Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Putting On My Socks (A Quick Jaunt into Panic)

The kids weren't at home. Mr. Perfect was at work. The day had started off miserably, so I figured the quiet house was begging me to take a nap. And I did. It was the hardest I had slept in months, I was solidly tucked into dreamworld, comfortably pantsless and wedged between my squishy pillow and the rhythmic breaths of my sleeping dog.

I woke two hours later, startled by my phone. Mr. P was on lunch and wondering what I was up to. Nap guilt washed over me. Sleep, as is the case for most moms, is my guiltiest pleasure. "Not much," I assured him. I drifted downstairs and threw a frozen pizza in the oven. Thank goodness for lonely days where I can sleep when I want and eat what I want, I thought. I sat down and absent-minded flipped through the Kindergartener's backpack papers that were strewn on the table.

As I was contemplating ordering over-priced meats of which 5% would go back to his school, I noticed my heart was racing. That's strange, I thought. I must just be tired. Am I dehydrated? Did I take my thyroid medication? Did I take it all week? What if I collapsed and died alone with the oven on? I went back to the papers, signing off on his report card. I smiled, he is too social and having a hard time following directions? Ha, what a shocker. Son of a bitch, why am I having palpitations?

I got up and checked the pizza. It was difficult to tell myself to walk to the kitchen, but this pizza was taking what seemed like hours. I took it out of oven and cut off a giant piece. I sat back down, winded and shoved it into my mouth. I chewed thoughtlessly and swallowed. I hated eating the pizza, but something felt wrong and my mouth seemed to be working so I went with it. I devoured another slice while I listened to my heart race. I tried to catch my breath. I felt panicked, but I also felt to still be half asleep. I crawled upstairs and laid back down. It suddenly hit me what was occurring.

I was having an attack. It had been so long since I had a panic attack. I didn't want to. I started sobbing hysterically. I hated being so screwed up. Why had I eaten that pizza? All I did was get fatter and now I'm back in bed. I needed to go outside but I couldn't get to my sock drawer. It was so far away. I was fairly certain my underwear were suffocating me. GET THEM OFF. I couldn't, though. I was never happy when I wore these underwear, was I? I thought if I could get up and kill myself I would. The man who lived here before me did. Imagine what they would say about the creepy suicide house in the woods! Maybe I was possessed by him. I knew I shouldn't have stopped taking my anti-anxiety meds 2 weeks before. Why was I still in bed? A normal person would just GET UP AND PUT ON THE FUCKING SOCKS. Breathe, breathe, breathe. You are a fucking nutjob, I told myself. Snot and tears covered my face. I looked at my phone. I had been crying for an HOUR. Nausea pushed me from my paralysis and I slid from my bed, like an obese, insane snake. I crept on all fours into the bathroom and threw up my pizza. As I started to breathe again, I noticed most my day was gone. I begged myself to get in the tub. I sat in the water until I began to shiver. I begged myself to get out. You can do it, I pleaded. Get dressed. Put on a shirt. Good job. Put on pants. Yes! Put on socks. No? Skip socks, then, put on shoes. See? Leave the house. You HAVE to get out. You have to breathe. STAND UP. STAND UP and go take your medication.

Sometimes, my hands go numb. Sometimes, I just cannot catch my breath. Sometimes, it takes me hours to convince myself to put on my socks. I have to be extra careful during those strange moments between waking and sleeping. I have generalized anxiety disorder. There are triggers, but occasionally I will just be happy as a dancing clam and I will feel the nagging tightness in my chest. I used to be paralyzed by it. Now, I am a seasoned warrior.

What they didn't know was that she was a warrior, a survivor of a thousand battles, within her head.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Missing: Parent

Last night, as I lay in bed adding celebratory pictures for the Facebook page’s 6 month anniversary, Mr. Perfect came into our room sobbing. Not tears in the eyes, general weepiness, but full on spastic, chest heaving, gasping for air sobbing. Anyone else might have thought someone he loved just died. But I knew better.

For his son’s recent 8th birthday we bought him an iPod. We bought it for him not so he could download Minecraft, 12 versions of Angry Birds or the football game he loved to play on his dad’s phone, but so he could have Facetime. We bought it the week his dad came to live with us in the Treehouse, an hour north of his kids. We bought it so that every night he could see his daddy and so his daddy could see him and his sister. We grasped methodically at ways to allow a parent/child relationship to flourish, without kisses goodnight. Mr. P had just gotten off a call where his six year old daughter begged him to retire so that he could take them trick or treating. He told them he loved them and put them to bed.

It’s not the same to say “I love you best buddy” without being able to ruffle your son’s golden hair and pull up his covers tight. It is not the same to tell your princess it’s time for bed, without being able to tickle her tiny body, smooth back her messy hair and kiss her forehead. For a parent, who loves their children, to infinity, it’s not enough.

“I want to smell them.” He sobbed.

 When my children’s father and I first split I tried hard to keep him updated on their lives. I sent texts of our 2 year old son doing cute things and our daughter’s accomplishments. I sent adorable pictures of his smiling offspring, happily adapting to their new lives, splashing in the pool, jumping at the park, dressed up for events. Sometimes he responded, sometimes not. One day he sent me a text back and told me to stop “guilt tripping” him. I honestly didn’t understand.

There have been many times in my life where I have passive aggressively played dumb in order to solicit a response, logically back someone into a corner and intellectually dominate them. Heavens knows, I’m practically a professional Facebooker. Knowing how one comment can affect the next is an interesting game to play in the land of words. This time though, I was clueless. The last thing I wanted to do was tell him anything. The last thing I wanted was contact at all with their heartbreaking dad. I kept him “up-to-date” because I thought I had to, according to the court mandates and what was probably best for the kids. I was enraged at the thought that having children hurt him and he was choosing to withdraw. I let him know the children would like to hear from him. I gave my daughter a phone. I stopped “bothering” him. I decided if he wanted to call her, he could, and vice versa. He let go and stepped into the role, I’ve not so affectionately named, The Wallet Father; obligatory every other weekend visits (usually) and scheduled child support payments. He is lost to communication in between.

I will never know if he is off living the life he prefers or if he was just unable to cope. Unfortunately and more importantly, neither will his children. And no child should have to wonder whether their parent actually cares.

 Mr. Perfect was a stay at home dad and when he did go back to work, he worked midnights so that he could be with his 2 young children during the day. When he was little he only wanted to “be a dad” when he grew up. He considers his children his dreams come true. Being a devoted father is how he has defined his last 8 years and who he is in this world. His ex-wife was the primary breadwinner and he was the booboo kisser, sandwich cutter and the guy you called for play dates. He loved his position as Daddy. I loved him as a father on Facebook, a friend of a friend, long before I knew there was an option of falling in love with him as man.

When his divorce originally was finalized a joint arrangement was worked out. He worked nights and picked the kids up from school, dropping them back off with their mom for the night. In the summer he picked them up at 2:30 am on his way home from work. He did his best to have his children as much as he did living in the same home. It became an impossible battle. He knew he could no longer do his dangerous night job and live sleepless days, entertaining two bored kids in his tiny apartment. He also knew moving to days meant giving up his joint status.

We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We knew he would ache for them. No one could question his devotion. Or could they? As Mr. Perfect slipped into the non-custodial role everything changed. How does he now define himself? How does he keep his connection? What if they don’t miss him? What if they do? Can you wish for your children to be happy but also take a smidge of glee in them being sad? If you choose to go home early and drive one way rather than another, do you become unfit? How do you cope with the absolute destruction of a dream and transform it into an acceptable reality? Does eating breakfast with my 2 children remind him of what he had or does it close the hole and make it all a little easier to handle? Should I hug him or let him be? Am I doing enough? I held him as he sobbed, like a child lost, but he was a father, missing his identity and weeping in my arms. His happiness, health and future versus what…? What was right?

We live in a country where 50% of marriages end in divorce. Nearly 25% of parents do not live with their kids. Add in the children who never had married parents and we have an enormous amount of non-custodial parents out there who are missing their children right now. Where is their support I wondered? How many times have I taken the grand power of being the sole caregiver? How many times have I complained about absent parents? Can I imagine the guilt, pain, uncertainty and longing these parents feel? I cannot. I was blessed to have my children with me through ever step of the chaos that was divorce. In my most imperfect of days I was still able to smell them, still able to feel the incredible burden of doing it on my own; and take credit. No one ever doubted my loyalty and most importantly I didn’t need to doubt myself.

Here it is, if you are a non-custodial parent, mom or dad, no matter your story, I am asking that you share it here with other parents. This can be done completely anonymously if you wish. I want to know you, support you and I hope together we can find ways to ease the pain and strengthen the bonds between absent parent and child. Personal stories, tips on blending families, custody, staying connected, active non-present parenting, distance parenting will be incredibly appreciated. Please send me a facebook message at

Sunday, July 29, 2012


This post is a celebration of one year since the night of Unsinkable. It should be read first. Thank you.

My apartment smells of bananas. I am not harboring monkeys, despite what the downstairs neighbors may have thought over the past two years, my children running and screaming and jumping all hours of the day and night. No, I am moving. The walls are lined with banana boxes, picked up in sets of 5 or 6 from the grocery store. Inside I pack the contents of my life; 25 boxes of books, 6 boxes of shoes, dishes, paints, blankets and other acquisitions with which I define my life. Packing, unlike cleaning, is comforting to me. Packing is organizing the past and preparing it for the future. Cleaning is hiding, hiding stains and dirt, removing them from existence and putting things away, lost behind cupboard doors and in drawers. As the stacks of boxes grow taller, the apartment grows tidier. The children and I glide around our towers of possessions, labeling their ownership with a purple magic marker, trying not to stub our toes.

I spray Windex on my bathroom mirror and scrub hard, but the writing merely fades. Apparently it is going to be harder to remove the words than I thought it would be when I wrote them two years ago: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step- Lao Tzu" printed in black Sharpie. Is moving to a house my 'step' or my 'thousand miles'? I wondered, smiling. Moments are letters that become words to the chapters of our lives. The ending of a chapter is not the end of the book. I scraped at 'thousand' with my nail and decided I would consider this the first in many thousands of miles.

Last time I printed these words it was on a chalkboard in rec room at the hospital. One year ago, I chose the quote of the day. I looked around at the addicts, the schizophrenic, the compulsively lying teenage girl who spent hours a day on the phone at the end of the hall, giggling with various men, telling each how she loved them. It seemed like a good quote, despite the fact that a year of having it on my bathroom mirror hadn't done me much good. I wrote it across the chalkboard in pink chalk and dedicated it to the skinny old biker who was recovering from a heroin addiction and suicide attempt. He had lent me a hair tie earlier in the day which the nurse had acquiesced to letting me use, despite my restrictions. He laughed and I egotistically told myself I was helping him. Chronically addicted to deflecting my own painful need to let go, I dedicated it to him with no idea that my step from the hospital on Monday would be my first step to my 'thousand miles'.

A couple days ago I was thinking to myself how well I am doing for a 33 year old. I am educated, have a good job, am purchasing my own home on four acres, I have two fantastic kids, one starting kindergarten next week and another starting middle school next month. I drive a nice car and I have some good friends. I have a loving and funny boyfriend. I'm 33, still young, not bad at all. One year ago all I could think is of how I had lost 13 years. And now I feel ahead of the game, or at least right on time.

Two years ago I printed the words at the top of my mirror. I was broken, split and determined to find myself. For a year I clung to identities and filled my every moment with self realizing activities, which kept me busy and deflected my pain. I took pottery classes and watched art films on the lonely nights that my children left. I volunteered at the soup kitchen and the community garden. I worked out. I kayaked and biked, I sweat and I bled. I tried to purge the guilt of failure, to "clean up" my identity through good karma and positive living. I scraped up my old life and hid it in cupboards and drawers until I became a hoarder of my past. And then, one year ago, I took my first step. I stopped trying to find myself and accepted who I was. I stopped searching and started living. Today I celebrate the anniversary of pulling away from the dock.

One year from now I might look back on what I thought I knew now and laugh. Realizing this makes me happy. No good journey ends at a thousand miles.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Not My Problem...Yet.

I was walking out of Walmart when my ears were accosted by the words.

"Get your ass in the store, woman."

I looked up.

"Get your ass in the store. Get your f**king ass in the store."

A couple was walking across the parking lot coming toward me. The woman was walking ahead of the man, her face gave no expression. "F**k you, bitch, get your ass in the store." The man trailed behind her, taunting her. For a moment I thought, "maybe they're playing." Maybe, he was teasing her. But his rant continued. "F**k you, bitch." Again and again. I stood, appalled. I didn't know what to do as I walked in their direction. I wanted to say "no, f**k YOU, asshole, don't talk to her like that!" But I knew better.

Mr. Perfect had recently sat before the gun board to get his concealed weapons permit. He told me how many people were there. He relayed to me the story of a man who had a domestic violence charge on his rap sheet. The man on the board fidgeted, obviously uncomfortable giving this man the right to carry a weapon. The wife hadn't pressed charges. Having no conviction, the board had no reason to say no. The man got his permit. I knew too many people carry weapons. I knew this man before me could be one of them. I couldn't react for my own safety. I couldn't react because it might cause him to go home and beat her. I stood helpless and stared.

She turned, just slightly and told him to shut up. He continued his tirade of profanities. I stood in the parking lot and stared him in the eyes. I willed him to look at me. I willed him to challenge me. I dared him to turn his hate toward me, a stranger, who would not have been willing to take it. I refused to ignore him.

The woman turned around and walked back to her car. He followed her. I walked toward my vehicle. She got into the driver's seat, he got into the passenger's seat and I got into my truck. She stared ahead looking exhausted. He rolled down his window and propped his elbow out. He wasn't a young man, born into a culture that wore pants around their asses and called women bitches. He had a head of silver gray hair; he was born of an era where people knew better. I followed them from the parking lot, my hand on my phone, waiting for him to lay a hand on her. They didn't speak, and I didn't breathe as we slowly drove the expanse of asphalt to the main road. We turned in opposite directions, toward opposite lives. 

I left Walmart with new underwear, a DVD and a question burning in my brain: Did I do enough?

I kept thinking, 40 years ago this wouldn't have been OK. A man walking through a parking lot yelling F bombs, in front of women and children would have been looked at as a crazy person. He could have been arrested. Now no one even looked up. Nobody got involved. It wasn't their problem. We live in a world where everyone has access to everybody's business, but nobody really cares. No one cares because it doesn't affect them; but it does. His words affected my ears. He WAS my problem.

Recently, Michigan passed a law allowing motorcycle riders to ride without wearing a helmet. Some people rejoiced, because it was their heads and their business. Even people who thought it was a stupid rule said, "whatever, it's Darwinism, weed out the idiots, it's their problem." But freedom isn't a personal thing in a society. EVERYTHING we do and are affects other people. If a person dies, riding a motorcycle with no helmet, does it only affect them? What about the person that accidentally hits them and in a moment becomes a killer? What about the children that might be in the car or the drivers on the road who witness the smearing of the cyclist's brains on the street? What about the EMS workers and the doctors who will work three times as hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, called away from their lives and families because the rider wanted the freedom to be unsafe? We affect each other.

Individuality is a right. Who we worship, how we dress, what we read and believe is a right in this country, and thank goodness. But how we act and what we do cannot be. We are a society made up of communities of people, and our actions affect others. No longer can we afford to be OK with violence and with hatred. No longer can we sit idly by and smirk off people we deem "not our problem." This is reality, one cannot simply change the channel and move on. There was a time when certain behaviors were shameful, because people said something. It is time we spoke up and out about what is not OK.

Staring evil down and willing it to become your problem is not enough. 

I write this with a heavy heart thinking of the many victims, families and friends affected by the horrible Colorado movie theater shooting. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I know I will always wonder about the Walmart woman. And it makes me wonder if we also let this shooter slide by, until he became...our problem.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I Might Be Batty, But I Love Who I Am

I was sitting on my bed when it swooped over my head. "Oh my God," I thought, "there's a bird in my room!" Then it struck me that birds don't normally fly around in apartments, so I thought, "The missing hamster! It's flying around in my room! It's been found!" Then I realized hamsters don't fly. So, I ran out and slammed the door the behind me. Feeling curious, I cracked the door just a bit; to see the bat perched on the tapestry that hung above my bed.

I had a bat in my house. It took to it's swooping, circling my bedroom in a frenzy, so, feeling slightly nauseous, I again slammed the door. I called Mr. Perfect and told him we had a situation. Normally I wouldn't have called him, not at 1:30 in the morning, even being vaguely aware I was dealing with a man job. I normally wouldn't have called him because I wouldn't have felt this was "his problem." The reason I allowed myself the call was because his children were sound asleep in the other room. Their presence somehow made it appropriate for bat containment to become his issue. He left work as soon as he could. While I waited I Googled "how to catch a bat". Information is power and armed with a cyber diagram, I donned a winter jacket, grabbed a tennis racket and a towel and prepared myself to take care of the problem. I swung open my bedroom door, walked in, stared at the little brown fur ball attached to the wall and prepared for battle. It started flying at me, so I screamed and ran out, slamming the door. Again.

When Mr. Perfect arrived, we couldn't locate the bat. Until the middle of the afternoon the next day. He took it out with the same racket I had left on the other side of the door. He took its lifeless little body out on the back porch tossed it up in the air, like a perfect serve, and lobbed it over the back fence. I, of course, cried, wishing it could have lived.

Tonight I sit in my bat free room, wondering what I would have done if there was no man to come and rescue me. And I stumbled upon an interesting reality about who I am.

I would have given the bat my room.

Let's be honest, I'm moving soon anyway. So I really think, that for the next month, I would have just let the bat have the room. During the day I would have gone in and packed up my stuff, always conscious that Mr. Bat was nearby. I would have slept on the couch. I would have carefully kept the door shut and advised the children to stay out. I would have studied it when it was perched and screamed at it when it swooped, but all in all, I would have left it alone.

This is why I love living on my own. 

I really, really like doing things my way. I like wearing the same outfit all weekend. When I read a book I like to start and finish it in the same sitting. If I stay up until 6 am reading, I just take a nap the next day. Taking a nap, for me, makes far more sense than cleaning a garage. I name trees and talk to frogs. Sometimes, I eat bowl after bowl of dry Life cereal for dinner. I like to eat out when I feel like it. I like to sit around and tell stories. I like to stare at the wall and think about things. I'd have no problem letting a bat boarder take over my room. The only time I use the clock is when it comes to work.

I'm acutely aware that my living style is not the "normal" grown-up one. I have asked Mr. Perfect if it was going to bother him, when we live together, if I spend a whole day decorating a tree, or painting stripes on the wooden walkways, or sleeping away my days off of work. Will it bother him if rather than matching up socks, I just stop wearing socks for a while? Will he understand that I cannot do the dishes until I've finished another chapter? I am scared of these questions, because after almost 3 years of being on my own, I like my life the way it is. It's a calming life. I don't want to change it, but I know myself and know I will readily change things to make the people I love happy. Up until the point where I can't take it anymore. And breaking points are never a good thing.

It's a peculiar thing, knowing oneself. Defending an identity is tricky, because so much of a relationship is about compromise. As wonderful as it is having someone there to kill your spiders and trap your bats, pick up a gallon of milk or tell you they love you at night, it's also a situation requiring sacrifice. Some bats may die and some selfish moments of lazy reflection may be compromised. I am going to have to change and that, I am very uncomfortable with, because I have spent so much time building the confidence to be exactly who I am: A woman willing to share space with a bat, as long as it lets her sneak in a get her blanket out. And her phone charger.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I'm still here...

I am acutely aware I have not been writing. Every night the awareness seeps into my skull, tsk tsking at me like a Catholic mother,  filling me with guilt. I have lists of things I want to say. My brain drips with words. But nothing can seem to hit the screen. It's like I can never tell my story until that story is done and I find myself back in the seam, between two chapters of my life and it leaves me tongue tied. Just as I had adapted to my "new life", my Unsinkable Life, here I am on the Journey into the Woods; moving again, redefining again, transitioning again.

My new house has a writer's desk, in an artist's room. And it seems my brain, until I am sitting in that chair, is holding back. All I can promise is that it's coming.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Bad Parenting Moment: Let Them Eat Cake.

Before we begin this tale, I need to tell you something; I don't bake. At least, I don't bake desserts. I can make a MEAN vegetarian lasagna, but cookies, cakes and pies I leave to the professionals. There are 2 reasons: Mainly, I don't like to measure when I cook and secondly, I hate decorating. Don't get me wrong, I desperately WANT to like decorating, as I consider myself somewhat of an artist. I even have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to awesome fondant covered designs. The problem is, I have the attention span of a gnat. So, lets say I bake 2 dozen sugar cookies; I will decorate the most beautiful hand painted cookie you have ever seen, but the next 15 will just have frosting smeared across the top. The last 8 cookies I'll throw at the kids, plain, and tell them they are lucky I feed them. Frosting food is boring.

My boyfriend's daughter was turning 6. He didn't have much planned for her birthday. She had been planning for 6 months, though, since she was five and A HALF, so I KNEW we had damn well better do something. I decided I would make her The Cake of Her Dreams. Basically, I was kissing up, so he would be awed by my sexy, domestic skills and his parents would see how much I loved her. I wouldn't bake a birthday cake for MY kids. I go to the grocery store and buy cupcakes, candles and have the nice bakery employees squirt their names on top with green icing. I said I would make this cake so his little girl would know I loved her and so she would love me more than anyone else who ever made her a cake for the rest of her life. Plus, I dig a challenge. Bad parenting problem number one: self serving love.

Me: If you could have an cake in the whole world what flavor would it be?
Her: Pink.
Me: Like strawberry?
Her: Yes.
Me: And what animal would it be shaped like?
Her: I don't know.
Me: What's your most favorite animal in the world?!
Her: Rats.

And so, I faced the challenge of making a STRAWBERRY RAT CAKE. Like the kind every demented little girl dreams about for her 6th birthday. Yeah, no problem.

I planned the cake for weeks. Once an idea settles into my head it doesn't go away. My brain is like Miracle Gro. That idea roots in and becomes enormous; well nourished by habitual daydreaming. I plotted exactly how I wanted to go about constructing The Rat Cake. I told myself it was completely possible. I told everyone I knew I was baking it, thus, making it impossible to back out. They all eagerly awaiting pictures of the cake. I pretended to know what I was doing and set my plans in motion.

Step one: make the cake batter. I mixed strawberry cake mix (from a box, I'm not a masochist) into two loaf pans. When they were done baking I placed them on the counter to cool. I was amazed. The little pink mounds actually looked like they were made of cake. So far so good. I turned to my kids and said "NOBODY is to touch these cakes. They need to cool." Which I assumed they did. I wasn't really sure if cakes are supposed to cool, but I think I read about cooling cakes in a book, so it sounded legit. "DO NOT touch the cakes!" I warned. Being that my kids had heard me talking nothing but Rat Cake for weeks, I knew they knew how important this was. So I retreated to my room, with my computer, to stare at pictures of rats, still determining the appropriate fur pattern.

About an hour and a half later (I admit, I might have drifted into Sleepytown for a few), I emerged to frost the cake. I walked into the kitchen and saw it; bite sized chunks taken from the sides of the cake, from head to tail. Some little mouse had been nibbling on my rat. Following the crumb trail it became quickly apparent who the culprit was. After all, it was cake. And I have a fat kid. One who doesn't listen. My eyes kept widening. I felt that wave come over me, my rational brain said, 'Stop. Breathe. You are going to freak out in a completely inappropriate way.' But my other brain (temporary disassociation?) said, 'Fuck you brain. I HAVE to freak out, so they get it. I'm going to go overboard, ON PURPOSE and I don't care.' I herded the children into their room where I unleashed it; my Very Bad Parenting Moment. Just understand, I had really put A LOT (of thought) into the stupid cake! Bad parenting problem number two: great expectations.

"HOW DARE YOU!? How could you? Why would you do this to ME? You knew! You knew! I can't do this! There's no more time! There will be no cake, no birthday, no birthdays forever! WHY?" (Incoherent sobbing) "I just wanted to make a cake! I can't get anything I want! You ruin everything! I'm running away! I'm not just running away, I'm running away to another country. FOREVER!" (Run into my room and slam my door) "I am done! I can't do this anymore! I hate you people! I hate my life! I can't!" And I sobbed myself into a pity pile. "I'm never talking to you AGAIN!" I screamed through the closed door. I called my boyfriend. No answer. So, I texted him, "Don't come up. The weekend is canceled. There will be no birthdays for anyone, ever, again." I sent it. And I sobbed. "I'm running away, forever, to another country, without the kids." I texted him a second time. No answer. So I screamed at the door. Not anything in particular. I just screamed from the core of my emotions. From my desperation.  From the complete and utter sense of overwhelming that sometimes engulfs me as a mother. I heard my son crying, "mommy doesn't love me" over and over.

As I screamed I told myself to stop it. I told myself I was being abusive. I told myself I was acting like a child. But, I could not stop. And, the fact that I could not stop, the fact that I hated my utter loss of control made me sink even lower. I collapsed into a pile of unfolded laundry and cried.

And then about 30 minutes later, I got up. And went into the kitchen. I got out a knife…
And I began carving the cake into the shape of a smaller rat.
And I frosted it.

I apologized to my children for my words. "We know, mom" my daughter told me. "You are always fine if we just leave you alone for a while. You never run away." She told me. I knew no mother should ever make their child even consider these things, but I appreciated the understanding. It's not easy maintaining sanity when the going gets tough. Or when silly micro-problems break the stressed out camel's back. Especially, for single parents. We have to learn to ask for help. We have to learn to say "Oh RATS" and move on. The only people who will ever think we are perfect anyways are right there in front of us: Our kids. As to what anyone else thinks… let them eat cake.

We continue to forgive each other. <3 JK

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Part 1, Spit for Spat: The Not Quite As Easy Child

My daughter was born exceptional. She nursed like the la leche league gave her in-utero latching lessons. She could hold her own in an adult conversation at two years old. She wasn't a picky eater, she potty trained easily, she didn't whine and she always slept through the night and never left her bed. Her Kindergarten teacher loved her so much that she asked to babysit. Her principal had her work with special needs children. In Kindergarten. Her brilliance continued on every IQ test, in every class and at every competition that followed. She is generous and compassionate and hysterically funny. Even animals adore her. Everyone has always loved my daughter. 

People like my son. But he wears on them. With my daughter people begged to borrow her, with my son people beg me to go home. And to take him with me.

My son is exhausting. He's fidgety. He always looks like he is doing the pee-pee dance. He never stops talking and he stutters, so basically, it takes forever for every conversation to end. He makes up stories and convinces himself they are true. He is far more interested in ghosts, vampires, the people who live in the apartment beneath us, the beetle he found in garage or basically, anything which holds the possibility of a grand tale, far more than he is interested in anything of this realm. His indoor voice could be heard in a packed football stadium. He wets the bed at night and he draws on walls. He is the child that has cut his own hair and drunk the bottle of cough syrup. Emotionally he is like a menopausal woman; he is overly sensitive, prone to outbursts, sedentary and just wants to eat and chat. He is chubby and has a belly like a happy Buddha.

Mom and Z Fall 2011
I, of course, adore him. He is funny and inquisitive. He loves people and will question them for hours, discussing everything from what their grand-kids like to eat, to why they have a blue car. He loves love. He is sensitive and giving. He snuggles and wants kisses. He loves stories. He thinks I'm funny and laughs at all my jokes. He likes to hold my hand. He loves babies and wants to have 10 kids one day. He's not competitive. And he tells great jokes.
In fact, sometimes I feel I relate the most to him. I, too, just want to hang out, tell stories and jokes and eat a lot. Being an overachiever, 
like my daughter (or me for too many years), is exhausting. Life should be fun.

This year he attended preschool and daycare, before and after. He is at school from about 7:45 a.m. until about 5:30-6:00 p.m. each day. During that time he has about 6 caretakers. Some of them love him. Some of them do not at all. I get it, kids can be annoying. Especially those like my son. The adults that like him think he's funny. The others like the nice little girl with matching hair bows who always sits criss-cross applesauce, hands on her lap. My son is the one trying to lick her and simultaneously tell her about the life cycle of snakes... in his "indoor" (screaming) voice.

Too frequently I would arrive to pick him up, after work and find a note in his folder. It was usually the same... morning (when the crabbies work) time... behavior... disrespectful... unruly. And I generally threw it out. After all, I didn't like the morning staff either, so imagined the urge to scream and kick them was just overwhelming for him. Sometimes they would approach me. And there I would stand, staring blankly, while they tell me how he was screaming and impatient and turning legos into guns (does he do that at home?)... "Oh my" I assured them, "I am so sorry," I obliged, "no, he never!" I would recite, vaguely aware a good mother should have some response. All while he would dance around me, trying to pull down my pants and screaming "she's lying!" Which did not help his cause.

Camping Summer 2011

 His preschool lead teacher adores him. She thinks he's exceptionally bright and just needs stimulation. She has given him more responsibility and watched him shine. She thinks he's analytical and creative. His brain never turns off and so neither does the rest of him. She (being proficient at her job) has harnessed his energy into a positive force. In return, he trusts her and acts accordingly. Because he feels loved he gives love in return. 

So on the day the folder produced dual notes, I knew there was a problem. My son had been spitting in the mornings, but now he had also spit in preschool. It seemed something he was just "doing", when he was frustrated, without any forethought. He spit at the teachers, at other kids and at the ground. Despite our many talks, threats and positive reminders, he continued the behavior. Even in preschool. I knew we had a problem.

What do I do, though? I can't very well take him home at 6 pm and give him a time out for something he did at 10 am. Lecturing was not working. Rewarding didn't seem to work because he so quickly forgot about it during the day and spitting was a thoughtless reaction. He would cry to me at the day's end, "I didn't mean to! My mouth has a ghost in it!" He promised me it was not his fault. What is a working mom to do?! Daycare was at its wits end. Our loving preschool teacher was concerned. The more he felt they were frustrated with him, the more he seemed to act out. Tit for tat and spit for spat. Conferences were going to occur. And I had no solution.

I called my boyfriend, Mr. Perfect, in a tizzy. He is always far more rational than me. Punishment? He asked. I explained he was doing it as a reaction, with not enough premeditation for cause and effect. There would just be a lot of punishing happening. And I'm not there. Rewarding? Again, he's just being reactionary, plus what, how do I track? A chart in school? But he moves classes and has 6 different care workers, all with a different idea of "good" behavior. How would it be consistent? Not to mention, I'M NOT PRESENT FOR ANY OF THIS. Then, I had it, my mom of the year brain explosion.....

On the back is a sticker that reads: To love someone is to allow then room enough to grow.

I made him a "no spitting" necklace and incorporated every learning/ discipline tool I could think of. It was simple for the multiple caretakers to understand. If he spit, the green card flipped inside out and turned red. It went with him throughout the day, it was portable. He wore it and felt it, so it was a constant reminder of his task. And we had a song:
Green means GO, green means GO, 
green means GO get a toy, 
its time to be a good boy!
We went to the dollar store and he picked out 5 toys. Every day he came home with a green card he got a toy. Every time he came home with a red card he would lose a toy. The only time he was ever allowed to spit was when he was brushing his teeth. Not wanting to see his necklace "turn red" he carefully removed it each time he brushed his teeth. We sang the song all night and in the morning shared the plan with all the teachers.

Day one: I picked him up with his green carded necklace and was told how well it worked. He played with it all day, making him constantly aware of his own body and reactions. He sang the song. He felt proud he had it. We went home and he got his toy.

Day two: I arrived, looking for the green around his neck and saw the necklace was gone. I walked in and the caretaker nodded her head no. "It's in his folder." She told me. It was red. He had refused to wear it after the color changed. As soon as he saw me, he threw himself on the ground and started screaming that he hated me. He received no toy.

Day three: We were back in swing of things. I wasn't giving up! We sang the song all the way to school. Green at pick up.

Day four: We forgot to put it on. No spitting.

Day five: It got wet and the green and red ran together. But it wasn't wet with spit, just water table fun. No spitting again.

Its been two weeks. No spitting. And I am just counting the days until summer and I can change his venue. At least new caregivers give him a clean slate.

This is who my son is. I have charts and bags of rewards. We have constant talks. He laughs at me and tickles my cheeks when I'm trying to be serious. He bangs toys on glass and jumps on beds when I'm trying to hold his attention. He peed in a vase once because "I just really wanted to try it, mom". He hates wearing pants. I have to repeat everything to him 3232 times. He's four. And he's a handful. And he's also an armful, of love.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quack, Quack Said the Duck

Every night after my daughter goes to sleep I settle into my evening ritual.

Well, some nights. I'm way too clutter minded for ritualistic behavior. Anyways, QUITE OFTEN, I like to do a little spying after she's gone to bed.

The cell phone, the netbook, the Facebook account become the window to my beautiful angel's thoughts. I think its just good to check in. I comment here and there, marking my territory and letting her and any possible creepers know mommy is watching. I, also, do a little divorced mom investigating, making sure nobody is talking bad about me and looking for signs she might be liking her father more than me. Nothing too exciting ever reveals itself, other than the fact she spends entirely too much time online. 

GOD knows, I, of all people, CANNOT complain about that. My children think my computer is actually a life support machine, which if disconnected from me, will cause my immediate death.

So, last night I stumbled upon an atrocity. Calm yourself, but you may want to sit.....

My baby is a duckling.

Now we have had this talk! It occurred after her Valentines Dance when she made this >> face for my camera.....

I want to mention, her friends DO NOT look like that. I simply disguised them so their parents do not come across them and sue me. Which would be silly, because IT WAS MY DAUGHTER DOING THE DUCK. If anyone should be mortified, it would be ME.

I stumbled onto an entire album, last night, courtesy of Instagram, of my 11 year old daughter DUCKING AROUND. Disappointment rolled over me. As a mother you always blame yourself. What have I done?

This morning I was dropping her off at school when I noticed a funny looking girl walking into the building. The following conversation ensued:

Me: What's wrong with her head?
Duck Daughter: She has a mullet.
Me: What parent let's their kid have a mullet?!
Duck Daughter: The kind that lets their kid cut their own hair.
Me: Oh. Well I guess if you wanted to, I'd let you, it's your hair. But I'd tease you a lot.
Duck Daughter: I wouldn't want to.
Duck Daughter: Huh?
Me: Like this. {I make the face}
Duck Daughter: So what?!
Me: Duck faces are the mullets of photographic poses. Got it?
Daughter: OH. I got it.

I feel proud as a parent. It would be easy to ignore situations like these. I could let her go through life, Facebook and whatever social soul sucker that comes next, displaying her beak like a fool. Or I can let her know what is simply NOT acceptable. Because I love that kid, its important to keep my ducks in a row.


Friday, May 18, 2012


*Warning this post is not funny, but it is honest*

With my blood I traced the letters across my bathroom floor:
"Nobody sees ME."

I didn't know where she had gone, my best friend, the drunk. Here I was, an hour after I had a seizure on the sticky floor of the bar, while laying in a pool of my tequila vomit; now on my bathroom floor, half dressed and sobbing, my body covered in snot and blood. Some stranger had driven us home, some stranger who thought I was just some drunk girl, some stranger who didn't know I had seizures, no alcohol tolerance and was in mourning. He probably thought I would fuck him, not knowing I had refused to let anyone touch me in a year and a half. I figured my best friend was probably somewhere in my house fucking him right now. She had left me too. Alone. She had her excuses, she was an alcoholic. I was just fucked up. Fucked up and unable to let go.

The kids were at their daddy's. It was his 32nd birthday.

We had married in the woods at 19 years old. It was the warmest October day. The sun shone though the leafy wedding canopy like the light of a God we wanted to believe in. We built our love on top of teenage photos pinned to a cork-board, fragile but perfect in its innocence. For a decade, like children wearing superhero capes, we believed in our invincibility. Slowly changes happened, as change does, changes I didn't notice as we busied our lives with children, work and school. I'll never know if he changed and I stayed the same, if I changed and he stayed the same or if we plain old grew apart. Slowly, though, we removed our capes and instead donned villain's masks. The last year was chaos. I hurt him. He hurt me. I battered him with words, infant fists he refused to feel. He swatted at me like annoying fly, fucking up his day. I begged him to save me. He begged me not to let go, but constantly turned his eyes. On his 30th birthday we set a tent up on a hill, determined to throw the party to save us. Just after midnight I came upon it, rhythmically moving in the moonlight. I screamed and hit the canvas bodies. I kicked the outline of his feet against the zippered door and the body, that was not mine, moving his. He refused to stop. When he finally emerged he smirked, his eyes holding a blank, coldness that never left. Nobody cared as I sat in the grass and screamed. They were all drunk. Nobody saw me as the ground cracked open and swallowed my soul. Happy Birthday.r

We both moved away, leaving our home to the wild grass and rats. I had always told my daughter, "our house may be small, but it is FILLED with love. We are love rich." Without love, it was vacant, like his new eyes. He moved in with a faceless woman. The children and I packed 11 years into a U-Haul and went north. But I refused to let go. I instead decided to "be the change I wanted to see." I decided he would love me if I could prove I was good enough. I decided there was nothing more important than my children having their father. Despite the unopened boxes stacked in our new apartment, I unpacked my cape and tied it on. I didn't bother him or beg him, because I didn't want to be controlling. That would be imperfect of me. Instead I began to dedicate my life, silently, to a marriage that had died long before. I thought Karma would be enough. I believed with my childhood innocence that it would work out, simply because I believed marriage was the right thing. I refused to get divorced and thus, defined myself by purgatory.

A year and a half later I ended up on my bathroom floor, cutting my arms like an emo teenager and painting my thoughts in blood. It ended up karma IS a bitch. She doesn't care if your very, very good. She won't reward you with your hearts desires simply because you tried hard enough. There will always be birthday gifts for the wicked and not even an alcoholic best friend can teach you how to kill the pain.

I stood up, walked out of my apartment and drove myself to the hospital.
I walked into triage, wrote down my name and my reason for visit "I've gone crazy."

It is difficult to explain that you only want to live to people who think you want to die. They look at you with literal eyes, eyes that see a breathing person sitting before them. They do not understand the desperation of a sunken soul, wanting to FEEL alive. Pain is life. Feel me, see me, validate my existence. I want to live again. Help me escape purgatory.

The counselors sympathized and bobbed their heads in comforting agreement as I told my stories. Sexual affairs by both parties, check. Physical violence, check. Traumatic events, check. Inability to let go, fear of rejection, abandonment, loss... check. Fucked up father, check. They scribbled down notes as I told them my abridged story, but I knew I couldn't make them feel the truth. They couldn't remember the dream. They couldn't feel the sun through the canopy, the sand beneath our feet as we climbed the hill and jumped. They didn't know how his hand fit in mine or that when we were 99, on our 80th anniversary, we would hold each other and breathe our last breaths. They didn't remember how we floated in inner tubes, when my belly was 6 months pregnant, the sun beaming down on us, laughing at how perfect life was. They didn't see us, laying with our newborn daughter, beneath a fan, in our 90 degree tiny home, poor and complete. My abridged story left out the perfection of love and the promises of forever that were weighted ghosts in my heart. They didn't know who he was before he changed.

They deemed me well enough. They saw me as strong, like every one else. Strong, independent, a dedicated, working mother who lacked support, who was emotionally exhausted and anxiety ridden. Like a rock star they admitted me with anxiety and exhaustion, for a weekend stay. I still thought I was crazy. I still thought I was weak.

Its not only the strong who survive. Everyone who doesn't die survives. We don't make it through because we are tougher than anyone else. Let's face it, everyone has to deal with what life throws their way. Some people might do it with more finesse, but its not about strength. There is no choice. We put one foot in front of the other and we keep pushing on. Or we die. If it was strength that got us through, well then, every person who wakes up the next morning and survives to see another day is strong. My measure of strength lay in my unreasonable expectation that I could will my future. And I was failing.

I lined up each morning with the other residents of the 5th floor and swallowed my anti-anxiety medication like a good nut job. I fidgeted, restless, without kids to take care of, work to go to, a house to clean or meals to prepare. I read a book. I memorized the fascinating stories of the people around me. I led exercises up and down the hallway to get us moving. I tried to be productive, inquired about implementing health regimens for us inmates, asked to vacuum, inquired about donations for games and art supplies; I was programmed to be perfect, to be change, to establish good karma. And then I stopped. I took out a box of chalk and I began to draw. Nothing in particular. A face. Flowers. I did nothing useful for the first day in 10 years.

I began to let go. Of my expectations OF ME.

The nurse came into my room on Sunday. "I know you're probably leaving tomorrow, but I have a group therapy project I want you to be part of, because you are an artist. So don't miss the next group." She told me. I wandered into the common room with the people with "real" problems and sat down. She took out pencils and markers and handed us each a piece of construction paper. We stared at her like eager to be entertained kindergarteners.

"Draw a dock. This dock is everything that is holding you back. Label it: abuse, drugs, alcohol, whatever. Now draw yourself in any boat you want. This boat is you leaving those things behind."

I drew my dock. And then I thought about my boat. The man next to me, who had stopped eating when his wife left and had been admitted to the hospital, dehydrated and homeless, 30 pounds later drew a cruise ship. The drug addicted old man, who had let his friend's daughter die of a heroin overdose in his flat, drew an enormous vessel armed with cannons. The fidgety guy in the corner drew a symmetrical rowboat. I wrote "expectations" on an anchor and set it on my dock.

I love the water. I love to kayak. I enjoy feeling the coolness rush up under my legs and the satin smooth waves beneath my fingers as idle down a river. Like everything, I need to feel it with everything I have. I want to experience my life. So I drew myself in an inflatable raft. I don't know how to draw a motor, so I gave myself oars. I am comfortable with oars and besides they are good exercise. I want to be strong. But my picture was not accurate yet.

I thought back to the month before that I had taken my kids kayaking. My daughter was in her own small sit on top and my son was tucked in front of me. We went down the river easily, traversed fallen trees and even got out and had a picnic. Then as the sky darkened, we had to turn around. Traveling upstream was not as easy. My daughter didn't think she could make it. So I tied her raft to the back of my boat and paddled. When it was shallow I would get out into the murky, dirty river and drag them. One foot in front of the other was what it took to finally make our way back. That was how we rolled.

So, I looked at my drawing and I added two round life boats and tethered them to the back of my raft. Oars in hand I prepared to row.

The nurse walked over and picked up my drawing. "That's a mighty unstable boat! You need something stronger!" She told me. But it was my truth. I didn't need to be stronger, I just needed to get away from the dock. I smiled and told her I'd fix it. I took the page back and drew a distant shore. On the shore I drew a tiny building with a big sign that read "boat store." "I promise I'm on my way to a better boat. This is what I have right now, but I promise that's where I'm headed." And I meant it.

I walked out on Monday with a prescription for an antidepressant and a doctor's order to get divorced. Some 2 years after my marriage died, I knew I had no choice. I had done everything I could do to hold on, it was time to let go. The next day I saw a lawyer. Two weeks later I met the man who would show me I could dream bigger than I ever had before, a friend I had known all along. Everything just finally clicked when I pushed off to sea.

Today I have been divorced 1 month. It was a legal process that occurred 3 years and 4 months from when I first knew the end was near. It occurred 2 years and 5 months after we split. Now I stop counting. Now I have finally let go, not just of what was, but of what will never be. And I am alive.

And willing to be seen.

Here I am.

**I want to add, my BFF is now over 6 months sober and thriving in a supportive and stable relationship. Our struggles were as tangled as our paths to healing. I couldn't be more proud of her.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Mother's Day Note from an Imperfect Mom

Just a little Mother's Day thought......

When I found out I was pregnant I was not excited. I remember looking at my 20 year old husband, rocking in the Lazy Boy recliner and I had a hallucination. I looked at him and he was about 12 years old. His baseball cap was too big and his baggy pants were gathered at his ankles, far too long for his pre-teen body. I looked at "child him" and blurted "now I have to stay married to you FOREVER." "Wasn't that the plan when we got married?" He shot back accusingly. I guess I thought so. But I was 19 when we got married and not too skilled at thinking things through. He was my best friend, I loved him, I loved his family and I wanted to throw a party and see all the people I loved in one place. Babies were forever. Children were forever. Motherhood was FOREVER. My 21 year old self knew this much.

I was not excited when I found out I was pregnant, but I am not one who likes to be wrong. So I wore my pregnancy with the pride of a mommy-to-be who had been trying for a decade to reproduce. I subscribed to every baby email, read every baby book, formulated a birth plan at 3 months and wore maternity clothes at 4 weeks. I could tell you at any stage in my pregnancy whether our baby was the size of a grape, an apple, a cucumber or whatever fruit or veggie the computer told me. I registered for baby items and painted whimsical matching shelves. I pretended I was really excited so that people would think I planned this; so people would know I was happy and in complete control of my life. I vowed I would not let my life be a mistake. I vowed to become extraordinary.

My daughter was born, after an emergency c-section, which went against EVERY possible situation mapped out in my birth plan. The family gathered, with flowers and cameras, to hold the tiny bundle that would redefine my life. She was perfect in every newborn way, a perfect Apgar score and a latch on my sore nipple so advanced the lactation consultants gasped with delight. I liked this kid a lot, I thought, she was going to be an extraordinary child with a devoted, equally extraordinary mom. But I wasn't in love with her. I remember watching her pass between the arms of family. I remember the coos and smiles and the absolute adoration in her father's eyes as he changed her first poop. I remember being so glad that things were exactly what they were SUPPOSED to be. I was stubborn if nothing else, determined to make everything in her world perfect, not because I loved her, but because it was my job.

I took her home and never put her down. She nursed, she slept on me, I wore her around like an implant. And one day, I remember it as vividly as yesterday, we were sitting in that same Lazy Boy recliner, rocking, the sun was beaming through blinds and she had been sleeping in my arms for around an hour. I looked down at her and I knew I loved her. I cried as I held my heart in my arms, I cried because I knew I would love her even when she wasn't perfect and even when I wasn't perfect. I knew I would be everything in the world I could be for her, because that WAS my job, but my feelings were unconditional. I fell unconditionally in love for the first time that day. And I have been blessed every day since.

Happy Mother's Day to all mommas, and thank you my Aurorah, for making me a mom. You didn't just give me a purpose, you made my heart whole.