Thursday, February 27, 2014

Love grows best in houses just like this

This morning I was washing a dish and Grant needed to throw something in the garbage can, which was in the cabinet just in front of me.  So I turned off the water and held the soapy dish in mid air above the sink, while he
                    threw       away    
                                                  the   paper

It felt like forever.

That's when Audrey pushed me gently from the side so she could get access to the microwave to heat up a breakfast sandwich.

And that was the moment when I realized that although we have 960 square feet in this house, my whole entire family was standing on 4 square feet of it. 

All of us. 

And then, the dog walked over just to see what was going on. 

For almost three years we've been living in a 2BR/1BA house.  You might think it's not such a big deal for three people to share one bathroom.  But there was this one Saturday evening when Grant flushed my hot rollers down our one single toilet.  Late on a Saturday night.  It's hard to get a plumber to come out on a Sunday. 

It's also hard to do without your one single toilet until you can get a plumber to come out on a Sunday.

Sometimes when I tell this story people ask me how Grant managed to flush my hot rollers down the toilet.  These people know my son, so I assume the question is a rhetorical one. 

A few times every day I think to myself that I need to get a bigger place when our lease runs out in July. 

And yet every year in May I look around at the real estate market to see what's available.

And then I look around our cozy little house.

And then I sign that lease again, one more time.  Swearing to myself that it's only for one more year.

There's a song by Garth Brooks called "Love Grows Best in Small Houses".  And thanks to this house, I know he's right.

But you know, love grows best in little houses,
With fewer walls to separate,
Where you eat and sleep so close together.
You can't help but communicate,
Oh, and if we had more room between us, think of all we'd miss.
Love grows best, in houses just like this.

The Club None of Us Wanted to Join

“When you get divorced you become a spokesperson for the club none of us wanted to join.”

That’s what one of my friends told me when I got divorced.  He predicted that people would start coming to me talking about what it’s like to be divorced, asking questions about the process, asking for recommendations for divorce lawyers, asking if it’s worth it to put your children and your family through all of that. 

And I thought to myself that the club would be better off electing me the club treasurer than the club spokesperson.
Because I have no clue what to say, club.  Really, no clue. 

Can I tell you something?  And let's pretend it's relevant, but really I just want to tell you.  My sister?  She goes straight to the source.  No spokesperson required. 

Let's see, back to our topic.  Over time I found there was truth to my friend’s assertion.  Some people did come to me with questions like that. 
But if you keep your radio tuned to only one frequency you’re only going to pick up one channel. 
I turned the dial around and I realized that people were not only opening up to me about marital issues, they were coming to me about all kinds of things. 
Caring for their parents, grieving their dog’s death, trying to conceive a baby, worrying about their kids’ college fund, stressing over their children’s grades, waiting for the results of a biopsy, staying overnight in the hospital with a loved one, burying a brother…

I’m not sure what triggered this exactly.  It might have been my divorce.  It might have been the fact that I was tuning my dial into them and listening.  Maybe people can tell that because I’ve been through the fire of a divorce I won’t judge them for whatever they’re going through.  Maybe they sense that a chord in me will sound along with theirs. 

Whatever the reason, I found that my friend was right, I did become a spokesperson.  But it was for a different club, one I’ve always wanted to join. 

It is the Club of Being Real With Each Other. 

I’m Melanie Gao, and I’m here to take your questions. 


More Stories About Nothing

This is another story about my obsession with the song Everlong by Foo Fighters.  I listen to it almost every morning as part of my morning quiet time and as a result, it's become the theme song for my life. 

I've waited here for you

This is a story about a grey sweater.  I flew to Silicon Valley to do some training last week and I stayed with my BFF and when I arrived we started talking about the outfits I was planning to wear during training and I told her I couldn’t wear my grey sweater tomorrow because it smelled a little too much like planes and rental cars and me, so Pat put my sweater in the washer. 
The next morning I found a grey sweater in her closet and I borrowed it since mine wasn’t dry yet. 

I left the house before she got up but when I returned in the evening she was just coming home too and she hugged me in the driveway, then she backed away and said, “Is that my grey sweater?”  I looked down and remembered that yes, yes it was and she hugged me again and said, “I love that you would borrow my sweater without asking!” 

And I found myself surrounded by not one but two layers of warmth and softness.
I throw myself into
And out of the red
Out of her head she sang

This is a story about liquid oxygen.  The kids and I flew to Beijing for Chinese New Year and Grant was feeling congested in the plane so we bought a couple of holistic remedies from the duty free magazine. 
One was a small bottle of oxygen drops that you can put in your water and the bottle claims that it hydrates and helps prevent jet lag.  Grant and I were in.  As we opened the bottle, Audrey looked at me with great skepticism and asked what the ingredients were.  I read the bottle, “Water, hydrogen peroxide, sodium chloride...“  She nodded.  “Yeah, and what’s missing there?” 

I looked at Grant and he said, “Oxygen is everywhere, they probably don’t need to add it.”  I nodded. 

And I pointed out that the bottle was a nice blue glass bottle and Grant noted that the needle dropper was also made out of glass and we concluded that that was a hallmark of quality pharmaceuticals.

And we dropped 10 drops each into our water bottles.

And I felt myself snuggled between my outspoken and critical-thinking daughter and my faith-filled and adventurous son.   
Breathe out
So I can breathe you in
Hold you in

This is a story about a cup of coffee that I never got.  There is a special man in my life now and if someone has a better word than “boyfriend” would you please give it to me because I’m no longer twelve and need a better word than “boyfriend” and I don’t like “partner”. 

And he lives far away so we have to make great efforts to see each other in person and recently he re-routed some of his business travel so he could be in Nashville when the kids and I returned - fully oxygenated, mind you - from China so that he could give us a hug and a tray full of Starbucks before he made his way east and home. 

But we got way-laid on the way from China and I will spare you my sob story of why but the net effect was that we were not in Nashville to receive the coffee or the hugs and my guy (we’ll settle for that for now) made his way east before we got to see him.  And I was terribly disappointed and so was he but as we texted later that night we came to an important realization together, which is that we are not in control of how things work out and God always has plans that are bigger and better than the ones we make and if we keep filling our lives with our own plans we don’t leave any space for God to do his work. 

And so we prayed together over FaceTime and thanked God for the space he had just created in our lives, and we asked him to do His work there. 

And although he and I were separated by a thousand miles of customs and immigrations and security and roller boards and gate agents and pretzels and diet Sprites and and baggage carousels, I have never felt so close to my guy. 
And I wonder
When I sing along with you
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
These were stories about nothing and everything.  And you read them, which means you are a part of my everything.  Thank you for being here with me.   
The only thing I'll ever ask of you
You gotta promise not to stop when I say when I say when