These stories are inspired by Felicia’s colorful 2017. If the reader prefers, the short stories/blogs or parts of it may be regarded as fiction. But as Ernest Hemingway said, there is always the chance that fiction may throw some light on what has been regarded as fact.
I am hoping you have read some of my past blogs already. Otherwise, you may be lost in this one. For a little background, I suggest to read blog entry, "The One When I Found Out"
The One With The Conferences
Since 2006, I have been going to conferences for my own professional development. Because my employers usually cover basic expenses, this helped my family vacation budget quite a bit.I used this as an opportunity to travel with my kids so they can see new places and make happy family memories. I was able to bring my children to Las Vegas, Orlando, Minneapolis, Columbus, Washington D.C., New York City and more. I had so many adventures with my Brian and Samantha, from being stranded in the airport, to getting lost in the streets of NYC, exploring the National Mall in D.C., enjoying the rides in the indoor park in the huge atrium of Mall of America, sitting in the very front row of a mind-blowing Criss Angel magic and illusion show, visiting every hotel lobby featured in the movie Ocean’s Eleven, feasting on a variety of options on many “eat-all-you-can buffet restaurants, to endlessly arguing which attraction/ride to go to first. Brian and Samantha have a 5-year age gap, and I couldn't just let my 10 year-old wander around as I accompanied my 5 year old to the kiddie rides.
John and I have been dating for 5 months already. He arrived at my house early evening on a Thursday with his luggage. He was going to join me on a trip to Las Vegas for one of my conferences. I remember this day very well, because this was the first time John spent the night in my house, though he stayed in my guest bedroom. Like I said in one of my very first blog entries, I have not introduced any man to my children, let alone have one spend the night in our home. Well, not only was there a new man in mommy’s life, she would also be bringing him to her annual conference. I felt a bit guilty breaking a family tradition, but I didn’t think my kids would mind. Also, they were the typical mildly obnoxious 13 and 18 year old rascals at that time. Besides, I already brought them to Las Vegas, and it’s about time mom had some fun. I knew they were happy for me.
Since 2013, John had been my companion when I travel for professional development. In 2014, we went to San Francisco. In 2015, he brought me to San Diego and in 2016, we went to San Antonio. (Spoiler Alert: Lili told me she knew about San Antonio because John sent him pictures, one was of him standing with The Alamo behind him. I took that picture). I thought John’s timing of coming into my life was perfect because Samantha and Brian are grown up and at an age where they were not too fond of hanging out too much with mom anymore. I never thought I would have so much fun traveling with an adult companion who took care of the luggage, the cab rides, or just finding our hotel rooms, stuff that I usually took care of myself as a single mother traveling with kids. There were so many trips that John and I took that I will probably write about, but those will be in another story.
Fast forward to February 2017...
I forwarded an email to John with the subject title of “Mark Your Calendar!” The email was about the proposal I submitted in late 2016. It was approved! I would be presenting at a national conference in May 2017 in Denver, Colorado. John was very happy for me. He asked me about the topic, the dates and the venue.
“You’re a big shot, honey” he said. We both understood that this would be another trip we were going to take together, and it was definitely something we needed after a 5-6 months “on-a-break” (sort of) and the fact that we just made up. At least that is what I and our children thought. Since the conference was in May, I even suggested we bring our kids, Brian, Nadine, David and Samantha with us. Naturally, that got him even more excited. I thought.
BETRAYED AND BROKEN...
It’s March 2017. I told John that my conference was confirmed and that I was ready to purchase our plane tickets. He said he will check his work schedule. Though, I have not seen John in more than a month, we were still constantly texting and Facetiming. My foolish trusting heart only assumed he was still stressfully dealing with work, busy with school, with his son, David and with the passing of his sister in 2015 - the 4 big things John was struggling with, or at least the ones he kept telling me were keeping him in a dark place. What kind of fiancée would I be if I did not understand all those? Those were the same reasons why I allowed myself to be kept at arm’s length. Besides, he told me many times, that things will change in a few months. All I can do was wait and hope.
Mid-April, I asked John again about our upcoming trip. This time he said he could not afford to go. So I told him that we don’t have to bring the kids. It would just be the two of us. Besides, we needed a break from work, from the all the stress. We needed our time together. Since he was concerned about expenses, I told him that we could just do the weekend, leave on a Friday since my presentation was scheduled on a Saturday. So he said yes, and that he would ask his boss for that one Friday off.
Another week had passed. I couldn't believe I had to ask again. His response was, his boss was out of town and that he would know when she gets back next week. Clearly, John was not as excited as I was about this trip, and yet, I still gave him the benefit of doubt by not assuming the worst. After all, he had not completely said no yet, and he kept me hopeful that we will definitely have our long overdue kid-free weekend together.
Around this time of last year (May 2017), I finally had the courage to ask John about his attitude towards this trip and how he had been pivoting each time I asked. I asked him to just be honest about it instead of keeping me waiting, which I said was very inconsiderate. His response was “My boss is back. I can’t go. You will have to go without me.” I kind of expected that I was going to get a response like that, but at least a bit more apologetic and considerate. Once again, I was very disappointed...and hurt. I gave him another silent treatment, which of course did not last. At one point, I even told him , I started looking for a job out of state. His response was, “Don’t rush. I told you my situation will change in 3-4 months.” Now, if only I had a dollar for every time I heard that...
I booked a hotel room and a flight to Denver. I stopped responding to John’s text messages and Facetime calls, but then 2 weeks later was...
You know...the one when Nadine posted on social media, “My dad’s new girlfriend is here. Get me outta here! I hate her already!”
You know... the one where I was still trying to process that information in my head, then my doorbell rang and a cleaning lady showed up at my door and said, “Happy Mother’s Day! Surprise, I’m your gift from John!”
You know... the one when the very emotionally traumatic experience of my life began.
I still had the intention of going to my conference, but I must admit, it was very hard focusing on finishing my slides for my presentation. It would be difficult to be on a plane by myself when I got so used to traveling with John. It would be sad to be in the elevator with no one to say “Jane? Jane? ” with.(This was a practice John and I, and sometimes our children used to do in reference to a an elevator scene in the movie, Mr. and Mrs. Smith).
It would be tough opening that door to the hotel room with no one to race with to call dibs on which side of the bed goes to whom. So as bad as it looked on me professionally, I had to cancel my presentation, citing “family emergency” as my reason. It turned out it was a good idea I did, because just 3 days before the conference, I received the news from my supervisor that I was one of the 7 people that was laid off. See blog entry “The One With The Umbrella: Part 1. This was it, the biggest trigger. A week earlier, I lost the man who I thought was the love of my life. A few days later, I gave up a once in a lifetime professional opportunity that would make my resume look so good. And now, I don’t have the job I had grown to love, with colleagues I looked at as family.
Fast Forward to October 2017, I resubmitted last year’s proposal to the same organization, and hoped that I would be given another chance. This time, it will be in Columbus, Ohio. I was still grieving the loss of someone I cared so much for, but I needed to do something for myself.
Many things happened since then including my November meeting with Lili. Lili, the woman who finally “saved” me from the masochistic idea that John will eventually come back to me.
On February 2018, I received a message with a @_.org email address. My proposal was approved...again! I was ecstatic, and so were the people who were rooting for me, the family and friends who saw me betrayed and broken so badly. This time, I will not let this opportunity slide by.
Fast forward to today, May 2018...
I am finishing up the semester with my last week of final exams. When I submit my grades, I can finally focus on my presentation. There is so much to look forward to in this upcoming conference.
- My now all grown-up children Brian and Samantha will be joining me. The family tradition is back!
- Samantha, who will be getting her driver’s license soon, will be alternating with Brian, driving on our 9-hour long road trip! No more driving for me!
- I will be in the back seat with our puppy, Horse, in our very comfy Millenium Falcon (Yes, we named our SUV)!
- Finally, it’s in Cleveland. Shae, my supposed maid of honor, my best friend of 33 years lives in Cleveland!
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xo, Sondra Barker