I Blame it on the Flu

I got the flu. It was terrible.

My children went over to play at a friend’s house. There, they met a dog named Stella. And one thing led to another, and now we have adopted Stella.

IMG_8396

Except now her name is Reilly. Because I can’t imagine spending the next 12 or so years screaming “STELLA” across dog parks.

She needed a home; we had one. So, what could go wrong?

Let’s see.

1. I am a divorced (or single) mom who works full-time (well, sort of full-time, technically full-time at least), and I already can’t do it all. My new normal is a deep exhaustion that I’ve only known once before – during the final weeks of my third trimesters. I spend some nights too overwhelmed to do a load of a laundry, and so tired that I start nodding off during dinner.

2. I have never had a dog. My children have never had a dog. We don’t know the first things about dogs.

3. I am a neat freak who shudders at dog hair and dog messes and dog hair.

4. Exactly one week before taking Reilly, I ordered new furniture – all mine, all new, for the first time in my life, perhaps. And most of it is white.

5. After living across the street from a city dog park for ten years, I don’t like a lot of dog owners. They are odd and combative and fight amongst each other and yell a lot about their rights – usually their right to let their dogs run around unleashed and leave poop behind in toddler sand boxes and neighbors’ flower boxes.

6. In fact, I’m not even sure if I like dogs after living across from that dog park. Sacrilegious to some dog lovers. I understand. But honest.

6. Paying for my dog walker might just involve giving up my favorite things (that are, coincidently, my only indulgences): my daily venti skim latte, Uber, wine, an occasional pair of Joie boots or my Splendid tees …

So, why a dog?

It comes down my son, ten years old, who said:

Mom, we need to take Stella, because she’s a rescue, and she’s been through so much. We “had” the divorce, and we went through so much. So we all belong together. We need to take her.

So now we have a little rescue beagle. She’s very smart and very sweet. But she likes to run away, following her nose, and already a dog walker has labelled her “incorrigible.” And that was before Reilly ran through the dog walker’s legs and out the front door to escape.

Let’s see how this all goes.

*ps: I wrote this post a few weeks ago. Just WAIT until you hear exactly how things have gone.

Especially this week.

–Madness

Advertisements

The Journey Back

My son got sick on Tuesday morning, really sick, with a nearly 104 degree temperature. Burning up, hacking, crying that his head hurt.

My daughter got sick, but not as bad, on Wednesday.

Last night I got it. I haven’t been this sick in ages and ages. I wanted to just lay in bed and sleep until the pain went away. I lost track of time.

And today was another snow day. My children, 8 and 10, made themselves soup and read books and watched tv. They did not fight once, as far as I know. I knew that some of their friends were probably out sledding, but I didn’t want to call in any favors today. I just wanted to sleep and wake up better tomorrow.

About halfway through the afternoon, my son came up and opened my blinds. Pale winter light entered my sick room, and I sat up to watch the fat, happy flakes come down. My children helped to clean up the kitchen tonight, and for a while, they sat on the sofa singing a song from school together. They both hugged me good night and said, “I hope you feel better, mom.”

Perfection is not the goal. Perfection is in the journey.

Divorcing a NPD, part 2

When you divorce a NPD, and the support is several weeks late as usual, and you write a pointed email to ask when it will arrive . . .

you very well may get a garbled and rambling email in return, informing you that you should be thankful for all the money he is providing for you, and that in addition to this court-ordered money, he is paying for food and clothes and medicine when the children are visiting him during his court-appointed time, in his home.

The email might even go on to say the he pays for sporting equipment for the sport that you don’t want your child to play, expensive Nike basketball shoes that your child doesn’t need, and a camp that is an hour away and again involves the sport mentioned above. Of course you will think “But I didn’t ask for these thing. I don’t even agree with them. I disapprove of them.”

And then you will start to wonder why he is so proud of paying for those basketball sneakers when he hasn’t paid his court-ordered portion of healthcare expenses for his children . . . ever.

And then, as a kicker, you will see the last line of his email, chiding you for putting your son in snow boots that are growing too small.

And then, if you are like me, you hit the ceiling, thinking of how beautifully dressed your children are every day. It is thanks to you, even though you go to work now, full-time at an office, unlike your ex who has mysterious clients and elusive and wildly fluctuating sources of income. You think of how your sweet children always show up with their homework and signed permission slips and book reports and class projects and sports equipment and new ballet shoes and and multiplication drills and new books and haircuts and ballet buns and proper vaccinations and white shiny teeth thanks to the dentist appointments you take them to. And the teacher conferences and the extra trips to the school with forgotten lunch boxes and the countless hours clocked with other moms anguishing over and redshirting and little girls with summer birthdays and big boy bullies and mean girls and organic food and everyday math and building resilience and self esteem. And the things you’ve taught your children like folding a sheet and making a bed and how to do laundry and hold a fork and say please and thank you and use the microwave and tie their shoelaces and brush their hair and floss their teeth. And the playdates and parties and endless carpooling and the hugs and family meetings and values and lessons learned and pep talks after a lost soccer game and all the talks about love and values and self-esteem and doing right and how we don’t practice perfect in this house because anyone who tries their best is doing good enough.

And then you will remind yourself to stop, because otherwise you will go crazy. If your son’s boots will soon be too small, it is okay. You will remind yourself that your ex is not well. And that his goal is to gaslight you and undermine you and start a long fight. But you will not rise to the occasion. You will write a short email correcting the facts only to make sure the truth is documented because you will never forget the words of your attorney: “Madness, even though this divorce is technically over, this guy is going to bring you back to court again and again because he’s so crazy.”

And so you write the note and then you call a friend or have a glass of wine or laugh with your kids or go for a walk or run. Or you blog and vent and hope you’re not the crazy one, as your NPD ex wants you to believe.

And because you didn’t engage with him and continue the fight he wanted, you’ll have the energy to step back into the light again, moving forward into a bigger and happier world, full of possibilities.

My Son, the Bruiser

The school called me at work. My ten-year-old was involved in a “scuffle” on the playground.

The details were murky. Three boys were involved, my son jumped in last to “defend his teammate.”

When I picked up my son on carpool line and asked him how his day went, he chirped, “GREAT.” His face was bright red and he refused to make eye contact with me. Apparently he wasn’t going to spill the beans. I know the parenting experts would tell me to wait it out, but I don’t have the time or patience for that anymore.

“So, you got into a fight with N and M, huh?”

His eyes widened and then filled with tears. I listened to his side of the story. I got it. And then I told him:

“I don’t care who is doing what to your teammate. You never, ever get involved in a fight like that. You find a teacher. You never, ever touch another person in anger.”

I thought more about it.

“Okay, unless your friend is being hurt. I would understand if the bigger kid was beating up M and you felt like you needed to help. And of course you would only do this if no teacher was around.”

I don’t know if this was the right answer. In our schools today, fights are serious business. I’m lucky that the teachers know my son well – and that adults were close enough to jump in. It’s the kind of school that understands that three good kids can get into a scuffle over a football play.

But for a moment, I wished I could rent a husband for a few hours. A strong and positive male role model who would know what to do and say.

Instead, I called up one of the moms of the boys involved.

Within minutes, we were laughing. “Well, you know,” she said, “they’re BOYS.”

“The most competitive group of boys I’ve ever seen,” I said.

“Yeah and they were playing football when it happened,” she said.

“Ummmhmmmm,” we both said at the same time.

The boys will be all good with each other again. It’s okay, it’s normal, it’s not something that happened because of the divorce.

And I didn’t need to rent a husband after all. It would be good for my son to have a strong male role model in his life (a better one than this dad, obviously). But I think it’s time that we stop believing that only men can instill values in their sons. Women have been raising children alone for centuries. If they could do it, so can I.

Divorce, PTSD, and an Early Mother’s Day Gift

My son shut down my laptop when I walked into the room tonight. He is ten.

I froze, panic sweeping over me as I thought of everything his father had hidden on his computer. I got the old familiar jolt of adrenaline, stronger than electricity, that raced everywhere from my core and made my fingers tingle. My chest got tight – and hurt. As always, I think: shit, finally, a heart attack – I’m too young to have a heart attack – and HE will get my children.

On that last thought, I sit up and breathe and suck it up.

This was my son, not my ex-husband. I would not ruin this special evening with him and his sister. They returned from their father’s house at 5 in good spirits, pounding on the door and throwing themselves into my arms. We grabbed a basketball and walked down to the playground in our new neighborhood and hit the courts.

It was fun. No fighting over the ball, no cheating accusations. For the first time, I really saw my son exceed my physically at basketball. It felt good – and bittersweet. Afterwards, we walked back together up the big hill to our new home.

But after they went to sleep, I opened the computer, finally.

BEST GIFTS FOR WOMEN.

I nearly died. What in the world? I remembered the strange charges on ex’s credit card, and on my credit card – he was even once stupid enough to order bizarre sex items (trust me) using his father-in-law’s credit card, which he stole from my wallet, probably in some drunken stupor. Or worse, someone else stole the card from his wallet.

It haunts me.

But I look again. Another page is open on my laptop.

It is Amazon.com, one of about ten sites my children are allowed to visit on Safari.

BEST MOTHERS GIFT. It’s filled with things called gold rose foil flowers and superpower mom mugs.

I get teary as the adrenaline leaves my body and I realize that I have left my ex behind more than six month ago. He is no longer allowed to affect me this way.

I breathe. The world is a good place, generally. People are good, generally.

My children are good, period.

We are going to make it.

Je Suis Charlie 2

248488B100000578-2902756-image-m-147_1420764449851

My children came home from school today with lots of questions.

My son: Mom bad men killed cartoonists, like Charlie Brown.

Me: Well, the people that were killed were not cartoonists that made cartoons for children, like Charles Shultz. He was the cartoonist who created Charlie Brown. But the cartoonists that were killed made cartoons for grown-ups.

My daughter, surprised: Grown-ups like cartoons?

Me: Yes, for newspapers, and these cartoons were like stories about current events – about things going on around the world. And the bad men didn’t like the cartoons. They got mad about them.

My son: So they KILLED the people who made the cartoons?

Me: Yes.

Stunned silence in the car. My children had no more questions. They just needed time to digest the insane world of grown-ups.

We didn’t have to get into the politics of the events in France. Those questions will follow, I am sure. For now, my children are just trying to get their minds around the fact that two very bad men were so mortally offended by a few cartoons that they executed 12 people in cold blood.

Oh, in the name of god. That’s going to be a little difficult to explain.

Happy New Year: Hope after Divorce and Dealing with a Crazy Person

I hope it’s okay, on this New Year’s Eve, to cut and paste words from the brilliant and so-lovable Anne Lamott:

There was a cartoon in the New Yorker decades ago, that I’ve never forgotten, of two men chained at the wrists and ankles to the wall, off the ground, in a jail cell, in a cave. One man turns to the other, and says, “Okay, here’s my plan….”

That’s how I feel about the last two weeks of holidays, the days of death by cookie, bad nerves, tight smiles and overwhelm. Doomed, like a prisoner, or space alien, but you know what? Also full of hope.

Hope? What a nut huh?

What a nut. Yes, that’s me. When I tell my story, and people praise me for being strong or brave or positive, I know the truth. I had to be dragged into my battle, kicking and screaming while pretending that nothing was wrong – my marriage was perfect. But opening my ex-husband’s secret email account finally showed me the truth – my marriage was a sham –  2,000 pages of the most awful, perverse, and graphic words in front of me. Words that made divorce attorneys divert their eyes from mine. I couldn’t deny the truth any longer. My ex-husband had been lying to me and gas lighting me for years.

I had to stand up and walk into the light. And then I had to fight for three long years to divorce this man. I had to fight to protect my children from him. I didn’t do it for myself. I did it for my beautiful, innocent children.

And finally when the battle was over, the new crazy started: a new boss, a three-week deadline to fix up my home and sell it, two weeks to find a new home, and then the move, all in the middle of a family wedding and the holidays. At moments, I wanted to quit my job without notice, laugh in the face of my sanctimonious and childless co-worker, send my kids far away to boarding school – or give them away to the first interested person – scream at my real estate agent, and get out of my car at intersections ask drivers why they think it is okay to ignore stop signs. And then climb into bed until it was all over.

But at the same time, something kept propelling me forward. It was knowing that I was making progress – it was hope. Hope for a better life, a new home, success at work, financial security – a new life, peace.

What a nut. Someone who is giddy with hope for 2015 as she sits alone in her new furniture-less house on New Year’s Eve after a 6 pm dinner with friends. But hope is everything – I’ve never felt anything so powerful, except for love.

And talking of love and hope, tonight my friend’s bachelor-for-life brother proposed to his girlfriend. Another divorced friend got a break, a little vacation with her children for a few days, just when she felt she might crack. My brother has mysteriously found the love of his life. A friend-of-a-friend has survived year three of the most awful cancer, the kind that requires countless rounds of chemo and horrible surgeries that remove organs – her own doctor told their mutual friends that she would not survive, but the cancer is now in remission. My own father has survived open heart surgery this year, and now it looks like he will survive prostrate cancer too. Another friend is about to offer a stranger an incredible gift that might give her the second chance she needs in her very difficult life. And my extended family, which has grown apart through the decades, came together this year, bound together first by collective grief and then by the joy of a surprise wedding.

As my friend said tonight, 2015 is going to be wild. Yes, I replied, and interesting and very very mysterious, I am sure.

Happy New Year.

Post-Divorce Christmas: A Time to Pause

I didn’t do my Christmas shopping. I’m behind on my deadlines at work. My new home is filled with dark empty rooms because I haven’t had time to buy lights and new furniture. Half-assembled IKEA dressers lie on the floor; clothing is thrown everywhere. My children’s school has nearly put me over the edge: parent-teacher conferences, gingerbread houses, teacher gifts, PTA gifts, Brownie events, book reports to be typed up by parents … and the Christmas service.

This year I dreaded the Christmas service because I didn’t know how to tie my son’s tie. I resenting going shopping after work to buy my daughter white tights. I felt angry when my son had a tantrum about his belt. I had a debilitating bout of self-loathing because my skirt was too tight at the waist – when did that happen, damn it! I was close to hysterical because I didn’t have time to put on makeup because I had to watch YouTube videos instructing me on how to tie a tie. And then when we finally got out the door 20 minutes late and peeled up to the school, I saw that my daughter was wearing old sneakers with her perfect navy velvet dress and velvet headband.

And so the Christmas service finally made me snap. It made my eyes burn with tears because I knew I had to text my boss, skip work, and go home to find my child’s fancy shoes.

Yet I made it to the service somehow, cranky and sucking in my mommy stomach, and feeling more than a little bit mean and hostile towards all the happily married size 00 moms around me, even the perfectly nice ones.

I watch the freshly scrubbed children file into the cathedral, so orderly and quietly confident, sweet in their holiday dresses and hair bows and navy blazers. The nursery comes first, and I remember what it’s like to have such little pudgy little perfectly loved people like them. I spot my children later on. They file in with the older children, as the white-gloved choir plays the bells. They scan the crowd looking for me, and I want to run up and hug them.

I start to breathe and listen. I shiver, it’s so beautiful, perfect voices and whole entire lives in front of them, and soaring ceilings and stained glass and bells, and all the hope and love that are invested in these little children in this big cathedral. I half expect God to show up at any time, and then I realize that He is already there.

Later I will worry about work and gifts and divorce and the mystery credit card that has suddenly appeared in my name. For just one hour I listen and marvel at all the beauty and hope found here.

I have finally found the joy again.