Divorce and Separation · lesbian mom · mom of boys

Freedom in Single Parenting

Being the primary custodial parent of twin boys and owning a business when Roe v. Wade was overturned means I had no time to process it. I read the headline and then entered a telehealth session with a client. I went about my day.

I realized that night I was being somewhat irritable with the boys. I did some self introspection and noted that 1. I had been with them for 13 days straight with no reprieve due to my ex being sick. 2. My normal reprieve is only less than 48 hours a week. 3. I was actually really upset about Roe v. Wade and was unable to verbalize that to any one. Because, well, 6 year olds don’t really care, and being the single parent means very little time having actual adult conversations outside of work.

I eventually waved them off with my illness free ex – where they were going for a pre-planned five nights and six days. This is the longest I’ve not had them since…well since probably ever. It feels amazing. They are coming home tomorrow night and I feel like I have not had enough time.

Then I was thinking that parents who split custody get 5 nights every other week free. I don’t know how I feel about that. I feel like 5 nights once a month or once every other month would be sufficient for me. Because I have had some epic nights. I folded laundry. I went out two nights with friends, came home by 9 pm. I hung out with my dog until after 9 pm outside by the pool.

I was driving home from a dinner date and some one I know called me because they needed help administering their first insulin dose to themself. I stopped over and helped. Because I had nowhere to be. It was this amazing feeling of freedom that I do not remember feeling for so long. I tried not to go down the rabbit hole of resentment knowing my ex has this every week. And for the most part I succeeded.

I didn’t have karate and all the laundry to do. I didn’t have lunches, dinners, breakfasts, snacks, fights, mess, and the general chaos of twin life. I am pretty sure if I had not had them for 15 days straight leading up to these five nights I would miss them much more than I do. But I needed the break.

I read every news article I could find about the overturn of Roe. I sat in those feelings of anger, fear, grief, and pain. I donated to Planned Parenthood. I enrolled to become a crisis line worker volunteer for an abortion hotline.

I worked. I did paperwork. I worked out on the treadmill. I swam whenever I felt like it. And I didn’t feel the overwhelming, constant, all engulfing, stress of single parenting. I sat by the pool and read. I actually read a book without staying up all night or sacrificing any of my sleep time to do so.

I love my sons. And I do not regret getting a divorce or being the primary caretaker. I am allowed to feel overwhelmed, scared, sad, and unable to engage in anything else but surviving as a Mom.

I’ve seen judgement in other people’s responses to me since becoming a single parent- when I decline invites or cancel plans- and I’ve had to cut people out who are not a part of my day to day. Not intentionally; it just happens naturally because I’m consumed with making it through each day.

To have five nights and remember that I am this person with thoughts and feelings outside of survival mode has been relieving, bittersweet, and illuminating.

There is a part of me that is so angered by all the states who voted for Trump that I think they are getting what they deserve, what they wanted- mostly all the states that voted for Trump have abortion bans. There is a small bitter part of me saying isn’t this what you wanted? Isn’t this what you asked for when you voted him in?

There is another small part of me that is deeply enraged with the Democratic party. Because seriously. Fuck you. You didn’t think Brett Kavanaugh was lying? He lied about being a rapist…I’m unclear why he wouldn’t lie about literally everything else. Where is their outrage? Where is their plan? And how the hell do they not have a plan when this was clearly coming?

The Biden administration is possibly the biggest disappointment of my life. At least I expected Trump to suck- and he sucked for me personally- but he did manage to get a lot done for the Republican party. Unlike his successor.

The pool, the book, and the dog have been great. My 5 nights free of parenthood have been epic. Freedom tastes good. Which is funny because it’s during a time that my freedom as a woman and a Queer person feels like it is slipping away.

Mental Health Stigma Suicide

Four Eyes.

I decided to finally look into getting blue ray blocking glasses. I’m not sure if that is even what they are called…the kind of glasses that are supposed to protect one’s eyes from the harmful light of the computer. Specifically if, like me, you stare at it for up to eight hours or more a day.

I did some google searches and looked at a few of the “best sites” to buy blue ray blocking glasses. Then I went to those sites and looked up a bunch of them. I even added some to my cart on one site.

Then I walked away.

Then I went back to the site.

Then I closed my iPad again.

Then today I looked on Amazon and added more to my cart.

Then I stopped.

I am many things but I am always honest with myself. I reflected on the pit in my stomach that seemed to set up camp whenever I pulled up one of these eyeglass websites. I reflected on the “virtual try on” experience that made me just extremely sad as I stared at my face with the fake lovely glasses resting on my nose.

Then I felt like Winnie the Pooh in that scene when he is pondering and tapping his big yellow paw on his head.

I had a cataract when I was 4. It was removed. I am legally blind in my right eye and have been for as long as I can remember. I wore a patch on one eye for 6 hours a day for a couple years of my life. I wore a contact in my right eye (the cataract/legally blind eye) since the surgery and glasses also for as long as I can remember up until 6th grade I believe. In 6th grade I was old enough for the contact in my left eye.

The glasses were thick frames. I remember my eyes often being hot and sticky from the patch and the glasses. I remember being made fun of many, many, times by other children.

I had this Ah hah! moment in remembering all of this. Duh. Of course my entire body revolted at the idea of glasses, even just glasses to protect my eyes, because I was having flashes of seeing my clients in glasses. I was having flashes of being incredibly vulnerable in front of clients. Clients who do not need to see me have a breakdown if they so much as mention the glasses.

I have glasses. I use them at night. Alone. After I take my contacts out right before I fall asleep if I want to watch TV for a little while. I don’t think even my closest friends have seen me in them.

It’s an odd thing to be 37, a Mom, a boss, a nurse, so many kick ass things, and still be completely gutted thinking about buying glasses. This is what it does to people though- bullying. It stays there. In the back of my mind, in a filing cabinet that I put away and locked up, but that creeped out slowly with enough of a trigger.

I remain undecided on the blue ray glasses. I write this feeling odd. Somewhat shamed? Even though I know rationally it’s not my shame to bear. It’s the shame of my peers who made me feel less than because of a vision deficit that I had no control over. I’ve known since age 4 what it feels like to be different. And I’ve never attributed that experience to any of my life decisions, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I have devoted my life to serving the underserved and the bullied and the misfits.

Because I was one. Who knows? Maybe I still am. But the difference now, is I know I’m in good company.

lesbian mom · mom of boys

The Dog & the Pool

There’s a lot I could comment on. War. School shootings a.k.a. mass murders of children by children with guns they should never have. Abortion. The politicization of the Supreme Court by the Republicans. How masks are traumatizing enough for children to fuel a movement of protests and legislative action but apparently AR-15’s are not. But honestly if I sit with any of those I will be on a tall soapbox for hours fueling a deep rage toward this society.

So I’ll keep that all inside.

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. My life could be a reality show.

My dog hates the water. She low key growls the entire time if I have to bathe her. It’s a whole thing.

I felt 100% comfortable with her by the pool because she hates water so much. She runs away if the boys splash her.

Well, it’s been a couple weeks now with the pool open. She has a fenced in area attached to the pool area by a gate. I leave the gate open and she has a ball running back and forth between her grassy area and the pool. Today the boys were in the pool, I was clothed- that will matter later.

They helped me put the solar cover on, and then got out. We were all turning to walk up the stairs to the deck and Cheetah leaped into the pool on top of the solar cover. The solar cover is literally heavy duty bubble wrap on top of the water.

Cheetah realized that after two seconds. She managed to leap along it, as I of course yelled at her, because that was helpful, and one of the boys started crying because he thought Cheetah was going to drown. She was not even in the water yet.

I’m swearing because I’m picturing her tearing into my brand new pool liner that got installed not even two weeks ago now.

I start walking into the water in my clothes. Yes in my clothes. She makes it to the edge by the filter and leaps from the sinking solar cover. Lands in the water. Epically panics. Puts both front paws on the cement on the side of the pool, and all I can picture are her two back paws clawing through my brand new liner….and she finds foots in the pool filter and leaps out. She looks utterly drenched and is shaking.

I am dripping. Annoyed. Still unsure if she ripped my new liner. I get out and make my way to her. She low key growls as I drag her inside because she thinks I’m going to give her another bath at the sink- but I drag her to her fenced in area, lecturing her about not jumping in the damn pool, she’s still shaking and growling and now smelling like wet dog. I put her behind her fence (baby-gate that blocks off my office and a weird hallway area off my kitchen) and tell her she’s staying there as long as she’s wet.

The boys are inside now also dripping all over. I change into my swimsuit because I have to go investigate the liner further with goggles. Amen for a pool heater.

It’s about 7 PM on a Tuesday and I’m underwater running my hands and eyes over my pool liner. Because of my dog. Who thought the solar cover was solid.

She still hates water. She was pissed she was wet. She let me towel her off repeatedly. And then pouted because I made her lay on a towel on the couch. She hates towels. Literally glared at me.

My sons went and spoke to Cheetah over the fence at one point while I was trying to calm myself. “Cheetah, we still love you, we are just upset with you right now, because you could have torn the liner, and ripped the cover. We still love you though. It’s okay for some one to be mad at your behaviors it doesn’t mean we don’t love you.”

Then I’m cracking up. Because apparently my sons hear me. When I’m mad or upset at their behavior and I tell them I’m allowed to feel my feelings just like they are allowed to feel theirs. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them. I can dislike some one’s behavior and still love them. I’ve said that a lot. Clearly.

So I have to re-evaluate the dog in the pool area. Well at least when there’s a cover on the pool. Though I don’t think there will be a repeat performance honestly. I couldn’t tell who was more irritated/upset/traumatized…her or me. She hated everything about being wet. And now she knows. Solar cover does not equal solid.

She’s currently passed out on the beach towel avoiding all eye contact with me because she hates the beach towel.

The boys are in bed. My hair is wet. And when the adrenaline wears off I’m sure I’ll laugh about that moment as she hit the solar cover and realized it was not solid. And my wading through the water in my clothes yelling at the damn dog, and my boys in all their innocence explaining emotional intelligence to a dog.

Title photo- Annoyed, damp, Cheetah on beach towel avoiding eye contact.

#COVID-19 · mom of boys

Reconnecting (post?/peri?) COVID.

I’ve had a lot on my mind for potential blogs. 1. I have been a nurse for 15 years. 2. I graduated high school 19 years ago. 3. My niece had an in-person recital for the first time in 2 years. 4. My sons got to see one of my Aunt/Uncle’s.

COVID is still here. I’m going to preface this blog post with I am fully aware of COVID. I am fully aware of the risks. In fact both my sons had COVID in January, and both of them coughed all over me, one literally in my mouth, and I think I’m one of those magical immune people…because I never got it (I got 3 PCR tests…all negative).

I will say that as people are getting it now- many who are vaccinated have much less severe illness. Many who are unvaccinated still have risks of death.

So don’t get on your soapbox about COVID to me. I get it.

But. People around me are very done. We are all fully vaccinated and we all basically miss each other and doing things. We are not stupid. We still test before seeing each other. We still discuss risk factors. We still spend as much time outside as possible. But we also need to live. We need to connect.

One of my Aunts was immunosuppressed during COVID making it doubly risky to see her. So we waited. And waited. We did see her at Christmas and my Uncle and cousin for the first time in two years. After Christmas, well my sons got COVID, and it was still difficult due to COVID to get together. Finally Spring arrived and we made plans for my sons and I to go over for dinner and pool time. It was heaven.

I was making a side dish that morning and I was marveling at the fact that I was making a side dish to bring somewhere. My world has shrunk to two friends, my mom, and sister in the last two years. So while I have done meals with them…and I love you all for being part of my bubble…it was incredibly exciting to see other people.

Now, mind you, I also grew up with both my Mom’s sisters. So going to their houses has not ever been a novelty, because we were frequently with them. But it felt so incredible to hang with them by the pool, and to have my sons there. The boys ran around their house, and it’s just not possible to describe the feelings of seeing your children run through hallways that I ran through as a child, and to think that we couldn’t do this for two years.

It’s felt like such a loss in many ways. Not only because I have not been able to see family members, but because my sons have been growing, changing, and they haven’t gotten to know the family members who I grew up with, who mean something to me.

At one point my Uncle had my son in a position to sort of dunk him, and if it had been my sister, my cousins, or I, there is no doubt in my mind he would have dunked us. But he doesn’t know my sons well enough yet to do it. He and I made eye contact and laughed because we both knew that I would have been toast in that position. And some day my sons will be too. We will get back to the connections that we had and honestly they are sweeter because I felt the loss of them over the last two years.

We have all changed, grown, I got divorced, and experienced so much through my business. And they have been facing their own battles. A simple dinner and some pool time was the sweetest moment of connection I have experienced in two years. And I hope to never take that for granted again.

Obviously I have many thoughts about being a nurse for fifteen years (two of which were during a global pandemic) and my niece’s in person recital is more a commentary on COVID and how I was able to attend an in person event and it was lovely! More to come about nursing. And as for high school…19 years…yeah. I have nothing more to say about that other than I feel old!

(The picture is NOT of my family and I lol, it just felt appropriate and was free through WordPress)

Nursing · politics

As Roe Falls- Reflections on being Pro-Choice.

This June marks my fifteenth year as a nurse. Fifteen years. Nuts. I’ve worked in emergency departments, inpatient psychiatry, outpatient psychiatry, as a COVID-19 vaccinator, and as a school nurse. Those I think were all of my “official” nurse positions. Unofficially I have nursed many people in many more settings including but not limited to my Dad, my kids, recently my dog, and many other friends and family members and strangers.

When I was 19 I took a bus to Washington D.C. on a whim with women I didn’t know, for the March for Women during the tenure of Bush. It was before I went into nursing school. It was when I didn’t even know why I supported being pro-choice. I was raised in a church that was pro-life. And my family didn’t really ever discuss it. But I felt in my gut that women should be able to choose for themselves at a very young and naive age.

I am still pro-choice but I can formulate coherent sentences around why now.

What I struggle with is that I know I personally, could never get an abortion. Well, I say that, but I have never been in the situations I have witnessed with friends and clients and patients. So I guess I will say, I do not think I could get an abortion- especially after my experience with IVF and pregnancy. Because I remember feeling the first flutter. And I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I could never get rid of this.’ But as I said, I worked hard for those boys. I wanted them with all my heart and soul. I have never had a pregnancy that I feared.

In my work as a nurse I’ve seen and been told some pretty horrible abortion stories. I have never counseled a patient to have or not have an abortion. It is a time of complete neutrality for me as a healthcare provider. I am essentially a wall for them to talk at. I have treated young teenagers who sought abortions, I have treated women in their 40’s homeless, addicted to substances, seeking later term abortions, I have treated women days, months, and years after obtaining abortions. It is always a part of their narrative. It is often a part of themselves that is sad, shamed, unresolved, and takes a great deal of courage to disclose.

I have treated women who had to walk through protestors, who couldn’t tell their families, who went to classes or work still bleeding, still in pain, and “powered through” because they didn’t want any one to know or ask or suspect.

Abortion is like mental illness- it doesn’t discriminate. Women have sex. Women get pregnant- often on birth control, using condoms, or some other method of birth control. It is often very unintentional. And the decision to have an abortion has never been made lightly. Literally. I have never met a woman who didn’t have feelings around having an abortion. Who hadn’t put significant thought and emotion into the decision.

I was pro-choice when I was 19 because I was a naive and passionate woman who believed completely in the liberal agenda. I am pro-choice at age 37 after 15 years of nursing because I have seen women make the choice. I have supported them, held their hands, given hugs, sat watching them cry and holding space for their pain, and I have been the only one in the world outside of the OB-GYN who they have told. I am pro-choice now because I have never known a woman who has made that choice without losing a part of herself. Abortion leaves a palpable scar and women seem to know going in that it will be there and they do it anyway because it’s right for them.

I am pro-choice at 37 because I have carried my own babies and I know the incredible journey of pregnancy and parenthood. I also know that for a woman to not be ready for either journey should be up to her.

I have never known a woman to take the advice of an outside party over their own intuition.

We trust women to raise our babies. Why do we not trust them to decide if they are not able to raise them?

Please note I have not stated any woman’s reason for obtaining an abortion- just that they did. Because it’s no one’s damn business why they do or do not obtain an abortion. Incest. Rape. Substance abuse. Homelessness. Fetal abnormalities. Teenage pregnancy. There are countless reasons a woman obtains an abortion. Literally none of them are your business or your right to know.

I was never surrounded by people who were pro-choice growing up. It was not something we discussed. I certainly was not surrounded by pro-choice people in my undergraduate in a conservative area in upstate New York. I just knew in my gut that women deserve autonomy, privacy, and respect. I saw a poster almost completely covered on a bulletin board at my college. It was a flyer for the Women’s March. I ripped a piece off the bottom with a phone number. I called the phone number. I was screened to ensure I was not a pro-lifer trying to infiltrate. Then I met a bus in a parking lot around 11 PM and got on board. I went alone. I do not even know if I told my parents. I was 19. I remember sitting on a full bus. We drove over night and made it to D.C. We disembarked, and made the plan to meet up at the bus later that day.

I do not even remember any one’s name that was there. We didn’t talk much. All these women and I. We had nothing in common except a belief so strong that we took a bus with strangers to march on a rather warm day on the Mall. I listened to Hillary Clinton speak. I remember the protestors barely made a sound because the numbers of women in the march was so overwhelming. I remember it was actually very quiet. There was the sound of footsteps and breathing, and our signs. I remember the looks on our faces. There was a quiet resolute determination. There were women in their 70’s, 60’s, 50’s, 40’s, and so on. I remember thinking never had I seen so many different women all in one place all for common belief in one right.

I can’t tell you the sadness I feel now knowing those marches will have to continue. That more than marches the Democratic party needs to be as well oiled, organized, and funded as the GOP. The Democratic party acts shocked and appalled with each move of the GOP, but it should not be a surprise. Their plan dating back to my 19 year old brain was very clear. Take away rights for women and the LGBTQ community and any and all minority that are not straight cis white men. They play the long game.

The difference now is I’m 37 and trying to survive as a single parent and business owner. I do not have the bandwidth and time and energy for marches. Political activism is a privilege. That unfortunately at this time I do not have. It’s a shit feeling. That powerlessness watching as our rights are stripped away.

Nursing

What it’s like being “the nurse friend”

  1. I receive random pictures of skin rashes. At all times of day, night, and with NO trigger warnings. EVER. Then I give an educated guess and get the response, “Nah I think it’s…xyz…because that’s what google said.” (I’m usually right…not google for the record)
  2. I am told far more detailed information about people’s medical maladies than I ever care to know often at funerals, weddings, and any other inappropriate time where I’m trying my damndest to not be a nurse.
  3. I get calls asking for referrals. At least weekly some random person from my past or present life DM’s me or texts me or calls me asking for referral options (this only became a thing after I opened my private practice).
  4. I get asked for advice. Then I give it. Then I am told, “No I mean, like your real advice, like professional advice.” “So you want me to tell you what I’d say if I was your therapist or prescriber?” “Yes.” Then I sort of rub my chin and say, “Tell me how that made you feel.” Then they get mad that I won’t therapize my friend.
  5. People tell medical stories. Then they look at me for validation or something? Then I stare blankly back. Then they say, “Well what do you think?” And I say, “Dude you just told me a long ass story about your dad’s prostate. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you. I worked in pediatric emergency medicine then psychiatry! I don’t know ANYTHING about prostates.” (as an aside I know far more about prostates than I ever thought I would because I cannot tell you the number of men who seek psychiatric care before, during or after prostate cancer because of the emotional and physical sequelae…it’s a whole thing…but I don’t want to discuss any one’s prostate unless I’m getting paid to do so honestly.)
  6. On the off chance some one has an experience that I can actually have an opinion about…I usually want to keep it to myself. Like my friend called me hysterical on her way to the ED, and I said in my head ‘sounds like her appendix is rupturing.’ I said out loud, “Hope you feel better,” and then her appendix was removed. Do I want to be the one to tell a very good friend that her appendix needs to come out? Uh nope. I want to be the supportive friend. When my niece was born, we went and visited her in the NICU. I could see her labored breathing, and honestly she looked unwell. I looked at my wife at the time and whispered, “She’s gonna be intubated by midnight.” I hugged my sister and told them both Congratulations and we are here for you. She was tubed by 6 pm I think. It’s a curse sometimes. Knowing critical care. Knowing who’s hours away from intubation. It was scary. I knew she was incredibly ill, and could do nothing but wait.
  7. At parties if there are injuries people look for me. Expecting me to assess. I learned never to have more than a drink, max two at parties with kids. Because inevitably I will have a bleeding kid thrust in front of me. I know you think I’m exaggerating. But I’m not. Every party…bleeding kid. The worst was a dog bite.
  8. On airplanes I keep my mouth shut. Because it’s either a heart attack, stroke, or childbirth. I want nothing to do with any of those things. I also have warned people I’ve flown with to keep their mouths shut. When I’m on a plane I’m anxious as all hell and not in the mood to be a nurse. Especially for an adult or even worse for a birthing adult.

In some ways being a nurse is a blessing. People trust me and I’m ethical and smart so I’m not a bad person to trust. Those qualities help when, you know, I’m at work. It sucks when I know too much. When I know some one’s parent just received a death sentence but it hasn’t quite been spelled out for my friend. Or when I know what’s coming next for my close friends and family and can do nothing to stop it, and just live with the knowledge myself.

I’ve learned to keep my own counsel. I’ve learned to not be brutally honest when people ask me to be (my friends are shaking their head like no, she’s never not been brutally honest, but I swear I haven’t been around medical stuff). I’ve learned restraint. I’ve learned how to be somewhat solitary in moments when other people are leaning hard on me. When my dad was alive and struggling with multiple medical issues it was hard to balance being the nurse and being the daughter.

I remember crying on the shoulder of an LCSW who I worked with. But in that moment he was the social worker taking care of my demented and dying dad and I was just a grieving daughter. I knew every time my dad had surgeries in the last ten or so years of his life that he may not make it through them. I could read between the lines of what the surgeons were saying in ways my Mom and sister didn’t. It can be a lonely road with the knowledge.

My nurse friends and I joke about the rash texts we all receive. It’s not unique to me. Apparently if you are a nurse your friends just send you pics of their rashes. We don’t joke about holding the knowledge though. We never have joked about that. Because it’s not funny. It’s a burden.

So as my favorite man on television Monk would say, “It’s a blessing…and a curse.”

Divorce and Separation · lesbian mom · mom of boys

Manhattan & Single Mom Life

I have learned about myself as a single mom…about my strengths, weaknesses, regrets, hopes, dreams, and so much more. I’ve been single before. I’ve been in very low places before. But I never was single as a Mom of twin boys. The last time I was single was in my early 20’s. I feel I was much weaker in some ways and more fearless in others.

This week I took my sons (twin six year old boys) to NYC with me, by myself, for two nights.

I have always been fascinated with the city. I remember riding on the bus on school trips and watching as the green suburbs fell away to apartment buildings, and city blocks, and dirt, and grime, and people with different color skin- other than white. People with accents. I remember feeling like there was this whole world of people who didn’t care about the drama of one little suburban town and that provided me hope that I would be something else. Some one else. Something more.

When I got into NYU I thought my dreams came true. Turns out…I love visiting the city…not living there. There are rats. Big ones. I mean really big. And there is nowhere to escape from the noise, the smells…the rats. Central Park is covered with the grime of the city, and the wind tunnels that nearly knock you down during those cold Winter days…yeah those are no joke.

I don’t regret going there and I don’t regret leaving. And I made peace long ago with the fact that I love the city. In small doses. Not Times Square though. I like the dingiest Chinese restaurant with the menu written onto the walls, that is probably run by the mafia…but they make the best Chinese food. Spoils Chinese food everywhere else. I love that New Yorkers are not nice, but they are kind. They won’t be fake and smile, and they will huff and puff as they help you without you asking. I loved meeting random people who would ask me to do random stuff. I was in the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village with a bunch of drag queens, I drank saki in a basement of a modern day Chinese version of a speakeasy, I turned around at a house party to find myself facing an Emmy “Oh, that’s my Dad’s”, and I was asked to be in a fellow student’s debut movie clip and I dressed up as a bride and we danced around the yard of a beautiful church while people walking by smiled and clapped because they thought it was a real wedding.

I went to theaters that people who do not live in NY do not know exist. I also went to the Met and saw La Boheme. I was there a short time, but I didn’t leave hating the city. I left loving it. In small doses.

I’ve wanted to share that part of the city with my kids. But I had to wait. A long time. Until they were old enough to recognize “walk” signals. Until I was confident as a single mom to do it on my own. I am proud to say we did it. Honestly only because they asked. They wanted to see the Statue of Liberty…not my favorite part of NYC. But I was willing to do it because every kid should go there at least once and like I said. I love NYC.

I decided to drive in because we were staying downtown, closer to the Lady. I reserved a spot for two nights. I reserved a room at a hotel, and I reserved tickets for a walk to the platform. I have walked to the crown back in Middle school. It was long. Kind of horrendous. Very long. Very hot/humid. Stairs are steep. And you can’t really stop at the crown. You have to keep moving. So you can do a short pause, and see a view, and then you walk down. It’s very, very, very high up. I mean high. And I told the boys it’s closed. I think it actually is closed. Maybe.

I made it to the garage, then back to hotel, all with twin boys in tow. We made it to the ferry. There were some tears on the way there (no not by me) because one of them was nervous. But we made it. We walked 195 steps to the pedestal. 195 steps. We posed for some very windy pictures. Then the boys told me they were ready to leave. We waited in a windy line for another ferry. We made it back, Uber’d back to the hotel. Then we walked to Mulberry street and the boys got to see Chinatown and Little Italy. Including the outskirts of Chinatown which included some parks, playgrounds, and live Chinese music.

Their faces…I recognized their faces. Awe, wonder, appreciation. Seeing people and cultures different from our every day suburban and in our case somewhat rural life. They also had complete faith that I knew where we were going and what I was doing. Oddly I feel no fear in Manhattan. At 37 I have far more life experience than I did at 18. I was fearless then. I am not fearless now but confident in my ability to case my area and a general awareness of who I need to worry about.

It was surreal walking those streets with my kids. I never imagined twenty years ago I’d be back with my children. We ate at one of my favorite spots in Little Italy and of course I got my slice of chocolate ganache truffle cake from Ferrara’s, a sketchy Asian woman tried to sell me a supposed real Gucci, and we walked through an open fish market…literally hit all the tourist stuff you need to hit in Chinatown and Little Italy.

What struck me though was again how kind New Yorker’s are. They saw a solo woman with kids and people just emerged to help us. They often were gruff in their approach, as New Yorker’s are, but had good intentions. At the ferry there were two security guards who shoo’d every one back, and let “the bebe’s” go through security, and helped assuage Jackson’s anxiety while he waited for me to come through. There was a woman who yelled after us when Declan dropped his favorite stuffed animal and patted his head when he rushed back to get it. There were all the old Italian men at the restaurant who went out of their way to talk to the boys, take our picture, and then yell down restaurant to restaurant as we walked back down Mulberry Street to watch these boys and their Mama.

I was so nervous to do this by myself, and one thing I’ve learned as a single parent is how to ask for help. Because it’s something I’m still not very good at doing. But I didn’t have to ask. Shockingly, in Manhattan, I’ve never been helped more by strangers.

Our hotel room looked out over the World Trade Center site. It was rather eerie, and sad, and so much more. My sons asked me what the World Trade Center is. I didn’t tell them at first. I needed to think about it. Eventually I told them. It was weird talking to two kids who had no idea what 9/11 was. They didn’t know the security measures at the Statue of Liberty were a direct result of 9/11. It was weird remembering where I was at the time. It was sad remembering the people I’ve met who were impacted by 9/11 and the family members they lost.

We made it back to the car. We made it back to the highway. And tonight we are tucked snugly in our warm, quiet, rural, beds. I’m feeling generally proud. And yet these situations are always bittersweet. Because I think, yes but what if…what if I was still married? Would this have been a better experience for us all? What if I wasn’t single any longer? Would it have been better? There’s always a niggling doubt in single motherhood that what I’m providing is not good enough. I have to remember to bring myself back down from anxiety spirals and ground myself in the experiences that we had. They were crazy, and fun, and loud, and I got to share my beloved Manhattan with my sons; and I’m damn proud that I did it all by myself (with the help of some guardian angel grumpy and gruff New Yorkers).

Uncategorized

This Traumatized Nurse

Part of my practice that I never planned on but am incredibly grateful for are the nurses. Nurses sticks with nurses. So it makes sense that many seek treatment with nurse practitioners.

Nurses are a crazy bunch but we wear our crazy on our sleeve. I’ve said to nurse clients many many many times…”You have a high tolerance for crazy because of your work, so I’m telling you, what’s happening in your life- insert something crazy here- is not okay, and you are tolerating it because your ‘crazy’ tolerance is way too high.” This is actually generally well received and then we process how to address whatever issue they are dealing with.

So here I am in my therapy session today. I said, listen, there’s been a lot of crazy in the last couple weeks, but I need to focus on these panic attacks I’ve been having. I’ve never had panic attacks before, and I kept forgetting I was having them because they were so infrequent.

The first one was two years ago. I was working inpatient and a patient became agitated and stood over me and threatened me. My heart raced, I completely froze, then when I finally left the room I couldn’t calm down. I had to go outside to my car, not speak to anyone, and just sit there and let myself freak out.

When I tell you this is not me…this is not me. I was an ED nurse, I’ve worked inpatient psych, and I’ve had a lot worse situations come at me. Like actually come at me. I went home that day and forgot all about it. Thought it must have been a fluke. Then I worked inpatient again. Similar situation except this time a patient told me he was picturing shoving a knife in my throat while standing over me. Again- this was not out of the ordinary for inpatient work.

Then recently I had music playing and at the end of the song there are two men who become agitated and start fighting. I forgot the song was playing and all I heard was two men yelling at each other, and I freaked out. I looked all over the house and out in the driveway thinking there were actually people getting agitated. Heart pounding. Etc. So I tell all this to my therapist and I say, we gotta do something about this. Because I’ve never had this happen before and it keeps catching me off guard.

She asked me to describe what happened. I did. Then she said, “You know those experiences where you have people physically and verbally threatening you- it’s normal for a person to have their heart race, it’s normal to feel threatened because you were being threatened. Those are not typical panic attacks, they are normal reactions to a stressor.”

Dude. I actually argued with her. I was like, uh no, those are normal occurrences when I work in the hospital. Then she argued back, and then we literally argued about me being threatened. And of course I was threatened. Of course those are normal bodily responses to feeling threatened. What’s messed up is that I literally never thought that.

I thought there was something wrong with me for reacting to people threatening me.

Sit with that for a moment.

That’s what happens to nurses who work in high acuity settings. We are led to believe that there is something wrong with us for expecting to feel safe. I argued with my therapist about my reacting to being threatened. I tried to rationalize that being threatened is normal and there’s a problem with me- not the setting.

Is it any wonder that nurses are fleeing the profession? Why do I feel weak for having a normal physical and emotional response to being threatened? Why do I feel less than and ashamed? Because I have been trained to feel that way. I have been trained to see the problem within me instead of in the messed up hospital systems who do not protect us.

I have been- kicked in the ribs, bitten, spit on, rushed at multiple times, had a chair and a laundry basket thrown at and over my head, had a knife pulled in my office (twice), been verbally threatened countless times including outpatient “I will drop your ass” “I will fuck you up” and so much more. I have witnessed horrific assaults. I have witnessed horrible takedowns. I had a patient, most memorably, leap across a table and land on his knees nose to nose with me, hands fisted on either side of my head and say, “All it takes is a punch. And poof. You’re fucked.” I sat there and stared back at him, and as the entire staff gathered outside the door because the whole unit saw what was happening I calmly leaned in closer and said, “You done yet? Take a fucking seat.” Without blinking. When the laundry basket got tossed, I said, “Dude you are not,” He said, “Ma’am, you better put that pretty head down.” I ducked. He threw it. Not aimed at me.

So many more stories. So many more memories. So you see, when a patient stood up agitated, and I epically panicked, I thought there must be something wrong with me. Because I’ve been through so much worse so many times. I never got time off after any of those events. Except the kick in the ribs. And literally only because there was some minor damage to my liver and a visible large bruise over my right ribs. I never got debriefed after most of these events. I certainly never got a raise or hazard pay.

And in fact when I got time off for the rib kicking- my manager and co-workers made negative comments about it. As if I was weak for being told to take time off by occupational health.

It was all a day in the life.

But now that I do mostly outpatient, and I’ve had space and distance and time to heal. My body and my brain are telling me this is fucked up. When I go back to inpatient and am threatened I apparently react appropriately now. I’m not in survival mode, so I can’t just compartmentalize it out.

I am not sure what the answer is. I do not want to give up inpatient. But my therapist seems to think it’s kind of a messed up place to work. And after much reflection I don’t disagree. It makes me sad to realize that this work I used to love is actually totally ass backward and so detrimental to people’s mental health. Nurses. To nurses mental health.

Even writing this feels bad. I feel shame? for having such a perceived weakness. Then I think this is soooo messed up that I think a weakness is having a normal physical reaction to being threatened. I’ve been told it’s not a panic attack when it’s a normal stress response to being threatened. So my not-panic attacks suck. Being threatened sucks. Being a nurse who thought there was something wrong with me for having an emotional and physical response to being threatened…is just tragically sad.

To all my nurses. It’s not you. It’s them. You are not wrong or bad for demanding safety in your workplace. You are not wrong or bad for having feelings in whatever capacity about being unsafe in your workplace.

Divorce and Separation · mom of boys

Morning People…Ick.

Three years ago this week my Dad was getting put onto hospice and we were coming to terms with his impending death. It’s surreal that three years have passed. Because so much has changed in the world and in my life. It feels like a really long time, but also like yesterday. It was overall a shitty week. I was still new in my practice and working around the clock. I felt overwhelmed and I had two three year olds and a marriage that had started to crumble.

My dad’s death did a lot to bring the deterioration of my marriage to the forefront. My ex was unable to really support me through my grief. And I realized I couldn’t be with a partner who could not be there for me during the hard times as I had been for her. I waited until a year a half later when she moved out to finally start truly grieving for my Dad because I was finally in what felt like an emotionally safe space for the first time in many years.

I remember walking around my house the first few weekends without the boys and without her. It was just me. It was so quiet. I remember walking from the stairs toward my living room and stopping in the foyer. It’s kind of the central location to my house. I stood there, and then I just fell to my knees and cried. I cried so hard. To live with some one who cannot emotionally support you takes a toll. Because I was always censoring my feelings to avoid having to deal with hers.

And for the first time I could just safely let them all out. I laid on my floor in the center of my house for what felt like hours remembering my Dad’s last week, his last day, his last breath, the stretcher taking him out, the well meaning hospice nurse who told me I didn’t “kill him” with the last dose of Dilaudid, and sitting around the firepit with my Mom and sister as we waited for them to take his body.

I remembered the funeral, there were so many people, and there were men in uniform who saluted me when I approached them and told me that my Dad was one of the best soldiers they had ever served with and they wanted to know why he hadn’t received a soldier’s burial. I had to explain he didn’t want one. That at the end he was so angry at the military. He made that quite clear. The military was such a part of my dad and such a part of my life with him. When people got to go to work with their parents, they maybe went to offices. I went to armories. I met Officers and I played in huge storage areas with rows of military supplies.

To see them there, I just, remember willing myself not to break down, but feeling more connected to my dad in that moment than I had in a long time.

I cried and I lay on my floor a year and a half after he died. Feeling it like it was all still happening. I don’t remember getting up or what I did next. I know I obviously did get up and do something because I’m not still laying there.

In some ways I’ve never felt more alone than I do now. But looking back, being in a relationship where I couldn’t be authentically me I was alone too. I do not regret the divorce. And most of the time I don’t regret the marriage.

It’s actually quite humbling being single at age 37 because there are times when I know that there are no other people who care about what happened to me today. There are people who care about me, and who care what happens to me, but the day to day minutiae is something only our partners know and truly care about. I guess as I approach the anniversary of my dad’s death, more single than ever, it drives home that he was one of the only people who cared about my minutiae and to lose him and lose my marriage has been, well, intense.

I can say three years out from his death and going on two years out from the divorce I no longer find myself falling to my knees sobbing. That was short-lived. I do cry heavily at all children’s movies. Without fail. All of them. Sing 2. Moana. Encanto. Literally all. Even the bad ones. And I know he would love my dog. Like love her. He would probably be at my house every day trying to hang with the dog.

I may not ever find someone to care about the minutiae again. And that’s okay. Because the grass is always greener. The idea of being in a relationship again sounds appealing for two seconds until I remember everything that comes with a relationship. Then I skip ahead to divorce papers and then I backtrack and think I will never get married again and then I think of the people I have dated in the last two years….and yeah I think I’m set being single.

But I would take my Dad back. In a heartbeat. I’d take back all the parts about him that annoy the crap out of me too. Like how he never spell checked his text messages and then would get mad at me for not doing whatever it said in the text message that was completely illegible. Or how he left really long voicemails. Or how he would show up and start doing yard work and then trek through my house with dirt and poison ivy gloves and get mad at me when I got mad at him for trekking dirt and poison ivy through my house. Or what a horrendous driver he was. Or how he insisted on talking very early in the morning even though he knew I was the worst morning person in the world. Or how he put mayo on my sandwiches even though mayo literally makes me want to puke and has since I came out of the womb and I would freak out when he would hand me a mayo’d sandwich. Then he’d say incredulously that I like tunafish, and I’d say back yeah but that’s MIXED with the mayo, not slathered in it, it’s totally different! My Dad was prickly and funny and he and I knew how to drive each other absolutely nuts. But I’m happy to say now it’s because we were so similar (I’m not a bad driver and I’m very respectful of mayo choices, and I am very anti-dirt in my house, and still not a morning person- I do leave long voicemails…)

One morning recently my son was chatting me up at 7 AM. I was clumsily wandering my kitchen trying to put their lunches together and make my coffee. I had to stop at the sink and close my eyes. He was still talking. And I said, “Buddy,” and he was all smiles, “Yeah Mama?” And I dropped my head, “Buddy, uh, Mama needs a minute to wake up,” “But you are awake.” “Yes, but Mama needs another minute to actually wake up.” “But you are awake.” “Buddy…” “Yes?” “Never mind.” And he continued chattering. I remember dropping my head and then looking out the window at the sky, and thinking, ‘Dad’s having a good laugh right now.’

#COVID-19 · mom of boys

Yes I own a business. Yes I Am Female.

I had friends over the other night. The mom and two boys came and there were then four boys running rampant in and around my house. The Mom and I had a glass of wine and chatted. They were people who were not in my COVID bubble. It was weird and nice and bittersweet and overstimulating. How many nights have we missed like this over the past two years? While I love my two friends in my COVID bubble and am incredibly grateful for ALL the nights we have had in the last two years…it’s a weird freedom to see other people.

It was so great and the reason I say bittersweet is because I just couldn’t help wondering how the last two years have impacted my sons.

I thought back to my own time between ages 4-6 and I had a best friend who lived down the street. We were always in and out of one another’s houses and always together. We did sleepovers and campfires and so much more. And my sons have never done a sleepover at some one else’s house. And until last month they hadn’t even seen their classmates full faces.

I don’t regret protecting them over the last two years. I don’t blame science as I fully believe the mitigation steps we took were necessary. I am grateful they are vaccinated. I am taking them to NYC for two nights in April, we are going to the Statue of Liberty. I may have booked this during a moment of temporary insanity but we are going.

Life feels semi-normal again. And it’s weird.

Some things that have not changed- the Republicans continue to push their anti-abortion and anti-trans agenda forward with little to no resistance in midwest and Southern states. I keep working and growing my practice and upon expanding I have encountered time and time again the micro-aggressions of society toward a female business owner. I have built and moved more furniture in the last month since opening my second location…then ever in my life. Sometimes I have help, and sometimes it’s just me. Swearing at the furniture. Fighting back tears as I realize the last three steps I did wrong…it’s a good time.

Back to being a female business owner. There are good people who treat me with respect. But there are also not nice people, mostly men, who can’t believe that my pretty little head can think and speak and tell them to go to hell.

I’ve been asked so many things, “So you own this business or you’re the admin or something? Who is your boss?” “Yeah but who is in charge?” “Yeah but who is above you?” “So this is your first time having an office?” No- second office location 3rd space since I opened. “So your income last year was what? Around sixty thousand or so?” Uh no. “So you own a solo practice?” Uh no. I have employees also. “Oh you have one or two employees?” No, I have eleven. And counting. “So what it’s like a spa?” No. Mental health practice. “So what you talk to people about their problems? Like a therapist?” yes. Kind of. I prescribe medication also. “So there’s one person who prescribes and then the rest are therapists?” Five. There are five prescribers. Four, soon to be five, therapists. Two administrative staff.

When I give my answers that are complete opposite to what they are expecting- they try not to look shocked but seem to keep grasping at a way to make me be less successful with their follow-up questions.

I’m not a bragger and I generally do not like talking about my work. But if some one is clearly making assumptions devaluing me because of my gender. I have a lot of feelings about that. And it is conveyed in my responses. If I was male I do not think I would be approached in this way. And my practice is not huge, it’s still small, but yeah I have worked my butt off for all of it. And if all my employees quit tomorrow I’d start over on my own. Failure and success do not scare me. I have made mistakes and will make more mistakes. But I do a few things right too.

I’m in a single mom’s group on FB and there was a thread about how dating. Some one posted a link to an article published in a journal in 2021- that showed through a rather large and well done study that men are seeking attractive females and if the male has a high education level then they are seeking a female with a lower education level. Females on the other hand, while they also seek attractive mates, they seek education levels that are on the same level or higher than theirs. So females are looking for mates who are smarter, and males are seeking mates who are less educated. And there’s surprise as to why dating apps have low success rates in creating a long lasting relationship. It’s not the apps fault though it’s user error.

What is so threatening to a male about an educated female? We have all seen it play out rather publicly this week- not just a well educated, well spoken female but a female of Color. Judge Jackson was composed, intelligent, and everything that the accused rapist now sitting on the Supreme Court was not. The Republicans who questioned her were grasping at straws trying to break her and again- most of them were white males. It felt as though they generally do not like her. But deeper, they are threatened by a woman with education- likely more education then them.

I don’t know why- a google search says everything from threat to their ego to their masculinity makes them feel like a failure…etc. But the data is clear. Men are threatened by smart women. Not all men. George Clooney is a great example of a successful man who openly acknowledges his wife Amal is smarter than he is and he is proud of her. George Clooney brings his own set of skills to the table though so maybe that’s a bad example.

In my own life I certainly hang out with smart women who are in partnerships with smart men and it is not detrimental to their relationships. As a female business owner who has lived mostly in seclusion in the last couple years, it’s been hard to enter back into the world and experience men at their worst though.

All I can do is keep on keeping on. Each time a transphobic law is passed I hire an LCSW or an APRN in my practice. I will keep expanding an LGBTQ owned business that services the LGBTQ community and nothing spurs me forward more than the hate we continue to face as a community. It’s hard work. It’s exhausting. But it’s worth it. It’s important to me that I stand. When I first started my practice I wanted to just be in a place where I could practice as myself. A Queer provider. Now it’s a place for me to practice, but also for me to help educate providers on Queer competence, and a place for Queer individuals to feel safe. It’s become something bigger than myself.

So I’ll take all the demeaning questions and follow-up questions and I’ll keep answering them. Because men should not be threatened by a woman’s success. And if they are that’s a them problem. Not a me problem.

On the flip side, my two little men, are proud as heck of their Mama, and after I showed them the new office in the new town we went out to eat, and they told the waitress beaming that “My Mama has a new office, and she’s the boss of two offices, she’s the big boss in charge.” Hopefully I’m raising two boys into men who will not be threatened by a woman’s brains.