Projects Update: Closets and Faucets

I hope you all are having a great week.  Atlanta was blessed with beautiful, mild weather today and Jack went to his first day of preschool.  What a great milestone for him, and for me!  When I dropped him off I expected at least a little bit of a fuss, but he just went right in and never looked back.  Clearly, he will have a love for school just like I did! 

When I picked him up, there were two children asleep, one crying his eyes out and Jack was playing with a toy telephone that another child was trying to take from him.   He just looked at the boy, held on tightly and waited him out.  Jack retained possession of the toy and when he noticed me he didn’t run right to me, but just kept playing.  Fortunately for me, the crying child needed a hug so I got to sweep him up and love on him until Jack was ready to leave.  The teacher told me that Jack was the only child who hadn’t cried that day and I felt blessed to have such a happy, confident child.  In spite of his rough start and all my overprotectiveness!

So, finally an update on the projects I’ve been working on!  With the help of my father and his friend, we replaced all the faucets in the bathrooms.  I have lived with the ugly bronze ones that were here when we moved in for a decade.  I didn’t want to spend money fixing something that wasn’t broken, but when they began to refuse to yield water, one by one, I was able to give myself permission to go buy new ones.  And I found gorgeous brushed nickle ones for less than $50 each!  It was a small change that makes me happy everytime I look at them. 

Below is a photo of the old faucet, which was the same in all four sinks.  All four were removed before I remembered to take a picture, but I believe the ugliness is still obvious:

And below is the new faucet.  This one is in the powder room and as Daddy pointed out, it matches the mirror that I bought for that bathroom over six years ago. 

I love the new faucets!  I will keep squirrelling a little money away each week until I can afford the next bathroom fix-up: new lighting!!  Each bathroom has, wait for it, ugly brass light fixtures that I really don’t like.  I’ll let you know when I get that done, hopefully before Christmas!

The next project that I want to catch you up on is the closet build out that I started in the guest room.  I absolutely love the result!!  I am still planning to add drawers in the future, but the three drawers cost as much as the whole organizer, so they will be acquired as I save for them.  For now, the shelves are working just fine.  This photo is of the closet organizer empty:

And here is the closet filled with my sewing machine, some extra blankets and pillows, luggage and off season clothes:

I am very happy with the end result and have been in there to just look at it several times since it was finished.  Clearing out the clutter is great, and creating a beautiful, functional storage space is absolutely wonderful.  When your whole world seems hectic and out of control, it’s just nice to have a corner of your home whipped into shape.  Is there anything more relaxing?

So is there anything you can do in your own home to make a corner of your world more relaxed and peaceful?  Let me know if you start a project of your own in search of happiness!

Enjoying my home and life,

Maggie

 

Hard Times and Sweet Babies

I have been in a funk since LK took Jack last Friday and I’ve been trying to figure out how to escape it without success.  I have tried exercising, which is usually a panacea for me.  I have tried going to bed early and resting, getting up early and being productive, working hard and hardly working.  So far, nothing has eased the pain and depression.  I am not a person who cries easily or frequently, except for when my child is in a cardiac or NICU hospital unit.  And yet, I know that it is a good and healthy thing to do.  So, tonight, I tried to cry.  I can work up a few tears, and cry for a few seconds pretty easily, but those types of cries don’t do alot to lighten a funk, so I had to bring in the big guns.

I watched a story on NBC news tonight that finally brought the cleansing cry that I have been searching for all week.  It was about a woman who had won a prize to throw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game.  She threw the pitch to the catcher, and as they always do, the catcher began to trot to the mound to return the ball and pose for the picture.  But as he got close to her she gasped and drew her hands to her face.  It was her husband, who had been deployed overseas with the Army.  He had worked for two weeks to set up the surprise return, enlisting the help of their kids and the baseball team.  As the family posed for pictures I sobbed and finally realized why I was hurting so badly.

This was the type of man I had wanted to marry.  A man with the courage and bravery to fight for his country, and the tenderness and heart to love his wife so much that he would orchestrate beautiful and memorable interactions and experiences for her and their children.  As the media snapped photos, he held tightly to his wife and kids and kissed her repeatedly on the top of her head.  He looked as happy to be with them as they did to be with him.  He loved his family so deeply, so fully.  And what did I end up with?  A loser who abandoned me when I was pregnant, then denied his own son for over a year. 

How did I make such a mistake in selecting him?   It’s hard to say, but when we met I was much younger and overlooked quite a few things that I wouldn’t today.  Early in our marriage, I was bitten by a friends dog and required 22 stitches in my lip.  He still left for a business trip the next day.  I suffered broken bones, the flu, bronchitis and other ailments alone, while he continued with his work and travels.  And I never told him how hurt that made me.  I knew several years ago that I wasn’t happy and never did anything.  I don’t think I would have ever left just because I was unhappy.  I am the child of divorce and wanted so badly not to be divorced myself that I would have stayed for the rest of my life.

And so I cried, for the man I married, and the man I had wanted to marry.  I cried for the life I have and the life I had wanted and was now mourning.  And I cried for the me that I denied for so many years, sentencing myself to a marriage in which I was unloved and uncherished.  I cried with pain that this man who had ignored and hurt me so deeply was now going to be in my son’s life.  And I regretted marrying him.  And then the most amazing thing happend. 

Jack, who had been playing and drinking from his sippy cup walked over to me and put his hand on my shoulder.  I looked at him and his concerned, furrowed brow relaxed into a goofy smile and he patted my shoulder several times.  He was trying to comfort me.  And that made me cry harder.  So he put his sippy cup down and stradled my legs, crawling into my lap.  He put a hand on each shoulder and looked at me with a concern so deep that it broke my heart, and then a smile so big I laughed out loud.  I gathered him into me in a big hug and he let me. 

And then I was done.  The pain was gone and the joy was back.  I had a mini-breakthrough and Jack showed me something.  I had never been able to say that I was grateful for the bad marriage and all the pain, just because I had this wonderful child as a result.  So many people had said this to me and I had considered their words trite and naive.  I am an analytical person and reasoned that if I could have avoided the bad husband and marriage, then I wouldn’t know about the child that didn’t result, and may even be living in an intact marriage with a loving husband and our half dozen loving, beautiful and smart children.  But tonight, I got it.  Jack is my son, the one God designed for me.  And if I had never had him, I might not have lived the life that God meant for me. 

And I would have missed out mightily. 

Maggie

Visitation and Mama’s Time Off

Last week, I wrote about the big change in our lives; LK’s girlfriend, and their plans to take Baby Jack to another state to visit his family.  On Friday, as I drove Jack to the meeting point, I listened to sad music, trying to elicit some sort of cathartic crying so that I would be able to handle the meeting without crying in front of anyone.  And as I took the exit and prepared to turn left towards the assigned parking lot, I instead turned right as the tears finally came.  I sobbed and drove around Buckhead, trying to keep my old Jeep in my lane and not hit any of the expensive foreign cars that surrounded me, and actually considered driving home and keeping my baby to myself.

But, I finally did go to the drop off point, and when LK got out of his truck, which she was driving, he was on a conference call with work.  As his wife, I was never able to get him to leave a conference call and listen to me.  As the mother of the child that he wanted to show off to his family, he took the earphones out quickly and listened intently.  I enjoyed this change quite a bit.  While there, I taught them how to monitor Jack’s heart and what to listen for and reminded them to keep him hydrated and away from certain foods.  As they drove away, I was thankful that I had scheduled a full weekend of distractions, and prayed that LK would be able to leave his work behind enough to keep Jack safe.

During their time together Jack had three diaper blow outs, one in the car and two at 2 o’clock in the morning (YES!).  He also woke screaming during the night and kept LK up for a couple of hours (YES!).  I say “YES!” to these things, because they didn’t cause Jack any real distress and LK got to see a snippet of the months of sleepless nights and poop festivals that I have had to handle on my own.  Plus, it’s hilarious.

Jack also turned blue this weekend.  I had warned LK that too much sodium or too little fluids could cause this, and that unless it was paired with other symptoms that indicated heart failure, he just needed some quiet time and water to improve hydration and blood flow.  I knew that LK thought I was exaggerating when I warned him about this, so I was glad that it happened.  It’s far more terrifying to be in the presence of a cyanotic child than you might imagine, and LK again got a taste of what my normal has been.

So, back to the “Me time” portion of the weekend!  First on my agenda was lunch with two friends that I used to work with, D and C.  We had a delicious lunch and laughed so much my stomach hurt and I realized that the dinner plans I had would find me alone and sad, so I invited Deb to join me and she agreed!  From there, I headed to the Ritz Carlton which is beautiful, and quite expensive.  Now, if you’re concerned that I am being reckless with my money as a single mother, recognize that if I paid myself a mere $4 per week that I gestated and cared for Jack alone, I saved enough to pay for this weekend.  And if you know me, you know that I had this cash in savings for just this type of occasion.  At the Ritz, I enjoyed several spa treatements, delicious food and drinks, and after dinner, D and I even got hit on by a couple of way too young, way too drunk men. 

On Saturday afternoon, I headed home and found myself in a dark, quiet house.  I immediately started scrambling, doing the math in my head of what needed to be done, prioritizing those things and estimating how many of them I could complete before Jack was returned to me.  Then I remembered that it was only Saturday and I wouldn’t be getting Jack back til Sunday evening.  So I took a nap on the couch.  During a thunder storm.   And it was glorious.  When I woke up, I went to dinner with a friend then came home and went to bed early.  Sunday found me at Church and then a day of chores with Daddy and Donna.

That Sunday afternoon, I began to feel that familiar cluster of unidentifiable, but uncomfortable emotions in the pit of my stomach.  I know that not having Jack around is hard, but will get easier.  I know that I have been the sole caregiver for two years, and I deserve a break.  And I know that I am still a good mother if I take time for myself.  But the sadness and anger and guilt still came, so I called my sister.  She is, to me, like an Oracle in Ancient Greece.  There is no problem that I have that she can’t distill into a few succinct words that remove all the pretense and mystery.  When I described my feelings, she said “well, you miss your baby, so you hate the people who have him.”  Of course.  I miss Jack and I’m jealous of them for having them, and angry that after all the hard work was done keeping him alive, LK swooped in to have fun with him “every other weekend.”  That girl is a genius.

Jack was returned to me so exhausted that he just wanted to go to bed.  He didn’t play with me, didn’t talk much and didn’t reach for me.  It broke my heart and I was certain that he had forgotten about me during his time away.  Our bond was broken and would never be remade.  So I went to bed devastated and hoped that I hadn’t made a mistake.  Of course, on Monday morning, Jack was rested and loved me like his own personal rock star again.  But I have been in a funk for days.   

I know that each time LK has Jack, it’ll get easier for me to be alone, and I may even begin to enjoy my time alone.  But for now, it is heart breaking and lonely and sad.  But just for me.  I have raised a son so happy and secure that he is relatively happy in all situations.  And I guess I should be proud of that.

Maybe I’ll relax more next time,

Maggie

 

When meeting your husbands girlfriend…

it is important to remember that, like wild animals, they are probably more afraid of you than you are of them. 

Since yesterdays phone call, when the “big meet and greet” was scheduled, I have tried to figure out what the hell I was feeling.  Not mad or jealous.  I no longer love LK.  Not anger or rage.  I can’t see any way in which that helps me to heal or be a good mother or person.  So, what was it?  Confusion?  Sure.  Anxiety?  A little.  Fortunately, today I had a previously scheduled appointment with my therapist.

I asked her if it was that I “didn’t care” and whether I was putting Jack’s safety at risk in order to allow LK access to Jack, which I think is such an important part of Jack’s life.  She reminded me that if the deal was that Jack could be with his father, but they would be riding motorcycles around I-285, then I would certainly not allow it.  This is a meeting with someone who may be a good influence on Jack, another person to love him, someone to help keep him safe.  And my goal in life is to raise Jack to be healthy and happy, make sure that every person available to love him is allowed to do so.  She reminded me that it was okay to let others do that, even if I was the best at it.

I was okay most of the day, and for the most part, the reactions from friends and family were that I was handling it well, being impartial until I had all the facts, and taking the high road in working towards a Jack-centered solution.  Unfortunately, a few people have to add things like “well, I knew it, he must have been seeing her before he even left you” and “no way would I allow them around Jack!  You have to put a stop to this!”  I don’t see how any of these things are helpful, but because I am such a beacon of calm and “high road taking awesomeness” I didn’t let it affect me.  I am finding that many people enjoy drama, and reality television, and want to see me angry because it is entertaining, not because it will accomplish anything.  I was going into this meeting hopeful that she would be a good person and that I wouldn’t have to prevent a relationship with Jack.  Optimism and hope are all that got me through the first few months when Jack was so sick and fragile.  How could that not be the best option here?

She was beautiful.  Dammit!  Ten years younger than me.  Dammit!!  And mature, thoughtful and extremely considerate of the situation and what I have been through in the past two years.  I utilized my corporate recruiting and negotiating skills in the most important discussion of my life and I left feeling good that, for this trip at least, I was comfortable with Jack being in their care.  I asked open ended questions; What do you know of our situation?  What is your understanding of Jack’s condition?  What experience do you have with children?  Are you willing to take CPR and first aid classes?  Are you clear on the early warning signs of heart failure?  What are your plans with LK?  Do you understand LK’s obligations, financially and personally, to Jack?  Are you okay with those?

She wasn’t clear on the early warning signs of heart failure, but was very interested to learn them and said she wanted to be taught as much as I thought was necessary to care for Jack.  She did know many of the signs of distress and knew an alarmingly large amount of the truth regarding how LK had left and how he had abandoned Jack in the beginning.  I was pleased to find that he hadn’t sugar coated (lied) the story.

They stayed for nearly two hours, and the three of us talked, but I also sent LK out so that she and I could talk alone.  Without divulging them here, I learned many, many things that gave me the information that I needed to feel okay about the situation.  She even said that the trip was for LK and Jack and that if I wasn’t on board, she was planning to fly home tomorrow.  Very admirable.  I don’t think that anyone every truly feels “okay” about meeting their husbands girlfriend, but again, I am approaching this as meeting a new team member on the “Love and Care for Jack” team.

So, in the end, I got a good first impression and told them that I thought it would be okay for them to travel with Jack this weekend.  But I made it clear that this would be an ongoing conversation and that if at any time my feelings changed, I would let them know and unless I was again satisfied that Jack’s best interests were at the forefront, that this arrangement would be halted. 

I am feeling pretty good about myself.  I am forgiving, though it will take a very long time to forget, and I know that letting go of the anger is better for my heart, and certainly my soul.  What do you know, I found some of that “soul spackle” that I was looking for last week.

I will spend tomorrow planning my weekend of luxury and relaxation.  And I will be sure to schedule a few calls to Baby J.   Which she suggested and encouraged.  She even texted her number to me after they left just in case I have trouble reaching LK’s phone.  I think I like her more than LK.

Breathing deeply and keeping calm,

Maggie

Well, of course he did…

I have been working on a post that I had planned to publish tomorrow about my plans for the weekend.  Yesterday, LK called and asked if he could possibly have Jack for two days this weekend so that he could take him out of the state to visit his family.  In asking, he told me about the nearest hospital to his family’s home, the name of the pediatric cardiologist and the plan for Jack should anything happen.  I was stunned by his preparation and said I’d think about it but didn’t see any reason that I couldn’t trust him to protect Jack for two days.

This afternoon, LK called to discuss the settlement agreement and stunned me with a 90 minute conversation in which he was gracious, respectful and appreciative of all I have done to raise Jack alone.  He explained why his heart has changed and he has been so involved lately, when in the beginning he couldn’t be.  I have been wondering about many of the things he told me for a long time and was unable to trust his motivations without the information he shared.  He convinced me that his feelings towards Jack were real.

I had begun to plan a weekend getaway for myself and was trying to decide between a “staycation” or a four star spa visit.  I was preparing myself to miss Jack terribly but enjoy my time alone to relax and recuperate after two years of full-time mommying.  I was preparing to have some me time.

But tonight, LK informed me, after I refused to remove the “moral’s clause” in the papers (which prohibits overnight guests of the opposite sex) that he’d like to talk to me about something.  He’s “met someone” and he’d like to take her with him and Jack to visit his family this weekend.  She has met Jack once before but never stayed overnight and has been completely respectful of the situation and supported and encouraged LK to increase his commitment to Jack. 

There is a lot of other information that I could include here, but suffice it to say, he was incredibly sensitive to my feelings and understood that his allowing them to meet in the past was a mistake without having told me.  He wants to have an honest relationship moving forward so that we can best co-parent.

She’s a “great person who would be safe and helpful around Jack” and LK would like us to meet before this weekend.  He understands that allowing her around Jack without my consent is a bad idea and disrespectful.

I was going to publish a post tomorrow about my weekend plans and my growth in moving towards alone time.  Instead, I’m meeting her.  So I guess I’ll be growing a whole lot more than I thought.  I’m not feeling sad.  Not mad.  Not sure what I’m feeling.  I don’t have any anger towards her and only hope that she is a good person and good to Jack.  And I’m not mad at LK.  I want him to be happy.  And I want Jack to be happy.  And I want to be happy. 

Hmmm.  So this week I have a project that I didn’t plan on, but I think it could help me move towards happiness.  Or I will be in prison tomorrow night.  Do they let prisoners blog?  We’ll see…

Confused and hopeful,

Maggie

Sappy, Life-Affirming Metaphors Ahead…

I did not get the closet build out finished last week and I am totally okay with that.  Because what I did get done is prepare the closet for it’s new role as my favorite closet in the house.  Below is the before photo of the closet with the single, builder grade wire shelf.  The closet is not living up to its potential at all…

Now, brace yourself for the aforementioned sappy, life-affirming metaphor.  I don’t know if it was the fatigue, or the paint fumes, but I began to really identify with this closet during the past week.  Like the closet, I haven’t been living up to my potential in quite a while.  But only as a woman, and person.  As a mother and protector of Jack, I am an unmatched and rousing success.  As Maggie, I have left a few things untended.

As I removed the wire shelf, the anchors and screws that had supported it clung to the wall like a dog to a bone, and like I have been to my past.  Once finally and violently removed, the holes left in the drywall were gaping and dramatic.  I couldn’t believe the size and design of the anchors.  How could this much engineering be required for a lone wire shelf?  But the ugly shelf was expected to hold perhaps a hundred pounds of clothes and the drywall foundation would never be strong enough. 

Anyway, I guess my marriage was like the anchors and screws.  Over engineered to hold up an ugly and dysfunctional relationship that, no matter how many beautiful clothes, or trips, jewelry or other “things” were hung on it, would never be pretty, and certainly never strong enough to support us.  It, we, looked great on paper.  Everyone said so.  I thought so.  But in practice, the design was flawed and the life we built fell apart.  So, moving forward, I patched and sanded the voids left in the wall and painted them a lovely shade of creamy off-white.

Isn’t it a beautiful clean slate?  I am still looking for the spackle and sand paper and paint that will transform my soul into a clean slate, but in the meantime, I find that hard work and sweat are a great help. 

Below, I have included a photo of the lower half of the tower that will be in the center of the closet, to give you some perspective.  It is about two feet wide and the closet is about seven or eight feet wide.  The bedroom is kind of small, so I am going to install drawers in the tower so that a dresser isn’t necessary in the room.

The next step involves a level, a drill and a saw, and although I am quite comfortable with a firearm, these tools scare me.  So I am waiting on help to arrive this weekend.  If all goes well, the closet will be finished by this time next week and I will have a wonderfully fresh, clean new place to look at and be inspired by moving forward.

We can all thank HGTV and the DIY network for the metaphors and disproportionate importance placed on home improvement this week.

Happy home improving!
Maggie