Tuesday, September 22, 2020

When There Are Nine: RBG, my mom, and then me

 


Current Vibe:  Devastated by the loss of RBG, this amazing woman who impacted our lives so much.  Listening to this wonderful podcast about her life from NYT’s _The Daily_.  

RBG’s life was a slow and steady path towards progress and institutional change, especially with regard to gender equality. She paved the way for a more just world, where my mom’s career in science and engineering could exist and for my own as a financially able, working mom of two.  When RBG was a young woman, teachers were fired if they were just beginning to show they were pregnant.  If someone tried to do that ridiculousness now, they would be sued. 

I played that NYT’s podcast in the car when picking up my daughter and her BFF from their first day of blended pandemic back to school.  When I explained that fact about teachers, they couldn’t believe their ears, literally their mouths were hung open in shock.  I was like, yes girls, can you imagine if your teacher was fired because she was pregnant?  It’s insane! And…it’s not that far away from us. 

I’m grieving for the loss of such a light in the world.  I’m raging at the white men in power who are doing everything they can to scrap and scrabble for their rights over other human beings, throwing their hypocritical remarks into the wind for millions of campaign dollars.  I’m so freaking depressed about minority rule in this country.  How dare they attempt to walk back decades of progress.

I’ll admit it—I’m scared, terrified, that now I have to be the one to stand up.  Or maybe I’m tired.  But I don’t get to be tired, I have to be strong.  I better stand up, because without Ruth on the highest court of the land writing for today and tomorrow, then we have to do the writing and the standing. 

This is going to sound really strange and weird, but I feel like I’m grieving my own mom all over again.  Maybe because I saw her as a beacon of strength, no matter how hurt I was as a young girl (I have a high E.Q., my mom has a high science I.Q., and maybe they just don’t match so well…), I knew she always did what she could, her very best, to provide for her family.  She was a single working mom, married to not the best of men until her third marriage. 

When a teacher yelled at me as a second grader, I can’t even remember for what—maybe something about dropping an eraser at the chalkboard?  My mom marched in and called her out on it.  I didn’t witness that, but one of the things my mom shared with me was this:  my mom never stood up for me if any teacher treated me unfairly, saying that’s just how it was.  So I vowed that when I grew up, I would always go in and do something if that happened to one of MY kids… 

My mom’s sense of fairness—was pretty black and white in her thinking, not many shades of gray for her, which with my fragile and passionate heart, had trouble navigating until I was an adult.  Mom broke her own barriers in education and workplace, an undergraduate biology major, then as a single mom of two, earning her master’s degree in industrial hygiene, and then embarking on a career in employee safety and later migrating to engineering—all male dominated fields, but she carved a successful career, traveling the country and sometimes bringing us with her when we were young, otherwise always home with dinner on the table by 6pm, and then later traveling the world for her job.  At the same time, I’m pretty sure she voted republican and deferred in her later life to my brother about legal decisions (glossing over any opinions I may have shared).  I was her emotional comfort, I guess, and my brother, being “the man” while at the same time emotionally distant with her, simply was more respected for all things real world.  Perhaps internalized patriarchy, but all the same, Mom broke barriers just by breathing and living. 

When she passed, I was broken for a month, and then I picked myself up and started running, out of the blue.  (I’ve now completed two half marathons, and would have done a third if not for the pandemic.) Because somewhere in the back of my foggy drink-addled head after her passing, I could almost hear her pragmatic voice: well, get on with it already.  You’ve got two kids to take care of and a job to do. 

So I guess I kept on keeping on.  Somehow RBG’s spirit and my mom’s spirit resonate similarly with me—the former bucking tradition and taking mini steps to change the world at large, the latter bucking tradition and taking mini steps that changed my very personal world.  And now they’re both gone, and it’s left my heart breaking at the edges, the middle, and inside. 

I vacillate between overwhelmed with depression and at the same time, rage against the world that would leave me (and women) behind and out of the rooms where decisions are being made.  I can’t stand the unfairness—something my mom instilled in me and one that RBG challenged and defeated time and again—unfairness on the basis of sex, gender, race.  

I comfort at the RBG tributes here,  here, and here. 

And I remember that we are not alone, even if we feel like it.  My daughters can’t imagine a world where a teacher would be fired for being pregnant.  Yet that was “the norm” when RBG was a young lady, and would also have been just passing by when my mom embarked on her college career.  I will not forget and I will keep fighting as long as there is air in my lungs to breathe.  Even when I feel beyond tired and want to cry.  We can do this, if only in our hearts, then our minds, then our words, then our actions: 


p.s. Rage donating to campaigns to support flipping seats Blue via Actblue.  Specifically donating to: 

Amy McGrath, KY (polls are all over the place, but would dream a dream if she could win)

Mark Kelly, AZ (he can sit right away if he’s elected, because it’s a special election)

Sara Gideon, ME

Jaime Harrison, SC

Pat Timmons-Goodson, NC (Obama judge appointee that the Senate blocked, now carries a lead for US Congressional Rep) 

Apparently, I’m not alone in doing this—record breaking donations poured in last Friday night.  Thank goodness.  


p.p.s. women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights

Friday, September 18, 2020

RBG - no no no please I can't say goodbye to you

The incredible RBG passed away today, and my heart dropped down to my toes.  She worked tirelessly to secure fundamental rights for women and reached into the hearts of so many, including men and children, including my DD1, to teach us about what can be done if we put our minds and strength behind our words and action.

2020:  I can't even with you anymore.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Remembering 9/11, the path I’ve been walking, and some COVID coping…

I can't believe it's been 19 years since 9/11.  Last year, I was fortunate to take my family to see One World Trade Center and the 9/11 memorial fountains, which are immense in their beauty and expression of the collective grief of what happened that day.  I'm including the link to the 'top 10 secrets' about the memorial that are moving (I especially connected with the story of the "Survivor Tree").

I can't help but think of all the challenges that we're facing of late and circumstances that we've encountered as we navigate this COVID-19 pandemic.  

This is part of why it’s been so difficult to keep up and record life on the blog—concerns about health, safety for my family, then my staff at work, my friends scattered like seeds on a breeze throughout the country.  Parenting kids who were suddenly in virtual school, navigating telework schedules because of no childcare and then spring turned into summer (and summer break).  Disclosures of the girls’ father’s temper tantrums that escalated earlier this year and supporting my youngest through it all...

Navigating coparenting with said ex-husband whose emails get bitchier and more accusatory as time goes on (how is that possible, lol??), and managing the PTSD that comes up with dealing with his negativity and nastiness.  My shields were just getting thinner and thinner.

And hubby having his own breakthrough in therapy and realizing his issues about his parent’s infidelity have everything to do with his (unfounded) insecurities with me and my (healthy) friendships and (very limited, due to COVID) time away from him.  Being on top of each other 100% is insane, like some days I want to run back to my office, lol!

Protesting in support of Black Lives Matter, and swimming upstream in my professional organization, attempting to make meaningful change to systemic racism in the workplace.  (Very fortunate that there are allies and supportive folks in place, but how do you actually dismantle racism? There’s no quick fix, so have my learning hat on and doing my best not to f!# it up—listening and empathy is a key first step). 

Being thankful also to have a job and be employed when so many have lost their jobs…how lucky we are to have financial support in terms of 401(k) plans and savings and income… 

Both girls have now entered a new school year and how is it possible that I have a high schooler in the house?  Omg!!  Doing my best to give them space and also always be there for them, so they know they’re loved, at the same time, putting boundaries on sh*++y behavior, because who isn’t acting a little sh*++y given the circumstances? 

Some days I wake up ready to face the world and this pandemic and the political craziness of my country.  Other days, I want to roll over and go back to bed.

Putting one foot in front of the other has to be enough.  It may not make up for the losses of 9/11 or the suffering on this planet, but being alive is our gift of the present, even it's sheer luck we're here together.

COVID-19 Coping strategies that have helped:

Exercise—so key for me:  Yes, I’m one of those annoying people who work out almost every day.  It improves my brain so much—I see it as driving the clouds of depression away by the wave of my arm, or weights, or running stride.  (Surfing, when I can dawn patrol before work, is just the best for combatting negativity and reminding me that the world can still be beautiful). 

COVID-Cocktail time:  After work and before dinner.  I tried to restrict this to just the week end…lasted about two weeks of the last five months, lol.  Honestly one cocktail will do it, usually with the hubby and facetiming with a friend before dinner—has been so much fun!  (Sometimes, having a zoom cocktail hour, too.) 

Staycation time (kind of a miracle we were able to do this):  we were able to take the girls on a covid-19 staycation at a friend’s COVID-19 cleaned condo by the sea for a few days, we even brought a BFF for each of them for an overnight, so they could have friend time.  

Also, hubby and I got a sweet sweet deal at a fancy resort hotel for a few nights, right by the ocean.  Everything but the room and housekeeping was closed, so it was like “glam camping,” we brought a cooler full of snacks and drinks (they did refill the cooler for us every day), and with the microwave, we basically hid away from COVID and relaxed and swam and read books and had lots of quality time together.  That will be the only time we do this until he goes back to work full-time, but the deal was just so amazing and too good to be true (half of what we’d pay under normal circumstances). 

Reading:  Been escaping by reading both light (Reapers, Inc series, urban fantasy young adult) and heavy books (White Fragility, hands down a great explanation of structural racism—how it came to be, how it’s perpetuated…and I hope on what we can do about it, but I’m only 50% through).

Netflixing/Priming/Disney+:  A couple recent fun movies, Booksmart, Overboard (remake, which apparently got terrible reviews, and while the beginning was shaky, I was charmed), The Hustle (also a remake--Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), and binging on Umbrella Academy.  The second season of _The Boys_ is out, but Homelander is so awful, I don’t think I’ll make it.  And…if you want something to truly escape and walk you down nostalgia lane, Cobra Kai!  Cobra Kai started out on Youtube, then Netflix picked it up—it basically picks up 20 years after the Karate Kid, and if you make it through the first few (super short) episodes, you will be hooked!! (Again, if you’re nostalgic for the 80s, lol, this is not fine art!) 

Meditation:  I’ve been using Insight Timer, an app that has free guided meditations from everything to sleep to relax to connecting with your intuition.  You can choose your time frame (5, 10, 15, etc  minutes) and filter by voice, background music, and more. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Survive, Live, Thrive Update

What I’ve been doing since March:

  • Little sister disclosed that her father’s temper scares her.
  • Little sister disclosed how her father hurt her “this one time” when he threw a book at her and left a ‘red mark.’
  • Little sister drew pictures of dad yelling at her because she spilled water.  He has wings and a tail and she is crying.
  • Play therapist says this does not rise to the level of reporting abuse.
  • Play therapist says I do not want to have an overworked, underpaid social worker making decisions about my family.
  • We’ve created code words for little sister to use.  Let’s say it’s watermelon
  • One watermelon is dad hurts my feelings, two watermelons is that it’s really bad, three watermelons is that I really need you to do something about it, mom. L
  • Little sister says she feels relieved that it’s “not a secret anymore” and also makes us promise not to tell him. 
  • Play therapist and I reinforce with little sister that dad’s decisions are about dad and they are not her fault.
  • Over the summer we meet regularly with the play therapist and little sister says she wants to handle the watermelons by herself.
  • I still check in from time to time about watermelons though, she shares a few more stories and another picture at play therapy.  It’s a picture of dad yelling at her and she’s standing there with a sad face, but in her mind ‘bubble’ she’s thinking about playing with her friends.  
  • This has brought up a ton of PTSD for me and have been seeking therapy support to process it all and cope with the disclosures.
  • I discover from big sisters texting that dad called big sister a fucking asshole because she is beating him at super smash bros.  Great, really great.  She’s venting to her friend but after all caps venting, she finishes with: okay, bye.
  • I’m kind of awed and impressed by all of the colorful language big sister used, at first she used asterisks, like F*ck, but by the end, all words were in all cap and spelled out.
  • Before extended dad vacation, both sisters forgot prescription toothpaste that they need to use per dentist’s orders and were scheduled to see the dentist the day after they returned.  Ex refused to meet me for three days, so I finally dropped it off at his house, per my attorney’s advice.
  • Ex yelled at in the street:  “You’re trespassing!”  To which I responded, “The kids need to use their toothpaste once a day, Bye!” And then got into my car, cried and drove away.
  • Attorney told me I could change the parenting time.  I decide to pursue, at least to see what the options are, but do not want to re-litigate and will only move forward if there's a guarantee I can improve parenting time.
  • After analyzing details of the case, attorney realized it’s not a slam dunk.
  • Sort this out in therapy, but really, decided to be peace with not seeking further litigation.  Just glad I have a badA$$ attorney who will defend me if the ex and his girlfriend with deep pockets ever tries any litigation. (Best offense is a good defense).
  • Hanging in there as best as I can.

  

Good things I’ve done during the pandemic

  • Learning about big sister’s love for anime and marathon watching it with the girls.
  • Taking both of the girls surfing for the first time—each on their own time, and seeing them love it!
  • Staycation because no tourists in town and enjoying the peace and quiet and fun of family time away from the house.
  • Walking our doggie G every day for a mile.
  • Cooking little sister breakfast every morning and sitting and eating breakie and lunch together, because teleworking.
  • Linking volunteer attorneys giving free legal advice to folks who are trying to access the family court system and don’t have an attorney.
  • Surfing myself and having an Instagram photographer capture a photo!
  • Watching:  The Last Kingdom and The Umbrella Academy on Netflix for escape.  (I didn’t realize that I’d be so bloodthirsty in Last Kingdom, LOL!)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

COVID-19 Update

Easter in the time of COVID-19

Dear World,

We’re lucky to report that we are safe, healthy and well in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Girls have been remarkably flexible and resilient with the distance learning initiatives, and we are on a pretty regular routine with school work, down time, house chores, etc…—I’ve even hosted three girl scout meetings, lol! 

Our dog G LOVES that we are home all the time:  she snoozes by me as I telework, prances about the house with the girls in anticipation of and during our daily walks (at least a mile) through the neighborhood, or "helping" little sister with her homework (aka snuggling up to her while she's typing on her laptop). 

Teenager big sis carrries on in her sometimes surly and sometimes sweet way, her schooling continuing on, except it’s all done via distance, so her daily class schedules and homework schedule/load have remained the same.  Like a wise friend told me: you never know who’s going to wake up, the sweet 8 year old who loves to please, the surly pre teen who’s struggling to make an identity with herself, the actual teenager who is annoyed by the world and especially her mother…usually it’s a mix.  One day she can’t stand going on a walk with G, the next, she’s offering to ride little sister’s bicycle on the way back—because it’s uphill all the way, lol.

Little sister definitely thrives on a routine, and when she gets a little antsy or surly herself, a change of scenery (aka walking G) is huge—the physical activity of walking/running in the fresh air works a mini miracle.  Too much screen time, even for ‘learning’s’ sake, is still too much screen time for little kids.

As for my teleworking—it’s almost busier working remotely than in person!  Constant zoom meetings, phone meetings, daily supervision with staff; my crowning achievement this week is finally get all staff back on company computer equipment so we are streamlining our workflows, instead of relying on a hodgepodge of personal devices, and in one case a lone mobile device.  I’ve had one pretty big win related to work – reaching out remotely to help more than 100 times directly to folks in the community in one week, and I’m super excited about that.  Another initiative is developing, again focusing on helping the public, so we shall see how that goes, crossing fingers for some movement on that next week!

Easter came and went—luckily the Easter bunny arrived at our house to much joy and fun, and we colored eggs and also had an indoor easter egg hunt.  My DDs participated in our church Easter service via Zoom, where we had 61 participants, aww!!!  (And also where we waited with baited breath to make sure of no zoom bombers, apparently good Friday had one—I wasn’t there, but I heard about a naked butt, which unfortunately was NOT a cute butt by any means, darn it!  Seriously though, we locked down Easter with three hosts on the look out and instituted the waiting room, but still, relief didn’t come until service was over…and it was lovely seeing faces of all ages on our zoom, and the number of our seniors was amazing!)

All in all, we are carrying on as best as we can, social distancing, wearing masks in public, and venturing out rarely…my now and then run to target is one of my biggest joys, lol.  I’ve been exercising regularly which also helps with the stay at home craziness.

There has been a breakthrough with my youngest in terms of expressing her feelings with her father’s temper.  She disclosed to me and our family play therapist that his temper ‘scares’ her and all the different ways it shows up…triggered by the smallest actions.  I’m so sad and upset and weirdly unsurprised that she has to deal with this, but what really broke my heart is that after she shared with me, and then with our play therapist, she said:  now it doesn’t have to be a secret anymore.  More on that later, that is a post all into itself…

Lastly: I have to acknowledge our good fortune and luck that we have a roof over our heads, food to eat, enough toilet paper that we don’t have to worry, even though hubby is temporarily furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  I know without a doubt that we will get through this.  Hubby is actually getting on my nerves, lol, I keep hinting that he get a hobby!  But he’s also helping a lot with being a part time teacher to little sister, doing some deep house cleaning and rearranging that we always were going ‘to get to someday…”  Again, we are thankful for our privilege.

Sending out love and hugs and prayers to the victims of the pandemic, caregivers, and all first responders and essential workers, especially our doctors and nurses who are keeping us safe—so that I can be at home safe with my family.  <3 br="" style="mso-special-character: line-break;">

Friday, February 14, 2020

A love letter : to the divorced mom who is separated from her kids on a special day




I’m so sorry that you’re in pain and hurting and missing your little ones.  I know you’re trying not to think about not seeing your baby girl who is turning ten right now, and that you feel left out and sad.  You know in your head that it’s a good and positive thing she gets to have a birthday party with her father and his new girlfriend, that it’s his new girlfriend’s positive influence that is allowing this nice event to happen. 

It’s okay that you’re upset about the “injustice”—that the man who caused you so much pain and fear and continues to sow hurt and pain to his family is the same man who gets to be the “good and fun” dad who brings cupcakes to school and throw parties.  Yes it hurts and yes it’s sad.

It’s okay that you were crying, missing your baby because ten years ago, you were in the hospital giving birth to her, after he had driven your mom who was suffering with parkinson’s crazy with his no patience and snappy outlook.  It’s unfair you don’t get to see her today. 

Your head knows that you are always their mother and in your heart you know it too, it just hurts to be away from her.  Please be gentle with you, be kind and compassionate.  Let me hug you because I know your pain and fears and sadness about being separated from your children.  That you’re worried they will somehow forget that you love them.

It may not feel like it right now, but you will be okay, and this situation will get better.  Your daughter and her big sister are growing up, and the most important thing is that they know they are loved.  They always feel your love and support, even when the cranky teenager is being cranky, and even when energetic little sister is being extra.  That at your house there are rules and there is also room for mistakes, and there is always room for love and for healing.  There’s room for forgiveness and trying new things and being lazy and being active.  For working hard at school or at girl scouts and for relaxing playing with slime (sigh) or ipads (double sigh), and there is always room for dreams.  And hugging and patting our dog.  There’s room for sharing complicated feelings, like when little one shared some feelings about how dad’s girlfriend takes care of dad, you responded with love—that the most important thing is that dad’s girlfriend is nice to you and that you like her.  At your house, there’s room for all the feelings, happy, cranky, surly, silly, loving, laughter, kindness.  They will grow up knowing this like the air in our lungs, it’s just there.  At least, that’s the hope, and it’s a pretty good hope.

So hugs for you for hanging in there, and doing what you can to fill up the time while they’re away…keep working on your house and working on healing and take time to exercise and get into the ocean and the sun and spend time with your friends and loved ones.  They will be home before you know it.  Little one asked if she could have a birthday party with you, because she couldn’t invite all of her friends at dad’s, and so you will.  And a new day will come and then the next one with it, and they will be sleeping in their beds.  They will be asking you to help with homework, and wondering what’s for dinner, and if they can have nori for a snack or if there’s anymore rice in the cooker or if they can have some bacon for breakfast.  They will come and go and come and go and you know in your heart, your job is to always be there for them, and that’s a job you know you can and always will do. 

My heart is full of love for you and for them.  You are not alone. 

p.s. happy valentine’s day, sharing a little bit of love from my heart to yours.   

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Owie

Sometimes the heart hurts because of all the pain in life and it's okay to sit down and say owie, owie, owie. 

There's a voice outside of my head that says this too will pass.  It just can't be bypassed right now. 

We have to live in it.

And it hurts.

Owie owie owie. 

Love,
Jane Thrive