To Veruca, On Love

*Update: After posting, I realized there was something else to say. See at end of post.*

It took me a very long time to see love without rose-colored glasses. Don’t get me wrong – love is, as Shakespeare said, a many-splendored thing. I was enamored with love long before it was returned.

I liked a LOT of boys. I ended up “going with” (what we called it in middle school) two that I previously had zero awareness of before I heard they liked me. Lesson in caution: when a boy you’ve hardly noticed turns up in pursuit of you – proceed with caution. Not that you can’t fall in love with him, but it can be fairly intoxicating to be adored by someone.

To that end, beware the boy who pursues you when you’re already involved with someone else. It is one thing to love someone from afar, respecting the relationship you have with another, and it is quite another to make plain to everyone who will listen that he wants to be with you. Further, strategically placing himself where he is most likely to see you, and you him, fermenting a possible triangle which I assure you will not end well (see aforementioned “intoxication” above). If he doesn’t respect your relationship with another, how will he respect any he might have with you?

Leaving one boy for another is quite common and, even if you disguise it with a need to exit a “bad situation,” you have barely enough time to breathe and/or heal the wounds of the previous while you’re embarking on the next. Also guaranteed not to end well.

If you’re just leaving because boy #2 looks way better than boy #1, STILL. Give yourself time. You can’t recognize true love if you keep jumping from one pond to another without time to reflect.

Relationships that are always full of drama are not “real love.” If “we’re always fighting” is part of your relationship, it’s not a healthy relationship. And it doesn’t matter who is bringing the drama. If it’s him, it’s not good. If it’s you, you need to stop and take a good hard look at why. You will benefit and grow from an introspective look at yourself.

Your first real love may very well be the love that will define your expectations for every love that follows, good or bad. Or not. Not everyone’s first love is life-altering. But many first loves will lay the groundwork for every relationship you ever have, and you may subconsciously measure every subsequent relationship against that first, intense love. You may chase every relationship you have, unknowingly trying to recapture the same feelings, emotions, and physical reactions. No matter what, no matter how tempting, be aware – not to mold every relationship into the one that was your foundation. You will fail.

Instead, learn from that first love. Learn how it feels to be loved. Learn how you felt to give love. Learn how it felt to be treated by this person. Did you feel good, or did you feel uneasy? What characteristics did he have that you valued? Which would you choose to avoid? Learn how it felt when that love ended. Were you amicable? Was it ugly? How did you conduct yourself? Did you give yourself enough time to reflect and heal? (These are all relevant questions in every relationship.)

Beware the Rebound. The “rebound” is a relationship you find yourself in soon after a breakup. This person makes you feel good when you’ve been really sad and down. That’s great. Except, it’s not love. (See the aforementioned “intoxication.”) Which also means, you’ve had no time to heal.

Beware of the exotic. Exotic, as defined in the dictionary, is “of foreign origin or character; not native.” Accents are sexy. What is foreign is sometimes intoxicatingly attractive. What I want you to know is, don’t get stoopid over some guy with a foreign accent. It’s not romantic. He’s not different. He will treat you the same as any other guy you meet, maybe better, or maybe not as well. Just keep perspective and have self-respect. If you don’t, you will drown in that gorgeous Italian accent. Or Latino. Or English. Or Afrikaans. Or some form of  Asian.

Never, Ever, pursue a friend of an ex. If he’s good guy, he won’t go out with you. He may like you, but there’s a guy code (as there is a girl code) and that will preclude any attraction you may have to each other. As it should be. If he doesn’t care that you’re his best friend’s ex, you best be prepared to wonder why and what kind of friend he really is. Either way, if scoring you outranks his friendship with [your ex], that’s a serious character flaw.

Next: Long distance relationships are tough. That’s not to say they can’t work out, but be realistic about this distance and the amount of time apart. And more importantly, what are the boundaries of a long-distance relationship, and what are the guidelines? Be realistic in your expectations, and see how they line up with his.

Don’t give yourself up to someone who won’t commit to you. This can look like not calling you like he said he would to excusing an ex-girlfriend showing up, to blowing off your date, to openly flirting with other girls in front of you. He’s “just not that into you.” And don’t you DARE take that shit personal – it’s his flaw, not yours.

“Bad boys” can be intoxicating themselves – but be prepared to lose your heart and soul to this guy. It’s not going to end well for you if he’s drinking and doing drugs regularly. And – this should go without saying – ANY boy who lays a hand on you is abusive and you need to walk, no – RUN, away fast. “I’m sorry” is a lie you will regret believing. And, while we’re on the subject, verbal abuse IS abuse and no less of a crime.

Now for the icky part and I’ll make it quick: Sex is something you will consider sooner or later. I hope you would come talk to me about it, but you might not and that’s okay. Don’t let anyone, even a long-time boyfriend, pressure you into something you don’t want/aren’t ready for. But know that for you, sharing that will change you forever in ways you won’t understand until you’re much older.

To wrap this up before you’ve had enough – guys with girlfriends are OFF LIMITS. Have respect for yourself (and your fellow woman). And older guys are usually no different than boys your age. They aren’t always wiser or more sophisticated and, let’s face it, if he’s 10 years older that’s just gross.*

Finally, you deserve to be loved and treated with respect and reverence. Expect it and you will get it from those who deserve you, and the rest will fade away. Never, Ever settle for less. Never, ever, settle.

Update: I would be remiss to tell you that when you find someone worthy, love with your whole heart. Do not be afraid to love, or to lose love. Sometimes love doesn’t always end the way you want it to, but that is no reason not to try, when it feels right. You will most definitely not get through life unscathed by love, but to quote another famous writer – Alfred Lord Tennyson –  ” tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” It’s all part of the journey, my love, and I will see you through it all.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

                        ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8




*This is actually directly from a comment she once made about older guys. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a 10-year age difference. I’m not against it. I do, however, believe that this difference is felt more acutely and may be harder to overcome, the younger two people are.


This Is Why I Drink

Yesterday was Monday and I got up for work. I put together food for Todd to take to work to get him started on a healthy diet and weight loss. It wasn’t a stressful morning. I even made him breakfast. We had a snow event Saturday and Sunday so we stayed in all weekend and cooked stuff and V’s dad brought her home for school yesterday so I wouldn’t have to drive in bad road conditions the night before.

Time to leave for work – completely flat tire on the rear left. Thank God Todd was still home so he fixed it and I was only 10 minutes late to work.

I was on phones yesterday in the morning. It’s January. EVERYBODY and their child has something. This week’s special: vomiting, diarrhea, and ear aches. I’m not mentioning the lingering cough we’ve all been reading about because, let’s face it, it’s now part of the regular menu.

Here follows an excerpt of my morning calls, or, what you shouldn’t do when calling your pediatrician’s office.

First difficult call of the day: I had to conference in a translator so I could register a new patient in Spanish. Patient is in his teens. We still accept new patients up to age 16, but Spock would say it’s illogical to go to the trouble of transferring in for only two years.

She wanted to schedule a well visit for him. Now. We need to have records in our office before we can schedule any appointments. I explained this, as well as the fact that we are scheduling well into March, April, and May. What? Oh no! He needs it NOW. She went on and on in Spanish for several minutes, because she was told by our office in November that she would have to call back in January. Ahem. NO ONE could possibly have told her that, because – need records first, then can schedule. Someone clearly misunderstood. She wasn’t backing down. Several more minutes of Spanish where I was able to pick out a handful of words which I shouldn’t have done because it made my head pound. Finally, I gave up engaging in this back and forth, since it wasn’t going to change anything. She still has to bring records in, she still has to change us to his PCP on her insurance, and we still DON’T HAVE ANY APPOINTMENTS BEFORE MARCH. Longest phone call ever, and it was still barely 10 a.m.

Next up: mom calling for a referral. That was the easy part. Then, both her kids needed well child visits; they’re due in February, and… SEE ABOVE. And – she wanted them both seen at the same visit. Easily spent 20 minutes on the phone with her trying to find a time for both children to be seen, NOT with their usual provider because that just ain’t gonna happen if she wants them together. Said she’d take any provider, but not the nurse practitioner (who has appointment availability sooner) because one child has “issues.” Found her an appointment in April with someone, and she happily took it. It just took forever to end this call.

Finally – and believe me there are several more I’ve blocked out – a dad called and wanted his son seen TODAY. By this time, we were completely booked and so I offered to have a nurse call and advise/direct him, or he could go to urgent care. This was before lunch.

Should I take him to the ER instead? That would be your decision… I’m not clinical so I’m unable make recommendations on that.

Well, can you schedule him an appointment for tomorrow?

I’m sorry, I cannot pre-book sick appointments for the next day. I can have one of our nurses call you and advise you and/or we recommend going to urgent care. Or, you can call back tomorrow morning and be scheduled then.

Well, who does the scheduling? I do, and nurses will schedule sick patients who need to be seen.

So why can’t YOU just schedule him for tomorrow?

I am not able to pre-book sick appointments for the next day. But again, I can have a nurse call you and advise you.

Where is urgent care? Will they take my insurance?

There is ******* in ******* or the CHOP urgent care location opens at 4 p.m. YOU will have to check with your insurance about coverage.

Well, can I speak to a nurse?

Absolutely. I will have her call you. What are your son’s symptoms?

He’s been vomiting and has diarrhea.

For the record, I always end my calls with a big smile, hoping against hope that it is felt through the air waves that I am very pleasant and not the least bit annoyed with difficult people.

Also for the record, we DO NOT see patients who have vomiting and diarrhea. And, in case you don’t already know, this is a VIRUS. It has to run its course and there’s absolutely nothing a doctor can do for you. Unless you are dehydrated and unable to keep even water down. THEN, go to the emergency room. Common sense, folks!

I’m just glad I wasn’t on phones after lunch, having to tell everyone who called that we have no more appointments left today. Sounds awful, right? But, this is the way it is in the winter. Everyone is getting sick and there are only so many appointments available in a day. That we were booked by 10:30 a.m. should tell you how many sick kids are out there. Which is why sick calls are triaged… so the nurses can determine who needs to be seen or who just needs home care.

And then today I woke up with headache and GI stuff and an enormous sore on my lip, something I’ve never had like this, ever. It started yesterday at work, and slowly grew but not terrible. This morning, it only added to the issues I woke with – and it is HUGE and ugly. And, it looks like there’s another one brewing on the other side.

The kids were fighting over the washing machine last night – imagine! So these are the arguments I’m diffusing nowadays. Now they’re both doing their own wash and I’m still reeling from the shock of having more time on my hands. Even Opac has taken on the challenge of unclogging a toilet – thus, I haven’t had to do this in a while either. Who ARE these kids living in my house? Still, no one is cleaning the bathroom.

I went to the store on Saturday, which we’ve already determined is to be avoided at all costs. But, necessity boiled over. I turned up an aisle of the parking lot and sat still in my car while three different people, WHO WERE WALKING TOWARD MY CAR, took up the entire aisle. Not one of them thought to move out of my way. Todd said, I’d have blown my horn. And I said, that’s precisely why I left you at home. People inside the store are no better. The rules of the road should apply to shopping cart etiquette but clearly most of these folks missed the memo.

The animals remain constant, though. Sabra is still freaked out by gunshots (we live in redneck land where no celebration is complete without gunfire). She’s shaggy and stinky again and needs the groomer. She runs from me when I pull out the brush. She acts uncomfortable on the couch when we’re home, but I KNOW she’s up there when we’re not because I see paw imprints.

Oliver lies on the couch every day, usually right after I’ve cleaned all of his fur from it. He continues his morning whine for canned goodness, and afterward waits on the kitchen stool for one of us to turn on his video game. For reals. There’s an animated mouse video on YouTube we put on for him, and he stands on the counter and bats at these mice like Rocky Balboa. Hey – it’s exercise. At least until he tires himself out and lies down on the counter and just watches them go by.



Other things to keep in mind when going to your pediatrician:

We don’t prescribe birth control pills.

Pink eye = extremely contagious. You will not be seen for that. Prescriptions are called in.

You cannot be “billed” for your copay. (Well, it does happen, but generally speaking, NO.)

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT “walk in” to the office without an appointment. And, to that end, if your child fell through a plate glass door and is bleeding in multiple places, DO NOT go to the pediatrician’s office. You need to go to the ER.

Fevers that come and go with ibuprofen – will come and go with ibuprofen. In other words, fever returns when the medication wears off? Of course it does. And there’s never a dumb question or first time parent who doesn’t worry about what seems like the smallest things. Don’t be afraid to call for the nurse. Just don’t holler at the front desk person who has parameters to follow for scheduling sick appointments.

Likewise, please don’t holler at the scheduler who can’t pull well visits out of their ass for you. First come, first serve is a real thing ya’ll.

Don’t get mad at the front desk when your ex-wife told you the appointment time was a half-hour earlier than it actually is. Also, by the same token, do not involve us in your domestic disputes. There is nothing we can do about it, unless there are court documents.

When your child turns 18, they are a legal adult. They should be transitioning to an adult provider, but until they do, please know that without your new adult’s consent, we are unable to discuss his/her healthcare with you. It’s the LAW.

Finally, realize that your child is one of hundreds of patients in a practice. We care about all of them, but there are only so many doctors and nurses, and we can’t always perform miracles. Use patience and kindness when asking for what you want, and that kindness and patience will be returned.




Words of Wisdom This Holiday Season

When your phone rings at 8 a.m. on Christmas Eve, don’t answer it.

When your cell phone rings 10 minutes later and you can see it’s your mom calling from her restaurant, answer it anyway, because you can run but you can’t hide.

Some dogs don’t like jingle bell elf slippers. (Seriously, as of this writing, she’s still hiding in her bed.)

Jingle bell elf slippers, all four pairs going at once, recreate the magic of Santa’s sleigh landing on your lawn. Okay, not really, but it does wonders for tinnitus.

When your cell phone service pisses you off for the last time, switch providers and get new phones for everyone! Still wish I had video footage of Veruca’s face when she opened up that iPhone 8. First hug she gave Todd in 5 years.

Best way to keep the cat off the dining room table? Put up a Christmas tree.

Make sure there’s a tree skirt for him to lie on under the twinkling lights, you know, because that’s the real reason it’s there. And for the love of St. Nicholas, don’t you dare put presents over the cat’s new sleeping quarters.

If you buy a cut tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, fully expect all the branches to be petrified by Christmas day. Ornaments found on the floor at this point are no one’s fault but your own.

When returning to alcohol to celebrate the season, do remember to drink lots of water and pace yourself.

Beware of bourbon-loving party guests who bring gifts of bourbon. One full bottle of Knob Creek kicked in less than 4 hours. (FYI: Knob Creek Smoked Maple smells like French toast. Too sweet for me.)

There’s no such thing as too much food at your holiday gathering. And, adding lasagna to the brunch buffet will ensure you’ll have sustenance later to offset the alcohol.

Be grateful for free rental cars, even if they resemble an army tank. There’s nothing more reassuring to drive in foul weather, even if your feet don’t touch the floor.

When your prescription glasses disappear for three hours at the restaurant while you’re working, don’t send everyone else into panic mode. Remember the St. Anthony’s prayer. Even when you can’t.

The most important thing to have ready at a holiday gathering when time is short: clean toilets and some hors d’oeuvres. Nobody will notice anything else.

Also, turn the light and fan on in your kids’ filthy bathroom and shut the door, to scare off potential users from entering. (P.S. this only works when guests are sober.) Caution tape works well too.

While we’re on the subject, teach your 12-year-old how to use a plunger properly, so that she doesn’t turn her toilet into a mountain of soiled toilet paper.

Don’t try to drag a 70lb box of punching bag from your front steps to the garage by yourself. Remember last year’s weight-bench-in-four-parts debacle.

Set up auto-pay on bills, at least for the duration of the holiday season.

Movie-goers? Buy your tickets ahead of time for the epic movie release of the season. Even if you’re attending the 9 a.m. showing on a church day.

Gifts do not have to be wrapped until Christmas Eve. Unless of course, you don’t enjoy stress and nosy children.

If you suspect your child is getting sick, don’t wait until Saturday before Christmas, thirty minutes before closing, to call your pediatrician. Also, if you are told by the triage nurse to go to urgent care the night before and you choose not to, do not be upset when there are no appointments left on Saturday morning.

When your kid’s sleepover gets cancelled through no fault of her own, take advantage of mother-daughter time by slathering on charcoal face masks and sending selfies to grandma.

Xanax works wonders on nervous energy and anxiety, I’ve heard.

Repeat after me: I WILL NOT get it all done before Christmas, and no animals will be harmed and no one will die because of it.




6 Things They Say We Gotta Do, Todd!

Well, Todd, here we go again. It must be couples awareness month, because the articles are trickling in on how to be better at it. (Not that I think we need to be better at it, ‘cause I think we’re rocking the heart stuff, but … play along.)

This one came from a site called Warm Fuzzies, and it’s titled 6 Things You and Your Spouse Should Try This Year!

Create a Marriage Vision Board. What the hell is that, you ask? Well, think collage, but here couples glue shit they want to do and shit they want out of their marriage together, so they can visualize their dreams and make them reality. Who has time for that?! How about pay the bills, keep the kids alive, and maybe retire before we die? Are there pics for that in magazines? Seriously though, I have a good feeling ours would feature two more Mustangs, another cat, a pool, Scotland, a router saw, a child-free vacation to Disney, and a million dollars.

Try out a new hotel in your city. What city are we talking about here? Cause in our town, we’re talking about the truck stop/hotel off of I-95. There IS something romantic and sexy about staying in a hotel, I agree, but not if it includes bed bugs and hookers. For the record, we have considered a night out and overnight in Baltimore, but it seems impractical when we could drive home in 40 minutes or stay at my in-laws. And believe me – there’s nothing romantic and sexy about sleeping in your in-laws’ guest room.

Take an exercise class together. Ha! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Like THAT’S going to happen. They said that “there’s probably one of you who likes to exercise more than the other.” Um, which one of us would that be? Nevertheless, we biked together over the summer a few times and it was wonderful, so I’d have to say it’s highly recommended. Meanwhile, we have added a treadmill to our newly established weight room and it’s getting plenty of use, albeit at differing times. I guess we still have accountability, though.

Go someplace you’ve never been to before. Yes! Always on my radar, but not always able to. I’d like to say we just get in the car and go, but we’ve had some weekend trips for state bowling tourneys that took us to Erie and Pittsburgh that were reasonably fun and places that wouldn’t be first pick for a destination. But we made the most out of them that we could. The article suggests making a list of 5-7 places to go, and creating a savings to make that happen. I’d say that’s good advice. I wonder if they’re also supposed to be pictured on that Vision Board?

Get more creative in the bedroom. I suppose there’s a lot I could say here, like perhaps we should revisit the back wall of Spencer’s, but Todd is very private and plus my dad reads my blog and so do my in-laws. I prefer to keep my blog PG-14.

Reenact your first date. I really like this idea. That is, if either one of us could remember the actual first date 30 years ago. I suppose we could pretend. Or, reenact any of those dates that followed. But then I couldn’t write about them because they may cross the limits of PG-14 (sorry moms and dads). So, that leaves us with our first meeting as grownups reunited – which was pretty exciting – or perhaps the second time when you grabbed me and kissed me full on. Or maybe the birthday date, with a wonderful dinner and the most thoughtful gifts a man ever gave me. Yeah – let’s do THAT one again.

If you have time, click on the link above – as I want to give full credit to the original article. And while you’re at it, scroll down to the exercise picture and I ask you to envision you and your spouse doing that. Because I want to try this with Todd, just for shits and giggles. If nothing less than a fart or two. Because THIS would be hilarious.

What are your plans with your spouse this year?

What Not To Do, and Other Things

Do not forget your glasses when you go to the grocery store. And especially during check-out, do not repeatedly press “no” when the POS asks you a question you can’t read. Especially if the question is, is the amount correct? – not, do you want cash back?

Do not mistakenly take someone else’s shopping cart when you leave the deli counter. (A sincere sorry to the customers who were forced to start over.)

Do not go to another high school’s football field and start a fight with parents of the home team.

Do not ever, never ever, put your head inside your 15-year-old’s hamper to reach the dirty clothes at the bottom.

Do not execute a left turn into the school drop-off line when the school principal is crossing it at that very moment.

Do not make veiled accusations to your husband for the whereabouts of your anything, without thoroughly ruling out your own guilt.

Do not eat Skittles or other hard candies over the age of (conservatively speaking) 40. Unless you like having fillings replaced.

Do not leave the cap off of your liquid foundation, nor leave the open bottle too close to the edge of the counter, if you’re in a hurry.

Do not risk 12 years of amicable neighboring by discussing politics with your neighbor. Unless, of course, you know you’re on the same side of the proverbial fence.

And, on that note, Do not place Presidential candidate signs on your business property. Hello, commercial suicide.

Further, Do not steal your neighbor’s political signs. You will be arrested.


Other Things…

True story: Man steals his neighbor’s Trump signs from the front yard. He is arrested and has to go to court. The neighbor offered to drop the charges if the man would wear a Trump t-shirt and stand on a corner waving Trump signs. The man opted for the charges.

I saw a man in the restaurant recently who looked a lot like Bill Clinton. I wonder if anyone has ever told him that? Given the present political climate, I wondered if he’d be insulted. Then I thought, what if he’s a Republican? It would really suck to be a Republican and be Bill Clinton’s doppelganger. Especially right now.

The middle school almost burned down on Thursday and thank God it was only some faulty motor thingy connected to one of the building’s air handlers. Actually, there was no fire, just a weird smell that prompted our new principal to call 911 just moments before the busses carrying students arrived. Three firetrucks and an ambulance. We were allowed to pull into the drop off line, where I sat for 25 minutes waiting for the fire department to declare the building safe and praying this wasn’t going to end badly.

One of the Amish farms along the route north to my ex’s house has Trump signs posted on their property. It never occurred to me that the Amish would vote in a presidential election. They shun television and (I assume) the internet, but I suppose they read the papers. Still – how is it that they come to support Donald Trump?

And then, is it possible to make a better decision for president without the noise of television, radio, and social media? What if none of these mediums were available to us, and we only had print? Or word of mouth? Or public appearances? Was there any less drama in colonial days?


**Disclaimer: I don’t use the upgraded service; therefore, you will see ads at the bottom of my posts (ads I don’t see because I’m not you). As it has come to my attention that certain ads may not align with my world views – I am compelled to add the following statement until further notice.


It’s Over – Our Children in the Middle


Divorce is not pretty.  It’s not pretty for you, it’s not pretty for him… and it is NOT pretty for the children who have to cope with their lives changing forever.  Now here’s the part where I tell you – and you will hear this refrain over and over in the divorce and custody process – your new focus is what’s best for the children.  What is in the child’s best interest?
Some people expressed surprise that I was able to get my divorce before the issue of custody was settled.  Apparently, people don’t usually do it this way.  I think I’ve already covered the “amicable”  factor enough in my past posts but, in case you missed it, my ex-husband and I filed a no-fault divorce and agreed to handle all the details ourselves because we were amicable.  Long, LONG story short – the divorce became final and he went after primary custody.  Amicability went right out the window.  I already addressed this factor in divorce proceedings: once divorce is on the table, there is rarely an amicable resolve.  I don’t have an answer for why I actually believed it was possible, given our tumultuous history, but I suppose I am naïve enough to always believe that everyone has some good in them.  This won’t change, by the way.  I’m just programmed to be a nice person – that is, until you piss me off.  Nevertheless, I was soon catapulted into the wonderful world of court proceedings and forced onto the nauseating custody wheel of anxiety, unrest …. and education.
The first meeting with my attorney was initially a consultation, whereby I explained my circumstances … and he did an awful lot of eye-rolling at what had already transpired.  I paid a retainer.  He gave me some “homework.”  I filled out a form to be filed with Domestic Relations for child support.  I was to keep a “journal” to record details of our custody exchanges and any and everything he said and did – like one day getting rid of the family dog before I returned to our house (which, by the way, I still own today), and later changing the locks to prevent my access to it.  (I mentioned the importance of this journal in a previous post.) I had to write up a “response” to my ex’s Petition for Emergency Custody – essentially discrediting all his accusations which, incidentally, had absolutely nothingto do with custody.  I had to provide my Factors for Custody – which included answers to questions like “which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between child and the other party,” “which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, educational, etc. needs,” “the availability of extended family,” and “the level of conflict between the parties and the willingness/ability to cooperate with one another.”
Our first court hearing before a judge was to address the aforementioned Petition.  I was scared to death.  My mom and my dad accompanied me (Todd and I decided it would be best if he was not there at this point).  My ex-husband appeared only with his attorney.  No one from his family was there on this – what I considered a very important day.  What was peripherally unsettling at the time was the fact that there were at least a dozen strangers participating as an “audience” to the most important drama of my life.  I had no idea that these proceedings are open to the public. The judge issued a temporary custody order – granting me primary physical custody of the children, I’m assuming because I was a stay-at-home mom and had always been the primary caretaker and this temporary order would be the least disruptive to and therefore “best” for the children (see, there it is).  We would also have to attend the All Children in the Middle program and a mediation orientation – both mandatory (translation: court ordered).  Additionally, there was also a court order to undergo psychological evaluations (more on this later).
The All Children in the Middle program is a “parenting class” that each party must attend separately.  I thought this was a marvelous idea.  Until I realized there were limited times available, there was a $45 fee to attend this mandatory session, and it was a 3-hour round-table (well, in this room it was a rectangle) type of presentation with at least 15 other sorry-ass parents in there fighting for custody where we had to introduce ourselves, how many children we had and their ages, and how long we’ve been involved in a custody litigation.  First off, I loathe introductions like these.  Loathe.   Nobody in this room wanted to make eye contact with anybody else.  I was tense and emotional and kept my gaze in my lap. This beautiful woman across the table from me with the perfectly manicured nails looked familiar – like somebody who has dined in my mother’s restaurant, and she probably did, seeing as she drove off afterward in a Lexus  – and was no less a rookie than me.  The equally beautiful woman sitting to her right, though far more casually dressed, introduced herself – she had 3 children and she was in the midst of her FOURTH year in this battle.  I glanced sharply upward and met her gaze and felt the uncontrollable and familiar rush of tears fill my eyes.  I will never forget her face, as long as I live.  She looked resigned and yet she clearly wasn’t giving up.  I felt bile searing the back of my throat, as I silently contemplated the idea of fighting the father of my children for longer than one more month. 
Nevertheless, there were people in there from all walks of life.  This room represented the very essence of America – there were whites, blacks, and Latinos, women and men – in sweats, blue collar uniforms, casual clothes, dressy clothes, suits.  No one is exempt from this type of drama.  No one.  I found we were all ultimately the same.  And I felt this constant pressure from the dam behind my eyes.  I wanted to run from this room, I wanted to hug everyone in it.  And the counselor who led the program did all the talking, asked a few thought-provoking questions for discussion, and apologized a handful of times for the dated 80s hairdos and shoulder pads of the first video.  The second video was actually an old episode of Oprah, about two boys of divorce whose parents each believed the children were handling everything well.  They couldn’t have been more wrong.  The guests all agreed to be interviewed by M. Gary Neuman, the author of the Sandcastles program for children of divorce(his book, available at the local library is called, Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce, the Sandcastles Way).  He found that both boys were really very upset by all the fighting and bickering that has continued for years since the divorce.  Both parents clearly loved their children, but both had behaved very badly.  The boys felt they needed mom’s permission to hug their father in front of her, and dad actually played back an ugly phone message mom had left him to the 7-year-old and asked if he (the son) thought they should play it for the judge.  Think that’s despicable?  Think it can’t happen to you?  Think again.  The most powerful message these two tear-jerking videos delivered was that these children – all of these children – needed to feel loved and protected and …. not to be put in the middle
Your child feels like an extension of you AND the other parent – she identifies with BOTH of you.  If you say dad is a selfish SOB, then your child is in danger of considering that he too is a selfish SOB.  Your children love both of you, they have the right to love both of you, and they have the right to see each of you as wonderful, competent, awesome human beings.  This helps THEM thrive, become healthy successful adults who can go on to have healthy successful relationships that hopefully don’t fail like yours did.  It doesn’t matter what YOU think of your ex.  It doesn’t matter what happened in your marriage.  Your children have the right to have you keep your opinions to yourself.  And guess what? You can only control your own behavior.  You can pray like hell that your ex “gets it” too and that when he tells you he “really learned a lot,” you can be assured he won’t try to malign the children against you.  Unfortunately, even amicable ex-husbands sometimes can’t accept responsibility for what they did wrong.  Stick to your guns.  Do what is right.  Don’t fall into the trap of sharing with your children how much you hate their dad for x,y, z.  They don’t need to hear it.  They don’t want to hear it.  All my children ever wanted, was “for everyone to just get along.” 
My son just said to me again yesterday – over a year since the divorce and one month since the custody litigation ended – “I just don’t understand why everyone can’t just get along.”  Well, I have an answer for that – but I’m not sharing it with him.  To have “friendship,” one must have trust.  There is no – nor will there ever be – trust between me and that man.  Marital transgressions aside, anyone who exchanges custody with their ex on the day of a custody trial, and knows full well that the other parent is misinformed about what time the trial actually begins, AND allows them to show up in the courtroom an hour late before the judge deciding the fate of your children without saying a word to you – IS an SOB.   But my children don’t need to know any of that.  They are already questioning things he says to them, or things he’s done.  I remain neutral, I try to answer when appropriate or encourage them to ask him these questions, I do not verbally tar and feather him or otherwise tear him down.  I let them draw their own conclusions.  I listen to them when they want to talk, I support them and allow them to vent.  But moreover, I encourage them to be happy.  I encourage them to move past the events of the past – as I did just this morning when my daughter wanted to discuss the incident between the adults on December 23rd that quickly went nuclear.  I stopped her mid-sentence and told her simply, that’s over now.  We are all past that and let’s look forward to good times!
One of the hardest things I think I’ve had to accept over the last 10 months is that although I don’t like what he did or how he treated me while we were married, or how he subsequently attacked me without warning or provocation and systematically tried to decimate my character to everyone including our children – he is still their father.  One thing – the ONLY thing – he and I could ever agree on today, is that the sun rises and sets on those two beautiful creatures.  He loves them as much as I do.  And – he would never intentionally do anything to hurt them (the fact that the Children in the Middle program fell on deaf ears apparently notwithstanding).  They are safe with him.  I know this.  Your ex may not always make what you see as the best or most appropriate decisions with regard to the children, but you have to find a way to believe that his intentions are essentially “good.”  It was the hardest thing I’ve had to accept – that I had to essentially, let go.  I think there are many moms out there who can empathize with the sensation that once you have a child (whether by birth or adoption – I don’t believe it’s much different) you have to come to grips with the fact that there’s a part of you – like some vital organ – that is walking around out there in the world away from you.  That outside of your orbit, this life force is beyond your immediate protection.  I explained it on one particularly emotionally difficult day to Todd like this:  it’s like there’s this part of my body walking around out there that I have absolutely no control over.  It’s a very helpless feeling.  I had this feeling first when I sent my son to school on his first day.  And again – though more intense due to her life-threatening disease – with my daughter on her first day.
Like it or not, you are – or are getting – divorced.   Like it or not, your children will not be with you every single hour of every single day, anymore.   Now it’s up to you both – with or without a judge’s intervention – to work out a way of sharing custody of these children in a way that best benefits the children.  There are lots of variances on custody and visitation arrangements.  A common one, it seems, is one parent having primary physical custody and the other parent having visitation every other weekend and Wednesday overnight.  That was our temporary order and, 10 months later, it became the permanent order.  Summertime is the exception, where we alternate weeks with one another and every Wednesday overnight.  Last September I would’ve been sick over this arrangement – today, it is the best possible outcome for my children.  They get us both equally during the relaxed, unscheduled weeks of summer and revert back to the original schedule once the school routine begins again.  The judge – and the evaluating psychologist – felt that the children’s best interests overall were met in mother’s primary care during the school year.
It can be very difficult to accept that what was once your authority over what’s best for your children, is suddenly out of your hands.  I struggled daily with my anger over my ex’s actions – that we “could” have worked out a schedule we could ALL live with – without outside intervention or litigation that cost us thousands of dollars.  That by his actions – where our children lived would now be decided by strangers.  Strangers charged with deciding the best interests of the children, strangers who get paid to do it every day, but strangers who don’t know any of us – at all.  To them, we’re just another “case.”  This made me so angry.  And feeling furiously helpless.  I had to refocus my energy on my faith to get me through these days.  I’ve never been a hard-core religious person so like anyone else who has a slippery grip on a personal crisis – I decided I needed God to help me walk through.  And I was perpetually amazed how things came to me, even as my fears so often took over and subsequently made me worry that because I couldn’t close the door on them, I wouldn’t be as blessed as I am.
So, with that, I think it’s really important to take a step back and see this crisis through your child’s eyes.  Put yourself in their shoes, imagine how you would feel.  Dig deep and be strong – at least in front of them – and then cry your eyes out with a trusted friend or relative and rip your ex a new anus.  Things you might consider as ways to punish him, are really punishing the child.  Think of how you can keep your child balanced and stable amidst the uncertainty they may be feeling.  This does NOT translate as buying them things all the time, as “some” parents do.  Nor does it mean letting them get away with bad behavior, because you are feeling badly about the circumstances.  The same rules you always had for them, should remain intact.  Get them counseling if you feel they need it, or even if you don’t.  And, though it may be uncontrollably tempting, do not engage in your feelings of competing with the other parent.  You will surely lose, in more ways than in your wallet.  Children quickly learn who and what they can manipulate – and if you think your angelic child would never do it, think again.  
Incidentally, in many schools there are groups that guidance counselors put together – specifically called Banana Splits – that  children of divorce can interact with one another and share.  Worth looking into.
Forthcoming: Mediation Orientation, Custody Conciliation Conference, Child Custody Psychological Evaluations and how it all ends.


**I will again reiterate that I am not a legal expert, I am just another mother who survived a toxic marriage, divorce, and a bitter battle for custody of my kids.  This blog represents MY experience, and is not intended to be or replace professional legal advice.

It’s Over. Now What?


This is part 2 of my drama series.  I will call it drama – because there’s no Joy in this.  I created this series of posts in an effort to help those who aren’t where I am yet, and to remind them they aren’t alone.  It’s a scary road, once you step outside your “safe place,” but – although I can’t tell you how long it will take – I can promise you that you will find Joy again somewhere at the end of the journey.  And now for my religious interjection:  God doesn’t want you to be miserable.  God doesn’t want you to suffer.  He will take you higher.  Have faith.
So your marriage is over.  Now what?
Speak to a lawyer immediately.  Again, it doesn’t matter who started it – it matters that at least one of you had the guts to say out loud, and act on it – that you don’t want to be married anymore.  All bets are off after this.  I don’t care what you say – there is no turning back.  A good attorney will offer you a consultation – many do charge a nominal fee for their valuable time –  where you explain your situation and they advise you that of course they can take your case.  He/she will tell you what their fees are,  what their retainer is, and what you have to do next.  This is the part that scared me most – and what kept me from speaking to an attorney in the first place – money.  I was a stay-at-home mom with very little income of my own – how the hell was I going to pay a lawyer??  I don’t really have an answer for this one – other than I am a proud person who does not like to ask for help – but found that my family stepped up and offered some financial support to move forward legally when hiring a lawyer became unavoidable.  And guess what?  I have an astronomical bill that I will be paying monthly on until the kids graduate college, but it was worth every single dollar.  All it is, is a number.  Get a grip on it.  You WILL pay it off.  Everyone’s situation is different.  All I can say is please please PLEASE don’t let money prevent you from legal advice ASAP.   You need to know what your rights are, and how to get what you need.  Don’t assume, no matter what he says, that your significant other hasn’t already seen an attorney.  Oh yeah – and just in case he comes back and says he’s sorry and doesn’t want to break up – please don’t give up a consultation.  Go find out what you need to know – don’t, like me, let him convince you that you don’t need a lawyer.

Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, agree to live under the same roof.  Once you’ve (or he has) decided to separate/divorce, you need the physical separation.  It doesn’t matter if you’re broke, the mortgage is in his name, you agree to be “amicable” (we’ll address this later),  you’re a stay-at-home mom with no income, or even if you are the breadwinner and he’s the one who’s broke.  Nothing good can come of this arrangement.  

With regard to the aforementioned living situation – he should leave the house.  You are the mother of his children and, particularly if you’ve been their primary caretaker, you should not be expected to leave the house.  The children deserve to stay in their home.  Displacement for them is just WRONG.  I left the home because he adamantly refused, because he was walking around after the divorce was final behaving like I was still his wife, badgering me daily about child support and other material things, and because a certain late night incident brought the state police to the house.  

And since I’ve already touched on this…This is a risky thing for me to say, but I have to say it.  If there has been any abuse of any kind, by your spouse, either to you or to your children, consider filing a PFA.  Yesterday.  That shit has to stop immediately, and he needs to know you are serious.  A friend of mine who once worked for Domestic Relations quoted me the statistic that it takes 7 times before a victim of abuse will actually go forward with legal action.  There IS a certain fear of the repercussions of doing so, I understand.  Sometimes it’s threat of more serious harm, sometimes it’s just a misplaced sympathy and sometimes not wanting your children to see their father hauled away in handcuffs.  However, your allegations, if not backed up by documentation, are just allegations.  And you can bet your fat lip he will deny it and accuse you of trying to destroy him.  **Again, I need to point out that I am not a legal expert, this is simply opinion – nothing more.  Always seek legal counsel on these matters. **  

If you don’t already keep a journal, start one.  Today.  I have been keeping journals for over 25 years, so this was easy for me.  Not only did it provide legally-recognized documentation of the “unfortunate” events in our marriage over 13 years, it also provided an ongoing commentary on what was happening during this entire legal process.  My attorney advised me at our first meeting to keep one.  Document.  Memorialize.  This would become a constant refrain from him.  I wrote about anything my ex said to me, anything the kids said to me, what occurred during custody exchanges and where they were done, text messages I received from him and email communications, and anything else he did that I found relevant (like changing the locks on the house I still own  before I moved my things out).  You do not want to be trying to remember every last detail of the previous six months, trust me.

Amicable.  A family friend – who also happens to be a lawyer – told me one day before the divorce was final, after I told her we were remaining “amicable” for the children’s sake, that there’s no such thing.  She’s a “tell it like it is” kind of person.  And I, of course, said, “oh no, we are working together and we’re going to share the house until we work out where we each will be living.”  What did she say?  No.  That’s not divorce – that’s marriage.  He needs to move out, she went on to say.  Why didn’t he move out yet?   This is not to say that two sane people can’t amicably decide not to stay married, and file a no-fault divorce and remain in each other’s lives and co-parent their children so they don’t need a lifetime of counseling.  I was told this is a pipe dream; however, I did recently have dinner with a couple that appeared to be doing just that.  BUT – again I will reiterate that once one of you has decided you’re not in love anymore and don’t want to be married (whether you shout it out or he announces it as he’s walking out the door with a loaded suitcase) – somebody’s heart is broken.  No amicability is born of heartbreak.  I won’t say don’t try to be amicable – I certainly have done my best not to be on the attack even in the midst of all the BS he’s pulled – but I am pointedly telling you that you need to lower your expectations.  That is what *Eleanor was saying, essentially:  amicability is married, divorce is not.  If you were amicable, you’d still be married. (*C’mon…You didn’t think I’d use her real name, did you?)

A lawyer will advise you on how to proceed with custody and child support.  There are procedures, and everything takes some degree of time to get resolved.  None of this will be resolved overnight. Or even in two weeks.  Just to give you an idea, I filed for support in September 2011 – a final resolution is expected at the end of August 2012.  Support is important so you can continue to maintain the children’s lives as they are accustomed, and if there is any dispute (as in my case) over the amount of support a temporary support order will be entered  (which means you get money weekly until a final order is entered).  Support hearings occur in a closed office in the Domestic Relations office, and conducted by a DR officer with both attorneys present.  I have also seen people in there with no representation. 

Finally, remember the children.  It doesn’t matter how bad your marriage is/was, how ugly the divorce gets, what an asshole your (ex) husband is, how far the custody battle goes, or how the extended family tries to annihilate your character.   You’ll hear this refrain over and over again:  what’s best for the children… In the children’s best interests…. Etc.  My mom kept asking me, over the last 6 months to consider in everything I do, everything I say as – “how does this benefit the children?”  It did give me pause long enough to think through my decisions, rather than react  (which is sooooo easy to do when you’re up against the “dullest” tool in the shed).  My lawyer said, “the children come first.”  I’m sure he was relieved that I made his job easier by agreeing with him.  It’s not easy to look past the bs.  Especially when your ex is telling the children inappropriate things.  The key is for you not to get sucked into it, no matter what.  You’ve got to dig deep.   My sense of justice was just too strong to just “let it go” when my children came home asking me if it was true that I left dad for Todd.  I felt because they had asked, I could answer, “that’s not true.”  However, the psychologist that evaluated all of us felt differently about how I handled it.  Apparently I was wrong – because I, in my response, indicated to the children in a roundabout sort of way that their dad is a liar.  Well, if the shoe fits….   Ok, sorry.  I will always stand by my actions – I believe I did nothing wrong.  I never, EVER, said anything negative to the children about their dad.  However, the psychologist’s perspective caused me to consider what I say before I say it –regardless of how the children present it to me.  I think about how they might be affected by my answer.  I think about how my response might color their picture of who their father is and, while there is no love lost for me, they deserve to have only the best image of him – for their sake.  They will see who he is – or isn’t – in time.  

It’s Over. Can I Help?


Ok so several people have suggested that I write something resembling an advice piece, based on my recent (not to mention traumatic) experiences; however, my intent was to save it all until my own trial was over.  Unfortunately it has come to my attention that there are more than a few beautiful women out there who either live in their own toxic world or were recently slammed into a new reality by their partner.  And so – I’ve been feeling like I really want to help other women out there in similar circumstances and I just don’t know how.  And then it just occurred to me that I could start with my blog.  *A brief comment to the guys: I’m sorry to exclude you but I can really only speak for my own gender in this specific case.
So what makes me think I know anything?  I don’t.  But, I was married for 13 years.  It started out okay – I mean, we were in love and he said all the right things and he was really sincere and heartfelt and sensitive and a little silly like me (though as the years went by it became more and more clear that he just didn’t appreciate my silliness – or anything else, for that matter).  It didn’t take long before the real people we were, went to war against the two people we thought we were.   There were multiple disagreements about anything and everything. We fought about everything: money, my work in the family business, my friendliness to customers on the job, my mother, my father, birthday parties for the kids, spending, vacations, my returning to work in the restaurant business, me wanting time to myself, or wanting to go to mom’s night out with friends, sex, my journals, my attitude, my mistakes, past arguments and incidents. I wasn’t allowed to have male friends.  I wasn’t allowed to keep sentimental things associated with past relationships (like photos, letters).  I wasn’t allowed to write negative things about him in my journal.  There were short periods surrounding the births of each of our children that were mostly peaceful.  I wanted us to try counseling so many times, but apparently the idea of actually living in a healthy relationship just wasn’t as appealing.  Then came Ava’s diagnosis.  The shock and subsequent period of adjusting to “the new normal” was like living on the edge of an active volcano – the subtle rumblings of disaster always underfoot, the constant threat of eruptions left me feeling like I was walking on eggshells all the time. 
Fast forward to Spring 2010.  The disillusionment I felt over my miserable life came to a head as my daughter finished preschool.  A year earlier I had turned 40, and really wanted to have a party with our family and my friends to celebrate.  He didn’t want to.  He thought my idea to commemorate my milestone with a tattoo was a bad idea too.  Well, I picked the lesser – and less painful – of the two evils.   I fixed myself a pitcher of margaritas and threw myself a party.  My ex-husband, in his usual style, bitched and complained right up until everyone arrived and then suddenly turned on the charm and had himself a “decent” time, though he still didn’t lift a finger to test Ava’s blood sugar or look after her for this one afternoon.  This was the Jekyll/Hyde MO: act miserable every single God-forsaken holiday and birthday, bitch and moan about the interruption to his isolation until I reached my boiling point and my moody twin popped out…. and then he’d relax and look at me with wild eyes and ask me, “why are you acting like this? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you want to have a nice day?”   Anyway…. It was that year that the revelation hit me hard that I had reached the halfway point in my life… and I couldn’t wrap my brain around how I would survive another 40 years of this shit.  I’m sorry – I love a good time, I love being around my friends and family, I love being social and – for the love of God –  I love to laugh.  None of these things was easy in the life I was living, without fighting for it.  Who needs to fight for joy?  It’s a choice, not a war.
And then came my daughter’s best friend at preschool – a beautiful, happy little girl who took her by the hand from the very first day and became inseparable.  And her parents.  These two people reflected light from each other that was enviable and, for me, unforgettable.  They didn’t know how they inspired me to either get what I wanted from my marriage (which I already knew wasn’t going to happen) or get out.  I wanted to have that kind of love and respect from a soulmate.   And then came Facebook.  Which, by the way, is quoted countless times in divorce cases across the country.  Well, I didn’t end my marriage because of one man on Facebook.  All the re-connections I made, with the men and women I have known throughout my life, forced me to face the cold reality that my life was definitely NOT what I wanted it to be.  Several people seemed to have really great lives, great loves and family.  It inspired me to reach for more, to stop settling for less than what I deserved, less than what my children deserved
Yeah, yeah.  Things aren’t always what they seem.  And that is exactly why so many people I know are suddenly coming forward to leak their own little secrets about just how “perfect” their marriage isn’t.  I am perpetually amazed by how my going public with my drama has driven others to admit – ya knowthat they’re not really very happy either.
So what makes me think I have anything to offer?  Well, for one – I made a life-changing decision for not only myself, but my children too, about 18 months ago.  I have now been engrossed in a nasty fight for custody of them for over 9 months, which will be coming to an end in just 5 days.  I have been hurt, I have been angry, I have been broken, I have been shocked, I have been weak, I have been strong, I have been scared to death.  It has without a doubt been the absolute worst thing I have ever had to endure in my life.  But it has been worth every bankrupt second of this terrible ride, because NOT fighting was not an option.  He wanted me to give up.  He thought he could break me, but he was dead wrong.  No one and no man ever comes between a mother and her children.  I didn’t do everything right, I didn’t do anything wrong.  But I learned a lot about what I didn’t know – about the law, about divorce, custody and the real purpose of psychological evaluations.  And so – I am no expert – but I have experience.  And that is what I intend to share.  Because you’re not alone.  
Next up:  It’s Over.  Now What?