You’re Not Subtle, and I’m Not an Idiot: On 10 Years of Marriage

Tomorrow, Stanton and I are celebrating our 10-year wedding anniversary. You’ll excuse me, friends, for taking a moment here to reminisce.

We got married in my Pennsylvania hometown, early spring a decade ago. It was a beautiful day, filled with family and friends. Italian pepper cookies (a Minetola family favorite), as well as a rendition of “God Blessed Texas” (a nod to Stanton’s San Antonio roots), were involved.

Afterward, we honeymooned on the Costa del Sol. One morning, we took a ferry from southern Spain to Morocco, to spend the day there. I remember setting out at sunrise, the mint tea when we arrived, the adventure of it all.

2_Wedding Day

What most sticks out in my memory, though, is getting seasick on the ferry ride back.

That’s true love for you, am I right? One minute you’re #livingthedream; the next, you’re asking your partner to find a barf bag, ASAP.

😉

You know, I really do believe that’s true love. Oprah may have said it best: “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

During 10 years, our limo has broken down a time or two. And it probably will break down a time or two again; we’re only 10 years in. At this point, Stanton and I have seen each other at our worst, at our most vulnerable, in our darkest hour. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been worth the effort and the journey.

What have been helpful to Stanton and me all this time, I think—and what we want to pass along to our children—are gratitude, humility and hard work. Values that our own parents lived out for us. We try to embrace and enjoy every day, and we also recognize real life is not an endless joy ride.

Speaking of which…

One minute you’re #livingthedream; the next, you’re asking your partner to find a barf bag, ASAP.

Stanton and I met at a party, in college in Virginia. Our good mutual friend David introduced us. David has since passed away, sadly, but I still smile at the memory of him, and the memory of that young, innocent time we all had together.

At that party, David was talking with me, plus my other girl friends. Stanton told me later that he saw his friend David across the room and thought, “What’s David doing with all those girls? I’ve got more game than him.” A healthy level of self-confidence (possibly fueled by some Milwaukee’s Best) prompted Stanton to join our group and introduce himself to me.

(We’ll always love you, friend.)

1_After College

College parties, your wedding day, ferry rides across international seas—they’re all more “special occasion” than “real life.” As anyone who has been married for a while knows, marriage is made up of more ordinary moments than special occasions. Real life is working…grocery shopping…taking your car for its state inspection and hoping it passes. If you have kids, then real life also includes less sleep and more worry.

One evening recently, Stanton and I were in the family room (10 years later, we’ve landed in New York’s Capital Region). Grace and Anna were upstairs; they had both just fallen asleep. The TV was on, quietly, tuned in to a “Parks and Rec” rerun. (Maybe one day we’ll watch something new, something we haven’t already seen hundreds of times—maybe.)

Neither of us was watching the show, though. Stanton was replying to a work email, and I was folding the girls’ laundry.

Not. Glamorous. But this is exactly what was happening.

I had music on in the background, and a new-ish country song started playing: “Unforgettable,” Thomas Rhett.

This is one of the things Stanton and I bonded over, when we were getting to know each other: our love of country music.

“And I bet right now you’re thinking/ That it’s crazy I remember every detail, but I do”—these lyrics from that song can get stuck in my head.

Everyone says it, and they say it because it’s true: I can’t believe how much you’ve grown. I can’t believe how much time has passed. It feels like just yesterday.

It feels like just yesterday to me too, friends. College—studying at Boatwright, weekend pizza dates at Mary Angela’s in Carytown. Our first home. The births of our daughters. Saying good-bye to our grandfathers, his Grandaddy and my Poppy. Being there for each other, for a lot of things.

Everything.

In that moment—that ordinary moment when we were together in the family room, doing nothing special—I looked over at Stanton and told him I loved him. I interrupted the relative quiet to say it; it was different from saying, “Love you!” as you’re both leaving the house, going in opposite directions. Stanton knew that; he replied, “I love you too, Mel.”

I feel a lot of gratitude for ordinary moments like that. For our home, for our family, for our history together. For those end-of-day, “Parks and Rec”-rerun moments.

Maybe one day we’ll watch something new, something we haven’t already seen hundreds of times—maybe.

I have just one more story to share. I don’t want to overdo it in the sappiness department. So here’s my last story, friends.

About halfway into our marriage, Stanton and I were on a date. Dinner. The place was an Italian restaurant.

We were talking, eating, drinking some wine. I said something—I don’t remember what—and Stanton narrowed his eyes at me.

“What?” I asked. WP_20160904_019

“I hear you,” Stanton said. “If that’s what you want, then OK, we’ll do it.”

I narrowed my eyes back at me. “I didn’t say that. What are you talking about?”

“Mel.” Stanton sighed. “I know you. I can read between the lines; you’re not subtle. And,” he added, “I’m not an idiot.”

I like to think I communicate well with people—I try to be diplomatic, to listen and empathize. What was revealing for me in that moment with Stanton is that he knows me—he really knows me. My diplomacy doesn’t work on him (anymore).

And that was an encouraging revelation, the revelation that I can be myself with him. I can be totally honest with him, and he’ll still stick around.

Every now and then, it’s also worthwhile to remember that you did not, in fact, marry an idiot.

😉

Happy Anniversary to my hubby. Thank you for loving me, for everything you do for our family, for reading everything I write and providing constant encouragement (and great raw material).

You make me happy—and you drive me crazy—but most of all, you make me happy. ❤

“I sing to you. Not all the time, but definitely on special occasions. We’ve dealt with our share of surprises and made a lot of sacrifices, but we’ve stayed together. You see, you’re a better person than I am. And it made me a better person to be around you.” (The Family Man)

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

 

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Look, Mom: I Wrote a Story Too

I shut the top lid and press “on.” The old coffeemaker grumbles awake and begins brewing several cups of my favorite blend.

From the adjoining breakfast nook, my daughters are bickering—something about whose turn it is, or isn’t, to use a certain stamp. I poke my head around the corner. “Share, girls,” I say.

My older daughter crosses her arms. “I have been sharing,” Grace says. “She hasn’t.”

Rather than pleading her case, my younger daughter says, “Mommy! Hold me!”

I give Anna a hug and then settle her back beside her sister. “Girls,” I say, “there are a million things you can do in here. Color. Play with your Shopkins. Finish your cereal, maybe. Do something while I pack up your book bags.”

My 3-year-old frowns. “I don’t want to go to school today,” she says.

“You’ll have fun once you get there,” I reply.

She shakes her head. “No, I won’t. I want to stay with you, Mom.”

“I don’t,” Grace announces, for the record. “I want to go to school.”

My coffee better be ready soon. “Look,” I say. “Everyone has to go to school today, because Mom needs to write and Dad is working too. So…” I gesture to the crayons, construction paper and myriad amusements covering the table. “Please do something while I get your things ready for school.”

Anna sighs, but picks up a crayon. I return to the kitchen.

Story Image

For all I have to do to secure my writing time—the two different school drop-offs, snack and lunch preparation beforehand, the pleading (and, occasionally, yelling) for the girls to get along and remember to brush their teeth and, of course, find their shoes—I wonder if it’s even worth it. Especially considering that the majority of the writing I do now—essays submitted to literary magazines (and not always accepted), short fiction that I self-publish on Amazon, every post on my website here—is creative, a.k.a. not that lucrative.

The coffeemaker sputters to a stop. I pour myself a cup. Outside the window above the kitchen sink, the sun rises. The thought flickers across my mind, again: Is this even worth it? Or should I do something different?

“Mom. Look, Mom.”

Anna’s voice draws me back in. I turn; I look.

She’s smiling, proud. And she’s holding up a piece of blue construction paper, marked here and there with lines of crayon. “I wrote a story too,” she tells me.

I take in a breath. Then I smile; I kneel down. I look at the paper. “Wow,” I say. “You did.”

“Just like Mom,” Anna says. She drops her story at my feet, then runs off.

I pick up the paper—my daughter’s story. She wrote it because I write stories. She sees something of value, something worth mimicking, in storytelling. Just like when we visited the local firehouse for a field trip, and the girls spent the rest of the day pretending to be firefighters.

I hang her story up on the refrigerator, with Grace’s soccer-picture magnet from last season.

I could never not write creative nonfiction, or short fiction. I simply love telling stories, both those that are true and those I make up. It makes me happy when someone reads something I wrote, and lets me know it moved them in some way—made them laugh, or encouraged them during a difficult time.

And during difficult times in my life, writing has been healing to me. Either in helping me to make sense of my journey and to find meaning within the pain, or in escaping, for a moment, to a world of my own making. Often it’s easier to give fictional characters’ “Aha!” moments, rather than to stumble across our own.

I pick up the paper—my daughter’s story. She wrote it because I write stories. She sees something of value, something worth mimicking, in storytelling.

Originally, I submitted a version of this essay to a literary magazine I really like and read. Yesterday, the editor let me know it wasn’t a good fit for them right now. During dinner that evening, I shared with the girls what she said.

“What was your story called?” Grace asked.

I told her: “Look, Mom: I Wrote a Story Too.” (Based on a true story, as all good stories are. 😉 )

Grace smiled sympathetically. “Awww, that sounds cool, Mom.”

I smiled back. “Thanks, honey.”

Eventually, every creative type has a come-to-Jesus conversation with him- or herself. Is what I’m doing worthwhile?

I’ve been thinking about this, and the answer is—like many of the answers I arrive at—yes and no. Pros and cons for everything, shades of gray everywhere. But for sure, more “no” than “yes,” friends.

I want to contribute more financially meaningfully to our family’s life. E-book royalties and token payments for magazine pieces, while holding out hope for a big break à la Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney, don’t go very far toward summer camps and retirement savings.

Worth and value can be subjective, and are, but bottom lines don’t lie.

I’m excited, then, to dedicate more time to seeking out the kind of contract work I’ve done before, proposal editing and copywriting. I’m good at that stuff; I can do it. Fingers crossed, I can do it from home.

I’ll still do the creative writing I love, just more on the back burner.

Yet…Anna’s story still hangs on the fridge.

Kids…love…stories. We grow up, and we still…love…stories. We tell stories every day—from our quickest conversations with our neighbors, to our end-of-day heart-to-hearts with the ones who know and love us best.

I believe there is unity, and understanding, and love in storytelling. Deep down, we all might believe that.

That’s why I’ll never give up on it.

In the meantime…if you know anyone who could use some editing or writing help, send ‘em my way. 😉 ❤

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

Mom, Why Did You Have Two Kids?

Grace, Anna and I were driving home on a weekday afternoon. Grace had had an early dismissal from school. After picking her up at the bus stop, the three of us ate a hasty lunch of leftovers from the night before and then zoomed over to her pediatrician’s office for an overdue annual well visit. Following the well visit, we ran a few more needed errands, the last of which was a stop at the grocery store for, of course, milk, plus a few other things.

Every time, without fail, the first item I write on the grocery list is milk. Maybe you do too.

That afternoon at the grocery store, I was about to pay when Anna clasped her hands together and yelled, “Mom! I need to go potty now!”

“OK,” I said, paying and then asking a kind store employee to keep an eye on our cart of groceries while I hurried Anna to the restroom, with Grace trailing behind.

Eventually, we were back in the car, our groceries stowed in the back. I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but something happened that caused Anna to throw a tantrum as I buckled her into her car seat. I shook my head as I climbed into the driver’s seat. There was always something.

I began driving home.

“Mom.” Grace’s thoughtful voice interjected Anna’s continued yelling. “Why did you have two kids?”

I paused, surprised. (The way Grace asked the question, I couldn’t be sure if her implication was that wrapping it up at one kid—herself, Grace—might have been the way to go.)

I wanted to tell Grace the truth, and not simply respond with a trite explanation. I smiled at a memory that was crystal-clear in my head. “What happened, Grace, is that…”

Two Kids

About four years ago, Stanton and I were having dinner out together—a somewhat rare date night. Grace was about 2½. We had gotten through our first couple of years of parenthood, and life felt manageable. Grace was sleeping well at night and enjoying her preschool. Things were good with both Stanton’s work and mine—I was glad to have found a part-time writing job at a marketing company after taking some time away from full-time work. Our life had a good rhythm.

So Stanton and I were sitting together at a table for two. Our food hadn’t come out yet. To my left, I saw a middle-aged couple sitting together in a booth. Across from them sat a teenage girl, whom I guessed was their daughter. The three of them seemed happy and comfortable together.

In that moment, I saw a flash forward of Stanton, Grace and me, ten or twelve years down the road. To this day, I still remember that moment—picturing a future of our own (current) family of three, enjoying dinner together.

I looked across our table, at Stanton, and gestured to the booth to my left. “That could be us someday. You, Grace and me.”

Stanton glanced over and nodded. “Could be,” he agreed.

I looked at the booth again, and then closed my eyes to consider the flash-forwarded picture in my mind. There was something about that picture I just didn’t feel. Something felt off, to me.

Someone was missing.

Someone was missing at our dinner table.

The connection between food and family played a major role in my Italian-American upbringing. It makes sense to me, then, that my thoughts about motherhood, in that moment, were tied to food, and a dinner table, and the people at that table.

“I feel like someone else should be there with us,” I told Stanton. “At our table.”

Stanton paused. He had two brothers and a sister, just as I did. He appreciated the meaning that siblings could bring to a person’s life. He also knew—as I did—that our first years of parenthood had been so hard. Did we really want to do all that again?

We both gave it some more thought, and obviously, the answer was yes.

I’m so happy and grateful we found our way to “yes.”

I told a shorter version of this story to Grace (ultimately, Anna calmed down to listen too). I pulled into the driveway and glanced in the rearview mirror. “What do you think?”

Grace met my gaze in the mirror. “I’m happy we have Anna.”

I smiled. “Me too. And I’m happy we have you.”

Grace smiled back.

We each find our way into the family that makes sense for us. There is no “one size fits all.” What makes sense for one person may not make sense for someone else.

On a related note… The girls recently asked Stanton and me if we would get them a baby brother, a puppy or a fish. This was, perhaps, the easiest multiple-choice question we ever had to answer.

No deep thinking needed, friends: We’re getting a fish. 😉

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

My First Reading

My First ReadingA few weekends ago, my church hosted its annual talent show. Beforehand, the coordinator asked if I would read one of my essays to help round out the program. I wasn’t sure if the audience would be interested in hearing anything I wrote—after all, others were scheduled to play the piano, dance and do comedy routines, all more entertaining and “talent-y,” in my opinion—but I said yes, I’d be happy to help.

That evening, I read my recent post, “The Secret Lives of Moms.” There were some chuckles from the crowd, which made me happy. I love when a story I tell evokes an emotion in the reader (or listener), especially laughter.

My friend Liz kindly took this picture of me up on stage. At a couple of points during my reading, Anna ambled up the steps to give me a hug and a kiss of encouragement. I so appreciated her sweet, 3-year-old affection.

I believe this was the first reading in my writing career. I was nervous, but I enjoyed sharing my work with the group gathered there that evening. I’m not sure when my second reading may come, but this first one will hold a special place in my heart.

Photo credit: Liz Cartagena

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

Clothes Shopping With My 3-Year-Old (or, Not My Best Idea)

I buy almost all of my clothes online. Maybe you do too, especially if you’re a mom. It’s usually easier than real-life, brick-and-mortar shopping.

Every once in a while, though, I find myself in a women’s clothing store. Just like how every once in a while, I find myself in a gym. In the beginning, I’m laughably optimistic that things will go well. 😉

A few days ago, Anna and I were out and about. We were near a LOFT, so I decided we’d stop in. I needed a new dress for an upcoming event; maybe I could find one, quickly.

“What can I get, Mom?” Anna asked, as we walked into the store.

This is one of the (many) reasons I prefer online shopping. Nobody asks me, every other minute, what they’re getting too.

“If you behave,” I told Anna, “I’ll get you a treat at the store next door. A cookie, or a bagel.”

“I want some butter,” Anna decided.

“We’ll figure it out,” I promised.

“Butter, Mom.”

“Whatever, honey.” I began thumbing through a rack of dresses. Here was an option. This one was a possibility too…

Anna collapsed onto the floor. “I’m bored, Mom. And I want my butter,” she added.

We were less than five minutes into our shopping excursion. “OK, I’ll try these things on,” I said. As Anna and I made our way to the dressing rooms, I grabbed some tops from the clearance section too.

Anna sighed. “You have so much stuff,” she grumbled. “Why don’t I get nothing?”

My turn to sigh. “That is such a lie, honey.” In our family of four, the girls are, by far, the best dressed, thanks to their generous grandmothers.

Clothes Shopping

I shut our dressing room door. Anna loved the big mirror inside. She began smiling at her reflection.

Perfect. I set the pile of clothes down. Then I slipped out of my sweatshirt and leggings.

Anna chose that moment to throw open the dressing room door.

“Anna!” I lunged for the door and slammed it shut.

Anna was laughing. “Mom! Those ladies out there saw your underwear!”

I heard “those ladies out there” chuckle.

“Anna.” I sighed. “Don’t do that again. Please. Just…hang out.”

Anna touched my arm. “No problem, Mom. I’ll hang out right here.” She flopped onto her belly and kept watch from under the dressing room door.

Whatever—as long as she didn’t open it again.

I tried on the dress I liked best. Huh…a little snug. That was discouraging, but not entirely shocking. Maybe I could find the next size back outside. The other dress didn’t work…

“Mom…you’re…taking…forever.” Anna was tapping her hands against the floor.

“I’m almost done, just one more minute…” I reached for a top and pulled it on.

Anna craned her neck over at me and smiled. “You look beautiful, Mom.”

I smiled back. “Thanks, honey.” At least the oversized tunic fit, right?

Anna and I left the dressing room, and I found the dress I liked, in the next size. Wonderful. Time to pay.

At the register, the lady behind the counter placed my clothes in a bag and then gave Anna her own little bag stuffed with tissue paper, stickers and an unloaded gift card. “Because you did a great job helping your mommy,” she said.

Anna beamed. She showed me the gift card. “I got my own money, Mom,” she said.

I thanked the lady, and Anna and I walked over to the bagel shop next door. At the register there, Anna attempted to pay for her bagel (with butter on the side) and my coffee with her unloaded LOFT gift card. “You are so cute,” the young woman there told my 3-year-old.

Anna smiled. (For better or worse, this wasn’t the first time she’s heard this.) I handed over my actual credit card.

The two of us sat in a booth. Like many moms, I have a random assortment of necessities (wallet, lip balm) and oddities (the kids’ art projects, Dora the Explorer UNO cards) in my bag. I pulled out the UNO cards so that Anna and I could play a game while we waited.

After several games of UNO, Anna wondered, “Where’s my butter?”

It did seem as though the bagel shop was taking a while with our simple order. I asked someone if it might be ready soon. Whoops, they had misplaced the order, they said. A bagel with butter on the side? And a coffee?

I nodded patiently. Yes, that was all we needed.

“This is taking forever,” Anna noted.

At last, we had our order. I sipped some coffee. Anna leaned across the table. “Mom. I have to go to the potty.”

I looked at her. “Really?”

Anna nodded. “Really, Mom.”

“Can you wait a few minutes?”

“I need to tinkle right now, Mom!”

I set my coffee down and grabbed Anna’s hand. There was a couple nearby. “Excuse me,” I said, gesturing to our booth full of bags, jackets and UNO cards. “Could you keep an eye on our things while we…”

“Mom, I need to tinkle!”

The couple smiled in understanding. “No problem.”

Great. Anna and I hurried to the restroom.

I helped Anna, and then told her I needed to use the restroom too. “Don’t touch the door,” I said.

“Because you don’t want people to see your underwear?”

“Basically, yes.”

Anna smiled. “Don’t worry, Mom. I won’t.”

I hoped I could trust her.

Everything takes longer than usual with kids in tow. Eventually, we returned to our booth. Anna ate most of her bagel. I finished all my coffee. We drove home.

All in all, a mostly successful clothes shopping adventure with my daughter.

When my older daughter, however, found out that her little sister now had her own “credit card,” she wondered why I hadn’t thought to get her something too. “Geez, Mom,” Grace grumbled.

“I’m sure Anna will share with you,” I said.

Anna shook her head. “No, I won’t.”

I frowned at Anna. Grace frowned at me.

Anna smiled at both of us.

You can’t win them all, friends.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.