Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Ladies

Your writing, your comments and this community have been a real gift this year. Many thanks and many blessings to y'all. xoxoxo

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Prototypical Mom

There is a fine line.

Between battles against words like "real-mom" and being the mediator between bio-dad and bio-mom, I parent the shit outta these kids.

I am a step-mom. And I parent Monday through Friday, with some help from the kids' dad and mom. I am a negotiator, a carnival host, a tutor, a library guide and a problem-solver. All this with the patience of fucking Mother Theresa.

Peering forward, my own personal time is growing dimmer and flickering like a spent candle. Peering backward, I see myself waving good-bye; the only-child self, the never-been-married self, the one who prided herself on being able to survive without anyone's help at all, thank you very much.

Self... I knew her once. She was lovely and serene, and who'm I kidding, she was perfectly fine as she was. And now, I once in a while find her huddled in the corner, playing solitary thumb war against her own hands, wishing for someone to notice her. "Hi there, little one! Why are you so small?"

I'll tell you: it's about selflessness. That wicked, horrid, tasteless word which, every time it is spoken, kills a fairy princess. Or else it kills me. Either way. It's about giving until there is not a single drop more of myself to give. It's about neglecting to change the cat box because each day is filled with a new homework adventure, a new emotional need thermometer and thermostat. And I'm so fucking tired.

Also, have I mentioned that children bring home germs? Yeah, I am gifted with those presents, too.

But I am superwoman. I've known this since I was a wee bit. Something about Type-A-ed-ness, perfectionista anorexic nonsense: age twelve, and simply cannot, will not fail.

So to find myself unwrapping elegantly decorated tinsel-laden presents of child diagnoses like "ADHD" or "conduct disorder," after having earned my bachelor's in psychology, having done my own research and adamantly discredited any suggestion that maybe he's just a little more amped up than he should be... I have free fallen a hundred stories into the sea of denial, relief, and I-totally-fucked-that-one-up, didn't I!

Now bio-mom is shouting, hands cupping her mouth, from the vast megaphone at the tops of city buildings, "Medication is the answer!"

And I, eating my words, picking up those labels, those diagnonsenses, shoving them in my pants pockets, praying no one hears her and swallowing every bitter bite have to convince her that, "Okay, maybe I was wrong about that, but hear me out here, he doesn't need drugs, he needs love..."

All this "work" I've put into myself to conquer my perfectionist disease tumbles down on top of me. I done fucked up, didn't I? I done told everyone I knew that MY kid doesn't have a stinkin diagnosis, and MY kid is struggling with homework, but I'm helping him to recover and dedicating every single minute I'm home to making sure that both kids are getting the attention they need and there's just no way that he's anything but stubborn...


Crow pie, or some colloquialism. Whatever. I'm fighting a losing battle here, and still have to play the role of mediator between two households, knowing that somehow the show must continue, and homework is still piling up, and really-- okay, maybe he does have ADD or ADHD or flying spaghetti monster madness and quite possibly he's a vampire, and yes he IS failing third grade right this moment, but I've been putting so much time and energy into him that he has brought up two of his grades from Fs to Ds in just two weeks and... I know we can do this, we can fight this battle because we're ARMED, bitches!! We're armed with confidence and crazy organizational skills and lots of little ideas and tips and tricks and...

But I'm only a step-mom. In fact, I'm not married. I'm a not-step-mom. I'm the girlfriend. I'm the life partner, and even the kids' school thinks I'm not qualified to register for the email notification of the kids' grades-- but okay to sign if the kids need permission slips for field trips and progress reports and phone calls. Because I'm available, but the social dynamics of our situation is just not Lutheran enough, and technically I'm not really even a legal guardian.

All the bureaucratical bullshit through which I wade sucks my rain boots right off of my feet. But you know what? Those kids' lives have changed for the better because of me. Nothing and no one can deny me that simple fact.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I haven't taken a breath in 36 hours. At least not outside of harsh, sharp gasps and wheezes, and I can smell everything. Like a starving hound. A fucking terrified, starving hound that fell out of a truck bed and can't find its way home. Is home where I'm supposed to go? Or do I stay in this horrible wilderness with this boa constrictor wrapped around me LIKE A CORSET OF SHAME AND PROPAGANDA? And something is just dragging the life out of me from between the coils, like five miles back I snagged my intestine on something phallic and as much as I'm fighting to keep it inside where it fucking belongs, so it can fucking do its job and dispose of shit I don't need no more, there is something with a fucking pit bull grip that's wrenching it out of me, but I keep straining forward and I think my heart just stopped. Just for a few minutes.

There, right there, it cranked back into gear, chugging away and I breathed so hard it hurt and then it stopped again, like, my heart knew that if I was just going to go on acting like that I didn't deserve to have a heart at all. I didn't even realize how long I'd been holding onto that breath because I need it just as much as I need my intestine, and I do not want to share things right now. You know?

Do you even know what's going on right now? So many horrible metaphors, this is fucking awful. It reeks. Just like everything else, don't you see? It can't be happening. It can't, it can't it and if it is? Oh, god. Shit. Everything smells. Everything. What the hell am I supposed to do?

Because I have no concept of it. No concept of supposed to. I hate supposed to. Fuck you. Don't tell me what I'm supposed to do. Fuck you. Shit. Bitch. You stupid son of a bitch, he's crazy, you know? What the hell were you doing? Were you careful? Yes, yes you definitely were. This can't be real, this can't be right.

I have been in and out of the bathroom all day, jetting around with this little box, staring and not breathing or even doing anything, I just sit down at my computer and stare at hieroglyphics, and everyone is speaking Chinese - did they all get a pocket Rosetta Stone without me? Why does everyone know what they're supposed to do except for me? Because there is no supposed to, there are only decisions to make but you cannot make a decision to solve a problem unless you know if there is actually a fucking problem in the first place, and that's where all the not breathing and wrestled intestines come into play.

So instead of sitting around and fighting the tsunami breaking my insides, I had to get an answer, and believe me: I laughed for the first time in days. Standing in the bathroom stall on my lunch break, counting the seconds with my forehead smashed against the wall and I could feel everything fighting to squeeze my limbs out of their sockets, and I shut my eyes so hard I saw Hell. And then I looked and I felt safe, and I breathed and I'm so relieved that I don't have to grow up yet. Of course I was late. I'm late for everything. When has the tardiness of anything ever bothered me before?

I smiled, and laughed, and came back into the office and told my first joke of the day. Wow, you perked up quick. I know. I know. It's just a beautiful, wonderful, two-degree day. I think I'll go for a walk in the gray outside. That blackened, syruppy snow has never looked so delicious.

Dear blackened, slushy snow: I could put you in a Big Gulp right now. I love you, blackened-slushy-snow. I want to slide my feet through you and catch hypothermia. Oh, hypothermia! It's so wonderful! I could get hypothermia if I wanted! I love you, option-to-get-hypothermia! I love you, sadistic wind and salty sidewalks that stain my pantlegs. Angry pedestrians! It's a beautiful day! I love you, dog-that-wears-booties-and-shits-on-the-sidewalk-because-there-is-no-grass-in-the-Loop! I love you, exclamation points! Oh, cigarettes. I don't even smoke anymore, but I'm going to eat cigarettes for breakfast just because I can. I love you all so much and I did not realize how much I love everything.

I am so glad I'm not pregnant.


Friday, December 10, 2010

The Strength of a Woman and Two Aleve Tablets Per Day

Sometimes I feel like an overused cliché.  Life isn’t about the breaths you take but the moments that take your breath away.  

Fuck that shit. Sometimes all I can do is take another breath, surviving breath by breath and when my breath is taken away, it’s only because I’m too fucking tired and numb to feel myself actually breathing.

I was given two hugs yesterday.  Two hugs before noon.  The first was from my daughter’s third grade teacher.  I had forgotten to send lunch money with the girls so I had to get out of my car with my camouflage pajama leggings, black furry boots and yellow furry teeth from not yet brushing.  My bright red coat drew attention to me, like a Christmas tree, topped off by a flagrant display of bed head.  I delivered the money and had almost made a clean getaway when the teacher approached to ask how my son was doing.

Instinctively I told her enough without telling too much.  Watching every word as they floated off my tongue, I painting with a brushstroke large enough to cover the entire canvas with one swipe, recanting how my 12 year old son was struggling with anger, hurt and resentment from having his ultra conservative, right-wing Republican, ex-politician (wannabe),”I will save the world for you” father sent away for a two and half year stint in federal prison for fraud.

The highlights of my lowlights reduced her to tears and induced her to hug me, there in my pajama bottoms, as the kids were making their way to class. She went on to ask if we were “okay” for Christmas. At first I wasn’t sure what she meant.  “Okay for Christmas”, I asked?  “Yes, do you need help with presents for the kids?”  Aside from the obvious, i.e., me looking like a cleaned up version of a disheveled street person, I was a bit taken aback by her offer.  So many people have come forward to help us.  All friends, no family; family has been busy looking after the convict.  I have had help from other moms and dads willing to pick up the kids, feed them dinner, take them to Brownie meetings….but help for Christmas? No. I had already explained to the minions, Christmas past was gone.  This year, we are going to be about family.  This year, we are volunteering our time to help with moms and dads and kids who are less fortunate than we.  This year, we learn the true meaning.  In other words kids, this year, you aren’t getting what you are accustomed to getting.

“No, we are fine.”  We won’t need help for Christmas, but thank you so much for thinking of us (insert hug here).  “This year, we will be a gift to others.”  I walked out the door, holding my head a bit higher and praying like hell I wouldn’t encounter another person above the height of five feet on my way to the car.

After quickly showering and attempting to present myself with some sort of professional modicum; a little make-up, a pair of heels, I am off to work for a few hours before my dentist appointment.  For the past six weeks, I have opened my eyes each and every day to a cocktail of Diet Coke and Aleve.  The soda is my coffee and the Aleve is to get me through the day without the right side of my lower jaw feeling as if a voodoo sorcerer has decided that side of my face needs to fall off.  The use of rusty instruments, dull from centuries of neglect was, in my opinion, totally uncalled for.  What was my unsuspecting doppelganger dolly supposed to do? But I say nothing because the Aleve works and I know I’m seeing my dentist in December.

Tall, dark and Greek dentist walks in after his assistant has taken it upon herself to ex-ray my roots to oblivion.  I am expecting the worst: Root canal, tooth extraction, partials, retainers, braces, TMJ, TMI, fuck it – you’re just getting old and need new teeth, etc.  He pushes and prods. He pressures and pokes. Then he looks at me with those big brown eyes and says, “Sweetie, you have never had problems with your dentally boring teeth. Are you experiencing a particularly high amount of stress in your life right now?”

And just like that, I gave into my pain and I lost it, in a dental chair, just before noon on a Thursday. I thought I was being so strong to stand up to these pressures but my teeth gave me away.  It’s the fucking holidays so let it flow, let it flow, let it flow.   Second hug was administered, immediately, with love.  Without knowing the financial strains on me, doc said the ex-rays and biting device, yes I said biting device, as in I am clenching my teeth, would be an early Christmas present. You know that shit only makes me cry harder, right doc? I am known to have the world’s ugliest cry face which is made exponentially worse when accompanied by a bib and goggles.

Once I’ve pulled myself back together, the dental assistant continues with her cleaning, simply shaking her head and saying to me, “the strength of a woman, the strength of a woman, it constantly amazes me the strength we have as women, you know?”  With my mouth open, I give her a nod.  “And the fight in a mother, there is nothing like it.  By the way, don’t worry about the gums bleeding, that’s just stress too, you are going to be okay."

Breathe.  I am breathing, and yet I am bleeding from my gums and my heart and my liver and my vagina and from the deepest, most indistinct fear that resonates within my soul that perhaps, I am not enough. 
But Friday arrives and I realize we’ve made it through another week. Give me breath, and I will give you life.  Life that doesn’t have to come from my body, but life I will sustain nonetheless, as a mother. Those moments that take your breath away are not always the happy Hallmark times; sometimes, they come in the form of unthinkable challenges and struggle for basic survival.  Either way, with the strength of a woman, I continue to breathe.   

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Got Nothing

Midway into a phone conversation with my mom...()my mother will be represented by the shark)

What do the kids want for Christmas?

You can do whatever you feel like doing. If you want to send a present, I can ask them what they might like. If you want to wait until you see them, you can do that to. If you want to stick a couple of bucks in their college savers, that would be great. Whatever you feel like doing Mom, we aren't doing much for Christmas this year.

What do you mean, not doing much for Christmas.

We've been scaling back every year and we decided last year that we weren't going to buy anything this year.

Not even from Santa?

Mom, the big kids know about Santa and the baby doesn't know the difference.

I can't imagine why you would deny the children Santa.

Well Mom, neither husband nor I are Christian, so there's that. I appreciate the intended sentiment of the season so we are trying to enjoy that with out all the consumerist stuff. The kids have so much, really they don't need anything.

Well, it's not about needing something.

I understand, but I gave probably a thousand dollars worth of toys and books to baby's pre school. The kids have too much stuff and what Christmas has become, the stress and shopping and obligation and all that, husband and I don't enjoy it and it's not the message we want to send the kids.

So you told middle child there is no Santa?

No, oldest asked us about presents and we said we weren't going to buy them this year but that a bunch of the grandmas and grandpas would be sending some gifts. Middle child asked about Santa and we asked her where she thought those presents actually came from. She said mom and dad. We said yes, and that Santa is a feeling, a feeling in our heart that we want to do nice things for people we love. We told the kids that in lieu of stuff, they were going to each get a day during our break to direct the events and that we would do whatever they wanted to, play games, go to the beach, do crafts... and that one day would be spent doing something mom and dad wanted to do like go visit great grandma. They were excited about it.


This is the conversation that sent me back to therapy. It was a long time coming so not entirely about Christmas gifts.

So, I seethed after this conversation and my internal dialogue went something like this,

"fuck you, fuck you and fuck you for judging me. Christmas with you and dad sucked donkey dick and now I'm a bad mom because I don't want to buy my kids thirty shitty, plastic toys each from Big Lots and Target? I'm a bad mom because I don't think love equals buying a bunch of stuff? I spent Christmas every year from age 6 on shuttled back and forth between parents and families, perpetually disappointing everyone by either arriving late or leaving early and then when I was finally sixteen, I got to do that 50 mile, icy fucking Wisconsin road, whiteknuckled trip all by myself. Merry fucking Christmas, because of that I hate Christmas. How dare you, "Hmmm" me when I get up every morning and I am present for my kids, and I deal with my stress and do the painful work of working my shit out rather than drinking it down or directing it toward them. Fuck you for thinking you did it better because you sucked and you are about five minutes away from getting completely cut off, x'd out, erased."

What does my mom do after our conversation?

Get online at Walmart and order about fifteen things each for the kids, send me an email saying she knows it's "so much trouble" but can I wrap the stuff and give it to the kids. I told husband this was "affection-aggressive" like passive aggressive but trying to take control of the situation by what seems like an affectionate act. It was not, I am certain of that.

So, I have more to talk to the therapist about, yay for me!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What the hell

is going on here.

Somebody better come up with a damn fine story and tell it to me ASAP.

I want to be entertained.


Let your fingers do the walking and type me up something good and fine and delicious. Give me something that causes you to laugh so hard while you're writing it that you're not sure you can type. Makes your soul cough up on my computer screen. Get's those voices in your head that say you can't write that! all rattled up and talking as you say it anyway.

Something I can sink my teeth into and chomp down on it like the pit bull that I am. Or caresses me like ribbons I would have worn in my hair when I was a girl if I would have known how. It all depends on what someone is willing to write.

Stop dreaming about my pumpkin muffins and write.

Do it.

Or, if you insist upon withholding your goodness and wish to remain distracted, try this


It'll entertain a bunch of wordsmithy clowns like you for hours.

Of course, one thing I always think of when I get lost there is how wonderful it would be if that thing was a vibrator. I mean, shit, just look at it tingling and dancing all over the place just because I give it a little word to tap dance about.

Write, bitches.

Don't make me get my crow bar.