Thursday, January 05, 2017

Come at me, 2017

I have to admit that while 2016 was rough on a global-scale (can you say "orange president"?), my 2016 was actually really good personally. I traveled a lot and knocked a few things off my bucket list (Lisbon! Southern Portugal! Honduras! Belize!), while still taking some of my travel time to relax and unwind (instead of always needing a vacation when I come back from my vacation because I've run myself ragged). My daughter is such a superstar, and she had a great year - and when your kids are doing well, you do well. She started middle school, in all very challenging honors classes, without a hitch. She made so many new friends, auditioned for and got a major part in the school play, and has a bright and busy social life. She is happy and that makes me happy. My husband and I are in just such a great place, too. We are enjoying the time we spend together, laughing, having fun, and being best friends. My parents are happy and (mostly) healthy, and we have had some pretty good times with them over the year as well. I have shed some friends who were better left in the past, and made some new ones who brighten my outlook...and have even caused me to leave some of the my cynicism behind.

(Ok, not all of it. I'm still cynical and sarcastic and that won't ever change. But I do realize that the negativity was weighing me down and making me less happy. And I've reduced that, and I feel good about it.)

So, here we are in 2017. I don't really believe in the whole "new year, new you" thing. Like, the change of a calendar doesn't mean a change in you. But I do think the end of another year gives you the opportunity to look at yourself closely and figure out what has been working for you and what hasn't.

What's working for me? My travel goals are nearly perfect. I love how I'm able to travel often and to unique and interesting places. I wish I could travel more, but with 4 weeks of vacation from work, I do the best I can. This year will be a little different because we are going to Cuba, which costs an arm and a leg, so our other trips will have to be scaled back. No Budapest or Scotland or Istanbul, as I had hoped. It looks like it'll be Cuba, Toronto, Captiva Island, and maybe Chicago or Vermont. I hate the idea of only one new place this year, but Cuba will make it all worthwhile. What makes me a little sad is that for 2018, we will be doing a big anniversary trip to Hawaii, so that will make the rest of our trips small again next year. I know, poor me.

What else is working? My approach to motherhood is working. I couldn't have a better, smarter, cooler kid and I know that while some of that is just in her genes, some is my influence. And now that she's 13, my influence may seem to wane as her friends grow in importance...but I know she is still listening. I have to keep on momming the way I am now, because it's working. And I can keep on wife-ing the way I am now, as well...while putting in a little more effort, perhaps. He spoils me so much (not just with material things, but with all the "stuff" he does) and I need to figure out how to spoil him back a little more.

And what isn't working? While I don't set the whole "lose 10 pounds" goals at the beginning of the year, I am setting health goals. I need my ass up off the couch more. I need to fuel my body in healthier ways. And while I love my craft beer more'n my luggage, I need to drink less of it. I want to start hiking again, and maybe kickboxing and yoga. I got so lazy this year, and I miss the endorphins of a good workout and the feelings of strength that follow.

What else isn't working? I want to stop letting negativity influence me. I let that happen too much in 2016. If something is bringing me down, stop doing it. This can apply to my obsession with politics (which has definitely lessened since the election - it is too depressing, so I've minimized my exposure) or to friends who focus on complaining about the bad parts of life, or even to social media (where I have been mostly absent because frankly, I'm bored of it). I want to focus on the fun and joyous parts of life - and truly, I am so lucky to say that my life is full of joy and that I have more fun than should be allowed by law. There is so much good to focus on, and I want to seek out those moments and be present in those moments and simply revel in how good life can be.

Slightly off topic (but not really) - I planned a get-together in NYC for my extended family to meet up with our visiting family from Scotland. A bunch of us went in early - with the "adults" concerned about timing and about how we would fill our time until we had to meet, and with some just sourpussing it through the whole day. We went to see the Rock Center tree (so nice after the holiday crowds have gone!) and then walked to the Plaza, where I had the idea to get some fancy cocktails and pretend to be fancy people for an hour or so. We did just that, and it was such a nice little break in the day - impromptu and totally fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants - and it was fantastic. We then met our Scotland fam (after a small walk across town that left some sourpusses complaining, again), and had an amazing time. Now don't get me wrong - it took a lot of effort to get this whole thing planned, with more pushback than help from the rest of the family. But the effort was so worth it, and it was such a memorable day. This weekend we are headed back to NYC to see an art exhibit and my parents are coming with us. I'm excited about planning a fun day for them and trying some new things while we are there. THAT is what the new year feels like to me - make the effort, take some chances, reap the fun rewards.  

In all, 2017 is probably going to globally suck. Our Cheeto President is going to mess up the world and the Republicans will cheer it and the Democrats will do nothing to stop it. But I have realized that there is little I can do about that (yes, I call my representatives to express my concerns, yes, I vote in every single election no matter how small, yes, I stay educated on global and local politics) and I have come to terms with the fact that I am mostly powerless and it is futile to think otherwise). But 2017 for me, personally, has all the potential in the world to be a great year and I am approaching it as such.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ball of Confusion

Its so confusing sometimes. I feel like the world is falling apart in so many ways. Terrorism is on the rise all over the world and it makes life so scary. There are threats to peace and safety at every turn, it seems. Our President-Elect is an insane person who is not qualified to lead this country, and while I have largely tuned out from politics, I am still reading enough to know we are on a bad path as he fills his cabinet with loonies. The environment is in complete peril and a whole segment of the population doesn't even believe it, so how can we begin to consider fixing it? And people are so stressed out and mean and only in it for themselves. The level of entitlement people feel is out of control. Everything seems dark to me right now, like is becoming a world I won't even want to live in within the next several years. I feel despondent and full of dark grey space. I often want to just move to the middle of Montana where there is no crime and no traffic and no one there to even be part of my day-to-day existence.

And yet.

I have my daughter. She is a shining light in the world. She is smart, incredibly kind, loving, and thoughtful. When I think about her, I think about all the wonderful things I know she will accomplish. Right now she legit wants to be a rocket scientist, and she is capable of that. Sometimes I think she will be a lawyer, and sometimes I think she will be a doctor. And sometimes I think she will join the peace corps and help refugees. She has so much in her that is good and wise, especially for a 13-year old, and I can't wait to see what she does with all that goodness when she grows up.

But how do I reconcile those two things? How do I think the world is not even going to make it much longer, and even if it does, it's going to be a horrible, ugly, unpleasant place to live...while contemplating what my child is going to be and how she will contribute positively?

I think it comes from knowing that my kid is a bright sun in a dark world, and that her light will be strong enough to keep at least a teeny part of the world illuminated. It comes from faith in good triumphing over evil, even if the struggle between the two takes a long time. It comes from looking into her face and seeing innocence and wonder, and knowing that there are millions of other kids out there with the same innocence and wonder, and in turn, knowing that those children are the bright lights in their parents' hearts.

Somehow, I still find hope.




Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I Am Angry

I was going to write a long screed on divorce and children from a logical and thoughtful perspective, but I just can't do that today. Maybe on another day, but not today.

Today I am angry. I am angry that one parent can go to court and sully the reputation of the other parent in order to deny him equal custody of their child. I am angry that a schedule that was working so well for the child is now disrupted because of the evilness and vindictiveness of one parent. I am angry that a mother would use her child as a weapon and a pawn. I am angry that one parent would withhold time with the child from the other parent as a punishment. I am angry that a good father is now being denied his due time with his daughter.

As a feminist, I never believed that the system was rigged against fathers. I honestly thought that when mothers got full custody, there were good reasons for it. It wasn't just that women were thought to be caregivers and men weren't - there had to be more to the story that we didn't know about. And now, I can honestly say that that's bullshit. This judge took everything the mother said at face value, no real evidence, no real proof, and took a child from her father. She even said, "you were married for 10 years, the wife would know best."

My heart is breaking for both the dad and the child. He is devastated and doesn't know how he is going to go on. He can't bear to think of seeing his child every other weekend when he had her for a week at a time and got to do homework with her, cook her dinner, put her to bed...all the things a dad wants to be able to do for his daughter. And she is going to miss out on spending all that time with this fun-loving guy who worships the ground his daughter walks on and would do anything for her. As a mom of a daughter (and a daughter of a father), I know just how important fathers are to their daughters. They are the first man we love, and if there is no first man around during your formative years...what do you learn? That men aren't there for you? That men desert you? That men don't care? WHY would any woman want her daughter to have that influence if they didn't have to? WHY would any woman deny her child the right to see her father when he has done nothing to deserve this?

Right now, I am just fucking angry and I have no outlet for my anger. It's so hard to believe that someone you once loved enough to stand up in front of your family and friends and declare that love for could do something so heinous and cruel. I can't help but wonder if the woman is happy. Is she pleased with herself? Does she feel successful? Is she high-fiving her dirtbag lawyer on the way they stole a child from her father today?

Today, I am angry. And I feel helpless that there is nothing I can do to help fix the situation. I am angry at myself for not being even more forceful that he use a serious lawyer on this. I am angry at myself for ever considering this woman a friend and for inviting her into my family and into my circle of friends and into my heart. I am just angry. And I feel like the anger will dissipate with time and just become deep-rooted sadness that will stay with me forever.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Commitments

I think one of the most important things you do as a parent is prepare them for life outside of your home. Real life. Life at work, with friends, with a future partner. Life when it's great and life when it's hard and dark and painful. You teach them their value so they accept no less than the best from their friends and lovers. You teach them respect so they treat others well and expect the same in return. You teach them sticktoittiveness so they learn perseverance and stamina and ability to work through the hard times to get back to the good times.

These are hard lessons to teach kids sometimes. It's so much easier to let them make their every decision in a way that makes them happy at the moment. They don't really understand the hard decisions most of the time, and they think you are being mean by not just letting them get what they want. Instant gratification is okay for tweens, but adults who can't see past the moment at hand are bad employees, selfish friends, and terrible husbands/wives. And the whole job of parenting, in my opinion, is raising solid, happy, productive adults...not overgrown children.

Recently, this has come to a head with one of TJK's friends. It's an ongoing issue and it has come up repeatedly over the years, but now it's becoming a real problem. TJK and her friend are in a 3 week camp together. There was talk of carpooling for drop off and pickup and of all the great aftercare classes offered in this camp.The girls were looking forward to it.

We are now on day four of camp. TJK's friend has not gone to aftercare once, despite her mom telling me that she was going to go every day for at least the first week to see which classes she wanted to take. TJK is disappointed, but she is fine. She has made other friends and is loving aftercare. I am annoyed that I have to do drop off and pick up every day instead of splitting it as I'd hoped, but I'll get over it. No biggie.

The bigger issue to me is the way this kid is allowed to do whatever she wants. She committed to this with my daughter, with me, with her mom - not to mention that her mom paid for it and isn't attending! - and she has been allowed to skip it every day because she feels like it. What lesson is this teaching your child?

A couple of years ago, the girls went to another camp together (again, we were supposed to carpool...). On day one, they walked to a park for lunch and there was a homeless man there, sitting on a park bench. Not for nothing, but this is not unheard of, and if you live in the greater NYC area, it's something you get used to seeing. The man didn't approach or talk to or interact with the kids at all - just sat on the bench. Well, this child was so freaked out on day one that she did not return to camp. At all. Her mother allowed her to bail because she was uncomfortable at a park with a group of 20 kids and several counselors and one homeless man. She allowed her to ditch camp completely, leaving TJK and me in a lurch.

Even this past weekend, we had plans to go away with girl and her mom (we are good friends with them, honestly, and I do love the mom). We bought tickets to an event, made hotel reservations, laid out our plan of attack for the drive and our time away. They did go with us, but at one point the mom said to me, "I was so afraid she was going to get up this morning and say she was too tired to go and we would have to cancel."

WHAT.

If TJK got up and said she was too tired, I would tell her to take a nap in the car because we have plans and money had already been spent. It would never occur to me that I should cancel or rearrange our plans because of what TJK wants or doesn't want at that moment. She is involved in the decision-making process, but once she commits, she is committed.

I get that it's easier to allow your kids to run the show, and that it's not fun when you have to say no and they get mad at you. It's hard to have the center of your universe angry with you and think you are mean and, even worse, not cool. But that's parenting. It's not easy.

I feel badly for TJK, who had these three weeks of camp planned out with her friend and now has to rearrange and reset her expectations. She asked me if she, too, could skip aftercare because her friend was skipping. I told her no. She committed to going and she is going to go. And she was not happy with me and I can live with that. I know that her being miserable today is teaching her something valuable: that you stand by what you say and you do what you said you were going to do. In a few years, I know these lessons will pay off. And I am afraid that her friend will be left expecting the world to curve to her will and not knowing how to cope when it refuses to.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Another Impact of Divorce

Friends of mine are in the middle of what is shaping up to be an ugly divorce. It started off friendly enough, with weekly family dinners for the kids and cordial custody drop-offs, and has segued into hostility and anger. I feel badly for both of them, and for their kids. And for myself.

So for the sake of the story, let's call this couple Bob and Alice. Bob and I are very close, as are Bob and my husband and Bob's kids and my daughter. Alice and I were very close for a long time too, but since long before the divorce was set into play, she backed away. She stopped coming around, stopped communicating with me, stopped wanting to be part of any activities having to do with Bob. That strained our friendship in a big way (not seeing or communicating with someone can do that).

I recently met Bob's new love interest. Bob didn't want the divorce to begin with, but now that it is underway, he is happy to have some companionship again. He had been lonely for a long time in the marriage, and I think the attention is doing him some good. So in any case, we all got together - my little family, Bob and his kids, and the new love (let's call her Sandy) and her kids. I can't say I'm too fond of her, and I feel really badly for saying that because I know Bob is happy. But she just isn't someone I can see myself being close with. We went to a gastropub for dinner and she didn't understand any of the dishes on the menu - they were too complicated. She dressed wayyy down to go for brunch, like in workout pants and an over-sized t-shirt. And in case you think I am just being an elitist (which, yes, I kind of am), she also made racist comments, and so did her kids. I may be snobby in judging someone who doesn't know what Gruyere is, but I am just not a fan of someone who casually compares monkeys to black people.

So ok, whatever, he is dating someone I don't love. No biggie. But here's the issue. Bob is part of my life, and he is part of a lot of things I do on a regular basis. And now this woman is going to be part of those things, which then makes me not look forward to those things quite as much. I am wondering how I can uninvite him to these things in a way that won't hurt his feelings and I have not come up with a way quite yet.

The first test will be next weekend, when we have a whole weekend planned with them. No kids, thankfully; just the four of us. This is going to be a big test for me because I really hate to limit my ties with Bob but I just cannot with Sandy if she is the same this weekend as the last time I saw her. And then Bob will get his feelings hurt, and I know he is already going through a really hard time and I know he relies strongly on my opinions and this will crush him. But ugh. I am not a fan of this lady, nor am I good at keeping my big mouth shut.

(I just looked back at the menu because I was thinking that maybe it was exotic and I am being unfair, at least on that front, and really, it isn't a complicated menu at all. There are things like Blue Catfish Tacos and Pork Belly Mac & Cheese Fries on the menu...and I had a booze-infused snowball for dessert, so it was certainly not a foreign language like she claimed.)

After our get-together, I posted a photo of us all on my fb. Alice must have seen it and subsequently unfriended me because of it. Bob says I should not feel badly because we haven't talked in forever and of course I am going to meet and be friendly with his new girlfriend. But I still feel awful about it, because I truly did love Alice and this woman is no replacement for her. I feel like that is the trade I made - Alice for Sandy.

I want a trade-back.