Wednesday, December 30, 2015

To Be Better

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I want so hard to be better.  A better mom, a better spouse, a better boss, a better employee, a better…the list could go on.  Actually, if you write the word “better” enough, it starts to sound a little crazy, like not a real word at all, like when you KNOW you’ve spelled a word correctly, but it just looks incorrect on the page, no matter how many times you spellcheck.

Try saying better five times.  Did you giggle?  I did.  (Hmm…this does not bode well!)

I was thinking about a fellow blogger Liv’s post about the “2015 in review”—which notes her commitment to not letting the Goblin King draw her into his drama, and often getting drawn in, only to try, try again.  How I know this struggle well!

I was thinking about Lisa Thomson’s 2015 coming to a close post, about what we’d like to change about ourselves as we head into the new year, or if there’s really nothing to change at the moment.  That sometimes it’s good to not have a plan.

So what is it that I want to change about myself in 2016?  Like Liv, I want to not be drawn into my Ex’s drama.  I’d like more than anything to not get into knee-jerk reaction mode when I get something nasty via email or text from the Ex.  To remain calm.  Haven’t I learned after all these years?  I need to take 24-48 hours before I can formulate a response.  I have to stop worrying about the things that I can’t control.  Remember to only give energy to the things I can affect.

I need to loosen up a bit—I’ve been such a “planner” in all aspects of life lately.  Before the divorce, I was planning on how to get out of an abusive relationship.  During the divorce, I was planning every step of the way on how to legally protect myself and my children (while being confused and terrified I’d make mistakes all along the way!).  Being a single parent, I had to plan every step of the morning routine to get the kids off to school and me off to work, only to come home and have an afternoon and evening plan to get homework done, dinner cooked, clean up, bed time.  And start all over again the next day.  I have to plan every response, every request to my ex who is like a clone of Liv’s Goblin King.  I have to plan each pick up and drop off with my ex when they don’t happen at school.  I fret and worry about school vacations and time sharing and scheduling extracurricular activities for the girls that must not interfere with his time or the girls get confused and he emotionally blackmails them about not seeing him enough, arggh.  Whew, I’m exhausted from all this planning!

I think this ‘over-planning’ thing I’ve got going on is a function of trying to assert control over my life, a reaction to my former life that blew up any old time my ex would have a temper tantrum.  Things were so out of control then.

And now that it’s been years after he left—I need to loosen up.  A day may not go as planned and that’s okay.  That’s life.  I don’t need to exhaust myself by planning, sometimes it’s good to have a day where you fly by the seat of your pants and keep your eyes and ears open.

To stop and be thankful, for the moments that you have on this earth.  Last week, I was shuttling the girls around from Christmas activity to christmas activity—church, then ice skating with a pal, then back to that pals’ house for movie time, home again so we could relax, and I had an almost out-of-body moment.  I was watching myself put the girls in the car, and they were happy to do it.  They went along with mom because they knew they were safe, off to somewhere fun, or off home where we could be lazy.  And I remember telling myself, gosh, I’m such a lucky mom right now.  Sure the girls can be pains about whose side of the car the notebook is on, don’t look on MY side, don’t look out MY window, etc. etc., but the overall picture?  They’re just getting into the car, happy and content about where ever we’re going.  Listening to Christmas carols, singing along when their favorites came on.  Listening to them alternatively argue with each other or giggle along the way.

In 2016, I want to be better about enjoying these moments, even in the times of busy-ness, the acts of doing, the acts of not doing.  Let me be grateful and thankful for all that’s good.  Embrace peacefulness.

In 2016, I want to share my gratitude and thankfulness with my loved ones, near and far, by spending time with them (I can be a bit of a recluse sometimes), by talking more, by reaching out more.

In 2016, I want to be more patient with my daughters when they argue with each other or with me or when they don’t snap jump when I tell them to get ready.

In 2016, I want to be more forgiving of myself and others, including the Ex (this one will be the hardest one, I think).  When the Ex does something or the girls tell me something troubling, I want to lean more on forgiveness for his actions, and concentrate on how to help my girls cope with their dad.

In 2016, I want to be healthier and happier, on the inside and out.  (note: I’ve started this 30 day plank challenge, which is doing 10 minutes of core exercises; currently on day 12!).

Gosh, this is a tall order.  I better get cracking.  Where to start?  Ironically, among this list the easiest task is the darn exercising!  I’ve already done my work out today, ha!

In 2016, my mantra will be:  peaceful, thankful, sharing, forgiving, healthier, happier, loving (towards my kids and hubby and family and friends). 

Will this be enough for me to “be better”?  Or maybe it’s the act of trying to do these things, the journey, that will one day make me a “better” version of who I am.  I hope so.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The year 2015 in Review!

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I got this wonderful idea to review my "2015" blog year from the wonderful Lisa Thomson.  She's one of the reasons that I think blogosphere can be healing—we’ve connected through writing, and I continue to be inspired by her story from healing after a complicated divorce.

So here goes!

In January, I was "contemplating" the end of the co-parenting compromise road.  My ex was being contentious when it came to his obligations in supporting the girls with their extracurricular activities and medical copays—I see it now in hindsight as his means to ‘control’ a situation, intentionally or not.  But after two years of cherry picking what he’d support and/or pay for (including medical bills), I’d had enough, especially because DD2’s schooling was being called into question.

So while I was dealing with potential litigation relating to child support, education, and the extracurriculars, I had an opportunity with to write about “I saw the red flags, but I married him anyway.”  Writing that article was a therapeutic trip down memory lane, to consider how far I’ve come from the person I was before.  I did believe in the good in my Ex, and I did believe in the powerful transformation that loving someone can bring.  But I learned the hard way that “love” cannot “fix” someone who cannot or does not want to solve their innermost challenges.  Our “love” is not responsible for someone else’s anger problems.

In March I took a break from mulling over co-parenting challenges and celebrated our new family member, G.  G came to us a 10 lbs 6 week old puppy and is now 45 lbs.  She is, technically, bigger than DD2!  

In April, I was still worried about DD2 transitioning into Kindergarten (hence the private school fight with the ex), but I also came down with a rip-roaring case of the stomach flu.  Hubby took such thoughtful and careful care of me and the girls—it was a great reminder as to how I can count on him to save the day.

Then in May, the issues with the Ex were exploding to the surface, and I had to write about the CS modification and the next court battles, which thankfully ended up settling, but not before a helluva crap pile of PTSD stress and turmoil.

Onward to June, when the United States Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and I was so super happy to take a moment out of my absorbed co-parenting challenged life, and celebrate that Love is Love.  And that Love really does win in the end. (it just can’t fix people with anger problems!)

In July, my DD1 shoved me square into the ringer, asking me what SEX is all about—wow, my first sex talk!  And p.s. she’s since asked a bunch more questions, which I think is good that the communication channel is open and she feels safe enough to discuss these things with me.  Basically, she still thinks it sounds GROSS, but she is understanding the physical fundamentals and most importantly, HER body is HER body.

In August, I reflected on the anniversary of when my ex husband left—and while he threatened that I’d really “miss what I do around here,” I found out that while I was sad about the end of our marriage, I was glad that he wasn’t doing what he used to do around here.

In September, I was happy about the fact that my kids were settled into their new school year (especially DD2, who started kindergarten at a school of which there was much conflict about during the summer), and everyone seemed to be doing well.  But the Exie through some new curve balls at me with insisting on assisting the girls with their baths and making subtle accusations about my Hubby having nefarious motives when it came to bath time.  Ugh.

This conflict bled into October, when I made special arrangements to vacation with my bestie and her family with the girls, because god forbid, I do anything fun with them that doesn’t involve the Ex!  But fun we did manage to have, and I’m so thankful for that.

There was more co-parenting (or should I say parallel-parenting?) kerfuffle in November, which is a constant reminder that I can’t control what is said or done at Dad’s house, and my job is to support the girls when it comes to dealing with their dad.  Also, to remember that it’s important to do the best that I can, and that no one is perfect—what matters is taking ownership of our mistakes and trying to do better next time. 

I also mulled over and discussed my opinion on the Syrian refugee crisis, which was picked up by Blogher, and which received some interesting comments.  I still feel strongly that we should help people in need and not give into fear…but I realize other people feel differently than me…

Which leads us to December—the holiday season.  We had visitors for Thanksgiving, we’ve baked our little hearts out for our teachers and loved ones, we are in the full holiday swing and school is now out for winter break.  Our house is ready for DD1’s besties to come over and bake cookies for Santa and have a sleepover, we have plans with all of our pals, and Christmas eve, my daughters and I and hubby will be celebrating at a candlelight service at church—my girls possibly angels in the nativity, we’ll see if they end up dressing up.

Today there was another kerfuffle regarding DD2’s pick up from school and some nice accusatory texts given to me from the Ex.  I guess it was an early Christmas present!  But these annoyances are just annoyances.  They don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

I am so thankful to be where I am at the end of this year.  Our blended family has gone through a ton of growth spurts and challenges, and still goes through them, but my heart and mind are open for the changes, embracing the healing, hoping for peace and love and goodwill towards humanity. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dreaming of a Better Way

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Once upon a time, a well-respected psychologist that I know told me that sometimes when we dream about something familiar, like our childhood home, it’s because our minds are working out unresolved issues.  This resonated with me—I know I have a lot of unresolved issues, and I know I have a lot to work through. Some things still trouble me, hence this blog (ha!), some I’ve learned to let go, some I wish I could let go.  Maybe we have to take two steps forward and take one step back to heal.  Maybe we’re all puzzles with some pieces easily fitting together, others we struggle to fit, pushing them repeatedly and repeatedly, even when we know the ends don’t meet.  (By the way, I do love a great jigsaw puzzle—my mom used to set them up at Christmas and we’d all work on it together.  When the girls get a little bit older, I’m going to introduce this holiday tradition!).

So last night, I dreamt about my ex.  And in it, he wasn’t the scary, angry, rageful person that I used to be afraid of.  He was the reasonable, self-effacing, friendly person that I fell in love with, he was that friend I had for many years before we started dating.  My dream self saw him with dread, but he simply asked me for directions, then accompanied me to various stops along the way (I think we were shopping in some random, indoor/outdoor mall type of place), until he found the store that he was looking for.  We said our goodbyes in a civilized manner.  And then I woke up.

I’ll be honest, I did have nightmares of him when he first moved out.  The threats to kill us; my girlfriend and attorney had me change the locks to my house.  I’d dream about huge fights and yelling, or sometimes I’d dream about huge fights that were enacted out by his ice old, chilling, silent seething.  I think those were almost worse than when he broke things and threw things, because it was like the calm before the storm.  At least when he was swearing and breaking and throwing stuff, it was out in the open.  (Neither of these scenarios are good, I know.)

So last night’s calm and civilized dream—I wonder if it was my mind working out some things about my ex, and in response to a heated debate I had with my hubby.  We debate a lot about my Exie and it’s getting to be tiring.  I’m of the—let’s move forward and if I can, how come you can’t?  And Hubby gets frustrated that Exie “gets away” with his misbehavior (manipulating the girls, interfering with phone calls by making them feel responsible for him, see almost every entry about coparenting challenges in this blog). Hubby’s perspective is—the children are not his children, but he loves them as his stepdaughters and he loves me as his wife, and he will do everything and anything to protect us.  And build a life for us that is free from pain and suffering.

I explained to my Hubby that over the years and because of the divorce, the Ex doesn’t hurt me anymore.  Yes, he is frustrating and a pain in the arse, but I’m no longer cowering in fear, rather, I think of the challenges that we face with Exie as facing someone like a radio with missing frequencies—we’ll never get him to tune into the FM “behave like a reasonable person” channel—the Ex has trouble taking responsibility of his actions, behavior, words.  The Ex needs to be loved in a way that is not the healthiest.  Trying to hold Exie accountable or demand he change his ways or combat and treat Exie the way he treats me and the girls so he will “change,” is just not doable.  

Instead, all of that energy and time and effort—I have to put into my job to show the girls a different way of loving and living.

Our blended family is a work in progress.  At least Hubby is aligned with the fact that we remain positive, upbeat, and neutral about the girls’ father in our home, even when Hubby gets upset about the things Exie does and says to the children.  So I’m thankful for that.

In the meantime, as my dream panned out—my exie is not a two-story monster.  He is definitely a pain in the arse, but he’s not someone who I need to be scared of.  Concerned for the well-being of my kids, yes, but no longer the threat like the monster that I so dreaded before.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Happy Holidays, from your friend, Linus (well, it's really me)

Image credit <here>

All quiet on the communication front from the Ex, and I like the peace.  (Although when the silence goes on too long, I do cringe a bit; the other foot falls heavy! Cross fingers all stays well!)

It’s actually been a rollercoaster of sorts—in good and in not so good ways.  We had a wonderful holiday with our step-family, but the Ex is making us pay for it now.  He got bent out of shape regarding DD1’s homework (we missed one day of school; I assured him that we completed all required homeowrk, with the understanding/blessing of DD1’s teachers), and wouldn’t let it go.  The nasty things he was saying to me—I can only imagine what he was saying to the girls.  And in fact, DD1 did come home saying, well…dad feels bad because we spend more time with our stepfamily than with him.

I responded with the following sentiments (not all at once, but in the same general conversation): gosh, I know it’s hard for dad and it’s hard for all of us sometimes, and I’m sorry he said that—because…we do have these rules we have to follow, given to us from the Judge.  So what we have to learn to do is make the best of the situation, of whatever situation we find ourselves in.  Some people are really good at that, and others have a hard time.  I’m sorry your dad is having a hard time, and remember, it’s not your job to take care of us, it’s our job to take care of you.

DD1 seemed mollified by that, but DD2 is having a harder time.  She’s now entered a little bit of a phase that she can’t show too much affection towards me in front of her dad…and I get that..DD1 used to do that, too.  It’s like they feel responsible for him—that somehow not being overtly affectionate with me will show him that they love him.  (Sad! Not Right! It’s so hard to see them struggle with this!).  The girls’ play therapist says not to worry about it—that they confide and share their honest worries with me; that they are safe and can communicate these things, that’s what is important.  To support them in dealing with their dad—if on some level they know not to be gushy to me in front of him, and it makes their visitation go easier with him, then so be it.  It’s just noise.

They’ve been struggling with calls from their dad’s to mine, so after discussing with the girls on how to make it easier, we came up with a plan where on days that i see them in the morning, when they call at night, i'd let it go to voicemail, and send them a text back. they thought that was a great idea! but of course they tell me he doesn't show them my messages because they're "too busy" (hello, talking on the phone would take longer than reading an emoji embellished two sentence text?)  And of course at our house—we are never too busy (even when we are too busy) to call dad when it’s his turn, I always make sure the t.v. is off, minimize distraction, assure them that they feel free to talk with him as long as they’d like.  I hear them ask him for the call to be short…but he ignores them and just keeps going.  Ugh.  Just stupid, petty, small irritations.

The other night was difficult, it’s the night they come home from their dad’s, only to turn right around and go back the next day (this is the one hooey visitation scheduling that is hard to handle—hopefully it will get easier as the girls get older).  Anyway, DD2 had the case of the fussies and the opposites (I want water!, I give her water, I don’t want to drink it!, etc. etc.)  And DD1 got up and came to get me after going to bed, sharing with me a nightmare from when she was DD2’s age—about our house flooding with water so big that it separated all of us from each other and we could never be together.  My sweetheart, caring, sensitive, DD1.

I climbed into bed with DD1 and asked her—is that how you felt when mommy and daddy got divorced? She squeezed me in the tightest hug ever, and as I held her in my arms, I told her that I'd always be her mommy and i loved her no matter what, i'd always be there for her, even when she couldn't see me.  And she said that's good, mommy, and she just cuddled with me some more.  In the meantime, DD2 was sniffling and saying she was sorry for not listening earlier, and i gave her more hugs, too, that mommy always loves her, too.  That we have room in our hearts for everyone in our family.  Then, miraculously, all was well and they went to sleep.

By the way, this is the same DD1 who tells me “mommy, you are SO embarrassing” when I cheer her on at the Christmas parade, lol.  She has one foot into adolescence, and one foot back into cuddly childhood.

Anyway, let’s get back to the holidays—I’m so happy and excited, our tree is up, our lights on the carport, really enjoying these last two weeks of school before they’re out for winter break.  The girls and I have a lot of baking ahead of us, for our neighbors and teachers and friends.  All these years I’ve been trying to instill the spirit of Giving with my daughters—getting them excited to give things that we’ve made to people we know and love.  And I was talking about this, this morning in the car on the way to school, driving past the twinkling Christmas lights still up in our town, since we leave the house in the darkness before dawn.

“It’s really about Giving presents, darling; I mean, getting presents is nice and all, but I hope you and your sister remember that the season is about giving.  And we have a lot of pound cakes to bake this week end for your teachers!” 

DD1 thought about this for a minute, then replied, “Mom…you know you’re just like Linus.”

Awwww…my heart about melted into a pool of butter. 

Then DD1 followed up with her usual concrete thinking, “you know, mom, that means we have to make seven cakes.”  And my eyes about bugged out of my head, and I said, are you sure it’s seven?  Shouldn’t it be four?  Because we definitely have four for your sister.  Then DD1 rattled off all her teachers names, including her before and after school care teachers, and I was like, “oh wow, I guess that’s 8.”  And she was like, “yes!  8!” and super excited about it.  “When are we going to give them out mom?” She asked when we got to school.

So right now, I’m feeling really thankful—that my daughter understands on some level that Christmas is about giving.  Thankful that I have the means to provide a holiday season filled with fun food, baking, gifts, decorations.  That I have found strength to deal with the Ex (some days way better at this than others).  Thankful for good friends, my family, my daughters.  Let me stay thankful for these moments—especially when remembering Christmases in the not-too-distant-past that were touched by panic, depression, fear.  Thankful that we are years into a different sort of life. 

And thankful…that I will get back to the grocery store for more eggs, for all that cake baking we’ll be doing this week end. 

Happy Holidays, everyone!