Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I've been smarting from the "Uncle Dad" thoughts, because I want so much more for my daughter, but I'm observing just exactly how little control I have over that.

But I'm trying to hold on to the positive, and to keep perspective, and I halfway wish that I had not blogged such a bitter post.  It was truthful, but I aim at a higher standard for myself than "only" the truth.

This weekend I was having a conversation with another divorced single parent, the father of one of Katherine's friends.  He asked about how much time Katherine and Bryan spent together, and he nearly fell off his chair when I told him the answer.  "So little?!" he asked.  I nodded.  He continued, "But how do you get any time for yourself?"

I want to say this, very, very, very clearly in response.

Every single minute that I spend with my daughter is a gift and a joy.  Some moments are better than others, as is the case with life, but...

When I think about my divorce, and my relationship to my ex, I am absolutely clear that while his lack of attention towards her hurts her and I wish he'd be the kind of involved father that she deserves, it is absolutely blissful for me that I get to spend most of my free time with my girl.

If I was married, I would take it for granted that I would spend every minute in this house with my child.  Except for a few hours out here and there, I'd be focused on mothering my daughter.  During my marriage, I had to beg for a few hours here and there to get a pedicure or meet a girlfriend for coffee or get some exercise.  Divorced, I get a zillion more hours to myself, and now that Katherine is older, I can leave her at home while I go for a run, and I get every other weekend to myself, which is more than I had before by a long shot.

I worry about money.  I worry about how my relationship to Katherine's father has scarred Katherine for future love.  I worry that his lack of involvement in her day to day life harms her.  I worry that he is a terrible role model of a man, and that our relationship was a terrible role model, and that I have modeled terrible things about how to be a wife and happy person.

But I never, ever, ever worry about spending too much time with my daughter.  Most of our weekdays are spend on "hurry up, you're going to be late for school" and "no you can't have a snack because I'm cooking dinner and I'll finish as quickly as I can so you can eat it" and "let's figure out your homework" and "would you please put your clothes in the hamper," but I don't care.  It is more than made up for with beach walks, kitchen dancing, hikes, ice skating, and simply just being there.

Being there is what I wanted, and I got it.  I'm a lucky woman.


When I run, I head straight to the water, and instantly start scanning the water looking for whales.  I do it instinctively, even though I see them perhaps once every year or two, by no means frequently.

But I'm not disappointed if I don't see them.

Today there was a rumor of a gray whale - not frequently seen here - nearby, so I decided to run where it had been sighted.  My head was turned towards the water the whole time, and it occurred to me that I could trip as a result, but I didn't care.  I kept looking.

I didn't see a whale.

But I did see a sea lion, and a seal.  And a bunch of Canadian geese, one of whom landed in the water close to me in a comical way, feet extended and awkward, making me laugh.  And cormorants, and brandts, and seagulls, and other sea birds I couldn't identify.  Some friendly divers coming out of the sea, and a handsome Coast Guard crew washing down their boat.  Several other hopeful whale watchers, armed with cameras and binoculars, all smiling and answering "not yet!" to my question "have you seen it yet?"  On the way back, the sea lions out on the buoys were barking, cheering me on.

I didn't see a whale, but how could I complain?

It's all in the perspective.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Uncle Dad

It was Katherine's weekend with Bryan.

When he picked her up, he was in a mood - I didn't know why, only that he was impatient and abrupt.

When he brought her home to me, he was impatient and abrupt again.  He snapped at me, snapped at her.  He said "She didn't finish her math homework," and I said, "Umm, okay, how come?" and he launched into how maybe if she had to do homework on the weekends then she was too overscheduled and there was too much homework and....he was yelling as he got into his car so I'm not really sure what the gist of his argument was.

My daughter has an Uncle Dad.  He's a babysitter in a pinch, but he is pretty hands off when it comes to actual parenting.

He doesn't do homework, bedtime, nutrition, teeth brushing.  He doesn't remind her to wear her retainer, or make her do any chores (he no longer invites me to his apartment and I'm 99.9% certain that is because it is a sty).  He is resentful that she has gymnastics on his night (for the record, she has it three times a week, and two of those nights are my night, so it's not like he got the shaft).  He sends her to playdates as often as he can, often overnight, so that he ends up having her at his place on average two nights per month.

Two nights per month, and he acts like she's the center of his life.

She's not overscheduled.  She does three hours of activities per week, and it's all for one thing, that thing that she loves the most, that she begs to do, that she's proud of.  And her school doesn't have as much homework as many.  But it overwhelms Bryan, not Katherine.  She's fine with it (great, actually) and it's he who is struggling.

So, tonight when she came home - early, I might add - I said cheerfully, "Okay, you know the rules.  You've got to get your homework done, so instead of hanging out together you need to do that."  I swallowed down the ugly feelings about that - I missed her and was looking forward to time together - and coached her through story problems (well at least I got that).  At bedtime, I said, "Did you wear your retainer this weekend?"  Um, no.  "Did you read?" (School requirement.)  Um, no.

She and I had a short conversation about cultivating her own responsibility, whether she's with me or someone else.  I reminded her why I thought that teeth brushing, and retainers, and homework, were all important, and I also reminded her that she doesn't like doing homework on a Sunday night at the last minute, but that whether she did it at Dad's or not, she'd have to get it done.  She agreed, and said, "Well, I guess I learned my lesson the hard way, because tonight I wished I was already done."


I wish I gave my daughter a father who was engaged in his child's life, who saw his responsibilities as joys.  I wish I wasn't the one who had to be the heavy all the time, giving up fun time together because ALL of the teaching of discipline etc. falls to me.

But I'm so grateful that I get so much time with my daughter, that I have the tools that it takes to teach her, that I find joy in it.


Does your child have an Uncle Dad?  How do you honor their relationship, while still teaching your child lessons about how to behave?  How damaging is it to have households with totally different rules and expectations?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Perfectly Wonderful Imperfection

I keep waiting for the day when my life is perfect.  In that vision of my life, not only would my entire house be clean all at once, with the junk drawer cleaned out and not a speck of dust and all of the laundry caught up, but the garden would be in full bloom, the dog would be fresh from the groomer's, the car would be tuned up and full of gas, the fridge would be bursting with home cooked meals just needing their final touches; but also Katherine would bring home straight A's and announce to me, "Mama, I couldn't have done it without your help!  Thank you for being the most supportive, thoughtful mom in the whole world."  On that same day, I'd receive notice from my new publisher that the NYT wanted to review my new book, that I brought in a major donor for my new job (which saves the world, but also which provides me with intellectual stimulation, incredible colleagues, and a boss who is both mentor and friend).  To celebrate such a good day, Katherine and I would invite over my hot boyfriend and his kids (miraculously, not only is this imaginary boyfriend gorgeous, a tiger in the sack, compassionate, thoughtful, and passionate about his life, but he also shares my parenting philosophies and I find his children absolutely delightful) along with a couple of close friends and we'd open champagne and snack on crudité and gougeres, and probably dance around the house, spontaneously bursting into song (with three part harmonies).  In this vision, I have no fat around my mid-section and my skin and hair is decidedly better than it is in real life.

So.  Sounds good, hmm?  And I'm fully aware that it will never, ever, ever happen.

What a relief.

I am learning how to find the perfection of my imperfect life, and how to set aside my "if only..." dreams to notice what is perfectly wonderful in the here and now, not in some non-existent fairy tale that no human being can ever achieve.

I'm learning how to appreciate a clean-enough house.  I used to vacuum daily, which sounds OCD until you see the amount of hair my large dog can shed, but now I settle for once a week (twice if there's company).  My floors are never spotless, and this has irked me for years....but not any more.  My house is lived in, and when my friends show up with their big dog and our dogs race to the back door to go play in the yard together, skidding across my kitchen floor with their big doggy smiles, it's okay.  The floor isn't perfect, but the life is perfectly wonderful.

The fridge may not be stocked with pre-prepared home made meals, but there's always enough in there to create something.  Just move aside that shriveled lime (oops how long has that been there!) and there are carrots and celery and onions and potatoes, and there's some chicken, and I can throw together a soup....

My daughter continues to roll her eyes at me - this morning was particularly eye rolling for some reason - but when we went sledding this weekend she forgot how uncool I was and just giggled with me.

I'm 5'7" and a size 4 (happy dance!!!), but I've got a belly fat that refuses to go away.  I can live with it.  I am healthy and strong, and if someone is turned off because I don't have a six pack then oh well.

I don't have the energy to write 1/100 of what I wish to, but daily someone reaches out to me about my blog, and I am touched and grateful.

And the man?  He doesn't exist, and I haven't met someone who comes close.  I'm still not dating, focusing on my career instead.

I don't have the job - ack, panic, panic, PANIC! - but I have hope.  I'm in my skirt and blouse now, prepared for yet another interview, just using up a half hour before I leave (because if I think about it any more my head will explode, so I'm spending time here instead), and I'm so grateful that another great organization wants to talk to me.

I'm learning to accept that imperfection can still be glorious, that things can be broken or lost, confusing and mixed up, but still quite incredibly good.

Embracing the imperfect is new to me.  But I like it.  I'm still striving, but I'm trying not to strive so hard that I forget how good it is RIGHT NOW.


What imperfections in your life are you accepting and learning to embrace?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Defining who I wish to be

I love any chance to celebrate.  Big or small, I wish to celebrate it.

Some days, I feel like my ability to merely get out of bed is celebration worthy, because that's about all I can manage.

Some days, there are big things to celebrate, like babies or health or a new job (not yet, getting close) or a child's report card.  Every day that I manage to work, mother, clean my house, exercise, and offer some modicum of kindness to others is a day I consider a major victory, and I fall into bed on those days with a celebratory heart.

I celebrate birthdays, holidays, friends' successes, love....anything I can find to celebrate, I try to mark the occasion.  Katherine getting her braces off, the first day of vacation, the first snow....all celebration worthy. Setting up the Christmas tree is a celebration, but in its own way, so is taking it down (because I love the way the house suddenly feels decluttered and fresh and new again).

New Year's is a good chance to celebrate, and so I do.

On the actual evening, I celebrated with friends, dogs, kids.  I wore my sparkly top and my cutest jeans, and we spent the evening with friends, food, candlelight, Prosecco.

But I want to celebrate it more than that.  2013 was a year of incredible growth for me: a year when wonderful things happened, where there were also giant challenges.  2014 promises to bring more growth, more wonderful things, and likely some challenges as well.

New Year's is known for resolutions, and I celebrate that tradition fiercely.  The symbolic turning of the page fills me with happiness: we all need fresh starts, and symbolic or otherwise, New Year's is a chance to start anew.  I am so glad for the reminder to think about my life in fresh ways, to reimagine myself, to focus on what matters to me.  Here's a list, likely only a partial one, of things that I'm working on in 2014:

1.  Spending my reading time on things worthy of notice, spending my video time on the same.  This past year I fell into a sloppy habit on both, so tired that it seemed like all I could manage.  I'm weaning from Facebook and the internet rabbit hole, trying to spend my life on things I deem more important to me.  Classic movies, foreign films, indie films - that's my style.  Literary fiction, nonfiction, anything written well like The New Yorker or Vogue - that's my style.  The nonsense that I've wallowed in lately doesn't suit me and I'm opting out of it.  If I'm that tired, I should sleep, not waste my time.

2.  I'm going to move my body every day.  This is not a "get fit" resolution, because my body is leaner than ever, and I'm proud of my ability to run long distances, and excited to run a marathon soon.  But I have noticed that every minute that I spend moving, especially outdoors, improves my outlook and my life in general.  My dog can no longer keep up with me, and he needs walking, and I need the bliss of yoga, and I want to snowshoe, ski, hike, backpack, swim, cycle, boogie board....I will move, five minutes or five hours in a row, but I will move my body daily.

3.  I'm going to play more with Katherine.  We do a pretty good job of it, but I'm going to do a better job of it.  She's almost eleven, and every day she is more independent, and this is how it should be...but she's not done with me yet, nor I with her.  I refuse to get caught up in the busyrushrush to the degree that we lose the fun, the joy, the playfulness.  I value play, and I value it deeply.  I want to celebrate playfulness with my daughter: she can join me on all that moving of bodies, and there's a park with a zipline, and beaches for beachcombing, and museums, and ethnic restaurants with foods we've never yet tried, and movies and board games and weekend trips and exploring.  Big and small, I will celebrate life with my daughter every single day.

4.  I'm going to work at a job that feeds my soul and helps to save the world, while taking care of Katherine and I.  I'm going to start a trickle into my retirement fund again (my feelings on that are worth an entire post), a trickle into Katherine's college fund, and I'm going to rebuild my financial life to have the freedom to care for what needs caring for, with a little extra for skiing or weekends away or such.  I will not give up on that, and I'm getting closer.

5.  I will stop being a martyr.  I martyred myself within my marriage, and before that my family taught me how to do it.  Someone who has become dear to me through the miracle of the internet, a female friend (hello, H) has me thinking about this, has shared her story, and has reminded me of the importance of avoiding martyrdom.  I am extremely capable, and no matter what disastrous, festering stench is placed in front of me, I will find a way to manage it, to smile a little, and to try not to let anyone down.  Where am I in all of that?  Holding my head high because I have not let anyone down, but so lost, and feeling horribly unsupported.  Sometimes in taking care of myself and everyone else, I am lost.  I will stand proud in the future, and invite only those who wish to pitch in when help is needed to my life.  I know how to find these people - my girlfriends are amazing, strong, proud, incredible and help me so much, but my family of origin and my ex-husband....well, there's a book in there that I don't want to write.  I am setting that aside this year, working hard at remembering the lessons and learning new ones.  I am done being a martyr.  I matter, too.

I count my blessings constantly.  My life is good.  I can't wait to see what 2014 brings, and what my new resolve adds to my life.  I will do it all, every last bit, with joy and integrity, with growth and dedication, and I will laugh a lot.  I will keep redefining myself, shaping the person I wish to be.

And if love wishes to find me, I will remain open to it!

Again, happy new year.  Wishing you a beautiful, glorious, wonderful year ahead.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Happy New Year, everyone.

This year, I will try to be the best me that I can be.  I will try to give my heart to all that I do, to be responsible yet playful, active and involved but still take time for quiet.  I will try to be the kind of mother that Katherine deserves.  I will try to be the kind of woman I admire, the kind that the world needs.  I will try to be my best self.

I will also try to be patient with my life, knowing that I can not predict it or force the outcomes.  I will try to be grateful for what I do have, and appreciate my bounty even when I work for more.

I will hope for the kind of partner I dream of, but live in such a way that I am happy without him.  Tricky territory, hard to do that, but I will try.

Wishing you your best you in 2014, too.