Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Time

In this part of the country, most of June consisted of cool days with lots of rain. LOTS of rain. Suddenly, it started to feel like summer and we're all looking at each other and saying "July 4th is THIS week?!" No one seems to be ready for it.

Sunday afternoon was a perfect summer day. My mom still holds a membership to the swim club where she took all of us as kids, in Bucks County, PA. Picture the mom with eight kids, bringing the playpen and a packed lunch. We were there Sunday with one of my brothers and one of my boys, soaking up the sun.

Some things never change. The kids still master that gait, something like a trot, which is as close as you can get to a run without having a whistle blown at you (though kids don't get "benched" as much as when I was little). It is still a necessary maneuver for a kid to pull herself halfway up from the water, putting a knee up on the ledge and pushing off with exactly the right pressure to get out of the pool without shredding the skin on the concrete. Every so often, the train whistles and charges through a corridor of trees nearby, and close to dinner time you can smell the charcoal getting hot on the grills. It was good just to be, and have the time to enjoy it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Bad Day and Small Mercies

I could argue that the worst kind of bad day is one when you are not only hurting, not only wanting to kick yourself for being an idiot, but you have in the process made yourself a burden to your friends. Sometimes it takes a friend to give you the proverbial kick in the pants, and the good ones will probably feel as bad for the kick as you do for having needed one.
And say my glory was, that I had such friends. - W.B. Yeats
Having that kind of day Saturday, I had the good fortune to have the kids out of the house for the night. Instead of wallowing in despair, I was strangely goded into action. I finally cleaned out and packed up the things left in the bedroom and bathroom by my exhusband. As I worked, I thought I would see what was on TV (I don't watch as much TV as recent posts might suggest). Just as I turned it on, TCM was about to broadcast Notorious.

This is the 1946 Notorious, with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, and the first film that Hitchcock both directed and produced. Movies don't get any better. You have to see Bergman telling Grant, "you can't beat a love song for a good laugh." The movie coming on at just the right moment, for me, is what I call a small mercy. It doesn't solve any problems, but it is like the universe (what I call God, but you may not) puts a hand on your shoulder and says you're ok, you're not alone. Even if you have been far from perfect.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Need a Change

I'm struggling to keep my head above water lately, and it occurrs to me that I might want to think about lighter reading material. I have been trying to pinpoint what it is that I love about mysteries. There's the fact that the good guys may take some losses, but they always win in the end. The real draw, though, is in the revelations of human nature through the investigation and in people's reactions to it. Also, living people are constantly changing and unpredictable. In the case of the mystery, at least one person has stopped changing. What you find out will hold true to the end.

I picked up the other day a copy of Elizabeth George's thriller, With No One as Witness, for a dollar. It has been several years since I read one of her books, which are always tightly written. This one is a great read, but the quote on the frontispiece should have been my first clue that it might be darker than is good for me right now:

And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. --Friedrich Nietzsche

With a serial killer that targets adolescent boys, the book was certainly dark. I also read it right after watching an episode of Bones (mystery, romance AND a forensic anthropologist - a bonus for this former student of cultural anthropology) in which the victim was a young boy. The combination is enough to get any mom down, especially a mom of boys. I had also read last week, one of Kathy Reichs's mysteries (on which the series Bones is based), Grave Secrets. So, lots of sick, dangerous people, dead people and decomposition. Hmmm.

I'm not likely to give up on mysteries. My bookswap has another one in the mail to me, now as a matter of fact: one of Beverly Connor's books with another forensic anthropologist, Diane Fallon solving the crimes. But I think I will take a break, and reread some Jane Austen, maybe watch Notting Hill for the twentieth time. Maybe I should just sit down and build Legos with the kids, or take them out on a hike.

It's easy enough to change what I'm reading, or seeing on TV. What I long to do now, in the midst of everything, is start everything over - move, get away from all the reminders of what has gone wrong, what I have done wrong and the hopes I had for things to go right. That's not so easy, or even possible, as we have to live with who we are and what we've lost. Even the mysteries, once everything is sorted out in the end, have to acknowledge that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Not in the Clear

It seems that the lifting of spirits yesterday was more of a reprieve than recovery. Without getting into the nitty gritty of managing clinical depression, it is not always easy to know when you are merely evincing the current stressors of life, and when you need to ask if it's more serious. The big clues are how long the funk lasts (more than 2 weeks?) and how much impact it is having on day to day life.

Adrienne Rich wrote that "Marriage is lonelier than solitude." It certainly can be that, but it doesn't compare with the loneliness of ending a marriage, however necessary or right or hard-won was the decision to come to the ending. Explaining to the children, maintaining composure with the soon-to-be-ex, knowing that friends are watching for any sign that you are not okay and that everyone else is watching for clues to the "real scoop," is exhausting. I feel like every mistake I've made along the way is broadcasting itself in every word I use, and my weaknesses are public knowledge. There is no comfort, only putting one foot in front of the other each day.

I concetrate on the small joys, like hearing The Psychedelic Furs on the radio when I drove home from work last night. I used to have all their albums, on cassette tape, of course, and they bring to mind the one period in high school when I was consciously happy. This morning, I got in the car and heard Johnny Cash singing "I Walk the Line." Sometimes it's the whimsy, the simple surprise of music not aired very often.

Of course, there are also the kids, offering and asking for hugs, and telling me about their day. My older son built a Lego house yesterday with a working elevator, simply looking through the available pieces (never mind that half of them are scattered across the basement floor). In three weeks, I will be at the beach with family (thanks to Mom). I just had an email that the Avett Brothers will play in Philly again, in October, so I might get to see them perform. And, there are the friends who email and call, reminding me that I may have to do the work alone, but that I am not alone, not really. And, when I am able to think clearly, there is hope that the future will be better than this.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Good Hurt

I've been stuck in a low spot for several days, and avoided blogging. I decided that nobody needed to be brought down with me. I'm back now; and it helps that the sun was shining on my way in to the office today. That didn't happen once last week.
When you are once sure what your real interest is, everything goes down before it like grass under a roller - all other interests, both your own and other people's.
--Miss DeVine, Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

Two extremely intelligent, well-educated women were talking in this scene about knowing what is one's "proper job." For some, it might be science or a craft, or art. For others, it can be another person. For many of us, we struggle to be sure we know what our proper job is, doubting even that we have a proper job. If we just stop and observe what we take the most care to do right, that will point us in the right direction. Where our genuine interest lies, we cannot, will not make do with meager effort, or with fudging the truth (Miss DeVine suggests it will be the one thing you cannot lie about).

This morning I had an email response from an online journal to which I had submitted two poems. Neither of the poems was accepted; I had in fact submitted rather sooner after writing them than I usually do. It normally takes months for me to draft a poem, work with it, leave it alone, revisit it, then go through the last two steps a few more times. The poetry editor took the time to write nearly a full page of editorial comment. While I am generally too easily discouraged by criticism, I found the editor's remarks to be stimulating, even on the rebound from a week of depression. I can't wait to get to work on the poems.

Writing is the thing for me, though for many years I doubted that. My need for encouragement and praise goes "down like grass under the roller" in the drive to write well. Writing the truth, in any context, will inevitably cause problems with the people in our lives, but I need to write my truth, not without respect for other people but without being controlled by their interests. More often than not, the result is some degree of isolation. The need to protect myself from exposure succumbed to the promise of writing better if I write openly in a blog. The costs of doing the job well are no deterrent when the job is the right one.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Work, an update, and another hero

It seems crazy that once I started blogging in the mornings, my focus & productivity with work (the paid work, the work I'm supposed to be doing at work) shot way up. Good thing, too, as I'm knee-high in insurance changes for open enrollment. I am way ahead of where I was at this time last year.

Finally, I got the official word Tuesday that the MIA Mirena is actually right where it should be, according to the ultrasounds (had the standard and the trans-vag, yuck), so nothing more is needed on that front. Thank goodness! I couldn't afford one more copay.

Once I wrote, many posts ago, that I have a hard time answering the question, "who are your heroes?" I started thinking of people I admire all the time. One of them is Ms. Michaela Majoun, host of the morning program at WXPN, 88.5 Philadelphia. She also hosts Live from the Kelly Writers House, the Sustainability series and the Arts Crawl. Michaela has an amazing voice that is easy to listen to every morning. Based on her voice, my brother John once suggested Michaela for the voiceover for The Access Group's corporate promotional video a few years ago. I believe she got that job, too.

I am frequently struck by Michaela's graciousness in speaking with guests and co-workers, her general knowledge and her ability to be present and responsive in the moment. When she presents the Arts Crawl or any other report, I hear her passion for music and the arts in Philadelphia. I would love to have her ability to connect with what's going on in this city, and to keep track of what's happening in the music world.

I am a sucker for a pleasant voice, but the intelligence and warmth that she communicates so consistenly make Michaela Majoun a hero to me. Listen at 88.5 FM or http://www.xpn.org/.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Saying Goodbye

It happened Friday, the last day of school for my boys, that the Peanut asked me "Will I ever see Mr. Mike again?" Mr. Mike is the TSS ("wraparound") who has worked with Peanut at school, almost every afternoon since November. I had written about this in an earlier post, that Mr. Mike had accepted a full-day assignment with another child, at a school much nearer to his home. It was a sound decision for him, but I anticipated a struggle for my son, who is having so many changes in his life, changes that he experiences as losses.

"Why? why?" he kept asking me, crying himself to sleep Friday night. He had asked "why couldn't I have him for just one more year? He was a best friend." Grief rides this little one hard.

We are so fortunate that the worker assigned to Peanut has been senstive, intelligent and positive. I am thankful we have had him at all. There was no way I was going to say that to my son in that moment, though. Nor was I going to tell him he can't get so upset when he has to say goodbye. Well-intentioned people said those things to me when I was a sensitive, hurting child. It doesn't help the hurt, and only tells the child there is something wrong with him or her, on top of hurting.

I told him it is hard to say goodbye to people. I told him we can ask Mr. Mike if he'd like to come have dinner with us once in a while. And I rubbed his back and let him cry. By the time he was asleep, I was crying, too. Loss is so personal with children, as if who they are dictates what happens in their lives. I can remember feeling that.

I had no experience other than love disappearing, however long that took. -- Nuala O'Faolain, Almost There: The Onward Journey of a Dublin Woman
There will be a new TSS for Peanut this summer, or in the fall. I pray for another person who will work well with him, and care about how he does. Over time, I hope my son learns to accept and move with the flow of people in our lives; there are people who will be with him for the long haul, and some people, who may be very special, that may only be part of life for a little while.

There have been in the past couple of years, people who have moved away, like the best friend from pre-K. His parents have separated, and now this person who has very much functioned as a personal coach and mentor will move on. I can't control what comes into Peanut's life next (I have heard from my Al-Anon friends that everyone we love "has a higher power, too, and I'm not it"), but I can allow him to express his grief, see that loss comes to all of us in different forms, but new relationships come, too. They are never the same, but they can be great in a different way.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Timing and Faith

Yesterday, my friend Diane and I started the day with an inspiring exchange. I forwarded an email that I get, called New Every Morning (from http://www.pilgrimsrestbnb.com/), which always contains a Bible verse and another, related quote. Yesterday's quote was:

Never think that God's delays are God's denials. Hold on! hold fast! hold out! Patience is genius. -- Georges L.L. de Buffon

A therapist once told me "Sometimes God says yes, sometimes He says no. Sometimes He says, not yet." I hated that. I'm sure I've mentioned that I hate waiting. I tend to expect the negative, a trait that I see in my son - it is typical for kids who have Asperger's Syndrome. To wait with hope and expectation goes completely against the grain. It isn't just the waiting, it is holding on to the hope without continuous reinforcement, believing in that which is unseen.

Diane sent me a daily email from Joel Osteen, beginning with the verse: "And David turned away from Eliab..."(I Samuel 17:30, AMP; see http://www.joelosteen.com/). Mr. Osteen emphasized turning away from discouraging voices, as David did, when his brother Eliab pointed out the power of Goliath and the futility of fighting him. Yet, David did defeat Goliath. He won the battle - and the king's daughter and a lifetime free of paying taxes.

The messages were not on precisely the same topic, but both referred to perseverance and hope, and the importance of listening to our own inner voice, rather than the voices of the many who are not attuned to the direction of their own lives, let alone to the lives of others. In response to the Osteen message, I emailed back this quote:

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. --Mark Twain

Those who discourage you (including yourself) speak from their own discouragement, or from an agenda that keeps you discouraged so that you don't achieve much or expect much. It is hard work to learn to hear your own inner voice, then to trust and to follow that voice despite that constant pressure to do what others are expecting. The theme carried right through a session of empowerment counseling with Hero last night. It is hard work, but the payoff stays with you.

On XPN this morning (my favorite, listener-supported radio station, 88.5 WXPN in Philadelphia), the musician Moby was interviewed for Michaela Majoun's series on Sustainability. Moby discussed Sustainability as a principle for a career in music. He stressed following your own individual passion and drive, rather than selling out for the momentary success (the On the Waterfront effect: think of Marlon Brando, muttering, "I could have been a contender").

Bruce Springsteen was cited as an example of a performer with a strong career for over 30 years - some things have been more successful than others, but Bruce continues to find success because he continues to work hard at doing what he loves. Moby admitted that he is not a fan of Springsteen's music itself, but respects and admires the man as a professional and as an artist. Ms. Majoun concluded by adding that Moby's advice is true for everyone, not only musicians: be ready to allow yourself to make mistakes, and stay true to what you love.

When ideas and incidents come together at the right time, like the various devotionals and the radio presentation this morning, it is more than a coincidence. It's serendipity. As a kid, I read the book The Cross and the Switchblade, in which the Reverend David Wilkerson would call serendipitous events "Holy Spirit timing."

However it happens, sometimes there is a confirmation of purpose in our lives or in our present struggle. There is a reason to keep on, and to keep the faith. The proof doesn't come when we want it, but when it comes. The last quote I'd thrown out to Diane was from the Tao te Ching of Lao-Tsu, "When spring comes the grass grows by itself." Some things can't be rushed (God may be saying "not yet"). We do the work and complain because we can't force the results, but when the timing - that timing we can trust and believe in - is right, the results come, almost without effort.

You can visit with my friend Diane: http://www.myspace.com/uniqueblonde

Go to 88.5 WXPN online at http://www.xpn.org/ to hear the Sustainability in Music commentary by Moby, and check out other great features, including the 2009 XPoneNtial Music Festival, July 24-26.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Learning Process

Life is like playing a violin solo in public, and learning the instrument as one goes on. --Samuel Butler

This quote from Samuel Butler has been popping up in my mind, because it is exactly how I feel about blogging. I opened this blog nearly a year ago. A friend pointed out to me in February that I hadn't done anything with it. "I don't know WHAT to do with it," I complained. I think I was actually whining. Like most things in life, it has required that I jump in and figure it out as I go along. I hate that. I have issues with doing things wrong.

It seemed first of all monumentally egotistic to think anyone would want to read my rambling thoughts, and I didn't have a single, specific passion that I wanted to make my focus. Then I decided that, since no one was reading it anyway, I might as well just write and let it develop; then, if one particular thing kept coming up as a theme, I could always start over with a new blog on that subject. One result has been that the writing is getting better, slowly.

Reading other blogs has helped, since there are as many types of blogs out there as one could imagine (see Blogs I Follow on my profile page for some that I like). One I just discovered and love, is http://www.schmutzie.com/. Schmutzie was recently the "BlogHer of the Week," (see http://www.blogher.com/). She writes with a unique voice, and inspires me to trust my own voice to develop.

Now, I know there are a few people who read my posts. That's fun, but at the same time I feel rather like a nude art model, except the exposure is all from the neck up: I expose how I think. I feel the same way every time I read a poem in public, or email it to friends for comment. It is very, very much about exposure, which can be uncomfortable, but it is worth it when the result is a connection, when someone else completely takes in the experience, and shares in it for that moment, feeling it is his or her own experience that I have put into words.

I still wonder, with all the blogs that are out there, what place could mine have? If nothing else, it is my quiet space to develop the habit and craft of writing. Some friends who have read it come back to check for updates. One told me that he didn't understand a word I had written, but I think I have that effect on some people, even when I'm speaking to them. Best case scenario is that the writing itself keeps getting better, and that I have more of those, "a-HA!" moments, when I think, "this is something I can write about." Just maybe, I could someday be a BlogHer of the Week!

Monday, June 8, 2009

How exciting...writing to be used

I just found out that Women in Transition, Inc. (http://www.womenintransitioninc.org/) will be using something I wrote, in a letter going out to about 4,000 people. The piece was about how I wound up seeking help from Women in Transition, and what it has done for me.

Women in Transition works to empower women, and especially helps women in abusive and/or controlling relationships, and/or in relationships that involve substance abuse. Their tagline is "Empowering Women to Change Their Lives since 1971." If you know of anyone who might benefit from talking with someone at WiT in Philadelphia, please direct her to the website or to the LifeLine 215-751-1111. In other cities, similar services can be located through the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at http://www.ncadv.org/, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

If my writing is not yet actually generating pay for me, I am still excited to think that it might help an organization like this one! Best of all, by supporting WiT in a small way, I could be part of the services continuing so that another woman might benefit from them.

Ultrasound Tomorrow

I am more anxious about this ultrasound tomorrow than I had thought I would be. More accurately, I am worried about what will need to happen after the ultrasound.

In March, at my annual exam, the Mirena IUD was recommended to me for two reasons: one, because it greatly reduces bleeding for most women, while the progesterone it releases is localized, rather than systemic, so it is not as likely to interfere with the antidepressant meds as the low-estrogen birth control pills I'd tried a few years ago. Those pills are also usually the newer versions, and expensive on my insurance (the monthly copay was $50). Two, now that I am divorcing, there is always the possibility that at some point I will want to know I have reliable birth control. Otherwise, experience so far suggests that I have a fertility level that is almost a stereotype for someone of Irish and Pennsylvania Dutch descent.

The nurse practitioner had the Mirena herself, for over two years, and loved it. While the placement of the IUD was, well, not without discomfort as medical people use the word, it was very brief and certainly less difficult than pregnancy or childbirth. It also did its job right from the start. Some women bleed straight through the first month or two, or possibly more, but I didn't. Periods came on schedule and were much, much improved (what I imagine most women experience as a normal period), with just a little more cramping.

So, I was being proactive and responsible for my life; a goal for this year. Happily, I went to my scheduled followup last week. This is the norm, to ensure that the has not fallen out (I was pretty sure this wasn't a problem, having just had the second, improved period) or caused any negative symptoms. Problem: it couldn't be found. The strings, which have a texture like fishing wire, are left trailing from the cervix at placement, both to be able to confirm that the IUD is still there and for removal at a later date (it stays for 5 years unless you want it removed sooner). I had, in fact, not been able to find the strings myself, but was not greatly concerned because I had also had a hard time reaching them the month before (a monthly check is recommended).

The practitioner apologized as she readjusted the speculum a couple of times, using what she described as a sort of mascara-brush implement in an attempt to draw the strings down if they were there. Nothing. So now what? I asked. The ultrasound. Either the IUD is in place and everything is fine, only the strings somehow retracted all the way up into the uterus, or it's gone or it is still in the uterus but in some skewed position and will have to be removed. Given the uncomfortable attempts simply to locate it, I am not looking forward to that possibility, and it is possible that it would have to be removed in surgery.

To add to the physical concerns, this is my Open Enrollment period, and I have elected to switch from my HMO to a Health Savings Account, a decision I will quickly rescind if this whole issue isn't resolved, with or without the removal of the IUD, by the end of June. Also, I don't know whether insurance covers a replacement IUD if the first one needs to be removed. If surgery is needed, I have decided that while the doctor's in there, she can perform a tubal ligation, and whatever procedure (ablation, possibly) will help with the heavy bleeding issues.

The possibility of the thing being expelled on its own was something I'd read in the warnings. I don't know if I never saw a warning that the IUD might shift and be undetectable at an exam, or if I simply read it that the same way we breeze through the legal disclaimers on so many products these days; sure, there is always a slight chance of a bizarre reaction, just like there is a slight chance that I'll be hit by a car, but you can't function under that kind of fear. Now, of course, I have looked up the Mirena and potential side effects, to find things I don't want to contemplate.

Well, if all goes well tomorrow, there will be no need for further intervention. If the IUD is where it should be, I don't need any more followup now (I am willing to postpone thinking about how the eventual removal will happen; without the strings that will still be difficult). If not, there's the removal ahead, with the additional copays. Worrying won't help, I know that. I was simply not expecting so much difficulty. Still, I am hoping for the best.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What's Love Got to Do?

There's a tacit assumption in our modern life that romantic interest must not be allowed to influence much outside its own sphere. Falling for someone at work is almost taboo, though it happens all the time. It is frowned on to put a relationship at the forefront of making any major decision - after all, the relationship could always go south. Of course, so could a job, but no one likes to consider that possibility. Even with current divorce rates and short-lived romances, a relationship stands a pretty good chance of outliving a job.

Lives are so compartmentalized, and even the desire to be significantly close to another person is downplayed, until there is no place for attachment to occur; the result is a lot of lonely people with no idea how to relate to someone within the very narrow context that has been allotted. Individual career and pursuits rule, but every day on msn.com and Yahoo!, there are articles on why being alone doesn't mean there's something wrong with you, what to eat or what not to eat on a first date, how to find someone with whom to go on a first date. There is no time, and certainly no energy left in which to find or to maintain relationship. We are reduced to an impotent longing that manifests itself in endless, inapplicable advice on what to do with your relationship, in a vacuum where the relationship cannot exist. We might as well write articles on how to enjoy the retirements that most of us will never be able to afford, without making major changes.

We work and work out, nurture the kids with whatever we have left, and take notes on how to act if we were ever to spend time with someone we will never actually meet because so many of us aren't even present in our own lives. In other words, "In a modern setting where even the satire is satirized, love becomes weakness, tears become a punch line, real laughter a vulnerability, marriage a surrender." (http://www.theavettbrothers.com/, a review of the Avett Brothers CD Emotionalism).

There is, of course, the other extreme, still very present among the species, of looking for one's soulmate around every corner and behind every latte counter. Expectations of a smoothly running relationship, perpetual bliss, perfect sex and perfect agreement make connection impossible, just as much as reducing relationship to an item on the chore list (equal to taking out the trash or cleaning the fridge). Still, the perfect romance is sought by many. Recently it was noted (msn.com, under Money) that the romance novel industry is booming in this economy. It's an escape, just like drinking and pornography. Love, some think, will make everything better.

"L'amour! These ladies come and dance and excite themselves and want love and think it is happiness. And they tell me about their sorrows - me - and they have no sorrows at all, only that they are silly and selfish and lazy. Their husbands are unfaithful and their lovers run away and what do they say? Do they say, I have two hands, two feet, all my faculties, I will make a life for myself? No, they say, Give me the cocaine, give me the cocktail, give me the thrill, give me my gigolo, give me l'amo-o-our. Like a mouton bleating in a field." --Antoine the gigolo in Have His Carcase, by Dorothy L. Sayers, 1932.

That passage can be haunting. We can use it, and certainly other statements like it, to dissuade ourselves from ever looking for a valid connection with another human being. We can say that romantic love is not important, which was not my intent. The need for love is real, as is hunger and the need for a purpose to one's work. Good meals don't answer for all the other needs in a fulfilled life; love alone can't do it either.

"But understand me, " said Antoine, who, like most Frenchmen, was fundamentally serious and domestic, "I do not say that love is not important." -- Ibid.

So, where is all this going? This semi-detached musing on looking for love, or avoiding love, or finding the difference between love that is important and love that is unimportant takes wing whenever I observe the inconsistency in current thinking. Go the eHarmony or Match.com! Find your perfect match! No, don't do that, you don't have time, and half of all marriages end in divorce, anyway.

It's no wonder we're confused. So far, the truest observation I think I've heard, is that important love often shows up when you're not looking for it. Even then, it may be impossible to work out, so it may not be the answer one sought. One might conclude, in the words of Ghalib, "No, I wasn't meant to love and be loved." Maybe it is easier to abandon hope. Or, take your two hands and two feet, and your faculties and make a life for yourself, and see what happens.

Kids... always a surprise

My kids never stop surprising me. With all the angst I was feeling for my eight year old Peanut, it was my older son who was really struggling. My firstborn is ten years old and at the end of his fourth grade year. I've recently had a mom of three grown and nearly grown sons tell me that there is something about boys this age, especially in the spring... that the attitude I'm getting is common to this age & gender.

Friday afternoon, the attitude cropped up with yet another complaint about what I had asked him to do, in comparison with the job I'd given his younger brother. Firstborn got sent to his room, because I was livid. Eventually, we had a discussion, in which he shared some of what's really been bothering him - a very personal piece of information that his brother had shared & was now the source of a lot of teasing, and a general insecurity with how his world may change with the divorce.

It seems that a character on TV has parents that divorced, and when the mom moved out of state, she took the boy with her, so my son has been fearing that one of us will do the same. In general, there is a blank where the future looked predictable with a mom, dad, and two boys (and our cat, Scamper) all in the house together.

All I could do, and continue to do, is assure my kids that one thing their dad and I are doing, is working very hard at putting them first, and making time for them to spend with each of us. Yes, there have been a couple of nasty arguments in the past few months, but not many. Regardless, the boys are important to both of us and we will make being there for them our first priority. I promised that I won't just move them out of state, away from their dad (however tempted I may sometimes be - I kept that comment to myself).

For now, it seems like the conversation just took the lid off a well of fear and some anger that needs to be talked out. I named some of our friends whose parents split, permanently or temporarily, who had already told me they would always be willing to talk about it. I shared the conversation with my ex, so we can both be ready with assurances that neither will deprive the kids of the other parent.

Whew. The shoe that falls is rarely the one we expect, is it?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kids and Break Ups

When I was a kid, my family had developed a very close friendship with the associate pastor at our church. Being a Catholic church, the associate was a youngish priest, assigned to our parish for an indeterminate, but not indefinite, number of years. Being Catholic, our family was a large one: I was the 7th of 8 children. There was a longer than usual gap between #6 and me (and my one younger sibling), so most of my brothers & sisters were a good bit older. To illustrate the relationship, one summer when several siblings were returning from college, my little brother asked Mom, "Is Father Charlie one of our brothers and sisters, too?"

Father Charlie (who played guitar, and scandalously smoked outside after Mass, and had let me sit on his lap for my first Confession) eventually was reassigned, when I was probably eleven years old. The new parish was about an hour away. The leaving was bearable, but what I could not understand was that we never heard from him.

My mom once tried to explain it to me, while she looked out the window at our yard, saying that it was easier for him to cut ties with the people he loved in the old parish, as he established new relationships in his new one. She understood it better than I did; I had felt like he was family, and he dropped us. It hurt. Naturally, I did not have the perspective that my mom had.

This story occurred to me because today, my son's TSS (his "wraparound") will tell him that next week will be their last week together. The TSS accepted a full-day assignment for the coming year with another child, which will be a much easier commute for him. My son - we can call him Peanut - has worked well with this young man, has a certain level of trust with him and I worry about how he will perceive this ending and cope. Peanut has Asperger's Syndrome, and relies heavily on maintaining structures and schedules. He has already dealt with so much.

Last year, there was the temporary separation between my husband and myself. This year, we separated again and are in the process of divorce. The ex- is still local, still spends lots of time with the kids and tries, as I do, to get along for their sake. In between separations, one of our friends from next door also moved away, for his career, someone for whom both my boys had developed a strong affection. The kids ask periodically when he'll be back, to visit, or to stay (they keep hoping).

It is hard to know how to help Peanut, and his older brother, too, in processing loss. While I know that the Asperger's Syndrome makes it harder for my 8-year-old, I also know that life will always have a coming and going of relationships, with people, with places, and with things that had suggested some degree of permanence. The best I can do is to reinforce the structures and relationships that are not changing right now, and realize that Peanut will need to work through how he feels.

Recently, there was another young man, a therapist where Peanut goes for a Social Skills group, who had worked with him for a short while, then was out with a Worker's Comp injury for a few weeks. When the therapist came back, Peanut avoided him, finally yelling at him, "Stay away from me! I don't trust you anymore!" It was evident that Peanut needed to process feeling insecure, with the male relationships in his life.

It is not possible, nor really desirable, to prevent losses, even for a child with Asperger's, who will have a harder time than most with acceptance. I hope to share with him over time the perspective that everything continues to flow, that even the relationships that are over are still part of us, and that a change in a relationship, whether permanent or temporary, may be difficult but can still be good. When I was his age, I had already seen four older siblings going away to school, then coming home again for holidays and summers. It was difficult at first, but it was a good predictor of how things can go, throughout life. I can't create a false expectation that things won't change, however badly he may feel the need to believe that.

I imagine the best way to help the kids is to model healthy levels of sadness and acceptance for them. Some of the changes have been difficult for me, too, even the positive changes.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tongue in Cheek

In the department where I work, we have a cardboard pair of glasses labelled "Drama Queen," complete with fuzzy blue feathers. There is a tradition of passing them around, to whomever has the most drama in a given day or week (or month). Some winning scenarios have been: being bitten by a chipmunk that was "playing possum," requiring a series of rabies shots; 4 episodes in a week of having an ambulance come in the middle of the night, taking a family member to the ER; a spouse having a major back problem, prompting a week in the hospital; a second grader being suspended, requiring mom to leave work to pick him up. The types of drama vary greatly.

I find myself, when I am claiming the drama in my life, making it as funny as possible. This way, I am getting some attention for my troubles, but making people laugh so it is not as annoying as simply whining about life's problems. Maybe the coming full moon (this Sunday, June 7) is evincing itself in my life this week, or something: the Drama Queen glasses are clipped to my in bin.

One of my friends asked me if there is a poem to be found in my issues, so I quickly put something together just for laughs, and decided to post it for its entertainment value. I hope it gives you a chuckle. If you can relate, please, share your stories in a comment! I plan for future posts to become increasingly literary musings on life, people and the world, but enjoy this one for today. The only background info I need to add is that this IS Open Enrollment season, the busiest time of year for me, requiring lots of focus & work, so the worst possible time for problems to crop up. Of course.

A Week in the Life…

The fridge started whining. Then it stopped running.
The stink from the trash was actually stunning

to the senses. The appliance store
was sending a guy, but he asked for more

money than the office had said.
I called for Appliance Wizard instead.

They’d send someone, no problem, next day.
My ex would wait there, good thing, I’ll say

since one kid got sick. My bet
with sore throat and headache, was strep.

The fridge got fixed.
The kid was still sick

next day, but I gave him a pill
and sent him in, ill

‘cuz I had to see the GYN at 9
for follow up. Thought all was fine

but instead had a mystery.
There was no sign of my IUD.

It was MIA. No strings, not a hint
of where the damned thing went.

Did it fall out or just shift? Next round:
another office and copay, for an ultrasound.

Either it’s gone or in there but hiding
or it’s in there but sliding

Around. Then it’s surgery
and I say, cut tubes for me

in case the future holds fun
and romance. Enough! I’m done.

Author reserves copyright.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


It is a strange, limbo sort of state to be in the process of a divorce. My husband is not yet an ex-, but he is not with me, either. People will start to ask me "how is your....." then stop, not knowing what term to use, then either get flustered or simply use his name. I must be close to the end of living in no-man's land, though, as I heard over the weekend, for the first time, "you'd really like our friend..." Not yet officially single, and my friends are looking to hook me up. Wow.

In my case, the process has been very short. I am the one who filed for the divorce, and he is not contesting. There is a perk to having no money or property, and no debt that wasn't charged off long ago in the crazy days, which is that we don't have to wrangle out financial issues with attorneys. We are both determined that we will spend time with our children and will avoid as much as humanly possible putting them in the middle of our differences. Our custody arrangement is that we have essentially agreed to agree, sharing time and promoting relationships with both parents.

Despite the legal ease, or relative ease, of this divorce, it has been a difficult process. The not-yet-ex has his own difficulties with the situation; interacting has been an emotional minefield. As certain as I am that this is what I must do, there are days when the sadness surprises me, for all the hopes for my marriage and my life that will never be realized. These days only surprise me because I have been processing this grief in therapy, in writing, and in talking with my friends, for the past few years.

Even on the days that are not sad, I lean on my friends as I continue construct a mental picture of what my life is now - I know what I am moving away from, but need to focus on what I am moving toward, or suddenly I am overwhelmed by the blankness ahead of me. The friends are never surprised that I need them, though they know I took my good time concluding that this is the right decision for me, and that I have no doubts. I am the one who is surprised. I have been working with an empowerment counselor who reminds me often that the work I have undertaken, to be responsible and accountable for my own life, "is very lonely work." It is lonely, in that no one can do it for me or even with me; it is my work. It is all the more necessary, then, to connect with all the people I can, who believe in me and who can see that future I am creating for myself and my kids.

So, in two short weeks it will be 90 days since the petition was filed. My attorney tells me the divorce should go through by the middle of July. It has seemed an endless period of time to wait. I have friends who have been not-yet-divorced, or "undivorced" as I started thinking, for up to 4 years. One friend tells me that she and her ex-husband had no property, no custody issues, that he did not contest, yet it was still two years before her divorce went through. Where did she find the patience to get through that?

I don't like these gray areas. I hate waiting. I am not married, but I am not single, either. It will be years before I'm single, actually, because my life includes my two children. I am becoming a single woman, though. The in-between time must be for that process, the becoming. It is the time when I get better at designing my life with intent and purpose, and making choices. I am glad my friends are so much a part of it.