Monday, October 9, 2017

Once Upon an Anxiety: One Woman's coping while mid-lifing and co-parenting

Mutu's Forbidden Fruit

An interesting discussion on women in their 40s in America, experiencing mid-life challenges and anxieties unlike the women who came before them, and likely afterwards, from Oprah.

There are times where I’m overcome with joy about this new life I’m building for my daughters and me, life with my hubby, my career that is going well (or not so well on some days).

There are times where I come to work and nestle safely in the retreat from the anxiety of my personal life,  where I feel confident in the choices I’m making because work choices are so much easier than personal life choices, because it’s not personal, it’s work.  (Or so I thought.)

And then there are days that as soon as I open my eyes, my stomach is filled with anxiety and I can barely get out of bed (like the women in the article), a holdover PTSD reaction to the stressors of an ex-husband who finds fault in everything I do, with my growing daughters (especially the tween), who I fear has fallen into a pattern of emotional care-taking with her father, with my elementary aged little sister who is still learning to manage her emotions that she wears so openly and lovingly and frustratingly on her sleeves.

That I’m not making life better, but worse.  That even though I know it’s a marathon, I’m losing the race.  That I’m screwing up, both at home and at work.  I’m barely hanging on with my fingernails.

And then something sweet will happen; like a cat will come knocking at our door, and for twenty sweet minutes, the girls and I drop out of the busy morning routine and show our furry friend some love and kindness and milk (lactose free, apparently is okay for visiting cats).  Who nestles us with meows and walks among our legs like she belongs there. Who settles down watching for our return (and who hasn’t come back, but we’re still hoping, lol).

Or big sister is home from school with a fever, but when the drugs kick in, she’s okay and decides to carefully meld a pair of earrings out of wire and fancy pliers and beads and crystals, which she gives to me, and I wear them the next day.

Times where I’m able to cradle my anxiety-ridden baby self who thinks mom, dad, sister, brother, anyone close will disappear, and recognize that is the root of my anxiety, and I’ll figure out how to take a big, giant breath, and soothe and comfort and relieve the fear deep inside.

Times where I’ll stand proudly in my shoes, knowing it’s okay to struggle, that women in my place and my peers have been afforded opportunities the likes of what hasn’t come before, my mother working as a single parent in a male-dominated corporate structure, paving the way for me, and now I’m paving the way for my daughters.  That these lumps of anxiety are part of the course (at least my course), that going to the moon was never going to be easy, and it’s okay to ask for an oxygen mask or three.  Or some shots of whisky.  That huddling up to anxiety part of the days is actually a normal reaction to the complications and challenges that I’ve faced and continue to face. 

I hope I can figure out how to help my daughters be strong and confident in their choices, opinions, thoughts, feelings.  I hope I can help them navigate our complicated world full of pain and beauty, equip them with decision making skills, with love, with boundaries to protect them from harm.  My wish for them is to not feel debilitated by anxiety, like I am. 

I wish there was a magic wand.  I wish I could make anxiety-laden troubles magically disappear.  I guess the only way through it, is through it.  I guess I have to accept the crazy and ride it to a better place.  I hope doing our best is good enough.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Phone visitation--for the birds?

Image here

Phone calls from the children when they are with their dad: has been an ongoing struggle for years. I can tell they aren't comfortable speaking with me on the phone when they're at his house--he's usually right by them, they’re in a hurry, I’m what stands between them and dinner.  And they always ask:  can this be a short call mom?

They sound stressed, like they know they can't really talk to me and are uncomfortable sounding anything close to happy when they do talk to me.

And what makes me sad is that it’s the polar opposite at my house, because I always make time for them to call their dad, never interrupt, etc., let them have as much time.  The handful of times they get the gumption to ask HIM if they can have a short call, 95% of the time he starts needling them as to why, and the short call that they ask for becomes long call.

I’ve tried reinforcing with the girls that the phone calls are for them, not for me or dad, and that it’s okay to want to talk or not want to talk.  It’s funny how they are only comfortable with asking me for a short call, 95% of the time.

The play therapist says to leave it alone, that the girls will grow up and learn that their dad expects one type of behavior from them, and that they will learn that I will listen when they ask for a short call.

I’m trying not to see it as they’re getting into a habit of not valuing talking to me; but we must value talking to him (because I make space for the calls). 

I know it’s a marathon not a race, but sometimes, when they do the ‘can this be a short call’ and if we speak for a minute, and they sound reluctant to talk, I can envision him in the background nodding his head, thinking, see—the kids don’t even want to talk to her.

And I KNOW I have to be the bigger person about this, it just sucks!!!!! 

I also know I need to not take this personally, but last night, my heart hurt.  Being a grown up sucks sometimes.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


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Ironically, the title of this post is not a theme of my coparenting life, although it definitely could be applied in more instances than one!

I’ve been experiencing vertigo since last Friday—and what with all the dizzy walking and whoozing around, I've wondered who has time to be dizzy when there’s work to do, kids to take care of, volunteer work, etc? 

The problem is that the medicine to make the dizzy go away knocks me off of my feet, and also makes me feel depressed, booooo.

I wonder if this is just a sign of getting older and my inner ears are striking.  Or, maybe I’m just a complete and utter anxiety mess and I have to embrace it already.  I have to figure out a way to no let anxiety build up so much.  Therapy and regular exercise is what I've been attempting for the last few years...clearly I have to rethink some strategies...any advice is most welcome!  And obviously, that is my unscientific theory that high levels of stress/anxiety is causing my anxiety, maybe it's not.  I do know that I was under an extreme amount of stress the night before I woke up with the vertigo however...

For anyone experiencing vertigo, however, I’ve tried this half-somersault which seems to help a little bit:

It’s put out there by Dr. Carol Foster, an MD who experienced vertigo herself and the University of Colorado-Denver medical campus posted it online.

This is better than what my primary care physician told me (once I finally dragged myself in to see her): as long as you’re not barfing, go to work! 


And THAT is finding some humor in life—as long as you’re not barfing, you can do anything!

Friday, September 15, 2017

All quiet on the coparenting front...but work has offered a conundrum

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Well, not really, he's filing for a child support modification.  However, when I looked at the numbers, I came to the conclusion not to fight it.  It doesn't change that much, and after all of the years of conflict and continuing conflict, I'm deciding to pick my battles and this isn’t one worth fighting.

My workplace, however, has handed up a different dilemna and that is the space that is difficult to navigate lately.  There are too many cooks in the kitchen.  It is a difficult project and I think it's one where everyone at the table actually wants to “help,” it’s just there’s so many different ways to go about it and no one can trust each other, etc.

I have a funny feeling in my stomach.  I think I need to come to the conclusion in this conversation to also step back and not “do battle.”  I think my job is to make sure everyone’s voices can be heard.  Even the ones that I don’t agree with. 

There is a player at the top who is the one who for the last nine months took a back seat and let the “committee” do the work that they said they would do.  It involved going out into the community and speaking with clients, providers, the public, in an effort to understand their experience of “accessing justice” as a way to understand how and where the challenges may be, and look for common themes in those challenges and as those themes emerged, try and figure out how we could put together a plan to meet those challenges.

Can we solve everyone’s justice issue?  Not at the moment, but can we try and make it a safer, easier, more understandable process?  That was our hope, at least my hope at the beginning of this process.  The stories people shared were amazingly truthful to their experiences, authentic, heartfelt.  No, people are not accessing justice, people feel afraid, marginalized, and re-victimized by the court process, and that’s just if they get to court in the first place.  Lack of information abounds, people ‘give up.’  It’s quite a bleak picture. 

However, one of the silver linings to this conversation is that while it is so very bleak in terms of current experiences, there are so many people who want to help.  People who have nothing to do with the courthouses or legal services, people who are part of community health centers, or social services providers, or homeless service providers, and  more, like the YWCA.  If we could link together and create a network of information (and correct information) and also shepherd people through the process (rather than leading them to a web site and waving goodbye and wishing them luck), maybe we could make the process of “accessing” justice just a little bit easier.

So what’s the problem?  There are some blinders on in terms of those who do not want to hear that the justice system is lacking in its ability to provide help—that it is not people-centered and that people are afraid.  There is a difficulty in the self-awareness and reflection piece that perhaps some of the way we have been handling these issues is not working, and it’s time to think about re-designing (yes, change is scary). 

And the same people wearing the blinders are the ones who have started to make decisions independently, and who cannot hear criticism and who cannot understand that identifying a huge problem that appears not to be able to be fixed right away is okay, in fact was expected of us in launching into this project. 

I’m concerned that in an effort to go straight to solution in an effort to “just get the report written already,” voices will be lost—not only the voices of the users that we were so careful and respectfully committed in learning from, but also the provider voices who are the ones carrying out the brunt of the work and any initiatives to help.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been running interference, seeing if I can preserve the voices and the integrity of the project.  I’m thinking maybe it’s time to step back, take a deep breath, and just let it go and leave the process to what it is.  Does that mean the bully wins?  Maybe.

Aha, and that may be why I’m struggling so hard.  I see someone strong-arming and bullying their way through in the guise of using the “committee”—when actually it’s not a committee at all, it’s one person being a bit of a bully.  Who perhaps has good intentions, but the process of doing so breeds mistrust, marginalization, silencing of others.

I understand the need to “get it done,” but aren’t we supposed to ensure we have all voices at the table?  How can we have a successful, “finished” product, if we lose people along the way, especially the ones who are given the responsibility to carry this forward? 

And does coming to the end product at the expense of losing people along the way make for good politics?  I do not think so, and it does not make me proud to be part of this project anymore.

It reminds me of someone who used to bully and silence myself and endanger my daughters and perhaps that’s why I’m so upset of late. 

Take a deep breath, step back.  My job is not to fix the bully.  My job is to do my best to influence the process to preserve the voices of the people I care about.  I may  not win, and that’s okay, it’s not about winning, it’s about living with dignity and doing the right thing.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Of secrets, tennis shoes, field trips and anything else

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The girls came home from a week end with dad, excited to share that they went fishing and eagerly explaining how they caught so many fish and had to scale them.

When we responded wow that sounds like fun, where did you go?  They responded swiftly with: it’s a secret!  We can’t tell you!

I took that in stride and glossed over it, marveling again on how much fish they caught, then proceeded to finish dinner and do our normal goodnight routine.  DD1 had huge amounts of homework to do.  So when DD2 brushed her teeth, and I was helping her get ready for bed, I asked her, how does it make you feel to keep a secret?  She hugged me close and said, not good mommy.  And, we went to the pier but don’t tell DD1, or A or daddy I told you.  So I hugged HER closely and said that I was glad she had a good time, that fishing sounds fun, and that it’s okay to do fun things with dad.  I also said, and you know some secrets are fun, like a fishing spot, and also I’m your mommy and it’s okay to tell me anything.  Especially if there is a secret that makes you feel even just the tiniest bit funny or weird.  It’s OKAY to tell your mommy.  DD2 seemed fine and since it was early, we picked two books and read them and off she went to sleep.

As for DD1, who is standing firmly in tweenhood, her response was quite different—although to be honest, I’ve had the “secret” conversation with her when she was DD2’s age as well.  Anyway, this go around her response was rolling her eyes and that “I LIKE having secrets from you mom,” and “it’s fun to have secrets, and besides you don’t understand everything anyway.”

To which I responded, you know when I was growing up, I didn’t want to tell Grandma G everything too.  But it’s also my job as your mom to tell you that it’s okay to tell me ANYTHING, even if you feel frustrated or think I won’t understand.

Her response, of COURSE you won’t understand and a big dramatic sigh and throwing a blanket over her head (since she was going to bed).

Okay, honey, I said, but it’s still my job to be your mom and be here for you for ANYTHING.  This elicited more monosyllabic sighing.  Although after I said goodnight, she came into the bathroom where I was getting ready for bed to talk about her iPad use the following day, and I took this to mean that she was just trying to be near me.  And the following morning when she was getting ready, she wanted me to sit in the bathroom with her while SHE was getting ready, so I’m just riding out this “push-pull” tween thing this week.

I did try and re-cap my approach to “secrets” and that it’s okay to tell mommy ANYTHING on the way to school, to which DD1 rolled her eyes and said, I KNOW YOU’VE TOLD US A THOUSAND TIMES ALREADY. 
(me: trying not to laugh).

So onward to the field trip and shoes.  The next night the girls had their weeknight overnight. After which I was accused of not returning DD2’s shoes and all the problems wearing flip-flops instead of his shoes to school presented—as I was endangering DD2 by letting her stub her toe and having some kid run over it with his rolling backpack.  Also for neglecting to send along the information about DD2’s field trip since she didn’t tell him until the morning and they needed to pack her lunch and she needed to wear her shoes (which he took another opportunity to tell me I hadn’t returned them). 

Hmm…the shoes that were in DD2’s backpack; clearly someone forgot to look before sending me a scathing email.  As for the field trip, reminders were sent home and put in DD2’s daily journal which someone clearly didn’t look at the night before, either. 

And so it goes.  Onward, forward.  Deep breaths.  It makes me feel like doing the monosyllabic sighing that my tweenster does when frustrated.  To be honest, I was super upset earlier this week, but now feel quite zen about it.

The good news is that the girls are home for the rest of the week so I’m looking forward to having some girl time with them.  Most of their extracurricular activities don’t start until next month, so it’s a mellow week end ahead.  Hurray!


Friday, August 4, 2017

Back to School Co-parenting Blues

image here

And so it begins.

First of all, let me just say I’m so happy my girls had their back-to-school night last night, met their teachers, settled in with their desks and all their school supplies, we are good!  This is the first year that DD2 is attending the same school as DD1 and she’s REALLY excited about that (transferred her from her little private school, think she’s ready for the big leagues, lol).

Since DD2 is a little older, the first of the graduated visitation has set in.  So this is the first time the girls have been on “his” time on back-to-school night.  I’ve always invited him on back-to-school nights prior however.  And he would stick like glue.  The difference between this back to school night?  He kept hurrying the kids and I along so they could say goodbye to me.  /eyeroll.  The girls felt like they couldn’t walk with me all the time (I encourage them to talk/walk with him when he comes to events on ‘my’ time, but whatever).  DD2 was sweet and loving and effusive; DD1 was more reserved and didn’t even look at me to say goodbye.  /cry

So a couple of things leading up to this:

Last week end, DD1 had another sleepover, and it was on dad’s week end. She wanted to bring her electronic device, but I wasn’t comfortable with sending it to day camp and having it sit in her backpack in a giant cafeteria all day, so I worked it out with her BFF’s mom that I’d drop it off, and then pick it up from their tennis practice the following Monday.  DD1 was ecstatic because there were five girls total who would be there and they’d all be doing Minecraft.  (I know, I know, a big deal! Lol)

All went well.  Until this past Wednesday, at bed time, when DD1 told me that dad said he wasn’t comfortable that I brought the iPad to her sleepover on “his” time, and that the next time we do that she has to run it by him.  And I was like, sweetie it’s not okay for you to have to be the messenger; we’re grown ups, and if dad has an issue he can talk to me directly.  And she got super defensive and was like, NO MOM, you’re missing the POINT.  I just have to tell him, so he knows if he’s supposed to take it home or not or what.  And I was like, sweetie, I talked with YOU and Aunty that we were going to leave it with her since we didn’t want it going to day camp on Monday.  And the thing is, we’re grown ups so if dad has issues he can talk to me directly.  She got super agitated some more about me missing the point.  (Now I just feel bad.  I should have said, how does that make you feel or something.  Ugh. Mom fail.)  Anyway she was just exasperated at me, but we still had a pleasant good night.

Okay, so back to back to school night.  The school has been emailing for weeks about how you can check the lists posted at the school during business hours to find out which classroom your child will be in.  Since I’ve been in touch with the school about DD2’s transfer, I called and asked, they let me know over the phone.  I email Exie a couple of times about how to handle back to school night, let’s meet up at DD2’s class first, since she’s new to the school, then go to DD1’s class after.

All is fine until the day of, when he insinuates by email about how I must be keeping school communications from him, as how did I know what classroom DD2 is in and he does not?  (How about, thank you for letting me know about what classroom she’s in?  Or call the school yourself?  Ugh.)

So cut to back to school night, it’s “his” night, and I think that’s why the girls were acting squirrelly.  I see now that he has made a huge deal about “his” time, and the girls know they are to behave accordingly.  DD2, in her effusiveness, forgets, and bounces around like a jumping bean and is all cuddly and cute and friendly, and then suddenly remembers and is back at clinging at his side.  DD1 is a tween now, so it could just be tweeniness, but her behavior is also a result of his making her feel responsible for his “comfort.”  And it makes me sad.

At the end of the day, I have to remember that the kids are all right.  They seem happy and are doing well in school, learning, love to spend time with their friends.  I have to find a way to not let his nitpicking get to me and some days I’m great at it.  Last night, I went home super upset.  So I decided to channel my frustrating into lifting weights.  It helped for a time, lol, but now i'm sore on top of feeling a little blue.  DD1 and DD2 I love you with all my heart, I hope you can feel it. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Vacation memories

It’s hard to believe we returned from our family trip a week ago!  We successfully carted my mom around two states, spent quality time with my uncle and aunty, two cousins and their hubs, and one adorable second cousin who is two, and with whom my DD2 tried to carry everywhere they went. 

It was so awesome that my Uncle opened his doors to us, we were there Friday, Saturday, Sunday, hanging out, or should I say, partying down!—for both Friday/Saturday nights, we didn’t get back home to our hotel until midnight or 1am!  My mom knows how to party with those board games, card games, making s’more’s in the chimenea off the back porch.  And it was so wonderful seeing the lightning bugs come alive in the wee hours of twilight—to my girls’ delight. Truly, I loved seeing my girls making connections with our family and also reconnecting myself with my uncle and cousins.  We’ve been seeing each other off and on through the years for a meal or an hour or two, but this was the first time in many, many years, where we spent extended time together.

My mom did surprisingly well due to her health condition; we strolled along gorgeous Smale park which is nestled on the banks of the Ohio river, water fountains spouting and inviting the kids to play in them, gardens and garden mazes, life-sized chess games and man-made streams with Rube Goldberg contraptions built in, and a working “when pigs fly” moving statue.  

We also strolled across over a bridge not too far from the Roebling Suspension Bridge (seen above), the design/construction of which was the template for the creation of the Brooklyn Bridge 30 years later, taking in the lights and pictures, having walked from one state (Kentucky) to another (Ohio) and back again! 

My college classmate and her family drove down for two nights to meet us and we oohed and aahed through the neighboring aquarium while my mom rested from the nights of partying, stroking stingrays and watching penguins dive in and out of the water, along with sharks swimming overhead in their tube aquarium; and after our six day visit with the family, we loaded back up and headed back to my mom’s place.  Next stop, off to a visit my bro and family at their farm.

Some of our views at the farm (well, this one was close by, but couldn't resist the baby foal and mom picture):

After dinner, my mom settled into her hotel room with our caregiver that we’d hired; the girls and I went back to the farm where my bro kindly blew up more fireworks into the night.  So exciting!  It was great having bonus time with them.  My daughters were able to ride the horses twice in a row with my sis-in-law; and my older nephew took me on the golf course to teach me all things golf which was hilarious and fun (considering I had no idea golf has a completely different language—he later told my bro that I have a natural talent and that I should take lessons and if I applied myself, I could be quite good! LOL).  Honestly it was just so much fun spending time with him—he is actually quite good, second on his golf team as a freshman, regularly participates in regional golf tournaments; my bro and sister-in-law are banking on at least a college scholarship, here’s to hoping! 

And, I even dared to tackle the mountain biking with my youngest nephew again—while my sis-in-law had my youngest daughter on the horse, DD1 hung with the barn cats, and the next thing I knew I was popping wheelies over roots and trees and getting my butt whipped by wild rosebushes.  To his credit, my nephew didn’t take us entirely into the middle of the woods, just partly, and when we circled back along the old train tracks, he took the lead (and the multiple cobwebs) by storm.  LOL.

Lastly, I came up with the bright idea to take my youngest nephew back to town with us for an overnight, so grandma could have bonus time with her grandson, plus her two granddaughters, and while she rested, I took the three of them to the horse park where we hiked around, went through a Smithsonian affiliated international museum of the horse, as well as interacted with different breeds of horses.

The one featured here is the Marwari horse—DD1 was super impressed at the backstory for the Marwaris, that they never left their riders in battle, and would defend them at all costs.  Awww, my darling DD1 and her fierce and loyal heart.

And the next thing we knew, we were home…

This past week end, we had a belated birthday sleepover for DD1—plus a pal for DD2 to keep her occupied (this backfired, so will re-think this in the future, as the little ones were way too interested in what the big girls were up to, lol), however all in all, everyone had a blast.  We had pizza at night and watched movies, at bed time, the littles did fall asleep way before the big ones and I let them do their group device games; in the morning, I had craft activities involving pipe cleaners, beads—hand made flower rings for themselves, as well as creating glow-in-the-dark beaded jewelry or ornaments and exchanging from a name drawing (they loved guessing who made what). 

So…now we’re back into the swing of things, the time-sharing “schedule” resumes tomorrow.  And I’m trying to be brave and supportive, and outwardly I am, for the girls’ sakes.  Inside, I’m dreading the nitpicking emails and the complaints and the demands that are just around the corner.  It’s been a nice two week break, I wish it could stay this way for a while longer. 

I love my daughters with all my heart.  Please let them be okay.  Please let them always know there is room in their hearts for ALL of the people in their family.  Please let love always win.