Monday, April 21, 2014

The Golden Egg

First of all, Happy Easter to you and to all and to us!  Our first Easter together as a blended family was pretty damn awesome.  The girls awoke to their Easter baskets, and then DD1 accused me of being the Easter Bunny, wtf?  Already?  I told her the Easter Bunny uses the same baskets like Santa uses the same stockings, and she gave the “MOM, SERIOUSLY?” look and then decided to play along.  DD2 was ecstatic, so it was hard not to go along with her sweet enthusiasm.  At least, that’s my hope.  Or maybe it was the yellow PEEPS.

And…we took A to church with us, and while the girls were at Sunday school, I took him all around and introduced him to all our church aunties who gave him big hugs and congratulated us and basically welcomed him with open arms.  Then, during the church Easter egg hunt, DD1 and one of her best Sunday school pals found the two special GOLDEN EGGS, they couldn’t have been more excited and proud!  My usually camera shy daughter was all about taking a pic with her pal, grinning from ear to ear. 

It also kind of made my heart swoon to see DD1 introduce A to her two Sunday school teachers, and to see everyone hug him and just say how they were so happy to finally meet him, that DD1 was so excited about the wedding, and then watch him charm them likewise with his sweetheart, kind and cheerful self, lol.  (While his mom was catholic and his dad agnostic, he is quite uncomfortable with church settings, but agreed to come—Easter and Christmas Eve, that’s all I ask!)  So, I thought it very big of him to come join us on this special holiday, and that he participated in the flowering of the cross—made my heart swoon some more.   

And…apparently while I was busy with the girls (and their little friends who usually sit with us—a  pew of whispering girls and their coloring books, yes, yes, whatever I can do to keep them quiet, so sue me, but honestly, our church is welcoming and understanding of little ones in the pews!) get their flowers in the cross, a hullaballoo transpired on the side behind the choir benches—one of the choir aunties slipped and fell, and who was on hand to save her?  My lovely, A.  Thank goodness she wasn’t hurt, she just needed help up, but that made A a kind of rock star of the Easter Sunday service, lol, with all the ladies coming up to him during the Easter refreshments thanking him. Awww!  And right before we left, we took our FIRST blended family picture at the flowered cross.  Seriously, I want to kind of melt away right now just thinking about it.

And so along this lovely happiness, there was some crappy shit to deal with.  Rawr.  I offered time-sharing with the girls’ father, as it is a special holiday, but one that is not covered in our otherwise very specific and detailed divorce decree.  He responded with bullying and control moves, insisting only on the time-frame that would interfere with our church activities.  Cue dramatic e-mauls from him, and after trying to negotiate in good faith on my own, was forced to consult with my attorney and our co-parenting counselor, who said she would do her best to talk to him about it.  And even AFTER following their advice, and getting more e-mauls in my inbox, I finally had to give up “negotiating,” looked him the e-eye, and said that since we couldn’t come to an agreement, I would follow our decree that this was my parenting week end, period.  Which totally sucked and I know I’m supposed to do this, be strong and stand up.   I also know it’s in the best interest of the children to spend time with BOTH families on these special days, that despite his shittiness, there is a grandma and uncles and aunties involved, too.  The girls don’t understand the bullshit, they just know they have two houses with people who love them—even though I worry about the crazy dynamic over there, I do know the importance of those bonds.  Yet he still wouldn’t budge, kept threatening and pulling back and sending controlling crap about showing up at my house and accusing me of accusing him of not being religious (wtf?). 
Until…after 48 agonizing hours of worrying and fretting that I was being too hard-ass and fucking up the time-sharing, he relented.  He agreed!  And so then the time-sharing went seamlessly, I dropped the girls off after church and they got to spend time with him and their grandma and extended family and open Easter baskets over there in the afternoon.  He wasn’t able to come to my house and linger and be creepy, I was able to maintain that boundary as well—I went to pick them back up when it was time.  But all this couldn’t happen without this heart-wrenching, gut-busting, bawling stress about it.  Rawr.

So then DD1 asked me about why I get 10,000 hours with the girls, but daddy only gets a few.  I reminded her that in our case, the judge makes the rules and that we are following her rules.  Then she asked if we could ask the judge to change her mind, and I asked her if she could ask her teacher or her principal if they would change their minds about the rules at school, and she said, very thoughtfully, no.  Then I asked her—did you have fun at dad’s house?  And both girls said Yes!  So then I said, you know, I think the judge made the rules that I take care of you a lot, because I’m your mom.  And the judge also wanted to make sure you had time with dad so that you could have fun with him and be sure your time with him was good, and so you could love your dad and he loves you, too, right?  And then DD1 said, Yes!  And I asked her if that helped her understand, and she said she felt better about it.  I wonder if these messages will sink in okay—I sit up thinking and re-thinking about how I respond to these complicated questions. Especially knowing that DD1 feels like she has to take care of her dad, because she is such a sensitive soul, and even the play therapist says this is a concern (but not a problem, yet, DD1 does well in school, social activities, etc.)—and one that hopefully she’ll grow out of.   I hope DD1 will learn one day that taking care of him is not her issue, but his.  I hope.  In the meantime, I can only love her and support her and set boundaries and explain as best as I can.  Right?

So, it’s the day after Easter, and I know deep down that Easter is about resurrection and the miracle of being alive.  The message from our pastor was that we see miracles of renewal and rebirth all the time—whether its addiction recovery or health recovery or making fundamental changes in our lives to make it better.  And part of getting to that place—that ‘better life,’ that ‘new’ life I keep writing about—part of it is going through the shit, no matter how painful, while maintaining the light.  Our soul, our hearts, our goodness that we have, to keep it in tact, and not get trampled, not let our little light be buried by the crap.  Or…if it is buried, if it is extinguished, being able to pull it back from the darkness.  To re-light it and make a better version of ourselves.

Rebirth and its miracle--is living a good life—of letting the light in and letting it take up so much room in our hearts and minds that there is no room for the petty bullshit, the smallness of someone who wants to control and bully and whatever.  At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter what he is thinking or why he is being controlling.  It’s forgiving the past (though not forgetting), and living for our present and our future.

My A says this is rainbows and unicorns talking, because he gets so frustrated when he sees my ex attempt to bully and control and e-maul.  But A has promised me that he will try and adopt this mindset, to set aside his alpha male instinct to fight and protect, to grow in understanding that in engaging in the e-maul and pettiness, he is adding to it.  And rather than add to it, A has promised he will do his best and that in time, he will see it is not rainbows and unicorns, but that we are building our own version of our special golden egg, a life filled with beautiful surprises and love.  We make our own miracles and we overcome our adversities by living a happy life. <3

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Our new life

I almost began this with—“our new life has officially begun!” 

Because my fiancé A and I spent the week end moving him in together with us, rearranging and reorganizing our little home, creating a cute little play room for the girls in the process, bringing in new living room, dining room, and master bedroom furniture, kitchen gadgets and appliances, purging all that we didn’t need, we must have made thousands of dollars in donations.  And afterwards, the house feels like a brand new house—it is completely different in look and light and sensitivity—it just doesn’t feel the same when you walk through the front door.  I feel so very lucky, and so very blessed.  And, lol, after two days of packing and unpacking, I felt like I’d run a half marathon and have the sore muscles to boot.  But I couldn’t help grinning from ear to ear, no matter how long we took to unpack, how many times I ran up the stairs to put something away, how many times I dragged something to the dumpster or saved something to donate to Kidney cars.

So when the girls and I came home from work/school yesterday, it was the very first time they laid eyes on our “new” home.  They had known A. was coming, just not the exact date.  So when they opened the door, they immediately threw down their school bags and went running and leaping through the house—they recognized the furniture from A’s former house—exploring every nook and cranny (especially in their new play room), exclaiming, “yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!” and “does this mean A is staying with us always?” and “this is soooo cool!”  Big sister finally settled down at her new work station to do her homework, and little sister immediately started making a fort out of the pillows on the new couch.

I seriously wish I had videotaped it.   Their little voices and their laughter and their running up and down the stairs—but I guess I won’t ever forget it, it’s now imprinted in my mind and heart.

And I realized also, that “our new life” hasn’t just begun because we moved in together, blending our family, in anticipation of our upcoming wedding.  Our “new life” began years ago, when we left an intolerable situation that jeopardized our health and safety.  That’s when our new life started.  Yesterday, and today, and tomorrow, they are beautiful gifts added to this journey of “our new life.”  Or maybe, it’s not “new” anymore, it just is what it is—life as we know it.   That makes me smile. <3

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thinking about that case in South Africa

I have this weird fascination with following the Oscar Pistorious case.  I haven’t seen much personal commentary on it besides the national news, but maybe I should look.  From the news coverage, I see a manipulative, controlling man who is perhaps “sorry” for what he’s done, also doesn’t want to go to prison, and is using the legal system to mount the best defense possible.  Which is his legal right, in the criminal system—to defend himself and raise doubt on his intent. And yet this someone has a history and obvious knowledge of firearms, their safety and their risks, along with a sketchy record on mis-using them (shooting through a sunroof, having it ‘go off’ at the restaurant—a mystery!).  The whole “I mistook my girlfriend for an intruder,” wow.  If you were in your bedroom with your person, and you thought there was an intruder, what is your first move?  In my mind the very first thing would be to reach over and see if my person is in bed next to me.  And his ex-girlfriend testified that is exactly what he did before, so why not in this case?  I kind of want to barf.  Am I wrong for wanting to barf? 

The records of communication between the two of them, only three months into the relationship, eerily reflect familiar exchanges that I’ve seen in my own or described in other relationships with manipulators and abusers.  The abrupt cold shoulder or behavior coming from him, her doing her best to placate him and to explain how she feels and him continuing to “pick on her” and making her feel embarrassed for perfectly normal things that she’s done—i.e. talking with her friends at an engagement party—then forcing her to leave early.  His talking loudly to personally offend her in earshot of her friends, his blaming his petulant behavior on having a headache, pushing it off as something out of his control, rather than taking responsibility for acting like a jerk. L  Yes, I am colored by my experiences.  I see her explaining her behavior to him in a way that both helps her express her feelings, and at the same time placate him, it’s a familiar story and one I lived for a long time. 

The dramatics of Mr. Pistorious barfing and covering his ears and crying, to me read as someone who may be sorry about what happened, but is also doing everything he can to not go to jail for the rest of his life, rather than taking responsibility for his controlling behavior and killing his girlfriend.  Is it awful to me to see what I see—manipulative moves to deflect responsibility?  Because I know that some people are sorry for what they do when they hurt people, and I know that when they are, the sorrow only goes skin deep.  They hurt again and again, and they escalate, and I think that’s what happened here.  I’ve also seen dramatics, crying, and sobbing and saying they’re sorry, but that didn’t mean the behavior stopped.  So maybe he didn’t mean to squeeze the trigger, but he did.

I realize the facts of this case will be decided by weighing the evidence and I am no judge or attorney for that matter.  And yet, I’m struggling because I see a case of domestic violence, and I am worried and wonder what will happen.

I am so sorry for the Steenkamp family, I have no idea the grief and pain they must be feeling.  If someone shot my daughter, my heart would break into a million pieces. <3

Monday, April 7, 2014

Kind, for kindness' sake

Well, shit.  I got into a fender bender over the week end.  It was one of those stop and go traffic situations, when everyone is going, and then suddenly STOP, and I slammed on my brakes, and we just slid into the car in front of us.  Driving FAIL!

Luckily, no one was hurt. !!  But my front end was “moderately” damaged, which translates into I’m not so sure I want to drive it.  Smooshed front end (we made it home okay afterwards, but still…)  The other car, a few scratches on the bumper.  Actually, I think the other driver was ready to launch a full scale grumpy at me, but then he saw my car vs. his car, my sweetheart girls in the back seat looking out at him, me with tears running down my face as I called my fiancé, A, to tell him that we got into an accident, and it seemed that all grumpiness whoosed out of him like a deflated balloon.  And again, I am so very thankful we all okay.  We exchanged insurance information and off we went back into our lives.

So driving home, tears still rolling down my face—driving sucks sometimes, and I suck!—the girls kept asking if I was okay—and I responded that yes!  Mommy was okay, just sad about the car and glad everyone was fine.  And clearly, they **were** fine, chirping happily, listening to music.  Big sis said she was ‘startled’ but both she and little sis were carrying on as if nothing had happened, especially evident when they began arguing over which Frozen song we were going to listen to.  (I seriously need to count my blessings, my 1st world problems are driving a smooshed in car and hearing my lovely girls fighting over who would be Elsa and who would be Anna.  Really. )

My fiancé A and his mom beat us home (the outing had been to pick out the girls’ flower dresses—which we did! And they are gorgeous! And this post is supposed to be about that!) and immediately he came outside when we pulled into the carport.  Me, still crying, the girls, still belting out “Let it Go”— I’m not kidding, life felt like a weird soundtrack at that moment. 
And my lovely, A, swooped in and said, you know darling, we’ve been talking about getting you a new car for months, I don’t think it’s worth the thousand dollars or whatever it will cost to fix this old POS car, and so maybe it’s just time.  And my soon to be mother-in-law gave me a big old hug, which made the tears squeeze out even more, and she offered to stay with the girls (who were way more excited about spending time with step-grandma than boring talk about a car), and off we went to the dealership. 

Three hours later, we came home in a brand new mini-SUV.  Seriously shiny, all these technological advancements like a rear view camera and blue tooth and the whole nine yards.  But most of all, it feels safe to drive.  I guess the girls and I have been driving around in a rickety old car all these years and I just never noticed.  It’s actually not that old—14 years—but there was no car payment and it had just been fixed up last summer and everything seemed fine; it never seriously crossed my mind to get a new car, even though A was talking about it. 

Anyway, we loaded up the car seats and took the girls for a spin and they couldn’t be happier, they love it.  Little sister kept saying, THIS IS SO AWESOME!  And big sister climbed into the way back when we got home, clearly she approved it for jungle gym potential alone.  And through it all, A was so sweet and kind about it all.  He was proud to get us the new car—it was like it made sense to him for him to do it.  I am such a far cry from being sad and scared and worried and wondering when the earthquake anger will come.  With A, I’m learning that it doesn’t come.  That he wants to take care of us because he loves us and wants us to be safe.  It’s a new language—I’m still taking it all in and treading carefully, wanting to trust the sounds, learning to understand the syllables.

This morning, my normally tired little girls who pull out their grumpies, bounded out of bed.  They couldn’t wait to get ready and load up and climb into our new family car.  Big sister wanted me to tell her early care teacher that we got a new car, but I was feeling embarrassed, lol, and didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.  Little sister was so excited to go to school in our new car, she sang the entire way to town.  Well, she normally does that, but it was interspersed with, I love our new car, mommy!

Life sure takes us on strange turns.  A tells me to brag to all my friends that I crashed my car and he went out and bought me a new one.  I don’t know how to brag about things like this, but I am very thankful.  So very thankful and I guess this is another lesson I need to learn about how A is kind for kindness’ sake.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy, I mean, happy!

So the last two days have been pretty amazing.  My fiance’s mom flew into town for a visit and we’ve been showing her the sights out and about our beautiful home, including a sea turtle sleeping in the sun, waves washing gently into the shore just a few yards away, and the gorgeous panoramic views of the ocean and the green, verdant mountains that stretch from coast to coast.   It’s so fun to share these experiences with her—watching her exclaim in delight to the balmy trade winds and the sunfilled skies, walking in the hurried and unhurried pace of someone on vacation who wants to take everything in at once and simultaneously relax by resting, eyes closed, on the sand—it’s like we are on vacation, even though we live here, because our day-to-day world normally takes over, and it’s easier to stop and smell the flowers when a guest is among us.

My future mother-in-law is warm and caring, just as I thought she would be, even though my contact with her has been limited over the last couple of months since we announced our engagement.  She immediately told me “welcome” to the family and gave me a genuine hug at first sight, we have joked and laughed and my fiancé has been happy and content, too, and it all feels good.  So good and peaceful.  And life *should* be good—so many positive things are happening in just the next couple of months—moving in together and getting married, an upcoming summer trip across the country, sharing sights and sounds and experiences as we travel, the start to blending my sweet little family into a new iteration of what “family” means. 

Having my future mother-in-law here also makes everything so much more real and true.  I’ve met his younger brother already, and face-timed his dad and step-mom, but as I meet more of his family and spend time with them--and seeing how they’ve been so welcoming towards me and my girls, it has shifted my perspective a few steps toward believing in the good in life and celebrating what is to come.    Our plans—suddenly not just sweet dreams and grand ideas, but genuine, conscionable  actions, embedded in love and stability.

Okay, yes this is a gushy post.  I guess it’s been a while since I’ve set aside the anxiety and simply embraced the positive and light and good things in our life.  The last couple of days, she has been saying how hard it is to be so far away, now that we will be a family, she will have to come visit more often.  It’s hard for her to get away from her responsibilities, as it is for us here, but it’s so nice to enjoy the connection of my fiancé and his family.  So I will bask in it a little while longer, for as much as I can and as long as I can.

Today, my heart is happy and full, and for once, I’m not afraid the happiness will disappear.