Girl, be brave

brave

An AHA moment for me came recently.

I talk often of changing your life if you aren’t happy with it. Rewrite your shitty first draft, great things don’t come from your comfort zone, make today day one rather than  one day, etc. It’s a notion I have taken to heart so deeply, because life is so short. IT.IS.SO.SHORT. If you can do what it takes to stop being unhappy, I WILL CHEER YOU ON! Even 100 years is not but a ripple in the waters of this world.

Except, change is hard. I talk a lot about that, too. We all either work with or have worked with or know people who are hesitant/against/vocal about change. It’s hard, friends. I get it! Even the most adaptable people can find moments of struggle. I like to say that it takes one moment of insane courage to change your life. You just have to find it. A recent interaction with a friend experiencing a lot of change right now made me step back and re-evaluate my life motto. It’s incomplete.

Defining life moments can be grand when looking at them up close. Most of us can pinpoint very certain occasions in our past that changed our journey. We have to zoom out, though, to see that it was many, many decisions of bravery, of that insane courage that got us to that point. Not many things in life are sudden. Not many at all. I shared a story, a while back, of how my re-birthday was April 14, 2012 because that was the night I jumped out of a moving vehicle and ran for my life. Yes, it was such a big minute in time. If a movie were made about me I can guarantee that moment, so powerful and unmistakably brave, would have the heart stopping, dramatic music playing during the scene. I didn’t need music that night, though, because my heart was pounding hard enough in my ears to have drowned any sound out, anyway.

My story of leaving a decade of abuse is tough to talk about. Still. Yet, I keep doing it because a) it’s aiding my healing and b) it’s helping, even if a tiny bit, change the view of domestic violence, because there is a stigma. In my opening up about my experiences and how I left, what I learned about the process, my self-discovery and how I and my family still deal with it now has shown me something deeper. There’s a c) now. There have been people reaching out to me for help, to get some questions answered, or just to share their story. Not just about domestic violence, but so many issues. Eating disorders, self-hatred, molestation at a young age, rape. I’ve been told things that just break my heart.

There are statistics about domestic violence that I know very well. One in four women experience sever physical intimate partner violence, meaning they are together, or dating, or married. One in four. Without meaning to, when I’m surrounded by a bunch of females, I think about that number. I think about the many people who probably think it can’t possibly be that high, except when I’m in that group, that is me. One in three woman experience physical intimate partner violence, so maybe they didn’t have the shit beaten out of them, or were choked or forcefully shoved into concrete, but an abuse of force was used on their bodies. This doesn’t even account for the verbal, emotional and psychological abuse that organizations such as *DVSAS, of which I am on the board, recognize. The court system tends to only recognize physical abuse when requesting a protection order. The other forms of abuse are harder to get legal help with. They are even harder to prove.

I sat with a friend not too long ago, during a hard time in her life. I held her hand, hugged her, listened. It was hard. When I think of my story, the things I went through, my one big moment of bravery to leave, I only thought about it from my point of view. That makes sense, right? I watched it through my eyes. While I was sitting there, hearing reasoning and worry, vacillation between two shitty choices that just creates deafening guilt because there are repercussions either way,  and justifications being made, I listened harder. I thought of my experiences and how I did the same things. When we parted ways after, I got in my car and cried. I remember my one huge shift; calling Kulia on the side of the road in the middle of the night, trying to remember where I was and coordinating how I could stay hidden, just in case but she could still find me. All of a sudden there was a movie playing in my head of all the many other courageous moments I had, like when I shared that I was being abused and when I took the time to write down when he hit me that I could remember and put dates to them. I was back in my work’s lunchroom, sitting on a dirty 70’s style couch, dialing the numbers to numerous divorce attorneys and meeting no success because not having money gets you turned down from help really fast, friends. I was sitting across from my manager and assistant manager, on the eve of my last day of work with them, answering why I haven’t been myself the past couple of weeks, why my work was suffering. They thought I had leaving-itis. They made it clear I had let them down. Not once did they ask me if I was okay or safe. Not once did I offer that information up.

I never thought about Ku’s side. Of how it must have felt to hear someone tell you things no voice should ever share. As I sat in my driver seat, I texted her and told her I was crying. That I don’t know how she did it, I don’t know how anyone does. How do you sit there and have your heart break over words that cause so much pain, how do you hear them blame themselves, call themselves selfish and not scream out in agony? She listened so intently without telling me I was worthless, a piece of shit, only thinking about myself. She didn’t hurt me when I needed love. She was pure grace while I fell apart and I never even noticed how. And being kind of, not all the way, but sorta, in that boat was so.damn.hard. It shook me to my core. If it did that to her, I couldn’t tell. All she ever did was hold me. If you had that or have that in your life, someone who was unconditionally there for you, get up and go hug them. Run to them, kiss their cheek, tell them thank you. You probably already have, but do it again anyway. Life is short.

Yes, you can make a giant, easy-to-see step of epic proportions to change your life. Just remember that you are also taking baby steps, even if they are hard to see. And don’t you ever give up on them. Those baby steps are making progress. I guarantee it. If you need help, someone to talk to, or a place to feel safe, we are always here for you. I am always here for you.

*DVSAS stands for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services. This phenomenal organization is located in Bellingham, WA and is open to anyone needing help. You can find more information at http://www.dvsas.org including how to volunteer, donate and/or attend one of it’s upcoming events. Not everyone will be as vocal as I am. That’s okay. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

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What makes you Family?

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Looking fly at Waialae Country Club before Ka’eo and Denalee’s wedding 5/27/2017

In my 9-5, our team recently took a Strengths Finder assessment. It’s meant to aid in leveraging where people’s strengths lie, rather than focusing on their weaknesses. After answering a whole barrage of questions, a report was comprised, giving each of us our top five and explaining them. I wasn’t surprised by any of my list. In my last few years of self growth, mostly due to personal development and being honest with myself, I sort of already knew them.

The definitions of each strength were what really filled my cup. Knowing I love to learn is one thing, but an assessment stating that I probably collect books blew my mind! How could it know!? The best one, though? One of my strengths is connectedness. Just seeing the word made me nod my head in agreement. I thought it meant something about my ability to connect with others. How I reach out and force friends to stay in touch with me. It’s easier now, with everyone being cyber-connected. But guys, I used to send LETTERS to my friends. I thought I knew connected. And then I read the definition and was floored.

Connectedness: Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgements and in possession of our free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. You are a bridge builder for people of different cultures.

That wasn’t all of it, just a smidge. However, I loved all the words it entailed. I have always believed that life is not a string of coincidences. How could it be when epic changes could happen from seemingly minute happenings in the world?

When I was in my seventh year of my own personal hell, my ex-husband decided we needed a trip. For his own personal reasons, that he didn’t disclose right away, he chose Hawaii. It’s one of those places that most of the world, at least from where I’m standing, dreams of going. I wasn’t a big fan. We almost never had money, and even when we did, it wasn’t managed well. He had control of that and it stressed me out to think what was being shelled out on this trip, when back home the boys were being fed with food stamps. There just wasn’t changing his mind when he wanted something. I remember being on the island of Oahu, driving down roads and seeing beaches and landmarks, gazing at them in awe.

Somewhere along a winding highway towards the windward side, he told me he was thinking of moving us there. I read it as: this will soon be our new home. It was pretty enough and promising enough that I gave no fight to the discussion. I sighed, asked him when and succumbed to the inevitable. It didn’t take away from how breathtaking Hawaii can be. The water is colors you can pick out of a Crayon box but can never replicate. You can see the bottom of the ocean, you can gaze out and see the curve of the horizon. The sun warms your face and slivers of that make it into your heart. Hawaii called to me and I let it. I remember the rest of the few days we were present, I would think about where we would land when we got there. What roads would become more traveled by me? Who would become my friend? How would my life change? I thought up so much and could never have imagined what Hawaii would come to mean to the boys and I.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, hopefully it is the story of Ku and I and how we met. You see, meeting Ku was when Hawaii stopped being a place for me and became a feeling. My ex later described it as the biggest mistake he had made. For me, it was the biggest gift. Not only did I find who would captivate my soul and awaken my heart, but we found a second family. You see, I know the boys are loved by his family. They are his blood, too, and there is this fierce protectiveness and almost possessive feel they give to family get-togethers. It’s like the Lannisters incarnate, minus perhaps, the incest.

I won’t compare Ku’s family to Game of Thrones. A) they are human. They are kind and caring and I never feel like I’m about to be stabbed in the back. There’s no b. I do that, often.

Kulia’s family welcomed all of us with open arms. It has never felt forced or weird. There is this sincere love that you feel deep in your bone marrow that is so genuine. So pure. Hugs warm you like bowls of chicken noodle soup on a fall day and kisses on the cheek radiate rays of sunshine down to your toes. Her family and their love for the four of us was unimaginable and perfectly imperfect. I know that’s a hard level to achieve for most blended families so I cherish it and work to keep it seamless. I think it’s because I have seen weird and judge-y and mean (did you see how I compared my ex’s family to the LANNISTERS?) so I can be grateful for what we have been given.

The boys recently traveled to the East Coast with their Dad. When they came home yesterday, the meanager asked to speak with me. He told me about their trip and feelings he had while on it. He shared some stuff that was sad to listen to, about how they felt awkward around new family they met for the first time. It’s so alien to listen to because oftentimes I neglect thinking about the other side of what the boys deal with. The amount of time they are with us makes me think of us being their main family. It’s fair and yet unfair, right and yet not accurate. They have a whole other set of people that have come into their life in one way or another and I should have been preparing them for what might come.

My meanager reminded me of how treasured they feel in Hawaii. “Mom, you know how all of Ku’s family just loves us and never makes us feel weird?” he asked me. I struggled to find words because I just know it to be true. “It wasn’t like that in Virginia. We kept being reminded they aren’t our Aunts and Uncles and we couldn’t call them that. Her mom kept correcting us. We had to call them Mr. and Mrs. It was just awkward. Everything felt awkward.” This coming from the son who likes hugging the least. The thing is, our boys are lovers.

It was hard to hear and all I could do was tell him I was sorry to hear it. I told him I was so happy he was home because it’s never the same when they are gone. I hugged him and let him tell me how his feelings were hurt. I reminded him how sincerely and genuinely so many care for him and his brothers. That some people take time and maybe have a hard time accepting change, for lack of better reasoning.

I just really wonder what makes family, family. Ya know?

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Sam, AB and Moose at our wedding, melting our hearts and making everyone cry happy tears

Dear Daddy

 

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Photo taken by: Shannon Sasaki Photography

Dear Daddy,

I got married last Sunday, the 2nd of July. It was the day after my grandparents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, which meant a lot to me.  I know you didn’t go and I know why, but  I wanted to share the details with you, because you haven’t asked yet and I really wanted to tell you about it at lunch the other day, but I would have ended up crying, and nobody likes a sad lunch.

From the moment I woke up, I could tell it was going to be gorgeous. The sun was shining and so was my heart. I didn’t think about whether you would change your mind or not, like I had for the last few months. I just felt excited and ready for all the memories. Ana and I went to get some decorations done first thing, which was a great idea. You remember Ana, right? She’s played cards with you at the restaurant before and she’s my best friend. She thought you would come even though I kept telling her it was a lost cause.

The weather could not have been more perfect. There was a slight breeze and so much light. Light in everyone’s eyes, in their hearts. This wedding meant a lot to many, especially me, and I wanted you to see that. I know you don’t understand homosexuality and gay marriage, but I know you understand love. I wanted you to see it. None of us could stop smiling or laughing easily at everything. I remember looking at all our friends’ faces and thinking, this is how I want to live every day for the rest of my life. Smiling and laughing this easily. It was a jovial sentiment and it was catching. I just know your heart would have felt lighter. You just had to make it there.

On our way back to the hotel, Ana and I, we had a deep chat. About being perfectionists and how to let things go. I think somewhere in our mix of wise words, I decided I wouldn’t fret about you on my day. I was going to practice letting go and I felt at ease. She wanted things to be just right for me and I think in a way, she was being what I would have wanted to see from you. Kulia talks a lot about how her parents will be there for me when you guys aren’t and sometimes I think that’s unfair. Except, not this time. Her father is not a fill in for you but he was so full of love and excitement. He clearly wanted nothing but happiness for her on our day. For us. I know for both of us. Ana filled in for you.

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We got to the hotel and started getting ready. There was a mimosa bar and food. Hustle and bustle and constant movement. I didn’t have it in me to think about you anymore, from that point forward. I was practicing letting it go, remember? Either way, I was having my hair and makeup done and chatting about Kulia and I’s crazy last five years together. How far we have come and how unstoppable we seem. It’s undeniable, Dad. We.are.good.together. We make goals and meet them, we push each other to keep growing. We bought an amazing house that we built, together. The boys, who I know were your biggest concern, are thriving. They have never been better. I know you see this. We all do.

I was thinking about that chat we had, our first serious one-on-one, when I moved back from Hawaii. I remember calling you on the beach, to say words to you that I had thought about sharing for over a decade. I was in an abusive relationship that I had finally left. I told you how he had treated me and you said, “You gotta respect yourself and do what’s right because you haven’t been living.” And then in the living room, that first night, you told me that divorce wasn’t the end of my life, but rather the start of a new one. Daddy, this new life isn’t what you imagined but I think it’s bigger than we could have both thought up.

I know it bothers you that I married a woman. I don’t see it that way. As I walked down the aisle, and saw the smiling/happy crying faces of those who love our love, I thought about math. Daddy, 3 + 1=4. I know that’s how you see it. But so does 2 + 2. So does 4 + 0. The thing is, there’s more than one way to answer a problem. All of those equations come to the same ending. That is love, for me. I didn’t fall in love with Kulia because she’s a woman. I fell in love with her soul. I feel like that’s more important than gender.

As we said our vows, I saw my Momma, Berta, Emily, Grandpa and Grandma sitting there and realized my wish hadn’t come true. Even in the midst of my own fairy tale, I couldn’t bippity boppity boo you there. And Berta was crying so many happy tears, full of love and joy for us. I almost lost it, in that moment. I almost cried.

We said our I do’s with the sun in our eyes and in our hearts. I am sorry you couldn’t be there to hear Kulia promise to respect and love me until her last breath. Isn’t that what every father wants? Someone to love their daughter almost as much as they do? Someone to help raise his grandkids to be gentlemen, to be life changers, to love and to respect? This is what I have, Daddy. And the thing is, I know you love Kulia for how she is with me. I know you can see it.

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The night ended as it should. With a beautiful sunset, deep hugs, fun photobooth pictures that I know you would have had no part of, and silly dancing. Everyone was floating on a cloud of love. Mom looked so happy, so full of excitement for our family. Berta and Gracia were loving on us and the boys. Everyone was there for the right reasons and while I’m not judging you, I think you weren’t for the wrong ones.

It reminds me of when I was around 10-11 years old. Working at the restaurant taught me so much, and sometimes without trying to. I was working with Uncle Louis one day, may his soul rest peacefully, when these two ladies came in. One had short hair, the other didn’t. I was bringing them their chips and salsa when Uncle Louis pulled me aside, laughing. Those are marimachas, he told me. I had no clue what he meant, so he explained to me what lesbians were. He defined that slang, offensive word. It was the first I had ever heard of them, and I got awkward. You pulled me aside and asked why I was being rude to our customers. You told me everyone was equal and you wouldn’t tolerate that behavior.

Where was that guy on Sunday? Did you think of me at all?  You told me, after lunch, that you love me no matter what. Did you mean, even if you’re gay and married to a woman? Is that my biggest travesty in life? I didn’t start this blog entry to be upset with you, but a part of me is, Daddy. I know I’ve taken you for quite a ride with my life. This is by far the least offensive; I feel that deep down. Loving her is more right than so many other things. At the end of the day, I will never regret it.

I love you, Daddy. No matter what.

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These five locos

 

Body Image Vibes

IMG_2377“Mom,” my oldest says to me one night. A deep, pensive night. He has stuff to say to me and I make sure to turn to him to give him some undivided attention. Sam, my meanager, as I lovingly call him, has always been a deep thinker. English is his second language; he didn’t learn it until he was in kindergarten. I thought it was the right thing to do, definitely thought it would give him a leg up in the world. Being fully bilingual before he started first grade would have been an awesome gift. Except, that didn’t happen. He was fully immersed in his class, had no classmates to converse with in Spanish, and began struggling from the word go. He doesn’t have either language mastered. His brain just wasn’t wired for it. I try to remember that when he is trying to chat with me and cannot find his words. Tonight is no different.

“Sometimes, when you come to pick me up at school, people see you and start laughing. They say, Sam, your Mom is so fat. It really makes me angry.”

What do you say to that? I want to tell him it doesn’t bother me, that my size doesn’t determine my worth. I find myself saying these words, but the truth is, it does affect me. I would be being untruthful if I didn’t acknowledge that. I feel myself go into robot mode, tell him that it’s a cheap insult and he should shrug it off. That him getting upset shows that he loves me and that’s all that matters to me. I speak slowly and with little emotion. The last thing I want to share with him is that I’ve been hearing it my whole life and it sucks and I try to not let it define me. Except, it does.

I can almost pinpoint the moment I realized I wasn’t looked at the same as some kiddos along with the moment I realized that when someone really wanted to hurt your feelings, especially if they were family or friends, they would immediately go for your biggest insecurity. It’s something I have a hard time doing today, even when I really want to. Cutting people with your words is easy, but what are you sacrificing to gain a moment of superiority? For me, it was my thighs. I’ve heard it all. Damn, check out those stumps! Oh, hey thunder thighs. Your legs are COTTAGE CHEESE! I started saying it myself. And what’s worse is when I’m having a really shitty day, even now. Even in these times, because nobody says horrible things to me like I do; I will stand in front of a mirror and tell myself I am fat, ugly, have the most horrendous thighs, the biggest baby apron, the widest bat wings. I tell myself all of it, because I’ve been hearing it for so long.

These thighs of mine have been the cause of a lot of stress, learning, working around. I’ve dealt with chafing, pants not fitting right, clapping when I go down stairs, ruined pants, not fitting in chairs, having to turn sideways to fit through aisles. They are chock-full of cellulite and jiggle. They are HARD.TO.LOVE.

Enter yesterday.

I was fresh back from NOLA, feeling really bloated and blah. Traveling makes me swell and even more self-conscious. I decided it was a fat pants day. Squeezing into my normal pants and feeling gross just didn’t sound like the kind of 24 hours I wanted to have. I headed to work and visited with friends. It was all making me feel better until I sat in the conference room and felt something cold on my inner thigh. And then it dawned on me. My pants had ripped in the inner thigh. AGAIN.

These are the kinds of things some people just won’t get. They don’t understand it. Their clothes don’t have to be replaced more often because their legs, butt, arms, whatever aren’t breaking down their articles of clothing faster. It’s humiliating and frustrating having to explain why I need a new pair of jeans or leggings. Why I don’t wear skirts or dresses as often as I want. It’s harder still to acknowledge that even though I am far into my journey of getting healthy and fit, I STILL HAVE BIG ASS THIGHS. AND A STOMACH. AND BAT WINGS. When I run into people, I feel like they are sizing me up (pun intended) because I CONSTANTLY size myself up. I don’t understand why I’m a year and a half in to this and I’m not a size 12 like I so desperately want to be. I try not to be envious of the people who cut out soda and lost ten pounds immediately. My body works against me every single day and I don’t get it. I got divorced and gained weight, which is opposite of most people. I get stressed out and gain weight. I stop eating and the pounds pack on quickly. I eat less and samesies. I weigh myself every day and it goes up. I weigh myself once a month and sure as shit, it creeps. Yes, I lose inches but my brain cannot love the scale no matter how hard I try to convince it.

I had packed my stuff for a run in the afternoon. I changed and drove to a nearby park that has trails. I told myself I would run for 2.5 miles and then go home. Becoming a runner has been one of the bigger surprises that I took on in 2015. I constantly told myself I could never do it, and then little by little proved to myself that I could. I am by no means a sprinter but I can go long distances. I remember being freaked THE HELL OUT to run a half marathon and so I committed to, signed up for, and paid for one. I dove into training and worked my ass off, but only figuratively. The day came and I did it without stopping once to walk and it was phenomenal. Except, then I stopped running diligently. I let excuses win more and more. I told myself it was okay, because I was still getting other workouts in. Sometimes.

Now I have another goal in mind, much different than a half-marathon. It’s Ragnar season and I was invited to be on a team for the second year in a row. The thing is, I was more prepared last year because I was still running some, not as much time had passed so my endurance was still up. I also took on a longer run position, with my first leg being over 5 miles long. Running 2.5 right now doesn’t seem like much, but it is. It’s eternal.

I was on the trail, going slow and steady; much slower than I am happy with but continually telling myself that at least I am out there. Usually I will incessantly check my running watch to see how far I have gone and what my pace is, but that makes me crazy and get hard on myself, so I mentally tell myself I won’t do that today. And I don’t. I stay true to my word. When I run, I don’t use headphones. Listening to things, especially music, distracts me. It’s bizarre and unheard of, apparently. Me? I like to run in silence. I’ve found a tranquility in the pain, beauty in the rhythmic movements. I focus on my breathing, control my gait as much as I can. I revel in the landscape and admire our Earth. Running did things I couldn’t find a way through. It reminded me how to be proud of myself, what it felt like to reach a goal. It helped me reconnect with my emotions on a very cellular level. Ku likes to joke that running made me human again and the reality is, she was right. I didn’t cry for a number of years after leaving my abusive ex. I was certain that all my tears were dried up for good. Running brought that ability to feel deeper back to me.

The one thing I had on was my mileage tracker. A velvet computer lady voice that tells me when I hit a mile. I hit two and thought, half a mile to go. I had fleeting thoughts about walking. My mind tried to convince me that nobody would know, because no one was around. Except, I would know and I would speak poorly to myself. Heaven knows I don’t need more reasons to do that.

As I’m trying to reach my goal, I pass a playground on my right, where there are two older kids playing on a tire swing. A young teenage girl is trying to swing a similarly aged boy and they are enjoying their time. She must have caught a glimpse of me, huffing and puffing along the gravel trail and she points and starts laughing.

“Look at that fat girl try to run.”

He turns and starts laughing, too.

Yet I just truck on, because they are right. I am fat. And I am trying.

I looked down at my run watch and realize I’m at 2.6 and then I think, well, that’s closer to 3 so I might as well run 3 miles today. What’s .4 more, at this point? And not far up ahead, a runner is coming towards me in the opposite direction, wearing a hot pink tank top and cute little running shorts. Now there’s a runner! As we get closer to each other, she smiles and in turn I smile back. She waves to me and says, “Great job!” It means so much more to me than those kids.

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You see, I do have thunder thighs but when I finished, I took a moment to stare down at them, with my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. These bad boys helped me leave a decade of domestic violence behind me. They helped me jump out of a vehicle and run for freedom. They have taken me across multiple finish lines after so many miles, so many more than a lot of people have run, they have helped me walk into new opportunities that have been life changing and in NINE DAYS they will walk me down the aisle to the love of my life. Yesterday, I could have hated them more than anything but after a small poor-me moment, I reflected on how far these boom sticks have taken me.

And I loved them.

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In the throes of teen angst

I often share stories and insights from raising my meanager. People ask about it, reach out to me, thank me for it, you get the gist. Most times, I’m questioned if he really is mean and while the answer may vary depending on how he’s been the day I’m being asked, for the most part, he is not. He has teen moments, has begun his hand at trying to be sarcastic and witty, is becoming slightly moody, and sometimes is just downright pissy. More often than not, he is kind. He is caring. He is reserved.

Raising our meanager has not come with ups and downs, as I’m sure it is for anyone else in our shoes. Every time I was pregnant, I wished on everything and anything that I wouldn’t have any girls. I remember when I was in my adolescents and let me tell you, I could NOT handle myself if dealt the same cards. I was by no means the worst kid ever; I wasn’t a teen mom or became addicted to drugs, I didn’t have loose morals or party all night long at random houses, but I wasn’t an angel and I always thought I knew more than my parents. I had an attitude, I was miserable and made everyone else suffer along with me. No part of that made me want a daughter. Except, having boys hasn’t been balls easy (pun intended).

Having small men is constant energy. They are loving, curious, problem solvers (for the most part) but challenging. Raising boys has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Throw in the mix that we are raising them in a two female household, where neither of us has experienced wet dreams or random erections. Where we don’t understand the voice changing and giggle when the meanager speaks. We ask him questions in front of friends so they can hear the differences also, except he has caught on to that and is refusing to appease us. There’s the new fuzz above the upper lip and the increased body odor smells. We don’t physically and emotionally understand any of these things and yet we are balls deep in them, too.

For the most part, my meanager has been withdrawn. He spends most of his time in his room, where we let him escape the ridiculousness of his younger brothers because we understand he needs space. We ask pesky questions sometimes (read: I do) and from time to time we force him to engage in conversation or time spent with us. If he’s been particularly difficult, like failing a class and not getting his ish together, we might take him to Costco and make him hold our hands (read: me), gush over him and try to kiss him in public. Being a mom can be fun some days, friends. He almost always takes it in stride and knows we love him. We have each taken a role. He talks with Ku when he has girl questions or topics he feels I’ll blow out of proportion (as if that’s even possible). He comes to me when Ku isn’t around, because he’s convinced she’s more chill than I am.

I know, it’s damn frustrating.

And then there are times he sits down and asks me in his serious, sounds like he has a big loogie sitting in the back of his throat voice if he can ask me something. And I see a storm in his eyes that carries some emotional anguish. It could be something silly and yet it’s not for him so I take it serious and brace myself. I never know what’s coming but I know it has to happen.

“Mom, have you ever had suicidal thoughts?”

And there it is, a sucker punch to my side. I’m always on the fence with how real, how honest we should be with our kiddos. I mean Ku and I, because I fully understand every parent will have their own opinion of what is best. Sam is fourteen and I’m not so sure how in depth and raw I can be with him yet. Yes, I feel my chest tightening but I have to say something that makes him feel heard, understood, listened to. I decide to be real for a moment, because I don’t want to lie to my children, ever.

I tell him yes. That I remember being upset as a teenager, feeling like my parents didn’t understand me, didn’t care about me, that I was second to their business and their time. That I was fat and got made fun of, that I never got invited to sleep overs or parties. I wasn’t popular and I wasn’t good at sports. I was miserable a lot of the time and sometimes I thought about ending it all. I didn’t tell him about how I turned to cutting to feel better and have scars that will never fade from it. I keep it short and simple and then I ask him if he ever has.

“Yeah, after you and Dad split. I was really sad and thought I would never see my Dad again,” he shared. That makes sense. I had a protection order against him, he didn’t know our new address or phone number because he had gone from crazy to psychotic in the blink of an eye when I left. He was only allowed to see the children with supervised visits, which he refused to submit himself to. He went a long time without seeing his children and it was all of out selfishness. He wanted to know what would happen to him and his brothers if I died, where they would go if both I and his dad died. Things were clearly weighing on his mind.

When I think back to my decade of abuse in a violent, toxic relationship with their Dad, I find myself at a crossroads. On the one hand, I’m grateful that he never hit me in front of the kids because I can’t imagine what that would have done to my children internally, except on the other I feel like they still don’t fully understand why the divorce happened. Sam continued with the hard questions last night, asking me if I was sad the whole time I was married to his dad, why I didn’t leave sooner, how bad his dad hit me, and why.

“Why would he need a reason, Sam? Wouldn’t that be justifying doing something horrible to someone when really, there is no excuse good enough for hitting someone you said you would love and honor?” I asked him. And his response was unexpected but reasonable. “I’m not saying a reason makes it okay. I just want to know why he did it.” Except, there’s not always a reason. Often times I think he felt out of control so he would pick fights with me and goad me into answering back to which he would explode. Or I wouldn’t meet his expectations and he would lash out. It was many reasons and yet none at all and so how can you fully understand that?

Sam asked me about his dad’s family and how they treated me, he shared what he witnesses of how they treat his stepmom. He asked what brought me to finally leave and I was careful to be honest without unnecessary details. The whole time we talked he had silent tears slipping down his face and I felt like something deeper was trying to surface. Every now and again Sam does this. Just asks me a question out of the blue, with no notice and I never feel like I answer correctly. I always feel blindsided and yet realize it’s an important moment for him. And I always wish there was a manual I could reference because unless you’re prepared for these things, they just leave you feeling inadequate.

Throw in talking with your child about these deep issues you are still working through. He wasn’t done, though. He had looked over our list of attendees on the kitchen table and had seen that my Dad was a no. “Why isn’t Tan (what they’ve always called him) coming?” And when I explained that he wasn’t okay with our marriage, he asked, “But doesn’t he love you?”

It was hard not to tear up with him. Not only was he asking me some of the hardest questions of my life, ones I’ve asked myself a million times in private, he was hitting on some pretty raw situations. Yes, I know my father loves me and I don’t want to judge him on his not coming to our big day. I’ve accepted he won’t be there. I asked him so many times, hoping he changes his mind. He doesn’t comprehend it and for him to attend, he would have to in his opinion, so he can’t bring himself to be there. I get it, because I choose to. And I love him because regardless of our differences in opinion, my ability to love him isn’t hinged on this one moment. Yes, it’s major to me. It’s monumental to both Ku and I. I am simply choosing to try to see things through his lens and agree to disagree.

Last night was tough. Yes, I found being honest pretty difficult, but I also wanted to answer his questions without projecting my own feelings into our talk because I don’t want him to feel how I do out of solidarity or obligation. I want him to hear me yet draw his own conclusions and thoughts without just being upset with his father or my dad. And just finding the bravery alone to initiate the whole thing with me, the one who is less chill, was pretty awesome, regardless of how much I struggled through it. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be googling how to have difficult yet meaningful conversations with teenagers because shoot me before he surprises me again!

 

The trigger effect

forgivenessA car door slamming shut outside. Unexpected people walking up behind me. Fast movements out of the corner of my eye. Our account balance dipping below a certain dollar amount. Roses and tiramisu. Innocent questions about silly things like dinner or what I did all day. Tall men who tower over me.

All such different things but each with the same effect on me. They are triggers. My triggers that instantly put me somewhere scary, places where my breath is stuck, my heart is racing. They make me disoriented, flood me with adrenaline and put a wall around my brain within seconds.

A friend recently compared herself to me. She said she was an open book, just like I was and I really pondered that comment for days. Maybe even weeks. Am I really that open, I wondered? Yes, I put myself out there and talk about very vulnerable moments in my life. Are you an open book if you only share certain chapters? I will answer almost anyone’s questions as honestly as I can, and yet I think so much of me remains hidden. There are easy things to talk about such as being a mom raising three boys with my wife by my side. I can talk about my weight and what I’m doing to get healthy on the inside and even how I’m helping my brain and my mind feel better. I like to share love stories, laughter, the stupid things I do because the journey of rebuilding has been such a beautiful process. Even the lows are incredible highs compared to before.

I couldn’t even think about my decade long of surviving domestic violence until recently. Watching anything remotely like what I had put up with on TV gave me anxiety, made me look away with pain and disappointment. Friends would ask me some questions and I would freeze up, trying to figure out how to change the conversation immediately. Yes, I bring it up now, but still mostly in written form. My throat seizes up. It doesn’t even take asking. It could happen at the drop of a dime at any one of the triggers listed above, many more I can’t think of at the moment. For ten whole years, I was in flight or fight with sprinklings of okay moments I could handle. It wasn’t always horrible but I always felt unsafe.

About a year ago I downloaded The Book of Forgiving, by Desmond Tutu and would play it whenever I drove somewhere. At first I told myself that I had picked it out of a long list of books I wanted to read because it popped up on the “recommended” list and was on sale. The reality is that I needed this book in my life; forgiveness doesn’t come easy to most but it was undoable for me. I held on to things so fiercely. I began to listen to it with this “I will never forgive him” mentality. Let’s hear what Desmond has to say. Either way, I will not forgive him. I will not forgive them because I had an Arya Stark list of who had egregiously wronged me and it was written in stone.

bof

The book began and I was surprised at how calming it was. Desmond Tutu narrates it and while his voice is nothing close to monotonous, he manages to maintain his voice at the same volume, with inflection and emotion but never overwhelming. I found I couldn’t listen to it with the close-minded mentality I had hit download with. Little by little I found myself excited to drive somewhere. My commute to work was pleasant now, enriching my thoughts. I still felt like I couldn’t figure out forgiveness, but I kept listening. My heart was yearning for something and this was helping me listen.

**If you think I’m about to say I finally forgave my ex to which your response will be an eye roll or something equally justifiable, please bear with me.**

“Forgiveness means you are given another chance at a new beginning,” he said gently. I needed him to say that without fire or passion. I needed it to creep into my heart through the breaks and the cracks, and somehow he knew that was the only way. When I heard that, I parked my car in its normal stall, turned it off and took a few deep breaths. I have been so hell bent on rewriting my shitty first draft. I was CRUSHING it, in my opinion even though I knew I had some major road blocks. I didn’t think this was one of them. “If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator.” When he said this, I literally stopped in my tracks. Well, un-literally, as I was driving, but my thoughts did! It was in that moment that I realized I didn’t endure 3.650 days (plus some) of mental, physical and verbal abuse to spend ONE MINUTE more on it. “When we forgive, we take back control of our fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves.”

And that was my ah-ha moment, friends. It was in that moment that I realized I needed first and foremost, to forgive myself. And I needed to forgive FOR myself, as well. The thing is, reading (or in this case, hearing) something said to me, no matter how absolutely perfect and full of sense it is, doesn’t fix the problem automatically. It still takes action. Requires a sense of desire, at least, to move forward towards that. One tactic Desmond shares, some wisdom he so graciously shared, was to give your hurt a voice. Don’t brush it aside and pretend it never happened, but rather, talk it out, talk about it with friends, write your thoughts down in a journal, pick a rock and name it your hurt. Carry it in your pocket and rub it in your hand and when you’re ready, place it somewhere. Leave it there. Behind you, rather than carrying it with you on your person.

I only did one of those things, and it was to begin journaling about it. Except, it was kind of an accident and it happened without me realizing it. That journal is this blog. Did I start this whole endeavor thinking, “What about my past life of hell am I going to share with my friends today?” No. But little by little, I keep thinking of things I want to share and often times, it’s about that. It makes perfect sense to me. My past marriage was wrought with so much pain on so many levels. I didn’t jump out of a vehicle and run for my life one night, five years ago to just move on and get over it in one day. Hell, it took me almost three years to even really start saying something to someone other than Ku. If someone would have said I would join the board of DVSAS even two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. I might have called you a liar. Even reaching out about joining gave me sky-high anxiety. And it was in that second that I knew I had to do it. Enough with being comfortable. Enough with wallowing in my inner pity party. I had to continue rebuilding and this was me staying on that path.

While listening to Desmond’s book has opened my heart up to understanding forgiveness, not just in the case of my ex-husband, but also other travesties I’ve held deep inside, I will say I didn’t come out SAVED by it. A book isn’t saving me any more than any one thing will. It merely provided me with some necessary tools to begin my own process. For me, forgiveness has become less about letting someone off the hook for something they may not even be sorry for, but freeing myself from all the negative energies that were binding me to them.

So, what about those pesky triggers? I can talk and talk about the act of forgiving; feel really good about life in general, and then I’ll hear a car pull into the garage and the door slam shut and before I know it I’ve jumped off the couch and rushed to the kitchen to pretend I was busy preparing a dinner I hate because I can’t cook and I already know nobody will like it. Except it’s Ku that walks in the door, excited to see me, giving me a hug and a kiss and I act like I wasn’t just in freak out mode, like I am not scrambling to make something because I remember that she was cooking dinner tonight. I hear one of the boys come in from playing outside and they are happy and everyone’s smiling and I realize I’m not in a small apartment with almost no furniture with someone yelling at me, pushing me against a wall. And it’s been over FIVE years.

Two weeks ago I attended a work luncheon about preventing bullying in the workplace. The facilitator was a retired law enforcement official. He was squirrelly, spoke robustly, but never made me feel intimidated. I suppose that matched the theme of his session, now that I look back. He went over what bullying is, why people do it, what to do if you see it happening, and why people don’t step in when they witness it. I found myself listening more for information that I could take back to my kiddos, especially Abraham. I wasn’t listening necessarily for myself, but rather to pass on when I saw fit. And then a face in the crowd asked a question that he read into deeper. He had said earlier that he estimated about 70-80% of any given crowd has been a victim of bullying, which he defined as an abuse of power that is repeated. He began discussing triggers, because we tend to respond differently to conflict when we personally feel triggered.

I perked up because I know I have some. Fearlessly, and I’m not sure where this came from, but I shot my hand up. It had just the right amount of gumption, because he saw it right away and called on me.

“Let’s say you recognize a trigger. How do you desensitize yourself from it?” I asked him. He looked around the room. “Does anyone else here want to know? It’s not really what today is about, but if enough people in the room are up for it, I can take a moment and give one desensitizing trick I’ve learned.” I’m guessing enough heads bobbed yes for him to dive in. “Here it is,” he said.

Step 1: Take a handful of deep breaths. Really deep breaths. Breathe in slow and breathe out slow.

Step 2: Tell yourself the date and where you are. This helps bring your brain back from whatever memory it decided to visit. It confuses it, stops the synapses mid-way and recalls them to somewhere else. Somewhere safe.

Step 3: Tell yourself you are ok. Say it as many times as you need to.

It could sound like this: Deep breath. Deep breath. Deep breath. Today is Monday, May 22, 2017 and I’m in my kitchen. I am ok. I am ok. I am safe. I am ok.

I don’t remember much of his other content. I’m glad he answered this and gave us some help. I’ve tried it out twice now and so far, so good. While I hope I don’t need to use it anymore, I know that isn’t logical so I will keep applying it, keep saying it, and keep breathing because I am okay. I am safe and I am happy.

And thank you for reading this. You are helping me heal.

Crazy Vee

 

 

A Mother of a Day

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As we spent yesterday showering our Mother’s with a barrage of photo collages and lovey dovey sayings, I thought back on my time in this club, my very short almost fifteen years. One I used to think I wanted nothing to do with it, a membership that is wrought with judgements and finger pointing, defending, crying, feelings of absolute inadequacy and failure. A clandestine understanding of how to lose your shit, the million and one ways to ugly sob into your pillow, and the overwhelming love when you get handed a dandelion because the pretty flower had to go to you.

I was twenty when I found out I was pregnant with Sam. I spent the whole pregnancy in one dark spot or another, for so many reasons. Mostly, in utter disappointment with myself. I had imagined the trajectory of my life a completely different way and this felt like failure. Having grown up in a restaurant, many of the patrons felt close to me and had no qualms sharing their thoughts about my choices with my young self. More than a few shared their surprise. “You’re so smart, though!” some said when they heard. I was constantly defending myself and it was one hundred percent because I was right there with them. I get it. A small town girl saying she wasn’t going to be a mom or a wife right away and that is ALMOST EXACTLY what I did. One thing I was adamant about, though, was that becoming a mother didn’t make me any less smart.

Mother’s Day is a weird holiday. Yes, I love the concept behind it, but it gets so murky, so dirty and it takes away from what it’s trying to be. For me, the idea of what a mom is has changed numerous times in my first half of life. My parents divorced when I was two years old and I was lucky to get to stay with my dad. He met my mom (she’s mom in my book, no step-anything about it) in one of the best cute-meet stories I’ve ever heard. It isn’t mine to share, but let’s just say he was adamant he would get her number…

My mom chose to take on a role that wasn’t optional to her. I think there’s an inane amount of beauty in that, alone. I see the same majestic loyalty in Ku, just being a pivotal part of raising the boys with me. Being a step-parent seems like such a hard title, one that I cannot understand and it’s what I’ve been around since a young age. From the beginning, I was harmed by the ghost of my biological mom, although not because she died. She’s still very much alive, but she wasn’t in my life. She wasn’t around to see important milestones in my life and it was through no fault of anyone but herself. I want to judge her harshly most days and on good days I want to forgive her. Sometimes I think I have but I just never really know. She was battling her own addiction demons for most of my formative years and that kept her from being able to keep her word to me at any given time. When I think about it, I feel like she failed me. Because of her, I take it very personally when someone tells me yes, they’ll come to something with me and then they don’t follow through. If you say yes to me, I take it as a blood oath. If you don’t show up, I have a very hard time letting it go. It tears me up. I call her a ghost because she would call when she could, make impossible promises and then not show up. It haunted my soul. I always believed her.

“She said she would be here on my birthday,” I would tell my Mom as I peeked out the window on April 10. Then she would try to pick up my broken pieces and attempt to put me back together when she wouldn’t. She had to have known EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. that my BM (biological mom) wouldn’t follow through but she never let on, she never bad mouthed her. I was always so heartbroken and I never once stopped to think how it affected her, too.  How did she constantly soothe me as I was aching inside? Or when I would get mad at her for parenting me so I would say the easiest insult I could think of because I was young and children can be a-holes. How devastating must it have been to hear, “You’re not my mom!” from a kiddo that made you one? She is the unconditional mom.

When I was eleven, I moved to Mexico with an Aunt and Uncle for a year and a half. It was an incredible experience and helped me understand and learn my culture, proper Spanish, and family values. My Aunt became like a second mother to me, who taught me basic cooking skills, let me watch her put makeup on, told me about periods. She asked me questions about my BM, scolded me when I was getting too angry about it all, hugged me and held me tight when she could sense I needed it. She was tough love and deep love and gentle. She never trusted my ex-husband, took me aside and told me I deserved better. She adored meeting my Sam and told me I was an incredible mother full of love and she attributed it to all my heartache over feelings of inadequacy with my own experiences. “You are compassionate with Sam because you want him to know he’s loved, because it’s what you’ve been searching for,” she astutely told me one day. She was never more right about anything. We lost her to cancer a number of years ago and I think about the life lessons she taught me all the time. My aunt was a deep love Mom.

I remember hearing once that if you want to know what kind of a man someone is, to watch how they treat their mothers. It sounds legit, makes perfect sense but I am here today to tell you that is a CROCK OF SHIT sometimes. My ex-husband treats his mom like a queen and told me to my face that she came before me. He hit me in front of her once and she said to me, “You should have stopped arguing. He wouldn’t have hit you if you had stopped snapping back unnecessary comments.” Not all mothers are nice. Many are wearing blinders. It doesn’t even matter if your child is old and grown and pretending to be mature. Those blinders don’t always come off. She never liked me and the feeling was mutual and I’m so thankful every day that I don’t have to see or speak to her anymore. Her and her son hold no more power over me and it’s a beautiful feeling. She is the narcissistic mom. She’s not the only one I’ve known.

And then I met an absolute angel. Ku’s mom (and a lot of her family) are what I needed to see in terms of what a family can be. Even if it’s blended differently, even if there’s some divides, her mom has helped show me that amicability is absolutely possible, that motherhood doesn’t stop at any one age, that you will always worry about your littles, and that asking for help is okay. Asking for help is okay. Asking for help is okay. Sometimes you have to say things to yourself more than once so it sinks in. She teaches me how to be more thoughtful, how to love harder, how to let go when you need to, when trust is warranted, and how to talk about hard situations. I am so thankful she is in my life, all the time. ALL.THE.TIME. She is a thoughtful mom.

What I’ve been trying to say is that motherhood is a messy business. It isn’t always a happy feeling and one day a year doesn’t make it better. Sometimes motherhood is wished for, prayed for, pleaded for. Other times it happens when you weren’t expecting it, didn’t think you wanted it, don’t know how to do it. There’s the accidental mothers, the choose to be moms, the I’ll-be-what-you-need-me-to-be moms who fill voids and roles that you desperately seek. It’s a title with many sub-titles and those with the sub-titles, the prefixes, the add on, get inexcusably forgotten. It takes away from what they deserve and makes them feel less worthy. And almost every mom is a worthy mom.

A big I LOVE YOU to my Mom, my Aunt watching over me, and my Mother-in-Love. So much love. And to my Mom Friends, who inspire, motivate and encourage me to be better. Love to you, also.14264074_804611123011068_8170020838427018602_n

 

 

 

 

 

When did you know?

 

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It doesn’t get much cuter than this!

 

When people ask me who I am I never think “Lesbian.” I almost always describe myself as a mother, a wife, an aficionado of wine, a lover of fat babies and children in general, a jokester, a wit mcgrit, a rhymer in an un-rapstar kind of way, a smart-ass, a badass, a babe. I dig the Gilmore Girls, Game of Thrones, reading of all sorts, writing; I am a Human Resources professional, I’m a developer of people, curator of ideas, a doer, a shaker. I’m ALWAYS A BOSS.

And yet, I’m asked often times the same question. I’m quite alright with it, so if you’re reading this and cringing because you’ve also asked me about my sexuality in some way, shape or form, don’t think for one moment it has offended me. It hasn’t. I welcome it, in honesty, because I’m also thinking my way through it for better ways to explain what I feel inside of me.

We have somehow become a society of labels. Sometimes those labels fit us so well, like wine-lover, and others we want to immediately throw out the window and not accept, such as overweight. We don’t always want to be just one of them, sometimes we want to add more to our plate and other times we don’t even know we have earned a new one.

I feel like that last one was my case, five plus years ago, when I fell in love for real, for the legit first time, forever. Not once did I stop and think about the gender of who I was falling for. There was no time for that. It was more of an excitement, a rustle in the air of emotions and charged feelings. What I have continually tried to explain is that I never once stopped and said, “Whoa, I’m in love with a girl.” All I could think was, “This is love. This is real.”

I don’t have a coming-out story like some do. Telling friends or family I was gay just never happened. At least not like it did for a lot, who maybe realized their attraction at an early age and tried to hide it. Or understanding how you want to look or dress and then “breaking the news to your people.” I can’t say if it’s because I didn’t know, or didn’t recognize. My sharing of a love story was me introducing her to family and friends. Just pulled the band aid off and did it. I didn’t worry about it one bit. I wasn’t scared. I was so damn excited about turning a new leaf, changing my life, taking a plunge, not in loving her, but in throwing away my shitty first draft and starting over. My loving a woman was the last bullet point on a new outline for life. It wasn’t saying, “Hey everyone, I love a woman.” It was me shouting, “Hey everyone, I AM IN LOVE.”

When the questions eventually started, because they inevitably do, that was when I realized it was a major change for people. Apparently you can’t drink coffee with cream your whole life and then cold turkey go to black (or vice-versa) without having to explain the ins and outs to people. They hit you with a stack of ideas that could make it acceptable. It’s not always the same but can look something like this.

“Ooooooh, it was probably because he was abusive to you. Are you scared of guys now?” No.

“Is this a phase? What if you change your mind again? And is this weird for your kids?” No.

“Was he not good in bed? You just decided to give ladies a try? He was just that terrible?” No.

And the ever perplexing: “That must be really embarrassing for him. His wife leaving him for a woman?” WHAT THE WHAT?!?!! Sure. Let’s all take a moment and have a moment of silence for the asshole that still haunts my nightmares. Let’s hope his miniature man balls can take such a blow. Sheesh.

People want to know what brought it about, they want to find reasons in the chaos, they sit and rack their brain about why you made this choice. And yet I don’t remember ever clearing choosing a woman. I merely let my heart decide. I can’t even say if I would be with another woman if something happened to us. I just know that I have never felt so connected to a man. I haven’t felt this immense, overwhelmingly beautiful pull to a man. What I can say is that the universe knew it was time for me to be happy and placed the PERFECT person in my path. I was luckily paying attention. Sometimes we aren’t, though. Right? There could very well be many of us who had amazing options right in front of our face and we chose to look right through them. It can be a best guy friend who wants to give a relationship a shot but you aren’t up for it, because you don’t want to lose a friendship. It could be the “nice guy” who just doesn’t make you feel butterflies in your stomach. It could be the ex of a friend and you can’t break the girl code. It could be someone of a different ethnicity or your same race who you’ve sworn you would never date because of it. Either way, it comes out in your questions to me.

I won’t say Kulia and I haven’t discussed what this is for the boys. It was really more of a slow process, because they were dealing with the divorce, which was hard for them. There were so many changes with that and a period of time they didn’t see their Dad due to a restraining order. That was the hard part and so we handled them gently. She was there as a friend and a confidant for them. She was around in such a seamless way and eventually, when it was time, we got a place together and they never batted an eye. She was so safe for them and they could feel it and they wanted her to live with us. We never openly engage in PDA around them, minus holding hands and an occasional peck on the lips, but not because we are two ladies. It’s because it’s not appropriate, even if we were hetero. There’s a place and a time for such acts, and we have never thought it was to be in front of the kiddos. We let them slowly understand we weren’t just best friends but also in love. We are respectful to not flaunt our relationship at their school events or outings but we also don’t hide it. We have always operated with 100% honesty, with them, with our family, with our friends, and with anyone who asks.

I promise that. Always honesty because I haven’t felt for one second that our love is not a beautiful thing. I hold her hand with pride, I smile when I call her my wife. I love that the boys couldn’t imagine life without her. I won’t hide it and I won’t shy away from any questions in regards to it. You have any? Hit me with them! I will always answer them. All I’m saying is, love has never been a choice when it comes to her. She was always meant for me and me for her and we had no say in the whole, entire matter.

 

 

 

In the Corner of Co-parenting

Almost five years ago, when I was working on my divorce from my ex-husband, the most irritating thing (for me, at the time) was that Washington state obligates both parents to attend a six hour “Co-parenting” class. It behooves me that you can get married with no obligatory wait time or trial period, no education in the aspect. Nothing. You pay a fee and set an appointment and before you know it, you can say “I do,” in front of a judge.

But to get divorced. Now, there’s a feat. And if you have children together, it’s even more daunting. There is the mandatory Parenting Plan, that establishes so many rules and expectations, such as drop-off and pick-up times, who gets whom when, the ever exciting tax reporting rights, etc. And then this class. You need to devote a Saturday to listening to someone chat about co-parenting and receive an attendance certificate at the end before your divorce is signed off on. In Washington. By the time you get the seal of approval no less than half a calendar year has passed and you are more than ready to be checking single on your W-4. Hell, you might even have a party.

I showed up on my Saturday with a headache, tired eyes and no expectations. It was pretty full and I remember thinking that this was a lot of broken families and broken hearts in this room. Divorce is most definitely the right action for some but it doesn’t come without a lot of work, pains in your rear and tears from your children. I remember nothing about the person who facilitated the whole event. I do, however, remember many of the points.

First, I want to set something straight. I SINCERELY admire any parent duos who decide to call it quits on their marriage but can still remain civil and respectful to each other for the good of the kiddos. I absolutely think HANDS DOWN that those are amazing anomalies. They are not the norm but they should be acknowledged, cherished, celebrated and revered. I cannot say I envy it but I’m in a different position. I’m in an opposite ballpark, playing a different sport, where there are no rules and tons of restrictions, lots of aggravating circumstances and lacking in the breath of fresh air category.

I want to say that there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between co-parenting and parallel parenting and sometimes it’s not such an easy choice, no matter how bad you want to do one or the other. This has been the case with me. I don’t have that sunshiney split that still brings everyone together. I don’t want it. For us, it will never work. I recognize that and I believe it to be healthy, because often times people tend to judge and want to put you down or make you feel bad for knowing what is right for your family. AND YOUR SANITY. I knew, once I heard the speaker differentiate the two, which group I would be in until my kids were grown.

Parallel parenting, which I’m a queen at, is where each guardian is doing the parenting on their own. They don’t communicate with each other, mostly because they can’t. Whether it’s because they don’t know how to in a healthy way, or because there is a danger in them trying to work things out, or there’s no respect in at least one of them. Any shadow of a doubt for one of those criteria puts you in PP. The adults are disengaged, with limited contact regardless of where the kiddos are. While there can be circumstances of trust being rebuilt to lower hostility, I don’t see that in our future.

One of the points of the speaker, on that obligatory Saturday, was to understand common triggers that make arguments. Oddly enough, the number one reason exes fight when exchanging the kids is clothing. Hearing that, I made a mental note to try my damnedest to let articles of clothing roll off my back. I do. Try my hardest. It has been a hard promise not to break to myself. Sometimes I want that stupid effin jacket to come back home! Or, on the flip side, I still don’t like the style of clothing he buys them. But at least he does and I try to remind myself that even though he likes douchey clothes, they aren’t going to grow up to be douches. Silver lining, right?

The other was to verbally allow them to continue to love their other parent. This was a big one for me to hear and understand, because one of the stipulations of the parenting plan was that neither parent nor anyone around the kiddos could verbally bash or speak ill of the other parent. I put that in there for a reason. I know him and his family. They live on rather high pedestals that most common folk can’t ever reach the heights of. It was no secret that they never liked me and they often spoke ish about me when I was in the room. I didn’t expect for one second that they would honor it but it gave me a basis in the event my boys ever came home and shared things with me. I was lucky enough to be granted almost full custody of my mini-men, which meant the most time with me, so I wanted them to know that them loving their dad was okay. Kids never want to choose a parent, unless of course they are meanagers and pissed off at you for not being their friend, so telling them they are allowed to love their other parent gives them permission they want but won’t ask for.

One of the biggest benefits is that it removes the children from being witness to toxic parental conflict, which is probably why the divorce is happening. It removes unrealistic mutual cooperation expectations and allows both parents to be equal contributors to the development of their little humans. I don’t know about you guys, but whoever can do that isn’t gonna hear any flack from me! No judgement! Not from me!

Whether it’s you or your friends or maybe some acquaintance of yours that are going through some type of broken parenting, don’t be that a-hole that wants to say that one way or the other is a choice. I’ve found that to be untrue for most people. Even in my case, I didn’t have that ability to say I was going to be the bigger person and put my differences aside, for so many reasons. Whatever option works for you, embrace it and continue to do what is best for your babies and will teach them love and respect. Isn’t that the ultimate goal, anyway?

Everything in love and respect.