Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sweet Relish

For the past year and a half, I've been doing all the cooking at home.  All the shopping too.  Which has not been a problem.

(That my children are relieved to have me doing most of their cooking now is a sweet secret I smugly savor, like having a chunk of the best chocolate to enjoy in private.)

The only problem I've run into is this: we've had this no-sugar-added pickle relish as a staple in our home for years.  I would say, ever since we gave up sugar as a regular part of our diets almost thirteen years ago.  We went to Disneyland that summer, and the lower-than-in-the-house mirrors in the hotel revealed to me what I didn't want to know. So, we decided to try the Sugarbusters diet my sister-in-law had been having great results with.

As part of our sugar purification, my husband had found a pickle relish that was made with Splenda instead of sugar.  We've been using it ever since.  It's gone on hot dogs and hamburgers, into tartar sauce and tuna and egg salads.  We've just always had it around.  I took it for granted that I could keep getting it.

So, as the last jar has run out, I have searched for no-sugar-added pickle relish at the grocery store. No luck at Fresh Market or Costco.  I went out of my way to visit all the grocery stores I know he used to shop at.  He could make a whole weekend out of shopping at five or six stores, but I was pretty sure I knew the names of them.  Albertson's. Dan's.  Smith's.  Sprouts.  Looking for that relish, though, I bombed out at every one of them.

I NEED this relish.  Honestly, avoiding sugar is no small feat.  It's hard enough to avoid desserts.  I don't want it in my regular food.  If I'm going to eat sugar, give me a chocolate donut.  Don't hide it in there with my fish.

I took a good look at the nearly empty jar for the brand name.  Mt. Olive.  I went back to all the stores, inquiring about Mt. Olive brand. My regular grocery store has a whole wall of pickle relish.  Not a Mt. Olive in sight.  Not any other type of no-sugar-added relish, either. After I spent the better part of an afternoon reading each and every pickle label, the manager took down the information and said he would get it stocked.  The other stores said, basically, "Nope."

So after waiting a polite amount of time, I went back to my regular store and still didn't find it.  I talked to a different manager--the one who does the ordering.  He pulled out his flip phone, saying, "Don't judge," and called the person he orders from.  "It's not on the list," he said.  That was his whole answer.

I guess it can't be put on the list.  But, honestly, if they would put it on the list, I would come back to that store, faithful as an old dog, every time my relish got low, and buy some more.  For the rest of my life, which should be decades.  He and his flip phone were long gone, though, before I could get all of that out.

I looked up the brand name online.  Couldn't find out where it's sold locally.  Took the lid off the last, empty jar standing forlornly on my counter until I could figure this out. Took it to work with me. Called the 800 number in North Carolina.  Was told that she can't see where their products are sold in my state.

"But I know it's sold here.  We've always had it."

So she told me that Target and Walmart are two large chains that "don't participate" in their "store locator."

Bingo!  I thought.  Unless my ex was hiding more about his true thoughts than I've discovered he was, I know he wasn't shopping at Walmart.  No need to look there.  But Target--that sounded like a ray of hope.

I shop at Target but don't think of it as a grocery store, even though I know they have groceries.  I determined that I would stop in as soon as I could swing it, and finally claim my very own jar of Mt. Olive Sweet Pickle Relish.  Before I heated up any more fish sticks.

I know what you're thinking.  Why didn't I just ask him where he's been getting it?

Well, it's complicated.  I tried to keep things friendly.  I really did.  I even let him come into my home on a nightly basis to say goodnight to the children.  For half a year.  But he's made it clear, in more ways than the number of years of my life that I gave him, that he is no friend of mine.

I'm not going to ask him.

Most of the time, he pretends I don't exist.  If I texted him, "Hey, where did you used to get the relish from?" I would get this response:

It's the same response I get when I try to talk to him about the kids. I'm not going to assume that he would consider my ability to procure relish to be more important than they are.

Saturday was my next opportunity to get myself to a store that was not already on my way home from work.  My teenaged son came along with me.  He wanted new ear buds.  (When does a teenager NOT need new ear buds?)  He was sympathetic as I told him all about my relish woes. After some time walking around in the grocery section, looking carefully among places where other condiments were stocked, we finally found the relish inch.  Looking at the one or two options, I remembered.  I had looked at Target before.

So I said all the same things about it to my son again.  I know it can be found locally because we've always had it.  I've tried all the stores I can imagine.  But I supposed I would have to order a case from North Carolina and pay the shipping charges.

I didn't have all these genius kids for nothing.  He asked simply, "But which Smith's have you been to?  Just Smith's or Smith's Marketplace?"  I had assumed they were one and the same.  I had.

So on our way home from Target, we stopped in at a Smith's that I've only frequented when I've forgotten to pack pantyhose before my pre-work workout.  We parked, walked in, located the condiment aisle, and found ourselves face to face with a WHOLE WALL of Mt. Olive products!  I almost wet myself.

Drenched in the sudden luxury of endless Mt. Olive products, I feasted my eyes along the rows until I found pickle relish.  I picked up a jar.  Then another.  No sense being skimpy about it after all that. Laughing with my son about our good, though long-delayed fortune, and how fun it would be to blog about this adventure, I paid for the relish and we left the store.

I stopped dead in the parking lot.

"Wait," I said.  "I don't think I checked for no sugar."  I drew out one of the jars and examined its label.  "Mt. Olive," it said, and "Sweet Relish."  It did not say "Splenda" nor "no sugar added" anywhere. Anywhere!  And, yes.  In the ingredient list, I did find enough dreaded words to make me hastily avert my eyes.

Moaning, we headed back into the store. Right back to that Mt. Olive aisle.  I scanned the shelves. You're not going to believe this, but I could not find "no sugar added" on any of the Mt. Olive pickle relish labels.

I did find some no-sugar-added house brand relish, and I picked up a jar of that.  My son asked, "Are you going to get two?"  So I got two.  But it wasn't exactly the right stuff.

I mean, it was sugarless pickle relish, thank goodness for that, but it looked different.  I exchanged the sugary Mt. Olive relish for it, and I took it home.  I'll use it in tartar sauce next time I feel like having fish.  Not saying when that will be.

But it all makes a good story.  And maybe I can get a kickback for the free advertising?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Being Okay

So, here I am, on a lonely Sunday.  I went to church and came home.  I'm chilling out until the time when my kids will come home.  I tried to take a nap.  It didn't work.

I feel restless.  There are things tugging at the corners of my mind.  Vague shadows, like monsters in the closet or under the bed.  There are things bothering me that will never go away.  There is work to do that I don't feel up to doing.  I'm stuck in a kind of neverland between the busy I was yesterday doing everyone's laundry, et cetera, and the busy I'll be as soon as everyone is home.

It's silent.  No one is expecting anything of me at the moment.  These are the moments I yearn for when everything is noisy and I have five or ten demands on me.  But this doesn't feel like a moment I yearned for.

I should be enjoying it.  I should be able to sleep.  Or maybe I should stop trying to sleep and get my outfits for the week set up.  Maybe I should cook dinners for the upcoming week, do something to make the time ahead of me easier.

Will the time ahead of me ever be easier?

I feel like I've lost myself.  I am always older than I've ever been.  Will I ever be the same again?

I keep going to the gym and cutting what I eat, but I keep gaining weight.  I want to write, but I'm allergic to the imaginary voices finding fault with whatever I might have to say now that my life is upside down.  I keep cooking meals, cleaning the house, tending to the household, but it seems to keep falling into disarray anyway.  I keep taking care of and protecting my children, but they seem to keep spinning farther away from me.  It's their job to do that, I know that.  But who am I now?

I keep going to church, paying tithing, praying.  I keep fasting when it's fast day, and even sometimes when it is not.  I read my scriptures most days.  I still believe.

I think I still believe, but where are the blessings I need?  Where is the promised land I've been trudging toward for at least forty years?  Are my prayers actually piercing the ceiling, or are they just bouncing off like soft billiard balls, making endless arcs and curves throughout my empty bedroom?  I know I'm loved, but where are my friends on a quiet day like this?

The invisible arcs of the billiard balls curve through my bedroom, hitting the closet door, the wall, the floor, the light switch, the ceiling, the blinds, the bed, my chest.  All the thoughts and questions and images and restless feelings just keep bouncing all around me like waves.

I try to catch one and pin it down.  What on earth is really the matter?  What can I pin down?

Yes, my life is different; I wanted that.

What is wrong?

Are the people I love still out there in the quiet somewhere?  Has God forgotten me?

I sit still on the bed for a while, just waiting for the arcs and curves of the balls to form some kind of pattern, to settle somewhere, for heaven's sake.  To spell something out.

I finally get a coherent thought.  It is this: Will I ever be okay again?

I stand up and look for something to eat.  I close the fridge.  I already ate and don't need anything.  I pick up my pile of laundry and smooth the bed covers.  If I do something, maybe I will feel better.

Will I ever be okay again?  I want to text my best friend and ask her.  But I hesitate.  What is she supposed to do with a pregnant message like that?

Will I ever be okay again?  I pick up a newspaper to move it off my bed.  My eye catches the headline to an article I had meant to read.  "Senior LDS missionary back. . .from Belgium."  I start to scan the article.  This is the man, older than I, who was blown up by a bomb but has lived to tell the tale.  And there, like a ball that finally found the pocket in the table, is my answer.  I read, "The first blast broke Norby's left fibula and left heel and sprayed him with shrapnel.  He also suffered second-degree burns to his face, ears, sides of his head, leg and the backs of his hands.  He later suffered an infection while hospitalized. . . ."  All of this happened almost four weeks ago.

I shake my head at my self-pitying self and get up to write.  There is nothing so wrong with me that I cannot proceed to be me.  Maybe writing will help someone else.  Or maybe it will help me.  I have to keep being me.  That is what being okay is. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Spanish Rice

Several coworkers commented on my lunch today.  I often get a "That smells good" or "Whatcha eating?"  But I had more comments than usual for this very ordinary lunch. It's a dish I grew up with.  My mother used to make it.  It smelled and looked good, and it generated interest.

"What's that?"

I stifled my impulse to say, "Well, I call it Spanish rice."  It was not easy to stifle that, which I'll explain in a minute.  I forced myself to just say, "Spanish rice."

But then I added, "My ex-husband would say that it isn't really Spanish rice."

"Why is that?"

Because I don't make it the way he makes it.  Because it's not "authentic" Spanish rice.  Because real Spanish rice would never have meat or something as Anglo as canned tomato juice in it.  Because, he regularly asserted that the things he did were superior to the things I did.

He is a good cook.  He is a better cook than I'll ever be.  I'll give him that, no problem.  I always have.  I don't know where my mother got the simple recipe she used for her Spanish rice.  I don't care.  That's not the point.  And maybe it's true that he had learned somehow how to make "authentic" Spanish rice from some region of the Hispanic world.  I'll give him that, too.  But it occurs to me that Spanish rice in Spain could be different from Spanish rice somewhere else.  Is there even only one authentic way to make it?

I'll even concede that there's no way my mom's Spanish rice could be "authentic."  Sure.  She grew up in a white family in an Anglo state during the Depression.  She raised her family in the fifties and sixties in an Anglo neighborhood.  And she used ground beef and tomato juice.

That's not the point, either.

I once had a little boy who dubbed his red plaid pajamas his "Spider-Man pajamas."  There wasn't anything remotely Spidey about them, other than the red.  But who was I to tell him they weren't Spider-Man pajamas?  To him, they were.

It's work being around someone whose truth always trumps your truth.

He could have opened his mind to the possibility of there being at least two kinds of Spanish rice that had value.  What he considered to be authentic had value to him; the comfort food from my childhood had value to me.  He could have allowed himself to see that those two options could have equal, if different, value.  It shouldn't have been a problem for me to make it that way.  Even to call it Spanish rice, like my mother did.

So there I was, fully separated from this person by law, a parade of negative experiences, and more than a dozen months, still struggling to not qualify the name of my Spanish rice in deference to his opinion.  Still feeling, even though I knew all along that his ways did not necessarily surpass my ways, like I had to say, "It's not real Spanish rice--that's just what I call it."


There could be fifty ways to make Spanish rice.  This is my way.  It's delicious.  It's comfort food.  My children love it, and one always asks for it for his birthday dinner.  My mother raised me on it and kindness.   It attracted the interest and compliments of a handful of people who work with me.  There is nothing wrong with it.  I'm eating it.  And it is Spanish rice.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Consecration at Christmas

Consecration at Christmas

Bring your words, your penciled sketch,
Your spot-on imitations.
Belt your high notes, sob your low tones.
Offer up your turtle doves,
Your baked goods and that dish you love.
Bring your fever and your aching bones,
Your excesses and hesitations.
Come, let's go now and see this.  Stretch
Out your hands, your arms, your feet,
Your clear emboldened voices.
Present Him with your graceful twirls,
Your triumphs and your tumblings,
Your bad hair day, your stumblings,
Your bruises and your golden curls,
Your brave acts and bad choices.
Hasten to Him in a heartbeat.

Swirl over Him purple and fine linens.
Lift your bow, spill notes into the air.
Bring the wrongs you want forgiven,
Your scarlet cheek, your trembling chin.
Lay down your purity and your burning sin.
Place them where a Son is given.
Bring your bed, your favorite chair,
Your Christmas doll with blue hair ribbons.
Bring your handshake, bring your smile,
Your raised eyebrow and tear-filled prayer,
Your broken heart, your dark thoughts.
Bring your eyes, bring your ears.
Bring your laughter and your tears,
Your spark of faith and thickened plots,
Your best red coat and stained underwear.
Throw them all into the pile.

Share your flying dreams and nightmares,
That time you couldn't sit, for joy,
That time you couldn't sing, for grief,
That time you hiked through boot-high snow,
The time you made love in the meadow,
That time you groaned for pain relief,
The first view of your newborn boy,
Your demons and your crippling cares.
Under the starlight rests a spectacle.
Bring your learning and your questions,
Bring your hunger, bring your thirst.
Play for Him your best drum solo.
Give Him your yacht. Give Him your yoyo,
Your saved-up seeds, your mound of earth,
Your sacrifices and obsessions.
He'll know the truth though men are skeptical.

Show up at the manger.
Press into His tiny hand
Your one pearl of great price.
Spread on Him your spicy ointment.
Bring your hopes and disappointment,
Your fancy cupcake, your grain of rice.
Show him your beloved, and
Bring a neighbor, bring a stranger.
Wear your finest gown.
Wear your holey jeans.
Bring your sleepless nights, your mornings.
Throw in your last little mite,
Your secret treat and appetite,
Your computer and your earnings,
Your new car and your magazines.
Lay all your treasures down.

Dance your dance, plie, kick high.
Toss in your wedding ring.
Unclench your pearls; let go!
Bring your children, bring your grandpa,
Your worst mistake and all your chutzpah,
Your needle and your hoe,
Your bird with broken wing,
Your full lamp and the one that's dry,
Your foul ball and your tall cold drink,
Your pie crust and your burnt toast,
Your home run and your brush-off.
Don't hide your broken frame,
Your favorite game, your foot that's lame,
Your sunburn or your cough.
Bring the thing you fear the most.
It's more important than you think.

Shower on Him dreams and discoveries.
Loose that bird flapping in your chest.
Give your finest gold and friendship yarn,
The part of the puzzle you've completed,
The times you found you were defeated,
The pants you know will not be worn,
Your unrequited love and emptied breasts,
The chips you earned in your recovery.
Share your ripe peach and scraps of fabric,
Your fine china and your daily mug,
The swan gliding on your placid lake.
Show the shining of your well-scrubbed floor,
The pastel laundry you folded into the drawer
Before your baby was awake,
Your masterpiece and braided rug.
Carry it all into the magic.

Bring feed for His lambs and for His sheep--
Milk, honey, and your stored-up wheat,
The brilliant flashings of your mind,
Your favorite ornament, though broken,
The needed words you left unspoken,
The thank-you notes you never signed.
Lay all burdens at His feet.
He'll smooth the bad; the good He'll keep.
Bring chocolate cake, your guacamole,
The letting go of someone's hand,
The bearing of a small, dark corpse,
Your hatred and your acts of mercy,
Your dog-bone in the controversy,
Your expulsion from the workforce,
The struggling, post-stroke, to stand.
He'll shape them into something holy.

Tell him of the thing you're craving,
Your discipline and your compulsion.
Bring your pet and your tormentor,
Your fire-scarred limbs and patchwork quilt,
The house you built, the milk you spilt.
Give it all to your Creator:
The light that draws you, your revulsions,
That ragged spot you missed while shaving,
The rhymes you've worked, what you think plausible,
Your confusion and your rages,
The dusty miles you had to walk.
Your finest gifts for consecration;
The ugliness for your redemption,
For: from this stinky hole in the rock
Springs the bejeweled shrine of ages,
Where miracles abound, and anything is possible.

Monday, November 30, 2015

I Can Too

Recently, I noticed an obituary in the newspaper for a former coworker of mine.  Dan was delightful to work with.  He seemed to always have a smile on his face.  He was agreeable and low maintenance.  He was smart--the director of his bureau, with, I would say, about thirty-five subordinates.  Although he had gray hair, he was still working.  Cheerfully.  I cannot remember a moment when he seemed down or said something contrary.

And he did all of this from a wheelchair.

It's been two decades since I left that job.  I'm glad to know that Dan was able to have a long life.

I've reflected a lot since then on what impact Dan made on my life.  For sure, it wasn't huge.  We had the same boss and attended the same meetings for over four years, but we weren't close friends.  We never confided in each other, nothing like that.

I am, however, impressed by people who do good in the world.  I'm even more impressed when they seem to do it easily, competently, and cheerfully.  And I'm most impressed when they have triumphed over great obstacles in order to do so.

Dan had had polio as a child.  He had been in a wheelchair for a long time before I met him. It doesn't seem to have held him back.

Now, sure, some people's disabilities do prevent them from doing the things they want to do--no question about that at all.  Whenever I see someone disabled seemingly just as able as others, though, I am really inspired to do more myself.  And complain less.

My friend's brother's blindness didn't seem to hold him back from anything he wanted to achieve.  There were two people in my master's degree program who were deaf, and another one who had been born without a right hand.  It was amazing to me that they were doing all the same things I was doing, and succeeding just as well at them.  Maybe it shouldn't have been.

I have another friend whose spouse is in a wheelchair.  It has been interesting to see what, for them, it is like to have to deal with that struggle.  According to them, it's not easy to get one of those motorized carts in the grocery store, because able people who are tired use them, too.  My friend often has to search high and low to locate one.  Pushing both a wheelchair and a shopping cart around a store is a challenge I would not relish.  And people don't often help.  They push past.  They hurry ahead to the checkout line, seemingly afraid to get stuck behind that train.

But, really, the people struggling with the extra machinery have lives, too.  They want to get out of the store just as fast as others do.  Don't they have just as much right to approach the line without people darting in front of them?

I have to admit that I have probably behaved like the darters.  It's so much easier to think about the differences among us than it is to think about the similarities.  Just today, I noticed there was a new woman at work who was wearing a strange kind of hat on her head.  Her face was beautiful.  I imagine she has beautiful blond hair under that hat.  But what if she doesn't?  Maybe she's been a cancer patient.  It's none of my business.

Even though I don't know her, I felt the urge to ask her why she was wearing a hat that covered all her hair.  I didn't, of course.  But I did stop to ask myself, what is that?  Why on earth, when I know it is rude to ask people personal questions, would I even want to?  I think about all the asinine comments and questions I endured during my pregnancies--and even some pregnancy-related questions I endured when I was NOT pregnant, ahem--and I cannot believe that I would be driven to ask someone, a stranger, even, why she is different from me.  (One neighbor's first utterance to me was to ask whether I wanted my baby.)

I decided that it must be this: we want those around us to be familiar, to be similar enough to us that we don't feel threatened or uncomfortable around them.  If we notice a difference, we want to know about that.  Why do you cover your head with a hat?  Why are your children a different race?  How do you feel about that baby you're carrying around inside of you?  We naturally want more information so that we can figure out how to deal with the unexpected difference.

But we have to stop ourselves.  We need to focus on what is the same.  This woman is now working in my building.  How is her job going to be similar to mine?  Will she be on my team?  How can I help her feel comfortable there?  These are the things we should focus on--the similarities.  In every place.

And how we can all contribute to the whole effort.  How we can honor and respect and admire each other's efforts and accomplishments.  How we are benefited by and can benefit each other.

We all have struggles, and what they are varies.  But this is what knowing each other does for us.  If Dan could live a full and successful life, if he could exude joy, I can, too.

Monday, August 24, 2015


So, another pair of gym shorts bit the dust. 
I'm not too sad, because I never really liked that pair.  They're orange, so, um, yeah.  Maybe they're a dark peach rather than orange, but still not a color I would choose to wear on my lower half under normal circumstances.  I think I got them off a clearance rack years ago for a great price.  A really great price.
One of the reasons I wore them, despite their color, was that they had pockets. 
I'm not sure what it is with women's clothes designers and pockets, or lack thereof, but, hello!  We all have phones to carry around now, in addition to everything else we've ever needed to carry around, so a pocket would be nice.  Who wants to carry a purse around at the gym?  Without a purse hanging off the shoulder, we already have enough things banging around threatening to knock us out as we do our high-intensity moves.
As this pair's back seam finally wore out--and, yeah, that's not a pretty look, I tossed them out on laundry day and set out to replace them.  I only have enough pairs of gym shorts (that fit) to get through a week, and, as this was one of only two pairs I own with pockets, I wanted to purchase a replacement pair with pockets.  Maybe not orange, though.
So, as I was driving past Target, anyway, I went in and started looking through 1432 pairs of  women's gym shorts with no pockets.
At first glance, I thought it was a garden gnome that had popped up next to the rack.  "Do you have a Smart Phone?" she asked. 
My mind raced.  I mean, I do, but why would she need to know that?  Did she need to borrow the phone?  Had it dropped out of my purse?  Then I noticed her red shirt and name tag.  She was an employee.
While she rattled on about some app I could get that would download tons of junk mail every Sunday and save me a lot of money, I continued flipping through pocketless shorts. 
"Do you have any with pockets?" I asked her when she paused for breath.  I hadn't asked for help, or bargains, but, if she was going to stand there trying to help me, I might as well clue her in on what I wanted.
"Try the men's," she said.
That didn't set well with me.  The orange shorts had certainly not been men's wear.  I wanted to find a pair of women's gym shorts with pockets.  So, I kept looking. 
Meanwhile, the Target gnome pulled my daughter aside to tell her, "This section is for people to shop in who are really active."  She buzzed back near me long enough to say, "I didn't realize you run." 
Huh?  I thought.  My daughter told me what she had said to her.  I stared at her in disbelief.  "She thinks I'm too fat to shop here?" 
My daughter looked miserable.  "I wasn't sure if I should tell you or not, but then she said that."  She added, "I said, 'She runs several miles a week.'"
Bless her heart.  That daughter is a keeper.  We headed off to the men's shorts.  Where I discovered that men have pockets--yes, every single one of the men's shorts had pockets--but men have no hips.  I tried some on and grumbled, "Maybe I am too fat to shop here."  But, then, I remembered the hips thing.  I was still okay!
"How does she think I'm going to get less fat if I can't buy gym shorts?" I asked.
The thing is, this woman was fatter than I am.  That reminds me.  When I was younger and people asked me on a regular basis if I was pregnant or when I was due, I noticed that the women who asked me always seemed to have larger tummies than I had.  If they were trying to make a comment about my weight, weren't they also commenting on their own weight?  Anyway, I never got that.
The last time someone decided I was too fat for my clothing was one Christmas Eve when my former mother-in-law handed me a nice, big Christmas bag with the words, "This one's yours."  I had felt the weight of something substantial in the bag and thanked her, then set it under the tree.
Later that afternoon, I saw the same bag sitting empty in a chair.  I asked my husband, "What happened to my Christmas present?"  Which prompted him to begin a speech that sounded nothing like anything he had ever said before in his life.
"Well, upon reflection, she realized it wasn't appropriate. . . ."
"She thinks I'm too fat for it?!" I had realized in horror. 
My husband had looked miserable.
"What was it?" I asked.
"A coat."
"Well, geez," I'd said.  "I just had a baby.  Can't I handle either losing the baby weight or taking the coat back myself?  Does she have to make that decision for me?"
That year, I didn't eat a bite of my Christmas candy until February, when an injury put me in the same room with it day and night for weeks.  (I'd hidden it in my clothes hamper.)
But nothing, not even a bargain basement gnome with no customer service skills, is going to keep me from wearing those men's gym shorts. Because, pockets.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Red Rover, Red Rover

On two occasions in the last year, I sat, surrounded by my children, through special church meetings that were focused on emphasizing the importance of the family.  I completely agree with the importance of family.  Anyone who knows me knows this.  Yet, these were not easy meetings to sit with my children through.  I did not disagree with the things being said: the importance of strengthening the family, the need to make the home a refuge from the world.  I understood that pursuing these goals was going to call me down a strange path.
Both times, as I sat there weighing the words against my plans to file for divorce, the children on either side of me--one time, my daughters, the other time, two of my sons, reached out to me.  They held my hands.  They put their heads on my shoulders.  They leaned on me.  Clearly, they love me and rely on me to make their world good and safe. 
Better and safer.
They did not know anything of my thoughts or plans, but, now that I'm writing this, it occurs to me that perhaps they felt a dissonance similar to mine.
In the moment when I had my arms crossed in front of me--one hand grasped by my teenaged son and the other hand being held by a younger boy, I was reminded of a recent work activity during the annual summer picnic.  We had played Red Rover.
Some of us remembered this game from our childhoods.  To those who had come to my city as refugees from various parts of the world, in particular, the game was completely new.  Everyone participated, though, picking up the simple rules.  Some perceived ways to gain an advantage and started strategizing.
What surprised me was how many times in that line of thirty or so people the runner chose me as the weakest link.  Over and over again, a seemingly nonrandom number of times, coworkers charged right for me, trying to break through the line by breaking my grasp on a coworker with their bodies. 
What surprised all of them was that no one--NO ONE--got through me. 
But so many of them tried that I had to analyze it.  Why me?
We don't always get a chance to see ourselves as others see us.  But trying to do so reminded me of some truths.  I am shorter than almost all of the other players.  I am older than many of them.  I am female. 
I realized with a start that, to them, I just looked like a little old lady! 
What they didn't calculate in their strategizing was that I go to the gym practically every day.  I weight lift.  I am no pushover.  I am determined to make the world work for me, and I can usually do it.
I win games.
With that many people hitting me, I was battered and bruised after the picnic.  I felt somewhat insulted.  But, at least, I had shown who I am.  No one had succeeded in breaking my grip.  No one had knocked me down.  No one had gotten past me.
And, knowing that was worth a bruise or two.