Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to lose two girls in one day

Published for KSL.com -- HERE's the link
Published for Cross Timber's Gazette -- HERE's the link

Note: After a brief struggle with my conscience, the names in this story have all been changed.

Todd knocked on our door and asked if I had a minute — which was a little weird since he had a crush on my roommate, not me. But I sat down anyway, giving him about half of my attention.

Todd started asking questions about me and my boyfriend Jim. We had dated freshman year and started up again three years later. Todd asked why. We had just returned from a weekend trip to visit my grandparents. Todd asked where and for how long. We studied together at the library. Todd asked which floor.

Jim had recently given me a peek at an engagement ring and asked if I liked the style (I hadn’t, but the prospect was thrilling). Todd asked what the ring looked like.

So annoying — I could see why my roommate wasn't very interested in Todd.

It got even worse when he started asking about Kelsey. Yes, I knew that she had been engaged to Jim at one point. Her mental stability was in question, so she, poor girl, had threatened to commit suicide when Jim broke it off. Understandably, he was still in periodic contact with her so that she never followed through with her threat.

I told Todd that Jim (short for James) had a big heart, which was one of the reasons I had fallen in love with him.

Todd leaned forward and took a deep breath, clearly uncomfortable. I clued in (finally) and gave him my full attention.

"Did you know that I work with Kelsey?"

I didn't.

Todd was a good listener. So, like me, Kelsey told him all about her love life. It seemed that she was practically engaged to this amazing guy named Jamie. He even had the ring she had picked out and was waiting for the perfect moment to officially propose.

Kelsey, Todd explained nervously, had been furious when Jamie had taken off with an old girlfriend to visit her grandparents. Kelsey had only been appeased after Jamie explained how his ex couldn't afford the gas money — poor girl — so he had generously offered to help drive and pay for the trip.

Kelsey told Todd that Jamie (short for James) had a big heart, which was one of the reasons she had fallen in love with him.

I stared at Todd, trying to register what he was telling me. When it eventually sank in, I felt physically ill.

Just before crawling into bed that night, I called Jim to say that I couldn't see him that weekend and hung up. I knew for a fact that if I had talked to him for even a few more minutes, he would have explained away everything I had just heard.

And I would have let myself believe him.

Falling out of love — no matter how much I wanted to — wasn’t easy.

Curling up into a ball and pulling the covers over my head, I prayed that morning would never come.

When it did, I forced myself through my daily routine of classes and work and discovered there are times when you have to remind yourself to breathe.

Investigation

I had some figuring out to do, so I reluctantly called Jim's best friend (whom I had known since freshman year). He assured me that Jim was head over heels in love with me and that Kelsey was not only a raving lunatic but a lying one as well.

With this fantastic news, I told myself I could now stop all this nonsense. Except that, deep down, I knew I needed to dig further.

My next call was to Jim's sister, who regaled me with stories about Jim lying since he was a kid. I listened to her in disbelief, thinking she must be joking.

She wasn't.

My third call scared me beyond words. I knew I had to contact Kelsey (even if she was nuts) for me to see things clearly. But seriously, how?

Serendipity, it turned out.

For the first time, on a campus with a student body of roughly 30,000, Kelsey and I crossed the same street, at the same time, going in opposite directions. I recognized this as the non-coincidental gift that it was and knew I had to take it.

But I was still terrified and waited until the last possible second to yell across the intersection, “Kelsey!”

She turned, looked at me and waited.

"We need to talk."

After a long pause, she agreed.

We set up a time and place.

Confirmation

Knocking on her door took more guts than I thought I had. During the silence that followed, Kelsey and I really saw each other for the first time.

And then we talked for hours.

Quite stellar at multitasking, James had been juggling two serious relationships along with a full load of classes and a job. After comparing our calendars, we estimated that he had been getting two or three hours of sleep at night. At most.

But he hadn’t figured my perfume into the equation. James would often kiss me goodbye on one floor of the library, walk downstairs, and kiss Kelsey hello. The scent of perfume, it turns out, doesn’t dissipate in a mere three flights of stairs. Kelsey recognized my perfume almost immediately; she had recently told James that his new cologne was a little feminine.

Our chat was no walk in the park. We cried. We screamed. We cried some more. But we also laughed. Ironically, we were each talking to the only other person on the planet who could understand — almost perfectly — what the other one was going through.

Regrettably for James, he had chosen the wrong two girls to mess with. We were strong, we had been wronged, and James — poor guy — was about to hear us roar, in a manner of speaking.

Confrontation

The knock at James' door came the next morning at 9 a.m. When his roommate — who had seen all of our comings and goings without ever saying a word — opened the door and saw both of us, his eyes visibly popped.

We asked to speak with James. The roommate obliged by walking down the hall (with a spring in his step, I might add) to James’ bedroom. We heard the conversation.

"James! Kelsey … and Susie … are here to see you."

Long pause.

"Both of them?"

"Yep."

The voices quieted. The roommate reappeared.

"He's still sleeping."

We raised our eyebrows.

"You'll wait?"

We nodded.

Delighted, he yelled down the hall, "They say they'll wait!"

We knew James would consider all possible escape routes. Having already considered said routes, we were aware of his dilemma. He had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and we all knew it.

Approximately two lifetimes later, James swaggered into the room wearing sweats and a desperate smirk.

"So … you found out."

Kelsey and I had made a pact that there would be no yelling or crying (on our parts, in any case). So we simply presented him with the huge pile of incriminating evidence and waited for a response.

James oozed with charisma — Kelsey and I had both fallen for it. And he was super awesome when it came to deceit. But sweet talk or lie his way out of this one? He didn’t even try. So in the end, when the charisma and lies were pulled out from under him, the only thing left was that smirk.

It was almost a pity, really. All that time and money spent — not to mention so much lost sleep — only to lose us both with one slam of the door.

That’s pretty much the end of the story — if you don’t count the few months of crying and not eating much and cutting my long hair that James had liked so much.

Lessons Learned

When I tell this story to my daughters, I observe their reactions. And in the event that they’ve been too caught up in all its high drama to recognize the lessons contained therein — which is often the case — I try to spell them out.

First off, best friends aren’t always your most reliable source of information about a guy.

Secondly, charisma and sweet talk are terribly overrated.

Finally and most importantly, figure out who the guy really is. If honesty isn’t one of his core character traits, slam the door and move on.

It’ll be worth the temporary heartbreak.

I promise.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tales from a tech zombie-free family road trip

Published for Cross Timbers Gazette -- HERE's the link
Published for KSL.com -- HERE's the link
Published for Deseret News -- HERE's the link


Over Christmas break, I tried something new. Maybe even a little crazy.

Some experiences I’ve had in the past months got me thinking, ultimately driving me to experiment and make some new resolutions.

This is how the process went:

First, my experiences:

At the beginning of a soccer game, I watched the parents of my daughter’s teammate settle into their camping chairs and pull out their phones. They never looked at the field again until the game was over. No cheering, no yelling at the refs — nothing. I wondered if they were aware that their daughter’s team had won.

Another time, my husband and I sat next to a father and his two tween-aged sons at a restaurant. The boys were engrossed in gaming devices the entire time we were there. The dad greeted a few acquaintances at the restaurant, but I never saw him speaking with his sons. I’m not sure when or if they ever put down their devices long enough to eat.

A teacher at my kids’ elementary school told me that an increasing number of parents are asking that their young children be evaluated, citing socialization concerns. “The root of most of their issues,” this teacher explained, “is that these kids don’t know how to interact. We send them on the playground to play, but many simply don’t know how. Too many parents put them in front of screens at home and in cars, and even when they do have play dates, they often sit next to their friends in front of screens.”

Second, my thinking:

I considered what my kids do with their time. Although I’m pretty strict on screen-time limits, they have considerably more — both time and devices — than I ever did as a kid. Home is where we learn and practice skills like conflict resolution, negotiation and communication. These aptitudes won’t magically appear once my kids enter the workforce, a marriage or parenthood.

And the more often my kids are in tech zombie mode, the fewer chances they have to make those human connections.

I also had to take a hard look at myself and consider what I do with my own time. What type of memories do I want my kids to have of their childhood? Of their mom?

To which do I give the most and the very best of my time — my kids or my devices? Regrettably, this wasn’t easy to answer.

Third, my experiment:

For various reasons (sanity, for one), I usually ease up on screen-time limits for road trips. But this time, I took the opposite approach and declared our holiday road trip “tech zombie free,” banning all electronic devices. This included cell phones, although I did allow one for navigational purposes only (out of respect for the fact that GPS devices have saved my marriage on more than one occasion).

The ban met with heavy resistance. My tales of surviving dozens of technology-free road trips as a kid — and still turning out to be pretty darn awesome — were met with excessive eye rolls. Even my husband’s eyes opened wide in alarm, but in the interest of solidarity (and preferring our bed to the couch), he bravely supported me.

Our trip didn’t extend beyond state boundaries, as I wasn’t sure my resolve would have either. But it was a road trip nonetheless, and we drove the six hours (each way) without gaming devices, movies, phones or even iPods.

We did, however, have pillows, games, books, food and — most significantly — each other. When a comment was made, everyone heard it. When a disagreement started, we each took a side. When someone whined, it affected all of us — which meant we dealt with it together.

Was it a perfect trip? No. Was there more conflict than there would have been without the ban? Probably (“Don’t bite your brother’s shirt!” was a new one for me). But our interactions were also more meaningful and frequent — including and especially the positive ones.

On the way home, we played license plate alphabet bingo; this cannot be done while wearing earphones.

Despite their grim predictions to the contrary, every single one of my kids survived. And even came home smiling.

Finally, my resolutions:

• Help my kids grow and develop by carefully determining screen-time rules and limits while offering them plenty of other great activities and opportunities.

• Give my kids the very most and the very best of my time.

• In the end, realize it’s my kids — not my devices — who will be around for a limited time only.