mom of boys

Parenting Gems…Six Years In

My cousin had a baby recently and my sons are approaching their sixth birthday. It’s all had me reflecting on my life in the past six years. It’s been a roller coaster honestly. Twins, started a practice, lost my Dad, divorce, moved to a rural town from urban city, went from paired Queer mom to single mom co-parenting with lesbian ex. Tried to date. Global pandemic as a front lines mental health nurse practitioner. Made some new friends, let go of some old ones. I always thought my twenties would be the decade of the most growth and change but honestly my thirties clearly said, “Hold my beer”.

Through it all I’ve had these two little boys watching me, learning from me, testing me, teaching me, and permanently changing the trajectory of my life. IVF sucked. But the enduring light at the end of the tunnel was the thought of a baby. Then I got two. Then they became non-babies. Honestly I do not ever need to do the baby stage or toddler stage again. Because little did I know the blinding ray of light at the end of the IVF horrible prickly tunnel is these two little men. Not babies. People. Individuals. I love them as individuals. I love seeing the best and worst parts of me reflected in them. They are this epic mirror into my soul. I started out wanting babies. But every day I wake up so grateful for these two boys.

I think what I learned the most is people love giving advice. Unsolicited. All the time. Even when our lived experiences are wildly different. I have been VERY careful to not give ANY advice to my cousin. At all. At any point on her journey to parenthood. Because she’s a smart, capable human who has a different lived experience than I do. But I will share some gems. Because if I had known some of this stuff six years ago it may have helped.

  1. Don’t let any one tell you when to potty train your kid. Don’t get scared if your best friend’s kid is some potty genius freak using the toilet at 18 months. Your kid will use the toilet. Let them do it on their timetable. Mine weren’t fully trained until just under 4 years old. I let them lead. It was generally painless except maybe a few times chasing Jackson around so he wouldn’t poop in the corner of the house.
  2. If your kid doesn’t talk by a certain point your pediatrician will tell you to get interventions. My sons were late bloomers with the talking. They had twin talk, and still do. We would be with other two year olds who spoke in complete sentences and I’d think my kids had some horrible disability. They didn’t. They are fine. My daycare instructor asked me to go to the pedi when they were three. We did. They got a speech eval. They did fine. If your kid needs interventions they are there for you. If you have concerns don’t ask strangers on social media. Check with your daycare teacher or nursery school teacher, and pediatrician.
  3. Your kid may or may not sleep. And if they sleep for a few months they may stop sleeping for the next few months. You will be up at 4 AM googling how to get a baby to sleep. You will google “sleeping patterns in 9 month olds, 10 month olds, etc.” If you ask ten people they will have ten different answers about sleeping patterns in kids. My kids didn’t sleep through the night consistently until they were eighteen months old. They still wake up with nightmares, the stomach bug, or whatever fresh hell decides to surprise me at 3 AM…though it is fewer and far between. Accept that you will feel tired. For a long time. Do the best you can.
  4. Kids get sick. Babies cut teeth. Babies have food intolerances. You may have a lot of front ended visits of pediatrician well and sick visits for the first year or two. Sometimes I found the pediatrician helpful. Sometimes not. I thought my son was cutting teeth at ten weeks, the pedi told me there was no way it could be that early, a tooth literally broke through that night. Trust your gut. You know your kid best.
  5. Bring them to the dentist after they have some teeth. No one ever really told me to start going. I just scheduled it because they had teeth. Found out one of them has an enamel deficiency. Again. Trust your gut.
  6. At some point they will eat chicken nuggets and french fries. There is no avoiding it. Gear up. One day I opened my cabinet and saw Chips Ahoy, Pirate Booty, s’more Granola bars, and every other treat I never thought I’d be giving my children…I became that Mom. So will you. It’s okay. They still eat apples and strawberries too.
  7. At some point your four year old will see something PG-13 on tv. It’s unavoidable. Be ready for some questions depending if it is boobs or murder.
  8. You will be asked about penises and vagina’s. No matter how much you prep, or how prepared you should be (aka Psych NP who specializes in sex positive mental health treatment) you will stutter and say something that sounds like your grandmother speaking. Recover. Approach the conversation again later on your terms and try and provide some objective age appropriate education…it’s all good.
  9. There will be playground interactions with other kids and parents that suck. I have been that Mom who has gone and demanded the huge rock from the kid who is not mine, as my own kids watch horrified that I am disciplining a kid who is not mind, because he’s been throwing it at all the kids including mine. I then marched my butt over to his parent with gi-normous rock and hand it to his parent, explain the situation, explain I’ve already told her child I would be dragging his butt over to her next if he threw any rocks again, etc. You gotta take a stand some times. It’s uncomfortable for me, my kids, and other kids and their parents. But it’s also setting the example of right and wrong. Playgrounds provide life lessons. Don’t run away from them; lean into them.
  10. Babies are always the goal of pregnancy. But what I’ve learned and what I encourage you to hold onto is that babies grow into individuals. They grow into these people that we have the privilege of shaping. They are watching everything you do. They will emulate you. They make me be better because I want them to be better. Babies are the tip of such a large iceberg. Sometimes I think they need me more now than when they were babies just in very different ways. When I bring them to karate, and they learn a new move; they slyly look over to see if I’m watching…that moment. That’s when they need me. We make eye contact, I give them the thumbs up through the glass, and smile, or clap and though they can’t hear me, they know I’m there. They try harder because they know I’m watching. Put down your phone and watch karate class. Because you will miss those moments. You will miss how much they need you.
  11. They will have opinions VERY quickly about Halloween costumes. Pick wisely your first two years. It will be the only opportunity for you to be in control of the theme.
  12. If you have stairs they will fall down them. Maybe not fully, maybe not until they are five. It will happen. Don’t panic. Maybe put carpet on your stairs.
  13. Almost forgot…parenting in a pandemic is the literal worst. Do the best you can. Make decisions you are comfortable with even if you think they are horribly irrational. Nothing we decide will be right. Tune out the static of non-pandemic parents advice. Tune out FOMO and go with your gut (and science. Please go with science too.)
  14. Place deoderant and toothbrush/toothpaste everywhere. Car, purse, kitchen, office.
  15. Have a discussion about little people/dwarfism. Do not wait until they see someone in public to educate. It will not go well.
  16. Call tampons and pads “Mamas bandaids”. Or something innocuous. You have to trust me on this one. Whatever you call them will be yelled publicly at some point.
mom of boys

“Boys Will be Boys”

I’ve received the feedback from society since I can remember that girls are “less than”.

I remember asking my high school basketball coach why the football team had an entire weight room and gym- and they hadn’t won a championship for over a decade- while the girls teams had access to nothing, practiced with old basketballs, old uniforms, and we won the state championship my Freshman year. We won shorelines multiple years. The volleyball team won the state championship year after year, but they also didn’t get new uniforms, new balls, or their own gym.

The athletic director at the time was an alcoholic, my freshman history teacher, and generally a misogynist that consistently prioritized the boys sports and provided boys sports teams with more resources than the more deserving, in my humble opinion, winning girls teams. He was also a bad teacher.

I was at a charity softball tournament recently and I saw a big sign with that particular athletic directors name, “The ‘John Smith’ Field”. I was like what. the. fuck. They named a sports complex after the alcoholic misogynist. I tapped my sister on the arm, and she nodded, and she wasn’t surprised. That’s how small suburban white towns roll around here.

Then of course I became a nurse. Female dominated profession that is marginalized, undervalued, and consistently gaslit by management. Then I became a psychiatric APRN. The general message to me was that I was not a doctor (Which I knew…because I chose to go into a NURSING master’s program), and working in a field and ultimately a hospital, dominated by old white dudes. I didn’t feel like I fit in, was valued, or had worth until I went into practice for myself.

I love my work. I love that I can own a practice. I love that I have created a female owned business with many female employees, who I treat as I was never treated by an employer. Ever.

But I still have to walk around in society as a female. Which is mostly fine but often not. For example, I literally had to stop going to a liquor store because the owner was too friendly. To the point I had to be unfriendly. I go to the liquor store about once every two weeks. In the Fall and Winter I buy a bottle or two of Malbec or Merlot. Sometimes I go wild and get a chianti. In the Summer I usually do white wine or a gin and tonic or a tequila and soda. I don’t drink every day. I have a glass of wine maybe 3 nights a week. I don’t drink- vodka, dark rum, whiskey, bourbon, and probably many other things. I know what I like. Don’t mess with me.

So the owner of the local liquor store literally would follow me around the one aisle of red wines talking to me about “pomegranate liquor”. I should try it. He will give me a sample. He thinks I should really really really try it. Don’t I like pomegranate liquor? He literally went on and on. This occurred three times I was in there. Then the last time he asked how I liked the pomegranate liquor. I literally never tasted it and repeatedly had told him I would never taste it. I stopped dead in my tracks, “Look, I come in here like once every two weeks. I buy two bottles of red wine. I hate pomegranate and it’s not liquor it’s vodka. I don’t drink vodka. Just let me buy my two bottles of red wine and leave.” Mind you, every single other time I’ve been in there I have stated that I am just there for a couple bottles of wine. This was not news. But I had to stop, make eye contact, and set a firm, non-smiling boundary. At which point he threw up his hands, and muttered something in another language, then checked me out clearly annoyed and butt hurt.

I left and found an online delivery service and ordered a bulk order of wine. I’m set for a few months and when I need more I’m ordering online again. Later that day I went into a gas station because the card reader wasn’t working at the pump. The guy’s eyes lit up and I know that look, it’s a fresh meat I’m going to flirt with her look, and he proceeded to smile ask me if I was single, what I’m doing there, etc.

These interactions do not leave me flattered. They leave me feeling annoyed and insulted. Can I just buy the damn wine? I’m running on fumes just let me fill up my damn tank. These are only two examples in one day of my life of 36 years. I’ve had countless interactions like this, and honestly the only time I didn’t was in the two or three years after I had my sons and was still overweight. It was kind of a nice time and I didn’t even realize the lack of creepy male attention until it started again when I was fifty pounds lighter.

The annoying part about all of the times I’ve had to set boundaries is the male’s instinctive defensive response when they then say I’m a “bitch” or “cold” or whatever clever new insult they derive from me relaying that I actually just want gas. wine. I don’t mentally track these encounters but I would guess that I receive unwanted, unsolicited, and/or creepy male attention at least weekly- more or less depending on how much contact I have with the public.

The rub of it all is that I’m raising two young men. The other day Declan was telling Jackson to stop touching him and Jackson kept going, as brothers do, I went, pulled them apart, and we talked about boundaries, and how it is very important that we do not touch or talk to people if they are asking us not to. That we respect boundaries and we don’t make other people feel bad about boundaries. I’m not sure how much of it they understood. But we will continue this same discussion over and over until it sinks in. Because my sons will not be the creepy dude telling me I have pretty eyes while I’m trying to just pay for an oil change…because that wasn’t awful at all.

I keep getting this message, overtly, that women should suck it up, and accept male attention because if and when we set boundaries its upsetting to them. We should accept that this is the way of the world. Well that didn’t work when I was 14 talking to my coach about fair allocation of resources, and it doesn’t work now at 36. I will not accept this treatment by the opposite gender. I will continue to set boundaries.

It’s exhausting and at times scary. I will also address this in raising my sons to accept No as an answer. To respect boundaries. To read non-verbals that if I’m ignoring you, stop talking to me and stop following me. These behaviors by men are not cute. They are not fun. They are creepy, scary, and tone deaf. Do not be this person. Do not raise your kids to be this person. Do better.

#COVID-19 · Nursing

Why America Cried At Steve Burns

I can’t be the only one who wiped at tears at the end of Steve from Blue’s Clues recent video that was posted to Twitter…? In every FB group I’m in from medical based, to illness based, to therapist based, to even a Harry Potter fans group….they erupted with Steve memes, with hearts linked to Steve’s video, and many many of my individual friends posted a tribute to Steve and his video.

Let’s break this down.

America literally lost its shit when a former childhood show star posted a vulnerable, truthful, completely unremarkable video.

It is quiet. He is soft spoken. There is no tension build-up. There is no comedy and no time when he is purposely trying to make us feel angry or sad or anything. So why? Why did an unremarkable video hit our hearts in a way that makes it completely remarkable?

I have some guesses and because I feel like I’m smart and Steve told me I look great I’m going to go a step further and say it’s an educated guess. Below is a rough quote of the video that I re-watched three times and typed while listening to it in order to get the words down.

“We were younger and we used to run around and find clues and do all the fun stuff…and we didn’t see each other for like a really long time. Can we just talk about that? (Pause) Great. I realize that was kind of abrupt. I just kind of got up and went to college. And that was really challenging by the way but great. Because I got to use my mind and take one step at a time. And now I’m doing many of the things I wanted to do. And then look at you, and look at all you have done, and all you have accomplished in all of that time. And it’s just so amazing. I mean we started out with clues and now it’s what? Now it’s what student loans and jobs and families. And some of it has been kind of hard. You know? I know you know. (Pause) And I wanted to tell you, I really could not have done all of that without your help…and in fact all the help that you helped me with when you were younger is still helping me today, and that’s super cool. I guess that I just wanted to say after all these years I never forgot you. Ever. And I’m super glad we are still friends. You look great by the way. Whatever it is your doing. It’s working.”

Reading the words does not have the same impact as watching the video. They fall somewhat flat with Steve’s vulnerable and honest voice and earnest eyes slicing through the horrible bouncy background music.

When I do therapy, as in when I am in the therapist chair, there are moments when I can see I hit the vulnerable spot in a client’s defensive armor. It’s in the moment when I say something that to me can feel like a shot in the dark but I know I hit it when their eyes well up as we maintain eye contact and they nod without speaking and I just named something that let them know, “I see you.”

Steve Burns literally just did that to every kid who grew up watching Blue’s Clues. Even if you hated the show. That two minute video he said, “I see you, and it’s hard, and you’re great.” In a way that we yearn for every day but often lack in receiving. Steve saw us. He let us know with sincerity that he sees us because he is us. He has student loans too. He went to college and gets to use his mind and do all the things every day he wanted to do. And he did it with us, for us, because of us. He says you helped me accomplish things and you still do and I’m grateful for you.

He called us friends still. And told us we look great.

Why did America lose it’s mind? Why did this bring tears to our eyes? Because we lack validation in our every day lives. Especially in the last year and a half. Our lives have been thrust into complete uncertainty. As a parent we don’t know if our children are safe anywhere. We don’t know if we are remote or in person for work, appointments, and school. We don’t know if we should go to the grocery store. We can’t see our families and our friends. We are isolated. Nothing feels right. Everything feels scary.

Steve came in and in two minutes let us know that he gets it. He gets that things are scary. But look at all we’ve done already. Look what we are capable of! Look! Because I am looking and I SEE YOU! Why is Steve Burns the first and only person who has been able to penetrate the “scary” of the last 18 months and provide validation, acceptance, and reassurance in ways that brought us all to tears?

Because he gave us what we yearn for. He gave us non-judgmental acceptance of our choices.

He gave us positive feedback.

He bolstered us to be able to keep moving forward with the same greatness with which we had arrived in the moment to watch his video. Why do we not get this validation from our jobs? Partners? Families? Friends? Some of us, probably do. Some of us have supportive and positive people surrounding us. But so many of us, clearly, are lacking in this area because it was painfully obvious we had not received any of this for a long time by our extra reactions to his video.

His voice was calming, unifying, and his message was of appreciation and hope. Hope. We all are craving the elusive ray of hope that crept out of his video. Are there other people who didn’t forget me? Do I really look great? Other people struggle with student loans too? He spoke directly to the viewer. It felt like sitting down with an old friend. He paused at the right time and the inflection in his voice was always to add calm not uncertainty. It was the least anxious two minute video I’ve ever seen. And if there is anything over the last 18 months it has been a steady influx of anxiety.

This is important because it shows what America lacks. Empathy, validation, and understanding from authority figures- employers, family, friends, etc. It’s important because it shouldn’t take one video to unravel us and that it did shows that we all need to be in therapy if we are not already because we are all raw, so raw. You cried because your emotions are bubbling so close to the surface it took one person to say- I see you. Your feelings are valid. I’ve felt them too. I see you.- to have you in tears. He did that therapy move that I do. He took a shot in the dark to say what we all needed to hear and he landed acutely on our weak spot in our defenses.

Why did we cry? Because we felt seen. Because we felt connected in a time of isolation. Because an old friend greeted us warmly without judgement and told us we are good enough as we are and that he is proud of us. It seems so simple yet we cannot find this validation, connections, and positive reinforcement in our every day life. We cried because we needed to cry; we needed a release valve.

I am grateful to Steve for his video. I am grateful it brought catharsis and relief to so many people. I am saddened that so much of America feels unseen. I can tell you as a healthcare provider and as a mental health provider for many other healthcare providers the most important unvalidated person walking America is the healthcare worker. We are tired. We are dying- from suicide, substance use, and damnit from COVID. We are sick of the horrific deaths. We are sick of the ignorance. We are burned out in a way that no one else outside of healthcare can even begin to comprehend. It’s making us resent the patients. It’s making ICU nurses refuse to turn their unconscious unvaccinated COVID vented patients, leading to more pressure ulcers, more black eyes from being prone and not having their cheeks turned. It’s making the fifteen respiratory therapists who can do ECMO in one hospital system think about quitting. All 15. If all 15 quit ECMO can’t function. I don’t think Americans grasp the devastating consequences COVID-19’s ongoing toll it taking on our healthcare workers. We are going to lose them all. There will be none left to care for us if we don’t get our shit together.

Get your shit together America. That moment that made you feel tears when Steve Burns breached your defenses…make healthcare workers feel that moment. Make them know that you see them. That you hear them. Get the freaking vaccine. Wear freaking masks. Stop saying science isn’t real. Because science doesn’t give a shit when you are drowning in the fluid in your unvaccinated lungs. Your going to die regardless.

This is a plea. One human to another. Think. Feel. Change. Because if you don’t we are looking at devastating consequences for our healthcare workers.

To my nurses I see you. I am you. I feel you. I understand if you leave. I truly do. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the blood, sweat, tears you’ve already given. I can’t ask you to give more than you’ve given. We all hit our walls at different moments. If you’ve hit yours. Step away. Know it doesn’t make you less. I know you are not abandoning us. I know you have to take care of you in this moment and I will never fault you for that and if any one does- tune them out. They don’t know what we’ve seen and been through.

If you are still fighting the fight- rock on, stay strong, and take care of yourself in a way that no one else will. “You look great by the way. Whatever you’re doing. Keep doing it.”

Uncategorized

Laughing At Myself…(it involves falling)

There are moments on a daily basis that people actually wouldn’t believe occur to the same person over and over unless you spent an extended period of time with me. For example, one of my best friends in high school spent a lot of time with me. Small town. Limited things to do. Lots of time. As we grew up and grew apart, we still touch base at least a few times a year. He always asks how I’m doing then eventually I will share a story of something and he laughs and says “It literally has never stopped with you has it? Your life should be a reality show.” When my admin started she spent the first few weeks working out of my house. She was definitely with me at least 4 hours a day 4 days a week in my home. This was the month in between office spaces when we were still fully remote. As I stumbled through the house one day and ran to my car because i was running late for a doctor’s appointment…she looked at me said, “Wow, you really are a total hot mess in a super funny but also somewhat unbelievable way. Like people who just meet you would never know.” I proceeded to run back into the house three times because I forgot my keys, forgot my phone, couldn’t find my phone, searched the car, came back in to find my phone again, then eventually found it in the car.

Tonight was one of those moments. I brought the boys to their first official karate class. We did an intro session on Saturday just them and the instructor. They of course loved it, are obsessed with it, and want to be black belts. I’m not social. I talk to people all day about their deep emotional traumas. When I leave work I’m not into making small talk with Moms. 1. They are usually straight. 2. In my town it’s 50/50 that they support #45 and think we have a fake President. 3. I’m usually just freaking tired.

My own Mom is one of those people who will chat with someone in line at the grocery store or anywhere for that matter. Then she asks all these questions, and smiles…and yeah literally the opposite of me as I slink off to find a freaking self check out so I can talk to no one. Sometimes she asks me follow up questions about an interaction I have with some one and then I just stare at her and then she remembers that I in no way went further in the conversation then I had to.

This week I had to sit on the soccer sidelines and go to karate class. I have somehow become this Mom of creatures who are social and like other kids and stuff. I don’t know where they come from.

I’m also a business owner. So I’m on all the time. I get a call from the landlord who is discussing my latest request which is insane. I own that. I make insane requests. He laughs at me. He realizes I’m serious. Then we put our heads together and figure it out. I’m a good and profitable tenant.

Anyways. I get the phone call, I’m walking outside, I have a mask on so I can’t see below me, I have my AirPods in so I’m all discombobulated anyway because my freaking phone keeps putting the sound on my phone then back to my AirPods and I’m looking at my phone, trying to rip the mask off as I push open the door…and then epically fall.

There’s a step.

I have on flip flops. I’m holding my brand new iPhone which I do NOT let drop on the ground can I get an amen! So my left hand was on the door handle, my right hand held the phone, my mouth was open behind the mask going “AHHHHH” my body swung, literally swung, with the door, my flip-flops got all bent and crazy, my ass did not hit the ground, I was actually able to stay in a squat like position. But it was intense and there was rain and the door swinging and my body flying around.

So inside were a few parents who clearly, I mean clearly, saw the whole thing because I actually held eye contact with one of them as it was happening. Then the rest of the parents were sitting in running cars facing said door and sidewalk I just fell onto. Then there was my poor landlord John. He also probably thinks I am not okay. Because unfortunately he has spent enough time with me on the phone designing my current office space, and now designing our add on space, that he knows random crazy shit is going to happen while we talk.

I literally scream/yell. Pull myself up. Realize that no parent is going to ask if I’m okay. I am also cracking up because if any of my friends were there they would have been breaking my balls hardcore. I finally get John the landlord into by Airbuds. After being like “Can you hear me” a million times, and he’s trying not to laugh at the chaos of the last two minutes, he was like “Uh yeah, I could hear you the whole time.” silence. Me cracking up. “Dude I literally just fell out of my kids karate studio. I can’t.” He sighs like he’s not surprised at all this is happening and then asks about my most recent completely irrational and costly update I requested to the new space we are designing.

The problem with AirPods and holding the iPhone anywhere is that I can talk with my hands. I’m a big walker and talker with my hands. I’m not Italian. I’m Irish and Swedish. Literally the least emotive people. But there I was. Walking and talking with my hands waving them around, running them through my massive humid induced curly hair head and trying to convince him it’s maybe not that costly or irrational. It’s maybe a six minute conversation. I am animatedly making my case the entire time after recovering from my fall.

When we hang up I stop. I look around. I realize all those parents who are sitting in their cars who saw me fall just also saw me have a very animated conversation with my hands, barefoot, because apparently at some point I kicked off my flip flops, as I paced on the sidewalk in front of the very large karate studio picture window where the parents sitting inside also had a great view.

At that point I start cracking up again. I apparently had also ripped off my mask which I picked up off the sidewalk next to my flip flops. I am obviously very passionate when I’m making a case for more things and less money after heinously falling and screaming in the beginning of our call.

With as much dignity as I could muster I put on my flip-flops. I put on my mask. I walked back inside and returned to my chair. No one said a word. Not a word. I texted my friends and told them I fell and they sent me GIFs of models walking the runway and falling. It was amazing.

I gotta be honest. I’m sore. My back and shoulders and somehow my arm took a beating. I told the boys after karate and then walking out I almost fell a second time. Damn stair. I blame the mask. But yes I’ll keep wearing it even though no one else was wearing one because Delta. Covid. Science. Blah blah blah.

My point to this rambling retelling of my epic fall out the karate door on the phone with some one who could cost or save me thousands of dollars is…be real. I am not fake. I have never hidden from any one the hot mess that I am. It’s just a matter of who I let in that sees it.

I love my life. I love my kids. I love that I can laugh at myself stumbling onto a sidewalk in the rain. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with your friends. I was going to say talk to other people at your kids sporting events, but that would be super hypocritical. Baby steps. I’m just not there yet. Oh, and always fight the good fight for seemingly irrational requests that cost a lot of money. Know your worth because I know my mine. (it’s a lot).

Uncategorized

Dear Americans,

I read an article about what Europeans found the most shocking about America. One item was the “number of American flags. They are just everywhere.” I thought about it. I would have to agree with that assessment and until 2016 I never thought of that as a bad thing.

As I drive into work every day I pass through mostly rural communities. Many houses have flags. A few in particular have an American flag, underneath which is a “F&ck Biden” flag. I gotta be honest. That irks me. I had to reflect on it for awhile to come to a non-partisan rationale as to why it irks me.

I am the granddaughter of a World War II veteran. I am the daughter of a Vietnam veteran. My Dad also served in Utah as one of the first homeland security details for the Winter Olympics. My Dad was an epic patriot. And it was one area in life we never fought about. I respected, and still do after his death, his love of his country. One of the most meaningful moments at his funeral were three of his former Army friends showing up in dress uniform and seeking me out of the crowd. Saluting me. Asking me politely what happened to their friend and their utter dismay at finding out my Dad at the very end made it clear he did not want a military funeral.

I’m still unclear why my Dad declined what he was entitled to with more than half his life given to the military. His feelings toward the military were complicated by the men he lost in Vietnam, the men who died for him to live, and later on they were further complicated by his understanding of Agent Orange and how that impacted his health until the day he died.

My grandpa and my Dad both kept quiet about their service but they did not ever hide their pride in their service and in their country. I grew up watching them march in our Memorial Day parades. Attending military ceremonies whenever my Dad would be promoted. I visited armories with him throughout the state over my childhood and it was a normal occurrence for me to be around men and women in fatigues. When I went to work with my Dad some times I remember sitting in armories and chatting with soldiers.

When I married a woman nothing about my relationship with my Dad changed. Nothing about my relationship with the American flag changed either. I was raised to be proud of the service of my family members. My Dad served under many Presidents he disagreed with in terms of rhetoric but we did not disrespect a President in front of my Dad. We could disagree with policy and opinions but if I ever said F&*$ Bush my Dad would have slapped me in the back of my head. Because he got that even if we disagree with policy he is still the President and he is deserving of the respect of that office.

2016 changed my Dad. He was still with it enough to know that this was bad. I think that also contributed to his decision to not pursue a military funeral. He had never come against some one who disrespected the office of the President as much as he felt it was disrespected during that administration. But I still would never have used the F word in the same room as my Dad in regards to the President. No matter how much we may agree that administration was not okay. We still had some level of respect and decorum for the office.

When I drive by a flag that has the F word on it (and I swear a lot. So if it bothers me it’s bad) that not only names our current President but also is touching the American flag. Every atom of my being rebels. I feel like my Dad and Grandpa are turning in their graves. Because how disrespectful is that to our flag, our nation, their service, and the office of the President of the United States of America. That is not patriotism. That is hateful and overt disrespect to every veteran, every active service member, and every person who has held the office of the President.

After I had this heated discussion in my head about how and why this was bad, I thought well their response could be they feel the same about seeing the Pride flag with an American flag. That was a head scratcher for me. I can say that, I hear you. I get that. BUT, at the same time- the Pride flag does not disrespect the office of the President. The Pride flag creates safety and perhaps can start to acknowledge and thank all the Queer servicemen and women who have served our country just as proudly and bravely as my Dad and Grandpa. It also doesn’t place the F word in line with our flag. Our flag is a symbol of unity. To have its counterpart say F our President sews divide. It literally does the opposite of what we are supposed to feel when we see our flag.

Somehow “Patriots” have become these neo-nazi homophobic, anti-semitic people like “Proud Boys” who spew hate and division. Well I won’t live in fear of our flag. I am proud of the American flag and I challenge any one flying anything so disrespectful as F Biden next to our flag to remember our veterans. Remember the men and women who served and died under our flag. Because I remember my Dad and his pride in our country and our flag and I urge you to take the parties and politics out of our flag because all Americans are united under one flag whether we like it or not.

And listen, I may disagree with what you do and say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to do it and say it. But in this case, I’m going to call out general bad form; and hope that you can open your eyes to maybe taking things a step too far. Maybe disrespecting the American flag is actually not patriotic but in fact insulting to many fellow Americans.

Sincerely,

Irked In Rural America

#COVID-19 · Nursing

Therapist Friends

My sons started kindergarten. I have minimal pictures because I’m generally bad at taking pictures. I like to think it’s because I’m being present in the moment and just soaking up the emotion of it all. But it’s also because I forget. The first day the school and aftercare program lost them. They were never lost. They just didn’t get off the bus at the aftercare stop. So I thought they were lost. I had epic Mama bear panic ten minutes of tearing out of my office while picturing just pulling over every bus I pass and going up them aisle by aisle until I found them. But then the school secretary verified with Dattco the boys were still on the bus with a sleeping child who also missed their stop.

Nothing like a good adrenaline rush after a morning of blubbering for my week to start on the right foot.

The highlights I get from the boys are the bus rides, hot lunch, and yeah. That’s all they really talk about. I’m assuming there is some learning that occurs but who knows.

The great thing about being friends with therapists are moments. My friend and I were hiking in the woods. We had already dissected the boys being lost on the bus where I received validation that I was within my rights to have epic crazy town ten minutes.

There was a road within a half mile of where we were hiking. We just couldn’t seem to get there from the paths we kept choosing. There was a lovely orange circle that looked really easy and was 2.1 miles. Perfect. Then we were on blue. Then we were on blue/yellow. Then we were on orange/yellow. Then I don’t know how but we ended up in an unmarked section where another person emerged looking confused.

We kept walking. I was sweaty, hot, and cranky by this time. Meanwhile my friend who is a therapist says, “Maybe we are just supposed to be lost in the woods right now. Maybe this is exactly what we both need right now.” She literally says this smiling and if she could have been skipping I feel like she would have been. There I am the nurse. The nurse is like oh hell the fuck no fucking way are we supposed to be fucking lost and sweaty…and I’m not skipping. I keep that all inside though as I mentally handslap my forehead and look at her smiling positive attitude and try to channel the therapist side of me.

I gotta be honest. I couldn’t find it. But I did smile because how therapist-y was that moment? And literally. I just pictured her skipping.

(She sometimes reads my blog…I say this with love my friend)

I’m not sure the plus side of friends with nurses. We swear a lot. We are blunt. And you send us pictures of random skin conditions and expect diagnosis and treatment. Literally happened the same day from another friend and is not uncommon; not even a trigger warning usually just a random picture of a body part with a rash. (She never reads my blog but on the off chance: with love also my friend)

My therapist friends and I are careful to never do therapy on one another. And if some one starts to sound to therapist-y we will say, “Stop therapizing” at which point there will be denial they are therapizing but also a general backing off and trying to approach differently. The pro’s of therapist friends are we can get into deep analytical discussions that other people would find boring. They also say things when we are lost in the woods that are annoyingly positive but also hilarious because it’s beyond comprehension to me how some one can be that positively existential while hot sweaty and lost.

When I went into psychiatric nursing I never thought of a by product being a cache of therapist friends that would develop over time. But here we are. It’s been interesting evolving from emergency department co-workers to psychiatry. They are all a little messed up but in very diverse and special ways. I vibe with both sets. Definitely my people.

What’s nice is that I can be therapist-y and a nurse. Typical intake with a nurse goes something like this, “So you were a nurse?” “Yeah, but I’m still a nurse, I’m just an NP now.” “Yes but in psych.” “Yeah….okay. I worked in the pedi-ED”. “Aw shit. Okay so you’ve been in it.” “Yeah, you?” “ICU. (or ED. or MICU. etc.)” “Nice, you see other psych providers?” “yeah they don’t know shit.” “Yeah, it’s hard to describe what it’s like seeing some one’s insides or holding their brains in your hands.” “Yeah. I like you. I’m so glad I found you.”

Ver batim I’ve had that conversation more times than I can count. Nurse’s have seen some shit. It’s different sitting with a nurse as a provider than sitting with a therapist who has never worked as a nurse. I usually have to reference seeing guts and brains (which is not a lie or exaggeration) in order for them to relax and open up about what’s going on. Their reason for seeing me does not even have to be about nursing but them just knowing I get what they see relaxes them.

I’ve never regretted going into psychiatry. I’ve never regretted declining intakes to save spots for nurses and the LGBTQ community. I’ve never regretted forging the friendships I have with therapists, in fact they have seen me through some of the hardest couple years of my life starting back in 2019 with the death of my Dad.

I am a firm believer in fate and people showing up in your life when you need them. I worked in the ED when I needed ED friends. I still have them as friends, but not seeing each other every day like we did means we naturally grew apart. What’s nice about the ED though is I know I could reach out to any of them at any time for anything and they’d have my back. Just as so many have reached out to me for family members and friends since I went into psychiatry for help connecting to services.

I honestly feel blessed for the people who have been in my life since going into psychiatry. I’ve met such good people who work hard, are smart, compassionate, and are just good role models for me professionally and personally. And I’m still surrounded by nurses too; they are just psych nurses so haven’t necessarily held guts and brains- still cool but different than ED nurses.

I’ll take the annoying positivity while lost in the woods because that’s what I need. I need people who see the best in others, therapists seem far less cynical than nurses, because it’s something I need to practice. Since March 2020 mental health providers have been stretched beyond what you can even imagine.

I see it, I hear it, and I feel it.

We hold pain, secrets, love, and loss. I started my day today with a person calling and bursting into tears when I said we could not take her daughter as we are closed to adolescent referrals. Then I heard her story of calling fifteen offices and I was the first person who even answered the phone. Not even my client. That’s how the days go now though. Long, hard, and with a lot of tears.

I have such immense respect for mental health professionals, my friends included, because this work is hard and my friends in particular can still hold onto such positive outlooks in the face of such darkness. They also are woke and call themselves out on privilege. They make me a better person. I know my psych APRN friends right now are going, hmmm, am I a therapist friend or a nurse friend? More on the therapist friend side but with the cynicism of a nurse. Good people.

Take this for what you will. An ode to my friends- therapists and nurses- who helped me survive the last couple years. I can’t remember a time in my life I needed friends more and of course it was the hardest time to see anyone. I am grateful for the people who keep showing up for me and who I am happy to show up for.

This is also a call to examine the people you surround yourself with and what they contribute to your life. As I get older, as my kids get older, they see my friends. They know them. I surround myself with people I want my children to know. There should be equal parts giving and taking with one person perhaps taking more at different points in life and vice versa.

This is also a thank-you to all the mental health professionals still standing in the wake of COVID-19. I see you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you are and do.

And if you’re friends with a nurse…two words: Trigger. Warning.

Divorce and Separation · homophobia · lesbian mom

The “Nice” Heterosexual Parenting Education Class Mandated for Divorcing Parents and My Non-hetero Feelings About It…(there are many feelings)

Per the state when two people divorce with children there is a mandatory “Parenting Education Class” that you both have to take. It’s six hours long. In my case taught by two LCSW’s. I’ve talked about sexual orientation as it pertains to me (lesbian mom more hetero-bendable identifying) and I’ll admit I was already salty going into this course because I had recently filled out after school program paperwork where by the end I ripped through the paper when I crossed out “Father’s name” so hard with the pen.

Really. You can’t just put Parent 1 and Parent 2? Really?!

Again, I was already salty. Then I come into this six hour hellacious class where I am taught basic concepts of being nice to the co-parent. And literally it’s a watered down version of what I council clients about daily. Not to say I knew all the content. But let’s say I didn’t learn anything new of value.

However, I will say I was also annoyed the entire six hours because the opener was as follows, “We will be referring to two parents as ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’. We know there can be other ways that families are made and different parenting situations but in our course this is the vocabulary we will use.” That was as close as they came to acknowledging LGBTQ+ parents. EVER. In six hours.

So literally in the first two minutes of the next six hours of my life I’m already told 1. You’re not important enough for us to use gender neutral language 2. There will be absolutely nothing in this course pertaining to LGBTQ parents and families 3. You are not seen by this course and the state of CT that mandates you take this course. Because w cannot even say the words “Two mom or two dad families” and God forbid anyone uses the word transgender.

I wanted the class to end. I wanted to be done before it even began because I felt like I shouldn’t be there taking up space with all the nice straight people. I may not identify as a lesbian but I sure as hell am a lesbian mom because my co-parent from conception is a woman. And you literally in six hours cannot even once use vocabulary that might validate my existence as a two mom family.

I had a lot of feelings. Clearly. Still do. One of the feelings that generally angers me is shame. In those moments I feel myself looking left and right like does any one know I’m a two mom parent? Can they tell? Because in that opener it was made very clear this is not a safe space for me to be.

I was calming down a bit toward the end counting the seconds. When he used an example that drove me right back up to eye twitching insanity.

“…What would be great in that moment is for the Dad to show up and support the Mom. The kid is being disrespectful and really unruly to Mom, Dad shows up and says, ‘you can’t talk to your mother that way’ dad lays down the discipline and takes a stand. That is what a Dad should do in that instance because the kid will really respect the Dad for stepping in for Mom and Mom will appreciate you too dad, you will win big points for this.”

Dude. Not only can you not acknowledge anything other than heterosexual parents but your example is literally the most gendered inaccurate stereotype I have ever heard. It took a lot. I mean A. LOT. to sit there and not 1. chew my lip off 2. keep my big mouth shut.

I needed to take some space. I needed to take a little walk. It didn’t help I had spent the better part of the day also on the phone fighting with my nemesis Anthem. I was wired to fight dirty after dealing with those heinous people all day.

So I didn’t say anything. I’m taking time to reflect. I’m going to say something. I may send a link to this blog. Because I don’t like the feelings I’m having. I don’t like feeling ashamed of the make up of my family because it seems like you are uncomfortable even saying the word lesbian let alone lesbian Moms and gay dads and trans dads and trans Moms. How about acknowledging that some of these divorces are happening because people in heterosexual marriages now want to explore their sexuality and you’ve just shamed them hardcore.

I have feelings of pain because it just feels like the micro aggressions and overt aggressions will never go away and my sons are going into kindergarten and I’m terrified that they will now be exposed to homophobia. As a lesbian mom you do a disservice by pretending we don’t exist. You lumped me in with the hetero mom’s in that class. You made analogies, jokes, and statements geared toward me that had no meaning and were absolutely useless to my lived experience. And you could not even say the words “two mom’s”.

I wanted to stand up and say I am here. I. AM. HERE. SEE. ME. But I didn’t. Because it’s a stupid class that I have to get through to finalize the divorce. But a class meant to support and empower positive coparenting should not overtly state they will be ignoring the entire population of LGBTQ+ parents who are legally required to take it.

Yeah I have a lot of feelings about this. Including but not limited to:

And by the way. Two Mom’s can actually effectively discipline their child without a man. I’ve never needed to be rescued by a man to step in and discipline my son if he’s being “unruly”. My sons live with a healthy dose of fear of me and I’ve never laid a finger on them in terms of spanking or any physical punishments.

I’m consistent. I follow through on what I say I’m going to do. Expectations are clear and I know my sons.

I will be writing a follow up letter to the organization who organizes these classes. The year is 2021. There are many different family make-ups and you do a disservice to people who are being forced to pay for and take this class by just a blanket statement that you recognize we exist somewhere out on earth but we won’t exist in the context of your six hour class.

Because that my friends is homophobia. Big bad homophobia. It’s micro aggressions and it’s shaming and it’s a symptom of minority stress where we know we are in an unsafe space and we struggle the entire six hours with do we tell them or do we not. Are we physically safe if we tell them. Etc. Etc. I’ll say it again for friends in the back- not acknowledging us is homophobic. Not acknowledging that our coparenting is going to be maybe different from heterosexuals that’s also a micro aggression and just plain ignorant.

Do better. Be better. And be the voice in the crowd saying I AM HERE. Even if it’s after the fact. Because in the moment I would have been unpleasant. Afterward with time space and objectivity is totally fine. I’ll keep y’all posted.

lesbian mom · mom of boys

Stacking Firewood Before the Storm

I get two cords of firewood delivered every November. Then it takes me a month or so to stack it all. It’s usually thirty degrees or less and some times it snows. This year the two cords were delivered on Monday. I thought “This is great, I’ll have all Fall to stack it, it won’t be snowing, I won’t be cold, no rush. Great!”

Thursday we start hearing about a hurricane. Friday we are told a cat 1 will make landfall and there will be “rain of biblical proportions” and to “protect life and property at all costs”. I mean the drama.

I take in all my pool furniture and I stand staring at the wood pile. It’s taller than me. By a lot. And then I’m picturing logs becoming torpedoes in 80 mph winds. So Friday I start stacking.

It was 88 degrees and what felt like 100% humidity here. I was dripping sweat. My sons came out and helped. It was honestly the cutest freaking thing. Those little dudes walked dutifully with me back and forth with the wheelbarrow as we filled it with logs then stacked the logs in the garage and on our stands outside.

I did promise them money and they negotiated up to 20$ “paper money Mama, not the coins”. At one point one of them stopped and looked at me and said, “You’re a good Mama, you’re doing a good job.” Through my huffing and puffing I tried to smile and say thank you. At the end of Friday’s stacking we jumped into the pool and I took them for ice cream. At some point my neighbor stopped over with his wheelbarrow and helped with a few loads. Unasked and purely because he’s kind.

The boys asked if I was paying him. We laughed, and I said no, sometimes people are just kind. He has daughters in their 20’s and I think he was imagining them attacking that woodpile by themselves.

Saturday came and it wasn’t any cooler or less humid or less dramatic with the forecasts. Back and forth we went some more. The boys still helping, and trying to angle for more cash. I mean they are good at bargaining maybe law school is in their futures.

By Saturday evening there was less than 1/2 cord left on the driveway which was secured under a tarp with stakes and 80 lb deck umbrella stands.

By Sunday night we had received a lot of rain, a few gusts maybe up to 40 mph, and otherwise a dreary day. No firewood torpedoes thank goodness and no cat 1 hurricane in sight. So that was anti-climatic but I’ll take it because I wasn’t looking forward to no power for a week.

Sometimes it is in the monotony of a task like stacking firewood that we have the most meaningful times with our children. In a simple act they were taught many lessons.

They were taught the importance of preparing for a storm, they were taught we don’t quit at something even when we are dripping sweat, cranky from the heat, and our muscles are screaming. They learned the kindness of neighbors can be just that. Kindness. Without motive. They learned that Mama can handle a pending crisis with general calm and determination.

They were told at one point they had reached their maximum reimbursement of 20.00 each and they could stop or not it was up to them. They both went silent with their bargaining and trudged onward with me even though they wanted to come inside and watch tv. I told them they could and I wouldn’t be upset with them. It had been a long hot couple days, and I sincerely told them they could go inside and be done. But they knew I wasn’t done and didn’t want me to be alone.

They could have stayed inside watching tv. They could have played in the yard with the sprinkler. They could have ridden their bikes on the driveway. But they worked hard. They took pride in their work, and I praised them constantly for how well they were doing.

Stacking firewood is not sexy or glamorous. I broke a fingernail. My hands and arms and abs and legs are sore. I literally was soaked with sweat. Dripping like at hot yoga. I smelled. They smelled. There were ants. Pincher bugs. Spiders.

Kids watch us. They see us. When Declan told me I was a good Mama I melted inside. I don’t think he was saying I’m a good Mama because I stack firewood. He said it because he knew it was miserable but I persevered. I didn’t complain. I stayed positive and kept talking about how great it will be to jump in the pool. He said it because in that moment he admired me.

Now that I’m not dripping sweat and trudging through flying ants with wheelbarrows full of firewood I think back to that moment when we made eye contact and he said that and I smiled and said “Thanks bud. I love you.” And Jackson said, “What about me Mama?” and we laughed and I said, “Love you too buddy”. Then we had a second where we all just beamed at each other then I leaned over to throw another log into the wheelbarrow.

It was less than five seconds. That one moment. Treasure the moments. Teach through experiences. If parenting has taught me anything it’s to appreciate the moments. Because in the next moment I was probably yelling at them to stop fighting. Parenting also has taught me how much they see us. For some one who likes to remain on the periphery and not be the center of attention, it’s taken some getting use to for me. Two humans have their eyes and ears on me at. all. times. It can be a lot for an introvert.

Stacking wood can seem unimportant but they learn lessons from everything we do. Everything we prioritize and don’t; they see. It’s a huge responsibility- these little humans. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing everything wrong. But in that moment, by the woodpile, seeking their admiration even if just for a second, I felt like yes! Mom win.

(The meme/title picture is just because it made me laugh. Jackson in particular and I have had that exact scene regarding dinner. I told him he didn’t need to eat it but that it would be there in the morning for breakfast. It was there in the morning for breakfast. He ate it.)

#COVID-19 · Uncategorized

How I Sew My 5 yr Old Sons Favorite Masks

I taught myself to sew when I was in high school and college. During a lonely Summer when I was doing an internship in nursing I spent my days with my cats sewing curtains for my apartment. I’ve sewn scrub tops when I worked in the emergency department and fleece tops and bottoms. Never did I think I would be sewing masks.

Obviously March 2020 threw me for a loop. I hauled out my sewing machine and every scrap of fabric I’d saved over the last ten years suddenly made sense. Perfect sizes for masks. I also started saving Joann Fabric coupons and buying kid friendly fabric with Frozen themes, Spiderman, Paw Patrol, etc. I ordered a lot of elastic. Some from sketchy places. I have to say though the sketchiest order I placed is the one that pulled through and delivered a large spool of elastic six weeks later.

I watched a lot of YouTube videos and read a lot of articles. I tried multiple patterns and had multiple failures. When I perfected the cotton with elastic mask I watched videos on how the filtration effectiveness of rayon blends aka chiffon are significantly higher than cotton and the closest to an N95 that fabric can make.

I bought more fabric. I had one lovely cashier who gave me 60% off my entire purchase. So much fabric.

I struggled with the chiffon. I had many failures. I actually stopped trying with two particular fabric patterns because I think they are bad luck. I literally could never make a functional mask from them. Eventually I got it though. I watched a youtube video on making a single layer chiffon mask and looked all over the craft passion website at the many mask patterns. I found that my way works best for my now 5 year olds, then 4 year olds which is a combination of many instructional videos and patterns.

The pattern is the Olsen pattern found on craft passion website.

Outside of Mask after long edges are sewn

The wire is roughly 10 or 12 gauge framing wire. About 4-6″ pieces. I cut scraps of fabric into 4-6″ rectangular strips. Then I iron them in a trifold pattern. Then I sew the piece of wire into the trifold cotton strip. If you angle the pouch correctly you can do the whole thing in one go, you kind of curve around the wire. Make sure both ends are solidly sealed because you don’t want the wire poking out. (pictures are below)

I like to sew several wire pouches at once so I have a nice stash of them. It is more efficient in the long run.

I do a double sided mask. One layer is a chiffon (rayon blend) and one layer is a character cotton fabric such as Spiderman or Frozen. For Halloween I used a pumpkin/witch fabric on top with a brown chiffon/jersey type fabric on the back.

I cut a bunch at once. I fold the fabric twice so I can cut four pieces at once- right side together. (picture below)

Then I sew along the curve of the mask pieces- 2 right sides together (pic below).

Then I take two of the sewn pieces and put right sides together, make sure center seams are aligned, and I sew the top and bottoms together. When I sew the top pieces I hold a wire pouch on and sew it onto the two pieces.

Then I turn it right side out, and fold over the edges to cover the raw edge, and form a channel that the straps will go through. Make the channel wide enough to get a safety pin through. I sew it so the “inside” of the mask is the jersey fabric, as that will be softest against the face.

The nice part about these is they are very forgiving. You don’t have to sew a perfect seam in a perfectly straight line. The more you do the faster you will be able to go, and the straighter the lines become.

So I take a safety pin, pin it through some of the chiffon/jersey fabric that I cut in thin strips along the edge of the fabric and run it through the now sewn channel. Up from the bottom for both ends. Then you should have a neck strap, and two ends at the top that can be tied around the head or I use the black buttons so kids don’t have to tie a bow they can just tighten or loosen as needed.

I’ll add a video to this. If you have questions just ask.

Below you can see finished products- I make them for me and my family and I wear mine as a double mask/top layer when I work at the hospital. Declan is running in the arcade with it hanging around his neck- that’s one of the nice parts is it doesn’t fall off. Declan as Batman has his on inside out so you can see the under seam where I lace in the fabric for around the head. My sister prefers the ear piece be around the ear with an adjuster there, so I do that kind for her and my niece and sister-in-law. My son’s and I like it around our head so it doesn’t bother our ears. You can see in yoga class I have mine tied on the back of my head, as I said the boys I use a button.

Divorce and Separation · lesbian mom · mom of boys

All the Socks Everywhere (Single Mom-ing Adventures)

My sons wear mismatching socks. Well one son in particular will purposely mismatch his socks. So I never have great success matching them when I fold laundry at baseline. But in the past few weeks I noticed I was finding single socks all over the house. They were everywhere. I would bring both my sons to where the offending sock was and ask how it got there, why it was there and not in the laundry, and they both swore up and down it was not them.

It was getting ridiculous. Why was I finding socks literally everywhere? We had lectures that ensued about putting our dirty clothes in the laundry.

There were several reasons to assume it was my sons. Starting with we are the only three people living in the house. We also have a pool and they seem to undress wherever they are standing at the very moment I ask if they want to go in the pool. Often it is in their playroom, the family room, kitchen, etc. Basically everywhere but in their room next to their hamper. We have a hamper on the main floor for this very reason.

I was getting annoyed. At first it was one sock randomly. Now it was socks everywhere all the time. And the worst of it was the boys were adamantly denying it was them.

We were all watching tv one night on the couch and I heard Scooby making a weird meow. The meow she makes when she’s trying to kill a bug. Minutes later I heard her hop slowly down the stairs meaning she had something in her mouth. I got up to investigate dreading what present she would have for me.

There she was. Sock in mouth. Dropped it at the bottom of the stairs as I approached.

She progressed to leaving socks in her water bowl. The socks sop up all the water so she has nothing left to drink and I have a sopping wet sock to deal with.

Understanding dawned. They were always present after I got home from work. I hadn’t worked from home in a few weeks and since getting the kittens last July I worked from home exclusively. The boys came running over in time to see the offending sock. We all started laughing and I apologized for blaming them for all the socks.

Yesterday, “Jackson, why is your outfit still in the entryway? I asked you to put it in the hamper!” his response was a shrug and, “Musta been Scooby Mama.”

Sometimes as a single mom and business owner and mental health practitioner during a pandemic I feel like I am running and running but it’s a treadmill because I feel like I’m working so hard but frustratingly stationary. It feels like the hamster on its wheel.

I feel like I’m being punk’d at all times because seriously. The damn cat outsmarted me for several weeks. Not just once or twice. Weeks. Every day. And literally as I wrote this she put a damn sock in her water bowl because it’s almost time for them to eat and she’s annoyed with me for not feeding her immediately.

Where she gets the socks I have no clue. But I won’t be surprised if she found a way to open our sock drawers. Because it’s not like we leave them all over our rooms for her to nab.

The days can seem repetitive and yet just as intensely hard as the day before which leads to sometimes a sense of dread or just odd acceptance that tomorrow will have hard moments too or rarely hope that tomorrow may be a little easier.

People say things to me like, “I could never do that,” “You are so motivated,” “I would never have been able to paint the fence…be a single parent…do it alone…work so late on at night” etc. etc.

I know these statements are meant in admiration but I have started replying with more than a polite smile and nod. Because there’s a part of me inside that is screaming. I got a quote to paint my fence and deck…four thousand dollars. I’m paying for a divorce, the pool needs a new cover, and ya know a mortgage and bills that I entered into with dual incomes is down to one.

So I painted the fence and the deck. I’m not done yet. But July it rained every day. I will finish it. I don’t have a choice. It has to get done so I do it. I couldn’t stay in a marriage any longer that was bad. So here I am a single parent. Did I have kids expecting this to happen? No. Can I just stop parenting because I’m in the middle of a divorce? No. I love my kids. I would never let them suffer because of my choices.

Working late is not a hallmark of how hard I work. I mean I work my ass off. But if I had something else to do on a Saturday night I would do it. But lately, my sons get picked up at 5:30 pm and I feel like I just crash and burn. A friend texted me the other night and I was doing work and she said she was so proud for how hard I work and I cried.

It’s a lonely business this divorce single parenting stuff.

Sundays I started booking a couple therapy clients. I tell NO. ONE. Because then the floodgates would open of patients wanting weekend appointments. But it’s two hours and it forces me out of the house. I hit hot yoga in the morning before the clients. Then I’ve got half my day done. Laundry and house stuff usually takes up the afternoon. Distraction is key to being away from my kids.

I check in with friends. I make plans. I stack firewood. Hang new curtain rods. Hang blinds. Next on my list is replacing the lightbulbs in the entryway. I think I may need scaffolding to reach it…so that will be interesting. My friend recently reminded me of all the color in my old house. This house has remained cream and light colors. I may start painting it. I am planning and preparing mentally for Winter number 2 of pandemic isolation.

Rationally I know life is good right now. I have so much to be grateful for. My sons and I got stuck in the rain yesterday and we laughed and played (until the clap of thunder directly over our heads) at which point we screamed and wildly ran back to the car. And I am grateful for them so much. I know I’m not on a wheel. I’m on a path. I just wish I could see past the horizon sometimes.

(You can end here. The rest is an aside. But I was too lazy to make a second post. I mean it’s still a good read though.)

I was doing therapy today with a client, and I was on my A-game. We had just had a session mid-week and there was something about it that kept nagging at me. I opened with that, and my suspicions were confirmed which led me down the path of leading the client to cathartic tears. (It wasn’t my intent to make client cry, never is, but we had some stuff to unpack so it happens). As client cried, I sat, waiting, and doing cheers in my head for getting us there, (I know it’s weird that in my field it’s sometimes a win when people cry), and we were both sitting with the clients realization and then I heard a pecking at the window. I looked over and there was a little bird pecking on the window. I’ve been in the office since June, and have never had that happen. The client laughed through tears and was touched by the bird’s presence. It stayed for under a minute, but long enough we got to really see it.

My Dad had a tree of life. Big green maple with a ton of bird feeders and suet traps. There were always birds and squirrels and he had bird books and would look them all up. He would run out and yell at the squirrels. I thought, I see you Dad. Thanks. I know you’re checking up on me. Because through all the shit of the last year I still miss my Dad. He would have helped me paint the fence. He would come watch the boys for me. He would tell me not to work so hard and take care of myself. He’d probably annoy me by asking questions I don’t want to talk about and making a mess with the paint somewhere, and feeding the boys crap. He’d ask me to come over on Sundays and make me his eggplant parmigiana which I love or he’d try and make something I detest thinking I actually like it and get annoyed when I remind him for the millionth time I don’t eat mayonnaise or meat.

But I’d take it all.