All the Single Ladies, Divorce

Second Verse, Same as the First

I’m waiting for LP, who is at an extracurricular, and I’m sitting in a downtown coffee shop in City By the Sea. (Have I called it that lately? I loved the days of the nicknames.) I’m drinking a Milky Way Latte (decaf), which is almost indescribably delicious. This is a coffee shop that used to be further down the block. I remember sitting on similar furniture worrying aloud with a friend I never see anymore about how the price of heating oil had hit — gasp! — $1.25. When was that? 2000? 2001? A long time ago.

I’ve lived here a long time. I’m starting to re-recognize people. And I’m living out a repeat of an unpleasant chapter. No matter how good an idea it is to get divorced in a particular situation, even if you wanted it, it’s not fun to know your ex is out there meeting people via the personals. When Ex1 (The Father of My Children) and I divorced in 1997, all the personals that were personals were in the back of a weekly newspaper that doesn’t exist anymore. You recorded a message, and people could call up and leave you a message in a mailbox. I never ran an ad, but I did leave a few messages, and to my horror, one time, I called to listen to a recording and recognized my recently former husband’s voice. Ack!!!

Now this time I’m not looking myself, but I’ve had the rather hilarious post-marriage experience of having my first ex run into my second ex at a well-known local walking path, where they discussed the health and welfare of my children, after which my second ex thought it appropriate to mention that he had met a woman known to my first ex (they are both contra dancers), and my first ex decided to tell me about it. He theorized that the meeting of his friend and my second ex probably took place courtesy of that new hotbed of personal interaction, Craigslist.

Given that Ex2 had been finding rooms to rent while away at work via Craigslist for the past few years, this all added up.

Although I knew Ex2 was back in the area, I hadn’t let myself think about his social activities. But now I am on the lookout. And today it occurs to me that it’s a happy thing he doesn’t drink coffee, because there’s a very low chance that he’ll make a Craigslist personals date in a coffee shop. So I feel free to drink my Milky Way Latte in peace.

All the Single Ladies, The Inner Landscape


Last September I wondered if I would ever feel whole again, if I would have a sense of hope for the future, if I would be able to manage a new call with a heart breaking over a dying dog and a broken relationship and what I feared would be another door closed.

Last September, despite all that, I went to all the meetings and appointments that were part of the new school year for my daughter and the new program year for my church.

Last September I spent literally sleepless nights reading Psalms and emailing friends in other time zones.

Last September, I awaited the visits of friends coming to dig me out from under the rubble of emotional shock and awe.

Last September, our backyard apple tree had exactly two apples.

Last September, I survived. I remember my relief when it came time to turn the page on the calendar.

This September, I’m mostly adjusted to my new reality. My neighbor (another single gal) and I agreed to forgo the plow service this year and shovel the darn snow our own selves. LP offered to help.

This September, I’m feeling the average pastor’s version of Autumn Overwhelm.

This September, I have a different old dog, who doesn’t walk well on the leash and defies all efforts to train him better. He makes me laugh.

This September, I await a visit that will symbolize the new normal and the distance from last year.

This September, the apple tree has enough fruit for a pie, and I’m going to bake it.

This September, I’m beginning to understand what it might be like to feel whole.

All the Single Ladies, Personal History

Bad Hair Year

It’s been a complicated, challenging year in many ways. It’s almost the anniversary of Snowman’s car accident, and from around that time, other things devolved, and here I am a year later, happy to have a live son but still in the latter stages of grieving our dog, Sam, and wondering how thing turned out the way they did, and learning to live with my new old dog and my new old name, too.

To make things worse, I was having a Bad Hair Year. There may have been days or evenings here and there where my hair was reasonably presentable, but I have spent just about the past year growing out the tragic layers of a haircut that was little more than a shag.

It’s my own fault. I encouraged a very nice hairdresser to cut my hair for curls I don’t really have. What I really have is waves, waves that occasionally, under the right combination of humidity and barometric pressure, do curl. Somehow she coaxed them to life, every time I saw her, and for the “do” she created, the layers worked. But at home, under my less accomplished hands, it became a shag. A shag!!! I didn’t even have one of those when they were popular. How demoralizing to have one 35 years after they were sort of fashionable!

For the past year, almost, I’ve been living through growing out the layers. And today, after a heart to heart with my new hairdresser, I gave the order to cut over 2 inches and  make those tired ends go away. It’s already starting to do its own thing, including waving in places where my new hairdresser made it smooth.

I’m a hair-changer. I don’t know if I’ll keep it this short. But I’m hopeful I’ll keep from doing anything too radical. My hairdresser could tell you, there was a time last fall I came in and discussed cutting it super-short and/or dying it red. (She could also tell you she doesn’t do that kind of thing without sending a client home to sleep on it. Smart woman.) It seems like I’ve passed the danger zone of emotional hair choices; I believe this will be a Good Hair Year.

All the Single Ladies, Knit Without Ceasing

Signs of life

Last year, in the midst of seeking a call and a considerable amount of personal turmoil, there were some parts of my life that I just dropped.

I didn’t knit.

I didn’t read much.

I stopped listening to podcasts.

I didn’t knit because the stress of life caused my RA to flare, and I just didn’t have the shoulder or the wrist for it. I think it was the first year in the past seven I didn’t give at least one person a knitted Christmas present.

I didn’t read much because it was hard to focus. I’ve been keeping track of the books I read on my blog for several years now, and I had an informal goal of 60 books for 2010. I didn’t even come close.

I stopped listening to podcasts, and that is provable by the way iTunes stopped getting new ones for me. I lost track of Fresh Air, and This American Life and the NPR Religion podcast. I didn’t have the detachment to laugh at Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. This meant I didn’t know much about what was going on in the world, since I relied on Fresh Air to tell me about the movies I don’t go to see and Wait, Wait to point to any news stories I might have missed. And This American Life? I turn to it for the comfort of knowing I’m less messed up than most people, and that didn’t seem very honest.

A little at a time, those things are coming back.

I’ve been knitting, and I’ve finished two projects in 2011!

I’ve read 15 books, which while not on the pace for 60, is encouraging.

The last holdout is podcast-listening, and I  don’t know if it will ever come back all the way, because I listened a lot while I was walking with Sam. With Hoagie I listen to music, and our walks are too short to listen to much of a podcast anyway.

But just today I thought, wow, I really miss Fresh Air. I wonder who Terri Gross talked to last week?

Like the hyacinths Hoagie stopped to sniff today — and he stops a lot, I need to tell you — these are signs of life.

All the Single Ladies, Poetry

change embossed name

a wallet full of little cards
requires renovation
each one to be replaced

“change embossed name”

that was the command
on the bank computer
telling the system

–telling the world–

the new reality
but after two weeks
when no card came

“change embossed name”

I went back to the bank
to ask what had happened
and where it could be

the first card of many

some are printed but
most are hard plastic,
cold, some embossed

“change embossed name”

it sounds so easy
so clear and yet
there was another rule,

another commandment
to follow, to fulfill,
on the drop-down menu:

“reissue card”

it’s not enough to type
a name in a box; you
must make a new card.

All the Single Ladies, Family History

All the cheese in Wensleydale

Every Sunday night our public TV station shows “All Creatures Great and Small,” a show so deeply loved by my mother that it still makes me tear up to watch it almost eighteen years after her death. She watched the first run and then the reruns, faithfully. The first time I heard the theme music after she died, I sat down on my kitchen floor and wept.

Which is why I usually flip right past it. Sunday night is not a great night for a preacher to be wistful, when the work of the day is over and the darkness draws in and it’s hard to avoid reviewing the little things (or big) that didn’t go well in worship or after, and really the best solution is a tonic more along the lines of “Desperate Housewives.”

But tonight I saw their young faces, James’ and Tristan’s and Helen’s, and I wanted to hear their voices, and once they started talking to me, and I could see dogs wandering around on the set, I had to keep watching. It was the last episode of the original run of the show, first aired in 1980, and World War II had begun, and in between attempts to heal various ailments of dogs and a pony, Siegfried (not so young as the rest) and James are preparing to go off and join the military. The two of them reminisce, giving each other the credit for their successful practice together.

And James avers, “I wouldn’t have missed it for all the cheese in Wensleydale.”

And I think of the time that has passed, since the show was made, since my mother died. I think of how I didn’t know anything about Wensleydale then, and what I was like in college in 1980, and how little I knew about myself and how much I loved some boy I thought I would marry and how wrong I was about that, among other things. And I think of 1993, and what I expected from life and the people around me, and how wrong I was about those things, too.

And then I wonder what I will think when I look back on this time, wonder if I will feel sorry for this me, or give her credit for having handled things well or wonder what in the world she was thinking.

I wonder if I’ll feel like there was any forward motion.

All the cheese in Wensleydale…well, at least now I know what James meant, thanks to the Wallace and Gromit fans I’ve raised.

That’s some progress.

All the Single Ladies, Church Life, Pray First


One of the things I love about ministry is that every day is different. Sometimes that means a long day, such as the one I had yesterday. After time spent in the office in the morning working on our new website and visiting with the people rolling out pie bottoms for our Chicken Pie Sale, I took off for a meeting to the north, driving with a friend and colleague and catching up on things that matter to both of us. We saw other faithful UCC people from around Maine and worked together on plans for our Conference Annual Meeting in June. We drove back later in the afternoon, and I stayed around North Yarmouth to meet with the Trustees last night.

All of which is to say I left the house at 7:45 a.m. to take LP to school, and I got home again around 9 p.m.

And there was still one thing on my to-do list: a Stewardship letter.

At that point, the variety of my day added up to physical tiredness that overpowered my ability to think straight, much less cleverly. I knew I needed a hook for the letter, and I knew the letter needed to be printed, folded and stuffed into envelopes this morning.

So, I prayed.

There are varieties of prayers, some more articulate than others. Sometimes it’s better just to listen. And when I did listen? I got my hook, thankfully.

Today also contains great variety. I rose early and wrote the letter. At the office we figured out how to get it onto adorable UCC stationery. I signed each one. Now the letter is all set, labeled and stamped by my marvelous Administrative Assistant, ready to be mailed by a diligent Trustee tomorrow. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, people rolled pie tops and pies were assembled for pick-up this afternoon.

Now at the end of the day, many pies have gone home for people’s dinner. I’ve sat over coffee with a friend and colleague hoping to solve the woes of the world. Phone calls and emails have been exchanged, on topics as varied as parking for wedding receptions, plans for the RevGals’ Big Event and my new haircut. And soon I will head home again, with a pie and a pint of gravy to put in the freezer for a night when I am not the only one at home.

After two days of face time, I’m okay with an evening tucked up on the couch. But if you should call me, I promise to answer the phone.