Saturday, May 31, 2014


I've hesitated to write this, but I'm going to write this.

Yes, I am one of those women.

I was raped.

When I was in my early 20s, I was raped by a colleague.  We had been out, and yes we drank too much.  We went back to his place, and we were smooching, and that's as far as I wanted it to go.  He made moves, I said no.  He made more moves, I said NO.  He made more moves, and I said NONONO.

He did it anyway.

And then I felt ashamed.  I never should have had too much to drink.  I never should have kissed him in the first place.  I never should have gone to his place.

He raped me, and I felt ashamed.

My friends, that is seriously messed up.  I held it in for years, believing I had invited what he did to me by agreeing to kiss him in the first place, by wanting him to kiss me.

I did not deserve what happened to me.  Do you hear that?  What he did to me was done to me, it was non-consensual, and it was rape, and violent.  I did NOT invite what he did to me. 

Yes, I am all women.


I believe that most men and most women want the same things out of dating.  And when there are sparks, it's fun to kiss a bit, to see if there is further interest.  Not every kiss is destined to end with sex, and not every kiss is an invitation for more.


I run with mace and a big dog.  I meet my dates in public places, and I think carefully about how to dress attractively without "sending the wrong message."  I am very careful about offering even a kiss.  I know how these things can be misconstrued.  I am also very careful not to treat all men like the creep who raped me, because under no circumstances do I believe that all men are like that.

At work last week, someone asked me out.  He doesn't interest me.  I gave him a polite answer, but there was no mistaking my "no."  (MY answer included the word "No."  It did not leave room for debate.)  I was kind, tried to be light but friendly, but gave the "No."  I told him that I wanted to date only people closer to my age, with young children. (He is older with adult children.)  I said, "I'm flattered, but we're not a good fit, so I am declining."  This is how I believe it should be done: I left him his dignity, but I was clear about my "No."

The next day he came in to my office, called me gorgeous (a nice compliment sometimes, but not exactly office chit-chat and it made me uncomfortable), and acted like my "No" had never happened, and started talking about things we'd do together.  My office door was open, people walking by, and I hardly knew what to say.  What part of "no" didn't he understand? 

I then went to my boss.  I'm on the leadership team, and this person is below me.  I said, "I don't want you to hear rumors, because I know people talk.  X asked me out.  I said no, and I'm not interested, and I did not invite his advances."  Because I know that I have to watch my reputation, that this could easily become something I have to account for.  Because I thought I'd better cover my bases, make sure that this didn't reflect poorly on me, because it would NOT be welcomed by my management.  I tried not to get X into trouble, but I also didn't want to get into trouble.  I've been on that end, too.  My boss quizzed me a bit to make sure I hadn't really invited his advances.  My boss made it clear that it was a good thing I told him because he didn't want to hear this kind of rumor.

I was on the receiving end, but I was the one doing damage control.

Because a man who won't take no for an answer is sometimes a man who won't hesitate to say "She asked for it."

I've learned that lesson the hard way.


Don't feel sorry for me.  Don't believe that my story is special.  Don't believe that I feel hard done by - I don't.

These are my realities.  I was raped.  I have learned some lessons since then, that now come seond nature.  I run with mace so that I won't be molested at 5am while getting exercise.  I am careful about my appearance, in order not to send the wrong message even to a man I'm attracted to.  I remain very alert when I'm out on my own.  If I go out with girlfriends and we park in opposite directions, one of us drives the others to their cars so nobody is out alone in a dress and high heels.

And none of that should be my responsibility, but I take it on anyway, because it's what we women do to keep ourselves safe.  It's not fair, and it's not right, but it is what it is.


Here's a news flash: when men send me messages online that are overtly sexual in the very first contact, I block that user.  When men catcall on the street, I ignore them.  I don't go to certain places by myself at night.  I send my friends pre-date messages, "I have a date with a man named Y, his phone number is Z, an we are meeting at (location) at 7pm.  I'll text you by 9pm to let you know I'm okay, and if you don't hear from me then please follow up!"  I've never met a man who contacted his friends the same way before a date, worried about his safety.

The good guys see me take out my phone and say, "Your friends are checking on you?  Good for you - that's smart," because they have mothers and ex-wives and daughters and friends, and they know how it is, and how a girl must be careful.  The jerks say, "What?  You don't trust me?" and my hackles go up and I suddenly do not trust them.


The reason that #YesAllWomen is important is because if I share a confidence with a friend that I was raped once, all too often she whispers "Me too."

The reason that #YesAllWomen is important is because there is a huge amount of attention placed on women doing everything perfectly - my mace, my not-too-sexy outfits - when it really comes down to this:

Men:  No means no.  A short skirt is not an invitation to fuck.  When I walk down the street, I'm not looking for commentary, even if I'm wearing high heels.

Most men know this.  I know that.  Most men aren't pigs, and they don't treat women in these ways, and when they know my rape story they, too, cringe.

Most men know that on a date, when my blouse is a smidge lower than I'd wear to work, it's not proof that I want to sleep with them; that when I invite a kiss, I am only inviting the kiss in that moment, not more.  Most men, when rebuffed, back away instead of insisting that I spend my time with them.

But women encounter ridiculous threats all the time.  Often, a man I'm dating is taller and fifty pounds heavier than I am, so if we're kissing and I say no and he decides it's a yes, the truth is I'm not going to be able to stop him, and that is a reality that I carry with me.  I know that at work I have to protect my reputation, even when all I said was "no" and I wasn't the one initiating dating or encouraging it, because *my* reputation is at risk.


I want to raise my daughter to grow up and love men.  I want her to feel comfortable in her skin, to wear what she wishes.  I want her to feel safe, whether she's in a bikini or in a board room suit.  I want her to experience playful kisses from suitors.  I want her to feel strong and powerful, on an early morning run, or out in the woods with a backpack.  When she says "No," I want her to be heard.  I want her to feel sexy, without feeling at risk of violence, even when she's not in a relationship.  I want that for myself, too.


I don't have answers.  I don't know how to change societal norms that place all the responsibility on women to manage men's behaviors. 

#YesAllWomen.  Even me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Feats of strength

No, I'm not talking about marathon training.  Or even about parenting.  Or about time management.  (Though all of those take great strength.)

Today, it's all about money and budgeting.

Okay, just to be clear, it's always about money and budgeting around here.  From the minute I knew I needed a divorce, I knew money would be an issue.

It is.

Six months of unemployment removed my comfortable buffer, and just typing that out makes me choke.  What's more, my career switch involved a temporary, and very thought out, backwards step in pay.  My last job had little potential and little satisfaction, but it paid more than the current one.  This job gives me tons of satisfaction, but my budget is incredibly tight.  Add to this that my ex hasn't been able to pay child support, and clearly it's not easy.


I have a budget, and I'm pretty good at following it.  It's a decent budget, in that it includes things that I don't really want to budget for, like car maintenance and such.  I've squeezed it and squeezed it to tighten it up, and I fear that it can't be squeezed any more without a major change (like a different job or selling my house).

Facing those numbers requires a great deal of strength.


I'm doing this on a wing and a prayer.  I know that if I stay the course in my career, that in three years my income potential goes up exponentially. I know that even moderate raises will help out.  I know that if my ex pays consistent child support I'll be in better shape.  I'm looking into renting out my basement - it needs some work to make it rentable, and if I can figure out how to pay for that work, it will be a game changer for me.  I am grateful to have that possibility - I know not everyone is so lucky.


It's a weird financial place that I live in.  My friends all make a lot more money than I do; they take great vacations, drive nice cars, get their hair done at fancy salons.  They have big retirement funds and complain about the cost of paying someone to paint their houses.  But I live in a good neighborhood, in a nice enough house, even though I'm scraping pennies together.  I sometimes get invited to the fancy party, or the beach house, and then I feel like I'm one of them, living in that world.  And yet, sometimes I hold the $.79 can of beans in one hand and the $1.19 can of organic beans in the other and I hold a serious debate in my head about whether I value the budget or the lack of pesticides most.  When I go to potluck parties, I offer to bring dessert, because I'm a decent cook and I can make flour and sugar and butter (cheap!) taste delicious....even though I'd rather bring a healthier dish.


I'm moving tiny numbers inside Excel spreadsheets, trying to make the math work out, trying to make my life work out.  I don't want to live in a mental state of deprivation, and the numbers are humbling.  I've held off on going to the dentist and doctor because I don't want to pay the copays, and I don't like that, not a bit.

But I'm determined to make it work.  Some how, some way.  I am going to find the strength to patch it all together and make the life that I'm aiming for.  I don't need excess, but I need to make it work.

I'm working on it.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

24 Hours in a Day, 365 Days in a Year

I am determined to figure this out.

Determined, even though I know my odds of success are practically nil.

"This" is time management.  I want to get all of the important stuff done, live my best life, balance work and play, responsibility and relaxation.  I want to be a great mom, a great employee, a great friend, daughter, athlete.  I want to write, to spend time on my porch swing, time chatting with friends and time alone, time in nature, time in museums.  And I'd like a beautiful relationship in there, too.

It sounds impossible, yet I keep trying.

It occurs to me that we all have exactly the same amount of time each day, and yet some use it more wisely than others.  Why is it that some people seem to do nothing and complain about how busy they are, and others are whirling dervishes that never seem to sit down?  Why is it that some people seem to lead interesting lives, connected to community and their own interests, while others seem to barely function, even with the same financial resources?

We all get the same number of hours each day, the same number of days in a year.  With that in mind, I'm watching those around me who seem to live those days very well, and those who seem to slog away at life, grinding through it all.

This weekend I don't have Katherine, and I'm trying to figure out how to balance all of my goals.  I worked like a maniac this week and I have a very busy week next week at work, so I'm setting work aside on the weekend.  My house needed some serious attention, so I've prioritized that, and I'm trying to visit with friends, get out in nature, etc.

Today I didn't stop - it was a whir of activity.  I didn't come anywhere near catching up, but I did make progress: grocery shopping, meal planning, laundry, changed sheets, exercise, watching Katherine win at gymnastics (yay!), mowing the entire yard (parking strip and all), doing some additional gardening, running errands, and having dinner with a friend.  It is 10:55 and I feel like I'm just sitting down for the first time....

And yet it feels good.  Tomorrow I plan to hike - my favorite relaxation - in the morning, and curl up on the sofa with a book in the afternoon.  Katherine and I will finish up the laundry Sunday night style in front of the TV.  Some chores will remain undone, some goals will be unmet.

But I'm cramming in as much as I can into this life of mine, trying to figure it out.  I'm trying to be responsible - mowing the lawn and all - but not stuck in a rut.  Tricky balancing, I haven't figured it out.  The floors in my house are a mess, needing vacuuming, mopping, vegetable garden is more of a dream than a reality.

But I'm feeling pretty good about the direction I'm headed, even if I haven't arrived at my destination.

Because I am determined to make this work.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mad scrambles and pride

Today I started the day with an offsite meeting, did office work all day, found out that I had dropped a big ball (ohcrapohcrapohcrap) because it was a slip of paper that got buried in a gigantic stack, fixed said problem (think: groveling to a major agency that grants our funding....thank goodness for real, live human beings who understand and are kind), worked with this-is-a-nonprofit-using-crap-for-software technology and made it work, hit another meeting on the way home, chatted with my daughter while making dinner (lemon thyme garlic chicken, thank you very much), and now we're getting ready to eat, then go to the choir concert.

After her little part of the concert, I'll leave, and her dad will pick her up.  It's his night, after all...

And I have an evening work meeting with state representatives to work with them on an event.

High heels, a little black (work appropriate) dress, home made food, too many meetings, and I wouldn't miss the choir concert for the world.

Want to know what it's like to be a single working mom?  This is what it's like.  The parking strip isn't mowed, but the rest of the yard is.  The girl feels loved, and we are well fed.  The laundry remains in two baskets in my bedroom because we were too busy (at a party) on Sunday evening, so we didn't fold it, and I just accept that I will be living out of laundry baskets this week.  (I fold a few pieces every day and put them away.  It still won't be done by Friday.)  The dog is happy to do 5am workouts, sad that they're not every day.  Tonight I will be so tired that I will literally consider crying, but I will decide that I am too tired and I will fall into bed.

It's not perfect.  It's not always good.  But it is my life, and I am proud of the life I'm making.

This weekend I will try to relax a bit, not work.  I will watch my girl do gymnastics, even though it's not "my" weekend, and I will shop for the birthday party present as well, because the ex can't or won't.

And I don't even feel bitter - I just feel tired, along with proud, along with intense relief that I'm able to manage this somehow.


My ex can't do it.  It doesn't occur to him that when he says "I can't feed her before the choir concert" it means that she won't eat before a major performance, and that she won't eat until 8:30pm or so (an eternity to a growing girl - none of her clothes form last month seem to fit at the moment).  It doesn't occur to him that he is essentially saying "I can't so you must."

I was bitter about that - oh, yes, veryveryvery bitter.  But you know what bitterness bought me?  A divorce.  A much needed divorce.  But after the divorce, it doesn't buy me anything, so I let it go.

Yup.  It's unfair, and it's incredible that in this day and age a father should be a "shows up to be the hero" prize, when so much more than showing up is required (and let's be clear, he doesn't always show up, either, only on his every-other-weekend times, and then often late).

But you know what else is unfair?  It's unfair that he can't get his life together, yet I can.

My life is coming together beautifully.  Imperfectly, and yet - here I am.  Strong.  Healthy.  With a loving daughter, who does gymnastics and choir and homework, and she's well loved.


Yesterday I was enraged at the stupid lawn.  Stupid ****ing lawn, actually.  But today?

Today I'm just proud. 

I figured out the lawn.
I figured out the concert.
I'm rocking it at work, and I'm rocking these heels.

My ex?  Not so much.

Who could blame him for being bitter?


PS  I signed in to OkCupid yesterday to quit.  I saw two really great messages from two different guys, and now I'm talking to both of them.  Huh.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The bleepity bleeping mowing

The mowing has become highly symbolic of my inability to get everything done.

Today I got off work early (no problem, I'll just show up early and skip lunch....!) so that I could take Katherine to gymnastics.  It's sunny in my rainy corner of the world, so I decided to drop Katherine off, rush back through rush hour traffic to get home to mow the lawn.  I changed out of a skirt and heels and into the ridiculous rubber boots and a pair of shorts, cleaned up the dog poop in the yard, and pulled out the mower.

It didn't start.

My darling angel, once again, unplugged it to go into the storage area under the porch and use it as a playhouse.

It's a good thing she's not here right now or I'd scream at her - I don't think I could stop myself.

I am so freaking tired.  I have so much work to do for my new job.  And if I can't mow the grass, then why the hell did I come home in rush hour traffic?

Tomorrow is her choir concert, followed by a late work meeting.  Thursday is gymnastics again.


I am independent.  I CAN do it all, even though my yard looks like crap.  My child is fed, loved, educated.  I am the hands on mom with most things.  She eats home made food 90% of the time.  My house is relatively tidy.

But not being able to mow the lawn tonight nearly has me in tears.  I'm doing backflips to get things done by myself, and it's hard, and I could use a break.

All across my pretty city, friends of mine are coming home to partners who fix the salad and man the grill and mow the lawn and help get their kids to sports activities and check homework and make lunches.  Not all at once, of course, and not every day....but they're there, and they're helping.

God help me, tonight I'm jealous.

Mostly I want a partner to have sex with and dive into the alpine lake with; mostly I want someone who gazes into my eyes over candlelight and cares about my feelings and discusses world affairs and culture with me.  Mostly I want someone to travel with, someone to snuggle with on Sunday mornings, someone who brings me a mug of coffee in the morning.

But today?

Today I want someone who will mow the lawn.  Someone who will take a look at the car, because it's making a funny sound and I'm afraid of what the mechanic might say.  Someone who, if I'm at gymnastics with the girl, will fold the two baskets of laundry that await me in my room.

Mostly, I want him to mow the lawn.  And edge the yard.  And replant the rose bushes, because the lavender grew and now they're too close together.

I want someone to say, "Hey!  You're working REALLY hard - I don't know how you do all of that!  You're amazing, but why don't you let me do half of it?"

If someone did 1/8 of it today I'd weep from gratitude.  I can't even imagine what it would be like to have someone who did 1/2 of it, but the mere idea makes me want to tremble.

I did not work during my marriage in part because I had a husband who expected me to do everything else.  Whether it was vacation, Christmas, or anything else, he didn't want to help, even when we had a small child and even when I was sick with cancer treatment.  When we talked about me going back to work and I asked him to help with meals and housework, he said no.  No explanation, just "no."  I proposed that he make 2-3 meals a week - not half! - and he said no.  He was unemployed for major time periods, and he still said no.

It's much easier to do it all by myself when he's not here making me feel bad, criticizing how I do things, complaining about the food I cook.  I'm proud of my ability to do it all, proud that I CAN get things done, more or less.

But this minute?

I wish some fantastic lover would show up and mow my lawn, because it's not done and I have to get back in the car and pick up my daughter from gymnastics.

Follow up, 8pm:

While I wrote that post, the lawnmower was charging, and before I returned to gymnastics I was able to get the front mowed.  I went back to gymnastics to pick up Katherine, scolded her only mildly for unplugging the damned thing (it really is good that she wasn't here when I found her error because I was in a bad mood!), then went back and mowed the back yard.

The parking strip still isn't done because I could not face maneuvering the lawnmower down a few steps to get it done, but the rest of it got done.  And you know what? I always mow my neighbor's adjoining parking strip, every single time, and maybe he'll see it and mow mine this time.  (He won't, as he never has, in all these years.  But I can dream.)

It's good to be able to do all of this.

But I'm tired.

Katherine is in her post-gymnastics shower, and will soon go to bed.  I will, too, as soon as she does.  I'm weary, and in my weariness I'm not my best self: mowing the lawn isn't that big of a deal and I don't know why it set me off.

I am so glad to be working again.

But I am so tired!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Perhaps a bit too independent?

When I was married, I was too dependent.

I was too dependent on Bryan for love, happiness, money.  I pinned all of my dreams on him, and the small family that we created, and I put those dreams above all else.  I was his tax dependent, and I was dependent on his moods for my own sense of security.

That, as we all know, did not go well.

After divorce, I felt gloriously independent: making my own money, caring for Katherine, taking care of what needed to be done around the house, etc.  I felt strong and though I had a ton of responsibilities, I felt carefree.  The burden of carrying someone else's happiness had been lifted (it was a burden because my ex made choice after choice that made him unhappy, and refused to change that pattern, only complained about it, and happiness was an impossibility no matter how hard I worked at it).

I still wanted a partner.  I still wanted someone marvelous to hold my hand, to kiss my neck, to share the ups and downs. I wanted romance, partnership, companionship.

I still do.

Or do I? 

In theory, I do.  I want the happily ever after of romance.  I want the partner, the one I will dream with, sleep with, cook with, hike with, and share life with.

Except that right now it sounds like too much bother.

I have really enjoyed re-earning my independence.  I can hardly believe that I've been able to turn my life around this last couple of years, to make so many changes, and to come out on top.  I love my new life, tiring though it may be, and I'm proud of it.

I love my life so much that I can't imagine bringing someone else into it, as a matter of fact.

I put my profile up on OkCupid about a month ago, and I've received a fair amount of interest, and I have been interested in precisely nobody.  I can't even find people who make me want to write back, not even a hello.  This must be more about me than them, but I can't seem to find one person that I not only find physically attractive, but also intellectually attractive, who fits my lifestyle (active, outdoorsy, lives not too far away, etc.).

It does occur to me that if this is my attitude, I might just be alone forever.

What is so incredibly surprising is that I can live with that, and that it might even sound good.

Maybe I've waited too long to fall in love.  Maybe my standards are too high.  Maybe I'm unlucky in love and resigned to that (not my style, but perhaps subconsciously?).  Maybe I've grown TOO independent, and I enjoy my independence so much that now there's no room for another person...?

I don't know what it is.  But I do know that I can't find a single person I want to go on a date with, and that means I might be alone for a long, long time.

Some dear friends have smiled and said, "Ahhh this means that NOW you're ready to fall in love" and while that sounds quite lovely, it doesn't feel true.

Time will reveal all.  But until then - happily single!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Single Working Mom: When on earth do I mow the lawn?

Dear readers, I've got questions for you (they're at the bottom of this post).  Can you help?

I am relearning my routines as a single, working mom.

I did it before, and I can do it again.  Actually, I'm super excited to be doing it again, because the pieces of my life are slowly coming together, and having the career piece of the puzzle snapped into place is nothing short of marvelous and miraculous.  So, this isn't a's a question.

How on earth do I get all of the necessary things done?  And how do I fit in enough of the fun stuff, balanced with the responsible stuff?  And when do I schedule down time?  Because if I don't schedule down time....oh boy.  I think I might implode on myself, vanishing into a cloud of dust.

I've got my Sunday routine figured out again: I must start the week with the meals completely planned (including twice a week when I can't cook, so there must be something pre-made that Katherine can heat up before I get home to pick her up for gymnastics), and that means the grocery shopping must be done.  I don't have time to do errands during the week, so I need to get them done during the weekend, too.

We've instituted TV night on Sundays....with folding.  We've got a little system of dumping all of our clothes on the sofas, sorting them into two baskets (Katherine's, and mine + household towels etc.), and then folding while we watch The Voice on demand.  It's not total quality time, but it is a way to start the week somewhat prepared but also time to relax.

I get up at the crack of dawn, and I make sure that Katherine has a good breakfast, that I have gallons of coffee, and I make both of our lunches (tortellini is her favorite; salad is mine) and pack them up.  She gets on her school bus, and I hop in the car, and it works pretty well.  In the evenings, there is just enough time to make a simple meal, sit at the table to eat it, and chat a bit before getting ready for bed.

I feel like I'm getting the big stuff done: we're clothed and fed, work and homework are getting done.

But what about the rest of it?  Car washing and lawn mowing and dog brushing?  How on earth do people fit everything in?

I've been working some longer hours, doing a bit of work from home in the mornings and evenings on top of my regular hours; there have been a couple of days when I've needed to arrange extra childcare due to work functions.  That doesn't help, of course.

Tonight I was so tired that I was barely functional; I made a silly mistake while cooking and splattered hot olive oil onto my arm, leaving nasty red marks that burn intensely.  I barely talked to Katherine, too tired to do more than scold her to eat her veggies.

And then I looked at the back yard, and saw that the sun was shining after some days of rain, and the grass was long.  This combination almost made me want to cry: I had no excuse for skipping the lawn mowing (it rained on the weekend, a perfect excuse), but after getting up early, working through lunch, making dinner, etc. I could hardly fathom mowing the lawn at the end of the work day.

I changed into my ugly shorts and a pair of rubber boots (thank goodness our fence is tall because I was a sight) and trudged up and down, mowing.  I couldn't do it tomorrow (gymnastics) or Friday (friends coming for dinner - oh Lord what was I thinking to entertain at my house on a Friday?!), and on Saturday we've got plans and do I really need to mow the lawn on Mother's Day?

I mowed.  I had Katherine clean up the dog poop in the yard first ("Mom, do I HAVE to?") while I did the dinner dishes, and then while I mowed, she swept the hardwoods.  We're regular Cinderella's over here, but she did it with minimal complaining, at least.  (So grateful.)

Surely there is a way to manage all of this without collapsing or losing my mind or letting the balls drop or being a completely boring all work and no play girl.  Please offer suggestions!  I'm thinking about dating (but how? and when?!), and I want to do so much more than function, I want to live a vibrant, amazing life.

Is it just because I'm in the adjustment period?  Surely this will get a bit easier....because this is hard!  And when mowing the lawn starts to look like a Herculean task, I know that something's off.  My yard isn't that big, after all.

These are problems that a zillion middle class women face; I'm not that unusual - I'm just one of many.  These are middle class problems, and I know it.  I own a home, and I have a yard - this makes me fortunate; I have a good job that, while it doesn't make me rich, means I don't worry about putting food on the table.  On the other hand, hiring people to do these jobs is not an option; my budget is of the "I'm never going to retire" variety and there isn't that much wiggle room.

And just to be clear: the yard is just what triggered the post, but it's all of it.  All the many balls that need juggling.

Isn't there a magical cure?

Or some potion that would mean I could live without sleep so that I could just catch up at night?

I'm too tired to read at night, and my copy of The Orchardist (which I'm enjoying a great deal) sits unopened on my bedside table, taunting me, but my eyes are too tired to open it.

I know that the edging is never going to get done and that I'd better figure out some low maintenance shrubs because my gardening is, well, a thing of the past.  The car needs vacuuming, but as long as there's no trash in it, I can live with it.  The house is tidy and the toilet doesn't have a ring in it....but if you're allergic to dust, you'd better avoid this place, because dust is something I just don't seem to deal with very often.  I barely even dream of going to plays or live music, because I don't have the energy, though I did go on a little hike last weekend.

I'm trying to figure out the balance of all of it.

Readers, I'm really hoping you chime in on this one.

How on earth do you do it?  When do you mow the lawn, brush the dog, deep clean the fridge?  How do you do the routine stuff like vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms and making meals and cleaning them up, on top of homework and kids' schedules, without completely losing yourself to the mundane in life?

And how many hours can a single mom reasonably work in a week?  I need to start counting, but I know I'm doing too many to sustain it right now.  I get comp time so it's worth my investing some extra time to bolster my vacation days, but how much can I handle?  Today was my first 8 hour day since starting, and it was only because I was too tired to stay one more minute and I could barely string together a coherent sentence as a result.  (I announced to my boss: I just hit the wall.  He smiled and said, "Go home.")

Guide me.  Commiserate with me.  Make suggestions.  I am listening!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Do Overs: Career, Cancer, Marriage

I thought about titling this post "Second Chances," but that would be silly, because my life has changed many, many, many times, not just two.

But this post is dedicated to anyone who feels in need of a second - or third, or tenth, or twentieth - chance.


Let me tell you something clearly, so that the tone of this doesn't imply the wrong idea: I have needed many do-overs in my life, and I've made a lot of mistakes, and I try to own those mistakes....but *I* am not a mistake, and my life's path isn't a mistake.

My undergraduate degree was in economics, which impressed my parents and made me believe that in my career I would have high earning power; it landed me a job at a major corporation that was in the height of its glory when I worked there, and it's true, I made a bunch of money when I was there.  Unfortunately, I ended up hating my corporate life, and I felt completely disconnected from my work, so I needed a do over.

I went back to school, this time getting a post-bac in English, and I loved every single second of it.  These were clearly "my people" and immersing myself in language, literature, and writing placed me in my element.  I'd fought to get good grades in my econ degree, and I'd fought just to keep going ("Should I skip class?" was a question I pondered several times a day), but in my post-bac I spent as much of my time as possible on school work, reading the extra materials, scheduling meetings with my profs, hanging out in the hallways debating literature with other students.  My grades came easily, and were better than I knew I was capable of: I graduated with a 3.96.  I went on to grad school, where I continued to love my field (this time, a Masters in Education), and continued to excel.

So, was my degree in economics, the struggle to complete it, and the job that I ended up hating a bad idea?  Was I a fool who made bad decisions?


When I returned to work during my divorce (more on that later), I knew I couldn't return to teaching because of the long hours (which would mean getting childcare before and after school, and then grading late into the evening).  It was those early "missteps" that helped me to land on my feet, to use skills I'd earned in my first career to get my life back together, to find a job with flexibility that paid enough to live on and survive that first hard year after separated.  Remembering all the skills I'd attained over the years, applying them to my work, and meeting success in that work, was glorious, and an awakening of sorts.

That undergraduate degree not only paid for the post bac and masters (thank you, stock options), but it gave me a whole lot of experiences that I apply in my current nonprofit job.  My corporate sales experience factored in strongly to my new organization's decision to hire me, just as much as my writing skills and my experiences working with diverse populations.  Without those early "missteps" there is no way I would have been qualified to do the work I am now engaged in....and this is work that I LOVE.  This is work that involves my heart, my mind, and big pieces of my soul.  It's challenging and interesting and, I believe, important.  It won't make me rich, and it won't resolve the ills of humanity, but it is a step in that direction, and it makes me happier than I can express.

This do over has been 25 years in the making, and those watching me probably wondered what the hell I was doing and when I was going to finally get it right.  No doubt I made a million missteps, screwed up in an infinite variety of ways, and I was a slow learner. 

But I can live with that, because along the way I had some fun, learned some lessons, and lived my life.  Here I am, alive and hopeful, and I can support myself and my daughter, and not only that but I love my new career.  I won't take the time to moan about my mistakes, because I'm too busy to look back.


And let's take a moment to talk about cancer, shall we?

I didn't want cancer.  Nobody in their right mind would want cancer, and anybody who has witnessed the chain of events that cancer brings into someone's life knows what I'm talking about.  It took me EIGHT YEARS to get my life back after cancer.  One year of chemo and radiation seemed like hell on earth, but the surgeries and drugs and major scares (leading to dozens of scary tests and scans and several additional surgeries) lasted eight years.  I'm about to celebrate nine years since my cancer diagnosis, and it's only been a year since my last surgery (a complicated biopsy last year; complicated because of its position so it couldn't be done as a needle aspiration).

And I will fully admit: if I could undo the cancer thing, I would.  I hate cancer.  It has killed my friends, threatened to kill me, tainted my daughter's childhood (because when I should have been focusing on having fun with her, I was focused on trying not to die instead).  It stole my breasts (which are replaced with unfeeling silicone blobs) and my nipples (which deserve their own mention, because not only do I no longer have those little protuberances, only flat little tattoos, I also don't have the sexual joy that they once contained).  It put me into menopause at 35, and stole my ovaries, uterus, cervix.  I have a lifelong fight with lymphedema, I'm covered in scars (48 inches last time I counted them up), and I have osteopenia.  My daughter is at higher risk because of our shared DNA, and when she's in her twenties she will have to make some very, very, very scary decisions unless we find a damn cure.

I hate cancer.  And I won't gloss over that, despite what I'm going to say.

But I got cancer, and there's nothing I can do about it, and it doesn't help me to focus on its hatefulness.

Cancer gave me a do over, too.

Cancer ignited something inside of me that had fallen asleep, lost its spark.  Cancer reminded me just how much I care about living my best life - it woke up my desire to LIVE and I don't just mean breathing (although, let's be clear, I like breathing an awful lot).  It taught me how strong I was, it ignited all of my other passions, it reminded me to get out and change the world and my life while I still had a chance.  It changed how I mother, how I eat, how I love, how I live.

My best friends hear me say "I love you" all the time, and I don't care if it's silly to say it so much.  I volunteer in my community all the time.  I run long distances, surprising myself with how far and fast I can go.  I took a risk and changed my whole career, knowing that I am strong and resilient enough to survive that risk, because cancer taught me about that strength and resiliency.  My daughter knows that when crap happens (and let's face it, crap happens) we can turn it into something beautiful (like helping to raise six figures for cancer research).

I hate cancer.  But I love the do over it gave me.


And divorce.  Oh, the bitterness of failed marriage, and all the dreams that rotted and mildewed as that marriage failed.

My Pollyanna self can't help but look for the silver lining, and I knew even in the worst moments of my marriage that I wouldn't undo the past if I could, because then I wouldn't have my beloved Katherine.  I knew that not only my DNA, but also Bryan's, swims in her veins, and that I wouldn't trade her for anything, and that no "perfect life" was imaginable without her.  I love my daughter, and I also like her.  She has her daddy's blue eyes (mine are hazel), and she has so many similarities with her cousins on his side, and nobody else could have made her with me.  I needed Bryan to have Katherine, and I decided immediately that she made it all worthwhile.

But over time, I've come to other realizations about my marriage, too, that have nothing to do with Katherine.

I think I needed to have my failed marriage.  I think I needed all of it: the hopefulness, the pain, the arguments, the lies, the ending.  I needed to experience my failed marriage in order to get my life back.

Writing this, I'm rereading those last words, startled by them, startled by their truth.  They contain deep truths that I'm just now, three years after asking for a divorce, able to face.

Somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that it was my job to do all of the work in a relationship.  Somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that I had to do everything, that I was not deserving of partnership.  I told my partner "Don't yell at me!" but there was a part of me that believed that I deserved to be yelled at somehow.

I believed that nobody would ever love me, and that I'd have to put up with lies to make him want to stay; I believed that he lied to me because I wasn't worthy of more.

Oh good grief.

The new me doesn't believe any of that.  The new me looks back and thinks, "Oh sweetie, you were a wreck!  You poor thing!"

Standing up to my bad marriage, demanding change, and then creating change by ending the marriage (despite my fear that I wouldn't be able to survive as a single working mom) was a do over I needed.  It taught me that not only could I survive, I could create something beautiful out of my life, start accomplishing dreams outside of my marriage that I couldn't manage within it.


Happily ever after usually implies Prince Charming, with the princess in a beautiful new dress and a great hairdo.  I haven't met Prince Charming, and even if I could afford a beautiful new dress and a trip to the salon to do my hair, I don't have any balls to attend.

But thanks to a series of do overs, I do have some happily ever after going on.

I believe that living life as my authentic self, giving the best of myself to the world, my daughter, and myself, and refusing to allow anyone to treat me poorly, and appreciating every breath that I take, is my happily ever after.

I don't have it figured out.  There are money issues, I'm tired a lot, I miss romance, I worry about lots of things (including how all of my do overs, especially divorce, impact Katherine).  I am imperfect, and I can only imagine how many do overs remain in my future, but I suspect I'm not done making mistakes, and only hope that I'll make smaller mistakes in the future, and that I'll still get the chance for additional do overs.

Thank goodness for do overs.


I love "This" by Darius Rucker.  As you contemplate the twists and turns on your life's path, maybe it will inspire you, too.  I hope that you feel lucky today, too, for every door that you had to close.  And if you're still nursing heartbreak over a career run amuck, divorce, illness.....just wonder what it would mean if it was leading you to something even better.  It can happen!  I hope it happens for you....and that you MAKE it happen for you.

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