Thursday, August 20, 2009

two months of excuses - part one

In typical fashion, I've taken something that looks bad enough by itself and made it worse by dragging my feet. Procrastination isn't something that normally turns up on my (getting longer by the day) fault list, but perhaps I need to re-examine that. I've turned a lot of my personal lists upside down this summer, so it would stand to reason that not everything will be a "positive". Oh, well. It is what it is, and even though I'm afraid you're all going to find my reasoning kind of flimsy, I hope you'll maybe cut me a little slack this one (two? three?) time(s). Even if not for any reason other than the fact that I'm asking really nicely. It's not much, but it's all I've got.

Trust me. It has been that kind of a summer.

My first clue was my wholly unexpected reaction to two of my three kids being gone. One was away for a month and the other for about two weeks between two different trips. I stressed mightily for weeks leading up to their departures and worried that I would be a basket case the whole time they were gone. That was my expectation anyway, and, based on previous experiences, I had no reason to think it would go any other way. So with fear and trepidation I put them each on a plane and headed home to have a nervous breakdown.

I can't remember a time in my life when I've had more fun.

If this summer had a key word to it, one simple tag to describe the whole damn thing, it would be timing. Timing has affected every single aspect of the last few months - for better, for worse, for right, for wrong...for real. The marquis boxing match of the summer featured the heavyweights of Timing vs. Control, and although the fight went the full nine rounds it ended with a pretty spectacular knock-out. I'm not sure anyone believes that a control freak can really change her spots, but I'm officially laying down the gauntlet. I bow to the power of timing, in a way I never would have before. Sometimes the fight just isn't even worth it. And let me tell you right now...that's a hell of a lesson to learn at my age.

My kids left town right about the time that I mentally reached the end of my (self-imposed) year of hiding out. Since January 2008 I've gone to work and come straight home. I've kept food on the table and dog bowls full. I've done the kid things I needed to do and avoided the rest. I've done the dishes and the laundry and not much else. I'm still not sure why I felt I had to retreat entirely, but that's exactly what I did. I've turned down social invitations, I've turned down friends, I've turned down men, I've turned down life. I was ready to start living again.

And this is exactly where the timing stars start to collide.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I got some 'splainin to do

I'll be back in a day or two. I promise. With the full scoop of news.

I'm afraid you're all going to find it very...anti-climactic.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

hair flips and giggles

Something really strange happened here last night and I'm still a little freaked out by it. There was a girl. A really stinking cute girl. In my house. Sitting about two inches from Sasquatch in front of the computer. And about every two minutes or so she would flip back her hair and giggle.

Sweet Jesus. It took seventeen years, but the day has come. The party is over.

My friend Laurie came to pick me up for Tuesday night volleyball and headed toward the bathroom as soon as she walked in. I stood mutely in the living room as she headed past the room they were in, watching as his second mother started to call out a cheery "hey, Sasquatch". She stopped dead in her tracks, looked back at me (still standing paralyzed in the living room) and headed straight to the laundry room - the furthest away room - to quietly have a stroke. I met her there, accompanied by the sound of giggling, and we engaged in a manic mime routine that all boiled down to one pertinent question - WTF?

It didn't get any better when we got to volleyball.

"You know they're totally having sex right now, don't you?"

"Have you had the condom talk lately?"

"Funny. You don't look old enough to be a grandma".

"You want me to go sneak in the back door and see what they're doing?"

It was a long ninety minutes.

Today I talked to him about it, knowing full well it was going to be damn near impossible.

"So," I said casually, "she's really just a friend?"

"Uh huh," said he.

"Not a girlfriend, eh?"

"She has a boyfriend," he said. "I've told you that".

"You told me a few months ago that she had a boyfriend. Things change," I replied.

"Well," he said woodenly, "she still has him".

Ah. My boy is in waiting game hell. Now I get it.

"So she's not your girlfriend?"


"Is there anyone you're interested in?"


"Would you tell me if you were?"


"Would you really?"

He looked at me and shot a grin that has become lately become quite fetching. I've seen the way teenage girls look at him, and even though it makes my life flash in front of my eyes, I totally get why.


I understand that when they're seventeen you have to take every bone they throw you, and I get that I've been lucky that it's taken this long to happen. But all night I kept hearing the sound of teenage giggling in my dreams...

And I know it's just a matter of time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

candle time

Please join me in sending birthday wishes to LFG today. Otherwise known as Larry (his real name) and my confidante, buddy, alter ego and sometimes whipping post for well over half of my life. (Sometimes I'm the whip and sometimes I'm the post. Sometimes he talks such circles around me that I'm not really sure what the hell I am. I'm sure he'd say the same. About the talking circles anyway.)

This is one of those "milestone" birthdays, and one which I, thankfully, will not reach for another two years. Not that milestones are bad, exactly. It's just that I've reached my milestone quota for the last year and am not accepting any new applications until January 1st of next year. In the meantime I'm perfectly happy to sit back and comment on other people's milestone moments. That's just the kind of gal I am.

I have to say that in reading comments over the last few weeks - as you've all gotten to see us go at each other - that I really love the idea of co-writing a post with him. Maybe a He Said/She Said type thing - describe your relationship in a hundred words or less. No? A thousand? Possibly? (As he said to me a couple of weeks ago while reading a (really long) email that I wrote - "Damn, you're long winded. I don't think I could write that much if I was getting paid by the word.")

Well, we all know I can. Without being paid a cent. And I bet he could too.

Wouldn't that be fun?

Friday, June 19, 2009

on track

Sometimes you understand that you're turning the corner as you actually do it. And then there are times when you're a mile down the road and you realize that you don't even remember turning the corner. It's just nowhere to be seen in your rear view mirror - not that you're really looking anyway. The road ahead looks much more interesting.

And that's where I'm at. Where I've been for the last several months, as a matter of fact. The last post-marital blow up was, indeed, the final straw, solidified the end of May by one last typical FX trick - a trick that didn't even get a rise out of me, so little did I care. May I take this opportunity to say how thrilled I am that the only reaction these things bring out in me anymore is the sort of bemused detachment that one might feel watching The Jerry Springer Show? I'm even more thrilled that I'm seated in the audience and not sitting center stage. Those lights are hot and they always make my mascara run.

My counseling session tonight was just a little on the brutal side, and the themes that came up aren't new at all. What is new is that I'm finally ready to do something about them - have, actually been doing something about them. This is the Summer of the Shrinking Comfort Zone, and, rather that kick and scream as I have before, I'm biting the bullet and just doing it. All my kicking and screaming in the past haven't changed a damn thing, so why not just shut up and get on with it?

One kid gone for a month.

Another leaving tomorrow for the first of two trips.

My relatively new realization that sitting at home on the nights the kids aren't here isn't the best idea. So, kicking and screaming, I've stepped outside of my box, forced myself to engage,even during times the kids are here. I've gone past the point where hiding from the world is helping me, and finally get that I need to bust out.

Last weekend was a perfect example. Multiple things stacked on Friday night. Ran like crazy Saturday with out of town friends. A beer driven bitch bash straight out of a chick flick Saturday night. Of course on Sunday I collapsed, but at least I got out into the world and made nice.

It may not be obvious to everyone that I've turned that corner. But it sure is to me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the valium diaries

Thirty six hours.

In thirty six hours, Surfer Dude is off on the camp adventure of a lifetime. For four weeks.

Thirty six hours.

In thirty six hours, I'm going to make Girl, Interrupted look like the Brady Bunch. For four weeks.

I've calculated how many days Gumby is going to be gone, too. Between spending time at the lake with the grandparents and going to visit his best friend in Texas and the days in between that he'll spend with his dad, I feel like I'll not be seeing him much at all until we go to California the middle of July. I'll spare you all the hourly countdown - for now - but when he goes, they're both gone. And that leaves me with Sasquatch, who, in typical teenage fashion, isn't home much at all.

What the HELL am I going to do with all this free time????

Monday, June 15, 2009

fighting fires

Picture this.

An elderly - and quite demented - gentleman, who evidently had retreated back into his boyhood fantasy of being a fireman. A nurse - sweet, kind, and wholly unsuspecting - who walked into his room to give him a warm blanket. Out of the goodness of her heart, I might add. Whereupon he whipped out his "fire hose" and doused her - but good - as she dodged, ducked, dipped, dived and dodged, trying (futilely) to escape the seemingly bottomless water tank.

Her mantra - as she skidded out of the room - sounded just a little demented itself. "It's the only sterile bodily fluid, it's the only sterile bodily fluid, it's the only sterile bodily fluid..."

Gee. And I thought I was only a shit magnet.

Friday, June 12, 2009

well, this is different...

I'm really sorry. I'm not mad. Or sulking. Honest.

It's just that after a year and a half of being blindsided by negative things, I've finally experienced some positive blindsiding. Out of fricking nowhere. And I have absolutely no idea of how to deal with it...

Friday, June 5, 2009

20 questions

Alright, I'm admitting it. I've boxed myself into a corner.

I'm not writing about my kids - because I've done a lot of that lately.

I'm not writing about work - because I feel like I've gone to that well once too often in recent weeks.

I'm not writing about angst, anger, revenge, karma, payback or any of those other things - because I'm just not in that place anymore.

I'm not writing about the day to day battles that we all face - because they never go away anyway.

I'm not writing about the factions that I strive to never make feel that I write about them - because, let's face it...some people still care far too much about what I say. Que sera sera.

I'm not writing for my future, my dreams, my suddenly evolving- and wholly unexpected- fantasies. Because it's not "safe".

So the question becomes this...if I can't say what I want to on my blog...what's the point?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

pass the bag

I bought plane tickets today for Surfer Dude to go to camp. For a month. In another state.

Tomorrow - as soon as I can find a non-stop flight - I'll be buying tickets for Gumby to visit his best friend's family in Texas. For ten days. In another state. Oh, wait. I already said that.

Sasquatch is almost never at home during the summer, dropping by only to empty both the fridge and my wallet.

For a woman who spends most of her non-working hours in the vicinity of her kids, I just found myself with a whole lotta "me time" this summer.

I think I'm going to be sick.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I could have danced all night...

What does any self respecting trauma junkie do after a grueling twelve hour shift in the ER?

Well, she does her Fire/Medical ride-along, of course. Designed to give ER staff a better understanding of what goes on "pre-hospital", we're now required to do four hours of time with the paramedics as they respond to calls. I didn't want to give up any precious hours on a day off, so I stacked mine after a regular shift. This could have been really bad, but I lucked out and got the busiest station in town - and an amazing and nurse friendly team to boot. Our town combines fire and medical, which means that if a fire had come along I could have gone out on that run too. Alas, no fires, but can I just say how very much I enjoyed the paramedic end of it? There's something about barrelling down the road at some god-forsaken speed, sirens blasting and cars scattering as fast as possible in your path to satisfy the most blatant adrenaline cravings.

Damn. I may be falling over exhausted, but that was a blast.

Monday, June 1, 2009

branching out

This is going to be a very interesting summer.

My folks get here in about a week and a half for a visit, and then in July we'll go home for a couple of weeks. There are not words to say how much I am looking forward to that.

One of my kids has the chance to spend a month out of state in a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's not a done deal yet, but he wants to go, and in spite of my angst I simply cannot say no. I want to, but I can't.

One of them has been invited to spend some time with his best friend in yet another state. I've been dragging my feet on making the plans (chalk it up to still more angst), but the time has come to put on my big girl panties and just do it. I know he'll have a blast. It's me I'm worried about.

One of them is actually contemplating getting a job - in between that summer school session that completely snuck up on him and his physics challenged brain. I wish him luck with this "job", since his list of requirements could conceivably prove daunting to any potential employer. The notion that he would have to be there on time and trained is puzzling to him, and I fully expect that his "dream job" of the summer is going to translate into holding his hand out for cash at the Bank of Mom. Silly rabbit.

All three of them are grappling (with varying degrees of success and no small amount of humor) with their father's very last minute announcement that he is moving in with his girlfriend in less than a week.

And me? Well, now there's a story. Freaked out about the idea of my kids being gone. Worried over the usual summer logistics. Excited about out of town visitors and trips away. Completely over anything the FX does or doesn't do - except as it relates to my children. Pondering the idea of some actual time for me. With a couple of projects of my own up my sleeve. And a very unexpected outlook on the world.

Oh, my god...has the sky always been this blue?

Friday, May 29, 2009

the master plan

Like almost everyone else these days, my hospital is in the throes of cutting all kinds of "extra" costs. Our department, like all the others, has a census to meet, and if we don't see the number of patients we're budgeted to, then bad things may start happening - like not filling positions when staff leave and other things too awful to contemplate. It's a balancing act. How many people can you see on a daily basis and still have staff standing at the end of the shift?

It was a little slow at first today, which was a good thing for us but a bad thing for the census. My boss, whom I'm repeatedly on record as adoring, walked through the unit to take a peek. Not good. We needed people. Lots and lots of people. People crawling out of the woodwork. The sicker and needier the better. We needed to be overwhelmed, running for daylight, praying for our own deaths. And there was only one way to do it.

My boss approached the charge nurse and said the magic words.

"You need to put RC in triage."

Presto. The census was not only was exceeded.

Such is the power of a shit magnet.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I made it through the rain

I didn't cry. Oh, I teared up a bit (or a lot), but there was no witnessed spillage, which was a good thing because I was the only one among my friends to bring kleenex and I quickly ran short. Nothing at all like the bloodbath that was Gumby's Sixth Grade graduation last year. That, my friends, was brutal.

As much as I've made about this being the end of an era, I think part of my fear came from the memories of last year. It wasn't just their teacher - the same one this year - having to turn her back to the audience because she was crying so hard. It wasn't just that I cried buckets that night, both in the auditorium and once I got home. It wasn't even the unbelievable sweetness of Surfer Dude when he saw how emotional I was. No, it wasn't really any of those things. It was uncertainty, it was stress, it was an almost paralyzing fear. I sat there and watched Gumby graduate, knowing that in a matter of days my husband would be moving out and I would be on my own for the first time in twenty something years. I was terrified, and I vividly remember thinking, "If I can just make it through until Surfer Dude graduates, it will be okay. In a year I'll be in a much better place. In a year my life will be good."

And all of those things are true. Every morning when I wake up I say a little thank you for where I am today. Every night before I go to sleep I run through my gratitude list, and always on there is the fact that I am where I am now and not where I was then.(And by then, I don't just mean last Spring). There aren't enough riches in the world to make me go back to where we were then, and I'm quite certain I'm not the only one to feel this way. Even my kids seem calm and in a good place.

So tonight when I felt the tears starting, I inexplicably broke into a smile. Even though I had teased Sasquatch, threatening to use his shirt as a tissue if the waterworks started, I stayed relatively at ease through the entire process. I sat in a row with my two non-graduating kids (whom I had forced to come) and their father, surrounded by friends, and focused on all the amazing possibilities.

It's not an ending at all. It's all just starting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

it's all elementary

Things are crazy busy here right now, so I'm being a big old blog slacker. Nothing is wrong - quite the contrary - it just seems like time is doing nutty things. Like moving at hyper speed, for one.

My kids are down to one and two days of school, depending on the kid. Tonight we have a Sixth Grade graduation that is going to be a bawl fest all around, and I'm already trying to steel myself for it. This is for the same kid who just laid down in my bed and asked me to sing him to sleep with his favorite lullaby from when he was tiny. I snuggled up to him and sang (badly, as usual), trying to reconcile the thought of an itty bitty baby with this huge twelve year old in my arms. He fell asleep quickly and I briefly considered getting a jump start on the bawl fest, but I resisted. I have a bad feeling that once the tears start, there's going to be hell to pay getting them to stop. It's the end of the elementary school years, the end of an era...the beginning of so much more.

Next year I'll have a high school senior. God help us all.

Send me strength. I'm going to need it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

brace for the cure

You can't cure stupid.

You can manage it, you can educate it, you can even, if pushed too far, ignore it completely. But you can't cure it. It's a terminal condition. Apparently quite contagious. And far, far too widespread.

The patient had woken up with a headache and taken "a handful" of aspirin in response.

But wait a minute, said the doc, you're violently allergic to aspirin. It says so on all of your medical records.

Well sure, answered the patient, but this wasn't name brand aspirin. It was the generic.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

want ads - part two

When it rains, it pours.

Imagine reading your child's suicide note. Imagine how you would feel as they apologized for how they felt they had let you down, apologized for how they wish things could be different, how they wished they were a better, stronger person, told you things would be better now - now that they weren't here anymore to mess things up for you and the rest of the family.

Imagine looking over an itemized list of their belongings, with notes jotted in the margins as to who they would like to receive what. A detailed set of instructions as to what music they want played at their funeral, and, while they're at it, where they would like their ashes scattered. Imagine page after page of details, everything from bank account numbers to internet passwords. All left carefully addressed to you in the sincere belief that they would not be needing any of it anymore.

Now imagine holding all of this in your hand as you stand outside the glass door leading to the room your child is in. Your very much alive child, saved by the unexpected return of a roommate, saved from their hell bent determination to stop the screaming in their own head. Is your child grateful for the reprieve? No. Your child turns to the nurse at their bedside and says quite clearly that this isn't over just yet.

The nurse is chilled by the deadness in their eyes. She looks over at the parent, standing slumped by the door, tries to catch their eye and convey some sort of mom empathy. They look up from the floor and she meets their gaze squarely.

And wishes she had never looked beyond the patient.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

lucky numbers

I bought a lottery ticket on Saturday, and while this may not sound like such a big deal, for me it's really out of character. To tell the truth I bought five of them - all on one Powerball ticket. $5 was the total cost. 150 million was the potential payoff. And what did I get out of it?

Well, about 72 hours worth of fantasy, at least as it stands now. I still haven't checked to see if I've won, because I'm having such a good time spending my imaginary winnings in my head. Oh, I know I haven't won the big prize, because our local paper would have gone ballistic over the news of the winning ticket being sold in our town, but who knows? Maybe I won something smaller? Enough to buy a week's worth of groceries? A small Mediterranean island? Something in between?

As much as I love the chance to mentally spend money that isn't mine, I hate to throw hard earned cash down the toilet. And let's face it - the lottery is one great big toilet. It's like Vegas with worse odds, so it would take something crazy to make me buy even one ticket, much less five.

A couple of friends and I went to Open Houses on Saturday, and ended up running into another friend in the process. One of the houses that was open was one we've been curious about for quite a while, and this was the first weekend it was open to the public. I think half the town was there, and we were all saying some version of


I wanted it enough that I went straight to the Kwik Shop and bought five Powerball quick picks. God knows, that's what it would take. (It was much simpler than my friend Laurie's plan for three families to buy the house together and live there semi-commune style. On the plus side, I'm sure there's a reality series there somewhere. One with a big paycheck attached.)

Judging by the lack of newspaper headlines, I may have to let the house go. But I might wait a day or so before I dash my hopes completely.

What would you buy a lottery ticket for?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

help wanted

It's time to change careers. Or at the very least to never triage again. Ever.

Today I pulled a dead baby out of a car.

Yes, you read that right.

I. Pulled. A. Dead. Baby. Out. Of. A. Car.

While her mom screamed frantically at me to save her child.

While I took one look and knew it was already too late.

As I ran full-speed into the trauma room cradling the baby in my arms.

And participated in a balls to the wall full blown pediatric code.

Just on the off chance that we were wrong.

All of us.

We weren't.

It's time to change careers. Or at the very least to never triage again.


Monday, May 18, 2009

add as friend

Ah, the internet. Can't live without it, but it sure can make things interesting sometimes.

I now have two people that I'm close to who are both leaving their husbands for someone from their past that they've reconnected with on Facebook. Neither one of them were in untroubled marriages, neither one of them felt loved, or desired, or even appreciated. But, for the sake of the kids - seven between them - they stuck it out, marked time with a man they no longer wanted to be with, told themselves that dreaming of a better future was pointless.


Enter Prince Charming. Complete with white horse and escape route. Someone who knew (and even loved) them in a simpler time, before kids and stretch marks and money woes and career setbacks and husbands who were woefully deficient in...well, everything. Someone who loved them before life stomped the optimism out of them, and are able, with a word or a recalled story to take them straight back to that happier time.

Pretty tempting, no?

I'd be lying if I said I was never tempted by someone else in my marriage. To be perfectly honest, I spent most of my marriage tempted by other people, although I never gave in to that temptation. I always thought I was a terrible person, until the marriage counselor we saw put it in perspective. With a marriage as disconnected as yours, he said, I'd be more surprised if you weren't tempted by everyone who walked by. When your marriage isn't firing on even a single cylinder, you need a pretty active fantasy life just to get through the day. And while I get that wholeheartedly, I still think that the chasm between a fantasy life and actually picking up and leaving for that fantasy is huge.

One of these women is a really good friend and one is someone I love dearly. I want this to work out for them, want it to be everything they want it to be. One of them (the really good friend) left when the "fantasy" relationship became physical, and unfortunately for her when she asked my opinion on this she got it. (It's a good thing she loves me for my honesty. Too bad we can't say the same thing for my tact.) The other one (the one I love dearly) is trying to do the right thing and leave before anything actually "happens", but she's still got a really hard road ahead of her.

I'm all about the fantasy thing, and I do believe in lasting love, do believe in soul mates, am finally beginning to believe in happily ever after again.

But I'd be lying if I said this whole thing didn't make me really nervous.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Who: You

What: One fun thing you plan to do.

When: This weekend.

Where: Anywhere you want to.

Why: Why not?

I'll start. This weekend is brought to you by Surfer Dude's soccer tournament. First game was tonight and we got handed our shorts. Second game tomorrow night, and I'm afraid we'll be repeating the shorts routine. Third (and fourth if we qualify...rub a lamp) game(s) Saturday. Team party Saturday night.

But the real highlight of my weekend? My baby turns 12 on Sunday.


What fun things are on your agenda this weekend?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

it's pinch myself time

Every now and then something happens that gives me hope for the future. Today was one of those days.

Sasquatch has, as I feared, been having trouble catching the bus to school in the morning. Surely some of it is summer fever, but with frightening regularity, I get a call at work or hear him stomp in the front door with one of his patented excuses. This is the favorite -

"The bus came ridiculously early." (Translation: I was late and it was on time.)

But lately I've also been hearing a lot of this -

"I was standing right there and the bus went right past me." (Translation: Who the hell knows?)

The first couple of times I heard that I quite honestly didn't believe him. But when I kept hearing the same thing - especially when I was at work and helpless to do anything about it - I told him that he needed to call the bus company and complain. He wouldn't do it. Said he was the only person at that bus stop and the driver would know he was the one complaining. If I pushed it he pretty much exploded on me. Then I got the always calming Sasquatch platitude - "Don't worry, Mom. It's fine." (Usually said when it's clearly not fine at all.)

But today it happened again, and as he walked back in the door I could hear him talking to someone. It was the bus company, and he came into my room as he stated his case calmly. Said he had been standing right there and the driver had gone straight past him. He didn't blow up and he didn't back down. In the end, they sent another (smaller) bus to pick him up to make his connection, since evidently this driver has a history of this exact same thing. And lo and behold, he got to school on time - and in a decent mood. (This also demonstrates a lot about mass transit in our town, but that's a whole other story.)

I told him I was really proud of him, because I knew that he had stepped out of his comfort zone big time. And that he had handled it perfectly and without drama. And gotten to school independently and on time to boot.

Could the kid actually be growing up?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

not much more you can say

Perfect post for a (late) Bunco night. Thanks for sending it this way, Aims.


Before I lay me down to sleep,
I pray for a man who's not a creep,

ne who's handsome, smart and strong.
One who loves to listen long,

ne who thinks before he speaks,
ne who'll call, not wait for weeks.
I pray he's rich and self-employed,

nd when I spend, won't be annoyed.
Pull out my chair and hold my hand.
Massage my feet and help me stand.
Oh send a king to make me queen.
A man who loves to cook and clean.
I pray this man will love no other.
And relish visits with my mother.


I pray for a deaf-mute gymnast nymphomaniac with
big tits who owns a bar on a golf course,
and loves to send me fishing and drinking.

This doesn't rhyme and I don't give a shit.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

memory lane

Maybe it was Mother's Day, maybe it was something my Aunt Dinah wrote yesterday, but I've been thinking of my grandmother all day today. There are a lot of directions my brain can go in when I get her stuck in my head, and today was no exception. Sometimes I think about the road trips from Michigan to Alabama, journeys that I'm convinced helped turn me into the road trip junkie that I am to this day. Then again there's the card games. My grandparents were voracious card players, and I was tossing my coins into the poker pot from a pretty young age. Sitting on my screened in back porch cradling a cold beer makes me think of her, too. I spent a lot of my youth hanging out on a front or back porch with them, although my drink of choice in those days was a bottle of Coke instead of the strong stuff.

She used to say that everything bad that happened to me happened when she was taking care of me. There was the fishing hook stuck in my hand, the time I fell out of a car when it rounded a corner right by my dad's store, and, in an amazing predictor of my future coordination, the time I got my head stuck when I hit the power window button as my head was hanging out the car window. She was a worrywart to begin with, but I think I made it a lot worse. Scratch that. I know I made it a lot worse.

But inevitably I go back to the food. Oh my god could my grandmother cook. Biscuits and gravy every morning for breakfast. Fried chicken. Homemade onion rings. Something she called skillet toast which I ate by the plateful. She did a banana pudding that could make you cry. And every time I would go to visit she would make my very favorite thing - a marinated broccoli and dill salad that gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. She gave me the recipe before she died, and I've made it a few times, but somehow it just doesn't taste the same. I'm a pretty decent cook, but for some reason I have no luck cooking anything that I associate with her. It always tastes just the slightest bit off.

But tonight I was grilling burgers and roasting potatoes. Corn was cooking on the stove, and almost without thinking I started making a cucumber and onion refrigerator pickle that she often had in the fridge. I used to eat it until I felt queasy. Just the process of slicing the veggies and putting it all together in the bowl made me feel like she was right there with me. And when Sasquatch came in and attacked the bowl I had to smile. I told him - like she had told me - that they needed to sit for a while before we ate them. And - like me years ago - he kept eating them anyway, telling me they tasted just fine the way they were.

In her own words, that would have tickled her to death.

Monday, May 11, 2009

just keep my cup full

I've realized this weekend that I should trade in my Registered Nursing license for a Certified Drunk Man's Negotiator certificate. All weekend long, but most particularly in the early morning hours of my shifts, I've dealt with the drunk, stupid and unlucky crowd. The fact that this happens in the morning, before I'm fully caffeinated, is a very bad thing.

This came home full force when one of my patients threw enough of a hissy fit to go smoke that I finally ended up walking across the street with him so he could puff away outside of the "no smoke zone". I'm tall, but he had at least 6 inches and a hundred pounds on me, and as he regaled me with stories of doing prison time for assault and battery, I realized to my horror that I had led him to the wrong spot and that I was totally off the security surveillance camera radar. I couldn't get him to move, so I rationalized. Oh, well, thought I, at least I'm by the ambulance bay, and if he tries anything one of the rigs coming in will see it. Or a cop. The cop cars come the exact same way. But no. Not a squad car or ambulance in sight. The television image of the cop/nurse/medic alliance actually has a hell of a lot of truth to it, and I knew that someone would save my butt if necessary. Only problem was that there was no one there to even see my butt in the event it should need saving.

My drunk and huge guy finally finished his cigarettes and agreed to go back into the unit. And I don't know if the combination of alcohol and nicotine finally caught up with him or what, but he then proceeded to proposition every single woman he saw until I finally got him shipped out to where he needed to go. Called them "hot" and "honey" and asked them if they'd "like a piece of this". He leered and carried on over every female in range. Except me. Me he called ma'am and then shook my hand to thank me as he left.

At the time I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be flattered or insulted. Actually, I'm still not sure. It's a rough thing when even a drunk and indiscriminate guy doesn't hit on you. Especially when he just propostioned the male lab tech with the long hair and shapely behind. (And little did he know that that just might have been his best chance at some action all day.)

Oh, well. At least he kept his pants on, unlike my first patient of his ilk. And he never asked me to check out his "hidden tattoo" either. Thank god. There was nowhere near enough coffee in my system for that.

Weekends are interesting. Holiday weekends are even more so. Some days there just isn't enough caffeine in the world.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

it's about time

Surfer Dude woke up this morning feeling fine, with not a hint of a puke bucket in his future. Woo hoo. It was a big relief for a lot of reasons, believe me. Just one more thing around here that has really started to look up in the last week or so.

My sense of calm and optimism has returned in spades as more fascinating pieces of life fall into place. Even a big "curve ball" that is about to be thrown at me is no real curve ball at all. I'm well aware of what is about to happen. Would it be wrong to say that I'm actually enjoying the thought of watching evolution in action? Firsthand? I've been the bug for the last couple of months, but in the last few days I've morphed into the windshield. It's a nice change. Amazing what clear karma can produce if you just give it a chance.

What do you mean I'm talking in riddles? What else did you expect during a three in a row stretch at work?


Friday, May 8, 2009

why us?

Oh, lord.

We just got back a little while ago from Surfer Dude's band performance, a show he's been really stressed out about. It went beautifully and he did a terrific job as the only baritone on the whole stage.


He has just crawled in my bed saying he feels sick as a dog and that he thinks he's going to puke. Let me just say this straight out. The kid is a puker. Gumby is pathologically afraid of anything even resembling vomit and runs screaming from the room whenever SD holds his belly. Can I tell you that this is not a good combination?

I'm scheduled to start three in a row at work tomorrow. Someone asked me to change a day for a kid related reason (theirs) and I did, knowing I have to juggle around kid schedules too, especially at the end of the school year. But right before he fell into an uneasy slumber he said,

"Please promise me that if I throw up you'll call in sick tomorrow."

I have six sick days to my name and five of them will be used for our California trip in July. I almost never use my PTO days for me, as any mother will attest. I use them when my kids are sick. But damn, I hate being down to one day. So what did I say?

"Of course, honey. If you're sick I'll call in."

So now we wait...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

the man list - part one

I'm making a list.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time this won't surprise you one bit. I'm a lister from way back, and like the good OCD/organizer/compulsive person that I am, my lists get me through the day. I like it that way. Never underestimate a good list - that's my motto.

This list is a little different. It's going to be ongoing and possibly kind of fluid. Some of the things on the list will be carved in stone and some will run the risk of changing depending on my mood. It's going to be very interesting (or a laugh your ass off kind of experience) to see how this plays out in the real world. That's okay. I've got plenty of time.

I'm designing the perfect guy. Or at least close enough to make me happy. For that time down the road when I actually feel like dealing with one of them again in that kind of way. It's a list of what I want, what I need, and what I absolutely won't put up with. Call it a Wish List, if you will.

And the first item on the list is...I want a guy who is practical. A guy who can fix things. A guy whose first response is "No problem" vs. "Oh, it can't be done". A guy who sees something broken and actually deals with it instead of walking past it repeatedly and hoping it goes away. I want a Can Do type instead of a No Can Do type. This is a carved in stone requirement. Is this asking too much?

No? I didn't think so either.

What's on your list?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

don't touch me with those feet

The sound of Surfer Dude spewing eleven year old invective is wafting down the hall toward my bedroom. He's in a snit, undies completely in a bunch, totally convinced that he has the most unreasonable mother on the planet. The fact that Gumby is poking him just for the heck of it isn't helping, but SD is so mad at me he's almost not even noticing that his brother is tormenting him.

Wow. What could I possibly have done to the kid now? What horrible, awful, control-freaky, unreasonable, totally out of left field thing have I come up with this time?

I made him shower. With soap. I am a devil, aren't I?

I drove the pick-up leg of the soccer carpool, and when the three pre-teen boys got in my backseat after ninety minutes of practicing in a warm rain, I thought I was going to die. Not only were they covered in mud, but you could almost taste the stench. And, it must be said, most of it was emanating from my kid. He has a world class shower aversion and is convinced that the festering smell under his arms is kind of cool to scare the girls with.

I've been waiting patiently for years for him to grow out of this, but it isn't happening yet. I think Sasquatch was a little older when he decided all on his own that he needed a shower a day, and while I really don't want to look too hard at his motivation I sure do appreciate the end result. Gumby is straddling the two, not resisting too hard, but not volunteering eagerly either. Maybe it's because SD is the most athletic, but the kid is ripe a good portion of the time. His socks alone defy description, and whenever any of this is pointed out his pride is palpable. Everyone needs a hobby and his is deliberately smelling bad.

And the muttering still coming from his room? Is because he's clean. And shampooed. (Uh oh. Forgot to smell his head to double check that. Crap. Scratch shampooed.) Oh, well. He's clean. And that makes me very happy indeed.

At least until Child Protective Services shows up at my door to see what I've done to the poor kid this time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

cinco de mayo - swine style

I have about had it up to here with the swine flu.

Not to sound callous or anything, but those two words are the quickest way imaginable lately to drive any medical professional up the Crazy River. The hype, the hysteria, the hypochondriacs with bacon on their breath. It's bad. It's really bad. And it's getting worse.

I'm a hypochondriac myself, sad to admit, but I've lost count of the people who have come in who are convinced they have the swine flu. One or two of them even have an applicable symptom. The rest of them have either been to Mexico lately, eaten in a Mexican restaurant or are able to find Mexico on a world map. One woman told me that she had been to Cancun on vacation (four months ago) and then had coughed a few times that morning. Well, hell. Call the ICU and save me a bed. After further questioning it came out that this gal was a two pack a day smoker and hadn't had a cough free day in twenty years. "Yeah," she said, "but it's the way I'm coughing."

Flu season sucks. Always. And, as many people have pointed out, thousands of people in the US alone die each year of the flu. Almost by definition the flu is respiratory, although people interchange it all the time with "the stomach flu". Well, technically the stomach flu is just a virus, a "bug", but the real flu can - and does - turn ugly fast. Last year was a brutal flu season, providing us with more "oh, my god" moments in the ER than I like to remember. Is this any worse? Not compared to some of the indelible images I have stuck in my head from last year. Not yet, anyway.

Then, to add insult to injury, is the never ending list of precautions and new standards we have to follow. The worst of these, in my opinion, is the goggles. We now have our very own pairs of special droplet resistant goggles that we have to wear in triage. So not only do I have to do all the triage crap I normally do, and deal with all the hypochondriacs that are pouring out of the woodwork, but now I have to do it in these horrible goggles that make me look like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly. Today, as first line providers, we all got shots to protect against secondary flu symptoms, and those damn shots have frozen up the deltoid muscles of every nurse from here to Puerta Vallarta. Even my Bugs Bunny bandaid doesn't help. Every time I reach up to adjust my Fly goggles my arm cramps up and refuses to move. Every patient who sits down in triage looks at the goggles and freaks. "Oh, my god, it's worse than you people are admitting to. Why else would you be wearing those?" Every time I look in the mirror I freak. "Oh, my god, when did I turn into Jeff Goldblum and how did my eyes get so BIG?" You just can't win.

One of our docs and I bravely marched to get our shots together. I offered to hold his hand if he was a fraidy cat. He suggested something else I could hold instead. I might possibly have called him a pig (among other things). I forget my exact words. This doc and I go round and round on a regular basis. Too bad for me that I adore him, but it's hard to believe he kisses his mother with that mouth.

Swine are definitely among us. Swine flu? I'm still not convinced.

Monday, May 4, 2009

multi-Fbombs in paragraph 8

I had stopped watching Dallas by the time this particular episode aired, but the howls of outrage from loyal viewers were loud enough to catch my attention. Evidently after an entire season of soap opera craziness about Bobby Ewing being dead, they were now going to write off the whole thing as a dream sequence and pretend like it never happened. Maybe their ratings went down, maybe the contract negotiations worked out for their actors after all, maybe they simply thought what the hell, but the bottom line is that they just went ahead and took the whole damn thing back. Can you imagine? The nerve! You can't just take something like that back, can you?

Yes. Yes, you can. Isn't that weird?

My disappearing act in the last week has been completely necessary to my mental health, absolutely crucial in getting some things worked out in my own head. I've always known that I would come out of this divorce a stronger, more self-reliant person, but I had no idea of how that all actually worked. It's one of those things that you don't understand until you're in it. And even then it takes a lot of time and effort to actually figure out. But when things started to fall in place earlier last month, it set off a chain reaction that really threw me. I reacted in ways that are very out of character, and in ways that really confused me. I know who I am, and I know what my point of view is. And now, after a week and a half of intense soul searching, I think I know how to present it. And to whom.

A little more than a year ago, I wrote this post, asking people for opinions on which direction to take this blog. The verdict was clear at that time. We want to go with you on this journey. We don't want you to write fluff when there are more serious things on your mind. So over the last year I've written a lot of stuff about my marriage and my divorce and my kids and all the things that have been in the forefront of my mind. And I know for a fact that some of you are sick to death of hearing about it. I know that there is a faction out there that thinks I've become bitter and whiny and basically lost both my sense of humor and my mojo in one fell swoop. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hurt by that opinion, but I can see where it could come from. I'm not the person I was a year ago, certainly not the person I was two years ago. When life throws you a great big curve ball, the best people manage to change and adapt. For the better. It would not say positive things about me if I were just carrying on with my life as if the last year never happened. The underlying person hasn't changed, but my world view sure has. How could it not?

But the absolutely incredible thing for me over the last year has been the universal element of what I've been going through. When my mother wryly said Welcome to the Club last Spring, I had no idea of what all that entailed, but I've found out. I can't express what a relief it has been as I've grappled with various issues to realize that this same shit is happening everywhere, and in frighteningly familiar ways. It comes across in comments, it comes in emails and IM chats and phone calls - there are a hell of a lot of us who already have or are still in the process of navigating these same waters and we tell amazingly similar stories. It's like David Letterman doing Stupid Ex-Husband tricks. You think yours is bad? Honey, I can top that! And then they DO! Incredible. Who knew?

It also seems to me that it may look like I spend most of my time ruminating about the end of my marriage, which simply isn't the case. I hate to bring this up, but here goes. A few road bumps notwithstanding, I am the happiest I've ever been in my entire adult life. My only regret is that we didn't do this years ago. And...I work full-time in a fairly demanding job. I have three kids who run me ragged. Three dogs who think they're all that. A 122 year old house that is actively trying to kill me - in more ways than one. I have friends, I have hobbies, I have meals to cook, bills to pay and toilets to clean. In short, I have a pretty full life. This blog, much as I love it, maybe touches on 5% of that life. All of you who have blogs know this. There's only so much you can write about on a regular basis. The rest just doesn't fit in.

So where am I going with all of this? What is my own particular Bobby Ewing moment? Well, to start with I'm opening up the blog publicly again. I have a few reasons for this, including the fact that I just want to. But the main one is this. Making it private never felt authentic, never felt like me. I did it because I didn't want my ex to be able to access my thoughts, didn't want him to think he had any insight into what I did or didn't do, even as he insisted he didn't read MY blog to hear about ME. So much has shifted in the prairie tidal wave of the last few weeks and I say what I'm about to say with open heart and clear mind.

Fuck him. If he chooses to he can read my thoughts all day long, but he can't touch me. Fuck him again. The reason that I vented in my "personal" blog was to be able to keep that anger out of our at the time civil relationship. Fuck him a third time. I refuse to give him the power - through his words or his actions - to impact something I love as much as I love doing this blog. And fuck him once more while I'm at it. Because I don't ever have to worry again about what he thinks. Fuck him one last time. Because I'm done.

And now... (finally)...

on with our regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

whaddya mean it's not Monday?

This is the Real Simple Thought of the Day today. And for some reason, I feel like it could have been written just for me...

Confusion is the welcome mat at the door of creativity.

Did I miss the part about a time frame?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

we interrupt this blog...

Just a short note to say that I'm taking the weekend off of posting. It's my long weekend at work for starters, and although hopefully I'll get a lot of blog fodder out of it, it's still, well, long. But my main reason has nothing to do with work. It's me. I'm really struggling right now, and in spite of all of my best efforts just can't seem to pull myself out of it. I need a little bit of space to figure some things out, or at least to slap myself around a time or two.

Back on Monday. Hope you all have a great weekend.

Friday, April 24, 2009

time flies...and other mysteries

Surfer Dude was student of the day at his elementary school today, an honor that each student gets once during the academic year. They get to bring in their treasures from home and put them in a display case by the front entrance, so all of the other students can ooh and aah and make them feel like the Big Kid on Campus. This morning we carefully took the box full of his special stuff to school and arranged it neatly in the case, Surfer Dude hovering closely to make sure it was all done to his specification. When we were finished, he took one last look, gave me a hug, a kiss and an "I love you mama", and then flew up the stairs to his classroom to start his special day.

It didn't hit me until I was dismantling the display at the end of the day that this was my last go-round with this in elementary school. Surfer Dude is in sixth grade, and with right around four weeks of school left in the year, is already looking at Gumby's junior high with a proprietary eye. I've had at least one kid in elementary school since Sasquatch started in 1997, and it's a really disquieting thought to realize that we are just about at the end of an era. Time flies, all right, and when kids are involved it moves at warp speed. Sasquatch will be a high school senior next year- and the year after if his grades don't improve. How did that happen?

I'm not one of those moms who tearfully laments the baby days and wishes for a house full of toddlers again. With three boys five and under I barely got through the day the first time, and really don't have the inclination to do it again. But you can't escape the fact that my kids are growing up, and even though for the most part I'm okay with this, sometimes it feels more immediate than others.

When they were little my favorite part of the day was when they were bathed and powdered and cozily in their pajamas. There was genuine contentment in those times. Another day survived, fat little well-fed bellies tucked into terrycloth sleepers, a glass of chardonnay with my name on it. Everyone was present and accounted for, healthy and sound. I slept really well in those days, partly because I was chronically sleep deprived, but also because in about three minutes I could make the rounds and make sure all was well with my brood.

I remember the Christmas I was hugely pregnant with Sasquatch and my mom, the FX and I went to Alabama to spend the holiday with my mom's family. At one point my grandmother gazed around her house, looked at her two daughters and three grandchildren, and she sighed this big huge sigh of contentment. "I just love it," she said, "when you're all here and I know you're all safe." I knew jack about the maternal feeling then and thought she was overstating her case, but I get it now. Oh god, do I get it.

The younger boys are gone every other weekend and Sasquatch is rarely seen on any weekend. He comes home to touch base, raid the fridge and change clothes, but that's about it. It's very rare these days for all of us to be home to eat dinner together. Everyone has their own activities and plans, and my house for the most part resembles the airspace above LAX, with people coming and going at all times and in all directions. The nights when everyone is home and accounted for are few and far between, and I love every single one of them. I have a feeling they're going to become even more rare as the years go by.

I've been out of school for years, and yet I still think of Spring as the time of endings and Fall as the time of beginnings. Next Fall will be a doozy around here. And the Fall after that - the college Fall - well, I can't even go there. Not quite yet.

After all, I've still got four weeks of elementary school left.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

why ask why?

Could someone please explain to me how it is that you can go to the gym three or four times a week for months, getting to the point where you can run five miles straight with absolutely no problem, but then, when you can't go for two weeks, you're almost back to square one?

How is this possible? Is my body trying to tell me something?

Maybe I should just pop open a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos, flop down on the couch and say the heck with it?

I'm going to have to think about that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

arc three/unexpectedly free

I learned a lot about myself during that conversation.

Some of the things I learned from me:

It's not that I fault the FX for being human and reading my blog even though he swore not to. It's that one of the things that has kept me going the last year is the idea that the he has had absolutely no access to my thoughts or feelings. I've got a great poker face and for the most part don't engage in conversation with him. This is all, unfortunately, moot when all he has to do is boot up his computer to climb inside my brain. It's too bad he's a liar, but that's not exactly news. Strike One.

I'm almost less upset that he was reading it than about the fact that he had completely forgotten that he had promised me he wouldn't. Even though I told him at the time that it was really important to me, it had totally slipped his mind. Once again, a perfect illustration of our marriage. Strike Two.

I realized that I'm a lot more like my dad sometimes than I really want to admit. My dad could cut people off cold - and without a backwards look. When he was done, he was done. I always thought that was cold and unfeeling. But that was before I was done. Strike Three. You're out.

Some of the things I learned from the FX:

I am hopelessly stuck in the past, destined to repeat past behaviors indefinitely. When I get my act together and put the work into myself like he has, maybe I'll be able to move forward.

I'm narcicissistic and self-absorbed and it all has to be about me. The blog is a perfect example, and so is the fact that I always have to be right in every situation. My favorite thing, for example, is to not warn him that bad things may happen if he does (or doesn't do) certain things, just so if/when he fails I can tell him "I told you so".

The fact that he is in a "very serious relationship" and I'm not even dating is just more evidence that I'm the damaged goods here and he's the one who has finally gotten the wonderful relationship that he deserves.

I could go on, but really...why bother? Surely you get the point.

As long as he's in the hot throes of a new relationship he really could care less what I have to say. About anything. My feelings and needs are completely irrelevant to his life, and everything I say or do reinforces his image of himself as the put upon good guy. It takes a lot of work to get a relationship off the ground, and his relationships with everyone else were just going to have to take a back seat. I could care less about letting him in on my needs, but I mistakenly thought that after twenty four years together my feelings might still mean something to him. Stupid me.
What the hell was I thinking?

About five minutes into raving about his new girlfriend, about how she supported him in all his endeavors, how she let him be him, and allowed him to be free to pursue his own hobbies and interests, how she understood that he was "a work in progress" and that she "was there for him" at all times, and even that they "took care of each other", he told me that he had never expected to be in this serious a relationship this quickly. You can't choose, he said, when you meet someone. Then he asked me if I was seeing anyone. Pre-blog reading I would have told him it was none of his business, but that seemed kind of stupid now. If he's been reading then he already knows what my story is. I figured the hell with it and went with the truth.

"No, I'm not," I said. "Ask me why".

"Okay," he said. "Why?"

"Because I think you came out of our marriage with a much higher opinion of human nature than I did," I answered. "And if you shoot down anyone who asks you out, you can virtually guarantee that you won't meet someone who will turn serious too fast."

I wasn't done.

"You know what absolutely kills me?" I asked. "It's the idea that you fucked all four of us over completely with your selfishness and 'I'm the top priority here' attitude and you're the one who gets the happy ending. And you can rationalize all day long that you were completely blameless in our marriage because you've somehow managed to fall into a relationship that lets you feel like you're a good deserving person who just happened to spend twenty years with a castrating bitch like me."

The blog was a keg of dynamite, too. He insisted that he only read it to see what was going on with the kids. I said that was ridiculous, since I made a point of always keeping him abreast of kid happenings. Then he made the "You were a much better writer before you threw yourself a pity party" comment, which absolutely enraged me. On so many levels. "Well, which is it?" I asked. "Any posts where you might get the pity party idea aren't posts where kid events would be mentioned. So what's the truth? Did you just read the "pity party" posts to get off on my pain and anger? We already know you're a liar. Could you be just a little sadistic, too?And, by the way, if you were only in it "for the kids" how come you never called to check up on them when I wrote that they were having a hard time?" I also pointed out that the fact that he had to keep up with my writing indicated to me that he might not be as emotionally detached as he claims to be, an idea that he contradicted mightily.

There was more, but I'll spare you. It seemed that every time either one of us opened our mouths we drew blood, and we weren't going for small veins either. It was artery time, and eventually I felt like I had bled enough.

"You know what?", I said, "You just aren't good for me. In any way. And I know this is a really stupid thing to say considering that we've been divorced for six months, but I'm done. I'm completely done dealing with you. From here on out we discuss the kids and the house and that's it. I have nothing more to say to you and this will be the very last conversation like this that we will ever have. You can't hurt me anymore. I'm finished with you".

We ended the conversation right there. And in spite of the fact that I had, in the heat of battle, given him that glimpse of myself that I don't want him to have, it felt really good. Like a clean start in a way. I walked away from it knowing that we were both way beyond each other's reach. And that that was a very, very good thing.

I don't have to like him and I don't have to deal with him on anything other than my terms. I don't have to let him dictate my life and screw with my feelings and my kids. I will support the kids in every way I can, but I won't be the middle man anymore. He's on his own, and I sincerely hope he is smart enough to realize what he's thisclose to losing.

It has also become apparent to me with dazzling clarity that in spite of everything I've thought in the last year...I haven't lost anything valuable at all. And that it's time to let go and move on.

I'm ready.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

arc two/almost through

My finger hesitated over the send button on my email, but no matter how much I hated to hit it, it had to be done. It was the Tuesday after Easter and all of my kids were still dragging. Gumby had spent most of Monday lying lethargically on the couch and Surfer Dude and Sasquatch were still uncharacteristically quiet. I didn't want to get into this with the FX, didn't want to have a conversation with him in any way, shape or form, but my conscience was screaming. My kids were hurting. The reason was clear. I had to confront the cause. This was the email I sent -

Per his request, I'm making an appointment for Gumby to see a therapist. I'm obviously going through your insurance, so you may see paperwork on that. Yesterday was the third Monday in a row that he woke up too "sick" to go to school after his weekend with you and we have to get to the bottom of this. I'll let you know when the appointments are when I know. Unfortunately, it's not just Gumby. I'm extremely hesitant to get into any of the rest of this with you, but for the greater good of our children I'm (very reluctantly) giving it one more shot. I had honestly hoped - after our heart to heart in the driveway - that you understood what I was saying, but it's obvious that you either don't, don't want to, or are somehow living within the delusion that you are. Whatever the reason, it's not working. For any of your children. If you have any desire to discuss this, you know where I am. If you feel you're doing fine with the way things are going, then by all means carry on. I've heard you tell me too many times that I'm influencing the kids and projecting my emotions onto them, but I need to be very explicit with you here. If you truly believe that this is all my doing, you are carrying your trademark denial to new heights. And all of you will lose. I won't do this again, FX. You're on your own from here on out.

My phone rang twenty minutes later. Guess who?

I don't know what it is with me and the FX and phone calls, but we seem to be far more comfortable saying what's really on our minds when we're not face to face. Much like the conversation we had last summer that finally broached some kind of understanding between us, this was a long conversation. 153 minutes, if you want to believe the timer on my cell phone. Unlike the conversation last summer, this discussion lobbed cherry bombs at our oh so tenuous bonds, and, at least from my point of view, effectively destroyed any chance of the divorce relationship I had hoped to be part of. It started out civil and with both of us attempting to be accommodating. It ended up as a gloves off brawl where things were said that can never be taken back, never be forgiven. It was 153 minutes toward the end, and by the time the ride was over I was shaking and exhausted. On paper our relationship ended October 17, 2008 when our divorce was final. In actuality it ended two days after Easter 2009 when the emotional dams burst, and the ensuing flood washed away every trace of respect and empathy we had.

I addressed the issue of Easter and the girlfriend first and, as I had expected, got nowhere. I told him all about what had happened when the boys got home, leaving out the impersonation routine because I thought that would be flat out cruel to pass on. I pointed out to him that the boys see him every other weekend and would like to be able to spend some time just with him. I said, yet again, that he ought to be able to manage his love life in the twelve days out of fourteen that he doesn't have the kids. I told him - honestly - that the kids seemed to like his girlfriend, and had nothing but nice things to say about her. (I have no problem with her. My problem is entirely with him.) But that doesn't erase the fact that they want to spend time with their dad being themselves, not paraded around as some kind of accessory to make dad look better with the chicks. If he wants a poodle, he can go buy one. That's not what my kid go over there on weekends for. Well. That's not what my kids want to go over there on weekends for.

The girlfriend has grown kids and, judging from the food she cooks and schleps over to the FX's house for him and the boys, has quite the maternal streak. I asked him if he had ever considered changing his plans on Easter when everything went to hell in a handbasket. What about, I asked, if when you and Sasquatch realized you had your wires completely crossed, you asked your girlfriend if you could just change plans and have a boy's day instead. She could have headed home and the four of them could have hung out and celebrated dad's birthday. If she is one zillionth as fabulous as he continues to tell me she is, something tells me she would have understood. The idea had never occurred to him, which doesn't really surprise me. He's a big picture guy, you see, and the details often escape him, particularly when they impact other people more than they impact him.

We shifted out of that and onto the next thing I wanted to bring up.

"Are you still reading my blog?" I asked.

"No," he answered immediately. "I'm not."

Someone less used to the way he communicates would have let that go, but I've been down this particular road before. You have to ask very specific questions, allowing as little wiggle room as possible, to get a straight answer.

"When is the last time you read it?" I asked.

"About three weeks ago," he said. "I stopped reading when you called me a narcissist for getting involved with (the gf) so quickly."

I was about to open my mouth to bring up a) that he'd have to get a little more specific than that and b) the fact that he had promised me that he would stop reading last Spring when he continued.

"Ironic, actually," he said, "that you would call me narcissistic on your blog. Seriously. How narcissistic can you get?"

I took a deep breath and peeled off my gloves. This was about to get ugly.

Monday, April 20, 2009

arc one/almost done

I've never been overly impressed with the FX's ability to be efficient, but I'm guessing I may have to rethink that one. He really managed to outdo himself on Easter, by any standard you care to apply. In the period of about two minutes flat he managed to convince all three of his children that his girlfriend was more important to him than they were. And judging by their reactions to this, I think he's facing a real uphill battle to regain ground.

This episode is important on so many levels - the children obviously foremost - but for me it was the trigger that led to the end. In spite of my promise to myself to shut up and lay low, I just couldn't, and believe me when I tell you that I paid the price. My children, however, took the brunt. At first I would have said one child in particular, but a week later I'm not at all sure about that. The devastation was fairly equally distributed.

That was the day that the boys were going to celebrate the FX's birthday, the day they had been looking forward to. The younger ones had been with him since Friday night, Sasquatch had been in and out at home, with plans to meet up with them all on Sunday morning. Saturday at soccer Gumby had said something to me about their plans for the next day, plans which included an IMAX film about half an hour away. As soon as I heard this, I knew the girlfriend would be going, since this theater is right in her neck of the woods. Sasquatch is the only one who has never met her, partly by his own design. At home later, just Sasquatch and I, I asked him who all was going to the movies on Sunday.

"Just dad and me and the boys," he replied.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Positive, " he said. "Why?"

"Just curious, " I answered. "Surely dad would let you know ahead of time if his girlfriend was going with you."

"Of course he would," Sasquatch replied. "Dad would never trick me like that."

And there we left it.

I had just finished my Easter potluck lunch at work when I got a phone call from a sobbing Sasquatch. The kid was beside himself, talking in hiccupy spurts, breaking into fresh tears every couple of words. We all know he drives me to the brink of insanity at times with his attitude, but not this time. His pain was palpable. And this was the story he told.

He had spent the night at a friend's house (one of my best friend's sons), and had gotten a call that the FX would pick him up there and then head out to the movie. What he wasn't expecting was to be picked up in the girlfriend's car, with his dad driving, and the girlfriend riding shotgun. They stopped at a store to buy some snacks for the movie, and the younger boys went in with the girlfriend. Sasquatch took that opportunity to tell his father that he wasn't going with them and that he wanted to be taken home immediately. The FX asked why, claimed that he had told Sasquatch ahead of time that the gf would be coming along. His exact words, according to Sasquatch were "I told you it was just going to be us." Sasquatch said they had a very different definition of "us" , and then told the FX flat out that he didn't appreciate the way this had all come about. I'm imagining he was fighting back tears even then, but I don't know this for a fact.

Okay. So some wires were crossed. Neither one of them can communicate for beans on a good day. Maybe he did tell him. Maybe he didn't. This was still (sort of) salvagable, if handled properly. All it would take was a lot of finesse and some changing of plans.

It didn't happen. The FX told Sasquatch that he was really sorry, that he was sure he had told him - and then he drove him home and headed off to the movies with the younger boys and the girlfriend. Sasquatch was devastated. It took me fifteen minutes on the phone to calm him down. Then I called my friend Laurie to enlist her help. We have a ritual on Easter, families we always get together with. This year, for the first time ever, I was working and the boys were scheduled to be with their dad. A quick phone call later, it was arranged that Laurie's family would pick Sasquatch up on their way to the festivities and he would spend his Easter the way he always did -surrounded by fabulous extended family.

I did a slow burn for the rest of the day, and when I got home minutes after the FX and the gf had dropped off the younger boys, I went up to my room to cool off. I had a brief word with Sasquatch to assess his mood, which was quiet but okay, and then I sat on my bed and tried to breathe. Minutes later Surfer Dude and Gumby came up to chat about their day and their weekend.

"Sasquatch is still pretty upset," Gumby said.

"I know he is, " I answered.

"Did you hear what happened?" Surfer Dude asked.

"I did," I replied. "How are you two with it?"

Two blank faces looked at me. Two shrugs. No answer. I'd never before noticed how the two of them have become this kind of united front lately. Two boys. One persona.

"Listen, " I said. "You know you can always talk to me if you're upset. You can always talk to Sasquatch. He's always there. So is dad. You can always talk to dad, too."

Then they both looked at me and laughed.

"Right," they said. "Sure we can talk to dad. Just like this."

And then, so help me god, they launched into the most dead on imitation of the FX you can imagine, caught him squarely in the act of attempting to listen and take part in a conversation, but not quite succeeding. In about thirty seconds, they nailed him. It was eerie. When they were done, they looked at each other and chuckled. It was clearly not the first time they had performed their two man show for each other. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It was a really tough call. In the end, I went with neither.

"So what's your point?" I asked. "You don't feel like you can talk to dad?"

"Oh, come on mom," they said. "We just smile and do what we're told."

"Why would you do that?" I answered, outraged. "Why in the world don't you tell dad what you really think? What you really feel?"

They shrugged.

"We just don't," they answered. "It's easier that way."

"So are you saying you just nod and smile like puppets?" I continued.

"Pretty much," they said. "Goodnight."

And off they went to bed.

The next morning Gumby woke up clutching his stomach and crying. Said he felt terrible and asked if he could stay home from school. I checked him out carefully. He really did look kind of crappy, so I told him to lay down and take it easy.

A while later I dropped Surfer Dude off at school. As he got out of the car he turned to me and said in a very off-hand way,

"Have you noticed that every Monday after we're at dad's house Gumby is sick?"

And as I watched him walk into the school all I could think was...

Oh, my god. He's right.