Saturday, June 18, 2011

Honoring my mother on Father’s Day

It started a few days ago when I saw a picture of my grandfather. My mom and my aunt each used different photos of my grandfather as profile pictures on Facebook. After all, it was the week leading up to Father’s Day, and they loved him dearly. 

One by one friends changed their profile pics, honoring their fathers, making an unspoken declaration: “My father was a good man.”

You see, if he was a bad man, you wouldn’t give up the coveted “profile pic” spot. Let’s face it; that piece of real estate is a big deal on Facebook.

As I notice each alert (“So and so has changed their profile picture”), it brings back a familiar feeling from when I was a little girl, the feeling of being left out.

In grade school, while my friends bragged about their dad near the monkey bars, I stood nearby in silence. An overwhelming nervousness would overcome my entire body, almost to a near panic. And in my silence, a herd of thoughts would run through my head, my eyes darting from side to side.

“I wonder if they know what my dad is really like.”

“Maybe their dad is like that and they’re just making stuff up.”

“Maybe I should make up stuff, too!” 

“Are they getting suspicious? Should I just say something, anything?” 

But I never partook in the dad bragging ritual on the playground. And I can’t partake in it on the social media playground either.

“My father was a good bad man.”

Thank God for my mother. She was more of a man than my father ever was. And I mean that in the most complimentary way. If my mom is reading this now, which she is, (Hi, Mom!) she’ll read this with the most understanding heart because she gets me.  

Despite my father’s sins, I turned out OK. I have my mom to thank for that. She was my mother and my father. She was the disciplinary, the consoler and the provider. (This piece of history repeats itself in my own failed marriage, but more on that later.)

I’ve come to realize that my mom was literally the only adult in the house. When she says she was raising three children, I get it. She was raising me, my brother and my father.

When I told her that my marriage had unraveled, that I had done everything I could to save it and that I was moving out with the kids because he refused to leave, I told that I needed two things from her:
1.       I needed her to accept my decision.
2.       I needed her to not ask questions. I was too fragile. 

She then did the most beautiful thing. Without judgment, she said, “Tell me what I can do to help you.”

From that moment on, she’s been there for me in every sense of the word “there.” As in “there” to pick up my kid from school when my ex said he would then didn’t and “there” to pass me the tissue box, hold me and tell me that everything’s going to be OK. 

So in honor of my mother, I’ve dedicated my profile pic on my (private) Facebook page with a photo of a beautiful young woman in her 20s, wearing a peach-colored, polyester a-line dress, holding hands with her then 4-year-old daughter.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you mom and Happy Father’s Day.

Te quiero mucho, mami

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My neighbors suck as dog owners (and as neighbors)

Dear Neighbors:

Once again, I was awakened by the high-pitched yapping of your small dog and the grunting of your big dog at 5:30 in the freakin morning. (You’ll understand the grunting reference in a minute.)

Of all days, my youngest picked today to sleep in until 8:30 a.m. You see, my kid sleeping in until 8:30 is like a gift from God. It’s a really awesome change of pace – really, really, really awesome -- from the usual 7 a.m. wake-up call, especially in the summer when they flip the script on you. You can’t drag them out of bed for school in the morning but they’re up at the crack of dawn in the summer.

Do you know what a kid’s wake-up call is like? That’s when you’re sound asleep, but you suddenly sense someone staring at you in the dark. When you finally open one sleepy eye, your kid is standing mere inches from your face with a wild look on her face like that kid from The Poltergeist. Your heart nearly jumps out of your chest and you just about jump out of your PJ’s.

OK, so “PJ’s” isn’t entirely accurate (more like gray sweats with holes at the knees (and crotch but not in a sexy way) and an old softball t-shirt from 1997). 

I don’t blame “Yippy” and “Bully” for waking me up from a sound sleep. Oh yeah, I’ve nicknamed them, just so you know.

I blame you -- for failing to protect “Yippy” from “Bully!”

You see at first, I thought it was just a whiny, little dog bitching to go back inside into his air conditioned people house. Until I looked out my bedroom window and witnessed the horror!

That’s when I saw “Bully” trying to mount “Yippy” from the back – yes, doggy style! Guess what “Bully?” “Yippy’s” a boy!

If “Yippy” could talk, I’m sure he’d yell, “Rape!”

Side note: When I explained to my mother why I was so tired she immediately asked if “Yippy” and “Bully” were gay dogs (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). But when she said the words, “gay dog sex,” I knew the conversation had gone south and decided it was best to end our phone call.

Most people in my position would want to take out the dogs. Me? That’s not my style.

I’d prefer to go all Carrie Underwood on your ass and key that shiny, new truck that you keep parking in front of my house, even though there’s plenty of room in front of your house and you have a two-car garage. 

But nooooooooooooooo! You park that gas guzzler right in front of my house EVVV-ER-EEE… DAMN... DAY!  

Pssst! Neighbor husband… Every morning, as soon as you drive off in your shiny, new truck, another man drives up in an older red, pick-up truck. Just an observation…   

Pssst! Neighbor wife… YOU CAN’T SING!  So stop with the karaoke parties in the back yard. No one, and I mean no one, in your circle of family and friends is American Idol-bound so please either stop singing (the preferred choice) or take the party inside. “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor! Really?!?!

In closing, you both suck.


Two Kids and a Fish Lizard

P.S. The fish died a few months ago (RIP Kanishiwa) and the lizard I saved from drowning in our pool won’t go away. At least he doesn’t bark and he doesn’t hump other lizards!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The very first kiss

He grabbed me by the hips and pulled me in, closer to him. With all certainty and without warning, he kissed me for the very first time. From that moment on, I was his.

“He’s the one,” I said to myself. “This is the man I’m going to marry.”  

It’s been 26 years since that first kiss, but I remember every detail, like a scene from my favorite movie. A year ago today, after another round of verbally abusing me in front of the kids, I asked him for I told him that I was divorcing him. Sadly, I remember every scene from this movie, too. 

Still, I remember everything from the night of our first kiss… the sounds, the smells, the smell of “him.”

More than anything, I remember how that kiss made me feel. I may never experience that feeling again. I may never allow myself to. 

Even as I write this, I’m asking myself why. Why am I putting myself through this? After all, going down memory lane can be a bitch. Plus, I’m out of wine.  

But this is my way of letting go, at my own pace. The tears streaming down my face and the pain in my chest remind me that I’m not ready to completely let it go. And that’s OK. I’ll get there.  But I know I’m getting closer. With each day I get stronger and I embrace my newfound freedom a little bit more.

When I see him now, it’s just sad. What was and what could have been is long gone. He’s not the man he used to be and there’s nothing I can do about it. I have to let that go, too.

And I will, one day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Why does Daddy lie to me?

“Why does Daddy lie to me?”

These six little words dangled in the air for what seemed like an eternity. That’s how long it took me to exhale.

Meanwhile, the hamster wheel in my head was working overtime. This was such an important question and I didn’t want to blow it.

When she was younger, I anticipated the questions she would one day ask. 

“Where do babies come from?”  “Is Santa real?”   

I never imagined that she would ask such a question. I never imagined getting divorced either, but well, here we are. Yet there she was in my arms, looking up at me with her tear-filled eyes, anxiously waiting for an answer.

“Why, Mom? Why?”

How do you answer? What can a parent possibly say in this situation? What should a parent say? Do you tell the truth?

“Sweetie, Daddy’s been lying for so long he wouldn’t know the truth if it walked up and smacked him in his lying face.”  

No, you don’t say that (*sigh*). You take the high road. Besides, I don’t need my child filling up her trauma egg before she hits middle school. There will be plenty of time for that after college.

Instead, I listened. I acknowledged her feelings. And I reminded her that she can’t “fix” Daddy.  (Lord knows I tried!) Only Daddy can fix Daddy.   

It’s sad, really sad, to watch your child come to the self realization that her father has been lying to her. And the look in her eyes is something I’ll never forget.  

I realize every kid eventually comes to the conclusion that their parents aren’t perfect.  But that moment should happen like a Chevy Chase movie. Dad picks you up from school wearing black socks with sandals. Mom tries to do the running man at your school dance while chaperoning.

Yup, sooner or later it eventually happens. For the sake our children, we should do our damnedest to make that moment happens later, not sooner. That's what the teen years are for, am I right?

I pray to God I handled this appropriately. This is all new territory for me.

In the meantime, I’m on my way to talk to my ex about his lying and how it’s affecting our daughter. Wish me luck…  

*Has your child ever asked, “Why does mommy/daddy lie to me?”
*How did you handle this with your child?
*Did you talk to your ex about the lying?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Family vacation 2005: The good, the bad and the ugly

Today was a good day. I got the magic e-mail from the ex containing two letters (“OK”), which gave me the green light to take my little one out of state for vacation next month. Just me and my two girls, which will be a huge change of pace for us.

The last family vacation included a caravan of two minivans and one SUV transporting 15 people to southern California. It was the summer of 2005.

The caravan traveled like a well-oiled machine, each vehicle traveling at a safe speed and each one staying within view of each other. Gas ups and pit stops were coordinated via walkie talkies. (I’m not kidding.)

It was a vacation I’ll never forget. I can’t. No matter how hard I try. The memories -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- are etched in my mind forever.

It was an aggressive itinerary. See every zoo and theme park between San Diego and Anaheim in five days.

By the time we got to Anaheim, the clan had grown from 15 to 18. No, we didn’t reproduce that quickly, although we are Latino so I can understand how the thought would cross your mind. Three more family members drove up and merged at Disneyland.

The family vacation culminated with a cat fight along with the parade route at Disneyland. The aggressor quickly became the unfortunate victim: an unusually, tall Indian woman who had no idea what she was walking into. (She should have just kept walking. Why didn’t she just keep walking?)

To be honest, she was a bully. But she picked the wrong family.

To make a long story short, she crossed our invisible territorial line made up of mostly strollers, diaper bags and blankets. We had planted ourselves along the parade route three hours before the parade even started at the suggestion of one family member.

“There’s so many of us so let’s stake out our space early so we can stay together to watch the parade.”

Sounded like a good idea at the time. So instead of letting the kids enjoy one more ride on Space Mountain, we forced them to sprawl themselves across the sidewalk as we strategically planted the before mentioned strollers, diaper bags and blankets.

Here’s the thing about making kids wait for three hours. They don’t want to! They get hungry. They have to pee. They get bored.

Little by little, clan members were disappearing. Some took kids to the bathroom. Some ventured into the gift shop. The few of us who didn’t stray were left to hold down the fort. Literally.

Enter unusually, tall Indian woman and her friend. Both pushing strollers.

As they crossed the invisible state line into our clan’s territory, they kicked our diaper bags and blankets out of the way, nearly hitting a couple of our clan kids. Then the really tall one grabbed two of our strollers, one with each hand, and pushed them into the “parade” street.  

I quickly panned the faces of our clan members. It was a unanimous, “Oh hell noooooo!”

It got ugly. It got ugly fast.  

The gloves were already off, but things got even crazier when the unusually, tall Indian woman threw the first racial blow.  Her friend, the smart one, had bailed on her moments after the shouting match over “parade space” had started.

Then the unusually, tall Indian woman said something about “you people” and “go back to Mexico.”  Somebody from our clan said something about the red dot on her head.

Like I said, it got ugly. It was an international war of words in three different languages.

While Mexico vs. India was going down, I was on my cell phone trying to resolve an issue that had come up at work. The client heard most of the commotion, but he knew I was taking time out of my vacation to help. So I explained the ruckus by saying I was standing near some crazy family at Disneyland. I wasn’t lying.

The unusually, tall Indian woman finally walked away, licking her wounds, only to cross the “parade” street and kick another family's things out of the way. She then planted herself in their spot. They just watched as their things were swiftly kicked to the side. And they did nothing.

By the time we left the “happiest place on earth,” we were at each other’s throats. On the road back, the caravan had gone to hell. No one answered their walkie talkie and pieces of the caravan were making unscheduled gas ups and pit stops, pissing off the other drivers.

At one pit stop, family members were swapping vehicles because someone in their vehicle had pissed them off. Needless to say, there hasn’t been a mega family, caravan vacation since.

But this family vacation will be different. One car, three passengers. No parades. No walkie talkies.