary school and made Leave it to Beaver’s neighborhood look like a crack den. The adults would porch sit most evenings as we launched our Schwinns from homemade bike ramps or played Kick the Can. Once the sun went down we would follow the cigarette smoke and laughter wafting into the trees and join our parents on the hard, brick ledge. In the winter months we roller skated in my basement or Radio Flyer’ed for hours until we ended up in my mom’s kitchen stripping off the wet and slurping tomato soup by the fire. Cue the Bing Crosby.
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When I was 16 years old I developed a very rare and typically fatal blood kidney disease. Spoiler alert! (It didn’t kill me.) I did, however, spend much of the first semester of my junior year of high-school in an intensive care unit receiving peritoneal dialysis, plasmapheresis and sporting a breathing tube, a catheter and an oh, so sexy, NG (nasogastric) tube. Not exactly what I wanted to be wearing to the Homecoming dance. No one ever told me I probably wasn’t going to make it past Labor Day.
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When it became party fodder that my husband and I were separating, I began getting messages from friends I hadn’t heard from in a very long time. Life had taken us in different directions after our kids had grown and gone.

They’d ask to have dinner, or perhaps, drinks. I eagerly agreed to see them. My calendar wasn’t bursting at the seams since the split. I represented my social circle’s worst fear – and who wants to have burritos with their worst fear? I was excited to re-kindle old friendships.

We would chit-chat, talk about the kids, and then inevitably, somewhere between the first margarita and the second round of salsa, they would lean across the table, take a deep breath and whisper,

“Okay. Tell me how you did it? What’s it like?”
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Like many of you, I sat and watched what happened in Charlottesville this weekend in disbelief. Though Charlottesville lies only 3 hours north of me, the footage I watched looked more like something that would happen in another country or in another time. I’ve been to Charlottesville and it’s lovely. Yet still, they came.
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A few years ago, a nice looking man approached me in the shampoo aisle of Rite-Aid. He said he hated to bother me but he’d spent an hour in the hot seat at a charity pie throwing contest the night before and wondered if I knew the best way to get whipped cream out of his ears. (Okay, I know what you’re thinking. It’s not that kind of blog.)

He smiled and said that I just looked like someone who was kind and knew stuff. Laughing, he said not everyone could meet the circle of trust criteria when it came to whipped cream in one’s ear. Now there was a man comfortable in his own skin. He had a truth – kind of a gross one – but he recognized me as someone he could share it with. It was a beautiful moment. Two truth-telling strangers and an ear full of day old pie.

What if we were all that open and honest with each other? And what if those truths extended beyond philanthropy and cream pies?
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I heard the whispering when I began dating. I felt the stares. I saw the gritted teeth behind forced smiles. My face flushed through the awkward pauses and the stammering of those brave enough to broach the presence of (gasp!) my new man.

“I’m happy for you, but…isn’t it way too soon? You really should have taken time for yourself. I’m just worried about you, that’s all.” There it is. Judgement day.

This translated to one of five hidden meanings:

1. You must have been having an affair and it broke up your marriage.
2. You’re kind of a slut if you want to know the truth.
3. There’s no way you ever loved your husband if you’ve moved on “this fast.”
4. I don’t approve of you seeing someone right now. It makes me uncomfortable
5. You clearly have lost your mind.

The people that had a problem with me dating weren’t lonely, they weren’t sad and they had certainly never been divorced. They were going home and eating meatloaf and mashed potatoes with their families and spooning their spouses at night. They hadn’t haggled with their neighbors while selling everything they owned on their front lawn or listened to the wheels of their grill while it was dragged down the street to its new home. Their spouse hadn’t decided that their birthday was the only day he was able to meet to divide their assets. They weren’t sitting home alone on Christmas Eve because they had nowhere to go. It’s a loneliness that couples who spend their weekends doing fun couple things can’t possibly understand.
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Ten years ago this August I was preparing to send my first born son Kyle off to college at the University of Central Florida. For about 300 days a year, Kyle was going to be 9 hours and 7 minutes away by car, 1 hour and 50 minutes away by plane and 13 hours and 4 agonizing minutes away by train. Not that I had counted. Though the thought of paying out of state tuition was scary, the thought of how little time I had left with Kyle under my watchful eye – and how much space would soon separate us – terrified me even more.

The crying began two days before Kyle turned 18. I was in the grocery store, rounding the corner of aisle 11. I came across the cute little jars of baby food, the pacifiers, and the diapers. My emotions started reeling like a grocery cart with a bum wheel.

I used to be the one to feed him, to soothe him and to well…you know…wipe him.

I felt sick and sad. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t wiped him in 15 years and that he wouldn’t hold my hand or hug me even if I paid him. By the time I got to the frozen food section I had the ugly cries. Tator Tots and Bomb Pops shouldn’t be so damned tragic. Clean-up on aisle 18.
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When couples separate they often share the same house or apartment long after the decision is made to go their divergent ways. My divorce was no different. We played an awkward game of suburban chicken while we both saved for a down payment on a new life.

Living together for months amidst our memories, we rested our heads at night on broken glass.

Finally, my ex screamed, Uncle. Uncle “Phil,” that is.

Ten years after my husband and I were married my college roommate married his Uncle Phil, and became my Aunt “Liz.” (Read that a few times until it makes sense. I’ll wait.) When the time came for my husband to move out of our home, “Liz and Phil” were our Switzerland. My ex had his uncle to help with the heavy lifting and my aunt came to steady me.

Phil gathered us in the kitchen and told us he had something important to say. He lovingly told us that nothing had happened yet that couldn’t be reversed or unpacked– that we could still make things right – that we could try harder. Phil said he knew in his gut that as soon as the first table or nightstand made it onto the truck that it was over, and that

this didn’t have to end with sore backs and dusty corners.

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Dating is hard enough without being middle aged, divorced, and weighed down with more baggage than a senior citizen on a 40-day repositioning cruise. With age brings laugh lines, AARP discounts, saggy boobs, and perspective. I’m probably needier than most women, but I want an exceptional life and an exceptional love to share it with. I’m not afraid to ask for what I need and I’m fortunate to have found a man who isn’t afraid to give it to me. I won’t pretend to know what’s going on in the hearts and head of all divorced women. But, I’ve had dinner with a lot of them.

And their hearts are breaking because their heads are telling them their current relationship isn’t giving them what they need. And their heads are winning. Guys, if you love a divorced woman, let this be your light bulb moment.

1. Divorced women have been loved and left, or we left because we weren’t loved. Or some variation of that. Let that sink in a moment. Regardless of which side of the bed we found ourselves on, the marriage was lacking – likely for a long time. And we’ve been thinking (obsessing…) about what we want in a partner very carefully. We have a list. Warning – it’s long. You might as well ask us for it up front and think about if you can be that guy.

Our settling days are over. If we don’t get what we want and need, we will probably move on. Most of us would rather be alone than go without what we need again.
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52 years ago today a 19 -year old girl gave birth to me. She held me, she fed me, and then she gave me away.

My parents reinforced from an early age that being adopted meant that I was loved twice, blessed double. They told me that I was born to a girl who loved me beyond measure but couldn’t provide me the life I deserved. My mom and dad gushed that they had wanted me more than any other baby in the whole wide world. The first images that lived in my tiny brain of the adoption process were of my parents in a baby store (Cute Babies R Us – One Per Customer) scanning thousands of smiling faces, readily and joyfully settling on mine.
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