Friday, December 31, 2010


I feel I should mention that I signed up for twitter

I'm always on the cutting edge of this technology stuff.  Next thing you know, I'll get an AOL account.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Santa brought the kids a recorder and some bath tub water flutes. This is what led to me playing “Ode to Joy” on a plastic flute during bath time last night. If this portion of my life had a soundtrack, it would involve a lot of harmonica, drum, kazoo, tambourine, and “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.

Which, of course, caused me to think about the soundtrack of my life in 5-year increments.

Second Half of the 1970s: “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”, Bee Gees, Pink Floyd

First Half of the 1980s: “Gimme Three Steps”, “Borderline”, "Eye of the Tiger", Care Bears on 45s
Second Half of the 1980s: Bon Jovi, Poison, Skid Row, Def Leppard (on cassette)

First Half of the 1990s: Guns-n-Roses, Metallica, Nazareth, Meatloaf, Pink Floyd
Second Half of the 1990s: Counting Crows, Deana Carter, Barenaked Ladies, Violent Femmes, Meryn Cadell, They Might Be Giants, Garth Brooks, “The Macarena”, and “Lightning Crashes” by Live

First Half of the 2000s: Kenny Chesney,  Ella Fitzgerald, Gerry Rafferty “Right Down the Line”
Second Half of the 2000s: 4 Seasons, Albert Hammond, Jackson Browne, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”, “The Erie Canal Song”, “Happy Birthday”, “Jingle Bells”

What will the first half of the 2010s bring? Who knows? Maybe I will have to start listening when Chuckles starts listening to….I was going to write the name of some currently popular singer but I don’t know any currently popular singers. Everything I came up with is lame and probably not cool at all (Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber, Train, Katy Perry (on whom Chuckles has a crush ever since he saw her singing with Elmo on youtube)).

So, what is the soundtrack of your life?

Monday, December 27, 2010


Yippee.  Yahoo.  Christmas is over, and I survived.  I am so glad  it is over and done.  Done done done. 

The children are nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of MORE presents dance in their heads
With her new pressure cooker, mama is a chef
and so on

They're so spoiled (it's not's their six grandparents).

I hate Christmas, and I'm just glad I survived.  The stress was so, uhhh, stressful.  I was wound tighter than armature.  But I made it.  Barely. Thanks be to champagne and NSAIDs (but not together).  I spent most of today on the couch with a fever and stomach ache (psychosomatic, I'm sure). 

The kids were none the worse for the wear though.  They were happy enough to crawl on me and bring me books to read them.  Plus, apparently, I have established myself as Alpha Mom as they kept asking me whether it was OK for them to do certain things (that I was incapable of stopping if they had decided to go ahead).  It was pretty awesome.    I love those crazy kids.

Bobo's favorite toy:  Stacking Robots.
Chuckles's favorite toy:  Lego Creator Toys (various)
Mr. Long-Suffering's favorite toy:  Wireless Motion Sensor Porch Light
SarcastiCarrie's favorite new toy:  Fagor Pressure Cooker

This post is not sponsored by amazon or anything and I'm not getting anything (no kickbacks) in exchange for letting you know what we got.  It was just a very amazon Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


There’s been a lot of talk on the internet and the blogs lately about what you would like to tell your 16-year old self.

People have offered up answers from “It gets better” to “I will wind up happy…eventually
I’m intrigued by the notion of going back and slapping my stupid 18 to 22-year old self.  At times, it seems like I could have made better decisioins by flipping a coin than I did using my smarts. 

But, if I went back, surely that would change where I am now. Would I really want that? Certainly I would like to warn myself: Do Not Eat The Hummus.

But beyond that, would I want to tell myself not to do this or to do that? If I had done things differently, I wouldn’t have the two great kids I have now, but I would probably have other kids that I love just as much, so while I wouldn’t have Chuckles and Bobo, I might have Elizabeth and Gracie. That wouldn’t be bad. It would be different, and I wouldn’t know about the two great kids I missed out having. I would only know about the two great kids I have.


Once upon a time, my father asked me what I thought was the one decision I made in my life that had the greatest impact on where I was today. It’s a hard question, to be sure. I came up with something lame about my major in college.

My dad disagreed. He said that he thought the one decision I made that had the greatest impact was …wait…this needs back story or the sentence won’t make sense. When I was about 12, we lived in a euphemistically-labeled changing neighborhood, and we really needed to move to get me into a safe high school as mine was neither safe nor academically rigorous.
I was a good, smart kid who was capable of making terrible choices. Getting me out of the old neighborhood would limit the range of bad choices I would be able to make (or so the reasoning went). My mom gave me two choices. We could move to a really nice, 3BR-2Ba condo in a really neat building (with attached garage) that would have me going to one HS or we could live in a tiny 2BR-1.5Ba condo below street level next to a trailer park. I chose the trailer park because its HS was better (see... I was capable of making good choices too, plus I didn't have a boyfriend just then so I didn't feel the need to stay closer to him).
So, my father believes that the one decision I made that had the greatest impact was choosing to have my mom buy the condo in the better school district. It enabled me to excel academically, get into a good college, get out of the entire south side and away from the bad decisions I could make there, major in something that would get me a good job upon graduation, etc. It landed me in Ohio to meet, marry, and rear children with Mr. Long-Suffering.

What one, single decision you have made in your life has changed where you are today the most? It could be to marry who you did, to have (or not) kids, to have (or not!) a drink before driving, whatever it is you think that’s put you on this trajectory.

Friday, December 10, 2010


We all need to be #1 at something.

I installed google analytics on my blog, oh, about a million years ago. But today for the first time ever, I looked at the report generated.

I am happy to say that if you google "corn dextrin fiber supplement" the #1 answer that comes up is a link to a review of fiber supplements I wrote while pregnant.

You know what would be better though? If I'd been #2 on the google search results.

We all have to be known for something, and now I am known for being constipated. Awesome.


Well, the feast of immaculate weight gain has begun. Someone brought cookies into the office today. I keep looking at those cookies with their tasty artificially colored red and green sprinkles. I think, “Mmmmm, cookies.” I want to eat one, but then I remember those magic words and think, “Ick, ick patooey.” The magic words? Anise flavored.


The other day, I was asked why I wasn’t wearing my wedding ring. I figured you guys might be wondering too (because I know you can see me through the power of the internet). Normally, I wear three rings on my left hand, ring finger. I wear my wedding ring (a nice little diamond number with nine, round recessed diamonds in 10k gold…the diamonds are of such low quality, you can see the inclusions with your naked eye), my engagement ring (a glorious brilliant, flawless, cathedral mount affair, which was a Long-Suffering family heirloom mounted into the 18k gold setting of my choice), and lastly, a very inexpensive 2 mm 14k gold band from K-Mart given to me by my kids for Easter.

I took all three rings off the other day and tucked them away for special occasions. It’s funny, but it still looks like I have rings on because of the tan line. Either I wear the rings too much or I spend too much time in the sun (not possible). Anyway, I took the rings off and proclaimed that I would only be wearing them for fancy, dress up occasions.

Now, in many families, this might make the husband a little nervous that his wife is ready to go whoring about, but not so in the Sarca-Suffering household. You see, work has come down with a new set of rules (actually, old rules that are now being enforced) about wearing jewelry in a hard-hat area…as in you may not.

I am notoriously forgetful, so I would frequently walk out onto the factory floor while wearing earrings, a watch, or my rings. Sometimes, I would remember to remove them and place them on the little clip on my key chain that I have for just such a purpose, but more likely, I would be out and about as a scofflaw. I don’t want to lose my job, so I’ve decided that the default, weekday position is No Jewelry. Mr. Long-Suffering was already respecting the rules and going ring-less, so I’ve just caught up to him.

I was telling Mr. L-S that I figured I should just get a tattoo on my ring finger. He said it’s a little trashy. I told him if it’s good enough for Angelina Jolie, it’s good enough for me. Then I was musing as to what I would get. I was thinking a little vine with some flowers wrapping around my finger in a thin line. He said, “My name, of course.” Hilarity ensued.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


I bought a dishwasher. I got a Maytag Jet Clean. It's a middle of the road dishwasher. It has some things I don't like (stainless interior and hidden controls) and some things I do like (a bar/handle across the front where I can hang a dish towel). The price was right, so I ordered it online. It will be here the 15th. As my Christmas gift, Mr. Long-Suffering will be installing it for me (and for Mrs. Marie, poor thing has been doing the breakfast and lunch dishes by hand).


I had my meeting downtown yesterday. It was much warmer than I thought it would be. It was in the 20s. Downright balmy. I jetted over to City Hall, dropped some things off (and the Pedway goes there!), then I headed back to the train station to go up the Mag Mile. The stores were just starting to open between 9 and 9:30. It was awesome to see that snooty woman at Cartier vacuuming the vestibule area.

{This is an aside to people who aren't used to cold weather, you are supposed to use the revolving door even if there is a regular door. It functions as an air lock and is an environmental choice for keeping the warm and cold air on their respective sides of the door. Use it. Even if you have a lot of stuff with you. Make it work. Also, from a chivalrous perspective, if the door is already moving, the woman goes first. If it isn't, the man is supposed to go first to get it moving and the lady is to follow behind.}

I did my meeting on the 18th floor of a building (capacity utilization this, forward-looking into 2011 that, pricing pressures here, competition there). The view was sublime. I was far enough north that both the east and north views were lake views. The south view was a City Lights view, and the west view was a west view of Chicago. Then we went across the steel for lunch at a grille. They had a gorgeous walk in wine cooler. I had corn chowder, crab cakes, and key lime pie. It was fabulous.

Then I bundled up for the walk back down to the train station. When they found out I had walked, everyone offered to drive me, but really, I wanted to walk because I was under no time pressure and all the stores were open (and I was ALONE).

I hadn't gone far when I realized I needed the ladies' room after all the tea I had consumed at my luncheon. I ducked into Victoria's Secret assuming they would have facilities. They did not. I reoriented and thought I was going into Saks Fifth Avenue. It was really the door next door and I walked in to a store called Zara. I'd never heard of it before but I passed 3 more before I headed home.

I declined to go into H&M, Forever 21, and some Russian Ballerina Store. I did not go into the Disney Store either. I went out of my way to go to the Lego Store (up two escalators and down the hall). I love the Lego Store. I would like to know where the Lego Store found so many extroverted nerds to man their store. I mean, really! People talking (with passion) about Legos and making eye contact. I have hope for our future yet. Santa purchased something for each of my kids.

I skipped Van Cleef & Arpels and the Chinese bakery. I skipped La Perla. I stopped at a kiosk selling cell phone accessories, but they didn't have anything for my phone (which was discontinued two weeks ago...about a week after I got it). I crossed back over the river and stopped at a little tourist shop and got a Chicago skyline Christmas ornament for some friends who are moving to Long Island.

Then, I headed over to Daley Plaza and stopped at Kristkindlmarkt. I did not get any beer nor any spiced, mulled hot wine. I admired the large tree, which is sponsored by the electric company and Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Santa was not there. The photos are free, so I was going to stop and have one taken with the big guy. The kids would've been jealous, but I needed to let Santa know that I really want world peace this year. Perhaps I'll just mention it to the Elf on a Shelf at my house.

Then I wandered around the streets for a bit and wound up in the Cook County courthouse (I think) during their building Christmas party. They had two chocolate fountains (one white, one milk), a harp player, a train going around, fresh fruit, and general merriment. I found the genial mood annoying, so I bahumbugged out of there.

Eventually, I found my way back to the train and made it home long before my normal after-work arrival time. No one was any the wiser.

When I mapped it this morning, I realized I had walked a little over 4 miles in my dress shoes.

Monday, December 06, 2010


In honor of winter finally hitting Chicagoland this weekend about a month late, I offer the following:

In the lane, snow is glistening. #firstsnow
Driving in #firstnow: The ruts are your friends.
A traditional snowman has 3 balls but only one carrot. #firstsnow

Have you heard Olivia Newton-John’s version of “Ave Maria”? Go ahead, try it on youtube. Then get Bob Dylan’s “Must Be Santa”.

I have a meeting downtown tomorrow, so my plan was to take the train up and walk. It’s only about a mile straight up Michigan Avenue (a magnificent mile, if you will) so it should be scenic and festive and pleasant. But then, I saw the weather forecast. They’re predicting 6 degrees (Fahrenheit!) for tomorrow. Sure, it’s warmer near the lake, but 14 isn’t exactly balmy. Perhaps I can just duck into La Perla and Tiffany to warm up on the way. (The Pedway, sadly, doesn’t go north.)


{This is the third (and final!) part of the story. It’s the story of how I grew up and came to be. Writing Part 2, the story of 343, was not good for me. I didn’t realize how crappy I was going to feel after I wrote it. I thought it might be cathartic. It wasn’t. It made me crazy. For days afterward, my eyes felt puffy like I had been crying, I was not sleeping, which is a shame since the kids both were, and then on Thursday night, I woke up in cold sweats, and went to the bathroom and threw up. I was a train wreck for a couple of days here. So, I quickly had to write Part 3 – The Palate Cleansing Story of Fling.}

Since Minnow and 343 each got their own entries, I feel like Fling should get one too, but he’s so inconsequential to my life. He was important at the time, but in the grand scheme…notsomuch, except maybe as a placeholder. This part isn’t so much about Fling as it is about me.

When 343 and I broke up, Fling swooped in to pick up the pieces. It’s like he had been waiting for such a thing to happen…to have his chance. It was less than a week before he wanted to come visit, ostensibly to help me through this difficult time. Fling had been engaged once too, and it ended, so I figured he must know some tricks for getting through it. Fling was in grad school, and I was 4 hours away in Chicago.

I cried for months over 343, but when Fling would visit or I would go visit him, I would just bury all my baggage way down deep and pretend to be happily dating. I knew what happily dating was supposed to look like, so I could fake it. I didn’t particularly like Fling, though I didn’t dislike him either. There was nothing wrong with him, mind you, but there was no spark. I felt nothing for him. He was a nice guy, and he treated me like royalty. I needed that.

Blah blah blah, I don’t know what happened or why I was dating him. We were so poorly suited for one another. He was nice. I am SarcastiCarrie. He was nice. As an example, one day we were sitting in a window booth at a diner and a man who was not out exercising walked by wearing bright orange lycra spandex biker shorts. And Fling would not participate in mocking the stranger. I knew then that the relationship was doomed. However, I didn’t end it. I was not yet secure enough to be single.

I only saw Fling once or twice a month on the weekends. During the week, I had all of my freedom to come and go, study, work on my thesis, interview for jobs, cry, write a million emails to 343 and save them as drafts never to be sent. On the weekends I saw him, it was nice to have companionship. I was still defining myself somewhat in terms of a relationship, but this long-distance thing gave me a chance and the mental space to become myself.

He graduated in December and so did I. We both looked for jobs. I had multiple offers on the table. I took a job in Ohio and started in at the factory February 16th (my 22nd birthday). Fling eventually got an offer that also took him to Ohio (though we weren’t really trying to move to the same state). I was near Cleveland; Fling was in Columbus. Those two places are not exactly close. We continued dating on the occasional weekend for another few months. I still spent my weekdays trying to figure out what the hell had gone wrong with 343 (and crying and trying not to call him). I spent my weekdays doing my Al-Anon program, reading, sleeping, crying, working out, petting my awesome cat, and going to work. Working was great for me. No one at work knew anything about 343 or Fling or the disaster I had made of my thesis. I got to prove myself from scratch. I was living in a working class town. I fit in there with my work ethic, K-Mart clothes, and pick up truck.

One night, I came home after a night of significant boozing with my coworkers. It was St. Patrick’s Day 1998. There was a message on my machine from 343 asking me to call him. I hesitated, but my resolve was not very strong. Behold, the power of the drunk dial. So, I called and apologized for calling while drunk, but I didn’t want to leave 343 waiting since I don’t think he had ever called me before that (though somehow he had my new number). He said it was fine. I don’t remember why he called.

After my spectacularly bad timing with the drunk dial and the person I drunk dialed, I swore off the sauce for about a year. I was just so inconsiderate calling someone who was in recovery while drunk. I needed to stop and think about how my actions affected other people. I needed to grow up.

The relationship with Fling just sort of petered out that spring. It was at least a two-hour drive to see him, and to be honest, I didn’t care that much. Minnow was dating someone (and it turned out he married her a month or two later). 343 was dating a sorority girl back at school whose name rhymed with mine. I was single and actually loving it. I still cried occasionally over how I had squandered my entire college career. I could have studied more, I could have dated more, I could’ve been better to my friends. Could’ve, should’ve. I was filled with regret, but the self-loathing was finally starting to end (thanks be to Al-Anon, again). I blossomed into a capable, independent, self-confident woman.

My lab partner from my entire college career was about to graduate in June. He was one of the few people I didn’t alienate during college thanks to my excellent analytical skills and ability to carry him through classes. He got a job at the same factory where I worked. He moved to Ohio and started in at the factory on June 29th. Mr. Long-Suffering also started in at the factory that day. They were orientation group buddies.

Lab Partner and Mr. Long-Suffering joined my softball team (since I had already been in Ohio 4 or 5 months and had a network of friends and social activities). They joined our Friday night happy hour groups, our ski trips, our bowling parties. It turns out that Mr. Long-Suffering grew up in Northwest Indiana. I grew up in the south suburbs. We grew up less than 5 miles from each other. Lab Partner suggested that Mr. Long-Suffering and I car-pool back and forth to Chicago for holidays and whatnot to save on gas, save on tolls, reduce boredom, etc.

We did this carpooling thing for months and months until finally on one trip back to Chicago, I realized I wanted to spend my time in Chicago with him. That was twelve years and two weeks ago. We’ve been married for more than 9 years now. I often tell Mr. Long-Suffering that I don’t need him around. I want him in my life. (And I mean that as a compliment to him. And to me. I’ve earned it.)

{Oh, and you know how I gave you an update as to where Minnow and 343 wound up today? Well, I’m not even curious what Fling is doing these days. But Mr. Long-Suffering is trying to fix our dishwasher right now...something about the circuit board and ribbon cable being more expensive to repair than to replace the whole thing. I think I know what supremely romantic appliance I am getting for Christmas.}

Friday, December 03, 2010


If I was on twitter, you would receive thousands of fascintating twits from me every year. They wouldn't be quality twits, but they'd be mine. And you'd be reading them.

  • I need 10 cc's of Holiday Cheer. Stat!
  • Achieved. Just heard Run DMC's "Christmas in Hollis" on the radio.
  • Then I heard "Jingle Bells" by barking dogs, really.
  • "The Twelve Days of Consumerism" #songsyouwon'thearthisyear
  • "Baby, It's La Nina-Induced Cold Outside" #songsyouwon'thearthisyear
  • "O, Come All Ye Secular Humanists" #songsyouwon'thearthisyear
  • "We Three Kings of {redacted ethnicity for PC reasons} Are" #songsyouwon'thearthisyear
  • "O Little Town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania" #songsyouwon'thearthisyear
  • "Hark, the Harold & Kumar Angels Sing" #songsyouwon'thearthisyear
  • With Taylor Swift, The Cast of Glee, and Wham! I have had enough of "Last Christmas" already, and it's only the 3rd of December.
  • "All I Want for Christmas is a Good Night's Sleep" #songsyouwon'thearthisyear

Feel free to join the comments...since I'm not on twitter. Feel free to make up your own song titles for the Dysfunctional Family Christmas Album.

PS - To Cloud- not the same university. Yes, I went in Chicago, but the other one. I went to the one in the Big Ten.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


{This is long. That's your warning. Part 1 is below the photos from Thanksgiving.}

Imagine: It’s 1994 and I’ve just dumped my boyfriend of 3.5 years because I’m infatuated with someone else and want to “see other people” and “expand my horizons”.

My parents have always been supportive in their own way, but they aren’t even remotely cheerleader-y. I didn’t know then that I am smoking hot (I know now). I didn’t know how smart I was. I didn’t know how to try hard at something, succeed, and feel proud (things had always either been easy or I didn’t do them). I wasn’t the smart daughter, I wasn’t the pretty daughter, and I sure as shooting wasn’t the friendly daughter (my sister was those things). I had yet to learn the social graces (I know them now). Back in 1994, I didn’t have much in the way of self-esteem. I’m immune to most criticism and peer-pressure these days. I march to the beat of a totally different tympani player. Heck, sometimes, I don’t even march. I skip. It’s all these years I’ve spent in the manufacturing plant. They’ve hardened me….but in a good way. I have excellent self-esteem now.

Things were different on the south side than they were in Livonia or the North Shore or San Jose. HS Football games routinely had police to prevent large outbreaks of gang-related violence. You didn’t go to the other side of the viaduct if you were white, and you didn’t go to the other side of the same viaduct if you were black. Fights broke out on the playground, in the cafeteria, on the bus. Girls in junior high had babies.

I had a somewhat rocky home life so going off to college was a perfect time to reinvent myself. However, I was a girl from the south side who went to public high school and paid to take her AP exams with financial aid help. I was smart, driven, motivated, and poor. Of course, I chose to go to an elite university that was rife with kids whose parents were paying full-tuition for them (and buying their books, paying for their laundry and picking up the cost of pizza and beer). How did I not realize that I could not possibly fit in with my K-Mart clothes, my work-study job, and my used textbooks? Again, naiveté.

I don’t know the exact first moment I met 343, but I remember the first weeks. It was a blurry time, filled with NEW and exciting and free. I already could tell that I was not going to fit in with the crowd at the Private College. 343 wasn’t your typical private school guy. Sure, he’d gone to a private college prep HS, but it was a Catholic school in the City and his family was working class Catholic from the South Side too. He was also helping put himself through school.

Those first few days of new student week were a whirlwind of defining yourself, meeting people, getting acquainted, and I’m sure I was supposed to be touring the library, finding my classes, and taking placement tests or something too. I spent the week staying up late, walking around, having deep and meaningful conversations about what it means to be, and having the first booze I had had since middle school. It was so enlivening.

343 was in my new student orientation group. Neither of us was really interested in listening to the speaker – the university president who retired shortly thereafter. The president was droning on and on (and on and on) about something and the future and ethnographic studies. I still can’t hear the word ethnography without thinking about how 343 and I snickered and mocked through the entire speech. I’m still the snickering and mocking type. At one point, I had to go to the bathroom. I found two twenty-dollar bills in the toilet. 40 bucks! Big money! I fished it out, and 343 and I ordered Giordano’s for dinner. Woo hoo. Good, Chicago-style pizza. Free!

343 and I became an item after a week or two. He had a hometown girlfriend, and I had Minnow. We agreed that when we were at school, we would be with each other but when we were at home, we would be with our hometown honeys. (How'd that work out for ya?) 343 was a really great guy*.

By Christmas break, it was over. It was a wrenching break up for me. I was dumped. I had never been dumped before. My self-esteem was so low that I think I was tying my own self-worth to how others perceived me and whether or not I was good enough to love. The break-up proved to me in the way only an 18-year old can believe that I wasn’t good enough to be loved. And it showed me that I had made a terrible decision dumping Minnow. Somehow I was still tying all my self-identity up in how I was or was not coupled. And my grades that quarter were pretty bad too.

A few weeks after we returned from Christmas break, 343 and I were on again. We were off again by the time school was out for summer (but my grades were much, much better). Whenever I was in the presence of 343, I was a totally different person. I wasn’t better…not like I am when Mr. Long-Suffering is around. I was clingy, annoying, insecure, fake. A few weeks into the summer (the same summer I tried to be friends with Minnow and last saw his parents), we were on again.

We stayed together through Christmas 1995 and got engaged to be married. (The ring, by the way, was gorgeous. It’s almost the exact same style, size, shape of the ring I wear today. My tastes in men may have changed, but a diamond is forever.)

Somewhere in Spring of 1996, we were off-again, only to be on-again a month or two later. The next year was more of the same. When we were on, we were on. When we were off, there was yelling in the street at 2am, tears, slammed doors, name-calling. When we’d reconcile, he would promise it would be better. Things would be different. We’d work on it harder. When things went south (again, inevitably), I would cry saying that I didn’t think I could do this for the rest of my life. I was right. I would not have been able to do that the rest of my life. Or possibly, my life would have been smaller.

I’ve mentioned Mimi on the blog before. She is my mother and my children’s grandmother. The doting Mimi of today is a far cry from the mother of my youth. My own mother tied most of her self-worth up with who she was dating or not. My mother had never lived alone. She moved from her parents’ home straight with my father. When they divorced, she had me, and when I went to college, some man she was dating moved in with her. I was following in her footsteps in all the wrong ways. During those years between my parents’ divorce and me leaving for college, I took good care of Mimi. I was a nurturer, a worrier, and her caretaker.

Not only was I repeating her mistakes in tying my own self-worth up with who I was dating, I was trying to take care of 343 the same way I had taken care of my mom. Dating FAIL.

So, we continued on and off. Off and on. I have no idea what our friends thought. This situation had alienated most of my few friends. No one ever really said anything to me about the destructive spiral I was in (and if they had, I wouldn’t have listened). No one ever really mentioned that I was a complete and total doormat. (No one except 343 when we were off-again. If I had listened to him half as much as I loved him, I probably would’ve ended it once and for all because he was right about it all. I was a doormat.) Things were dramatic. Turbulent. Erratic. Passionate. Possibly even exciting, if we’re being honest.

Things had never gotten violent (yet). But it’s the yet I feared most.

The summer between junior and senior years, I went off to have an internship and so did 343. He was in DC, and I was in Michigan. We talked when we could, but his schedule was hectic. I enjoyed this kind of freedom too. It was nice to know that I had someone who loved me no matter what and the security of being coupled but the freedom to come and go as I pleased and to work late when needed. It’s almost as if I liked the idea of having a fiancé without all the difficulty of actually having a second person in the relationship. Since 343’s career would cause him to move around a lot and mine would keep me tied to the industrial Midwest, the summer of 1997 was actually a lot like how my marriage would have been.

When school started back up in the Fall, we were living together. It was weird. After the whole summer apart doing our own things, I had trouble adjusting back to coupledom. 343 had developed some paranoia along the way. He didn't trust me, didn't trust what few friends I had, was suspicious. Somewhere in here I had done something stupid and irresponsible with my thesis and lost my advisor, so I had to start my two-quarter project thesis over. No one can self-sabotage the way I can. (See how my self-esteem has improved...I think I'm the self-sabotage.)

I don’t remember the fight that ended it all. I had made a big pot of chicken soup for 343. He always liked my chicken soup. He was in the living room on the fold out couch where we had been sleeping until we could get a bed. 1-800-MATTRES, leave off the last S for savings.

I remember the light in the room. The living room faced east, but it was a courtyard building so there was a wall directly to the south of the window. It was a really bright white light, but it was filtered and a time of day that made it dark in there, though it was still light outside. He left, and he never came back. Not really, at least. He came back and got his couch. I returned the ring.

A few days later, I sent an RSVP to my BFF declining an invitation to her wedding. I just couldn’t go and be happy for her. I was crushed. I cried for a few days non-stop. I would wake up in the night, go into the bathroom and cry. I would have to get a drink of water just to have enough left for tears.

He had left his kitchen table in the kitchen, but I felt weird about using it, so I put a folding table up in the kitchen next to it and used the folding table instead. I couldn’t afford the apartment on my own, so I started looking to find someone to sublet. I had no idea where I was going to go, but I knew I couldn’t stay – mentally or financially. I started a mad search for a job. I bought waterproof mascara, so I could cry and interview. Surprisingly, I got a lot of job offers.

The pot of chicken soup sat in the refrigerator for weeks unopened. It felt like a betrayal to eat it. It felt worse to throw it out. When it was time to move, I was going to throw the whole thing out - pot and all, but a friend convinced me the stock pot was too nice to waste. So, I kept the pot and flushed the soup down the toilet when I moved out. Poetic, no? (I still have that stock pot. In fact, I handed it to Chuckles last week when he had a mysterious vomiting illness.)

I had enough credits to leave school at the end of the quarter, so long as I could finish my thesis up. I worked my tail-end off finishing everything up by the middle of January, and I high-tailed it out of town. The quarter had ended in December and I got an incomplete on my thesis, but they put it in retroactively so I was able to move to Ohio and start in at the factory just in time for my 22nd birthday. I had given up the apartment in December, so I spent a month staying with different people while I finished my thesis. Essentially, I was homeless but for the kindness of friends and family.

The asterisk up above? 343 was a really great guy*. The asterisk is a place holder for “when he was sober”. 343 was a really great guy when he was sober. When he was drunk, he was a colossal jerk. An asshole even. He might agree with that statement; he might not. He might feel bad about the way things happened. He might not. He might remember them differently. He might think I was a clingy stalker who wouldn’t leave him alone for 3 years. He might regret jerking me around. I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him since graduation.

I came back from Ohio to walk at my graduation ceremony that following June. Senior week was a lot like Freshman orientation had been. There was no work to be done, no deadlines, no papers, just a lot of time to stay up late talking about what it means to be. He and I went for coffee. 343 was chain smoking and drinking a lot of coffee. I don’t remember what we said, but it was over. It had to be. 343 was sober now, but I knew that since I was a part of his drinking past, there would always be a codependent part to any relationship we would have (thanks be to al-anon). The how and why he quit drinking are his story to tell, not mine, so I won’t, but I’m glad he did.

I sent him an e-card to congratulate him when he hit one year of sobriety. I haven’t communicated with him since.

I’ve been thinking a lot about friends and acquaintances and people who come into your life and then disappear. Maybe it’s because we just celebrated Thanksgiving or because I am going to turn dirty-jive next year. Perhaps I’m suffering from some sort of maudlin ennui. I’ve been thinking about how people who were once very important to you can disappear without a trace.

343 has a common name. Have you ever tried to google 343? You get a lot of hits. Many companies have model numbers with 343 in them. It turns out 343 firefighters died on September 11th. So, I have never really kept up with him or known what he’s been up to. But once I found out about Minnow’s wife and parents, I was curious what had happened with 343. Did he stay sober? Did he finish up school and graduate? Those aren’t really the kinds of things you can find from a google search anyway.

A quick look on facebook tells me he got married last year. His wife is currently expecting their first baby. She looks absolutely lovely in all the belly shots posted on twitter. He taunts her by eating her favorite sushi in front of her. He founded his own company. I saw his blog. He’s still sober. He’s still chain smoking. He’s still haunted by some of the same old demons. I wish him nothing but the best.


Making stuffing. Nothing says love like a pound of mozzarella cheese.
With No. 1 Son.
With No. 2 Son.
The table set for ten. There was also a kid's table behind me (you know, a card table covered in a nice table cloth set up in the middle of the living room. I just graduated from it myself quite recently.)

Canned cranberries on a pretty plate in front of some Waterford crystal with the can marks still clearly visible. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving at my house without it.


Before Mr. Long-Suffering, there were 3 boyfriends. Two of them were serious, multi-year affairs and one was a short fling (short, by my standards, is about 6 or 8 months). We will now give them nicknames to differentiate. In chronological order: High school boyfriend will be known as Minnow, college boyfriend will go by a number…how about 343, and fling will go by the name Fling.

So, Minnow and I were on the math team together. We founded the Bridge Club (playing cards not building coalitions) at our high school together. If it weren’t for the fact that he was male and I am not, we probably would’ve just been really good friends. But alas, the romantic aspect was present, so we dated for about 3.5 years. We went to prom twice. I wore the same dress both times.

Minnow went off to college after my sophomore year, so we did the long-distance thing for two years. Now kids, this is back in the day before rampant email (it was still nascent email at the time) and this is just at the beginning of discount long distance (on landlines). I was paying about $0.15 per minute for the long-distance phone calls.

Usually, I would say that the long-distance thing doesn’t work out and when you go to college you should go and be open to new people and experiences. However, if your boyfriend is going to an all-male college and you are busy at home with a job, several extra-curriculars, and school, it could work out since no one is going to meet someone else. So, it went well.

I liked Minnow a lot. We had quite a bit in common. His family was very nice. They were very stable. I liked that. They ate dinner together every night. Minnow’s parents knew what classes he and his brother took in school, showed up for some functions, supported them in their endeavors. They were good parents. In fact, I am trying to be like them as I raise my own kids.

Eventually, I graduated from high school and went off to college myself with every intention of sticking with Minnow while he finished his degree at the all-male college and getting married a few years after he graduated. I even thought about moving into married student housing for my last two years at university, etc and on and on as the dreams of a teenaged girl oft are.

He lasted a week, ten days maybe. I was horrible to him. I know it now. At the time, I was so infatuated with someone else (the someone else was 343), I didn’t see how truly awful I was. I called him and told him I wanted to “see other people”. This was after 3.5 years. He deserved better. Just awful. He came to visit once (since we were still seeing each other and I was also seeing other people). He brought a blender with him to make me my favorite banana shake. I wasn’t my very best. Minnow had been my best friend for years and years, and I wanted him to be happy for me and the new life I was living and the new people I had met and the new “school” boyfriend I had. But, obviously, he couldn’t be happy for me for that. Somehow I was a self-absorbed 18-year old (redundancy alert).

{As an aside, my “school” boyfriend and I both still had hometown honeys. So, we made the agreement that when we were at school we were exclusive to each other, but when we were at home on breaks and whatnot, we could still see our old people. How we thought that would work, I don’t know. Call it naiveté.}

Let’s say things went sour with the “school” boyfriend and by the beginning of summer after freshman year, I was single again. Minnow wanted me back, but after my taste of freedom, I didn’t want him back as a boyfriend. I wanted him as my friend. We tried the just friends thing for a week or two. It didn’t work out, but I still loved hanging out at his house with his pesky little brother and his awesome parents for that week or two. And his mom’s cooking. She was such a good cook.

I might have exchanged emails with Minnow a time or two after that. We ran in some similar circles online for a while. I think I last heard from him in 1998 when he was in grad school. At the time I was pleasantly single, and he was dating a girl somewhat seriously.

I’ve been thinking a lot about friends and acquaintances and people who come into your life and then disappear. Maybe it’s because we just celebrated Thanksgiving or because I am going to turn dirty-jive next year. Perhaps I’m suffering from some sort of maudlin ennui. I’ve been thinking about how people who were once very important to you can disappear without a trace.

I had googled him a few times over the years. Not much came up. Well, I recently looked Minnow up on facebook. He’s not there. I googled one more time and my mad keyword skills must be getting better because a whole trove of stuff came up this time. Including an obituary.

Now, I bet you know where this is going, but it’s not. It wasn’t his obituary. It was his wife’s. The somewhat serious girlfriend from 1998? They got married in 1998 right around when he probably graduated from grad school. She passed away on Nov. 23, 2006. I don’t know how she died. They did not have any children. I almost want to send a sympathy card, but it has obviously been far-too-long since her death to do so and to do so now would be completely inappropriate since I don’t want to rekindle anything. I would just like him to know that I am sorry for his loss. Sorry I treated him so crappily, and hope he finds some happiness.

Now, that little bit of googling caused me to look his brother up on facebook. Just to see whatever happened to the pesky little brother. It appears that the little brother is all grown up now. He’s an officer in the Navy. He is married and has a couple of kids. I scrolled through his list of friends, and I noticed he had friended his mom. How sweet! I always looked up to her. She was a strong woman, a mother, she worked outside the home but seemed to balance it all so well. So I clicked over to her facebook page. Her profile photo is a picture of her grandkids. Wow, a great mom and a great and doting grandmother! Her relationship status was “in a relationship with” someone who wasn’t Minnow’s dad. Then I noticed she was using her maiden name on facebook. Of course, this made me fear that Minnow’s dad had also passed away and that I hadn’t sent another sympathy card (although it was probably too late to send one again since his mom was already dating again).

So, I did a little local obituary search for his Dad. Nothing came up, but a public record came up instead. Minnow’s father filed for divorce from Minnow’s mother. The divorce was final in 2001. I saw them in 1998. They had just finished celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary with a weekend trip to Cybaris. It’s like the kids grew up, graduated college, and they got divorced? How does that happen?

Next Chapter: The story of 343.