Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pass the chocolate-covered marshmallows

The smoke alarm is going off upstairs, but I just don’t give a damn. There’s no need to worry. It’s just the batteries. They’re dead.  

Besides, the chocolate-covered marshmallows are soothing the anger radiating throughout my body as I sit in my big chair, seething and cursing. I think I’ll chase it down with a beer. On second thought, maybe not…

I could blame my pissy mood on PMS… or on the ants I found in my kitchen… or the bills… or The Donald (Someone please tell him to shut up!).

Instead, I’ll be honest and place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the guilty parties: Me and my ex.

Pass the chocolate-covered marshmallows, please…  

My ex is to blame because, after weeks of the silent treatment (It was so nice while it lasted!), he decided to finally have a conversation, albeit a one-sided conversation where he does all the talking/yelling. When I finally get a chance to call him on his bullshit or verbally defend myself against his accusations, he hangs up. It’s his M.O. Then I’m left fuming on the other end of the phone with my words hanging in the air.

But let’s be fair. I’m also to blame. After weeks of meditation and counseling, I let him suck me in. And it wasn’t worth it. It never is! Not satisfied that I didn’t get in a few licks, I called him back, but he didn’t answer and I didn’t leave a message. Oh, how I wanted to leave a message. But that’s called evidence nowadays.

One second while I pour Hershey’s syrup over these bad boys...   

As I was saying… I allowed him to take me to that cold, dark place. You know the place. It's where your thoughts turn just as dark as the room. That's where you play back old episodes of CSI and Law & Order in your head, then ask yourself, “Did they ever get caught?”

Kidding! (Nervous laugh) Sort of…

I used to silently shrivel up like an old piece of fruit and just take his abuse. Now, I instantly turn into a steel-eyed shark circling the waters for blood, looking to take out a limb or two. And when I’m denied a taste of blood… Well, I reach for the chocolate-covered marshmallows.

Wait, I’m out of those… Hello, Rocky Road!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Crackheads, strippers and ex-cons

And other characters in family court's High Conflict Resolution class

The teacher talked about herself for about an hour. How she’s worked for the county’s family court system for 17 years. How she’s survived the budget cuts. How she’s witnessed the elimination of some family court services and the reduction in staff. 

Then she went back to talking about her qualifications, justifying herself to the room. It wasn’t like anyone in attendance was going to challenge her credentials. It certainly wasn’t going to be the guy next to me with the tattooed neck who reeked of cheap cologne and could barely keep his eyes open.

Welcome to the court-ordered High Conflict Resolution class!  


So how did I get here? Well, I can thank my ex for that. In fact, the judge said so.

During our last child custody hearing, my ex picked a fight with me while I was on the witness stand giving testimony. His booming voice, yelling accusations at me, immediately took me back to the angry house.

Like a scene out of a Law & Order episode, the judge swiftly let loose his gavel, demanding order in the court. “I can see why your wife, soon-to-be ex-wife, wants to divorce you,” he told my ex.

After my ex picked a fight with my attorney (just a few minutes later), the judge ordered my ex to attend the High Conflict Resolution class. He then looked at me and said, “You can thank you ex for this because you have to go, too. I can’t send one and not the other.”  


Now here I was on this Thursday morning, wasting half of a personal day.

Far more interesting than the class, or the teacher and her credentials, were the characters in attendance. By characters, I mean crackheads, strippers and ex-cons. I was sure the woman in front of me was all three. I’ll call her “Blondie.”

When the discussion turned to “it’s not always the fathers who cause the conflict,” every man in the room instantly bonded. It was the first time I’d seen homeys and hillbillies unite.  

Let’s go back to Blondie for a minute...

When she finally arrived to class (20 minutes late), she immediately took off her shoes and began to pick her toes. When she was done with her toes, she rummaged through her big purse. Thirty minutes later, she pulled out a large brush then used it to brush her hair for about 15 minutes.  

She then put her hair in a ponytail. Then she took her ponytail down. Then she put it in a clippy. Then she put it back in a ponytail.  

Meanwhile, the teacher cited several real child custody cases that she had worked on over the years. Some were cases where one or both parents were on drugs, mostly crystal meth.

Every time the teacher said the words “crystal meth” Blondie’s ears perked up. She stopped fidgeting. She was suddenly attentive. Her eyes lit up as if she was half-expecting the teacher to pass the pipe.

Then there was the guy with a limp and a bad back. Let’s call him “Homey.”

I saw Homey limp as he walked in. Had I not witnessed the limp, I would have found out anyway because he announced to everyone that he’d been shot in the foot (thus the limp) and that he also had a bad back. He didn’t explain the bad back, but sitting down was so painful for him that he chose to stand for the entire four and a half hour class.  

He also refused to remove his sunglasses, referred to his ex as “the bitch” and incorrectly used the words alienate and alienation about half a dozen times. (“It’s not like I’m an alienate. I was born here.”)

I forgot to mention the two Japanese women. They were observing the class because somewhere back in Japan they’re considering implementing this class in Japanese family court. 

The Japanese women asked if each one of us could briefly explain our case. In other words... How did we get here?

This is where things got juicy…

Blondie had been married to a pilot. She accused him of being a cocaine addict (no comment) and bedding a different flight attendant every weekend.

Sally the Homemaker (not her real name, I’m sure) said her husband had left her for the nanny. At one point, she said something about how hard it was to find a good nanny. This prompted the teacher to say, in a very scolding manner, “I would strongly advise against hiring anymore nannies.” I found this extremely hilarious. I confess, I snorted!

Hank the Hillbilly said he’d only hit his ex once. Oddly enough, he took a moment to say he was thankful to his ex for waiting for him “that one time” when he was locked up.  

The (former) Trophy Wife said her ex uses money to push her buttons. The entire class simultaneously rolled their eyes.

The Vegan said the main conflict with her ex was that he treats the boys to a Happy Meal every once in a while.

But my heart went out to Marcie. I call her Marcie because she looked like Peppermint Patty’s best friend from the comic strip, Peanuts. Marcie said her ex had (allegedly) physically abused her son his entire life. Her son is 3.

Me? I just shook my head, meaning “I pass.” But the teacher asked me to reconsider for the sake of our Japanese guests. Yet all I could mumble was, “It’s complicated.”


Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Guest Post for Memoirs of a Single Dad

I was recently asked to guest write for Memoirs of a Single Dad, a very cool site with a blog that I frequently follow. The invite was such a nice surprise, and I was very honored and humbled. (Thank you, Daniel!)

I decided to write about stepping out of my comfort zone. After all, I'd been living outside of "my zone" since the separation last summer. And since then, I've had to learn how to cope. With the ex, with the kids, with my family, with his family and so on and so on.

Below is a nugget from my guest post, but you can click here to read it in its entirety.

* * * * * * * * * * 

It’s six o’clock on a Thursday night. I’m nervous and I’m having second thoughts.

The Chicken Little inside me says, “Don’t go!” The Aztec warrior inside me says, “Do it!”

I’m staring at the mat on the floor. Images of me throwing the damn thing in the closet under the stairs are running through my head. That’s where most things in my house are silenced. Out of sight, out of mind.

The mat I’m referring to is a yoga mat.

In less than one hour I will be attending my first ever yoga class. That’s if I show up. Still undecided…

 * * * * * * * * * * 

After you check out my guest post, I highly recommend you check out MOSD's “The Dating Game” series and the “The Dating Rules of Engagement."

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Idiot is Married

The vehicle in the next lane seemed a bit familiar, but I quickly dismissed it. We’ve been making this morning commute for eight months. All cars start to look the same. 

However, last week, the lil one noticed a car that seemed a little too familiar. It was a SUV. And it was silver.  

Lil one: “Hey, mom, I’ve seen that car before…” 

Me: “Uh huh.”

Lil one: “Mom, there’s a lady driving, but there’s a man...”

Me: “How about spaghetti for dinner…”

Lil one: “Oh my gawd, mom, it’s him!” 

Me: “With garlic bread…”

It was him, the Idiot, sitting in the passenger seat. His wife was driving.

That’s right… The Idiot is married!

First-timers should read, “Three Witnesses and an Idiot,” for reference.

The rest of you may remember the Idiot from an earlier blog post a couple of months ago. I encountered the Idiot while taking my daughter and two nieces (the three witnesses) to school. 

I have to admit, he had cojones to do what he did. How else can you explain his bone-headed, Quagmire move? Maybe that’s his M.O. Maybe there’s a thrill in slowly coming to a stop at a red light and checking out the chicks in the cars next to you.

Little did he know this chick had three witnesses – ages 5, 6 and 9 at the time – in the back seat. 

Now here we were – just me and my daughter this time – on the way to school, sitting at another red light next to a silver SUV.

And there’s the Idiot with his wife!

“Hey, mom, she’s looking this way.”

The idiot’s wife was looking in our direction. So my daughter rolled down her window in the backseat and waved hello. The wife waved back.

Being the smart ass that I am, I rolled down the front, passenger window and waved hello, sporting a big, cheesy smile.

My daughter, proving to be an even bigger smart ass than her momma, made a hand gesture and mouthed the words, “Call me,” to the wife.  

She took a page right out of the Idiot’s playbook and used it perfectly. 

I laughed so hard I hit my head on the steering wheel. I laughed so hard I snorted. I laughed for so long that the car behind me annoyingly honked because the light had turned green and I hadn’t moved.

A few minutes later we’re sitting next to each other at yet another red light and our windows are still down.

This time the lady driving the silver SUV waves to my daughter with a “Aw, look at the cute little girl” look on her face.

She looks at me and says, “Beautiful daughter.” 

I say thank you and I notice two things: Her wedding ring (It’s lovely) and a car seat (Bastard!).

I say, “Nice car.”

She says, “Thanks, it’s my husband’s.”

As she says this, she tilts her head to the side in the direction of the Idiot in the passenger seat – her "husband." This gesture gets his attention and he starts rubber necking our way to see what she’s looking at.

My daughter and I are looking straight at him. As the Idiot finally locks eyes with us, we’re waving at him in unison with the biggest, smart ass smiles you’ve ever seen.

It only took him about a second to remember us. And it was priceless.

He quickly looked away. He wanted nothing to do with us.

And his wife was clueless.

A couple of days later, I had all three witnesses in my backseat again. My daughter told her cousins how we ran into the Idiot earlier in the week.

The six-year-old had a question for me: “If you could talk to the wife, would you tell her what her husband did?”

I said, yes, of course I would.

The five-year-old called me a snitch: “That’s snitching. You shouldn’t be a tattle-tale.”

This had me in stitches. I laughed so hard I hit my head on the steering wheel (again). And then I snorted!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Part 3: My Kid’s Best Friend is a Psychic

I think it’s safe to say that psychic kid has been dealt a shitty deck of tarot cards.

But she’s at my house for two days, out her mother’s (and her mother’s boyfriend's) reach. With that, I was determined to use the next 48 hours to turn my house into freaking Disneyland. Where’s Mickey!

We made cookies. We Wii danced. We watched movies. We went to the movies.

I even cooked. Yes, I cooked!  (Now slowly grab your jaw with both hands and pick it up off the floor. Thank you…)

While setting the table and scolding my kid for acting up (they get brave around friends), out of nowhere, psychic kid says…

“I wish you were my mom.”

I was speechless.

“My mom has been messed up for a long time.”

I had already reached that conclusion.

The pain in my chest was back… My mommy heart hurts… And the lump in my throat is the size of a grapefruit.

This kid may very well be psychic, because as I start formulating new questions in my head she opens up like a book, starting with Day One.   

Grandma made arrangements while psychic kid was still in the womb. The kid was taken away from her mother the day she was born. The grandmother is listed as the mother on her birth certificate. She’s had custody of psychic kid ever since.

After mom gave birth to her, she had psychic kid’s brother a couple of years later. Their dad is M.I.A. Mom had a few more kids with other men. Grandma has custody of ALL of them.

For most of psychic kid’s short life, the mother has had weekend visitation. Until mom’s boyfriend did a most despicable thing. As you may recall, mom chose the boyfriend and her visitation was revoked.

At this point, I’m googling adoption attorneys. What would it take to adopt this kid? How do I approach the subject with Grandma?

I’m evaluating my budget. Could I afford to feed another kid? How much would it cost to furnish the spare bedroom?

Again, reality sinks in.

Psychic kid’s eyes light up when she talks about her grandmother and her siblings and whatever other relatives are living in that teeny, tiny house. 

“Teeny, tiny house” is no exaggeration. Let me put this way, the Big Bad Wolf could certainly blow this house down.

By the end of day two, I can tell she’s anxious to get back home. Grandma is calling more often to check up on her, sharing stories of what’s been going on with her many siblings while she’s been away.  I can hear grandma laughing on the phone and this makes psychic kid happy.

She’s laughing, she’s smiling. She keeps checking the time.

“What time did you say you were taking me home, Miss M?”

She’s asked this question a dozen times in less than an hour.

There’s a family get together (sans the mom) at the Teeny, Tiny House tomorrow and she wants to help get things ready.

You see, despite her circumstances, despite the shitty deck of tarot cards that she’s been dealt, despite her shitty mom, this kid loves her family and they love her, too. Especially Grandma!

I know Grandma is doing the best she can with what’s she’s got. And knowing this warms my heart.

As I drive up to the Teeny, Tiny House, the kids – and there’s a lot of them – start rushing out of the house to greet psychic kid. Grandma is standing in the doorway, hands on her hips, wearing an apron and a huge smile.

Psychic kid jumps out of my car and into their arms. Grandma, still standing in the doorway, has her arms stretched out with a “Come here and get some sugar!” look on her face.

Psychic kid is so excited she forgets her things in the car. My daughter and I take them to the front steps. By this time, psychic kid is out of sight so we head back to the car.

As I open my car door, I feel someone grab me from behind. It’s psychic kid and she’s hugging me.

“Thank you for letting me come over, Miss M. My grandma says thank you, too.”

I look back at Grandma. She’s nodding her head, as if she’s reaffirming what psychic kid is telling me.

I waved good-bye and headed home with one kid, occasionally daydreaming of what it would be like to make psychic kid a part of our family.

* * * * * * * * * *  

It’s been a month since psychic kid spent those two days at my house. The following week I found myself frequently asking my daughter about her. By frequently, I mean every day when I picked her up from school. And by every day I mean several times a day.

But my daughter understood why I was asking. She had overheard enough to put the pieces together.

I used this experience to talk to my daughter about inappropriate touching. I reinforced the things I’ve said over the years about boundaries and her body.

It was received with a lot of rolling of the eyes and a “Here she goes again” attitude. So I grabbed her by the shoulders and gave her the look. Something must have hit home, because then she said this…

“I’m glad you’re my mom.”

My mommy heart is smiling…

I can neither confirm nor deny whether psychic kid is really psychic. What I can confirm is that there’s now a special place in my mommy heart for for this little girl.