Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Blended Family-A Meditation

It’s been a few weeks since my fiancĂ© A has moved in with us.  Our entire house has been rearranged and re-organized—a brand new play room for the girls upstairs, a bona fide adult-esque living room and dining room, sans 100,000 miscellaneous toys like sparkling, matchless princess shoes or the random McDonald’s toy stuffed behind the chair.  Although we did set up a “kids table,” where DD1 can do her computer homework every night next to the couch, and when their friends come over, the little people can eat together there.  And truth be told, slowly but surely, there is a trickling toy leakage seeping from the second story to the first one, but it’s manageable and lovable and—it feels like a brand new home, as if A hadn’t merely “moved in,” but that we have all moved in together.  Furniture changed out (and upgraded, lol, lucky us!), my techie future hub hooking up cable and his computer so we can watch movies and Netflix and everything apparently under the sun.  Last night, we watched a snippet of _The Sound of Music_, one of my absolute faves from childhood, and I was so excited to witness my girls watching, transfixed on Fraulein Maria, until it was time to go upstairs for bed time routine madness.  And then hear them singing do-re-mi at the top of their lungs in the bath.  (I’m seriously feeling so content it’s almost scary!)

And such a change from some of the usual rush of getting things ready every night—if I have a complete brain freeze regarding dinner, sweetheart A steps in, barbequing chicken, and DD1 is exclaiming that it’s now her FAVORITE, and DD2 is fighting over a second serving.  After bath time, A helps blow dry their hair before bed time and/or helps with book time.  There is so much giggling before bed, I have to tell them to calm down, that we’re going to BED, ladies, and I’m met with, just five minutes of play time mom, c’mon please?  And then everyone DOES settle into bed, and I actually get about an hour of adult down time before I go to bed to get ready for the next day of madness, too.

Our morning crack of dawn rise and shine remains mostly the same, but now there’s tiptoeing into the bedroom to say goodbye to A, who is still a big heap underneath the blankets.  And I come home to cute mushy post its, and yes, I leave some mushy ones behind, even as I’m packing up the lunches and loading up what seems like a thousand day bags into—backpacks, lunches, ballet class, brownies, etc--into the car.  So the change is fun and exciting and at the same time, strangely “normal”—these random new routines we’re building, they’re becoming part of the scenery, how life is supposed to be. (What exactly does that mean, anyway?)

I recall in my prior incarnations, flying by the seat of my pants, walking through doors when they opened, or windows when doors slammed shut and the windows were the only alternative avenues, not knowing what to expect, embracing whatever was thrown at me, and then telling myself that “things were meant to be,” whether it was finding myself in a foreign country with $40 in my pocket, or moving across the country and back again, or eventually meeting and moving in with my ex, my unintentional-slash-intentional pregnancies, my handling of anger explosions, believing that he loved us and would get better, enabling him because of this belief in ‘meant to be,’ until I realized we were in actual danger…

Sometimes, A and I discuss that maybe we went through all our respective horrible and awful and not so horrible and not so awful and even happy and beautiful times—for a reason, too.  That somehow they shaped us to be the who and why and where we were when we eventually met, so that we are now able to appreciate the things that we give to each other, not out of obligation or because “it was meant to be,” but with an understanding of living through life’s unexplainable horrors and griefs, that reaching the other side of those experiences with our hearts still surprisingly intact and able to be giving and kind and loving for kindness’ sake—maybe that’s a lesson we couldn’t have learned any other way.
I don’t know.  I remember a few years ago holding on so tightly to what I thought life was “supposed to be,” resulted in my putting us in more harm’s way, rather than protecting us.  I think we don’t know, and I sometimes think ‘meant to be’ is a bunch of hogwash.  Or maybe we shape our experiences as something that’s meant to be so we can understand the complications and pain.

What I do know with certainty, is after all that we have been through—these “normal” days of living in our blending family, with the laughter that trickles upstairs when I’m getting the laundry, or the little surprises for the girls that appear because he was thinking of them, or the spontaneous trip to the zoo, or watching them run up to A and ask to be carried or read to or to help them with x, y, z, well--they are a blessing and they are to be cherished.  That I realize acts of kindness and thoughtfulness mean so much more to me now  than what I was able to appreciate before.  So in this moment, I suppose I’m meant to be thankful.  <3

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Affirmative Action, or why I love Justice Sotomayor

When the SCOTUS ruling came out on 4/22/2014 regarding Affirmative Action—that voters had the right to smack down affirmative action admissions process via a ballot measure in Michigan, discussion, <here>, my stomach dropped a bit.  As a child of the 80s, I experienced this Affirmative Action subject not as some kind of controversial question, but a given, a right, a step forward in our great nation to level the playing field between the haves and the have-nots, to open doors that were closed based on race for generations, to help our country move forward as a true (and not fake) ‘melting pot’ we were taught about in third grade.  That racism was being addressed by the powers-that-be and that it was a fair thing to do.

And then I paused and scratched my head a little bit, too.  How could the Supreme Court smack down other extreme, discriminatory voter ballot measures (hello, gay marriage! California’s Prop 8!), discussion, <here>, but then support a similar, drastic voter measure in Michigan?  Seriously?  Ok, fine, admissions practices are not as easy to justify constitutional protections such as marriage or voting (oh wait, they blew up the voting right act, too, discussion <here>), but then again, the Defense of Marriage Act was passed in the 90s and upheld until just this year, so what gives?

My head spins.  And thankfully, Justice Sotomayor’s reasoning echoes my head spin on this, discussion, <here>.  The majority opinion is taking backward steps and not allowing protections under our constitution for racially diverse students applying to college.  At least, in Michigan.  And while Justice Sotomayor’s dissent, is that, merely the dissent to the majority, and not the ruling opinion, it gives me hope that there is voice to fairness and equality and that hopefully this conversation (er, battle), will not be over.  Because the race conversation, as much as people would like to believe has come to a close with the election of a Black president, is not over.  It continues to evolve and grow and change.

I have suffered racist comments and have a suspicion I’ve been racially profiled before.  And yet, I still have hope for my future and the future for my daughters—that the context we live in will be improved and keep improving.  Maybe it’s a blind hope, but one I will not give up on.  That whole, make a difference as best as you can in your personal life, be the change you want to see in the world, and all that. 

It’s hard to keep that hope alive when SCOTUS did what they did on  4/22/2014, but Justice Sotomayor sure did help me keep this little light of mine aglow and aflame.

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 fiancĂ© 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