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

 

Jack already thinks I’m perfect…

Last week found me taking a small slide backwards from my quest for happiness, but overall was good.  Jack’s sitter had gone on vacation and I while I was able to find a sitter for a few hours, I spent much of my week in the house with Jack.  As a childless career woman, I remember thinking that women who were stay at home mothers were crazy, and that there was no way I could ever handle that much domesticity.  Then I had Jack, and my mind spun a post-partum tale of home bound bliss that said I wanted to be with him every second of every day.  And then the pregnancy hormones wore off and I needed some “Maggie time” so badly it felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I love being with Jack, but realized last week that I have spent every single day for the past 22 months as a mother, with no real break.  When Jack was born and went to the Children’t Hospital, there was a period when he was in ICU care that I couldn’t spend the nights with him, but I was there all day.  Then they put him in a step-down room and I spent 24 hours a day in the room with him.  Since returning home, the only three nights I have been away from him have been the nights LK has kept him.  This has left me no time to go on a trip or take any real time for myself to relax of regroup.

So in the coming weeks, I am going to try very hard to find a way to take a few nights to go to the beach, or even a hotel with a pool and a spa.  A friend with complete freedom to travel at any time pointed out that I sounded “trapped” in my last post, and although I don’t want to admit that, because then I sound like a bad mother, I have felt trapped.  I want to go to a beach resort, or a European city and just take care of me for a few days.  I have a lead on a great sitter for Jack and so now it’s just getting the timing and logistics hammered out.  I hope to be writing about my mini-vacation soon…

As for last week, I didn’t have a sitter for as many hours as ususal, so I didn’t get to work that much, and I was exhausted every night.  I did read a few things, although I didn’t get a whole book read.  One interesting thing that I read was a short story from the book “Kitchen Table Wisdom” by Rachel Naomi Remen.  She is a psychiatrist/therapist and in this essay called “Beyond Perfection” she describes her youth, and her struggle to gain approval from her father.  He was never impressed with her 98 on a test, and instead asked what happened to the other two points, crushing her spirit and ensuring that she would study relentlessly for every future test she ever had.  She points out that the term “unconditional love” is superfluous because love is, by definition, unconditional.  What we are looking for is love, but what we actually seek is approval, and since we do that with accomplishments or efforts outside of giving love, we compromise our happiness by seeking perfection.  She eventually marries a man who, after she spends an inordinate amount of time studying for a driving test on which she earns a perfect score, asks her why on earth she’d want to do that.  He asked why she traded the lunch in the park and the visit to the museum for a few more points on a test that she could have just “passed” and had the same result:  a license.  She realizes that by studying so much the past week, she missed out on living and enjoying life, and the approval for the perfect score didn’t come, and it didn’t reallly matter.

I wish it were easier to just stop trying to be perfect.  I’m not perfect, and I know no one is, but each time I fail to do something, I feel badly and unworthy.  And yet, no one else seems to care.  I know that my friends and family don’t care if I show up in a slightly wrinkled shirt, or if Jack is wearing a bib with a stain on it, but I really wish that everything were “perfect.”  I don’t know what perfect is, but I know that I’m not there yet.  Last week, I accepted every single invitation for a meal or meeting, even though I was tired, and would have rather slept, or do laundry or otherwise get something accomplished.  And as it turns out, I had a great time out with friends.  I have far better memories of laughing with “Grant’s Mama” talking about raising sons, and with my friend “T” talking about finding time to exercise and take care of ourselves, and on the phone with so many others.  And not one person asked me why my eyebrows hadn’t been tweezed lately, and no one asked if I had cleaned my toilets that week or ironed my shirts for tomorrow.  They just enjoyed me, and I them.

So, for this week, I have one project that I want to accomplish, and several goals for relaxation and enjoyment.  First of all, I am going to finish building out the closet in the guest room.  I will post pictures soon, but I am pulling out the wire shelf that the builder put in and building out a wooden closet organizer.  I have wanted to do this since we bought the house, but here I am 11 years later, and just getting it done.  But I’m done feeling bad about it.  I’ll get it done when I get it done, and hopefully that will be this week.  If not, then next week, or the next.  Also, I am going to find a painter to paint the library and living room, both of which were painted when we moved in.  I have hated the color since it dried, but since LK refused to repaint a freshly painted room, I have lived with it.  Actually, I have scowled at it every morning for 11 years wishing that it didn’t remind me of the past 11 years that I’ve had to look at it.  I know it may cost several hundred dollars, but the price will be well worth the boost in morale, especially if it frees me from that morning scowl.  And as an added bonus, if I can work it out, I am going to get a massage.  And maybe go to a movie.  Ok, now I’m getting a little crazy.  Too much me time.  Right?  No?  Ok, I’ll do it!!

Peacefully yours,

Maggie

Well, when she says it…

I have spent a lot of time in this blog referring to “that man” as “my soon to be ex” or “him” or “Jack’s father” and it has always irked me that I have had to be so clumsy in my writing in order not to name him.  I will still not name him here, because even though he is a baby-abandoning jackwagon, I don’t want to compromise his life by writing about him by name in this forum.  Most of you know us personally, and you know who he is, and those of you who don’t know us personally won’t lose any of the story by not knowing his name.  In any case, I have decided to create a “nom de code” for him so that I don’t have to expend energy trying to hide his true name.  I thought of several derogatory names, but I think Jack may find this blog some day in the future, so I don’t want to be unduly harsh.  I will just call him “LK” for no other reason than that those keys are conveniently located near one another on the keyboard.  So….. Moving on…..

Monday found us, bright and early, at the pediatricians office for Jack’s 15 month check up.  “LK” was supposed to be there for our 9:30am appointment but by 9:40am he still hadn’t appeared.  I kept telling myself not to call or text him, that if he wanted to be there, he’d make it happen.  That I was no longer responsible for making sure he took care of the important things in his life, that I don’t work for him anymore.  But that’s not me.  So I texted him and asked if he was coming.  He replied that traffic was bad and he was almost there.  Now, we live in the metro-Atlanta area.  Of course the traffic was bad, nimrod!!  Leave earlier!!!  Breathe…..  

I told him the exam room we were in and waited for him to arrive.  When he did he noted how amazing it was that we were already in a room and hadn’t been kept waiting for the doctor.  That is one amazing thing about raising a child with a congenital heart defect.  They are so susceptible to infections that we are never left in the waiting room of a doctors office for fear of infection from the other children.  It’s a perq that I would gladly trade for a healthy child, although I appreciate the gesture. 

When the doctor came in, she was followed by a medical student, which is par for the course when we visit any doctors office.  Jack is quite a rare case.  Actually, any baby with a heart defect is an exciting learning opportunity for those in the medical field and this student was hanging on the doctors every word.  When the doctor completed her exam she asked if the student could listen to Jack’s heart and I consented.  The student asked me to describe the defect, and as she listened to the murmur, her eyes grew bigger and bigger.  This happens every time.  The doctor used the familiar terms to speak to her and explain the condition and the anatomy and I just sat knowingly.  The doctor told the student that while Jack had a massive murmur, as long as it didn’t sound like a horses gallop (the cue that heart failure was beginning) that his heart was doing okay.

“LK” on the other hand was unfazed and began asking the doctor questions.  He had heard her extol Jack’s growth and appearance and just wanted assurance that Jack was healthy.  He actually said “So he’s doing really well?  He’s basically a healthy, normal kid?”  I immediately stiffened and raised an eyebrow.  I have been telling “LK” for two years that Jack is not a healthy normal kid and that he would always be at risk, but he still doesn’t believe me.  Or maybe he doesn’t want to believe it about Jack.  I’m not sure which.  To my extreme satisfaction, the doctor also stiffened and set “LK” straight with a direct and stern response confirming that Jack was healthy, and really quite lucky, given his condition.  But that he would never be “normal” and that he would always be at risk for heart failure and infections or sickness that would put him in the hospital.  She told him that Jack had a “repaired” heart, but that it would never be “fixed” and that he would need treatment his whole life.  Ahhhh, satisfaction, vindication, what?  Not sure, but that made me happy.

“LK” texted me later and said it was really “eye opening” to go to the doctors appointment and hear about Jack’s growth and development and that he looked forward to meeting with the cardiologist.  I took a moment to breathe before I responded, and marveled at how a man with a masters degree in engineering could be so daft in understanding the condition and care of a child with a severe congenital heart defect.  Not “a child” dammit!  His child!  And then I realized that I wasn’t feeling anger, but disgust, and pity.  It is so very sad that he missed so many of Jack’s medical milestones and doctors visits.  I know Jack so much better than “LK” does, or probably ever will and while “LK” has a freedom that I may never know again, I have a bond with Jack that “LK” may never develop.  I think I win out there. 

I have seen Jack’s heart on ultrasound over 30 times and saw his right ventricle thin and begin to improve pumping function over the course of his first year.  I “fed” him his first meal (via feeding tube) and I placed, removed and replaced feeding tubes so that he could continue to grow.  I was nearby each and every time that Jack’s heart stopped, or that he stopped breathing and he had to be resuscitated.  I measured his oxygen saturation levels for six months and I have monitored his skin color from the moment he was born for indications that his heart or blood flow were compromised.  And on two occasions that led to hospital visits and confirmation that he was in a very early stage of significant distress. I listen to his heart so often I sometimes wonder if I’m not doing it just to make sure it’s still beating.  As some sort of comfort. 

I am tethered to and, some may say, “trapped” by the heart condition that Jack has.  But it has been so much more a liberation and a blessing.  I have been given the opportunity to realize the deepest, most loving relationship I have ever known and I am a more loving, compassionate and caring human being because of it.  It is absolutely not fair that Jack has to have this defect, and I still rage and sob with pain over his bad luck.  But I believe that, given how well he has done, that he is destined for great things.  God, or the universe, or however you describe the great planner, has placed Jack on Earth, and me as his mother, for the express purpose of bettering the world.  I can attest that he has already made me a better person.  I am hoping and praying that he will work his magic on “LK” next.

Maggie

Harder than it looks…

It turns out that going a whole week without watching television is much harder than one very disciplined blogger might have imagined.  As you may remember, I was planning to turn the tv off last week and see how much more I got done.  And on Monday I was like a woman possessed, getting things done like my life depended on it.  Tuesday was much the same, but by Wednesday, the bloom was off the rose and I caught a few Sex and the City episodes while Jack napped.  Thursday wasn’t much better and Friday would have been a complete failure if I hadn’t scheduled a day of appointments and a trip to my hometown. 

So, where to go from here?  In the past, I might have just concluded that watching tv is what I want to do (refusing to admit my “failure”), so I’m going to do it.  But it’s not.  I did get a lot done last week and I felt better watching less of the “idiot box.”  I was able to get out and see people and do more.  So this week I am going to continue my efforts towards no tv, and just shoot for less tv.  I have pretty well cut morning tv out, giving me an extra hour to play with Jack, or eat breakfast, or start laundry.  But the evenings are still very difficult.  I am lonely after Jack goes to bed and so I turn to the comfort of the friends I’ve made on the sitcoms I love so much.  I am going to look for a book to read this week and substitute that for the tv family I’ve made.

This week will also be a big test of my self control.  Tomorrow Jack has an appointment with his pediatrician and his father is “scheduled to appear.”  I shouldn’t say it like that, I’m sure he’ll be there.  He’s actually been trying very hard with Jack lately and this weekend, he kept Jack at his apartment.  I dropped him off so that I could check things out and was, quite honestly, stunned at the home he had created within the walls of his bachelor pad.  He had a beautiful crib with sweet blue sailboat themed bedding.  He had tiny clothes for Jack to wear and toys and food that were all age and stage appropriate.  And he had photos of Jack on the refrigerator and on the wall.  In frames.   And while it took my breath away to see pictures of my son on the walls of a person who has essentially become a stranger to me, I had to admit that he was making an honest effort. 

At least I hope it’s an honest effort.  I remember the day I told him I was pregnant and the following six months, during which he wanted nothing to do with the baby.  And I remember the eight months after Jack was born when his father continued his devotion to his job, and yet failed to attend even a single doctors appointment.  I even asked him at one point to take a CPR class so that he could come keep Jack while I slept during the exhausting first months home when I was waking every three hours to pump milk, and feed and medicate Jack.  I remember that he said “no” and that he just didn’t think he could be involved. 

It’s hard to trust this man and I don’t yet believe that his commitment to Jack is real, or will continue.  Especially if Jack gets sick again, which he almost certainly will.  He will need another heart surgery before adulthood, it’s not a maybe.  And will his father show up and help me change the bandages and give the medication and monitor the heart rate?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  But I know, for sure, that I don’t want to be the reason that he isn’t.  I waste a lot of time worrying about tomorrow, but the thing I worry the most about is having to tell Jack, someday, that his father isn’t coming to see him as planned.  But if that is because told him that he couldn’t come and I wanted to protect him, then I will be the real cause of his pain, and I don’t want to be the reason for any further pain in Jack’s life.  He’s had enough for a lifetime. 

For now, I am making every effort to allow Jack and his father visitation each time it is requested.  And while we are apart I fret and worry about how Jack is doing and whether this will continue, and whether I should have that margarita because what it I’m called on to go retrieve Jack because his father changed his mind.  And then I stop.  And I have the margarita.  And I try to enjoy my alone time, because his father has had almost two years of “him time” and now it’s my turn. 

Being a good mother is harder than it looks.  So much harder…

Maggie

Back in the saddle again…

In my last post I mentioned that there were several things on my plate that were causing me stress, and that I had begun to cut myself some slack so that I could just live a little.  You’ll be happy to know that the good parts have continued!  I have been less focused on laundry, the divorce and responsibilites and more focused on happily living each day.  Yesterday I even went to the movie theatre.  All by myself!  And I loved it!  I saw Larry Crowne, with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.  I loved the movie, and I had a big bag of buttered popcorn and a huge coke.  I won’t even let myself think of the hundreds (thousands?!?!) of calories that I consumed, because it doesn’t matter.  Everything in moderation, I always say.  Or at least I’m starting to say.

As I said in the last post, my houseguests have moved out.  They were here for only about six weeks, and while it was different, I really enjoyed having them here.  I had some help with Jack, and with chores, but also, I had someone to talk to in the evenings when I get so lonely.  I knew it was temporary, and when my friend told me she had found a full time job and an apartment I swallowed my dissappointment at losing them and celebrated her victory.  After all her struggles, going through a divorce, becoming a single mother, moving twice, and now beginning to win back her independence, I was thrilled to see her realize some meaningful success.

So they are gone and I have my office back.  Which is a great thing because I have found out that I do not keep up with my writing if the laptop is in my bedroom.  Tonight I am sitting at my desk in my newly reclaimed office, which I am redecorating.  I will post pictures soon.

For this weeks project, I have decided to attempt to limit my television time and use that time to do other things I would enjoy more.  We have all read that excessive television viewing is linked to obesity and bad health, but I have a theory that it is also related to my sadness and depression.  My theory is basically this:  I am tired at night, so I watch tv.  This means that I don’t get chores or projects done around the house.  Therefore when I wake up the next morning, I find undone laundry or dishes, or go another day without finishing that quilt I’ve been working on for 6 years.  This causes me to feel depressed and overwhelmed (and like a failure) so I am tired and sad.  That causes me to want to do nothing but sit on the couch and watch tv.  And thus, the cycle begins again.  This doesn’t even take into account the lost opportunities to socialize with other people, or play with Jack and teach him something new, instead of watching yet another hour of “must see tv”.

So, I am breaking the cycle.  At least for this week and then we’ll see how it goes.  But today has been great, so far.  I am allowing some tv time, but it’s only to allow myself to maintain a link to the outside world.  I had it on a news show this morning while I was preparing Jack’s breakfast, then this evening, I watched the news again.  It was a total of about 90 minutes of tv news, and honestly, if I can cut that down tomorrow, I will.  I got far more information listening to the talk radio station while I was at work.  So what did I get done today?  Well…….

* Changed the sheets on my bed.  This is a actually a big deal, because it’s a big-ass california king bed we bought for my 6’7” ex-husband who didn’t take the monstrosity when he left.  I count this ridiculously time consuming, and exhausting activity as cardio, so I was able to skip my workout today.  I am considering alternating which side of the bed I sleep on so that I can stretch this chore out another week.

* Worked four hours at my part time job.

* Cooked, divided and froze homemade baby food for Jack including sweet potatoes, butternut squash, crowder peas and a baby version of chicken chili.  I prepared enough to feed him for two weeks, and have no tupperware left in the cabinets.

* Washed dishes.   All of them.  There isn’t a dirty dish in the whole house.  Even the dog bowls got washed today.

* Transferred all my information to a new day planner.  I love doing this!  Is that weird?  Nah!  It’s awesome!  New planner day!!!

* Mounted the baby monitor.  My child is 15 months old and I have only today mounted the monitor above his bed.  Prior to today, it was rigged up via the wire to hang over the closet door next to his crib.  It worked fine, but I rarely went into his closet because I would have to disturb the wire hanging system.  Today I found a dozen outfits in the closets that I had forgotten he even had.

* Listened to the Salsa-music station and danced with Jack for an hour.  What a joyful noise it is to hear your child laugh and squeal when you dance him around the living room!  When I get tired and put him down for a few minutes he bounces around and dances on his own!  He and I are going to have a great time this week!

* Took a guitar lesson!  This was so exciting and could be a project all in itself.  I took lessons “the summer before everything changed” and really enjoyed it.  I became quite good at performing the collected works of Miss Phoebe Buffett, from Friends, especially “Smelly Cat.”  But in the turmoil of the past two years, I let this activity fall to the side.  Well, I am on the search for happiness, dammit!!  And I know that music makes me happy, so I am back at it.  Tonight, I played and sang “You Are My Sunshine” for Sweet Baby J, and he loved it.  See?  I’m happier already…

So, if you’re game, join me in this weeks challenge and turn your own television off.  For a few hours, for a day, for the rest of the week.  Whatever you want to try.  And then come back and post a comment and let me know what you got done.  And if you hated it and turned the tv right back on, that’s cool, let me know that, too!  Find happiness where you can.  For me, maybe it’s in a house where the television isn’t on all day.  I’ll let you know….

Have a good week!

Maggie

The Good Girl

So, I didn’t move to Hawai’i, even though I really want to.  Sorry I haven’t written in a while but the past several weeks have been quite trying.  The divorce negotiations continue in earnest and hopefully will come to an end soon.  While there are no “knock down drag outs” with my soon-to-be-ex, he’s just not the type to argue, I am finding that the process is draining and more depressing than I ever imagined.   Even though he left, he wanted the divorce, and he is the one with unfettered freedom and time, I am the one who is responsible for working with the lawyer to draw up the papers and divide the life that we built together.

In all honesty, that’s partly my decision.   When he left, he accused me of being controlling.  Mainly because I wanted to pay off debt, save for a rainy day and generally, act like an adult.  He wanted to buy flat screen tv’s and computers and, in my best estimation, act like a teenage boy.  Since I handled the finances and applied for every financial product we ever acquired, handling a divorce naturally falls into my wheelhouse.   But I’m raising “our” son pretty much on my own, and so the amount of time that I have to do grown up marriage-breaking is limited.  Fortunately I have found a wonderful firm in the same building where I manage to work part time.  Today, they commended my attention to detail and commitment to get it right now, so that we don’t have to revisit anything in a few years when there is a disagreement due to lack of specificity.  So, essentially, I was told that my “controlling” nature was a benefit in the arena of grown up contracts negotiation.  That helped a little, but still, I am home on a Friday night, alone, eating chocolate and watching reruns of Frasier.

So what have I been doing to continue my drive towards happiness?  Well just wait til you hear…

I am not controlling, but I am remarkably disciplined.  If someone told me that I needed to complete a list of 73 obscure tasks in order to accomplish or achieve something, I would do them, and I would do them perfectly, whether the accomplishment interested me or not.  I have several rules that I live by, and while some of them are extremely valuable (save for emergencies before buying new shoes, always wear a seatbelt), I have found that many are serving no real purpose, and are even making me unhappy.  For example, for years, I didn’t allow myself to watch movies during the week because to devote two hours to anything that didn’t accomplish something “valuable” was frivolous.  But recently I began to look more closely at the rules I have and how they help, or hurt me.  And I decided that the “no movies during the week” rule was a stupid one.  So I rented a movie.  Then another.  Then another. 

And the world didn’t come to an end, and I didn’t lose the house, and the laundry still got done, and I still made it to work the next day!  I have seen eleven movies in the past two weeks and even saw two on the same night on two occasions.  I also had guacamole for dinner one night and it wasn’t a “well balanced” or “healthy” meal!  And I LIVED!!  Is it a big, life changing thing?  Probably not.  But have I allowed myself a little latitude to enjoy life a bit more and not be so hard on myself?  Yes.  And that’s the point.  I have been very hard on myself for years, maybe decades, and it’s done nothing but make me feel badly about myself.  So I stopped.  Or at least began to apply the brakes.  And it feels great.  It’s a small gesture towards self acceptance but it has made quite a difference.

I am working on a few more projects that I want to tackle, and soon, I’ll post an update on the patio I set up in week one, and my houseguests, who are moving out (it’s a good thing for them!).  I just finished a candy bar that I bought for a fund raiser  (so I was able to let go of my “don’t buy sweets rule”) and I’m listening to a thunderstorm.  I’m not concerned, in the least, that I haven’t washed a load of laundry today, or that the work that I brought home remains undone, or that the dishes remain in the sink.  Because it just doesn’t matter.  I don’t always have to be “doing” something in order to be valuable, worthy, or a “good girl,” or successful.  I can just be me.  Jack’s mama, who is exhausted and sore and just laying in bed. 

And who is still a good person.

Enjoy your weekend….

Maggie

 

A Measure of Success…

I do not fail.  Failure is for the weak and the stupid, and I am neither.  If I fail at something, it is because I didn’t try hard enough, or I gave up too soon.  No, failure is not an option.  Of course, I’ve had set backs in my life, but I kept at it until my goal was achieved, even if I had long ago decided the goal was no longer appealing to me.  It’s the principle of the thing.  So, where exactly does the fact that I have been part of a failed marriage fit into my life plan?  If I get a divorce, it’s official.  I failed at marriage and didn’t plan well enough, didn’t try hard enough, wasn’t good enough…

This is where I have been for the past three weeks.  Trying to reconcile in my mind the fact that I had failed, and yet I had no opportunity to fix it.  I don’t want to be a failure.  I know that he left me and there was nothing I could have done to make him face the issues and stay.  What did I do wrong?  How could I have prevented it?  Why didn’t I make him talk to me about it?  Who knows.  But once someone abandons you in such a cruel way, it’s hard to see yourself as worthy, attractive or desirable.  I never questioned my intellect or value to Jack, but for some reason the physical and emotional shortcomings continue to plague me. 

So to “challenge this belief” and move forward, I wondered if I hadn’t retained a lawyer because I hoped he’d return to me.  No, that’s not it.  Moving forward, I won’t date any man who abandoned his child, I sure as hell won’t date the man who abandoned mine.  Did I still love him?  No, that’s not it.  Many disgusting things had ensured that love would never again be an option.  It was because if I visited a lawyer it would happen.  The divorce.  The legal, public, official and damning confirmation of my failure.  So as my Project 3, I did retain a lawyer.  An awesome, capable, bitch-on-wheels (in case we go to court) lawyer who assured me that of all the cases she’s heard, this one for sure indicated that I was not the failure in the marriage.  So I gave her a big check and we have been working on the details since then.

Project 4 was initiating the negotiations, which meant that I would actually have to talk to “him” and hammer out the checklist of items from the lawyer.  The negotiations with my soon-to-be-ex are going well.  One thing I do not fail at is managing money and caring for Jack.  Doing this out of court will ensure that Jack will receive the most money, and not the lawyers.  And certainly more importantly, he will receive the gift of two parents who are able to talk calmly to one another and behave civilly together where he is invovled.  As you might imagine, inside I am raging with anger and contempt for the asshole who is now interested in Jack, even though he couldn’t be bothered while his chest was open and his heart stopped beating.  But on the outside, I am a calm, cool customer.  I’m impressed with my restraint, quite frankly.  But that anger will fade, I’m sure, as those awful memories are replaced by newer, better memories of him actually showing up for Jack in the future.  At least, I really hope that happens.

In order to address some of my physical self-consciousness, Project 5 involved returning to a regular exercise regime.  In the past, I did Tae Kwon Do, and since the “goal” is black belt, I achieved that.  But now I’m doing a Zumba class, and Yoga, and they are both allowing me to explore a more feminine side of myself, while still working out my aggressions.  Is it as effective at getting the anger out as kicking the crap out of someone who is trying to do the same to me?  Hell, no.  But am I enjoying it and learning how to be graceful and shake my hips a little?  Surprisingly, yes.  One day last week, a man at the gym approached me and started in with the small talk.  I froze up and made what I’m sure were several barely coherent attempts at returning dialog.  I am WAAAY out of practice, but hey, I got approached, so that’s a good sign for the future!

So that’s where I’ve been.  Challenging beliefs about failure, and self-worth and taking charge of my future by finally moving forward on the divorce.  I become physically ill thinking about my coming status as a “divorcee” and all that that word conjures, but I do now realize that the “goal” had long ago become unappealing.  I deserve a marriage with two interested and participating partners, and I really don’t want to spend the rest of my life in one that is anything less.  So I am moving forward, and with any luck (oh how it pains me to seem blase about it, I’m really not) I’ll be single before Fall.  At which time, all the single, musical, artistic, handy, outdoorsy, sophisticated, physically active, financially stable, emotionally mature, family oriented, considerate, willing to take dance lessons, animal lover, Baby Jack fan, interesting, funny, independent but loving men better look out!  Maybe one of my coming projects should be “lowering my expectations”?  I’ll keep you posted…

Empowered and hopefully yours,

Maggie