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.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

When I was your age....

My daughter is 11. And a half. She's entering Middle School next year, but ever since we attended the middle school round up, or whatever the hell it was called, we feel like she's already there. Part of getting older is having freedom, so I have been struggling with deciding how much I am willing to give her. At the beginning of the school year I was scared to drop her off at the bus stop, making her stay on the phone with me the whole time until she got to school. Now, I'm trying to let her spread her wings a little, while hoping she doesn't get kidnapped or ran over by a large truck.

I know she handles situations well. A couple months ago a man in a car said "hi" to her at the bus stop. She took off, circled buildings, hid in the bushes and called me and the cops. The school sent a note home warning parents that kids were being approached at local bus stops, so to be aware and ALSO to never roll down their windows and say "hi." The police said she did an amazing job of staying safe and being aware. I was excited because I got to miss a half day of work to sit with her and write reports and draw sketches of the creepy, salutation offering perv. Some of her friends walk around after school, up to the corner store, over to the park; we live in a small town. And they all have cell phones, after all they ARE ages 10.25-12.

So, when she asked to go over to a friend's house, who was approximately 4 minutes away on bike, I said: I don't know. And I didn't know. I searched the innards of my elderly 33 year old brain and thought way back to when I was eleven. And a half. WWMMD? What would my mom have done. And then it hit me. She would have told me to get my lazy ass on a bike and gotten the hell out of dodge. What was MY problem? Why was I so uptight? Of course I rode my bike to my friends at eleven. I rode my bike all over the neighborhood, up the street, to the school. Its  WHAT we did. Feeling empowered by my ability for recollection, I assured myself not only COULD she go, she SHOULD go. On her own. With her GPS enabled cell phone.

So I told her to unload the dishwasher and I retreated to my laptop. She came gave me a kiss goodbye, I mandated she be in the door by not a moment later than 7:30 and I triumphantly prided myself on being a flexible, growth oriented, confident parent. A little while later I went into the kitchen and noticed the dishwasher was still full. Oh hell naw. It was 7:00 p.m., I called her. "You need to leave now and come home." "Why mom?" She asked me. "Is it starting to rain?" I looked outside and noticed the wind had begun to pick up and the sky had darkened. 
"No. Its not raining, but you didn't unload the dishwasher. And so, your privileges that I, your super freedom loving mom have given you, are being revoked!" "OK, I'll get my stuff and leave." She promised me. At 7:06 I notice large raindrops beginning to fall. At 7:08 she calls.

"Mom, its raining."
"Yup, I see that."
"You want me to ride home in the rain?"
I thought about it. One, it was 85 degrees out. Two, it made a great punishment for not doing the dishwasher. I giggled. Three, WWMMD? Yeah, thats right, back in my day we rode our bikes in the rain. We got wet. We rode faster to make it home. Not only would she ride her bike home in the increasing downpour, damn it, she would be a better person for doing so! Kids these days are so spoiled with their parents shuttling them here and there and everywhere. Not my kid. Again, I felt proud of myself.
"You are going to ride home right now, as it is it's almost 7:30. You are going to get wet. It will make you ride faster. You will get wet, you will not melt, you come in and unload the dishwasher. So get moving."

I hung up the phone and looked outside as a torrential downpour began. Twinges of self-doubt occurred, trying to break their way through my stubborn resolve. I called Mr. Perfect and asked if I was a mean mom. He agreed she should have unloaded the dishwasher AND she'd be fine getting wet, but I sensed hesitation. He kept asking how hard it was raining and I think he may have heard the thunder. I decided I didn't really need his opinion, after all I couldn't back down now. She was, one, on her way. Two, it was only a 4 minute bike ride. Three, seriously, whats the likelihood that THAT lightening struck her... damn it, I was trying like hell to be a tough parent!

I saw a car pull up. My daughter hopped out and helped her friend's mom pull her bike out of the back. What the fuck! That undermining other parent! She drove my kid home! I knew she was judging me for allowing my daughter to ride her bike home in the rain. And she ruined my punishment. I hated her guts. My daughter walked in.

"YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO GET WET!" I scowled at her. She tried to tell me that the other mom wouldn't allow her to leave in the storm. I would have none of it. I told her to go unload the dishes and I sat down in front of the T.V.

And turned it on. And saw the weather report. Severe thunderstorm warning. Wind warning. And in our isolated area, up to one inch hail and reported rotation forming. Son of a gun, that's not safe. I looked outside. It WAS coming down hard. The trees whipped around. My daughter came out of the kitchen and sat down next to me. "Sorry, mom."

"You are so lucky they spotted rotation." I told her. She grinned. 

I have no idea what I'm doing. I just want her to be safe, not get raped or murdered, but not be a pansy, dipshit kid who has no friends and isn't allowed to leave the apartment. I want her to feel the awesome power of independence. I want her to have responsibilities and know consequences and experience punishment. I want her to know I'm the boss, but I feel like she is. I don't know what's right or wrong or too much or not enough. But luckily, we are both smart women, so I think we'll figure it. Together.

Or she'll end up pregnant at 13, dying in a tornado that I locked her out of the house in. Hope not.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Mother's Day Gift

Everyday I pick my son up from preschool/daycare and am presented with THE FOLDER. The folder contains within it a variety of items, none which I find important. It has half colored coloring pages, various crafts, like elephants with 7 googly eyes and 3 pom poms glued to it, cafeteria IOUs, long itemized daycare cost bills and a rock or two he found on the playground. Also, there is an occasional "written warning". I especially disregard those. Usually I collect the folder contents and bring them to my car, where they become carbage, laying on the passenger side floor until the point where another adult needs to ride in my car and I peel them from the carpet and throw them away. I am not sure what other parents do with this constant bombardment of worksheets, but one can only collect so many pictures of bumblebees dancing around daisies that have two petals colored in or the letter B written 12 times. Perhaps I need to be more grateful of the care my son gets or excited about the tiny accomplishments he makes in his education. Or perhaps we should all save a tree and ax the folder.

When I arrived to pick him up yesterday, the teacher excitedly yelled to Zephyr, "Don't forget to give mom her gift!" I looked next to the folders and saw a brown paper bag with my son's name carefully drawn across the front. "Remember, she can't open it until Mother's Day!" I smiled and took the bag, looking down at my son, pretending I'd never been so thrilled. I knew that in the bag was some trinket I would be forced to display and cherish for several hours until I could hopefully sneak it into the garbage. It would possibly be something, glued to a magnet and it would end up on my kitchen floor, stuck in strawberry jelly, until the construction paper became permanently attached to the linoleum. It was the type of thing we would ignore as it stuck to our feet, never bending down to pick it up. It would be the type of floor garbage that would be trafficked room to room, until Mr. Perfect came over and bent over, gave me that "you're filthy" look, and threw the damned thing away. I didn't have very high expectations for the paper bag. After all, I've been mothering for 11 years now. Homemade cards are cute, but for gifts I want a massage and a day where people leave me alone.

We got in the car and I ripped open the bag. There was no way I was going to wait two weeks. Who knew where the bag would even end up in two weeks. For Christ's sake, I'm a single, working mom of 2, with no family in a 40 mile radius. I gave up organization in hopes of getting some sleep a couple years ago. Whatever was in the bag would not survive a two week wait. So, I tore that shit open. And inside I found......


It was ceramic travel mug. With leak proof lid. And on the side it said:
"I love my mom cuz she gives me sweet good kisses at night." Which IS, the most romantic thing I've ever heard. On the other side was a lovely, pink handprint and a gorgeous likeness of myself. It was durable, usable, microwaveable and assisted in the deliverance of caffeine to my face. Plus, I knew it would look fabulous on my desk and make all my co-workers jealous. I loved it. I screamed with delight as I threw the crumpled up brown bag on the passenger's side floor of my car. I told my son how it was the best gift EVER. I went to pick up my daughter and as soon as she got in the car I showed her my BEST GIFT EVER. She scowled at me, remembering the 4 inch rhinestone, "mom" necklace on a metallic lead chain she bought me, with my money, from her secret santa shop 2 years ago. Yes, this even trumped that. "Zephyr wins!" I exclaimed to the children as if I had been waiting my whole life for this mug. 

So good job preschool teachers, wherever you are. Good job, I will even pay my bill. And to my kids, a little competition never hurt anyone. So, with Mother's Day quickly approaching, I can't wait to see what they get me. I opened this early, so it doesn't count.