No Flashback, Just a Rant

You know, I just don’t have it in me to do a flashback Friday post today; I will be back with one next week, but when I try to think of something in the past about which to write, I get stumped. When I remember things, lately anyway, the memories tend to be not-so-great, and I am tired of dwelling in the past.

And what I am in a general sense is also tired. It has been one of those weeks where the days have flown by, and before I know it is time to get up and start another day. My daycare is closed all next week for the 4th, too, so here at work I have been frantic with trying to get my desk cleared; I am taking Monday off, and with hope the childcare for the rest of the week will fall into place, and I am feeling basically frazzled and annoyed,

But this is part of my annoyance, the fact that this closure of the daycare is next week, and I don’t have childcare lined up yet. Why, you might ask? I will TELL you why: because Steve did not follow through. Before I get any further, let me tell you that when Owen was born, I was responsible for finding and approving a daycare, with no effort or input from him at all. When our sweet Owen was getting abused at that daycare, it pissed Steve off, sure, but he also left it to me to research and find another one. I had all of the verbal support in the world from him, but no practical help. When Owen was so sick the first year of his life, it was I who used up every minute of my sick and vacation time in order to take care of him, take him to the doctor, etc…as well as completely changed my diet (still nursing at that time) AND Owen’s in order to accommodate Owen’s food allergies when they were diagnosed. When this daycare was also closed last year at this time (it is her vacation every year), my Hannah stayed home with Owen, but this year, Hannah isn’t home and Eli is not EVEN responsible or patient enough to deal with a toddler for 9 hours a day. Anyway, so I have done approximately 90% of all of the caretaking and arrangements and such up until now. You have to know that going in so I don’t come across as just another bitch.

So last month, I told told Steve that the daycare was going to be closed, and that I would need his help finding care for Owen during the week (there are oodles of Steve’s family here, any of whom I would feel comfortable in having watch Owen). Two weeks ago I reminded him again, he said he was working on it, then last week I asked him what the plans were and he still didn’t know, and finally, last night, I said, “Who is going to watch Owen next week?” Steve’s response: “I don’t know, I haven’t really talked to anyone about it yet.” WTF? Does he not get the fucking concept of NEXT WEEK? As in four days from now? He DID talk to one sister about Sam, and she is going to be taking Sam to Bible School with her two kids all next week (they are all three of an age), which I think is great and cool, but then, Sam isn’t the one I was worried about.

And last night, this was my night: in addition to work stuff, there was a church picnic at 6:00. I get off at five, so there was a rush to get kids and dessert and such all gathered up. I called Steve and asked him if he could please help me out by coming over after work (he gets off at 8:00) and getting Owen bathed and in bed for me, because after the picnic, Sam had a dress rehearsal for his dance performance. I didn’t want to have to deal with O. at the rehearsal, so I prevailed up Eli to watch him for a half hour until Steve got there, and then Steve would take over. We got home at just after 9:00, and Owen had NOT been bathed, and was sitting on the couch hanging out with Steve eating Cheetos. It just annoyed me, because I would not have asked Steve to come help had I known that he wasn’t, in fact, going to actually help.

It is frustrating to no end sometimes. It is a vicious cycle, too; I mean, I do a lot. An awful lot. And I didn’t plan for the advent of my Owen in my life any more than Steve did, yet somehow I managed to suck it up and deal, and it has not been easy. I take responsibility for making sure Owen has everything he needs, and I am there every night to do all the bathtime/bedtime stuff. I also work really hard at keeping some semblance of a normal routine for him all of the time, because it is important to make sure he gets the sleep, etc…that he needs. I am a huge believer in and practicer of consistency, and it just bugs me that Steve knows this about me and just doesn’t DO it. I was so frustrated and tired when I walked in last night, because I had specifically asked him for help, I TOLD him what I needed, and he agrees-but didn’t follow through. So I got home and O. did NOT get a bath last night, I did NOT brush his teeth for once, and I just out him to bed in a t-shirt and diaper.

Is the whole situation last night the end of the world? No, not at all; it isn’t even a minor glitch. Owen is not going to be irreparably ruined going to bed late one night, nor are his teeth going to rot out from not being brushed one night. But when I look at it as a whole, all of the good things, the small steps toward growing up Steve is attempting to make, are overshadowed by the fact that I specifically asked him for help (last night and regarding the daycare situation), I told him exactly what kind of help I needed, and he STILL can’t follow through.

Ugh. No wonder he thinks I am a bitch; I FEEL like a bitch. I know I am sometimes, often, usually, unreasonable, but this doesn’t feel unreasonable to me. It feels hurtful, as well as annoying. And it makes me that much more reluctant to ASK him for help, which creates an even greater resentment, and it is a vicious cycle. With hope, he will have started taking the whole thing pretty seriously and will have made daycare arrangements, or else I am going to take Owen to his house at 7:00 on Tuesday morning and say, “Here you go, you told me you were going to make arrangements and you didn’t, so I guess you will have to take the day off.”

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The Evil TV

We listen to a lot of music in our house/car; we don’t watch television, so we read and listen to music (I am doing my best to make sure all of the kids are Social Outcasts by having such a freaky mom. Because I am course THE Freakiest, as well as The Meanest. And they say these things like they are really turning the knife, but I am actually quite pleased with the titles myself). But I had no real concept of how pervasive this really was, had no idea the complete and utter brainwashing I am doing to these poor beleaguered children. No idea.

Picture this: Owen, on the floor wearing a diaper and some of those fuzzy socks that look like Grinch feet, only purple, pulled up to his thighs, looking at his Goodnight Moon book. He was singing. Loudly. And here are the words: “Bikicle, bikicle, bikicle, I mon nof neo mine bikicle.” Any ideas, folks? Yeah. “Bicycle.” By Queen. God, that has got to be one of the proudest moments in my life so far. Even more tear-jerking that his assertion that he wanted to pee on (I mean IN) the potty last night. I thought later on tonight I would start with a little “Hell’s Bells” and maybe go on to “Suicide Solution”, and maybe wind it up with the heart wrenching ballad “Tuesday’s Gone.” Metallica version, of course. While wearing the socks, of course, because he ALSO has a pair of hip sunglasses and we could totally go for the Freddie Mercury look.

I have been doing some research on Outward Bound (and yes, I know about the hikers who got lost. I also know grown men who get lost in the parking lot, so I don’t want to hear about it, thanks) for my Eli to perhaps participate in next year. We were talking about it last night, and I was going on and on about how great it would be for him, how he could just really have the opportunity to learn and grow and blah fucking blah, and as I was going on and on about how he would be isolated in the wilderness with no television and no radio, he just looked at me as if I had grown a third head. “Mom. Wait. I mean, wouldn’t being in a tent in the backyard be the same thing? Because, you know, no TV?”

The funny thing is that I LIKE TV, I really do. I like select channels and shows, I love PBS, but I hate commercials. I hate them so much that I will turn the radio station every time I hear one come on, which is what ultimately led to the addition of Satellite to my life; I kept pissing the passengers off by constantly hitting the seek button. I am so anti-advertising that people around me know that if they want to really set me off, all they need to say is, “Oh, have you seen the commercial….”

I also think that somewhere inside me there is an extremely conservative Fundamentalist Christian hiding (and believe you me, I am really trying to choke her to death. And am up to the task), because a lot of the stuff that I see online and in magazines offends me. Which is funny, because all joking aside, I do consider myself a liberal person, very liberal, but I hate the fact that I am not allowed to nurse my baby without public censure, but I can look up and see some Victoria’s Secret hootch with her tits falling out. I hate that there is nothing sacred anymore; I hate the “If you buy/drink/eat/wear this you will immediately become cool” mentality that advertising naturally consists of. I hate the fact that advertising people completely play on our insecurities, and that WE KEEP FALLING FOR IT.

So. We read, we listen to music, we play games, and only when we are at a hotel or someone else’s house do we indulge. And yes, I am freaky, I get that, but I also think that the kids are all better off for having been somehow forced to look for other sources of entertainment. I love how they are just as likely to pull out the Scrabble game as they are to turn on the GameCube, and I love how they have re-enacted the Lord of the Rings sword fights before the movies even came out. I don’t think that people who allow or watch TV are evil or anything like that, please don’t get me wrong. I just know that for us, it is better.

Musings on a Tuesday

My mind is scattered and completely unfocused this morning, for a variety of reasons. There are a ton of different thoughts and feelings swimming around up there, so forgive me for putting them down just as they float to the surface.

1. Sam had his Pinewood Derby race on Saturday; he put forth a lot of effort, with the help of his brother and a man who is the husband of one of the women with whom I work, and made his car look like a shark. There were 18 cars, and Sam got Second place. In fact, the ONLY heat he lost, and I think I counted 9 heats he was in, was to the car who ultimately came in first. It was so neat, to see how proud he was of that car, and how excited he was about having won Second Place. The very first thing he did was call Scott to let him know, which I thought was very sweet, and also rather sad. Sam really struggles with the absence of his father in his life, and he and Scott bonded last year when Scott helped him with his Pinewood Derby car then (last year, he came in 6th). We also spent a lot of Sunday afternoons at their house when Sam was getting ready to be baptised. So no, Scott certainly does not take the place of Sam’s dad, but I love that he thinks Sam is the bomb and makes it clear to Sam how special he truly is. On Monday after his dance practice, Sam went over to Scott’s office (right across the street from my office, and right next door to where the practices are) to tell him about the race; 45 minutes later, he came back to the office talking about how they are going to come in 1st next year. So yes, my boy has a piece of shit loser for a birth father, but he has lots of other really awesome men in his life who can help fill in some of the empty spots.

2. You all know that Owen is two; not the easiest age to deal with under the best of circumstances, and I have been feeling frazzled and annoyed often lately. He won’t get in the tub, but then once he is in, won’t get out. Last week he ran into the road, and when I told him to come back (as I was heading toward him), he stopped, put his hands on his hips, and stuck his tongue out at me. He earned a swat on the bum for both those offenses-one swat to his diapered little bum and he shrieked as if I had broken his arm, then clung to me like a little sea monkey. So when we went to dinner at Red Lobster on Saturday night, after having been in the car for two hours and then having to say goodbye to his sister at the airport, plus having dinner with Steve’s brother and HIS wife, well, to say I was reluctant was an understatement. However, he behaved beautifully all the way around; he sat and colored, we read his books and he flirted with the waiter and whomever walked by, and he actually ATE. I took him out to look at the lobster tank, and one of the servers took one out for him; it was very funny, because even though their big claws are banded shut, the little tiny legs aren’t and are still capable of grasping. She gave Owen a sugar packet and showed him how to get the lobster to grab it, at which point he said, “No! Mine!” and yanked it right back. It was very sweet, and very funny. It is such hard work sometimes, with little or no recompense, but that night, I got this from Steve: “He was really good tonight, wasn’t he? And I know you did all the work, so thank you.” And from the people we were with: “Gosh, Keegan was never that good! In fact, he still isn’t.” (I wanted to tell them that with name that sounds like someone trying to hawk a piece of cat hair out of their throat, maybe Keegan just doesn’t have a choice, but I managed to keep my mouth shut). So I got to have a great dinner that someone else paid for, I got to watch my sweet Owen see and fight with his first lobster, and I also got public acknowledgement that I do a damn good job. It was a good night.

3. We have what appears to be a stalker roaming our neighborhood. Last night, this man was driving down our street really slowly, three or four times in a row, and then he parked right in front of my house. I was laying on the couch reading a book with the door open, and I swear he was looking right in at me. I very hostilely got up and pointedly closed the door, and he drove off. However, not long after, he drove back around the block and parked in front of the across-the-street-neighbor’s house. Still, it appeared, watching my house. Between “visits,” Eli came in from the back yard and said, “There is a really creepy guy in a white truck driving down the alley, and he slows down like he is looking at our house.” Is he? I have no idea. Apparently he was also in the hood on Sunday night, but I was inside early and didn’t notice it; the neighbors did, though. We all had a pow wow after the last time he left, the neighbors and I, as they had obviously noticed him as well, and we are all in agreement that if he shows up again, daylight or dark, we will call the police. It is not so much scary at this point as it is unsettling, but definitely bears watching.

4. I got to work this morning to find that I won two things. One is an International Snack Cookbook, which has some really great recipes I want to try out. Since Owen is a non-meat-eater, I need to try to find some things he can/will eat, and there were a couple of recipes for hummus in it, so I am looking forward to getting that. Also, Amanda over at Shamelessly Sassy was having a Nintendo DS giveaway, and I won that as well. Not long ago, BusyDad (who is back from China, BTW, but clearly did not remember the souvenir I requested. All I wanted was one little Asian baby; that’s it. Was that really too much to ask for?) had a drawing for a Snapfish gift card, and I won THAT. This winning streak is very, very unusual for me, and I am hoping it continues on to the lottery; I might even spend $3.00 on Wednesday instead of $2.00, just in case.


5. I might actually be taking my kids on a vacation of sorts in July. You know we are poor, but a friend of mine wants us to come see her and is paying for the gas and hotel room (one night coming and going). See, she has never met the kids (long story), and really wants to, and I have never actually taken them on a vacation. It will be back to Seattle, and since she is willing to pay for the basics, that means I will just have to come up with some money for fun things. I have, still, about 50 hours of vacation coming, so when Boss gets back, I will talk to him about taking some time. (I still have all of that baby stuff, too, if anyone is interested in purchasing some. You know, from the bust of a yard sale we had a couple of weeks ago. I could really use the extra $$). It is a lovely idea to think about; there are a lot of places I would like to see with the kids, to sho
w them some of the places about which they have heard me speak, and I would really love for them to meet these people who are so pivotal to my mental health and happiness. I hope it works out.


Basically, life is just going along as it is wont to do. I seem to have reached a place of calm just lately, which is a very welcome event, and one which I am aware enough to be grateful for. I haven’t been wildly thrilled with things in a general sense, but neither have I been deep in despair. For the moment, it feels like there is a balance between good and not-so-good, and more importantly, there is a balance in how I react, emotionally, to any given thing. This is a good thing, and I will take it for what it is. I will keep breathing, in and out, and smiling, and trying to live in the moment. Isn’t that really what life consists of, is moments?

BlogBlast For Education: It Starts Here

A big thank you goes out to April for coming up with this idea; education seems to have taken a back seat to other issues in the last years, and I think it is time that we all took a stand to talk about why, in fact, it IS so important. I am honored to be able to participate, and I encourage all of you to go visit April’s BlogBlast For Education and read all of the posts linked to hers. Then go write your own.

This is a hard one for me; not because I don’t have anything to say, but because there is too much to say. I initially thought that I would write about a teacher who inspired me, and there were more than one, but then I thought I would write about how important education in general is, and then I thought I would bash George W. for his No child Left Behind act…and the truth of it is, all of these things are so intimately linked that I can’t write about just one of them without touching on all of them. So this is what I will tell you:

I have three children in school; all three are completely different, not just in temperament but in intelligence and how they learn. All three of them, for different reasons, are at risk for falling through the cracks, which is a terrifying realization at this point in time.

Hannah is the oldest. She was diagnosed with some mild learning disabilities early on-kindergarten, in fact-and has had an IEP in place for her entire educational career. This served us all well until the No Child Left Behind Act went into force, because suddenly, Hannah was passing (barely) the Standardized Tests and therefore was deemed At Grade Level, which meant that she no longer qualified for any special services. Her first year in high school, last year, was her first year without any kind of accommodations for her learning problems, and her last report card was nearly all D’s and two F’s. She passed; not only did she not have to go to summer school, but she also gets to go on to the 10th grade next year. I have seen the work that Hannah has put forth this last year, and couldn’t be prouder of her. She spent at least two hours nightly working on homework, took a Study Skills Class, and also stayed after school every Friday to participate in the tutoring offered. However, these classes were geared toward kids who couldn’t pass the ISAT’s. and therefore Hannah was pretty much on her own-even though they were supposed to be there to help her achieve success. What we have seen happen is that no matter how hard she works, Hannah needs additional help, and she can’t get it because too much time and resources are going in to make sure everyone can at least pass the ISATs. What happens after that is, it seems, not the school’s concern. Hannah knows at this point in her life that she is NOT college material; she will never get in to a mainstream school, and worse, no longer cares. No matter what I tell her at home, no matter how much support she gets from other people, her school has said, “You are smart enough to pass the test, you are no longer worth spending time and effort on. You are on your own.”

Eli and Sam are falling through the cracks for the exact opposite reason: they are both so far beyond their grade level that it would be funny were it not so sad. Eli has been IQ tested and is in the 140-150 range (the average adult is 100); he took the high school level ISAT last year (in 8th grade) and scored higher than average on all levels. Sam is following in his footsteps, having taken the 8th grade ISAT last year and scoring higher than the average 8th grader. He is 9. You would think that the boys would be better off, school wise, since they are obviously gifted, but in fact the opposite is true. Our district no longer has an elementary school gifted program available due to budget cuts. Eli is in the honor’s program and will be taking Advanced Placement classes as well as getting dual credits (high school and college) IF he continues to perform well, so that is a plus, but it isn’t enough. Both of my boys have been labeled as behavior problems, because there simply isn’t enough for them to do. It is a cliche, and one that until I experienced it first hand thought, “What EVER,” but it is true: bored kids get in trouble. Period. The problem is that teachers are so set on getting each child to where they can pass The Test that they don’t have any extra time to spend with the kids who might not be getting enough challenge.

It is a struggle to know where to take my stand, because there are no easy answers. We do not have access to private schools here (there is one Catholic school which goes only to Grade 6), and even if there were, that could not be an option due to finances. Also, despite the obvious problems and fears, I have NO DOUBT that the teachers with whom my kids are in contact are quite simply doing the best that they can with the resources they have to work with. My frustration has nothing to do with the School District or even the teachers, but with the educational crisis that is sweeping our nation due to No Child Left Behind. Budgets are being cut right and left, leaving our kids not just without things like Music and PE and Art but also without basic tools to live in everyday life. For example, we have known that Hannah isn’t going to do the college thing for some years; last year she had her study skills class, this year she was supposed to take a Strategies for Success class, where it was about balancing a checkbook, budgeting money, etc..which ALL kids should take, but which got cut due to budget restrictions. We have a predominately Hispanic student body, but we also had all of our Jr. High and High School ESL classes cut. And we live in a country where our President is more concerned with spending billions of dollars on a war to help a country that doesn’t WANT our help than with opening his eyes to the lack of quality education for everyone, regardless of economic or social status.

Parental involvement is part of it, but that means different things to diffe
rent people. I refuse to allow my kids to participate in fund-raisers, because what that really means is that I sell things for them, or I take them door to door; I don’t have the time or the inclination to do that. I am also not part of the PTA, I don’t volunteer in the classrooms, and I don’t chaperon field trips. What I DO is go to every parent-teacher conference. I talk to the teachers (high school is not structured the same way, however, so I am not sure the best way to go about this is!), and I try to enlist them in my own campaign to help my kids excel. So far, I have been lucky in that every single year, I have found teachers willing to work with me collaboratively in order to provide my kids the things they need, even if it means not following the designated curriculum. I have found the teachers here be so excited and thrilled about a parent who actually wants their child to succeed that they are also willing to go above and beyond in order to help make that happen. It isn’t perfect; we have had issues, personality conflicts, out and out head butting contests, but all in all, I have been able to make the teachers see my children as individuals with different needs and different goals. And I am lucky in that for the most part, we have a great school district with teachers who are willing to see each child as a person, and are also a little more liberal-minded so far as what the term “Parental Involvement” means.

And I think what we parents need to remember is that it isn’t JUST the school’s job to provide all of the education our children will ever need. We still have to be parents; school is there to teach them the basics so far as education, but what I see a lot of here is that too many parents think school should teach them everything, from how to add two and two to how to behave to how to approach sex; I think it is important that all of those things are addressed, of course, but isn’t it our job as parents to teach our kids the basics so that teachers can actually teach?

Beyond the basics like a roof over their heads and food to eat and an abundance of love-be it from a parent or a grandparent or two parents-and security, I believe that education is the single most important thing for our children. I believe that huge changes need to be made to our entire educational system in order to provide the best for every child, regardless of race, religion, gender, or economic status. I believe that we as parents need to take a page out of April’s book and stand up and say, “Hey! This is not right!” And I also believe that without us, nothing will ever change, but will instead go from bad to worse. We have been entrusted with these children; it is our job to work with and for and against when necessary the system that our government has put into place that is supposed to ensure each of them the chance at success. And I also believe that it starts here, with us, right now.

Summer Has Arrived

Summer is officially here. Not because the weather went from 38 degrees and snowing two weeks ago to 90+ and not a cloud in sight, not because we bought a new kiddie pool, not even because I am finally able to hang clothes out on the line every day (I have four kids. Yes, I do at least one or more loads of laundry in a day.). No, it is officially here because I had to take Sam in to get stitches in his foot yesterday afternoon. The child was blessed with my grace (and I say that very much tongue in cheek), and when he was feeding his rabbit, he tripped. And dropped the glass jar, which shattered all over the patio. And in turning around to start picking up the pieces, he stepped on one. The cut itself is about the length of my index finger, but the whole thing didn’t need stitched-just half of it. 5 stitches, the poor little guy.

Much to be proud of here. Eli called me AFTER he had gotten the bleeding stopped and got a good look at it, at which point he called and very calmly said, “Mom, I really think you need to come look at this.” I got home and Sam was laying on the couch with his foot elevated and a cold compress on it, which impressed me to no end. And when we got to the doctor’s office, Eli worked really hard at entertaining Sam to take his mind off of the pain, and Sam was very brave and held very still, even when doc. was putting the Novocaine in. He cried really hard, and kept hold of both Eli’s and my hand tightly, but he didn’t movie his foot AT ALL. What a big boy! It is just a relief to have concrete evidence that they can handle any of the garden-variety type emergencies that might come up.

And why does this signify summer for me? Because in the past 7 years, we have not had a single summer in which at least one of the kids hasn’t been injured, and it usually happens at the end of May or the first part of June. We have had split-open heads, stitches in between eyes, broken teeth and teeth that have gone through lips and tongues…there was a terrible four wheeler accident, one of the kind where you just look at the wreckage and think, “Oh my God, how is it possible that only this happened?”…and one memorable summer, I had to take Sam in to have STAPLES put into his head, and Eli in to have his ear stitched up in two places-in the same week. Even Sam very cheerfully said, over ice cream last night, “Well, summer’s here!”

Things like this don’t throw me, though, which is a relief. And I know that girls get into just as many scrapes as boys do, but MY girl doesn’t, so I have just learned that in our house, with three boys, these things are inevitable. They aren’t exactly careless, even, just-I don’t what word I should use to describe it. Fearless, perhaps? And this shitty thing about it is that there isn’t much I can do about it. All evidence to the contrary, the kids are pretty safety-minded…they know to go swimming in pairs, they don’t get on anyone’s four wheeler or motorcycle without helmets, or without wearing jeans and shoes, they know which side of the road to walk or ride bikes on. I think both of them (and Owen shows all signs of being the same) just seem to be the kind that are accident prone.

So now that we have had our first (and hopefully last) injury, summer can begin. We are going to celebrate tonight by barbecuing hamburgers and seeing if we can’t either a. start part of the porch on fire (yep, it has happened) or b. singe some hair off of ONE of us. Hell, maybe I will even be really brave and make some fries in the deep fat fryer.

****Also, everyone, remember that tomorrow is the BlogBlast For Education, brought to you by April. This is going to be really, really awesome, and I encourage you all to participate; it isn’t too late, and we all know how important education is.****

The Important Things Are Made Evident-a Good Day

I had a really interesting weekend (and I should have written this yesterday, but I was too busy ranting about how ignorant some people are; I got distracted), and it sort of continued on last night. See, you all know I am in AA, and part of our program is about carrying the message to other alcoholics. When someone-whether we know them or not-calls for help, we do what is called a 12-Step Call, and we just go be with them, share our story with them if we can, offer whatever comfort we can. So on Saturday, I got a call from my good friend E., who had received a call from one of our members who had relapsed in a big way and was in need of some help. I am so selfish that my first reaction was to say no; J. and I were right in the middle of our yard sale (which was a bust, by the way: if any of you need boy clothing from infant to 18 months, I need cash. I also have some snow board bindings, some nice men’s pullover-type jackets, etc…), I had all of these kids at home, including two that were not mine, etc…but then I remembered that every time I need someone, they are there, and told him that if he couldn’t find someone else, I would go. And I just knew that I would be going, so while I was waiting for him to call back, I began making arrangements for us to be able to leave. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later, E. called back and off we went, J. and I.

We drove out to this place in the country, with THE most beautiful yard, and the house itself was also wonderful, and inside was this mess of a woman who had been drinking since 8:00 that morning: ah, alcohol: the Great Equalizer. God, it was just so, so sad. This woman has been around for only about 6 weeks or so, but is struggling with the fact that she might have a problem. Even though during her last divorce, some ten years ago, her husband said that the only reason he wanted a divorce was because she was an alcoholic and refused to get help. Even though she was sitting on her couch at 1:30 in the afternoon in her pajamas, drunk. Even though. I really think she WANTS to stop drinking, but at the same time, the idea of living a life without drinking is very, very scary for her. It was hard to sit there and listen to her talk (ramble), knowing that no matter how much we want to help her, it has to be up to her. It broke my heart to listen to the fear and the pain and the misery dwelling just underneath the thin veneer of drunken belligerence and drama-queen tears. and please know I am not making fun of her, not for a minute. I have been there, and I know what it is like.

Parts of the afternoon were funny; M. finished the drink she was working on when we got there, and kept getting up and saying, very defensively, “I am going to make myself another drink; you can’t stop me!” as if we were there to somehow take away from her the one thing in her life that makes sense to her. Of course, it isn’t our job to tell her she can’t have a drink; we weren’t there to pour out her stash or force her to have water instead. But then halfway to the kitchen, she would remember some other Really Important Thing she was going to tell us, would stumble back into the living room to tell us, and get distracted again. Enough so that she did not actually have another drink while we were there, and was actually starting to sober up and make some sense. I could tell the moment the true remorse kicked in, because she just looked at me and started crying-real tears this time, instead of the fake, attention-getting, drunken tears from before. Just shortly afterward, her boyfriend came home, and we left, unsure of just how much she was really able to hear.

So then last night, J. and I were both at AA and M. came in; late, crying, drunk. She just couldn’t do it, couldn’t make it that day without drinking, and it just broke my heart for her. There is some hope in that even drunk, she knew where she needed to be, at a meeting, but how long it might take her to string together a few days sobriety is impossible to know. And the worst thing about it is that the odds are stacked against her. Most people out there living the alcoholic/addict life don’t get help; either they are just never exposed to a better way of life or they don’t have what it takes to get sober and stay sober. The increasing awareness of the long-term ramifications of alcoholism has made it easier, the well-publicized meth -related problems has helped, the advent of Drug Courts has helped, but still, only a very small percentage of the people afflicted actually get recovery, and that is terrifying. When my ex-husband went through treatment, there were about 20 people in his group, and of those, I know of two who are still sober; I believe those statistics are pretty average. So we can hope and pray and help her how we can, but we can’t carry her; she has to do that for herself, and at this point, it isn’t looking good.

These 12 Step calls serve two purposes-to carry the message, but also to remind of us where we used to be, and boy, did this visit ever do that for me. I had made an offhand comment earlier that morning about wishing I still drank; the sun was out in full force, we were having the yard sale, and back in the day, it would have been the perfect day to sit there with my cooler of beer and just hang. I don’t REALLY wish I still drank, but there are days when it seems like it was more fun than it really was. But then I walked into this house and saw what I would have ended up like, what I DID end up like, and it hit me once again. There is nothing fun about being drunk at 1:00 in the afternoon, feeling like shit but also still drinking. She was me just a little less than 9 years ago, and I don’t want to go back there. I don’t want to EVER feel the way I used to feel when I was still in the active part of the disease; I don’t want to behave the way she did, I just don’t want that. And the only way for me to NOT go there is to keep doing what I am doing: going to meetings, talking to other sober alcoholics, carrying the message when I can.

When I got home last night, the three older kids were happy to see me. Owen was already asleep, but I went in to check on him and make sure he was safe. I sat on the couch and journaled for a time, while the kids were getting their blankets gathered up to sleep outside. There were the usual scuffles, including one that ended Sam up in the kiddie pool, but in addition to the fighting, there was laughter and genuine love between them. In the background the dog was barking, and the combination of children’s laughter and a barking dog and the nighttime noises were all so normal, so happy, that I just cl
osed my eyes to listen. This is what being sober has given me; this is my life, and even with all of its ups and downs, it is a million times better than anything I ever had when I was a drunk. I feel sad for M.,for my Steve, neither of whom see to “get” it, no matter how hard they might want it. I feel sad for my mom, for all of the people I know who are still out there and don’t WANT to get sober, who will die drunk. At the same time, I am so happy; way down deep, where it really matters, I know that I have a better life than a lot of people I know. Not on the outside maybe, but on the inside, the part of me that is ME, is content with the changes I have made in the last nine years. There is always work to be done, things I don’t like about myself or my belief systems that I work on daily, but at the end of the day, I have a feeling of peace and belonging that I never had when I was drinking. And it is pretty hard to be pissy today when I know that all of the important things are right here with me, all of the time.

To Anonymous

I have/had another blog of sorts, and a long time ago I wrote a post about my singleness, or rather my discontent with being single, and I got all of the usual “There is nothing wrong with being single, you need to be happy on your own before you can be happy with someone else, you need to relax, you need to go out and find someone, you need to do X, Y, and Z…” and for the most part I can just blow it all off. But this morning, I got a comment from someone about it that just pissed me off:

“Maybe the biggest problem is that you seem to feel you HAVE to be married/coupled to be happy or otherwise you’re a “loser”. Why? Why do you feel the need? Could that be why you have had some of these problems? There was a book out some years back that when I read it, it knocked me out–“Smart women, foolish choices”. You might get something out of it–helluva lot more than “dr.” philisms…… “

So I want to make clear a few things for those who feel like they can tell all about me from reading ONE article:

1. I know that I am better off alone than in a shitty marriage. I have HAD a shitty, abusive marriage, and as hard as the aftermath has been for myself AND my kids, even over 5 years later, I am still better off. I don’t need YOU to tell me how much better it is to be alone than miserable. And the funny thing about this very-common mindset? In my experience it almost always comes from people who are still married to the same person they have always been married to. So yeah, you sit there on your couch in your slippers and eat popcorn and burp with the guy you have been married to for 20 years, and tell me how much better off I am to be alone. All I can say to that is a big “You have no idea.”

2. I have learned that I don’t NEED a man to be whole, thank you. I have been the primary breadwinner for my family for over 15 years now, and the ONLY breadwinner for the last 5 and a half. I know how to reseal a toilet, put together and fix a lawnmower, replace cracked PVC under the sink. I can also dig a hole and reseat a fence post, use the weed whacker, and dig up the rosebushes. I know how to camp-and no, we don’t have a trailer or a gas stove or anything like that-and can fish with the best of them. I know how to play catch and cheer at a t-ball game, and I know how to handle school problems. And I also know how to use a vibrator(though sadly, I don’t own one)or my fingers. You’re right, I don’t NEED a man. I AM whole; I have friends who love me, I have my chosen family, I have a support network. My problem is not a barren life with no outside interests; I have too many things going on in my life at any given time.

3. I am not interested in the dating game, and no, the solution to loneliness is not to go trolling for a new guy. I am well aware of my limitations, and this is one of them: I totally SUCK at dating, and I hate every minute of it. I don’t have any friends who are single, not here where I am, so going out “with the girls” isn’t an option. I don’t drink, so going to the bars is not an option, and even if it were, I would certainly not be looking for a potential partner in a bar.

4. I know I don’t HAVE to be married. Of course, I want to be, but clearly that shouldn’t matter. It also shouldn’t matter that regardless of how much our society has changed and grown, the basic belief that unmarried women are somehow failures, or are morally bankrupt, or are somehow flawed, is alive and well in this country. Thriving, even, as our nation struggles to find some kind of moral compass based on the 50’s idea of family life, that mom should stay home and raise the kids while dad provides for the household. I have read articles and heard news stories from otherwise intelligent, educated people blaming the downfall of the economy of we single mothers, as if we are somehow responsible. If our boys end up in prison, it is somehow our fault because we have raised them without a father. If our girls end up pregnant, it is also our fault for having raised them to be promiscuous. And if our kids DO succeed in life, it is ALWAYS pointed out that it is IN SPITE OF our single-parenthood. So even though I well know I don’t have to be married, I also experience first hand the fact that this nation does not view me and my family in the same way I do myself. This is also one of the comments I hear mostly from happily married, two-income people.
5. I have never (and for the person who wrote the above comment, if you have ever bothered to read any of my previous posts, you would know this about me) absolved myself from any responsibility so far as my relationships-or lack thereof-goes. But I refuse-flat fucking REFUSE-to believe that some asshole self-help book abut relationships by some doctor who doesn’t know me can in any way “solve” my problem-because while of course there is personal responsibility on everyone’s part, this kind of shit just reinforces the idea that I-and every other woman who has made a poor choice in men and got fucked-are solely responsible. What about the fact that in this day and age, it is still socially acceptable for a man to walk away and leave his children behind? For him to go on to raise second or third families while forgetting the fact that they have children that they SHOULD be responsible for? For him to have the freedom and the ability to date whenever and whomever he wants, without having to take into consideration the example he has to set for his children? For people to look at him as the poor fucked over slob with kids he doesn’t get to see, who gets sympathy while we are raising the kids and having men run from us as fast as possible when they find out we DO have kids? So yeah, I have a problem with that. A big one.
I have also never been shy about the fact that I have recently been grieving the loss of a very important relationship, and it really sucks that I am supposed to ju
st blow it off and move on. It really sucks that people put so little importance on love that they CAN do that; but I can’t. I am not an unhappy person by any means; I actually have a pretty good life, but the one person I have ever really loved recently broke my heart, and I am struggling. I hate the fact that sanctimonious, self righteous assholes can sit back and tell me what I need to do, when really, they have no idea. And I also refuse to buy into the fact that I am somehow supposed to be okay with this one hole in my life that makes me terribly sad. I know a guy who is desperately trying to have a child, and I have never heard anyone make the comment that maybe he should just figure out how to be happy without a child. Why is this any different? If you know someone who thinks that the ONE thing that will make his life complete is a seat in the Boston Symphony, would it occur to you to say, “Hey, you have spent all of this time learning and excelling at playing the cello, and you are really great, but maybe you should take up the harmonica instead…” Isn’t that all the same thing? You are telling me that I shouldn’t want the one thing that will make my life complete-not happy, because no ONE thing can make me happy, but it is the desire of an honest heart; why is that not right? Why is it that when someone is honest and open about those parts of her life which aren’t picture perfect is also somehow failing in THAT?
I am tired of not being allowed to feel however I feel. I am tired of people telling me, however subtly, that what I feel is WRONG or somehow not okay, or that the answer to all of my problems and fears and issues is to convince myself that it doesn’t matter. Bullshit-it matters. But if you think I am crying myself to sleep every night and refusing to take an active and proactive part in my own life, you are sadly mistaken. I do all of the things I am supposed to do, and I do them well. I do a lot of things I WANT to do, and turn down a lot invitations to spend time with other people because it is equally important and necessary for me to spend time alone. I do everything I can to make my life a good one, for my kids and for myself. But I am not going to give up on the idea that I am deserving of love, and I am not going to lie about the fact that I hate the fact that I am single. It just doesn’t help me to pretend that because it doesn’t matter to YOU, it shouldn’t matter to ME.