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)

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).

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.

#COVID-19 · mom of boys · Nursing

Shut your piehole KK

A few months ago I hired some one to take over the billing for me. I had been doing the billing every waking hour that I wasn’t seeing clients…mostly between the hours of 8p-11p nightly. But I could see that either I’d have to give up my caseload of patients- which was not an option- or give in and hire some one. She already did my Quickbooks and happened to be in need of full time work. It worked out. She had no knowledge of medical billing.

But she is meticulous and could learn. I had no knowledge of medical billing until I owned a practice and taught myself.

The first month was a lot of questions that I answered and that she then would ask, “Okay where can I find that though?” and I’d smile or wince and say, “In my head,”. After a month and after the hundredth time I said that she laughed and said, “I literally cannot believe how much you remember in that brain.”

Can’t find my keys on the daily but I can remember the different sliding scales we offer for a hundred different people, and who has a payment plan on which days and who we have to call the Mom for, and who we have to call the Dad for payment, and who we have to email the Mom and the secret code words…lol. I mean it’s a whole thing. “I can’t find her in the system, is this another one whose Aunt or Grandma or Mom or Dad pays?” Was a question. And I knew the Grandma’s name and email. And it’s not my patient, it’s some one else’s in the practice. What about this one? “Aha, that’s a partner of x, x sees Rory and pays with this card, Y sees Alana and pays with this card,” “Why is the name different in both systems for both of them?” me “Yeah just accept that’s how it is and move on for this one, it’s too long to explain.”

“This one the transactions look…odd…is this one that we only bill on the 15th because that’s when they get paid?” I mean she picked up quick on the patterns at least. I told her part of her job is sleuthing because she’ll have to figure out the inner workings of my brain. Which is a scary place to go.

She’d ask about random Cigna plans and carve outs of Aetna plans and a NY based UMR plan that carves out to Cigna…and all the things. And it was all just in my brain.

Then after a month she was picking it up and I could back off and I suddenly had these hours FREE at night after the boys went to bed. I had these images and dreams of me being so productive, writing that blog post, folding the laundry, when in reality for the last month or so of free evenings I’ve stared mindlessly at the television watching episodes of Blacklist (I could do without the girl, James Spader is my favorite), murder docs like Murder in the Middle & I’ll be Gone in the Dark, and I went to bed. Many nights.

It was like that meme “My plans for my day off” “Me on my day off”. In the midst of the last month I also opened a second location which has resulted in many many days of moving and building furniture. And still seeing clients. And single mom-ing it. I planned out my Summer for childcare. A whole freaking expensive thing. I hate this country and our lack of support for working parents.

But I digress. I felt guilty the first few nights. Guilty that I had two hours to sit and stare at Blacklist episodes and snuggle with my dog. Then I thought. Fuck that. I get no time to myself. I’ve worked my ass off to get here and I was still working my ass off every day. What is wrong with me that I feel guilty for sitting for two hours and not being productive? When I saw clients this week I actually felt engaged and refreshed and not exhausted and burned out.

I literally thought to myself- this is odd- why do I not feel burned out and exhausted right now? Oh that’s right because I can actually go to bed. And snuggle with my dog. And think about things other than work for two hours a day. I still log in and do work. But I logged in the other day and there wasn’t anything for me to do. It was the weirdest freaking thing.

Within a month it was a forty hour position. I was doing a forty hour position on top of my 32 hours of clients and 8 hours of employee managing. That’s not okay.

I recognize now that was not okay. And I’m incredibly grateful that I took this step.

The best part of my week so far though was reading and watching Kim Kardashian’s comment that women need to work their ass off and no one wants to work these days.

I’m sure you can hear my eyes rolling. To speak as a billionaire who started life in a family with millions…yeah that falls a little flat.

We want to work. We are working. If you don’t start life with millions though it’s a little hard to work hard and still get ahead. Not for nothing but as some one born in 1985 I will never see a pension, I will never have fully covered health insurance with low co-pays and no deductible, I may never get rid of student debt if I decide to go back for my doctorate- if I stay with my master’s I may have it paid off in 5-10 years. I entered the workforce during the “worst economic disaster in history” in 2007. I didn’t get a raise my first three years as a nurse. I am parenting and working during a pandemic- again a “once in a lifetime event”. My clients who are going hungry do not have access to food. I love when a Boomer says, “Well they just need to access the resources, or apply to the state,” yeah that doesn’t exist. There are food stamps- they are extremely difficult to qualify for. There are no state programs that offer housing and food to any one who makes over 18k a year. You can’t live on 19k a year in this state. You go hungry. Like my clients.

But I digress onto a rather large soap box.

My point to this rambling. I work my ass off. Our society dictates we work our asses off. When all is said and done it will take three full time positions to take over all the administrative tasks I do for my practice. I do not want a medal. But I would appreciate a billionaire who was handed millions…to not make a gross judgment about women in a capitalistic male dominated society.

Stay strong. Work hard. Binge watch Blacklist or whatever you like and don’t feel guilty though. Because we all deserve a freaking break.

And yeah. Shut your piehole Kim.

#COVID-19 · Mental Health Stigma Suicide · mom of boys

Encanto & Psychotherapy

I did not know what I was getting into when I sat down to watch Encanto. I saw previews with a house and young woman with glasses. That’s it. My sons and I watched it on my birthday in January. By the time Surface Pressure was over I was welling up with tears. When the grandmother was berating Maribel; the tears started to actually fall and by the time the Mariposa song was over I was literally sobbing. My sons at some point asked if I was okay and I sort of stuttered “Yes…it’s fine…it’s just very sad.” They didn’t understand why I thought it was sad I could tell from their perplexed expressions; but they didn’t question it further. I think they are used to me crying at movies. It happens a lot.

Family dynamics are intense. I don’t get into my family dynamics in my blog because I respect my family members enough to not write publicly or engage in gossip about them in any capacity. But every family has dynamics. Every family has inter-generational trauma. Mine is no different.

As Maribel stood and her grandmother berated her in front of her extended family members, the scene with Bruno as Maribel sees his plate drawn onto the table behind the wall, the many scenes with Maribel being scapegoated as she seeks and speaks truth…I felt all of that.

There is nothing like family, and a room full of people with blood connections to you, that can make you feel the most isolated, alone, and wrong.

I not only have experienced this but I spend my life counseling patients on their family attachments. What struck me about Encanto was the recovery scene at the end. The song her entire extended family partakes in that they see her, they love her, and they want her in their family. She is their family. The patients I treat generally never get to experience that moment. Because real life is not a Disney movie.

That connection scene provides validation and love. Psychotherapy can provide this in a different way. For all those individuals who do not have reparative moments and relationships with family members psychotherapy provides a space for the client to examine the relationship dynamics, the traumas, even the covert ones- the isolating, the scapegoating, and it’s looking back at the times you’ve drawn a plate on a table to feel close to your family who seem so incredibly far though they are sitting just six feet away.

Psychotherapy allows clients a space to examine the idea of love. Self love. Love of others. Receiving love and giving love. Insecure and secure attachment styles. It also allows us a space to examine the dissonance of deeply loving a family member be it a sibling or parent while acknowledging they may have done horribly traumatic things to you.

Psychotherapists spend their days singing the song at the end of Encanto. “We see how brave you have been. We see how bright you burn. You’re the real gift. What do you see? I see me. All of me.” (edited)

I used to love Disney movies. I still am a Disney fan. But. I have a more adult view of the movies. I have a more adult understanding of reality vs. fiction and good vs. evil. There are good people who perpetrate evil things. And there are evil people who everyone believes are good. There are so many shades of grey in between the black and white world of Disney.

The part of the movie that I viscerally felt was as I watched the grandmother pick up her three newborn babies and run with her husband. As they cross the river all I could think of was my own twin boys. The three little heads were reminiscent to me of all the times I looked down at my two boys little heads nursing, sleeping, crying, smiling. Even as I watched it I had one little head on each shoulder. I think it was deep for me because I took a journey also and am now a single mom. I felt her grief, her fear, and her determination. I’ve had to make my own miracles though.

I am grateful for my boys. I am grateful for the organized chaos that is my life as a single parent, business owner, boss, and clinician. I am proud of my work and I am proud of my employees as they are all dynamic and skilled clinicians. But I think Encanto succinctly summarized what we do for people in a way that I have never been able to. We see people. We help them see themselves. We empower. We are the family in that last scene watching with pride as she walks bravely to the door.

I’m opening a second location and a long time client (9? years) texted me because I told him I needed to tell him something. We then chatted on the phone, and when I told him I was going to be based in the new location he said, “Yeah, well just tell me the address and I’ll see you there. Remember that closet you used to be in? Your first spot?” Then he laughed and told me about the pharmacist messing up his last prescription and being flabbergasted that the patient had my direct number to text me so I could resend it. “He doesn’t know what we’ve been through together,” then he laughed. He’s always joking and lighthearted, but I heard the ring of truth. I have seen him through a lot. A. Lot. And he still has work to do. But that’s outpatient psychiatry. Developing trust, rapport, and being the constant there through…a lot.

#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.

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.