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Monday, November 3, 2014

The Teenager is Winning

"Mom, I am going to make mistakes, but they are MY mistakes, and you have to let me make them."

Was this statement coming out of my mouth, circa 1986, or from my daughter's last week??  Most likely both.  Last year I blogged about letting her make her own way and I actually believed I could do that.  I've grown negative and cynical since then.

What she doesn't realize (and I didn't either back then) is HER mistakes are MY mistakes.  No parent wants to be asked, "And how IS so-and-so?" when the only answer is "Um, she is doing fairly average in grades and doesn't have any other interests outside of the 4x2 inches of her iPhone screen."

We Moms and Dads LOVE Facebook bragging rights, Instagram nuggets, and general high marks for having a stellar kid.  These days in my house, its the kids who seem to care less if they are making a name for themselves.  "Passing" is good enough for my Lil Lady...that means if she's 70 or above she's sitting comfortably.  Whoa nelly, that dog don't bark in my house.

I get the daily eye-rolls, "O-KAY"s, and usual malaise in the attitude department from her, which I don't doubt is Standard Operation Procedure in Teen World.  I am well-aware (also via Facebook) that most teenagers are jerks.  They just are.  They demand time and attention and money and give pretty much nothing in return.  I used to be able to guilt her into feeling sorry for me when she was hitting the ugly-teen act hard, but those days are gone.  I admit I remember feeling very little compassion for my mom when she took the brunt of my hormonal rants, but now I am living the other side.  I feel like I'm watching a bully in action.

My boyfriend, Sinatra, lives at home with his two teenage boys, and a pre-teen daughter.  The daughter has her special moments but for the most part hasn't gone full-blown teen yet.  The boys are more of the passive-aggressive types, but at time are aggressive-aggressive with each other.  That's no fun for him to deal with either, but the psychological warfare I wage almost daily with Lil Lady is as mentally draining as is getting between two full-grown teen boys throwing punches.

Is it clear why we have chosen not to marry yet and combine our children into one home?

She wants to be left alone to "live her life".  I allow her to put herself to bed at night, meaning I don't regulate her bedtime.  She wants to ride to school with her friend or boyfriend instead of the bus, so oversleeping in the morning is not an option.  She also wants to look good at school so getting up and putting her outfit and hair together takes time, so she sets her alarm on her own.  She keeps up with her personal hygiene and for the most part puts her laundry down in the laundry room to be washed, and even puts in a load herself if no one is interested in helping.  She is doing better eating regularly and more healthy than she did last year, and even tries to get exercise most days.

But does she brush her teeth morning and night? Does she take out her contacts and clean them daily? These things actually wake me up in the middle of the night.  Of course I'm thinking of high dental bills and eyeballs with blisters, but she doesn't seem to have my worry gene.

Homework and studying seem to be an afterthought and her grades so far this year are hovering over a low B in most classes, but some end up C's from simply having an "M", for missing assignment.  Whaaaa??  She has no urgency to get things turned in until I'm screaming via text to her after checking the Home Access site, TURN IN YOUR WORLD HISTORY ASSIGNMENT OR YOU WILL FAIL THIS GRADE PERIOD FROM SHEER LAZINESS!!!

She rarely responds to my during-school texts.

She'll tell me she doesn't know what to do on an assignment or when its due, and I must force her to email her teacher even though I want so badly to type out a diplomatically-worded and grammatically-correct letter, asking for details about classwork.  What job in life will let you turn in stuff late and still receive full credit?  What working person does this on a regular basis and keeps their job?

But then I am a nag and a bitch for constantly lecturing her.

Any other person in my life who would take this much of my brain power and emotional energy and stomp all over them, I would've cut them out a long time ago.

I divorced for less.

But she is my blood, therefore a reflection of me, so I continue to be that mom.

I may have to rename my blog InsaneAsylumHereICome because she's still around for at least 3 years, and I have another one, Chillgirl, coming up right behind her.  Chillgirl thankfully does not take acts of Rebellion to the level of Art (so far).  She really is "chill", but that does manifest itself in a bit of passive-aggressiveness..."I'm mad at Mom, so I will move as slow as Christmas when she's in a hurry".  Thank the Lord for creating red wine.

I talk to myself a lot, and to God, and ask for patience and perseverance.  My girls may challenge me but I keep telling myself they only do it because they know my love knows no bounds.

I want to make the home her friends want to come to, I want to have open dialogue with them, and know the kids they hang out with.  I want to be who they come to when no one else cares about their problems.  So far these things are still within my reach.  I may pry and snoop to stay in the loop.  I will fight through the trenches of the bad stuff to be there.

I'm a Lucky Mom
Moments of magic mother-daughter bliss may be few over these next 5 years, but they are so worth the trouble.

Friday, January 24, 2014

My Road to 70.3

Fact:  I am almost 44 years old and have been a triathlete for almost 7 years.

Fact: I am still challenging myself in my sport. 70.3 is up next.

Me and my Tri Teammates, the K's
I've lost count of all the races I've completed.  My medal hanger is overloaded.  I had to stop hanging my race numbers because it started to look like wallpaper.  I've done many Sprint distance triathlons, mini, regular and super, and several Olympic distance triathlons.  I've done duathlons, tri-relays and half marathons, and swim-only races.

I've always said I'm not great at any one of the three sports, but I'm pretty good at all three together.  I don't race to win, but it's nice if I get a top ten age group place, or as with my relay team, an actual top 3 medal.

The fun of triathlon is training with my friends, discussing our triumphs and our disasters, and being outside moving and enjoying exercise.  I can chat up a stranger at a race expo, or a bike shop or running store, because once you race triathlon, you just KNOW.

My tri-buddies come in all shapes and sizes.  Some have done mini-tri's and I respect them deeply for doing it.  Some have done the big daddy, Ironman, and I am in awe.  My bestie K started training for her first Sprint tri with me one year, and within the next year she'd completed several Sprints and an Olympic tri (which I hadn't done yet even after 3 years of racing) and then she signed herself up for Ironman! Whoa!

Ironman K
I watched her train, mostly alone, because the schedule for Ironman is relentless and time-sucking.  I would meet her on her long runs to run alongside for the time period I had available, and then she would continue running to get her planned miles done.  Finally she went to her race.  Me and our other relay teammate went later in the day to find her on the Ironman course.  No point in going until the end of her bike course (112 freaking miles) because we'd never see her.  So we positioned ourselves to cheer her through the marathon.  Late into the evening we cheered her every time she came by.  We cheered even louder when she ran through that finish line, and became an IRONMAN.  Truly awesome.

My busy-mom schedule does not realistically have space for Ironman 140.6.  But I have allowed myself the challenge to find the time for Ironman 70.3.  The Half-Ironman.  Not enough to get the M-dot tattoo, but still nothing to snort at.  I watched several of my friends do the Galveston Ironman 70.3 two years ago and I knew I could do it.  Now in 2014, I am.  Luckily I have a huge group of training buddies also doing it, so there is no shortage of training-mates.  No excuses either.

Its the end of January already, and the race is April 6th.  I thought, oh April that's 4 months after the new year.  Um, not really.  April 6th is right at the beginning of April so really we had 3 months.  I was running and biking before Jan 1st, but not consistently.  I ran a tough half-marathon in December.  But that isn't training for 70.3.

My weeks now consist of weekday running and swimming (at the pool since its cold), and biking on weekends.  Its still getting dark by 6pm so biking after work is out of the question.  The alternative? The dreaded bike trainer, indoors.  My bike mounted on a contraption that allows me to pedal as long as I want.  I've gotten a total of 30 minutes on there so far.  So boring and unrewarding.

I can run anytime but still choose to go after work, trying to beat sunset.  I look for hills and have even done some speed work at the track.  I'm kind of doing running workouts loosey-goosey without a plan . I know this isn't recommended but I get in what I can.  If I was a SERIOUS Ironman-in-training, I'd be getting my ass out of bed at 5am and running a set amount of time on a set amount of days.  Apparently I'm not that serious because I prefer to sleep at 5am.  In my defense, I consider sleep part of my training too.

I go to the pool and swim.  I do the swim workouts I learned while taking a 5:45am adult master's swim class these last two summers.  I put in the laps and stretch my arms and legs out to try to go faster.  I never have been a fast or efficient swimmer, and I probably won't improve that much, but I get through my long swims in a good enough time to not worry about a cut-off time in an Ironman race.  And it feels good.

In Texas this year it's been colder than usual this winter.  Bike rides have been harder to come by.  I'm generally not going to ride in weather cooler than 40 degrees.  I know triathletes and cyclists in other states probably think I'm ridiculous.  You all bundle up with multiple layers and boot covers to get out and ride in sub-30 degrees.  Good for you! I'm waiting til later in the day or another day to ride.  So far I've gotten several cool 25+milers in, and plan to build up to 50 and 60 milers in these next months.  That's also 3-4 hours of my Saturdays or Sundays (or both), so it comes when the kids' schedules allow.

This is my hometown beach, Galveston
My first 70.3.  I picked the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston. I grew up on Galveston Beach.  I was there volunteering and cheering for my friends 2 years ago and know what it looks like.  It's a flat run and bike course and the swim is in the warm-ish Galveston Bay.  That April I was there I watched the pros, like Lance Armstrong and Chris O'Donnell (who won) do it in under 4 hours.  My friends did it in under 7 hours.  It was a long, hot day for them, but I stayed to see them finish and I can visualize that while I prepare for my race.

I have SWAM 1.2 miles before.  I have BIKED 56+ miles before.  I have RAN 13.1 miles before.  I have not tried to do all of the above in a span of 7 hours in one day.  My brick-workouts will get more intense and more time-consuming.  I will have to pick and choose my social activities these next few months and watch what I eat and drink.  I will have to plan nutrition on the long bike rides and runs.  I will have to get my wetsuit out and head into the lake to open-water-swim.  I have 10 weeks to be ready.

I can do this.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Joy Coaching Winning Kids

I have had great coaches in the past.  I have worked alongside great coaches.  I am a coach.

My girls started getting interested in sports by ages 4 or 5 and every time I'd go to sign them up for a sport, there was always a need for parent volunteer coaches.  Lil Lady's first cheer squad was headed up by a parent volunteer coach, and I watched and then later helped get the girls organized, so by the next season I felt ready to volunteer myself, with another helper-parent.  Three practices a week and games on Saturday, we did just fine.  And I was hooked.

I admit, I love the Coaching Glory
I liked the control of leading the practices, the breaking lessons down, the disciplining of the kids to make them take it seriously, and watching them finally "get it".  There's nothing more frustrating than watching a teacher or coach do poorly at teaching and kids playing around or half-assing it.  Not my charges. I demanded excellence, but not before starting at the beginning.

After the hot, sweaty practices and games of Pop Warner Cheer, I was thrilled to see my oldest become interested in volleyball, my own favorite sport.  I played volleyball in middle school, but not high school. Then I picked it back up in college and after college and have never stopped.  I love the strategy and skill of a team of individuals ebbing and flowing to cover the court and make the play.  Its truly a beautiful sport to watch.  

We signed Lil Lady up at age 7 at the local rec center, where I was already playing on adult open play night, so one of my friends from open play wanted me to coach both our daughters together.  My Lil Lady's kneepads were as over-sized as her game shirt, but she was ready to be a "Tiger", the team name the girls picked out for themselves. She had some skill already, having played with Mom before.  She was naturally adept.  

With COACH across my back, I stood sideline to my friend head-coaching, and helped her teach these tiny 1st and 2nd graders how to bump and serve.  At that age, it was all about the serving.  The balls were big bouncy yellow things, and if hit correctly there was no problem sending them over the very low beginner net.  We taught them straight arms, bent knees, and moving to the ball while calling out "Mine!".  I don't remember the scores, but we did alright.  If by the end of the season all the kids were getting their serves over the net, and bumping somewhere in the vicinity of the court lines, we were pretty darn proud of ourselves as coaches.  My co-coach was as competitive as I am, so we applauded the great plays and good serves, and we constructively corrected the misses.  There was no forced smiles and fake clapping from us.  We were serious about making these little girls real volleyball players.

More seasons of Lil Lady playing all the way up to 10U volleyball and then Chillgirl, who had attended all the practices and games, was ready to play.  She was only 6, but already spot-on with hand-eye coordination and efficiency in passing a volleyball as well as serving.  Lil Lady was almost 10 and I was coaching her again in the Fall that year, and the rec director allowed me to start Chillgirl in the 8U division, knowing I had been coaching her for years already.  That season I double-dutied, head-coaching the 8U team, The Pink Ladies, and assistant-coaching Lil Lady's team (name forgotten since they changed names every season).  I worked my schedules so no games overlapped but I do remember changing colored coaches shirts in the bathroom to go from one game to the next.  And sometimes they weren't even at the same gym! 

Again starting back to basics with the 8 and unders, bumping and serving with the big yellow ball, while the 10U kids had moved on to the Volleylite white balls and more elaborate 3 bumps and over skills.  I loved both teams and although hectic, my weeks and Saturdays were full of rewards.

Lil Lady took a break from volleyball so I could devote my whole attention to Chillgirl and her teams.  I was able to get some of the same kids back each season, and made new friends with the parents.  The kids were more comfortable with me and the other kids they knew, but I always started the season's practices back at the basics.  Move the feet, shuffling side to side, front to back, arms out like a table-top when the ball is near (not while running), call your ball, and bend the knees to pass, not the arms.  Serving underhanded became old-hat, so overhand was the new challenge.  

I have been able to lead a team with one of the other mom's, who played volleyball in high school, as my co-coach for several seasons holding onto a core group of about 4 to 5 girls.  They could request me as their coach and the director usually accommodated.  Some girls came and went, never with hard feelings.  All the parents appreciated my patience and passion with their kids.  At some point we were winning more than losing and finally took first place in our division.  We were the Bluebonnets that season, and the name stuck.  We won the division with it, so I wasn't changing it. 

We're Number 1!!!
I was able to move us to the 10U division with a set team, meaning I could sign on up to 5 girls I wanted to bring.  This became a problem because more than 5 girls wanted to stay with me.  I had to choose and the director said no more than 5.  Right before registration was closed, one of my more skilled kids fell off a trampoline and broke her forearm.  Her mom assured me she'd be out of the cast before the 2nd or 3rd game.  We only have 8 weeks of games in our season, so that was keeping me short a player who MAY or MAY NOT be healed by the 3rd game.  I chose to cut her, and keep one of the others I knew would be able to play.  That mom wasn't happy with me and we are no longer friendly.  The kid played with another team and has since given me hugs when our paths have crossed.

Such is the hard knocks of coaching.

My Bluebonnets have stuck together, with a few additions and subtractions, for seven seasons and several divisions.  They have won their division 5 times.  We are at the top of the ranks in our current season, which was in a new 12U division, while all my players began the season at ages 10 and 11.  We thought we'd have a learning season to experience "playing up" to the middle school rules, with a higher net, harder ball, and new rotation scheme.  We definitely have had some tough games and played experienced girls, but our girls are experienced too...6 out of my 9 also play on Club volleyball teams.  We look good out there.  We get complemented.  Some parents have approached me, asking how can their kid learn to play like that?  

I am sad for kids who could be great players but end up with parent volunteer coaches who have never played the game.  Some parents recognize this early and get their kid out and pay more for a Club team, but some parents can't or don't understand it, and the kid can only go so far.  I can't coach them all.
Lil Lady has gone into a different league with new coaches, and Chillgirl is starting her second year on a Club team, because I recognize I can't teach them the advanced skills they need to move on up in the sport.  I am happy to give the kids playing time and more experience and coach them through their rec games in the off-season of their Club teams.  My heart swells with pride when they come from behind, or suck it up when they feel like pouting, and get the win.  

We win a lot.  When we don't they don't like it.  I tell them when we are lagging behind, don't look at that score board.  I don't care about those numbers.  I care about how you play each time the ball is on your side of the net.  Look at each other and talk to each other and be aware of your court lines.  Play smart.

It works every time.

They usually get the win.  They always remain a team.  I will never stop coaching them.  When they play on other teams with other coaches, I'm still screaming from the bleachers.  Their coaches know this, and since I say things that make sense, they allow it.  Some of my rec kids play along side Chillgirl on her team and they listen to me too.  I'm still their coach.

Now as my soon-to-be-7th-graders move on to try out for their middle school teams, I can be certain they are showing up at tryouts prepared.  Their new coaches will not have to work as hard with them.  I will silently think, "You're Welcome".

Then I will find a few 7 year olds in need of a coach and start again.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Teen Tantrums in Suburbia

I have been in blog-avoidance for several months now, and realize this is not a good thing for me.  I think of blog topics all the time, but I let the thoughts go fleetingly out of my mind and ignore the urge to get on here and write about it.  Below is one that's been consuming my home life, and it's time to blog it out.

M is for "Me Mostly Mad at Mom"
My most recent conflict is the intense jealousy and claim of inequality from my teenager Lil Lady in respect to her younger sister, Chillgirl.  Lil Lady is almost 15 and thinks the world is unfair if it doesn't turn on its axis around her.  She wants to come home off the bus to a quiet and undisturbed house, and alas, Chillgirl is there with her 2 cronies from across the street, playing the Wii, watching Netflix, or laughing at Youtube videos.  In and out they go from the garage to the backyard trampoline, and Lil Lady is sick to death of it.

I do agree, I don't want the circus around me when I'm just getting home and I usually make her take the party to one of the other girls' house when I get there.  Lil Lady has a valid point on this one.  But her handling of her dissatisfaction of this issue is my biggest frustration.  She yells, she criticizes, she accuses.  She loves to tell me what I should do to rectify the situation.  So I react.  New Rule: Chillgirl and Cronies must leave our house (or just Cronies leave) when Cranky Lil Lady gets off the bus.  Like, every day. Done.

Me making this proclamation usually isn't enough for Lil Lady.  She uses her valid outrage to go ahead and tell me and Chillgirl every single thing she feels wronged about in her little high-schooler life.  I don't punish Chillgirl the same as I punish her. I constantly take Lil Lady's phone away from her, but never Chillgirl's (not true).  I don't yell at Chillgirl enough or stay mad at her as long.

Chillgirl is FOUR years younger and a very different personality than Lil Lady.  They don't fight with me the same way. They don't do things to get in trouble the same way.  Chillgirl skates by on her quiet demeanor and habit of puckering her lips for a "mama-kiss" and a hug when she's sorry for doing something.  She even cries, but pathetically, not angrily.  Chillgirl's most often offense is leaving behind a mess or forgetting to do something she's been told.  Ten-Eleven year old stuff.  I correct her, she's sorry, we move on.

Lil Lady's biggest offense is her MOUTH.  Such hateful and furious things fly out of those lips, and there's not enough mama-kisses in the world to take them back, which by the way are never offered anyway.  This child never wants to let anyone else get the last word and loves to tell me how her friends think I'm the meanest mom of them all and that she never wants people over to be around me.  Never mind that she's kind of a hermit and doesn't ask friend over because she prefers to be alone with her iphone.  And the iphone is my main way of getting her attention when I've had enough.  Gone is her lifeline,  but more terrorizing ensues when this punishment is bestowed.  She's wrong, I correct her, Holy Hell breaks loose.

We do get through it.  I send Chillgirl away to her room or outside so I can stop the spiral-down tornado of her sister, while giving her all my attention even though she claims I ignore her for Chillgirl all the time.  If she could just watch a video of herself in action, I think she'd be shocked.  She usually takes a few minutes with her head back in her iphone (which isn't taken away from her nearly as much as it should be) and then devil-child goes away, and she's back to non-crazy, normal chatty teenager.  Whew.

Happy Times

Friday, May 31, 2013

Hey Play60, leave my 10 year old ALONE!

This is my beauty, a few weeks ago.
My Chillgirl is a Mini-Me.  She runs, she jumps, she rides her bike, she plays volleyball.  All. The. Time.

There is rarely a day I don't hear the volleyball bouncing either in the house or out front in the driveway off the garage.  She has learned all the cheer jumps out on the trampoline with her friends. She's allowed to ride her bike all the way to the park now that she's 10.

I have coached her since she was 6 years old in volleyball and now she's also on a club team with a new coach.  She's gotten so much better in the last year and I will love watching her take off on a different level than I could ever coach her.

What I'm saying here is, my kid isn't a sit on the couch and watch hours of TV or video games kind of kid.  She gets out there and moves.

Today with her final report card from school was a slip of paper from Fuel Up to Play 60 who partners with FitnessGram, which is what the report was called.  It was a report of activities apparently Chillgirl did in PE. Aerobics, muscle strength, endurance, flexibility were all tested. She was weighed and measured.  The report showed a comparison of this year's and last year's performance and measurements.  She has only grown an inch but has gained 15 lbs.  Her Body Mass Index, which I myself have had a serious issue with its validity, was up 3.2 whatever unit of measurement that is since last year to 21.6 whatevers.  Apparently this is too much for a 10 year old girl.  The "Healthy Fitness Zone" is a BMI of 14.1-19.5.

She's "high risk"?

So this report went on to say she "needs improvement".  She probably should get out more, be more active each day, less TV time, and eat healthier.  Are you kidding me?  Now I agree with eating healthier as a good suggestion.  She is force-fed salmon and swai and lean turkey and beef at home now...poor thing.  Broccoli and cucumbers and carrot sticks.  Brown rice and wheat pasta.  This is what her Mother makes her eat for dinner.  How dare I!

These are the ridiculous suggestions from the report

I fully admit that Chillgirl likes candy and cheetos, and fruit snacks, which have absolutely no fruit in them, and chips and cheese.  For the love of Pete, my girls can eat a brick of cheese.  I avoid it, knowing the fat content rolling around in that yummy yellow/orange block.  I caution them on eating too much of it.  Both girls like Taco Bell and McDonald's and Panda Express orange chicken.  I try to limit this junk to once a week, out of necessity with our busy schedules.  

I hate to bring up diet or limiting foods with my girls.  I worry about eating disorders and poor body image.  I would never try to make her understand a report like this.  I don't understand it.  I've always been well above my height/weight's healthy BMI.  Everyone tells me "oh, you're all muscle".  Yeah, yeah, I know but I see others with sinewy muscles in their arms and legs but without my puffy layer of cellulite covering them.  

My kids don't have cellulite but I am sure they will have to watch their food intake just like I do to keep it at bay in their adult years.  For now though, they are kids.  They are active kids and I've surrounded them with examples of healthy food and activities.  

That's MY Healthy Fitness Zone.

Chillgirl, today

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Mom....She's No Claire Huxtable but I Love Her

Yeah, I was a princess...

I always go to the store before Mother's Day and look for a card for my mom.  The ones available are always sappy and sentimental, and are never quite right.  My mom is not sappy.  She's curt.  She's brash.  She curses.  She says whatever pops in her head, with no apologies.  She can build you up, but also can cut you down.

She has always been a homemaker.  She was a week shy of 23 when she became a Mom.  She had three years alone with my brother.  She tells me he was a handful so when I came along, I assume she was relieved.  Her first daughter.  Now she could buy girl stuff, and do girly things.  Dolls and cribs and bows and dance class and gymnastics.  A former hairdresser, she was always wanting to mess with my hair but I mostly wanted it in two ponytails.  Karma got me back and is why my beautiful blonde Chillgirl makes me put her hair in a boring old ponytail every day.

My mom didn't waste time getting me a sister to keep me busy.  Maybe I talked too much?  She tells me Lil Lady reminds her of me, and I know my daughter constantly challenges me.  She needed me to have a playmate, and fast.  My sister and I are 22 months apart, so I know my mom was a busy lady.  She was home with the three of us every day while my dad worked.  She always seemed pretty okay with this, although I remember times she'd go in her room and shut the door.  I use this tactic myself when feeling ganged up on.  As we got older and in school, she found part-time jobs and volunteer work out of the house.  I will assume this was to get away from us kids. I totally understand.

Most of the time I am on good terms with her.  Like I said, she isn't a mom you can always expect kisses and hugs from.  You never know what's coming out of her mouth, and I think she likes to live that way.  Her mom was the same way.  Those Italian Women hit 50 years old and decide "Fuck It" is their new mantra.

She's always got an opinion on what's going on in my life.  Now that my dad is retired, she and he live close to me and my sister, but they stay local.  They are not travelers or sightseers.  She has neighbors and church friends to be social with, but she's always willing to listen and offer advice on what I'm doing.  We talk about things going on with me and my kids.  She asks about my love life.  She actually asked Sinatra "when are you going to make an honest woman outta her?" recently.  Some of our biggest fights were over the men in my life.  She hasn't really liked me with any of them and she doesn't make any bones about telling me that.  Sinatra seems to be winning her over for the most part, but she wants him living here and apparently making an honest woman out of me.

Very high school dance chaperones

I have always thought she wanted more in her life, and her criticizing and snarky comments come from her own dissatisfaction.  Her and my dad do not have what anyone would call a loving marriage, they tolerate each other.  It has been that way as long as I can remember.  In their elder years, they've gotten quite nasty to each other and my sister and I hear from both of them the about their fights.  My dad takes off to have meals by himself a lot.

When I went through my divorce, she at first told me not to stay in a marriage that was unhappy or I'd end up like her.  Then when my ex and I separated, she changed her tune, telling me to make him stay away for a few weeks, but let him come back.  When I said it was really over and he wouldn't be coming back, she was really negative and worried, but I knew all her fears and regrets were HERS, not mine.  She may have wanted out of her marriage, but never could do it.  I was doing it.  She didn't know what to do with me.

Seriously, my hair in this one? But I look skinny! yay!

My mom has always been a great grandmother to my kids, letting them play in her house, in her shoes and play clothes, and cooking meals and baking sweets with them.  She's not a sports-lover, but will come to a dance or choir event for them.  She will babysit, but her limit is about 3-4 hours and then both her and my dad seem to need a break.

My mom has never seen me at a triathlon.  She doesn't even ask that often about my sport.  She doesn't get it, but she worries I'm going to hurt myself.  If she saw me do it, she would understand its not dangerous, and it's thrilling and confidence-building.  She needs some of that inspiration these days.

My mom has not been physically well in a very long time.  She has been in pain from one area or another for many, many years.  It began with abdominal surgery, I think it was an appendicitis that wasn't really a appendicitis, and kidney stones.  Later came adhesions that twist her intestines and block her digestion.  She always has had something hurting her and it takes her out of her life, and puts her in bed either crying out in pain, or heavily medicated.

Today, Nana and her grandaughters

She has been in and out of hospitals and rehab centers for the few years with foot, leg and back surgeries.  She has never been physically strong or active and her balance was off and she started to trip over curbs and even fell down some stairs.  At some point she stepped hard on one foot off a curb and damaged a tendon.  It didn't heal itself and eventually that led to a heel and Achilles's tendon surgery on her right leg.  That was weeks without walking and then rehab started to help, but she didn't continue rehabbing so it got worse again.  Every time she's been in the hospital for something she's had a complication, either with the incision or medications. She is a horrible patient and doesn't do what she's told with rehab.  This translates to constant trips back and forth to doctors, and my dad handles it all.  Not gracefully I might add, he's understandably very bitter his life has become a driver and caregiver for a very ungrateful, crabby old lady.  They are quite toxic to each other a lot of the time.

A body holds its strength in its muscles, which protect its bones, and my mom has no muscle-tone.  I've preached to her about exercising, especially in the pool where she was doing really well with after a few of the surgeries.  But once the prescription for rehab is done, and she would have to make a decision to sign up for pool-time and get herself there, she bails.  She prefers her couch and her TV, while smoking cigarettes and drinking Coke.  She thinks walking around the house is enough.  My active lifestyle is "crazy", but she's the one who's body is falling apart.

Last year it was more pain from fused vertebrae and a back surgery, I assume from all her sitting and not exercising.  Then it was arthritis in her right hip, and a hip replacement this past Fall.  Her weak physical strength caused her to fall and break the attachment of the implant, it was repaired with a 2 week stay in a rehab hospital around Christmas.   From those hospital stays she developed a staph infection that she's been in surgery twice for already in the last few months.  The hip implant has now been removed and she has a temporary implant filled with antibiotics and she is not able to rehab until this one is removed and a new one implanted.  Today she's tucked away in a nursing facility under heavy antibiotics and pains meds and is only able to move from the bed to a wheelchair.  Happy Freakin' Mother's Day.

Her attitude through all this has left everything to be desired.  She tells her rehab workers they are a pain in her ass.  They laugh at her.  She likes being the feisty one.  Her and my dad are getting downright hateful to each other, but it's mostly coming from her.  He's passive-aggressive and she's just aggressive.  I believe her frustration with losing all control of her life and body is what drives her outbursts.  She attacks my dad, my sister, or me if we aren't doing what she wants.  My sister defends my dad and the two of them get the worst of her wrath.  I try to stay neutral and talk about other things and so far during this nursing facility stay we have remained calm.

She has a long road ahead of her before she can begin to rehab and walk, or even come home.  She has to want to follow doctor's orders and change her lifestyle if she ever expects to get there.  Her body and her personality may never be back to her past normal.

I miss her at her best.  She is a funny, smart, irreverent woman, whom I love.  She is my MOM.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

There's a Reason He's My Ex

"Divorce isn't such a tragedy. A tragedy's staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.” 
–Jennifer Weiner, Fly Away Home

Some days you might think you will die of divorce.

There are such pains to go through from the minute one partner decides "Enough is Enough", until pretty much the end of time.  You can be happily remarried, you can have no kids together, or kids all grown up, but that Ex will still pop up and cause chaos, from near or far.  

My Ex and I have two children together.  For the most part we both know our roles and there aren't that many surprises.  We are not super-strict on our visitation schedules, but this easy freedom lends itself to times when I wish we were on a rigid First, Third, and Fifth weekend standard possession regime.  

My girls live with me.  My house is their Home.  My house was also my Ex's home until about seven years ago, pre-separation.  I chose that house when we moved to our town and I paid for that house the whole time we were married.  I refinanced that house in my name only, at the point when I began to foresee the end of our marriage.  The deed was turned over to me in the divorce papers.  My house is my Home.

As he did before we were married, my Ex has moved around a lot since the divorce.  Changing roommates and apartments annually.  All of his living conditions have been acceptable to me and the girls, but they were never Home-y to them.  They were a place to stay for a few days every other week, if that.  He isn't worried about this.  He knows their Home is my house.  

My Ex has a girlfriend who lived out of town when they began dating, but now is moving her family and herself to our area and he will be living with her and them.  This will be a house, but it will be full of another family, her grown kids and their kids, as well as her school-aged child.  My girls will likely not have their own room there, so I am unclear on how their visits will go.  The girlfriend's young child is a boy of 13.  Not like they can stay in his room.  This will be worked out before my girls have a Dad-weekend.

My Lil Lady is 14.  She is not keen on picking up and hanging out at Dad's on the weekends.  Unless he has something fabulous planned she would rather stay Home.  Chillgirl is 10 and is a pretty happy kid wherever, for now.  Lil Lady doesn't protest much because she loves her Dad but she makes a point to whine to one or both of us to get back Home as soon as she can each time.  Her weekends with Dad typically are less than 48 hours.

The more frustrating part of our arrangement is he usually only sees them on those weekends, even though he lives only 15 minutes away.  He knows Mom takes care of the driving to church, to volleyball, to after-school events, to appointments and the store.  I ask for his help on school pick-ups or eye or dental appointments because I'm working 8:30am-5pm and his schedule is more free.  He manages most of these requests when nothing else is going on.  But if he's unavailable, its up to me to find the solution.  I bug my parents or my friends to help me out.  Its never his concern.  

I don’t miss him, I miss who I thought he was. –Unknown

I'm afraid I've created this monster so much so that when he MUST be the one to take care of something important, it is very difficult for him.  Last week I needed him to pick up Chillgirl from school, wait for Lil Lady to get off the bus, take them both to Lil Lady's eye appointment 10 minutes away, then take Chillgirl to her volleyball practice 15 minutes away from there.  Oh and I had asked him to clean up his mess in my garage, where he kept a bunch of his tools after his last carpentry job was done.  

He took it upon himself to clean up not only his mess in my garage, but the whole garage.  You see, this area of my house is the ONLY part that still has anything of his in it.  He has a garage door opener still so he can access his tools and things since he can't store them in his apartments.  I have never minded that.  He told me he'd like to clear out a bunch of his old stuff and he'd have the girls help him do this while I was at work and a hair appointment after work one day. 

This adventure took him longer than he'd planned.  Although he got Chillgirl from school and Lil Lady to the eye doctor, he grabbed them both dinner and headed back to the house to finish his job.  An hour after Chillgirl's practice started she realized it, and asked him what about volleyball?  Oh shit!!  I get the phone call from her telling me she didn't go.  This was NOT an option as this practice was her team's LAST practice before a huge tournament 3 days later.  I screamed at her to get in his car and I told him to book it to the end of practice.  I seriously cursed his existence and screamed in my car driving home from that hair appointment.

ONE time I needed him to live MY life for ONE day, running around like a crazy person, and he couldn't swing it.  My guilty pleasure of getting my hair done was destroyed knowing my child was forgotten.  She hates to be late or miss a scheduled event, and she was upset.  I was upset.  He was upset.  I reamed him out via text about how he can't do the job needed for just one day, and he reamed me out since he was cleaning MY garage when he forgot.  We haven't spoken much in the last week since this happened.

There is a reason he is the Ex.  If I was still married to him and this happened, I'd have to go home to him and a horrendous fight would ensue about how I do everything for the girls and he can't manage the bare minimum.  This is how we communicated when we were married.  Me scolding him like a child and him no doubt secretly hating me, but needing me because he can't manage his own life well enough and needs my steady paycheck.

I know these complaints seem minor compared to others.  I know plenty of stories that are worse.  I have a student in my religious education class who does not make it to class when he's with his dad on his weekends, because dad couldn't be bothered taking him to church.  I have a family member who's son is disappointed constantly when dad tells him they are going to do something or he will be at his game, and plans fall through or he doesn't show up.  Or he will promise to pay him money for working with dad, and doesn't.  Dad never paid child support either so this is par for the course but the son is old enough now to start figuring this out.  

There are Moms who walk away from their family, claiming unhappiness, but then clearly continue to live as unhappy people who didn't want to be bothered with kids full-time.  Not paying child support and displaying poor behavior in front of the kids and blaming others for all the wrongs in their life.  Sad and pathetic, and definitely someone's Ex.

It takes two to destroy a marriage. –Margaret Trudeau

Two people do the damage to each other resulting in divorce.  But after its over, some of us move on and want to live the life we couldn't before and expect the same of our former partners.  This is not always a joint goal.  Whether your Ex moves on or continues to try to hold you back, post-divorce antics can be ugly.

You may have an Ex who you didn't even procreate with so there are no residual attachments, and you can still be hurt when you hear they have moved on.  Maybe they had that child you both agreed not to have, but with the next person.  Maybe they had success or finished something they never would while they were with you.  These things may not be as bad as cheating, but you feel cheated nonetheless.  Feeling used up and spit out is a shitty feeling, I don't care how happy you are post-divorce.

I don't go about my days mourning my marriage.  I rarely think of my divorce, except maybe when I see a long-term married couple of my same age, and I feel that pang of jealousy and regret, wishing I could have made it work the same way.  But I married the wrong person.  They married the right person.  Simple as that.  

I am a better, happier person in my life now.  I make better decisions.  I am nicer.  My Ex may be all these things too, in his current life.  When our lives intermingle due to the kids, our former unhappy selves come out, and we must both take a breath of relief after, thankful we aren't those people anymore.  

As long as I have my Home and my girls and my future out there waiting for me to decide, I can feel happy in my divorce. 

These are the reasons I'm someone's Ex.

What's the truth? The truth is what happened to you and him or her, over the years, and what didn't happen. The truth is what you said and didn't say, how much you tried, how you changed, and whether you were lucky. I believe in luck. I think luck plays a huge part in success. Or failure. In the end, who cares about the truth? You still end up divorced. Finally, the biggest asshole wins. Sort of. At least the biggest asshole takes home the most stuff. If you consider this winning then have at it. You're an asshole. 
–Margaret Overton, Good in a Crisis: A Memoir