the virtual family

Last night, my step-daughter Chelsea, who is living out of state at the moment with James’ ex-wife, stopped by for dinner.  Actually, she arrived before dinner, in time to help Bryn with her homework, and say hi to all of us, including the dogs, who were confused but overjoyed to hear the sound of her sweet voice.  When we sat down for dinner, Chelsea said grace with us and joined in the conversation around the table.  It would have been a perfectly ordinary, unexceptional family evening, but for one thing:

Chelsea was still in Florida.

Her presence among us was made possible by the extraordinary technology known as Facetime, her image delivered into our home courtesy of Bryn’s iPad screen.

Throughout the evening, James and I just kept looking at each other and shaking our heads — how strange and wondrous that Chelsea should be there in our kitchen, watching me cook, talking to her dad, prompting Bryn when she hit a difficult part of her homework, when, in fact, she is almost 2,000 miles away from us.  We talked to her as if she were perched on one of the kitchen barstools, hearing about her day and telling her of ours.  Not in the conventional back-and-forth that is the natural structure for a telephone conversation, but in a messy, lots of overlapping voices and laughter manner that is better-suited to an in-face dialogue.  And when we sat down to eat, Chelsea brought her own snack along, to join in the eating ritual.

I have Facetimed and Skyped before, but never for that duration or in that casual manner.  Bryn carried Chelsea’s bodyless head in her iPad from room to room as she prepared for dinner, and I was constantly aware of Chelsea’s voice as it moved from room to room, as if any minute she would come bounding down the stairs to help me set the table.  It was remarkable.

When I was a teenager, I had a long-distance relationship with a boy who lived five hours away in my grandmother’s town.  We wrote letters almost constantly, and saved pennies to accommodate our long telephone conversations.  It was not uncommon for my share of the family long-distance bill to surpass $300 per month.  It was a serious financial burden, but one we willingly bore, as it was also the only way to keep our romance alive.  In fact, for a year we managed to survive on weekly letters and phone calls and less than a handful of in-person visits, but ultimately our fledgling relationship was undone — not by the expense or hassle of the distance, but by the simple nature of teenage hormones.  He found someone there in his town, and I moved on to someone in mine.

I marvel at all the ways that we can stay connected these days.  I know a lot of adults denigrate or downplay the value of technology as a means of connection for those too young to hop a plane or get in a car, but sometimes I am overcome with gratitude that these vehicles exist.  Bryn and Chelsea have a bond that is indescribable and would likely survive with or without the technological assists they get from their devices.  But those devices enable them to be more than long-distance friends; they enable them to remain in each other’s lives on a nearly daily basis.  To hear the ups and downs of a day.  To support each other when challenges are faced.  To confide in one another when adults aren’t available for whatever reason.

And for James and I, those precious Facetime moments with his children tell us so much about how they are doing and feeling than a telephone possibly could.  Their body language, the brightness of their eyes, the way they engage — those pictures far surpass the information we can glean from phone conversations.

I know that as adults we are often frustrated with the ways that our children communicate.  We decry the loss of the face-t0-face conversation and the immersion in texting.  But hasn’t that always been the case?  I remember my own parents screaming at the teenage me to get off the telephone before I gave myself a cauliflower ear.  And none of us can forget the brouhaha that ensued when email began to replace snail mail as the preferred method of written communication.   It makes me feel certain that when the telephone first came into general acceptance, there must have been elders who bemoaned the end of written correspondence and the accompanying demise of civilization.  All of this is not to say that I don’t monitor my children’s media usage and consumption, but I think sometimes it’s important to notice the value, as well as the dangers.

And I, for one, am ridiculously grateful to the creators of Facetime, for allowing  my precious Chelsea to warm our home on such a cold winter’s night.   It’s definitely not as good as a real hug, but it’s far, far better than nothing.

long distance love

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recipe for happier holidays: blend well

During the holiday season, I am typically addicted to the sappy, predictable, sugary holiday fare that runs 24/7 on the Hallmark Channel that time of year.  From Thanksgiving to Christmas, I watch one perfect holiday-themed love story after another, sighing at the snow and the romance and the ease with which all the characters cheerfully handle the holiday drudgery that turns most of us into Grinches.

I really need to stop watching those movies.  I really do.

Because we all know that the holidays hardly ever actually resemble a Currier & Ives painting, let alone a Hollywood movie.  And when you factor in six kids and two parents trying to figure out how to successfully blend our family traditions, the results are often stressful and sometimes comical.

Maybe there’s a family out there that can pull off their first blended holiday season without an argument or a mishap, but ours is not that family.  Definitely not.  We love each other.  We want to be together.  But we also want to kill each other once in a while. That’s just the plain truth.

And because I consider it my duty to help inform those who might follow me of the snares and missteps along this post-divorce path I have taken, I feel obligated to share some of my discoveries.  So, purely for your edification, I offer you a list of things that James and I had to negotiate as we celebrated our first holiday season as a blended family:

1. What to stuff the turkey with.  He was used to sliced potatoes and bacon, while I favored the more traditional bread stuffing.

2. When to put up the Christmas decorations.

3.  Whether to get a live Christmas tree or an artificial one.

4.  Whether said Christmas tree should have white lights or colored lights.

5.  How much money to spend on each child for Christmas presents.

6. Who should do most of the Christmas present shopping.

7. Whether the Christmas presents from Santa should be wrapped or unwrapped.

8.  Whether the whole family should attend church on Christmas Eve or only those who choose to.

9.  Whether and how many gifts should be opened on Christmas Eve.

And so on.

Some of these points were more easily agreed upon than others.  Surprisingly, the question of how much money to spend on presents was pretty much a non-starter, but James and I worked out the issue of which lights to put on the tree while standing in the garage screaming at each other.  Go figure.

What this holiday season taught me about blended families is this:  you’ll never know until you try.  Most of the things on the list above we could never have anticipated prior to experiencing them this year.  I mean, sure you realize that blending families and holiday traditions might be difficult, but I think most of us think about those difficulties in terms of the Big Stuff:  how well the children will get along, or whether anyone will feel left out, or if the presents will be just right on Christmas morning.  But, like in a marriage, it’s more often the little things that open up the biggest holes.  And in a post-divorce relationship, preserving some of your previous traditions, particularly for the sake of the children, can feel more important than you’d ever thought.

I found it interesting that I most easily sacrificed the traditions that Bryce and I had made together and clung fast to the ones my girls and I had constructed since my divorce.  Those were important to me — and, I learned, to them — in ways that I hadn’t fully appreciated when we were stumbling along together after the divorce.  But what made them special to me was exactly that — we had created those small traditions together, in the midst of our early pain and uncertainty about the future.  We three had drawn together and made holiday patterns that felt good and right and reflected us.  And those were the ones that I fought over with James.  For him, it was the traditions that he’d carried with him from his childhood that he held most dear.

On the whole, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily our sense of what the holidays should be dovetailed.  It occurred to me that our common values around family and togetherness likely drove those similarities, and that was gratifying to discover.    And it was amazing and heartwarming to see the kids all acting like siblings during Christmas break.  But I think the best confirmation of how far we have come was delivered by my mom, the day after Christmas, when she said “You all really are a family.  No one who sees you all together could doubt it now.”

And, as for me and James, you could say we came through all the frustrations and negotiations and ended up full circle again.  Quite literally.  Perhaps a bit emotionally bruised from all the high drama of our non-Hollywood holidays, but none the worse for the wear as it turns out.  Because on Christmas morning, he surprised me with a beautiful ring that I have not taken off since.

I make no pretense that any of this is easy, because I can’t honestly say that it is.  Not for us, anyway.  But it has its moments of such pure sweetness and grace that I do not doubt that it is worth it.  Even with our struggles to make a family holiday that is uniquely and completely us, even with the arguments and the silences, I would not trade this holiday season for any one that came before it.  Sincerely.

So I will continue my journey down this path for another — likely eventful — year.  I welcome you to join me in creating my on-going happy ending.

Just don’t expect a Hollywood script.

ring 2

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Filed under blended families, divorce, love, single mom

what’s in a name, revisited

This fall, as I was in the midst of pushing toward completion of my first book, I had the good fortune of picking up Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.  If you haven’t read it, you simply must.  Seriously.  Stop reading this and head immediately to your locally-owned bookseller and purchase a copy, because you’ll want to read it again and again.  Or, if you do not have a local bookseller available to you, open a new browser window and head to Amazon whereupon you must order a copy and commence reading it as soon as it arrives.   Yes, it is that good.  Both in content and in remarkable storytelling.  It’s so good, in fact, that it caused me to have panic attacks about the quality of my own work, inspiring me to rip apart my manuscript draft and completely reorganize it into a different book altogether.

But this is not a book review. It is, as the title suggests, about the meaning of names.

I have, of late, been thinking quite a bit about names, an exercise prompted by the realization that I must come up with a proper pseudonym under which to publish my future work, in order to protect my children’s identities.  My typical nom de plume has relied on a name gifted to me by my birth mother and listed on my first, later-sealed birth certificate.  But, for reasons that I detailed in a recent post, I have finally relinquished my claim on that name.  I now realize that it was simply a placeholder, no more.  And so it is time to move on.  But I am fairly stumped as to how.

At the end of Cheryl’s book, she explains how  she came to have the unusual surname of “Strayed,” and the story is both simple and mind-blowing.  Simple, because she just picked it.  Mind-blowing because she picked it not because it sounded good or reminded her of someone she’d once loved or was a distant family name, but because it was descriptive of who she is.  She decided that she needed  a new name to go along with a new beginning, and she sought one that best described the essence of who she was and is.  And, because she is someone who has struggled to stay on a designated path (even one of her own choosing), she picked the fabulously abundant “Strayed.”

Which made me wonder …  if I were to do the same exercise, what name would I pick?  What combination of letters would produce a meaning that best reflects and captures the choices I’ve made, the roads I’ve taken, the mistakes I’ve pushed through? For the better part of a day, the question rolled around in my brain, tantalizing me.  My imagination alighted on various words before discarding them — Attempted, Gave, Found, Sought, Wondered, Persevered.  All were good in their own way, but none felt exactly right.

And then I found it.  My descriptive surname a la Cheryl Strayed.

It is Hoped.

The only constant in my life has been my hope.  I think it has both held me up and caught me from beneath more times than I could possibly count.  It is, most definitely, what I have done most and what I expect I will always do.  While this discovery does not solve my question of what surname I shall use for my upcoming book, it was a satisfying and insightful exercise.

So now I ask you, what would your word be?  What mingling of letters would you use to tell the world your story in one word? Feel free to share it here or keep it to yourself.  Be sure to look forward, as well as back.  And, most importantly, don’t worry about what meanings others might attach to the name.  Your meaning is what matters.

And whatever your word, whatever its genesis or cause, I wish you a self-aware and mindful 2014, constant with peace, serenity, and love.  And, of course, hope.

a-ray-of-hope

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deleted.

Adoption is such a mixed bag of blessings.  The most valuable for me as an adopted child has always been the fluidity with which I view relationships.  Family is truly those who inhabit my heart, because any other definition would necessarily create a very lonely life.  This definition is expansive, endless with possibilities and rich beyond compare.

The flip side of this approach has sometimes been that I place more importance on a particular relationship than does someone who has ample and strong genetic family ties.  I have, on more than one occasion, realized that my sense of family with someone was misplaced; in the end, I was “just a friend” or “just a girlfriend” or whatever the small, definitive category was that I occupied.  I don’t begrudge these people their categories; indeed there have been occasions when I have envied them the clear distinctions of their lives, the ease of prioritizing relationships, the simplicity of explaining how one is related to another.  But that was not the hand I was dealt, and so I have bent and manipulated common categories to suit my own needs and life.  And that approach has mostly served me well.

After I was three weeks old, I didn’t lay eyes on a single soul possessing my genetic thread for nearly 29 years.  It was then that I met my birth mother, Kathleen, after a lengthy search.  Ours was a joyful telephone reunion, followed by pages and pages of emails, futilely trying fill in the missing years since she had held me as a screaming infant in her arms.  There were early morning and late night phone calls, exchanged photographs and small gifts, and a visit by her to the home I shared with Bryce, when I was newly pregnant with Sabrina.  Later, when Sabrina was 18 months old, I traveled with her to Kathleen’s home on the West Coast for a short visit.  Sabrina charmed her new “Gran” completely, and Kathleen seemed delighted by the prospect of a grand-baby, having missed so much with me.

Every relationship has its honeymoon period and, had I read any adoption reunion books I would have known that the same applies to adoption reconciliations.  Our honeymoon period lasted longer than most, but small fissures erupted and, without the grounding of a stronger or deeper friendship, they expanded into deep chasms.  There were so many parts of me that not only reminded Kathleen of her beloved younger brother, but also of her despised older brother.  She disagreed forcefully with many of my life choices and was unimpressed by my choice of husband.  But perhaps most damaging was the fact that, aside from my skin and hair coloring, I physically favor my birth father, a man who brutally hurt her and about whom she cannot speak. So perhaps the relationship was doomed from the beginning, or even from the second beginning, but I was determined to at least keep the line of communication open, even as she clearly withdrew from me.

My first inkling that perhaps I had been abandoned by her permanently came two years ago when Sabrina was in 5th grade and completing a family history project.  I had received lots of family stories and histories from Kathleen in emails during those early, breathless days, stories I had been waiting a lifetime to hear and she’d been hoping for the chance to share.  I’d compiled them all into binders that I stored with my photo albums, the closest thing I had to a family history.  Sabrina thumbed through them, amazed to discover the richness of Kathleen’s family history, the surprising realization that we were, in fact, a Western homesteading and ranching family, and the terrific tales of Irish lore handed down.  Then she sat down and wrote Kathleen a very sweet email, telling her of the family history project and asking more questions.

Kathleen never answered her.

I was more than a little stunned as the days dragged by and there was no response to Sabrina’s email.  We worked on her project as best we could without the additional information.  I offered, but Sabrina refused to abandon Kathleen’s family and instead do something about her dad’s side, which was equally interesting.  She completed her project and received an A, but I was still reeling from the silence.

I sent Kathleen an email via Facebook, where I know she is very active, asking her to please reply to Sabrina even if it was just to say that she couldn’t provide anything else.

Silence.

As an adult, I was able to cognitively process the rejection.  Kathleen is a woman who, at least since the harrowing and unfortunate circumstances of my conception and birth, has struggled and mostly failed at maintaining relationships.  She knew she would be a poor mother, having had a very cold and critical role model to follow, so she relinquished me rather than risk perpetuating the family problems.  The quirky and interesting commonalities we shared did not bridge our larger differences.  And basically, no amount of genetic material could make up for what was lacking between us.  I knew all of this.

But, still.

The adopted child in me cried out for her.  Wondered at how she could abandon me, again.  Wondered how I could be so very flawed that, even having gotten to know me, she could reject me so completely that her rejection would encompass my innocent children.  Wondered at how blood was so thick for some people, but apparently counted for nothing in my own life.

I accepted Kathleen’s complete retreat and did not pursue the family history issue again.  I did notice, however, that she did not unfriend me on Facebook, so I assumed that she had some lingering interest in me, my children, and our lives. I continued to send her school photos of the girls, Christmas cards and presents, and a Mother’s Day card that always read, simply, “Thank you.”  I thought we had reached some kind of plateau, in which I would continue keeping that thread alive between us, and she would continue to ignore me.  I rationalized to myself that there was no harm in it; after all, it wasn’t like she could actually hurt me anymore.  Right?

One day not long ago, she posted an interesting exercise on Facebook.  It was one of those cut-and-paste, perpetuating games in which the poster asks each of her Facebook friends to leave a one-word comment below the post, describing how the poster and the friend met.  I don’t usually comment on Kathleen’s posts, but they are not usually an invitation to participate, as she is more fond of political diatribes and humorous videos.  This time, though, I thought I had a very clever contribution.  And so, because I am apparently a pathetically slow learner, in the comments section, I wrote “Birth.”

Later that day, I noticed her post on my timeline again, as our sole mutual friend had also provided her one-word answer.  I clicked on Kathleen’s post, and as it filled the screen, I saw it.  The void.  The emptiness where my comment had been.  It was gone.  Deleted.

I should not have been surprised.  You, reading this, are not surprised.  But I was.  I truly was.

I stared at it for a long time, the obvious irony settling in.  She had deleted me.  She had deleted my birth.  So swiftly and easily, with merely the click of a mouse.  And I knew, for what was probably the first time, that if she could do that for real, she would.  She really would.

I know that getting pregnant with me changed her life dramatically and my birth father’s cowardly response to the pregnancy demolished her in ways I can’t fully appreciate.  And I know that my birth nearly killed her and did disable her for a year, and that she never had a family of her own after that for reasons that only she knows.  And I know that I am not what she had hoped I would be.

But I am her only child in this whole world.  Her blood.  And she deleted me.

In the days that followed, I felt foolish for the photos and the Christmas cards and gifts that have likely met the trashcan unopened, but not too much.  I offered her as much love as I knew how and I considered her as much a part of my family as the other wonderful parents I have.  I shared the most precious part of my life with her, my children, and encouraged them to pray for her and offer her love, too.

In short, I did nothing wrong.  It was not my fault that I was conceived under such ugly circumstances.  It was not my doing that she suffered an aneurysm during my birth.  I cannot apologize for how I have turned out or who I have loved.

I wish that we could have been family.  Some kind of family.  But I know now that we will not be.  So this holiday season, I instead turned my attention fully and completely to the family that does love me, truly and deeply and without reservation.  Some ties are actually thicker than blood.  And for that I shall be forever grateful.

photo

Me, at about 2 1/2 years old.

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Filed under adoption, healing, parenthood, relationships

was it worth it? (pt. 4)

One of the things that enabled me to finally pull the trigger on my divorce and take the blind leap out of my marriage was the noble idea that someday, somehow, it would all be worth it – that me, my children, and even my ex-husband would someday, somehow be better off for my choice. It wasn’t just a hope, it was a certainty that I clung to fervently. Indeed, had I not convinced myself of its truth, I might never had taken that leap.

The question of whether the pain inflicted by my decision will ever be permanently offset by the benefits realized later, during and after the dust had settled, is one that I have mulled often and written about several times (for a look at those earlier posts, search “was it worth it?”). I realized fairly quickly that my own well-being had most definitely been improved by my choice, but that alone was not enough, because then I would be haunted by the pure selfishness of my decision. No, I needed to see that my children and my ex-husband had grown, improved, become better versions of themselves as a result of our family breakdown.

The question of my children remains to be seen, certainly, as they are still young and the full ramifications of our divorce have yet to have to manifest themselves. Later, when my daughters begin choosing and navigating relationships, then, perhaps, I will have a better sense of what they have actually learned from these experiences. For now I see only that they seem well-adjusted, with friends and decent grades and close bonds to both their dad and me. In fact, one recent morning, my 10-year-old informed me that she thinks our divorce has made her stronger and more compassionate. Huh. So, for now, I check that box as being as good and healthy as I could hope for and remind myself to wait and see what the future holds.

But then there is my ex-husband, Bryce. There have been many, many times since I first announced my intention to leave that I saw glimpses of remarkable personal growth in Bryce – self-awareness and openness I’d never witnessed previously in our 13 years together. Those glimpses offered me hope that our divorce would someday cease to be the worst thing that ever happened to him, and instead would be looked back upon as a fork in the road that led to a deeper happiness and peace in his life.

Have I mentioned that I’m a hopeless optimist sometimes?

Or at least that’s how I prefer to describe this part of myself. Others might label it naivete. Or foolishness. Or plain, old-fashioned stupidity. But I’m going to go with optimism. Faith in humankind. An overarching belief that most people genuinely do want to do and become better.

In one perfectly organized, perfectly courteous email sent to me at the end of October, Bryce revealed himself to me as the same man I stopped loving many years ago. The same man I left without much more than a glance over my shoulder. The same man who prioritized, above absolutely everything else, money. The same man who had tunnel vision on his own wants and needs to the extent that the girls and I simply didn’t factor in at all. At. All.

Ah, yes, I remember him.

When I read his email, with its passive-aggressive insinuations that I was not financially carrying my share of the water for our daughters, my first reaction was fear. Unemployed for 8 months at that point, with my savings running dangerously low and James’ slow season nearly upon us, I was already worrying – okay, beginning to panic – about money. But I hadn’t asked him for additional money during my unemployment, and had cut absolutely all fat from my budget (including decent health insurance for myself), in order to not have to cut back on the children’s expenses. I was doing absolutely everything I could to stay afloat, and he had to know that. So, his professorial tone and implied assumptions made my heart race. And that’s when the angel of Reality showed up and sat me down for a talk.

Alone in the house in the middle of the work day, I sat on the stairs, iPhone in hand, and re-read the email, seeing and absorbing each word carefully, allowing their full meaning to sink in, surrendering to the truth they carried.

“Okay,” I said out loud, “I get it now.” I saw what I had to do: First, I had to deal with the practical and logistical implications of the email. Then, later, I would sit down with the emotional truth within it.

The first part was easy. I called my attorney, discussed my legal obligations and options, and made arrangements for taking the necessary steps to stop the financial nonsense once and for all. They are steps that have been available to me for two years, but I have resisted taking out of my determination to maintain a solid, healthy, supportive relationship with Bryce for the benefit of my daughters. But his email helped me realize that he does not share my goal, or at least his commitment to it ends with financial considerations. I realized that I have been sacrificing my financial security for something that I value far more than he does, and while I would normally say that it’s healthy to follow my own values without reference to anyone else, there comes a point where one must accept that one is being taking advantage of. Being “nice” or “accommodating” can quickly be transformed into doormat status by those too self-absorbed to realize that they are on the receiving end of consideration. And just because he loathes paying child support does not decrease his obligation to do so. Knowing how much he hates it, I have tip-toed around the subject, to my own detriment, apparently. So, legal action may have to commence and I will deal with it as I would any other business arrangement. But, honestly, I have remarkably little anxiety about that.

After I hung up the phone with my attorney and gathered the necessary documents, I made myself a cup of hot tea and sat on my bedroom balcony, contemplating the Rockies spread out before me and wondering at the more subtle message in Bryce’s email.

I took a deep breath and willed myself to look back at our history. To honestly assess, as I might for a friend, the give and take in our relationship. I stared hard at the signs of his personal growth and at my own need to be assured of that growth. I examined the bias I had about which direction that growth should take and how it should manifest outwardly. I recognized the heaviness of the guilt that I carried about our divorce, and how desperately I still clung to the hope that Bryce would cease to be all the things that made me want to run away from him, as far and as fast as I could.

And then I realized that it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter if Bryce grows at all from the divorce, or if he grows in direction or manner that is not of my preference. It doesn’t matter if he always harbors anger and resentment toward me for ruining his life. It doesn’t matter if he blames every single unhappiness he experiences on me and the divorce. It doesn’t matter if he clings to his swollen bank account with the certainty that it will bring him peace and security. Not really. Not to me. What he does with the lessons available to him from our divorce is outside my control and responsibility. His choices, his life, and his truth are not mine. Not any longer. I do not need to reference his happiness or growth to justify my own. It is entirely his choice whether to rise above his pain and create authentic happiness, or not. I have no control or responsibility over that. At. All.

Possibly, that is the beauty of divorce. At its very core, it is about no longer being emotionally responsible for or to each other. Your life becomes, again, your very own. I did not do something to him that requires atonement or restitution; our marriage failed because we were badly suited to one another and lacked the love and commitment to last a lifetime. He is not a victim, any more than I am. It is time for me cease to measure the success of my choices by how they affect him. Time to put on my Big Girl panties and approach my relationship with Bryce with the detachment and guarded civility with which he has consistently dealt with me. Time to let go of childish fantasies of friendship and closeness, and time to realize that I don’t actually need any of that.

Letting go of needing that approval from Bryce might be the final step in our divorce. Letting go of feeling that my happiness is undeserved unless it somehow feeds the greater good is difficult for me, but might be the biggest lesson I will ultimately learn from this process.

On the whole, of course, only time will reveal all of the effects of our divorce, but time is a phenomenal teacher, if only you allow her teachings to gently rest within you. That week, she taught me that I no longer need Bryce’s approval or friendship or happiness to enjoy my own.

And that’s worth more than the contents of any bank account.

letting go - kite

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turning the tables

It’s been a long time since I last wrote, but I haven’t been idle… I’ve been busy working on a book based on the journey I’ve taken since my divorce, as partly chronicled here on that precarious gait.   The book manuscript is nearly complete and I’ve secured an agent who will be assisting me with seeking a publisher, so things are very exciting.

But now I need your help!

In deciding which stories and thoughts to incorporate into the book, I relied heavily on previous feedback from my readers here, both in comments and in private messages.  Now I’d like to solicit your advice directly and I sincerely hope that you’ll take a moment to think about it and respond…

So here goes:

If there are particular posts or ideas that I’ve written about that you found particularly helpful or insightful or reassuring, please let me know, either in the comments below, via email directly to thatprecariousgait AT yahoo.com, or on my Facebook page at “that precarious gait.”

Thank you in advance for your help and for every word of mine that you’ve taken the time to read.

And I’ll be back, writing here again, very, very soon!

xo,

TPG

writing-a-book

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the deluge

[Blogger's Note: This is part of an on-going series I've titled “perfect little miracles,” a series of posts about moments that have inspired, reassured, or comforted me.]

As many of my readers have likely noticed from my posts, I currently live in Colorado.  Boulder County, Colorado, to be precise.  And, as you might have seen on your national (and international, from what I hear) news, we were hit this past week with a massive flash flood, of the magnitude that occurs only roughly every 100 years.

When you live on the prairie (or “flatlands” as we call it here) at the foot of one of the world’s largest mountain ranges, the threat of a flash flood is always present, but not usually in a tangible way.  It is, rather, like when I was growing up in DC before the end of the Cold War and we’d have “nuclear drills” meant to prepare us for being vaporized should the Russians actually decide to annihilate the world by initiating a nuclear attack.  The threat of that attack — like that of a flash flood pouring down from the canyons — seemed remote and almost illogical.

But last week the remote became the real.  The rain started on Tuesday, September 10th, falling hard and steady on the foothills and the valleys at their base, without a break, as a weather front settled in against the mountains.  Short bursts of rain are not uncommon here (although September tends to be one of the driest months of the year), but this storm hadn’t gotten that memo, and instead of moving quickly off to the American heartland, she kept turning back onto herself and drenching the foothills.  Days of continuous, pouring rain swelled gutters and curbs, portending what was to come. Small creeks and streams, running low after many years of mostly drought, quickly filled and spilled their banks as the clay soil, hard as concrete due to those same droughts, refused to absorb the runoff.  As stream led into stream and creek into creek, they all dumped into the small rivers that meander down our mountains most of the year and gracefully open up in the valleys beneath.  Those small rivers — the South Platte, Boulder Creek, the St. Vrain, the Little Thompson, and the Big Thompson — soon became rushing walls of water that crashed into anything in their way.

On Thursday morning, James and I had a meeting with our lawyer in downtown Boulder, roughly 3 blocks from where Boulder Creek splashes into the valley after winding down the canyon.  On that morning, flood sirens, tested weekly in the summer and mostly ignored by residents, began sounding, and the young women from the lawyers office rushed down to the creekside just before the wall of water hit the town and the officials began the first of many evacuations.  When I left the attorney’s office and made my way further out the flatlands toward our home, I saw that the St. Vrain river had already spilled its banks and was threatening the highway, and when I pulled into my neighborhood, I saw that the small creek running through it had begun flooding neighborhood streets.  The force of that creek was certainly shocking — merely a week before, our 8-pound mini-dachshund had crossed it unassisted.  Even so, at this point, the floods were hardly more than a curiosity, as no property had yet been destroyed or lives endangered.

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Street in our neighborhood, flooded and with a stranded mini-van.

Bridge over a small creek, over-run by the flood waters.

Bridge over a small creek, over-run by the flood waters.

But that didn’t last, of course.

By Thursday night, September 11th, homes were flooding across the county, and the destructive power of water was on full display.  Whole towns were wiped out as the rivers that ran through them carried off homes, cars, and anything else in their path.  People in the canyons were hit especially hard in those early hours, as the floods raged without warning and residents scrambled up mountainsides, seeking ground high enough to avoid the onslaught.  Stories have emerged since of parents, clawing desperately through thick mud to free their children buried by the raging waters that reduced their homes to detritus carried off down the river and slammed into structures further downstream.

For days the rain continued, and we watched the waters steadily rise.  For those still with power, social media allowed people to connect and determine who had escaped the waters and who had not.  The Denver news stations streamed coverage constantly, but no aerial shots were available until late Sunday, when the clouds lifted enough to allow helicopters to take to the air.   Blackhawk helicopters provided by the National Guard immediately took flight and conducted two days of search and rescue, plucking people and their pets from rooftops and cliff faces.

The water in our area crested on Saturday, before it pushed past us and sped toward Eastern Colorado and, eventually, Nebraska.  But even once the rain stopped, the devastation didn’t.  Mudslides brought down roads — whole towns were cut off from help — and receding waters deposited thick and filthy mud in basements and streets across the county.  Neighbors a block away from us were using snow shovels to move mountains of mud from their basements and garages.

Our neighborhood park, hours before the waters crested.

Our neighborhood park, hours before the waters crested.

Stairs leading to the creekside pedestrian path, a few hours before the waters' peak.

Stairs leading to the creekside pedestrian path, a few hours before the waters’ peak.

Our local bike path, after being destroyed by the flood.

Our local bike path, after being destroyed by the flood.

All told, it is believed that 4 souls were lost to the flood waters, including a teenage couple who were the first fatalities after being caught in their car in a deluge on a neighborhood street Thursday night.  Nearly 400 homes in our county were damaged, with another almost 350 completely destroyed.  But those are only the official numbers; they do not include the people with damaged basements or destroyed landscaping who have not made an official claim for financial assistance.  Nearly all of my friends in the City of Boulder had basements that were either moderately wet or a complete loss.

As is usually the case, it could have been much worse.  The City of Boulder has a strict building code that forbids any new construction whatsoever in those areas deemed floodplains.  Instead, those areas tend to be dedicated to parks, and those parks were mostly obliterated during this flood.  It is terrifying to think of the potential loss of life and property had there been dwellings on those sites…

James parents live in a town without such stringent building codes, and it was one of the towns that is likely changed forever.  Tucked at the base of the mountains, with the St. Vrain river running right through the center of town, Lyons had spent millions of dollars improving infrastructure and amenities over the last 10 years, turning it into a quaint tourist destination and well-loved artist community.  The river almost completely covered the town when it swelled over its banks, and most residents still do not have power, telephone service, or fresh water.   Roads in and out were wiped away, and the National Guard continues to monitor traffic coming and going; only residents are allowed in.

At the height of the flood, James’ parents found themselves stranded above Lyons, with no power, phone, or water, and a lower level of their home filling quickly with water.  When we didn’t hear from them for nearly a day, James got into his truck, talked his way past the National Guard roadblock, and braved washed-out roads and still-dangerous water levels to get to his parents’ house.  Once there, it took some begging and pleading to get them into the truck and down to the flatlands.  They arrived at our house on Sunday, September 14th, dirty, exhausted, and in shock.

In the days that followed, I helped James’ parents navigate the FEMA process, and James guided them through their insurance claim.  James and his dad purchased a pump to get the flood waters out of the house and a generator, which would power the electricity in the home, plus the pump for well water and the sump pump to keep any additional flood waters from their lower level  As soon as the National Guard began issuing 1/2 day passes for residents to re-enter Lyons, James and his dad returned to the house and stripped it of the damage.  On Thursday, September 19th, his parents returned home, feeling blessed to still have a home mostly intact, and ready to begin rebuilding.

So what about us, you ask?  James and I and our home survived without any damage at all.  Not so much as a leaky roof, which is truly amazing, given the destruction just yards away from us.  Our beloved neighborhood park is severely damaged, and the new bike paths that the kids rode all summer are damaged or completely gone, but those are small losses compared to the suffering of others.

Park bench in our neighborhood park, after the waters had receded.

Park bench in our neighborhood park, after the waters had receded.

Stories abound of communities pulling together to rescue each other and salvage what can be saved.  Money and assistance is pouring into our area from across the country, and families are creating new normals in the face  of destruction.  In the midst of all of this, there have been so many perfect little miracles, but there is one otherwise insignificant aspect of the flood that still makes me shake my head, and it actually happened before the flood even began.

On September 10th, I rose early and dressed to go to a new networking group in the hopes of jump-starting my job search.  Dark clouds hung low and thick over the flatlands and concealed our mountains as my friend Denise and I pulled into the parking lot of the mega-church where the networking group meets each Tuesday.  As we got out of the car, the first sprinkles began to fall.  Inside, it was a fairly small group, but a good one.  As an icebreaker, the facilitator asked everyone to share their “Worst Weather Story,” and we went around the room relating mostly light-hearted tales.  When we broke up, people exchanged numbers and offered contacts.

Forty-eight hours later that very church became the primary evacuation center for those running from the floodwaters.  That same room where we so blithely shared our Worst Weather Stories was filled with cots and the miscellaneous belongings that one might grab in the middle of the night before fleeing.  The halls through which Denise and I walked were converted into command central for the Sheriff’s Department, the National Guard, and FEMA.  Those first sprinkles that we dashed through on our way into the building became the historic deluge that changed the lives of so many, including some of the people in that room during the networking meeting.  What must their Worst Weather Story be now?  I think of each of those strangers, and I wonder how they fared. I wonder if any of them have marveled at how we shared those stories on the eve of one of Colorado’s biggest floods ever.  And I wonder at the facilitator’s choice of icebreaker.  Had he known, somehow?  Or was it simply the kind of thing we all label a coincidence and never think of again?

I don’t believe in coincidences, but I do believe in miracles.

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the fractured family

The last time I wrote, my life was floating in an odd kind of limbo, awaiting resolution of a judge’s decision on whether James’ three young children would be sent back to their mother in Georgia — the object of an abuse and neglect investigation prompted by the kids’ therapist — or whether they would stay here with us, a family complete, a family whole.

On August 12, 2013, we went to court and showed the judge everything we had.  Professionals took the stand to lay out our case, and witnesses (including one from Georgia) substantiated the claims the children had made to their therapist.  But the judge chose to disregard all of that, and instead believed their mother, who swore under oath that the children’s claims were lies fabricated by James and me.  It was her word — and her word alone — against multiple witnesses on our side.  But she pulled it off.  And so the children were sent back to Florida.

It was a stunning, unexpected defeat.  Everyone following the case, including sitting and former judges, were shocked and amazed that Carnie, the children’s mother, had managed to convince a judge to ignore all expert testimony to the contrary.  But that’s how powerful a liar she is.

The judge’s ruling came down late in the evening after a 3 1/2 hour hearing.  I will never forget reading the verdict on my iPhone while out to dinner with James and our Georgia witness, and knowing that when I turned to show it to James, I would be delivering a crushing blow.  The children were already with Carnie, as the court had ordered parenting time for her after court adjourned, and she was to regain custody, effective immediately.  She was not even required to let the children say goodbye to us.

James texted her to ask if we could bring the children some of their things from our house, and she agreed, upon the condition that she wanted to speak to him, alone, with the children.  At first he resisted, but I convinced him to go and hear what she had to say, while I waited nearby, within sight. The meeting was wrenching to watch from the sidelines, as the kids clung to him and Carnie pleaded with James to get back together with her, going so far as to get down on one knee.  He blanched, and I honestly wondered if he was going to lose his dinner all over the pool deck, but he held it together long enough to make clear that such an idea was preposterous and to end the conversation. She didn’t want to allow the children to say goodbye to me, but James insisted. I had but seconds with each of them, time enough for a few whispered words of encouragement and endearment, before she ordered them back to her side. And then we left, hearing their whimpered tears behind us, and leaving pieces of our hearts there on the pool deck.

I don’t remember much from that night after our goodbyes.  I remember calling my girls (who were at their dad’s) to tell them the outcome, and Bryn’s anguished cry when she realized that Chelsea had been ripped away from her.  Sabrina was furious, wondering how a judge could ignore the videotaped interviews of the kids, their earnest pleas to the social workers that they be allowed to live here with us and not be returned to Florida.  My girls wanted answers, and I had none.

The next morning — and many mornings thereafter — I awoke and immediately felt the heaviness of grief press down upon me.   The first few days after the hearing were nearly unbearable.  Our house was so quiet and our pain so palatable, that James and could hardly stand to be there.  We tried to distract ourselves.  We shut the doors to their rooms — left disheveled because no one expected that they wouldn’t be coming back — and tried to block out the memories of the summer.  We got random texts from them as they made their way back to Florida.  Short phrases, pregnant with their ache and loss.  And we felt helpless.

James and I both cried a lot at first.  Small reminders would reduce one of us to tears.  I had to avoid music altogether, as it brought back too many memories of riding in the car with the kids, going here or there, with the music blasting, the windows down, and all of us singing along together.  I framed lots of the art the girls had made for us over the summer, crying each time I placed another piece between glass.

We had set up new email addresses for the two oldest, Chelsea and Jay, for them to communicate with us, and during their first two weeks back in Florida, we heard from them frequently.  They used the email portal just as we’d intended — as a small way to touch back to us, to connect and feel our love without the filters their mom tries to impose.

The allegations and evidence presented at the hearing clearly frightened Carnie.  She quit her bartending job, began spending much more time at home on the weeknights, and started trying to connect with the kids in more positive ways.  The court ordered that she be randomly tested for alcohol, and as far as we know, she is complying with that order, but we have yet to see any test results.  The court also ordered another parental evaluation, to be conducted by a licensed Child-Family Investigator (CFI).  Carnie’s attorneys tried mightily to get the court to approve a CFI in Florida, but our attorneys prevailed and a local CFI was assigned.  The CFI begins her investigation next week, which will include interviewing licensed professionals associated with the case, family, and even the children.  She’ll travel to Florida to see the circumstances there and conduct interviews, and will visit our house and us as well.  It’s an intrusive, long process, designed to overturn every stone in search of any deep and dark secrets hidden beneath.  The judge — thankfully, a different one from our earlier hearing — will likely follow the CFI’s recommendation, so the outcome of the case might ultimately hinge on this one person’s conclusion of how to serve the children’s best interests.

Whether Carnie’s new-found persona as Devoted Mother will hold up over time or even convince the CFI in the short term is anyone’s guess, but for now it is having its desired effect on the children.  They have pulled away from us, for reasons we can only guess at.  Perhaps they feel let down that we couldn’t win the case and allow them live in Colorado.  Perhaps they believe their mom that we somehow manipulated them to say awful things about her.  Perhaps they are tired of all the drama and have resigned themselves to their situation.  It’s impossible to know, and heartbreaking to wonder at.

In the meantime, our home continues to heal.  The first weekend my girls spent here without James’ kids, they cried quite a bit.  Things were solemn and we spent even more time than usual together as a family.   But they are now becoming accustomed again to the relative peace and quiet of the house, as are we.  School has started and life has fallen into its familiar rhythms again, so that sometimes I can almost forget how close we came to being a whole family.

The case will likely not be fully resolved until early Winter, but I am no longer feeling certain in the outcome.  August reminded me that even “slam-dunk” cases can be lost, and those things we count as certain, upended.  So for now, we try to find the good in the moment and pray deeply for the future. And a time when we might not be a fractured family any longer.

Snowy Owl, by Chelsea, age 10, Summer 2013

Snowy Owl, by Chelsea, age 10, Summer 2013

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mother as a verb

mother: (v.) to care for or protect like a mother; act maternally toward.

I have not been able to find a job in five months.  This is radically unusual for me.  I would be even more confused and concerned were it not becoming increasingly clear to me that the universe has assigned me a job — right now my job is to mother.  And, more specifically, to mother James’ three children — Jay, a 13-year-old boy; Chelsea, who is almost-11-years-old: and Chloe, aged 7 1/2.

Now, in a blended family situation, the step-mother necessarily assumes some mothering responsibilities, which are easily enumerated and the focus of countless books.  But there is no book for the kind of mothering I am providing to these children.

For the last six years, since their parents’ divorce, the children have lived with their mother in another state — let’s say Georgia — for most of the year, returning to their hometown and Dad for eight weeks in the summer and every school vacation.  Despite this pathetically small amount of time in Colorado, they consider it their real home and their dad to be their primary parent.  Unfortunately the courts don’t agree.  At least not yet.

For the last five years, the children have been seeing a well-known and respected child psychologist when they come to Colorado, and she has been quietly wringing her hands as their situation out-of-state with their mother has become more difficult, more dangerous, and more heartbreaking. Their therapist has listened to their sad and angry young voices detail their mother’s neglect, selfishness, and abusive boyfriends, all the while knowing that she didn’t quite have a legal basis to file a report.

Until this summer.

This summer, the children arrived as usual and went to see their therapist to unload several months’ worth of private angst, frustration, and disappointment.  As usual, they begged her not to make them go back to their mom’s house.  As usual, they all reported, separately, the same sad stories of her parties and drinking and how they feel that they are the lowest priority in her life.   But this time, they also must have said something a bit different… shared something slightly worse than was typical… revealed an infraction that was, finally, a firm basis for a report under mandatory reporting laws.

The therapist wasted no time filing a report with the mother’s state department of social services.  The intake worker at first seemed fairly nonchalant while receiving the therapist’s report, but very shortly, most likely after a review of police calls to the home, the investigation kicked into high gear.  And we and the children were thrust into the frightening and bureaucratic world of child abuse investigations.

It was what we had been waiting for all along.  The allegations were no surprise to us, but they were heart-wrenching and sickening.  And the matter-of-fact way in which all three children were able to detail the nature and frequency of their mother’s infractions was breathtaking.  Yesterday, James and I sat in a child advocacy center for several hours while, downstairs, his children did for themselves what we have not been able to do for them:  they demanded the attention of authorities tasked with protecting their well-being.  They were forthright and honest and composed.  And they likely changed their futures, one way or another.

And now, as the legal repercussions swirl around us, we fiercely try to maintain some kind of “normal” for the children.  My daughters know what is happening, and they are as protective and nurturing of Jay, Chelsea, and Chloe as James and I are.  As a family, we are completely focused on validating and supporting these three achingly-young children as they enter a governmental system that is more powerful and more arbitrary than they can possibly realize.  Should they be required to return to Georgia at the end of the summer, they will face a mother whose fury and vindictiveness they are well-acquainted with and terrified of.  If they are forced to go back, after all they revealed and all the trust they placed in anonymous adults who promised to help them, I fear they are likely to give up.  I fear she will finally break their amazing, resilient spirits.

And if they stay, every single aspect of their lives would change:  schools, friends, everything.  Their mother would likely fly into a rage and spew all sorts of venom and hatefulness at them.  James and I would do our best to protect them, of course, but the allegations are unlikely to warrant a complete termination of parental rights, so the force of her anger would likely be felt.

So this is where I am living this summer:  in emotional limbo.  I love these children as if they were my own, and they love me back.  Before James and I even moved in together, Chelsea asked if she could call me “Mom.”  I responded that she could call me anything she wanted, as long as it was kind.  She beamed.  Chloe quickly followed suit.  I have watched them, as they call me “Mommy,” trying the word on their tongues.  I have seen their little grins of pleasure when I respond as I would to my own girls, and those grins make my heart ache.  Jay, when he’s not busy with his friends, hovers around me, telling me about music and movies and pretends to be appalled at my lack of coolness.  But he also asks me to visit him to when he’s getting ready for bed (not to tuck him in, of course, because “that’s for babies and little kids”), and we play basketball whenever we can.  Chelsea is my little shadow — a recent target of her mother’s derision, she blossoms when I tell her how smart and accomplished she is.  And then there’s Chloe.  Little Chloe.  Despite being her mother’s favorite and avoiding the worst of her actions, Chloe cried to James recently, telling him that I am the only “real mother” she has and she doesn’t want to have to leave us.

What am I to do with these children?  I have so very little control over their fates.  And if things between James and I don’t improve, I could lose them forever regardless of the court’s decision.  I am not their mother, and I do not endeavor to replace her.  But I would like very much to take those spaces in their lives into which she pours fear and uncertainty and sadness and backfill them with kindness and support and affirmation.  So I do the only thing I really can:  I love them fiercely.  I kiss and hug them often.  I point out special and amazing and important attributes they have and accomplishments they achieve.  I discipline them with love and honesty.  I say prayers with them at night and talk to them about the guardian angels who I know guard them always, and especially when they are in Georgia.  I tell them, over and over again, how much I love and admire them, even when they make me angry.  And I hope and I pray that some small morsel of my mothering will sink in and carry them forward through the difficult days that lie ahead.

I feel helpless when I stare at the road before them.  But then I remember that I have these weeks, these few precious weeks, to pour as much good stuff into them as I can, before the hurricane blowing towards us sucks them in.   I try to be present and aware in each moment we have together.  I ignore my phone and email.  My house gets messy.  My only goal is to never look back and regret that I could have done more.

As I’ve been writing this, the kids have been playing near me in my office, all five of them.  Now it’s bedtime and there are five small foreheads to kiss, and five small bodies to hug, and five small souls to pray over.

Five small people to mother.

My favorite Madonna, envisioned as the "Queen of the Rodeo."  Denver Art Museum

My favorite Madonna, envisioned as the “Queen of the Rodeo.” Denver Art Museum

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why I hate being a stay-at-home mom

I hate being a stay-at-home mom.

There.  I said it.  Call me all the names you want.  It will still be true.

I hate having my daily life revolve completely around the care and upkeep of everyone else. I went to law school rather than medical school in part because I acknowledged to myself that caring for the basic needs of others could not be the central focus of my existence.

I hate that any achievement I make (A delicious dinner!  A clean bathroom! A watered garden!) is almost immediately undone or disappears. There is nothing that I do that is of lasting, tangible impact.  In my last job, I created things, I wrote things, I drafted new laws.  In this job, I make a pie that is gone in 36 hours and for which not a soul says anything, except a passing “that was good” from James, which is why he’s my favorite.

I hate that nothing I do merits more than a cursory “thank you” from anyone. Ever.  In my marriage, I tried everything I could think of to solicit some kudos for my cooking, baking, cleaning, painting, yard-tending, animal-keeping, laundering, etc.,  but nothing worked and I gradually learned the age-old lesson of all housewives:  if you’re really good at what you do, your family will take you for granted because people only notice the problems or mishaps in the minutiae of their lives, not the aspects that run smoothly.  A lack of complaints is really the highest compliment a housewife can expect.  And I hate that.

I hate that the harder I try to be seen, the more invisible I become.  Yesterday, I took the girls shopping.  I bought one girl a bike and another girl some clothes and some sports equipment, and another girl an accessory for one of her toys.  For the bike, I got a big hug (which I savored greedily), but the others prompted nothing in the form of recognition or gratitude.  It wasn’t a matter of the missing “thank you” as much as I was hoping that they would see that I cared for them and their needs.  But, of course, they are children and that was lost on them.  As soon as the goodies were placed in their hands, I receded into the ether, gone until the next time they need something.

I hate that I don’t have grown-ups to talk to about grown-up things.  I went to dinner last night with my friend Gwen, and found myself waiting at the table for her arrival, nervous that I wouldn’t have anything interesting to say.  I was fairly certain that she wouldn’t be enthralled with news that the big dog is shedding like a maniac or that our lawn has turned brown in patches and I’ve no idea why or that Jay’s bike tire has been flat for weeks and I can’t seem to get around to fixing it.  But when she sat down across from me and started talking, I could feel my innards begin to untwist and relax.  And before I knew it, we were gabbing away about work and men and kids and faith.  I can’t count the number of times she said to me, “I can’t believe how much you’re juggling right now!  I don’t think I could do it.”  It was like soaking in a warm bath of acceptance, validation, and understanding for a few hours.  But than I emerged, got into my car, and felt my guts tighten up again.

I hate feeling sorry for myself.  I know — really KNOW! — that I, and I alone, am responsible for my current lack of employment.  I knew when I sent the final email to the Mayor that I would likely be terminated for refusing to adhere to his way of doing things.  I also know that there are fateful reasons for my being unemployed right now; I know that it is necessary for me to be home with the children this summer, to ease their transition and grease the blending of our families.  I can easily appreciate that I am immensely selfish for resenting sacrificing one simple summer for the sake of 5 precious children.  But there are definitely days, like today, when resent it I do.

I hate feeling tired and frumpy.  No amount of exercise or nutrition or sleep helps me shake this low-energy mood.  The endorphin high from working out lasts only until the next “MOM!!!!!” is screamed amidst yet another sibling argument.  There is no need to dress nicely when I am simply chauffeuring and cleaning up after children, so I sport the de rigeur summer uniform for the stay-at-home mom — jeans shorts and a cotton t-shirt — each and every day.  Sometimes I even put in earrings, but that only prompts the children to ask why I’m so dressed up.

Being a working mom is really tough. This I know.  I’ve done it with babies and I’ve done it with bigger kids.  I’ve commuted almost an hour each way, through all kinds of weather, while worrying what I was going to get on the table in time for dinner.  I’ve missed school plays and soccer games and sick days for meager paychecks that barely covered the cost of child care.

During my first tour of duty as a stay-at-home mom, I was relieved beyond belief to be free of the guilt that hangs over the working mother like a London fog.  Finally, I thought, I will have the time and attention and focus to devote myself to my children and family and home!  Our lives will be unstructured and stress-free and full of laughter and fun.  But you know what?  I am no more qualified to be a stay-at-home mom than I am to be an astronaut.  I am simply not suited to it.  I don’t have the aptitude or the training or the fearlessness to embrace the challenges inherent in the job.  When I re-entered the salaried workforce after my divorce, I did so with a guilty pleasure about which I am still ashamed.

This second tour of duty as a stay-at-home mom was involuntary for the most part.  When I refused to turn a blind eye to the political corruption in my previous job, I failed to recognize that the absence of another job in the wings might result in my conscription in the Stay-at-Home Moms Corps.  Never, not once in all the time that I was unhappy under the new mayor and feeling increasingly put upon having to work for a foul administration for a pittance of a paycheck, never did I wish that I could be a stay-at-home mom again.  Yet, here I am.

To be honest, I’m not terrible at being a stay-at-home mom.  In fact, I’m actually pretty good at it.  But this is only the second job I’ve ever had that I was good at but didn’t like.  The first was being a waitress at Bob’s Big Boy when I was 15 and had to wear a brown plaid, polyester uniform and orthopedic shoes.  I have to say, in all seriousness, that the waitress job was only marginally worse.  At least I got tips.

I know that at some point, all the job applications I’ve completed, all the resumes and cover letters I’ve sent out, all the interviews I’ve smiled my way through, will eventually result in a new job coming my way.  And I am equally certain that said job will appear at precisely the correct time in the universe’s schedule.  But until then, I’ll make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while wearing my hair in a ponytail and repeating “Would someone please get this hairbrush off the kitchen counter?” for the 534th time.

Because I’m a stay-at-home mom.  And that’s what we do.

mom to-do list

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