#COVID-19 · Divorce and Separation · lesbian mom

Reflections on Christmas Eve 2021

Christmas Eve 2021. My kids are at an age where they are starting to be kinda cool. They can laugh at stuff. They can appreciate good music. They can carry firewood. One piece at a time, but still, it’s one big piece now; used to be just kindling. Today I had them fill up the rack inside the garage from the racks outside. I told them 20 pieces each. They can count too which is quite helpful for the firewood.

It was 30 degrees out. They trudged back and forth in the cold. With promises of hot chocolate and the reminders that Santa is watching. They also helped shovel the driveway. That was less successful than the firewood. They helped me feed the cats, and herd the cats away from the dog. They miraculously kept the dog occupied for 40 minutes today while I took 40 minutes to myself on the treadmill. Usually I have to crate the pooch.

We went to my Mom’s and saw extended family outside of my sister and sister-in-law and niece. Literally the first family event with actual extended family since before March 2020. We know about the COVID surge. We took precautions. We all kept staring at each other. Because it’s been so long. But staring in a good way. I unfortunately was on a time crunch because the poor pup can only be in the crate just so long at five months old.

My Aunt and cousin have purebred yellow labs. I of course have my heinz 57 rescue mutt pup Cheetah. But we could commiserate on the new puppy blues. Because that’s definitely a thing. It was a lovely dinner and evening and honestly just a relief to see my Aunt, Uncle, and cousin.

As my sons and I drove home I put on the Sing 2 soundtrack.

The soundtrack is kind of amazing. We belted out the song the Gorilla sings. Then we belted out I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. It was all amazing. And then I started crying. Not sobbing. But tears definitely fell.

I got to see my Aunt and Uncle and cousin once in two years. There are other Aunts, Uncles, and cousins I still haven’t seen and do not know when I will see again. The boys looked at my Aunt and Uncle on Christmas and smiled, and said, “We never see you!” Leave it to the kids to state the obvious.

Their childhood is shaped by this weird isolation. Their experiences are so incredibly different from my own childhood filled with Christmas Eves of Aunts, Uncles, cousins, great Aunts, great Uncles, and tons of second and third? cousins. Whoever was in the general Northeast area in the family would be around for Christmas Eve.

I grieve for what the boys are missing out on. I grieve for my Dad. Because he would be part of my inner COVID safe circle and he would love my dog and he would make horrible Dad jokes and be intrusive and annoying. But he would make the isolation of COVID so much less lonely. He’d probably come over every day just to see the dog.

As I drove home singing Sing 2 wiping away tears with my sons singing loudly I grieved for my marriage. Not because I want to be married to my ex but because I am lonely. It’s incredibly difficult to be a single parent during the holidays. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting and depressing in a way I can’t really describe other than to say if you know, you know.

But I also was happy. Happy to have that moment with my sons where we could laugh and sing and be silly together. It was a beautiful clear night and when we got home, let the dog out, and I put them to bed, it felt right. That night felt right, and that I suppose is the magic of Christmas.

#COVID-19 · mom of boys

Karate Class & Masks

There’s something about karate class. I’m either falling out the door or, like today, my kids are mask-shaming another kid, whose mom then looks appalled, and my kids may or may not have said her kid was stupid for not wearing a mask. At which point my mouth was dropped open (behind my mask) and I was desperately trying to pull my kids back from unmasked kid, while avoiding eye contact with unmasked mom who was uttering, “It’s…a…CHOICE!” And I was muttering, “I didn’t say people are stupid I said not wearing masks is a stupid choice.”

Then I have to explain to my kids after class that while we may exercise our rights to wear our masks other kids may not, and we cannot make them feel bad for not wearing one. “But Mama that means they are stupid doesn’t it?” “And stupid is a bad word right Mama?” chimes in the other one.

“Did I actually use the word stupid? I don’t think I did.”

They are both nodding emphatically. Yes. I did. But again. I didn’t mean it makes a person stupid. It’s just a stupid choice. Uneducated. Ignorant. Okay stupid.

Then I’m texting one of my friends and one of my employees because they have been with me from the start of karate class adventures. They both basically said the boys are passionate and they love them and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

It’s an odd thing. To sit in a waiting area of mom’s whose kids all thing the sun and moon revolve around us and to be teaching our kids such different things. Then there they all are, doing karate together.

I coached their basket-ball team this Saturday. At 8 AM. On a Saturday. The day after I got my COVID booster. I’ve had better times. But I’m glad I was there representing because I was the only female coach out of six parent volunteers. Twenty kids. Co-Ed. All in kindergarten. At the end I looked at another coach and said, “Well we have no where to go but up from here.” He laughed and agreed.

Basket-ball requires masks. So that was good. And all the kids did great with them. What I found interesting was the girls were far less aggressive than the boys. Then of course I’m friends with therapists, so I tell one of my friends my observation and she says, “Well do you think that’s because girls are socially conditioned to be less aggressive than boys? And boys are given societal permission?” That’s the thing about being friends with therapists. Being friends with therapists is a freaking trip.

There I am saying girls just need to toughen up, and then she drops this thought provoking bomb on me and I’m like well damn. I dunno. Then I get all introspective and think, I never felt conditioned to be less aggressive, in fact I was aggressive as hell from day one in basket-ball…so what does that say about me?

So do the girls all suck because of societal norms and expectations? I do live in a super red town and maybe girls here really are told to be girls. Whatever the hell that means. But then I’m thinking there are only twenty kids signed up for basket-ball. They keep it low because of COVID. So this is a small sample size. Though my town is small. But maybe there are other girls in town who are aggressive and they just are not playing basket-ball.

Then I think this is why I always have problems with other people. I’m intimidating, unapproachable, and blah blah blah. Said every manager ever. My response was always if I were a man would you be saying this. Their answer was always an awkward introspective silence. See I can pull out my therapist ju ju too.

Here’s my conundrum. I’m raising two white boys. Who clearly have my passion, drive, and lack of any hesitation to confront some one about what they think is right or wrong or whatever. They did the same thing last week at karate about the vaccine. But I intervened before the other kid’s mom heard. The thing is, I’m teaching by example for my sons to be somewhat confrontational. And as a white cis dude it’s different. But I don’t want to censor myself.

In other words. This single parenting situation is tough. I have to teach by example. But who and how I am as a Queer woman is different than how they should be as white cis ?straight dudes. I’m making assumptions based on them saying (age appropriately) girls are gross but they want to marry a girl. (Though one of them asked to marry me recently which I wholeheartedly accepted so all those other 6 year olds can just back off). Then I think should is a strong word, and how do I teach them to harness their power for good? Because the two of them standing in front of a maskless boy and pointing their fingers at him telling him he should wear a mask and people who don’t wear masks are stupid….that’s not what I’m going for. But honestly, wear a freaking mask. It’s hard. Because it’s not the kids fault his parents are making uneducated decisions.

Pandemic parenting 101. Wear masks. Don’t shame another kid for not wearing a mask. But, acknowledge that your kids will likely hear you say other people who are unvaccinated and not wearing masks are stupid and endangering everyone else in society and essentially slapping healthcare providers in the face who are working the front lines (AKA me and clients I treat and all my friends who are healthcare providers). And then will repeat that to unmasked individuals at karate class.

Then make a plan for how to survive karate class sitting next to that kids parent.

Uncategorized

30 Days Without FB/Insta/Snaps and How My Dog Handled my Nightmares

Sometimes I haven’t blogged because I’ve been busy and I seem to spend my nights lately posting ERA payments to accounts, reviewing accounts receivable, and all the endless micro-details of running a private practice. But the past twelve months when I’ve sat down to blog I have also generally written pretty damn depressing blogs.

I usually end up crying and it’s all just horrible. Then it’s another week before I get time to write a non-crying blog but end up still writing a horribly depressing piece. There are a few reasons. 1. Since 2019 when my Dad died, life has been generally rather depressing in some ways. Actually three major events that are not really bloggable due to NDA’s, my children one day reading this blog, and general violence that is rated R or maybe even…What’s the one that’s worse than R? I dunno. See the great thing about me is that you don’t know if I’m kidding or not. (I’m not;)

Life’s been rough. What’s ironic is that my life outwardly looks like I have made huge strides in the last three years. My kids are thriving as is my business. I am up to ten? employees. I think ten. I just hired another one and I can’t remember if they make ten or eleven. But it’s a thing in small business when you hit ten employees. It’s a landmark.

I am opening a second location for my practice, and making plans for 2023 for a third.

I decided recently to take a 30 day social media break. No snaps, Insta, FB, and…well that’s all the social media I use. I’m on day 4. It was Christmas Eve at 5 AM as I lay in bed that I made the decision.

I may not go back to it at all. Nothing is missing. I realized how incredibly fake it is. I was writing one of those super depressing blog posts that will never be published and realized how my two closest friends at the moment are not even on FB. Well, one is, but she rarely posts anything and only follows dog mom groups. I realized that the people who show up for me will keep showing up for me whether I’m on social media or not. And the people who judge me, hate me, fear me, whatever, will still do all of those things except they won’t “like” or “love” my pictures and posts pretending to care about anything I have to say or do.

My day to day hasn’t changed. Except I don’t spend minutes mindlessly scrolling through posts. And as I said, my communication with my friends hasn’t changed at all. They are still my friends. We still text and talk and see each other. I just don’t talk to or hear from any one else whose presence in my life was a facade.

I got a dog 5 weeks ago. I’ve never been a “dog person”. In fact I still probably am not a dog person. But I like my dog. I’ve had nightmares as long as I can remember. I can go months without one, and then have three in a row. Completely unpredictable. A couple weeks ago I shot up in bed, heart racing, palms sweating, terror gripping me as it always does. I’m 36 and a nightmare can still completely wig me out. Over the years I’ve learned I have to get out of bed and walk around. Usually I have to walk about the whole house and catch my breath and ground myself to reality.

But that night, my dog lifted her sleepy head and looked at me as a I breathed frantically in and out; reliving whatever terror I just dreamt. It’s always tornadoes, tidal waves, or a grisly death (You can die in your dreams. I’ve done it. Many times- being stabbed is my least favorite). I reached out and hugged my puppy and she rested her snout on my shoulder. I felt her breath on my back and my heart rate slowed down, and I could breathe normally. I laid my head back down on my pillow and she scooted over to put her whole body up against my back, and for the first time I can remember I was able to fall back asleep almost immediately after a nightmare.

It was an odd, intimate moment that I shared with my dog, Cheetah. She’s only five months old. She drives me insane in many ways. And she’s a big baby in many ways. But in that moment she was wise and grounding and real.

I’ve been through a lot in the past three years and what I’ve learned is to lean into what’s real. Lean into who shows up. Lean into who can handle your darkness because they can help guide you to the light.

Cutting out social media is a reminder for me as to who my friends are and to invest my time and energy into people who are truly here for me. It’s a grounding exercise to remind myself whose presence in my life is grounding versus not. That moment with Cheetah reminded me of the moments in the past three years that I’ve felt terrified and alone. She reminded me to focus on who helped me through those times and to appreciate all I have instead of staying stuck in the dark.

mom of boys

Welcome Cheetah. The dog.

The last year of my Dad’s life he kept talking about how he should have had a dog. The man fought in Vietnam and especially after retirement had serious issues with the military. He had a whole lot of family stuff happen. I mean. A lot. And his one regret…not having a dog. That has been a niggling thought in my head for three years. When my cats died in 2020 I brought up getting a dog. But my ex, at the time my wife, did not want a dog. She actually said she would leave if we got a dog. In retrospect…that was a missed opportunity. But here we are. Two cats. Two kids. Single Mom. And Pup.

Her name is Cheetah.

I had no say in her name. See above (two kids).

Now within the search for my dog I was adamant that I wanted a dog that could be a therapy dog, I wanted a mutt, I wanted to rescue, and I didn’t want a pitbull.

I’ve learned a few things about dogs since adopting one. Pitbulls are terriers. So a “terrier/hound” mix could actually mean a Pit mix. I did not know that before I happened to fall in love with a “terrier/hound” mix.

I applied to 4 or 5 rescues. Which by the way, is stressful. Then I waited. Then I heard from a few. Then I waited. I kept saying I would wait for the right fit. That I wanted a dog who is good with kids and cats and overall fit was more important than rushing it.

Then I got a call about a dog I found online. She wasn’t necessarily my first choice. But by the time she came through I had been in contact with a few shelters/rescues and I was basically going to agree to anything. I agreed to meet her. The foster mom texted me pictures and sang her praises. She was not totally cute in the pictures. I mean she was in a smushy dog face kind of way. I showed the boys, and Declan said, “She looks so sad Mama! She needs a family. She should be part of our family.”

Cheetah after our first in-person therapy session

The foster mom brought her over the night before Thanksgiving. She was exuberant to meet us. She licked Declan’s head. She does a tail wag with her whole body. The woman handed me the leash, and said a somewhat tearful good-bye to Cheetah. Then left. Cheetah watched her drive off and then was instantly immersed back in the chaos of our family.

She was perfect on Thanksgiving. I’ve never actually worried at all about her being with my sons. She gets hyper as puppies do, but she would never hurt them. She did try to nip my sister’s min-pin, which I still feel really bad about. But we are working with a trainer now who is socializing her. We’ve gone on walks at parks, and she loves people. She loves other dogs less; which is honestly fine. I don’t love other dogs either.

She loves kids. I’ve had her around a number of kids and she’s a gem.

Cheetah and her Boys

She is without a doubt a Pit mix. The vet, all 6+ feet of him, got down on the floor with her, grinning from ear to ear, as they tussled together. He couldn’t get enough of her. My friend met me recently and I brought Cheetah, and she clearly was happier to see the dog than me. It’s been three weeks and she’s stolen the hearts of most every one she meets. Including my patients on telehealth who see her now on camera. We even did a therapy session live, and she did excellent.

It’s been hard. Every walk. Every accident. Every second; it’s all on me. Takes a month to adjust to a new home. Takes six months to make a new routine permanent. We are now one month in. She feels comfortable. She feels at home. She sleeps in bed with me every night and we now have an understanding that she does not come past the center line of pillows until after 6 AM. Somehow she knows when it is 6 AM. On the dot.

Cheetah and Declan

We found a trainer, a groomer, and a dog walker. The groomer was the fifth? person to slam it down my throat that she is a pitbull. I was sort of trying to deny it. Referring to her as a mutt. The groomer said, “She’s a pit mix. Pit dominant.” I smiled and said, “Can you still give her a bath?” She laughed and said yes. She pointed at a little fluff ball in a crate waiting for her bath and said, “I’d take a pit over that little fluff ball any day.” The tiny ball of fluff then growled at no one in particular.

That was hard though; leaving her at the groomer. I know she wasn’t sure I’d come back for her. She’s five months old and she spent the first 4 months being shuffled from South Carolina, to CT, to a foster, then to me. Her butt wagging when I came back for her was fierce. When the dog trainer took her for the morning, she was unhappy, to put it mildly. When they finally got back in his car and drove to our meeting spot, she refused to get out with him and fell asleep in the front seat. She didn’t get out until I got there. Again, I think she was worried I wouldn’t come back for her. The foster had her for two weeks. We’ve now been the place she’s stayed the longest in her whole little life.

The cats. Ginsburg and Scooby Doo (Scooby the cat and Cheetah the dog. yes I get the irony. Again, I had no say in these name choices. I got to name Ginsburg who is a respectable cat with a respectable name!) So no one has tried to kill the other yet. Cheetah wants to sniff them. The cats sort of let her. Then run away. I haven’t let them all loose together yet…waiting for no Christmas tree as I have this vision of all three of them diving behind it. They did all sleep on my lap or lap adjacent on different occasions. I am hopeful they will all be harmonious. No red flags so far.

And why would I not end up with a pit? I spend my life championing minorities who are misunderstood, misrepresented, and maltreated. Once I accepted it, I realized of course I have a pit mix. How could I have anything else but the most misunderstood, misrepresented, and maltreated breed of dog? The vet called her a “Heinz 57” because she’s some of everything: lab, hound, boxer, rhodesian, etc. He also said if he had to tell a tech to go get her from a crowd he’d say, “Red pit”. She’s a love. She’s going to be a therapy dog. She hates the rain and the cold. She snores.

Welcome Cheetah:)

Cheetah and Ginsburg…adjacent

One of my friends told me I was matched with this dog for a reason. That she needed me and I needed her. I told myself I was getting her for the boys but as she snores softly on my lap as I write this, I know my friend is right.

mom of boys · politics

Lessons at Home re- Racism

There has been a lot in my life in the past month. Puppy. Kids. Business. Life. But two moments with my kids stick out. One- they brought home these pamphlets about the Declaration of Independence. It had pictures of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams on page 1. Along with a picture of the Bill of the Rights. There was a caption explaining that these documents gave “everyone freedom and independence”. On page two there were pictures of white and Black people all sitting, smiling, reading books, talking, etc. No caption.

It was weird. I asked the boys about it and they said yes we learned about Independence and that every one in America was free. I sat down with them on our couch and I said, “We need to talk about something important.” They looked intrigued, and I went on to explain that DOI and BOR did not in fact make every one free. That people with Black and brown (at which point Declan said, “And tan?”) color skin were not freed by these documents. In fact they would not be freed until about one hundred years later during the Civil War.

I pointed at Thomas Jefferson’s picture and said, “He actually owned slaves, and actively worked to ensure slavery would survive.” The boys now looked awed and somewhat confused, and I could see the wheels turning, and they definitely knew this was important and maybe even secret adult information that I was letting them in on.

We talked some more about it, and they named the one kid in their class with “brown skin” and I said do you think it’s scary for that person to be in a class with all kids who are white? They thought about it, and said maybe. I said being different can be hard, and it can be scary. You guys have two mom’s and that’s different from most other kids in your class.

We had a long discussion, as long as six year olds can tolerate anyway, and I don’t know if I did it “right”. In fact the whole time I was struggling with how to word things, and how much to tell them. But I kept putting myself in the shoes of Mom’s of Black children. They don’t have a choice. They have to have much harder conversations than this one. And I don’t want to raise kids who are “colorblind”. I want to raise kids who see color, who understand racism is real, and who will hopefully, actively work to dismantle racism instead of taking part in it.

I have a print of Ruby being escorted into school on that day when she, as a child, faced down segregation. It hangs on the way toward my home office. A couple weeks later one of my sons asked me about it, and asked why we have that print. I told him, because I like it, it inspires me to be better because Ruby was just a child and she had to face such hatred and at a time in her life that should have been full of innocence and fun she was faced with brutality and hate. I explained the importance of Ruby and her bravery and I pulled up a picture of Ruby now as an adult. To which Jackson said, “So now she’s old people’s?” I mean. I guess. She’s older than she was. The point was that she’s alive still. This was recent that Black people did not have the same rights as white people. That was a mind-blowing fact to them.

Our curriculum is whitewashed and my town voted a board of education slate that are Republican, and who have publicly stated on social media that they don’t believe racism exists. Racism is like science. You don’t have to believe in gravity to fall on your ass. Racism exists whether you “believe” in it or not.

You ever see Bad Boys II? There’s the moment when Martin Lawrence realizes he’s going to have no help from authorities to rescue his sister. Will Smith sees it. You can see their countenance change. You see them walk away with this look that they are resolved in a decision. Will Smith’s next line is “We just gonna have to do it on our own,”. Then you see all these cops and agents one by one follow them out.

That’s how I felt when I saw that pamphlet. I’m just gonna have to do it on my own. Because our education system has not evolved since I was in school. I know what I learned. I know what I’ve had to do to unlearn it. I’m not going to let my kids wait until adulthood until more Black people are killed to discover for themselves what systemic racism is, how we participate in it, and steps we can take to stop it. It’s hard. I’m sure my home lessons will cause some interesting discussions in their classrooms as they get older. I’ve never told them not to discuss these lessons at school. I’ve never encouraged them to either. I’m just winging it.

Ruby will continue to hang on my wall. Hopefully she will inspire my kids as much as she inspires me.

Divorce and Separation · lesbian mom · mom of boys

Privilige and Birthday Cake Slices

Well the boys turned six. I have six year old twin boys.

It also marks a year since my ex moved out. She moved out a week or two after their birthday last year.

This was my last “first” as a single Mom. I had a year of firsts after my Dad died. It was all messed up. This was different. This could be a year of new beginnings not mourning. Divorce definitely carries a sting but nothing compared to the loss of my Dad. I was excited this year to navigate this new existence with my sons to be more present with them in these moments. I didn’t have the stress of my crumbling marriage hanging over every holiday and event. It was actually a relief in some ways.

And it was different “firsts” than when my Dad died. Like it was my first time managing the pool as a single mom. It was the first time stacking firewood by myself. I mean I stacked it often by myself in the past but I had someone else I could ask to watch the kids or help stack the wood while I watched the boys. This year the boys helped me.

I was nervous for the birthday though. Because it’s hard being a single parent. I’m bad at planning. Even worse since doing it alone because I feel like I survive day to day and there isn’t room for future planning. I decided to bring them to an arcade and a movie on Friday, their actual birthday. Then Saturday rented a bounce house…which was amazing…and had their friends over. It all worked out. Grubhub for pizza. And friends and sister who showed up for me with all the things that I forgot (mainly the balloons- my sister, and my asthma medication that I need to breathe- my friend)

It was a long two days. The boys were spoiled. Starting in the arcade with me. By tonight when they came home I was kind of annoyed. They were not acting grateful for everything that they had been given, and were already asking about an expensive present for Christmas.

There followed a physical altercation over a birthday present and I sent them to bed. I did not yell. I calmly told them they were acting completely unacceptable and needed to go to bed.

There were tears. Then when they were in bed they wanted clarification on why I was upset. I started with the fight that had occurred downstairs. I then went into, “You guys are not grateful, your not thankful for ALL that you have. You are such lucky privileged boys. I did not have what you have when I was little. I never got picked up early from school and brought to an arcade, and a movie, and then a bounce house. My parents would not have been able to afford all I do for you guys. And you are just not getting it.”

“So you didn’t do karate?” one of them asked, “No, I didn’t, not until I was in high school and I paid for it with my own money.” Then one of them rubbed his eyes and said, “That makes me so sad Mama,”

An aside- I was not destitute. I played soccer, basket-ball, and I danced for eleven years. But I knew beyond that there was not extra money for say the dance team, extra lessons; now had I been a prima ballerina I have no doubt my parents would have made it work. But while I was a good dancer we all knew this was not going to be a lifetime career for me. We lived in a town though that was white suburban. I didn’t have designer clothes and my house was not a huge colonial so I was made fun of over the years for being “poor” by the bullies based on my town’s standards. I know I wasn’t poor. I know we always had food, and shelter, and our bills were paid, as was most of my college tuition. I had a car when I turned 16 (not a new car, and the brakes failed but…I had a car). I didn’t have to pay for car insurance until I bought my own car when I was 23. So again- I am not saying I was not privileged. Because I certainly was. But I learned early that I needed to work hard to have what I wanted because what I wanted and what I needed are two different things.

My kids…well I wanted to give them opportunities that I didn’t have. That’s why I let them try out karate- and they love it. And it’s good for them. I also still work my butt off for everything that I have. I’ve built my business. I also still have the cushion of my parents- well now my Mom, if and when I need her. I know she’s there for me.

But I digress. So I say all of this to my sons, and I end with, “I work so hard to give you guys everything I possibly can, everything that I may not have had the opportunity to have.” I don’t yell. I say it quietly and sitting on one of their beds. And they both start crying and one of them leans into me to wrap his arms around me and says, “Well you do a really good job Mama.”

I hugged him back, and then I rubbed their backs for a little while and they are now sleeping soundly.

It’s a hard thing. Balancing. I want my kids to be grateful for what they have, I don’t want them to feel like they have to work as much as I did as early as I did, but I also don’t want them turning into entitled little shits.

They brought home the Scholastic Book Fair magazine. I remember every year we would have to be dragged in front of these beautiful mountains of brand new books for the book fair. The same Scholastic Book Fair then and now. Then I would know that I had a one or two book limit. I would always see at least a few other kids with piles of books they walked out of the room with. It seemed unfair. That I could only get my two books, and other kids could walk out with ten or more. I love books. I definitely felt jealous. What I failed to acknowledge were the three kids who left with no books. Looking back now I recognize there were kids living in poverty in my classes over the years. But I never thought about that at the time. I mean I was grateful for the two books I had, but also incredibly envious that I didn’t walk out with ten. I feel ashamed writing this now but it’s true.

So my sons bring home the Scholastic Book Fair magazine and tell me about the kid who got eight books. I asked them if there were kids who didn’t get any. They were unsure. I let them pick out two each. And then I asked them to pick out two for their cousin. Also those books are damn expensive.

I don’t know what the answer is. I know I want my kids to be happy. I want them to be grateful. I want them to work hard and to appreciate that I work hard for what we have. As he wrapped his little arms around my waist and told me I do a good job. I squeezed him so tight back, and said “Thanks baby. I love you.” I’m going to keep bumbling my way through this parenting situation. And hope I produce two functional, humble, not entitled, woke, white dudes. In the process. I’m learning too.

*** The highlight of Friday was stopping at the grocery store because I needed snacks for the party on Saturday. This was after the arcade and the movie. The boys were tired and on sugar highs. But there we were. I said yes to almost every bad cereal they put in the cart because I didn’t have the energy to say No. We were at the checkout with a seemingly cranky woman who pursed her lips and looked super irritated with the existence of all of us. The boys chatted amicably. Told her and the bagger it was their birthday. Asked for gum. I said No. Hard No. Enamel issues in one kid. Then it was, “Well Mommy lets us at her house,” and I put my hand on my head and squeezed my hair to keep from screaming, and said, “Well you can do what Mommy allows at Mommy’s. With Mama no gum.” They put it down. The cashier watched and heard and scanned the single pieces of cake I had allowed the boys to get. One each. Because we didn’t have cake on their birthday. Just movie popcorn and arcade bad food. I was tired and weak. Well the cashier said, “Mmmhmmm, this is where it’s at. Ain’t nobody got no fucking time to make a whole damn birthday cake. Yes girl. This is the smartest thing I’ve ever seen. Single slice of cake for their birthday.” Then we made eye contact. I realized she was actually complimenting me. I realized she was saying this because she realized I’m a single Mom who was tired and feeling judged by my kids and bought them cake on a grocery shop trip at almost 7:00 pm on their actual birthday. I smiled. Truly smiled. And I said, “Yeeeeessss. Ain’t nobody got fucking time for that.”

*** I told the waiter at the arcade I’m a Queer nurse (I swear it came up in conversation, because I’m not some one who overshares). He comp’d my entree. I left him an insane tip for a 40.00$ bill. He was the sweetest little gay dude. Pay it forward to the Queers.

Uncategorized

Raising Kids Lesson #45732…

When I worked in the ED there was a tech who came out of a room after I had been in for my initial assessment. The kid was sick-ish. Meaning probably admission material but not ICU level and potentially could go home if he had a robust response to treatment. I was maybe twenty-five. I was good at what I did. But I was and still am in a sense; controlled chaos. I remember the tech came out laughing and I asked him what he was laughing at? I was assembling my IV equipment, glucose machine, i-stat for chemistry, and an 02 mask. He said, “The parents, they looked like woah! When I went in right after you walked out, so I told them, ya know she’s good. That’s just how she is. Your kid is gonna be the best taken care of kid here though with her as your nurse.”

I remember I stopped what I was doing. I had big curly hair. Still do. It was everywhere. I was sucking on a cough drop because my asthma was acting up and there had also been a GI smell I just couldn’t get out of my nostrils earlier from another kid. I had a pile of stuff on my IV cart. Other nurses would, set things up, make it all pretty, put the tubing in the same spot every stick etc. I don’t think it was ever in the same spot. That tech held for me for countless IV starts. He knew to just hold the kid. That as much as it looked disorganized I was actually crazy like a fox and never dropped anything on the floor. And if I did I had a spare. In my pocket. He’d had to fish out a spare from my pocket. Once. Maybe twice.

I got the line in that kid in one smooth shot. By the time the Attending saw him he was sleeping soundly, his parents each had a coffee in hand, and they all had blankets. The kid had 02 going and fluids and meds. He went home five hours later.

I’m still sorta that way in psych. Sometimes I think clients don’t know what to make of me. I still am completely unable to recognize how chaotic I can seem but in psych I think it’s more maybe I seem detached, distracted. When in reality I’ve already got you assessed and am narrowing down my medication options and also deciding what gem I’m going to slip in to shatter your defenses to get you to really feel something and maybe by default cry.

I don’t realize that I have a style or a way or a presence until people tell me. That moment was eleven years ago. I still remember the look on the tech’s face, and can imagine the look on mine. First off I didn’t realize I came across like a tornado in that room. Second I had no idea the tech thought I was good at my job or that he remembered after hundreds of lines where to find the spare three way stopcock I always kept in my pocket. Never know when you’re going to need to push adenosine. Just saying.

In psych though clients have a different relationship than in the ED and different expectations. Over the years I’ve been asked directly by a few clients at the intake what my assessment is, diagnosis, and some have even asked what I think their personality traits are. It’s kind of fun for me. I may totally geek out in the moment when I get to be like the cop at the end of a case explaining and divulging all the things I’ve picked up. The ones who ask after one appointment ask because they are skeptical. Skeptical that I’m paying attention. Skeptical that I know what I’m doing. Skeptical that I could get to know them enough in sixty minutes to make recommendations like medication. I get it. But I kill it. Every time. Because hello people. Since 2007 I’ve done nothing but rapid assessment in one form or another every day for hours a day. I also got a couple degrees and training in it. That moment when I relay straight faced, with eye contact, everything I’ve observed, surmised, and suspect and how that relates to my recommendations they usually stare back, jaw drops a little, and sometimes their eyes well up with tears, sometimes they just open in surprise and sometimes a little hint of admiration. It’s that moment they feel seen.

I felt seen by that tech in that moment eleven years ago. It doesn’t happen often that some one catches me off guard. I generally think I’m invisible so am always surprised if some one reflects something incredibly accurate about myself back to me. The scariest time that happened was last week. In the car. With my sons.

I asked the boys if they like living in our town. I bring it up now and then because I’m not sure if we will move or not. They rambled on in their 5 year old way about yes, maybe, no, but we should live next to their cousin, because that’s their lifelong goal and dream to live next door to their cousin. I laughed and said, well if we move with your Aunts and cousin you won’t be in school with…then listed their friends. Then they were contemplative, and I said somewhat surprised, “I kinda like living here.” Never thought I would like rural living. Declan says, “Because there’s no people Mama. You don’t like people. That’s why you like it here.” I looked in the rearview smiling and surprised, “What do you mean baby?” “You don’t like big crowds, (how the hell did he know the word crowd?!) that’s why you didn’t want to go to the Fair. It’s why you like to just be by the pool. It’s okay Mama. We like living here.” Damn. Just like that. I was actually speechless.

None of it was wrong. I don’t like people. Especially big crowds. The pandemic didn’t help. I also blame working in healthcare. We see the worst of humanity. Makes it hard to want to really engage with random people. And yes, the yearly town fair is the bane of my existence. I will not work at it. I will not attend. In every way it is completely abhorrent to me. Cow manure. People. Bees. People. Hill. People. No parking. People. I also do prefer my pool. To everywhere in the world. My two favorite people are my sons. After that there are maybe ten-fifteen people I think I need regular contact with (Yes Mom. You’re on the list;).

Aside from that though, the point is my son. I think I am raising a future mental health professional. Because he saw me. What’s funny in those moments is his twin brother is totally silent. He’s the observer. He’s going to be the politician. He doesn’t agree or disagree outwardly but I know if I asked him he’d know his brother was spot on. He just wouldn’t be the one to call me out. Twins. It’s a whole thing. I am so often trying to survive the grind of single mom-ing, business owning, and being a clinician that I forget they are watching. Seeing. Learning. They know me as well I know them. It’s a scary thing. This vulnerability with our kids. I feel it more as a single mom. Because they spend 85% of their time with me. And I with them.

These boys are perceptive and caring and it’s weird to start to shift from thinking of them as these dependent beings to independent beings who can make assumptions about me. Learn from me. Emulate me. They did not get my general disliking of socializing. These boys talk to every one about everything. It’s cool that they can see this part of me, and be different from me, and we can all be okay with that.

That moment in the car was a parenting first. Feeling “seen” by my kids. In a way I really hadn’t ever experienced with them. I just keep hoping what they see is good enough, wise enough, and strong enough for them. It’s such a shift from childhood and seeking our parents approval, to adulthood and seeking it from our kids. It’s part of parenting I didn’t expect and still find it hard to define at times.

This is one parent’s reminder. They are watching. Always.

Divorce and Separation

To Everyone, Stop flushing paper towels. Sincerely, Business Owner.

When the third person asked me why I was working Monday I may have overreacted. Why shouldn’t I work? What the hell is going to happen when I go sign the divorce decree? Does a lightening bolt strike me while I’m signing therefore making it impossible for me to function the rest of the day? Why do people keep asking me if I’m working? Yes. I am working the day I signed my decree. I scheduled my patients remotely, and blocked out the middle of the day so I could drive to the mediation office, sign, drive home, and see more patients remotely.

I signed about forty pages of documents. Sitting next to my ex at a lovely glass table in a swanky office in a swanky suburb. We had only done remote sessions so I finally met my mediator face to face and the attorney who drafted the final decree.

But let’s back up to Friday. Because that’s when the true saga of Monday started. I stopped into the office for the mail, with the boys, who had to pee, and the toilet didn’t flush. It could not be plunged. It was late, I had to leave with them. I came back Sunday to try plunging again. Didn’t work. I called the landlord. Maintenance guy came. Plunged it some more. No go. I made signs. A special plumber came on Monday. The day of the divorce decree signing.

I’m not sure what it says that I was literally receiving calls and texts and pictures from my employees, the plumber, and the landlord all about the toilet during the divorce decree signing- it had to be taken off the hole, pipes had to be snaked, I then received a picture of what was pulled from the pipes. 400$ later and two plumbers…the toilet was working again.

I always thought those signs telling people not to flush paper towels were stupid. Because who would flush paper towels when there are trash cans (TWO trashcans in our bathroom)? But I guess people do that. I now have that sign up. I also switched it to a key lock so only employees can use the en suite bathroom; clients can walk down the hall to the toilet the landlord is responsible for.

Even if I did not have clients scheduled I would have been working. That’s what happens as a business owner…you have to deal with a clogged toilet, and look at the presents pulled out of the pipes…as you sign your divorce decree.

It was possibly the most polar opposite of a wedding as I could have gotten. I reflected on our wedding sitting at the table. We were surrounded by friends, family, (and I counted…fifteen couples who were at our wedding have separated due to divorce or death…so yeah morbid), and had good food, good dancing, and overall a great party. In contrast divorce is completed with strangers, no celebrations, and in my case pictures of poop covered paper towels popping onto my phone.

In my case we have to co-parent still, and she moved out almost a year ago. So it didn’t feel like anything monumental. It felt like another thing I had to do. Nothing in my day to day changes at this point. I drove home, got cut off by a car with license plate “SINISTER” who flipped me the middle finger as he almost took out my car. Again, another sign from the universe? I don’t know. I snapped a picture of his license plate instead of flipping him off back, because seriously who would have believed me?

The rest of my drive was uneventful as I mulled over the toilet and Sinister. Two days later it was a full moon and I had therapy with my new-ish therapist. I relayed my divorce signing adventures. I told her I don’t really feel anything, and she reflected I had grieved the loss of my marriage long ago. Which is true.

I always said I wouldn’t have wanted my wedding any other way. It was truly an epic party. I think of it now as a space and moment in time where these 86 people got together on a cold December night, and partied our asses off. Some would lose partners to cancer, others to “irreconcilable differences” as it says on my decree. But for that one night it was all perfect.

Thinking back on my divorce signing I chuckle and think the same as I thought before. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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.