Saturday, August 28

Now (2)

We get in the car and drive into town for pizza.  They are both full of chatter, interrupting each other, talking over each other, and then bickering about it.  I am smiling and relieved and happy just to be with them, to hear their voices, but also bummed because now I have to run interference and one of them is going to be hurt or feel irritated and our time together is so short that I hate to have it marred by that.  Experience has shown that one of the two has the unfortunate tendancy to hold a grudge and be upset for hours at the merest slight.

But that is what a mom does, runs interference between siblings, reminds children of manners (even amongst their siblings!) and doesn't let a childs moodiness ruin a moment for everyone.  So I am the mom, and I hold up a hand, and I use my cowboy accent to call out a "hold up there a minute outlaws!" and tonight I am lucky because they laugh and we regroup and then we are pulling into the restaurant and everything is fine.

We bounce out of the car, the three of us, and collide in front of it.  My girl leans into me for a hug and there is such need and want and ache rolling off of her that I can feel it.  She closes her eyes and sighs deeply, a small curve of contentment on her lips as I wrap my arms around her and press my lips into her soft freckled cheek.  I wonder if she can feel my own need and want and ache rolling off of me?  My son stands, awkward and lanky, all gangly legs and arms right next to us, embarrassed that there is this hugging thing going on right in the parking lot and not wanting to be identified by anyone he knows.

We order and get drinks and find a table.  Seated, the chatter begins again.  My son had high school orientation and I drag the details out of him word by word - chatter about nothing is easy but to tell your parent about something they are asking about is teenage torture. 

He's entering high school.  He's grown and changed so much this year and I've missed so many of the tiny little moments that are normally taken for granted but matter in a foundational way.  I think the missing of those things hurts more than the missing of the big things.  He's taller than me, weighs more, shaves, has pimples, his voice sounds more like a mans voice now and I missed the journey that got him to this place.  When I left, when I thought it was just a couple of weeks until he'd be with me again, he was smaller, lighter, younger, smoother - still recognizable as my little boy in most ways. Now I see my little boy only in brief glimpses; the flash in his eye when he teases me, the sound of his laughter.

My girl sits close to me, nearly on me, nestled into my side, arm pressed into mine.  She too is different, having grown right into puberty full force, and the feel of her body is at odds with my memory of how she should feel, all pressed into me the way she is.  She is not yet taller than me but it won't be long.  She weighs more than me now though, is more solid and sturdy than a year ago. She is going to be such a lovely young woman.  Her eyes are so beautiful and I love the crazy wild freckles so abundant on her face.  She has skin that feels to me like I imagine a rain laden cloud might feel: full, warm, rich, comforting. 

We eat, laughing like crazy at the pre-schooler sitting at a table behind us and his determination to drink the salt from the saltshaker.  His mothers voice is hissing, "I said stop licking the salt shaker!" and we are doing that silent shaking laughter with the occasional snort or squeak.

It feels good. 

The bookstore and some mindless browsing.  I'm irritated but keep it hidden when my son is constantly texting with his friends.  This is MY time, and its so precious to me, but he is a teenager and he is normal and he is just doing what teenagers do.  He shouldn't have to spend every second focused on me just because I miss him so much.  I know he misses me too, but his friends ARE the essence of his life and he has to separate and become this independant soul and I want to honor that.  My daughter finds a book quickly but I am dismayed at the cost - I can't afford it - I am heartbroken at not being able to give her this gift, a book, something so reasonable.  I simply say I'm sorry but she will have to find one for about half of the cost.  She remembers that she has money at home and thinks maybe we can share the cost and I am thrilled to know I can do this.  I smile, she smiles, we are both content with this. My son finds a magazine, turns his nose up at every book suggestion I make, and I remember my oldest daughter doing this at the same age.  I am no less irritated though at the ridiculous snubbing of so many fabulous books I am offering to buy.  He calls his dad and makes a deal so his dad will buy his magazine for him and he is smug with me.  I have just been relegated to seriously unimportant and useless.  I sigh.  Oh buddy, I say.  He has the sense to look ashamed of his ploy.  We pay and I can't shake the little grief that has lodged again in my heart.

Driving home we chatter, tell jokes and stories, and plan for our next time together.  At their house, the one that is still mine but that I'm not allowed inside of, we hug.  And this time my son hugs me right there in the driveway, in public for anyone to see; he holds me for a while, lets me rub his back and smooth his hair and streeeetch up to kiss his cheek.  We hug several times while trying to say goodbye, and finally I shoo them into the house and I climb into my car.

On the way home I cry.

Thursday, August 26

After The First Part (2)

I drove-travelled for about 3 days.  I stopped when I wanted to, napped when I wanted to, ate when (and what) I wanted to.  I was 'doing' and 'being' just for ME.

Selfish? Maybe. Irresponsible? A little, in regards to my finances maybe, but since my kids were away with my 'husband' and I didn't have any other obligations so it didn't seem to really matter what I did or didn't do. Good for me? I don't know.  I think yes in some ways, the time of solitude and doing just for myself and not for anyone else; but no in some ways because of the solitude, the freedom which wasn't free-ing but empty and purposeless. 

I learned a lot in those few days.  I was brave, adventurous, challenged and victorious. I faced incredible fears and got through them, mostly, and learned a few limits as well.  I experienced things I've never experienced before, both good and bad.  And I did it on my own.  I found where my bottom line was and I was prepared for that with the phone number and address of a facility that professed to offer help.

When I went to stay at the place that promised to help me, I met an incredible doctor who listened to me, believed me, validated me.  I grieve that I only met her briefly and no longer can access her as a resource.  A partially retired occasional fill in on call when she wants to be kind of practitioner, I blossomed in courage while under her care.  She sent me home.  To my real home where he was, where my kids were.  She said I should reestablish my place there as was my right.  And I followed her advice.

With bravado, a bit of self righteous anger, a broken heart, and having had a respite, I left that place and drove to my home intending to live there until the divorce was finalized and spelled out the division of assets - as I was supposed to have done in the beginning but was too broken to do.

The result was him, coming home, late at night after I'd been there for awhile and unable to reach him.  The result was reaching him finally near midnight on the phone, and him arriving home to confront me.  It was an intense standoff of him barricading me in the guest room: all 6 foot 2 and 220 lbs of him in the doorway refusing to let me out while yelling and demanding to know where I'd been and why I was back.  The result was me, desperate to get out of that room, all 5 foot 4 and 110 lbs of me trying to dive inbetween the door frame and his arm.  The result was me on the floor on my back, him above me, a tangle of flailing arms and grabbing hands and me in a flight AND fight escape mode, grabbing the nearest body part (between his legs) and then scrambling, running, falling, scrambling, running, ahead was the kitchen door to the garage, his hands thrusting on my back, me flying through the air not touching the steps downward, landing on concrete, thinking my kids were inside the house terrified at what they were witnessing, desperate to get to them, rolling and turning and scrambling hands and knees back IN the house as his feet and hands kicking, pulling door shut on my head, yelling, and then sudden stopping of everything: a silence.  Him turning away, back inside, me pausing on hands and knees at the doorway, and hearing him using the phone to call the police.  "Hello? Yes, my wife is assaulting me and I want her arrested."  The result was knowing my kids weren't there, not knowing WHERE they were, the sound of sirens in the distance, the feel of stinging scrapes on my knees, palms, forearms.  The surreal wavery sensation of absolute disbelief that the man who had held me in his arms while I gave birth to our children, the man who held me in the middle of the night when my uncle died, the man whom I'd held when his mother died: this man had hurt me with his hands, and was calling the police.

I was handcuffed.  Escorted down my driveway and into a police car.  Driven to the station.  Photographed, fingerprinted, and put in a cell.  Me.  Stay at home mom, foster parent, girl scout leader, church-nursery attendent, church cleaning team member, teacher and facilitator, arrested.

I heard later that he tried to get them to release me but was told they couldn't.  I was told that he gave the bail money to the friend who came to pay for my release.  I was told that he drove my car a few blocks away so that I could retrieve it upon my release. 

I heard all that, but yet none of it stopped him from filing a restraining order declaring I was a significant threat to him and to the children and that I was to have NO contact whatsoever with them pending a hearing.  I was served with that order, after midnight, a full 24 hours afterward.  I can't even relay the extent of my devestation, shock, grief, bewilderment, disbelief, incomprehension at the events that had transpired in that 48 hours.  It was a Lifetime TV kind of moment.  A hokey B-movie kind of thing.  Yet it was real.

What now???

Today I am still here, and I am still the mom.  But I need to tell you what happened because even if you don't believe me, it all happened and it was as unbelievable to ME as it might be to you and I have to tell it to bring it to light.  I am the mom.  I always was, and always will be no matter what happened.  And that is only the beginning part...

Love, Mia

Wednesday, August 25

After The First Part (I)

I was in the hospital for just a few days.  He came every day and when I was discharged, I went with him, to our home.

The kids didn't know - they'd been with him out of state when I'd sent him the letter saying goodbye and they'd not yet been back when the police and ambulance that he'd sent came to get me.  While I was in the hospital I called them every day.

I was only home a day when he and I were fighting, when he was telling me how manipulative I was, how "sick" I was.  So I left. I went back to my lonely smelly miniscule apartment.

I spent two weeks going to a group program discussing feelings, boundaries, coping and self soothing techniques.  And I went to my job, and back to my empty apartment, and I saw the kids a few times.  I was exhausted, broke, and sad.  He was controlling and demanding and nothing was different.  By now I'd lost almost a full 25 lbs and I looked horrible. I refused anti-depressents because of how they made me feel actually crazy instead of just sad and hopeless.

He said if I didn't take them, and tell him, then I wouldn't be able to have the kids overnight.

It was a few days after our 14th anniversary, which we didn't celebrate obviously, when he again took the kids out of town with no notice, not asking if it was ok, and not allowing me the option for any time with them.  He'd already placed our 11 year old in a daycamp instead of letting her be with me, and he'd arranged to take our 13 year old to relatives to stay for a week.

I worked and supported myself, but it wasn't enough.  I saw the kids when he said I could, but I had no say in it, wasn't given the chance to actually parent them.  If I worked more, I saw the kids less.  If I worked less, I couldn't afford to see the kids more.  If I was sad and told him, he said I was "sick" and needed help.  If I was sad and didn't tell him, he said I wasn't "dealing" and could never be "healthy".  I figured, what the hell.  Nothing I did was right, there didn't seem to be a way to get ahead, and I was so broke I couldn't pay my bills or buy groceries for myself much less buy gas to visit with my kids.  He was taking them away, again, and since he'd told me I was irresponsible and unreliable, I decided I might as well really act that way.

I took a road trip all by myself.  I packed my car and got in and started driving.  I stopped by the library to load up on audio books, maps, and tourist books.  I packed my most important papers all together and brought with me.  I didn't know if I'd be coming back.  I researched mental health facilities in case I thought I needed one.  I drove.

It was lovely.  I called the kids every day.  He wanted to know what I was doing and where I was but I wouldn't tell him.  He was out of state and it didn't matter, nor did he have the right to know.  I drove thru the August sun.  I went to the beach.  I drove through the mountains.  I drove and drove and drove.  I went camping.

And then I stopped.

And I checked myself into a mental health "retreat" of sorts.

And would you believe that things got even worse after that??

Love, Mia

Tuesday, August 24


He called as I was getting the kids organized to head out for the hour long drive back to their house. 

Back to the house that still bears my name on the mortgage.  The house that is in active foreclosure now.  The house I'm not "allowed" to go into without his permission.  His personal rule, not a legal rule.

He was out of state and informed me that I was to drop the kids off at the house where an aquaintance from church was going to be staying with them overnight and until he returned. I agreed, as usual automaticly responding without thought.  But by the time we were in the car, I was having serious second thoughts.

What kind of mom just drops her children off with someone she doesn't know well?  For an unknown length of time? Overnight no less.  And while their residential parent is out of state more than 3 hours away?  When she herself lives more than an hour away?  What if something happened to the other parent or to the kids?  Alarm bells. 

Ok. Be rational.  Kids are 14 and 12, old enough to tell someone if they are scared or hurt or being treated inappropriately. People who are to watch the kids are aquaintences with their own child - and are coming to the kids house to stay there with them.  But still - you know, it's unexpected for them and for me and I have some questions; I'm still the mom and I have some right to be informed and to have some say.  I know several other people with whom I'd feel more comfortable leaving the kids with and maybe we can find a compromise.

I call him back and leave a message saying that I have concerns, questions, and I am not comfortable. I say I'm not refusing to bring the kids home but want to talk about it with him before I do so.

My son is instantly upset.  He thinks I am going to get in trouble.  He doesn't want that.  I have to explain to him about A) my job as a mom, B) that I am still the mom, and C) that a mom does what is best for the kids regardless.  He is only slightly relieved. 

I call a friend who lives near the kids and tell her whats up, ask her opinion, ask her insight.  She understands and validates my concerns, is worried about legal implications however.  We talk about the logistics, the facts, the outsider view of what it looks like for me if I DO just blindly drop my kids off and if I DON'T.  We toss around some options.  He calls back.

I explain my concerns; I say very clearly, "I am not trying to cause trouble or make waves, but this is really important to me. Can we find another place for the kids that I am more comfortable with? Here are some options I can think of..." and I list the three or four I've come up with.

He says, "You have no rights.  I am the sole physical custodian and that means I get all say in where the kids go and who they go with. You don't have any choice in this. Your responsibility is to drop the kids AT THE HOUSE at the designated time and that's all. You do what you are legally told to do or you'll be in violation. Until you have proven that you are capable of responsibly following legal guidelines, that is how it will be and END OF STORY."

That is followed by some "discussion" if you will - me protesting and reminding him that we have joint legal custody, that I have spent a year following his every demand and order (and him interjecting that it wasn't true) and that it's reasonable to discuss this issue and consider some options blah blah blah.  His near screaming of, "YOU ARE NOT TO BE IN THE HOUSE - do you understand? do you? do you???" is the last of our conversation.

Now is not the moment to write about my heart, my pain, my distress. But it's there. 

I call my friend again and we come up with a solution that makes me feel better.  I will indeed drop the kids off at their house with these people, but I will stay the night at HER house (a few blocks away) so I am close by if the kids need anything.  That's the point you see - that a parent is within easy reach if the kids need something.  With him out of state, and me living an hour away, I was uncomfortable leaving the kids there alone.

Now it's over and done and I wait for the repercussions.  I wait to see if my actions will impact me negatively, if it will make things even worse for me, if it will make a judge think I am as incompetent and irresponsible and crazy as he keeps calmly stating that I am - and as is being evaluated. 

He wants it his way, all the time, in all ways, and with no arguement.  He wants 100% control of every single thing.  He did that our whole marraige and up until the year before I left, I always agreed and complied.  When I started putting up resistance is when things got very bitter and sour - and while I briefly believed that my opposing opinon was invalid, unreasonable, irrational and worthless, as was my own life, I no longer believe that. 

The problem is that every single action I initiate is suspect, up for review, subject to scrutiny with already tainted viewpoints.  Even if I did something obviously and grossly RIGHT, it would initially be suspicious.  The thing that I can't stop thinking about right now, right this minute, is that no matter what happens in court in a few weeks, he will always be this way.  No matter what rights and responsibilities are granted to me, no matter what considerations are allowed for me, he will insist on 100% control in every area he can.  This? This frightens me.  Immeasurably.

Tell someone.  Tell someone, on my behalf, that what is happening to me is not right, is backwards, is hurting my kids, is empowering his agenda for power and control.  Tell someone that I don't have resources and I need help.  Tell someone because the even scarier part is that I am not the only woman out there in this situation. 

Sunday, August 22

The First Part

In 2009, after well over a year, even longer really, of conflicted and frenzied emotional struggling, as my marriage slowly dissolved away under my feet and I helplessly watched my husband morphing into someone I couldn't recognize, I filed for divorce.

There is more to the story of course - the counseling, the blogging and journaling, the desperate pleas to my pastor and various friends and family (which came only after months of silent shame, fear, confusion, and frantic actions meant to salvage it all) but when it came down to that moment, the one moment when I looked around me and thought, "What do I do NOW?", all I could think of was to file for divorce.

The ensueing 3 months proved that things could always get worse.  Well, what had I thought they'd be? Better?  No, I don't suppose I believed that things would get better, but I didn't think they'd get worse.

Ultimately, I came to another pivotal moment where I was looking around at the carnage saying, "What do I do NOW?"

I think my biggest mistake (oh and I've made so many) was not looking ahead at what the ripple effect of my individual actions would be. Not looking far enough ahead and seeing only the one moment of chaos and crisis.
*see below, Note 1 

A second mistake was in that I was so bewildered by the man my husband had become that any of my automatic expectations about his reactions, fed by past experience, were always wrong.  I thought he would be honorable, honest, and do the right thing because that was how he'd always been. I thought he'd be thoughtful and devoted to open minded cooperation, giving benefit of doubt.  He was no longer that man though, and that was, and remains so, the hardest thing for me accept, understand and remember.

So I left my house, moved into my own apartment; having decided that I could no longer continue to let my kids slink around in that volatile tense frightening confusing environment; thinking that soon we would finalize everything, that soon my kids, age 11 and 13 then, would be out of school and we'd sell the house and share the parenting from two different homes; thinking that physical separation would ease the palpable tension, thinking that I didn't want to pull my kids from their bedrooms, their pets, their routines and small comforts when there was just a couple of weeks left of school anyway, thinking it would be ok.

I was wrong.

That wrongness? That slap in the face wrongness of it all was shattering.  I found myself financially broke - more than you might ever imagine and more than I could explain - with no legal representation and no means to gain any, with a bitter angry vindictive man holding my children hostage from me and asking me to jump through hoops of power plays and control with rules that changed randomly.  Things did what they'd come to do: they got worse.

I was told that I wasn't worth anything, that I'd abandoned my children, bailed out, jumped ship.  I was told I didn't have any rights. I was threatened with legal and police action if I argued about when I could have the kids or when I had to return them.  I so desperately wanted to keep my kids out of the mess, out of the middle, away from the conflict.  Desperate enough that I was easily manipulated. When threatened with police intervention if I didn't return my kids to my husband and the house I once lived in at a specific time (no, there was not any court order but I was trying to establish a cooperative flexible non-legal precedent that didn't scar the kids) I returned them because the thought of police showing up and frightening my kids went against everything I was trying for.
*See below: Note 2

Broke, broken down, defeated, harrassed and still under my husbands constant demand and orders in spite of not living together, still trying to meet those demands and orders, overwhelmed by loss and grief (I lost my marraige, my husband, my community, my church family, my life as I knew it, my role as a parent, my home...), tortured by missing my children and by seeing their own grief and confusion and wanting to help them understand while not hurting their love and respect for their daddy, I found myself holding onto that proverbial last straw.

I filed for divorce in March 2009. I moved into my own apartment just 3 months later in mid-June.  A few weeks after that, in July '09 my husband told me that he was taking the kids out of state to visit his family (in spite of the week off I'd taken to be with them - a week off I couldn't afford with no vacation time to use) and that he didn't care if I had taken time off because I didn't matter - and then he handed me HIS proposal for our divorce. 

His proposal included the following: he would allow me alternate weekend visits from Saturday to Sunday.  He would allow me a midweek dinner visit.  He would take my name off the mortgage (quit claim deed) in return for him assuming all the debt associated with our joint credit cards and home equity loan (we were, and are, in tremendous debt).  I was not to receive alimony, any percentage of retirement, mutual funds etc but would not have to pay child support.  I could have a one week vacation in the summer provided I give adequate notice of such by April of each year.  I wasn't to have custody, just visitation.

And that last straw fell.  I shattered completely.  I was so full of shame, so humiliated, so alone, so 'without', and so beaten down emotionally that I couldn't see anything other than what he showed me: unworthy, replaceable, bad, incompetent, unreliable. My kids were better off without me, he was perfectly fine parenting them on his own, after all, I'd left them behind anyway right?

What do I do now?

Back in March, several people gave me advice. People are good at giving advice when they can go home to their own homes and their own husbands and their own children and leave you and your broken life behind.  One person said something that was perhaps the most understanding comment I'd ever heard.  She said, "I know what I would do Mia, but you aren't ME and I would never expect you to do what I do because it isn't in your heart. You are different and so you have to do things your own way."  I loved her for saying that. 

She'd said that back then, before March,  but by July, she was no longer willing to be a part of my life in a way that supported me like I needed.  Like nearly everyone else, she didn't want to "take sides".  No one wanted to "get involved; create an uncomfortable situation; make it awkward".  People wanted," to stay neutral; just keep it open and light; to stay connected for the kids sake".  In theory, I get it.  It's all very PC and grown up and reasonable.  But in reality, by not defending me against a force I was unable to defend myself against, I was left defenseless and finally defeated.  As had been shown to me over the past few months, I knew that if I called someone and asked what to do they would have grimaced sympathetically, hugged me, wiped my tears, patted my hand, prayed for me or with me, felt very bad for me, but nothing else because, you know, they didn't want to take sides.
*See below: Note 3

So there I was - alone and defeated and at yet another moment when I didn't know what to do next.  The more I wondered what to do, the more I wondered why I should even do anything at all.  And the more I tried to find a reason for doing anything, the more I felt like there wasn't one.

With all that in my head, and my heart, I chose to - and these are difficult, ugly, painful words to write, words that I can't yet say out loud - kill myself. A suicide attempt - I felt so worthless that suicide seemed to be a valid action.

And I am here today to talk about it.

I am here because I Am Still The Mom.


*Note 1:   I have learned that a crisis will still be a crisis after a nights sleep, and chaos will remain until it's dealt with - no matter the emotions drowning me, no crisis or chaos I faced back then needed an immediate decision - no bleeding, physical danger, or loss of life was at hand. It felt as important maybe, I don't want to devalue the pain and fear, or the intense desire to fix something with just the right action, but I've learned now to sit on things a little more and a little longer, to try and map out the potential results of an action and weigh those all out to see the variations and their potential results.

*Note 2:  hindsight - with good solid parenting, when you already have good communication with your kids, it is worth it to allow some legal or police intervention to establish a record.  Nonaction based on fear will undermine every effort in the future.

*Note 3: I don't blame any one person or hold them at fault for or responsible for my life as it was at that time: devoid of support, defense, and validation; but the truth is that no one wanted to get involved in a way that backed me up, no one wanted to stand up to my husband and tell him to stop on my behalf, no one wanted to call him out, lift me up, or step outside themselves to speak up for me when I was speechless.  And a year later they still don't.  One 'friend' told me just today that whenever she sees my husband she wants to hit him, but she smiles instead and just avoids real eye contact if they speak.  Another friend, who remains an anchor even now, validated my circumstances back then when she remarked, "When someone abuses you emotionally, they make you think you are crazy - that's what they do, it's how they work. Hold on to what you know."  But it's hard to hold on when the only thing you know isn't honored or believed or validated by anyone outside.

Friday, August 20

Sweet Dreams, Sleep Tight, Don't Let The Bedbugs Bite

I sighed in exasperation as I peeked in the doorway to her bedroom.  20 years old and she still can't make her bed before she leaves for work in the morning.

I laugh sheepishly as I peek in my own bedroom doorway at my own unmade bed.  I shrug. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree says my friend Holly.  Hell, the apple ain't even OFF the tree!

I read another bloggers heartfelt post about her younger kids messily made beds and how she can choose to be irritated or sentimental about the lack of tight even corners and straight aligned edges on the beds they've made all by themselves.  And I think about how it's been a year now since I've had the opportunity to be either irritated OR sentimental about my own younger kids and their bed making talents.

I remember the mornings of "before" - when I would arrive home after driving my youngest to school and set about making beds, gathering laundry, folding, straightening, fluffing, piling; and inevitably sighing, griping, rolling my eyes as I did so - and on a good day weaving in a blessing and a prayer for each child as I did the scut work that is hand in hand with mothering.

Now - well, now is not "before", now is sooo very "now".  I try very hard to appreciate "now" because I know all too well the concept of Perspective and also the concept of Like Vs Like.  What I have is what I have and I could have less (like so many others) or I could have much more than some (comparatively) so I try to accept and bless and enjoy what IS, and what is NOW instead of dwelling on "before".  But it's hard.

Thinking about the simple act of making beds, and the lack of opportunity to do so leads to the bitter inescapable truth that I have also not had the opportunity to tuck my children in their beds.  In a year. 

A years worth of missed bedtimes: the loss of whispered secrets between my daughter and I, the loss of intimate moments of truth and discovery between my son and I, the lost moments of tenderness, tickling, teasing, teaching.  An entire year, and then some, of nights that can't be recovered - nights I didn't pull the blankets up tight to my childs chin, seeing their eyes bright and full of light peeking over the quilt edges in the sharp winter air... nights I didn't turn the fan on a notch higher, crack the window a little more, and kiss a warm flushed cheek in the humid summer stillness... nights I didn't return time and time again to lay a knowing palm on a fevered forehead, determining if it was time for fever reducing medicine or time to let it burn itself out still... nights I didn't come upon a wide eyed pre-teen consumed with some pre-teen trauma that needed deconstructing, listening, encouragement.  So many nights missed, so much growth stunted, so much loss. 

Not just for me - oh, my loss is as relatable as the mouth-watering-feet-running-in-place feeling you get when you bite the inside of your cheek while chewing your dinner; but their loss, my kids loss, which I can't even begin to try and imagine.  When I think about nights they cried and I wasn't there to hold them, nights they were scared and I wasn't there to chase away the fear, nights they were troubled and I wasn't there to shine a light - nights when they missed their momma and I wasn't there - it makes my stomach churn as if I were in serious trouble with the law, as if I were witnessing an act of brutality that others were laughing at, as if I were being held down forcibly while awaiting random acts of torture.  My stomach turns itself inside out when I think about what my children have gone through this past year.

And when I read about or listen to the tale of another momma who is feeling overwhelmed by the work involved in parenting - I feel so much more like reaching out and smacking them with a dose of harsh reality than smiling sympathetically and getting that warm fuzzy blog-sistah feeling.

I can still remember the way it felt to face another morning of unmade beds, socks stuffed under a pillow, and wet towels behind the closet door.  Before... but my current reality is the constant ache of missing my own heart, the emptiness inside of not having my full breath, the grief and loss of what is, essentially, the death of all I ever knew.  My reality now is getting up every day and smiling, laughing, loving - because while I have lost a full year of my children, there is still a future ahead of us and I am still, in spite of it all, The Mom.  I may have missed a year of bedtimes and bedmaking but I have had just enough to sustain me (and them) of laughing with my children, whispering secrets, getting through a disagreement, working through an angry moment, assigning a chore, sharing a private joke, having a memory of an event that is JUST ours to have, and other small but valid and important mommy moments.

Just... just, don't let the small things get you down and pass you by because what you have is what I would give up my eyesight for - what I would willingly and eagerly give a body part for - a bedtime, a morning of sighing over unmade beds, another load of dishes or mismatched socks, I would trade you my own internal organ just to have that as part of my life NOW.

Perspective.  You see?

And now, because I am still the mom, I have to go and set up a new bed, pull up the blankets over an empty mattress, and bless the space that is available.  A mom doesn't give up, doesn't give in, and doesn't let the dark still night steal her soul - even if she wants to - because her kids are still there, still waiting.  This mom won't be able to recover what is lost but she can create new moments out of potential.

I'm still the mom - a year later, I am still the mom. And you can't take that away from me.

Love, Mia

Monday, August 16

Little wisps of love

I finally talked to my kids. What a relief. Frankly, "relief" is such an understatement. There really is no identifiable emotion for what it felt like to hear the sweet cheery voice of my daughter after so many days. I could breathe again. That's what it was like.

Ever had to hold your breath for waaaaay too long? And then when you finally can let it out and inhale again you have that gasping choppy rapid breathing your body forces you to do so you can get all the air you NEED? It was like that - only with out the actual gasping choppy breathing but just the emotion of it.

I saw them for a date night - I'd promised a trip to the mall for some school clothes. It was a successful trip with each kid getting something exactly that they wanted. Now, let me clarify here that I am not a "disneyland parent" - that parent that doesn't have full time priveledges and so buys every trinket or big ticket item the kids desire to make up for it. I'm not that... I wouldn't be even if I could afford it but the truth is that I can't afford it at all. I can't afford anything for my kids in general other than food and it bothers me tremendously that my finances are that tight. Most of the time I actually have to plan out and ration money so carefully just so I'll have enough gas to drive out and see them or to drive them back and forth from their house to mine. It's a tight tight existence walking on a fine line with such a load of debt in one hand and the desire to be with my kids in the other. However, I have been pinching and stretching and saving for months now so that I could do this thing: I bought most of their school supplies (not all, but most) and decided that each kiddo could pick that one special thing they HAD to have for school this year: an $80 hoodie would be worth it because it would likely be worn daily for the first 6 month beginning in the Fall and extending through Spring.

I had the luck to hit a fabulous sale weekend and spent less than anticipated and each beloved kiddo was thrilled. It matters. Not that they have this greedy want list, but that I could provide this one thing that was important to their hearts and spirits. They aren't little kids wanting the newest toy - they are teens wanting to be accepted, socially appropriate, to be understood and supported. I know that feeling, remember it all too well, and every midnite shift I worked was worth being able to give them some kind of gift that lets them know I hear them. It's a wisp of love - just like when I sat and watched youtube videos with my son or when I play yahtzee with my daughter or when we play word games on our hour long drive - little wisps of love that I breath on them. This particular wisp will be tangible which is important also. Some actual "THING" that I could give them.

I dream of the day I will tuck them into bed at night and wake up to cook them breakfast in the morning - day after day after day. I dream of packing lunches, sighing over forgotten homework, and griping about unmade beds. I dream of it as vividly as if it were happening and by doing so I hope the universe gets the message and breathes a little wisp of love my way.


Wednesday, August 11

Holding Pattern

My son's cell phone is mysteriously not working. He came back from camp and his phone won't take or make calls or texts.

Before I left the house last year in June, I'd gotten each kid a phone and put them on my plan. I wanted to make sure they had access to me at any time for any reason. I was inconsolable 6 months later in December when my account (and thus the kids) were shut off - I couldn't pay the outstanding balances nor even maintain the regular monthly payment.

For a brief period of time, I had very limited contact with the kids - only on the house phone which became a constant battle with their father who liked to refuse to let me talk to the kids unless I discussed certain issues with him first. Issues like: what hours was I working, what was the name of my doctor, whose name was on my credit card, how much money was I making. You know, important things he NEEDED to know if I was going to be allowed to speak to my kids. Several times I had to hang up without being able to talk to either of the kids. Then, he added them to HIS plan and they had phones again... so I could call them and they could call me and it was better. (I won't go into detail about how back in the summer my son kept saying that he didn't know I was calling him and I discovered that my number had been blocked from his phone - I showed him how to unblock it and then he was getting my calls again.)

Anyway, since I stopped speaking with my ex, stopped taking his calls etc, I've contacted the kids primarily on their own phones. My daughter lost hers so I just call my son's phone or they call me from his or from their house phone. Their house phone doesn't take messages though so when my son leaves his phone at a friends or if the battery dies, I can call the house phone but can't leave a message to let them know I've called. It's always a bit of a frustration but for the most part it works out ok.

Now though, his phone doesn't work at all. My only option is their house phone. For four days now I've had very very very little contact with my children. I know I'll see them in a few days, but I like to talk to them at least once a day - to stay connected, to keep the bond, to remind them of my love, my intention, my effort. It's actually been more than 24 hours since I've talked to them now. I've called. I've called numerous times at varied hours and I haven't even gotten a call back. I know they are fine, healthy, busy, etc but I miss them so desperately and I wonder why a parent can't be bothered to hand a phone to a child and say, "I see the caller ID and know your mom has called, you should call her back" or "have you spoken to your mom today? why don't you call her" or "I'll be at work today, you need to fold the laundry, sweep the kitchen, and don't forget to give your mom a call"

I miss my kids. I hope I'll get to talk to them today. I hope they know I love them, right now, right this very minute, and forever.

Love, Mia

Saturday, August 7

What A Mom Does

I'm still the mom. I know I am because even if I don't live at home with my kids, I do "mom stuff".

I took the day off work and drove 2 hours all so I could sit at a picnic table and eat a cafeteria style picnic lunch with my kids on their last day of camp. I couldn't just take them home, couldn't pack up their luggage and drive off with them, but I could be there, then, for that. I hugged them hello after their 2 week camp experience. I counted their bruises and inspected their injuries with my mom-evaluation, met their counselors and was introduced to their new friends. I heard the stories, laughed in all the right places even when I wanted to cringe, read the journals they offered up for me to read, and shared a meal with my children. And when their father showed up to take them home from camp, I hugged them, smiled, told them I'd see them soon, and I didn't cry. I wanted to cry, but I didn't because I'm the mom.

I picked the kids up from their fathers later on. They were clean, showered and in fresh clothes. I took them to my friends house where I stay on Friday nights that I see my children - and I fed them fried chicken, ice tea, ice cream. I cut their toenails, their fingernails, cleaned their ears. I shampooed my daughters hair because even though she'd done it already, she sometimes needs help with it and after two weeks of camp she REALLY needed some grownup assistance. I did all that because I'm the mom.

I sat in front of the computer with them and let them show me all the things they want to show me: I smiled through music videos that I didn't like, laughed through cartoon clips that weren't funny, let them tease me for MY ridiculous old fashioned and boring taste in music... and I sat for over an hour without twitching or sighing. I did it because I'm the mom.

I took them back to their fathers because right now he gets to tell me when, how long, how often. But that doesn't make me NOT the mom. I'm still the mom because the very next day I got to pick them up again.

I picked them up and took them back to my friends house again where I fed them breakfast: homemade hot chocolate, bagels and cream cheese, juice. I called and got them both appointments at the urgent care/Saturday clinic at their pediatricians office.

Last time they had physicals in early spring, I didn't know about it until it was over and done with, their father didn't share the information with me. I didn't get to approve of or even ask questions about immunizations they received. Shortly after that, my daughter was taken out to have her ears peirced without my knowledge - a very momndaughter activity that I wasn't even given any notice of. Then three weeks ago when I took her to buy her first real earrings after the initial ones were ready to be changed, I found that both peircings were infected - bloody, leaking pus, hot, swollen, sore. I had the earrings removed, bought swabs and alcohol and taught her to clean them. When I took her home to her father I told him what was happening, gave him the crusted over earrings we'd removed from her ears, gave him the supplies I'd bought, told him he should have her checked by the doctor. Instead he bought her new earrings.

When I saw my kids in the evening for dinner I saw that the peircings were still bloody, leaking, and sore. I saw that a skin condition my daughter has was no longer just an uncomfortable annoyance but was out of control and needing attention. My son had an unidentifiable rash also, which I'd noticed before camp had ever started but was still untreated. So I acted like a mom. I called the doctor and took them in.

I paid the copays. I explained, showed, listened, asked questions, and approved of treatments. Oral antibiotics for the peiring infections, topical medication for the skin condition and a referral to a dermatologist for my daughter, a physician-led lesson in hygiene for my son that he might follow since it isn't a 'mom-thing'. I paid for the prescriptions. I doled out the first dose and applied the first topical layer. I instructed them both in self care. I took them to my house then, finally, where they collapsed in gratitude in front of all the electronic equipment they've missed for the past two weeks of backwoods camping.

It's my only day off - I always take the day off when I have them with me - but I spent my time calling doctors, dragging kids in, paying for medications, and then applying it to reluctant teen/pre-teen bodies.

I miss them so much - I miss out on so much - and hate that I have to argue, order, demand, insist, and give 'the look' on our precious and limited time together but, see, the thing is, I am the mom: and that's what mom's do. So that's what I did.

Now I get to relax a little, and so do they. They are fed, medicated, playing and relaxing, feeling good - and so am I. All too soon I will have to herd them into the car for the hour long drive back to their fathers house. None of us look forward to that but for now, for this moment, all that matters is they are here with me, their mom.


Wednesday, August 4

Hope Reigns

I met with my attorney today.

He's representing me for free - I don't have a huge amount of faith in him, because nothing has gone my way even remotely in the past year, but it's better than not having an attorney at all (and I've been without one for some of the process so I know). But today felt a little different.

Several months ago he told me that it was highly unlikely that I'd ever be the primary parent again - nor was it likely I'd have a chance at being considered a 'residential' parent even if part time. My absolute frustration at that was a like a thick simmering bitterness always faintly bubbling under the surface; the main feeling around his statement was pure howling grief.

Now, some level of grief is what I've been feeling daily for the past year. It's what has me always afraid of drowning within it. Yet that moment, as I had to sit there calm and composed and accepting, that howling grief became something that fractured the last tenuous hold I had on the will to keep moving forward. Up until then I'd been broken, but I was still the mom. At that point, I was only broken.

Fortunately for me, I have a couple of truly supportive, encouraging, and listening girlfriends who rescued me with their love, their feirceness, and their anger on my behalf. I also have my writing, an adult daughter who came home to stay with me and remind me that I wasn't done being a mom yet, and the sweetest most loving dog who curls himself around my heart every day and loves it back to life.

I picked myself up, only stopping to howl and grieve and fall apart once in a while in private, and moved forward.

Today I met with him again to discuss some recent issues: my ex's ongoing claim that I am mentally unstable and a threat to my children, his continued lack of regard for the "joint custody" status and the way he decides on medications, ear peircing, and camp enrollment for our kids that he fails to inform me of or tells me about with no notice (hey, the kids are leaving in 4 days for two weeks of camp. period. end of discussion.), and to talk about what comes next while we wait for our next court date.

Our discussion wasn't exactly fruitful, but I think something elemental has changed.
Somehow I've moved, in my attorneys veiwpoint, from some charity pro bono case he got suckered into handling by a "can't say no to me octogenarian who made legal history and is a county wide legend" who took pity on me to a real actual client.
Somehow altered in his eyes from some "very likely crazy incompetent parent who I'm forced into defending by stupid unwritten lawyer code of brotherhood" into a mom who is getting totally shafted by a power and control abusing ex and whose kids are at the heart of it and who really really really wants just one person in power on her side.

I'm not sure what it was: was it all the medical records I gathered and forwarded to him? Was it all the letters of reccommendation from my friends, my doctor, and my adult daughter combined that I handed to him? Was it some discussion he had with my ex's attorney off record maybe? I don't know. All I know is that at some point in our conversation, his words went something along the line of this: "it's a ladder we are climbing and we are starting at the bottom rungs. We have to go up just like everyone else, rung by rung, and we move from more liberal time with your kids until you finally are in a place when your kids ARE WITH YOU full time..."

That's all I can hear now, resonating in my heart... "when your kids are with you full time"...

I have potential. I have hope. I am, yes, I am, still the mom.

Love, Mia