Relationships


1) My bookgroup: for being a great bunch of women, a spot of sanity and fun once a month.  We may not take ourselves very seriously, but we’ve become a great circle of friends over the last four years (woot!)  Interesting side note: we tend to talk more about books that we disliked, then books that we like.

 

2) My husband’s steak sauce.  Yum.  One of my friends thinks mr. jolt should start marketing it and make tons o’ money.  I say, let him finish his PhD first, please.  One extra project at a time.  But it truly is divine.  Guests have been known to do all but pick up the plate and lick it.  When we have no guests, I show no such inhibitions, and if no bread is available to mop up the last drops, I use my finger, because it’s THAT GOOD.

 

3) Science experiment books!  BB participated in his school science fair for the first time and because of mr. jolt being away so much we were a little slow to get moving.  But, the library came to the rescue with Last Minute Science Fair Projects, the perfect book for disorganized families everywhere.  We did the pollution catcher experiment, but did it inside the house.  The room with the most particulate in the air was the laundry room – lots of lint.  It beat out the garage and the closet where we keep the kitty litter box.  Let me tell you that book saved our butts.  I have been informed by BB, however, that we used the wrong kind of board to display our experiment methods and results, which I could see when I did a quick walk through of the displays yesterday when I picked up the boys.  Our boards were too flimsy and did not have the apparently ‘standard’ three panel look (we had two panels).  Oh well, now we know for next year.

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My post almost two years ago about finding friends after 30 still gets hits. It’s not got the highest total (I’ve a few that have spikes thanks to links from others), but every few weeks, I’ll get someone who stumbled across it, almost always after a google search.  Apparently, I’m not alone in my angst about the difficulty of finding close friends after the school years and heady 20s end.

 Following up on an exchange from the comments to that original post (yeah, two years later, who said I was an efficient blogger), one thing that I’ve noticed as I’ve settled into my new community (five years in May –eek!) is that the age range of my friends has broadened significantly.

 

I remember as a kid being totally mystified that my mom’s closest local friends (we moved to northern CA when I was ten) were 10, 20, and 30 years older than her.  When you’re a kid, virtually all of your friends are your age or pretty close to it.  You might occasionally do stuff with the kid 3 years older who lives down the street because everyone else is vacationing or something, but for the most part you hang out with kids in your grade or one-up/one-down.

 

Even as a younger adult, in my twenties, the overwhelming majority of my friends were within a few years of me.  But now, the age range goes from 20 (former sitter who is now married with her own baby) to almost 60 (a woman who used to be in my bookgroup). 

 

Part of that is the fact that finding kindred spirits in a smaller community requires some branching out.  In the city, you could find dozens and dozens of people exactly your age who you clicked with for one reason or another, and they would sporadically have parties where you would meet more people your age, etc., etc.

 

Nowadays, it seems we do smaller gatherings, dinner parties, bookgroups, etc, all of which are great, but decrease the number of people you meet.   As a result, you have to be more tenacious in getting to know people – you have to make plans to see them for lunch or dinner as opposed to knowing you’ll see them at the next regular bar gathering.

 

I think blogging also expands the range of people one becomes friends with – electronic friends, anyway.  You find people with similar interests and outlooks that you would never otherwise meet in a million years.  It’s nice.

 

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that now that we’ve been here almost five years, I do feel like I have a community: real and virtual.  So I wasn’t horribly disappointed when a potential opportunity for mr. jolt didn’t go anywhere this past fall because I know how hard it is to start over in a new town, again.  But I’m sad that one of my new good friends is moving across the country next summer.  It’s fabulous for her and her spouse, they’ll be closer to family, but I will miss her and our grousing about the small city we were both transplanted to here.  They are the couple that we’ve gotten into the habit of calling on Friday or Saturday and saying, hey, come over!   That’s kinda hard when they’re 3000 miles away.

 

I started this blog a little over a year ago after deciding that the mystery novel I was writing was the worst piece of crap I had ever read (trust me, it was).  Blogging was a good way to try and get more comfortable of putting more of me into my writing, which I knew was holding me back in my attempts to write fiction.  I figured it would be a good way to keep the writing muscles moving until I could figure out what to do next. 

Then, mr. jolt decided to take a visiting professor position.  Part of the point of this, besides plumping up the resume, was to take advantage of synergies of location between his teaching locale and his learning locale (he is working on his PhD).  Unfortunately, due to the scheduling of the two places, these synergies have not fully materialized.

What has materialized is the fact that last semester he was gone two nights a week – one night over night, returning for dinner the next; another night getting home around ten.  This semester he gets home around 10 one night a week; stays over another night; and the third gets home, depending on traffic, between 7:30-8.  Which means, in effect that I am it 3 nights a week.  Which in and of itself is not dire, now that the boys are older it is easier to play zone-parenting with them.  But it does mean that I have lost my writing night, my one night a week where I got a nice big chunk of time to work on my novel, then my blog, or whatever. 

One four hour chunk of time may not seem like much, I still find time to squeeze in the occasional post.  But I know the quality has gone down.  I haven’t been able to maintain some of the series I optimistically created early on.

And now, although he is returning to his normal academic environs for teaching, mr. jolt has decided to get a light teaching schedule and take 3 classes for his degree.*  Plus: he should be able to finish coursework by the end of next school year. Cons: yet another semester where is he is unavailable 3 nights a week and thus another 9 months before I get a consistent writing night.  I’ll get a few over the summer, but while I hope to squeeze out some short stories, I’m not sure I’ll have time for much more.

You read about these authors, usually women, who worked full-time or raised multiple kids and spent their time writing every day  between 12-2am or 4-6 am.  I don’t know how they did it.  Is my inability to commit to that a sign of lack of commitment to writing?

*To be fair, he discussed it with me and I agreed to it (but that doesn’t revoke my right to complain anyway!).  In many ways it makes sense to do this push.  I worry, however, that he is pushing his goodwill with his school too far and that as soon as his coursework eases up, he’ll be tasked to take on a heavier teaching load or night classes, which will just continue the current cycle.

When mr. jolt & I first moved here, it was a major culture shock.  No decent ethnic food to speak of; the only food delivered is pizza; the shopping (of the non-crappy variety) virtually non-existent.  We spent a lot of time driving up for weekends to stay with our friends (many of whom who had also moved out of the city, but to the suburbs and further out burbs, that can still reach the city by commuter rail– we’re 3-4 hours away).

Then we got to know people here & started to have them over for dinner, etc.  I discovered zappos (the rest of shopping still sucks).  Some new restaurants opened up.  I began to recover my self-esteem after several years of battering in a degenerating and dysfunctional work environment (it’s amazing what you realize when you aren’t IN something on a day to day basis).

Anyway, at our dinner to celebrate our dating anniversary of 19 years (OMG!) a few weeks ago, we were talking about various potential job opportunities for mr. jolt.*  One of them involved a job back in the city.  There is no way we could afford to move back to the city itself (real estate has not dropped much & increased mightily before the subprime mess) but we could move to a distant suburb and mr. jolt could ride the train in a few days a week for class, etc.

Just the idea of it made me vaguely ill.  The absolute best thing about leaving the city has been regaining my sanity and sense of perspective.  It wasn’t just the job rat race, it was the child-school rat race, the how big is your apartment rat race, the fabulous show rat race, and everything else.  The very culture was corrosive — extreme wealth; extreme poverty; a lot of people in the middle always feeling they were scraping by whether they were or not (we were not but sure as hell felt like we were whether we were in publishing and eating beans the last week of every month, in law school living off loans, or up and coming associates in private practice earning some serious $) because you were always looking at the next person on the ladder.  Ugh.

Anyway, over cocktails we both agreed that we had absolutely no interest in getting sucked back into that destructive whirlpool.  It doesn’t mean we will never live in the city.  I could see doing it on a short term (a few semesters’ visit) basis where you just have a blast doing all the cultural stuff as a sort of extended vacation, but I can’t see myself ever living there, or in its orbit, again.

And that feels really, really good.

*The reason the focus of the conversation was on his job prospects not mine is because I still haven’t figured out what I want to do – more on that topic later.

I moved frequently as a young child.  Until I was 10, I never lived anywhere more than about 18 months; one place as little as two weeks (where I was born), totaling seven states (multiple cities in several) and one other country.   Then, we settled and stayed in the same town until I graduated from highschool.  I went to college about as far away as I could from my hometown.  After college graduation, I moved to the big city, where mr. jolt had moved a year earlier. 

I remember vividly my first days in the city.  I was one of the fortunate few of my graduating class that had a job (it was the early 90s), but I had a few weeks before it started.  The city was completely overwhelming to me, having spent all my formative years in small towns, outer suburbs, or or rural areas.  And it took forever to feel connected, to feel like I had any stake in the city and what happened to it.  Twelve years later, when I felt like I owned the city, when I knew my immediate neighborhood inside out, we moved several hours away.

Once again, it took a lot of time to feel connected.  I now feel like I have a decent circle of friends – people I do girl’s night out with, couples we have over for dinner, families we do playdates with.  But I still find it hard to become invested in the local community, other than the school that the boys go to.

A large part of this is that I have no idea how long we’ll be here.  As an academic,  mr. jolt would like to be at a larger university, to be part of a larger academic community.  While this is a great area to raise kids in, and we wouldn’t be unhappy if we were here until the kids went to college, we would be putting some career aspirations aside to do so (my ‘dream job’ isn’t available here).

It makes it hard on a lot of little levels – do I paint the house to cover the thousands of scrapes, dents, etc. made by the boys?  Or do I wait until just before we put the house on the market?  Do I bother replacing the hideous drapes left in the front of the house by the previous owners, or not bother?  Do I gun it at work with the idea of leaping up the ladder in some of our sister organizations? (there’s nowhere to go where I am unless somebody moves or dies)  Or do I work hard enough to do well, do a B+ effort because I won’t be here long enough to move up?  Should we move into a better school district, or do we not bother because we may not be here in a year or two?

All of this combines to form a sense of rootlessness, of disconnectedness.   I don’t deal well with uncertainty, generally speaking.  And yet, I’ve become used to a sense of underlying uncertainty that infects all my decisions.  There is no predictability in the lateral academic market — you never know when an opportunity at a school one is interested in will open up.  And even if you hear of an opportunity, it may be a place that one has absolutely no intention of moving to (this has happened once or twice to mr. jolt already).

Anyway, I have been constantly gnawing at this issue, like a baby on a teething ring, and I still haven’t figured out any solutions.  Every few months, mr. jolt will hear of a rumor here, rumor there of possible opportunities and we evaluate – do we have any interest in moving wherever it is?  Should he pursue it?  So far, none of the opportunities has been worth chasing.  None of the locales would make it worth uprooting.  In part, we both would like the next move to be IT, at least until the boys go to college, but more and more, I think that is an unrealistic expectation.  Recently, mr. jolt heard of a possibility that is not, on its face, out of the question.  We’re having dinner together Saturday night to belatedly celebrate our dating anniversary and the question of whether to explore the option will be heavily discussed.

Well, I tried to comment in response to this post by Lauren at offsprung, but it won’t take the password I thought I had, and keeps erroring me out.  So here it is:

When my mom remarried when I was a kid, she didn’t want to take my stepdad’s name b/c it would have given her the same name as a major criminal in the news at the time.  She didn’t want to keep my dad’s name, either.  So she went with her maiden name and we had three names on our mailbox – it sounded like a law firm – any surprise I ended up a lawyer?   Anyway, as a result, I never considered taking mr. jolt’s name, although I did suggest some version of our names smooshed together (he wouldn’t do it) so we each have our names & the kids are hyphenated. 

Our theory: by the time they might be settling down with someone who might also be  hyphenated they’ll hopefully have some solution to this whole conundrum.

As an only child, I have always been dependent on friends to create my extended family.  I don’t even have that many cousins as my mom (one of three) is the only one who had a kid.  My dad’s side of the family has cousins and though I was close with one growing up, we have drifted apart without the impetus of being dropped off at my paternal grandparents’ house to bond together.  Other than my grandfather’s funeral, I don’t think I’ve seen her since I was 16 (we both invited each other to our weddings, but couldn’t make it).

Anyway, I was checking my comments and the one post that will periodically, at least once a month, get a new comment is the one about finding friends after 30.  mr. jolt and I moved to a completely new world three years ago and it’s only in the past year that initial inklings of possible kindred spirits have come to light.

It’s hard in so many ways.  Many of my close friends from the big city are busy, as am I, with work, with family, with life, that we don’t take the time to reach out as often as we should.  And it saddens me.  I really need to get in the habit of setting aside time to call my closest buddies on a regular basis to see what’s going on with their lives.  Email just doesn’t cut it (at least not all the time – jokes are not the same in eland).  Fortunately, I do have a few friends that even if it’s been a year, we can be right where we were.

But.  There is no one currently who I feel like I could just out of the blue call and kvetch (although I’m working on that- learning to just call and kvetch anyway- what’s the worst they can do – say they’re too busy to talk?) since my best friend M died.

I have started and stopped dozens of posts about M.  Drafted for her birthday.  Drafted on the anniversary of her death. And sometimes it hurts.  It hurts the same way it hurt when I got the call from M’s sister that M had been in a car wreck, and they were worried about the oxygen to her brain before the EMTs got there.  It hurts the way it did when I called mr. jolt and he cried out when he heard me say the terrible news.   It hurts the way it did when the doctors said there was nothing they could do. 

The night before she died I was dealing with a client who had surrendered to the police, with my assistance, on fraud charges.  I spent the evening at the office, dutifully calling the client’s elderly father every 1/2 hour to reassure him that I had checked, and no, his son had not yet been processed, but as soon as I heard he had, I would go down to the courthouse and get him out. Which I eventually did.  I got home around midnight.

So I didn’t get her last phone call.  The one where she might have told me that she had finally fallen in love (he was a great guy – probably still is – I’ve heard he finally met someone a year or two ago) as her mother thought she had and I was hoping she had.  I didn’t get her last phone call where she would have told me the latest about her new puppy she’d gotten a few months prior and the small condo she had scrimped and saved to buy that she’d moved into earlier that year. 

The law just hasn’t seemed worth it after that, you know?  Some asinine client, he and his father, both neurotic beyond words, and demanding assholes to boot, and I miss the last conversation I could have had with M?

It was two months shy of her 29th birthday when M pulled out to make a left turn in front of an oncoming truck that she either didn’t see or misjudged.  It feels like betrayal to say she was a terrible driver, but it’s true.  And it’s just so fucking unfair.  Sorry 28, doesn’t cut it.  50 doesn’t cut it (my stepdad 6 months later – 1999 REALLY sucked, okay?).  Peaceful after 85 is the only acceptable way as far as I’m concerned.

I miss M.  I miss her because we would speak, not every night, but several times a week about anything, nothing, and everything.  Because I like to think that even with life changes we would have continued to find time to talk. A lot.  God, I hope we would have. 

And here mr. jolt and I are now, M’s home state.  Less than 2 hours from where she had moved to when she moved back to be closer to her parents and where she grew up. And she’s not here to talk to.

History is part of what makes friends.  History and shared perspective.  I moved a lot when I was very little, so I don’t have those “known since the sandbox” friends.  I have a few close friends from highschool that I’m not in touch with as often as I should be; a couple of friends from college (M was one; mr. jolt another); a friend from law school; and mostly, friends from our early 20s in the big city.  I feel like I’m just getting to the point here in middle nowhere that I have friends I can call up & bitch to (although I haven’t done it yet – hate to disturb). 

I just don’t know, having lost my biggest kvetcher/kvetchee – do people once they have kids (if they have kids) still just call up to talk?

I miss you M.  I always will.

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