Pamela Llano Zesty Mom
Let’s just start with the fact that I have a long history of being a cynic, especially when it came to things like Love and Romance.
These were usually topics that incited eye rolling in the least, if not actual gagging sounds coming out of me. Not in the way of an 8 year old boy who spotted someone kissing, but more like a person who has seen enough of the ugly side of humanity to have formed some skeptical opinions.
However, life has also shown me some surprises, and one thing I know for sure is that the world needs More Love.
Which is why last week, I had started to share my favorite Love Story~ How I Met My SweetHeart.
As I started to type, I realized the story really started before then, and I got detoured talking about Being Alone.
It was an important detour, I think, because I don’t know that my story would have turned out the way it has if I hadn’t taken it.
But now, I’ll get to the point~ on to My Love Story~
In the year and a half since my husband of 19 years had left, I’d worked hard on my home, my career, my family and myself.
I’d bought myself a car that didn’t have parts held on with duct tape or jewelry wire.
I’d secured several flexible work gigs so I knew that my kids and I would eat, and I could still be around to be involved in their homeschooling and lives.
The kids and I had fixed up and painted our hideously ugly prison grey home and made it a colorful “Luscious Mango Love Shack”
I had settled in my single mama~ness, and had done a whole lotta thinking, learning, growing and figuring out around My Life, My Way. It wasn’t easy flying solo, but I was happy with where we were and where we were going.
Somewhere in that time, I decided to take my kids to a HomeSchool Conference. Of all the places in the world I would have imagined meeting a man who would change my life, that would not have been on the list,
But that is exactly where I met My SweetHeart. Not at a bar, or through an online dating site. But at a HomeSchool Conference.
It’s ridiculous and hilarious because it isn’t a place any rational person would go looking for love.
But that’s the thing. I wasn’t looking.
I was just going someplace that seemed like it would be fun for my kids and me, which is probably why it worked out in the long run.
It was a last minute decision, but my kids wanted to see their friends, and I knew there would be cool people and activities and things that we would all enjoy. We’d been working hard, and we needed fun.
There were issues with logistics~ the hotel was full and the tickets were out of my budget. But, that didn’t stop us.
I believe in finding creative ways to make stuff happen, so we volunteered in exchange for our admission and arranged to stay with a friend who lived a half hour away.
Sadly, not staying onsite meant that there would be no margaritas for me, even though it was still 12 million degrees at 8 PM and I was tired and thirsty and could have used one~ Plus, all my friends were having them and they looked and sounded so yummy.
Later, I would come to appreciate the fact that my mind was completely free of any outside intoxicants to make things look rosier than they really were.
But to be honest, at the time, I was a little bummed and lamenting my inability to indulge.
On the first evening of the conference, my kids were heading to a teen dance when a woman I didn’t know passed me in the hall and said in a low voice, “Underground Mom’s Dance~ room 302”
The ladies in this group are mostly not the denim jumper wearing homeschool moms who speak in hushed tones. They are an eclectic and wild bunch, just like their offspring, which is why we fit in there.
Within a short time, several other people mentioned this “Underground Mom’s Dance”, and it sounded like where all the cool parents would be. So I headed that way and quickly found a friend I already knew.
Even without any margaritas, the 80’s rock blaring from the speakers got the best of me, and I had to hit the dance floor. I remember that while twirling and whirling like a madwoman, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a handsome man in a hat sitting on the sidelines.
I assumed the only reason a dad would be at a homeschool conference was because his wife drug him there, and thought something along the lines of “Aww, How sweet that he comes and hangs out here”
I danced on, margarita free and therefore fully aware of how dorky my dance moves were but not caring in the least. My friend and I had a blast into the wee hours when I drove my kids back to our lodging.
The next day, back at the conference, I came across the same friend, and she just so happened to be talking to that cute man in the hat who I learned she had known for some time.
It’s probably a good thing I didn’t realize that he was single yet because he was really cute, after all, and I probably would have been nervous and uncomfortable and acted all awkward and weird.
Or maybe I would have just run away and never talked to them at all. Who knows? It had been a looooooooooooong time since I’d ever even considered such things.
But since I had no idea, I was free to be my goofy arse self, without even any consideration to what he thought of me or my loud voice, or my maniacal witch laugh, or the crumbs on my shirt, or even my crazy dance moves.
And that there is another key thing in why it worked out.
I was able to just be myself.
I went up to say hi to my friend, who introduced me. The man was friendly and kind and funny and we all chit chatted and laughed comfortably.
Over the next few days we kept running into each other and friendly hellos turned into talking.
It turned out that we had several mutual friends, and our kids ran in the same circles. I had been to several campouts in the last year with this homeschool group, and he happened to have been to the ones that I missed.
We both shared a lot of experiences, and eventually we learned that those included the ending of our long term marriages. He had 4 kids (which I always feel the need to follow up with the fact that they’re all from the same woman and marriage~ he’s not just a Baby Daddy)
He knew a lot about birth and educational philosophies that I don’t often hear men talking about. He was an artist and had good taste in food and music.
He had been so easy to talk to, that by the time I realized he was single, he already felt like he was someone who would wind up my friend anyway.
One afternoon, I went to a workshop on East Coast Swing Dancing, but upon arrival, I saw that the female to male ratio was about 12 to 1. I knew there was going to be a shortage of partners when a lone teenaged boy opened the door and was swarmed by a dozen girls.
But, I wanted to dance.
So, I sent a message to the only adult guy I knew on the premises. The cute guy in the hat.
He was there in about 3 seconds, smiling, ready and willing to be my partner. I learned later that he never dances~ like never ever.
But he showed up and danced that day. And he’s shown up and gone along with plenty more of my schemes, dancing and otherwise since.
In the class, he learned that I’m not very good at following, and that I kind of tend to go rogue freestyle. Later, he would learn that this tendency extends beyond the dance floor for me.
I don’t don’t know if it’s because we were really awful at East Coast Swingdancing, or because we were some of the only adults in the room, but the teacher kept using us as an example of what NOT to do. It was both mortifying and slightly annoying to have repeated, although polite, suggestions from an instructor to reign in my Big Moves, but we persevered.
While trying to concentrate on counting steps and following directions and not dying of embarrassment because the teacher kept pointing out our errors, I noticed that my dance partner was making an awful lot of eye contact.
As in He Was Looking Right At Me.
And that’s when I began to catch on to the fact that he was interested in me.
Sure enough, I panicked and turned into a nervous wreck. My eyeballs got big and suddenly looked everywhere in the room except his face. I was twitchy Mc~twitching and tripping over my own feet even though I was completely sober ~ the whole shebang.
At least that’s how I remember it.
But he must not have noticed or not seen it that way. Or maybe he just really liked me because he didn’t run either, even though he was dancing with a woman who had suddenly started moving like she might be using meth.
My Girl Child, who happened to be in the same dance class and may be more observant than me might have noticed the interest of my partner before I did. When I looked over at her, I saw her watching like a hawk, making sure nothing was amiss and ready to pluck the eyeballs out if this guy dancing with her mom if she needed to.
Luckily, she didn’t need to.
Later, we shared pizza with a couple of our kids and I could tell by the way his daughter interacted with him that they had an actual relationship. Teenagers aren’t known for pretending that they like their parents, so I was happy to see that he was authentically connected to his kids.
One evening, he was brave although nervous, and looked me in the eye and told me that he liked me.
For the rest of the conference, I wavered between being smitten and being terrified. But even though I was scared, I was also drawn. I didn’t want to run away from him. I wanted to run with him, despite my fears about the whole concept of opening up to a relationship (I mean running in a metaphorical sense of course. We both hate actual running)
Anyhoo, I’m so glad that the connection I felt was stronger than my fear, and we kept spending time together.
We wandered around and talked, listened to live music and ate food. He hung out with me and doodled while I volunteered in the art room and we shared a lot of laughs.
We lived 5 hours apart, so at the end of the conference, we said goodbye for now with a huge hug, because I was still way too freaked out for any kisses.
When I got home, I promptly checked his background on the Megan’s Law website and when he was cleared of being a pedo-creeper, I immediately got a texting plan for my flip phone. (It was 2013 and much of the US already had smartphones at this point, but I didn’t really want or need one until. I had, after all, lived without electricity for 3 years, and didn’t really care about technology. But now, this cute guy was texting me….and I wanted to reply without paying for each individual message)
It turned out that we both had a lot more to say than we wanted to type with our thumbs, and we started writing letters as well.
Actual letters, like the kind you send in the mail.
We asked deep questions about philosophy and beliefs on all sorts of life issues. It was romantic and sweet and thought provoking and awesome.
Since real mail takes days, we also wrote emails in between, checking in daily, pondering and sharing life. In fact, most of our early courtship was through the written word, which was perfect for me.
Our kids would probably also point out that we were on the phone quite often, and I know I lost a lot of sleep to late night talks with him.
While long distance relationships are not easy, I’m really glad that we started that way. It gave us both the time and space to keep working on our individual lives with our kids while we got to know each other better.
The two of us met halfway between our two towns for a few lunch dates, and the chemistry grew.
A few months later, a beach campout came up with our group. Once again, this was perfect. We both had wanted to take our families on this particular trip anyway. We could camp separately, but next to each other so everyone could have space. Our kids would have their own mutual and individual friends there, so it wouldn’t just be an awkward forced hang out for them.
With the ocean, campfires, good food and great people, everyone had a fun time. I even brought my dogs and they liked him. Since I consider dogs to be good judges of character, this was important.
One night at dinner, his youngest daughter, who was 7 and very much attached to her daddy at the time, both metaphorically and literally, out of the blue scooted over her own plate at the table and made a place for me next to her dad. That was huge.
The whole thing went great and I may have had a deluded idea that this merging of people and lives would just always be easy.
Well, it may not be surprising that it wasn’t always that easy (duh, I know~ I can be silly sometimes) but it has been very much worth it.
From there, we spent nearly another 2 years being together, but living 5 hours apart. We had lots of wonderful times both with our kids and just the 2 of us.
We kept growing on our own and supported each other through all sorts of hard life changes~ like changing jobs, moving and unpleasant custody proceedings.
At one point, when cleaning out my desk in prep for a move, I came across a piece of paper that I had absolutely no memory of writing. Since it was in my handwriting, and my words, it must have come from me.
The paper contained scribblings pondering what a True Partnership looked like, and a list of the things I wanted in a partner / partnership in life. It was made up of things like character traits and feelings I wanted to have.
I must have made it in the time shortly before I Met My SweetHeart, when I had started to open my mind and heart to the concept of not just doing life forever alone.
My heart and smile both grew huge as I read through it because the man I met when I wasn’t even looking came straight from the Homeschool Conference with all but two of the items on the list (and both of those have since swung my way)
About two years in, and after already helping me move twice, My SweetHeart relocated to live near and with me. And I’m so glad he did.
I’ve learned more about Love in the past 4 ½ years than I had in my 40+ before then.
And somewhere along the line, I stopped being such a skeptic because now I know that Real, Grown Up Love is a thing~ the kind that requires Communication and results in an Actual Partnership~ and it’s pretty freaking awesome.
So, that’s the long winded story of How I Met My SweetHeart. If you’re still reading, God Bless You! Please leave a comment and tell me what you think.
And it would really make a difference if you share on Facebook, too.
Hope you enjoyed~
Writer, Artist, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, FunSchooling Facilitator / Former Goat-Herding HeadMistress for our Mostly Happy Homeschool, Semi-Crazy Chicken Lady and Mamacita Extraordinaire to a couple of Cage Free Kids.