Friday, December 26, 2014

The Passage of Time

The older I get, the more I am struck by the passage of time.  The old adage "the days are long but the years are short" certainly has a truth to it: I fall into bed most nights just exhausted and wondering how I will make it through a long week, but the years have a mind of their own and play tricks on me, going faster than seems possible.

My beautiful daughter is changing before my eyes, and this is the most obvious change of all.  At nearly twelve, her changes are happening faster and faster, and some days I think that she goes to bed a child and wakes up a woman, repeating the phenomenon daily as she goes back and forth between the two.  She is often graceful, thoughtful, and articulate, showing great leadership qualities, but then fifteen seconds later she is collapsing in giggles because of something juvenile like the dog farting.  She alternately acts like a teenager - all pop music and "the right clothes" (a category that, as her mother, I do not have access to: I can only rest assured that if I say, "That's cute!" I will hear "MOOOOMMMMM!  No!") - and childish, with a rediscovered love of My Little Pony and a need to climb every tree within reach.

It's a magical stage.  I have access to her childhood and to her future simultaneously.  I am reminded of the tiny child I brought home - and she was tiny, and stayed that way for a while, not reaching ten pounds until she was two and a half months old - and the woman who will one day be my friend, back and forth, all day every day.  She is smart and funny and plays word games with me and brings up ideas I hadn't thought of, but she's also still a child,

On Christmas Eve, she got her first period.  (A statement of fact that would MORTIFY her if she knew I'd written it here, but she has no access to this blog or knowledge of it, and as I blog anonymously I think I'm okay saying it.)  She handled it with maturity, managing the details and then casually mentioning to me by saying, "Well, I just got a Christmas present that I was NOT expecting!"  In some cultures, this would mean that she was ready for marriage.  I am grateful that we are not in one of those cultures!  I will not try to stop time, but nor do I have the slightest desire to speed it up.

We will celebrate her milestone by having a mother-daughter dinner at a restaurant that we've never been to before, but is famous in our city.  I can't afford it, of course (it's crazy-expensive) but I will do it anyway, because it's a major milestone for her, and I want her to embrace it, and to feel the marking of this moment, and to feel celebrated.  I am celebrating alongside her, with my breath catching in my throat, a combined shock that she is of this age, and pure joy that I am alive to witness this next phase.  When I was diagnosed with cancer, my prayer was "please let me get her through kindergarten!" and this is so much better than that.  Whoever wrote "It's not the number of breaths you take, but the number of moments that take your breath away" doesn't understand my life at all: every single day is filled with breathtaking moments, and I want ALL of them.  How can I have more breathtaking moments if I'm not here to live them?  I intend to fully celebrate all that is good in my life, so that is what I will keep doing.


I have been told, over and over, by parents "in the know", that "JUST YOU WAIT!" and that when Katherine got her period she would turn into a she-monster and our relationship would fall apart, or at least in the months leading up to the event things would be terrible.  My mother - not realizing that the event had already happened - actually said as much again just yesterday.  I have never been so happy to prove everyone wrong.  My relationship with Katherine has never been better, and I have deep faith that we will continue on this path.


Bryan hasn't lived in this house for two and a half years - both a blink of an eye and an eternity.  This Christmas, his presence at the holiday and in my home was a non-issue for me.  I actually told Katherine, "I hope you don't think that this is weird, but now Dad feels like just another part of the family, like my brother or my cousin.  I can't imagine being married to him anymore, but it's easy to have him around."  Katherine laughed and said that was fine and that she was glad we don't argue anymore.  Me too, sweetheart, me too.


Another year is nearly ready to be put to rest.  This weekend, I will put away all of the Christmas clutter, sweep away the needles from the tree, plump up the pillows, and face the new year head on.  This in-between time is always a time of reflection for me, remembering the highlights and lowlights of the year behind, and dreaming of the year ahead.

I want to live my life fully in every way.  I want to feel my life, to savor it, to notice its happenings.  I want to celebrate every single tiny thing that is worth celebrating, and I do not wish to be be afraid to mourn what must be mourned.  Most of all, I want to notice how much excess of celebration I have been granted, so that I can see that the mourning is not so hard.

Happy in-between time to you, too.  As we put away the contents of 2014 and look ahead to 2015, I hope that you have more to celebrate than to mourn as well.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Preparing for 2015

2014 is slowly closing, and it feels like this has been a big year.

I opened the year unemployed, feeling determined but very, very frightened.  I was ecstatic when I gained admittance into the new career path with a new job in April, and I have to say that I'm still very proud of myself for getting that going.  It was definitely a year where career was the focus: a year of learning, of taking some bumps, of navigating new territory.  I am closing this year on some high notes, though: I have certainly proven that I can do my job well, and I've also got people encouraging me to get the next job....and I'm pretty damned excited about that.  I am so grateful to be on this path, and I'm excited about what the next year will bring.  I've lined up some meetings in January that might lead to new jobs, and I plan to be in a new job - with a major pay increase, functional (and not dysfunctional!) work environment, mentors, and colleagues as a Major Gifts Officer.  Being a development director for a small organization has been informative, but I don't particularly love wearing many hats, and I feel pulled in a hundred different directions (many of which don't interest me); I want to focus on the part of my job I love the best, and since there are many jobs like that, I'm going for it.

Unemployment created serious financial instability, and I am proud of myself for stabilizing after that.  I've paid off all but a few hundred dollars in debt, and I'm meeting all of my obligations.  I'm proud of that, because it hasn't been easy.  I've stretched myself to get the new car, and I'm stretching myself to go skiing with the ski passes that came free with that car (thank you, Subaru!).  In 2015, I intend to get such a raise that those thins won't feel like such a stretch.  In 2015, I'm going to work on savings: retirement, college, and general savings....and I'm still going to have enough money to travel a smidge, and to ski again next year (even without free ski passes!).  That's my plan, and I think it's more than just a hope, it's a real possibility, and I'm going to work hard to reach it.  A year from now, I expect a very different financial picture in my life, and I'm excited for it.  I will remain in nonprofit, doing what I love, but I will be paid more fairly than I am now.  I can't wait.

Katherine entered middle school this year, and she's grown so much physically - she's over five feet tall now, and growing before my eyes.  Our relationship is better than it has ever been, and I'm stunned at how much she has matured, and what a good person she is.  I have never loved her more.  I hope and pray that we can stay on this path, because I'm very tired of hearing, "Oh, just you wait....!" over and over again.  I am very hopeful that we will break stereotypes, and that we won't have teenager/mother drama.

I started the year incredibly strong in my fitness, and sadly it declined.  I can't run ten miles any more and I"m not sure I could run five, but I'm working on it.  I plan for another half marathon in the late spring, and I'm ready to attack that again.  I worked out five times last week, and that counts for something!  2015 will see me in a return to half marathon fitness, doing a ten (or more) mile run every weekend.  I feel better when I'm doing that, so I will.  This time, I'll be more balanced, though, striving not as much for speed but for consistency in my workouts.  I will ski all winter, hike all summer, and fill in between with running.  I feel good about that plan, and like it has more balance.  (I dream of yoga, too.  I need a plan for that....)

The year fell a bit flat in travel; I didn't get on a plane even once.  I intend to change that.  I did spent a week in the islands on a boat, even with the company of whales, and that was blissful.  I hiked, and I camped.  There were weekend trips.  All was not lost, and good times were had!

The year fell extremely flat in the romance department.  It was almost non-existent, actually.  But on the romance front, I have no goals.  I don't know what I want - I am so quick to push people away, and meet so few people without whom I feel an attraction.  I feel like I've got some lesson to learn, and it makes me sad to think I might spend the entire next year alone, but I am determined to use my life wisely, and I don't have it figured out.  I'm trying to feel Zen about it, to accept whatever will be, and to remain open to the possibilities.

It wasn't a perfect year...but it was a good one.  I remained in good health.  My daughter thrived.  I supported myself, even through some rough months.

2015 promises to be an AMAZING year, and I am ready.

But first, the joys and busy days of Christmas.  I have a week at home - a staycation - and so far I've used every minute.  We've had friends over for a mini-party, Katherine had three friends sleep over on Friday night, we went to a Christmas party, we went swimming with the cousins, and now the cousins are spending the night here.  The tree is up, the front porch is decorated with garlands and lights and bows and a wreath, and there are nutcrackers on the piano.  There are presents under the tree, and more awaiting being wrapped.

I'm a lucky woman, grateful for my life, grateful for the hope of more good times to come.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Successful Divorce

I have what I would term a successful divorce.

My definition of successful?  My ex and I are able to co-parent our daughter with minimal conflict.  Our daughter is doing well, personally and academically.  And I don't carry divorce anger.

I love that last one.

Of COURSE it's important to me that Katherine is thriving - her health and welfare is critical to my own happiness.  By any definition, she's a well adjusted child: she's doing well academically, socially, emotionally.  She rolls her eyes at me like any tween and begs for an iPhone (not going to happen!) but she's warm and kind and funny and....happy.  When I worry and ask her how she is doing with the divorce, if I need to change anything to help her, she smiles and says "Mom, stop worrying.  I'm fine!"

I wouldn't have gotten divorced if I didn't think I could get to that place with Katherine - the place of giving her an excellent childhood despite divorce.  It's a critical part of my own happiness that she is doing well.

But the thing that makes my divorce the most successful, and that perhaps influences Katherine's happiness the most, is that I don't carry divorce anger any more.

It has been three and a half years since I faced my husband in a marriage counseling session and said, "It's over."  There was a LOT of anger that lead to that place, and a lot of anger that came after it.  I don't think that divorce can happen without a great deal of sadness and anger, and I am no exception.

But these three and a half years later, I'm not angry or sad about my divorce, and that is what makes me think that it was incredibly successful.


If you've read my blog for a while, you know that Bryan isn't a saint.  He's not a demon, but he's not the most involved father out there, either.  While he loves his daughter (of this I'm certain), that love does not extend to spending that much time with her, or helping with homework, or taking care of chores.  He pays me child support, but it is up to me to do 100% of school shopping, doctor's appointments, health insurance, homework, etc.  On his time, he lets her watch endless amounts of My Little Pony on Netflix and eat junk food (she reports that she rarely if ever eats fruit or vegetables in his house, actually).  She spends four nights a month (two weekends) at his apartment, and often two of those are spent at sleepovers at other kids' homes.

It is far from perfect.  She has a giant school project due on Tuesday, so she's coming home early this weekend (his weekend with her) to work on it here with me, because he can't or won't help her with it.

Since he moved out two and a half years ago, she has spent ONE school night at his house, and it was a disaster because he didn't provide lunch and she was late to school (he blamed her) and he was short tempered with her.  He said, "How am I supposed to get her to school when I have to go to work?" and "It's not my fault she was late - you know how hard it is to get her out of bed in the morning!"

He seems to have forgotten that I work full time, that she is hard to get out of bed every single morning (not just on his shift), and that I pack a lunch for her and get her to school on time every single day despite these things.

I'm repeating all of this because it's important to remember that I have a successful divorce without anger DESPITE THESE THINGS.


All too often, when I read about others' divorces or talk to other divorcees, the common theme is "He's a jerk and you'd be angry too if you were married to him and how dare he put me in that position!"  I get it.  I really do.  I could work myself up into quite a tizzy over Bryan's lack of parenting skills and effort.

This week, Bryan's car broke down on the day he was supposed to take her (in addition to two weekends, he has her on Wednesday evenings for three hours).  I said, "No problem, I'll take her to gymnastics for you."  I arranged to get off work early (which meant working from home late into the evening), throw together a home made meal (pasta with cream, smoked salmon, broccoli, and tomatoes - delicious and fast), and get her to gymnastics on time.  He said he would take Katherine the next day instead, but that morning informed me that the car wasn't fixed yet so he couldn't.  So I repeated the schedule of the day before, made breakfast for dinner (home made blueberry pancakes and eggs....a bit light on the veggies but I didn't have time to pop by the store the day before the way I'd planned!).  I found out that his car was fixed, so I said, "Great.  Can you take her to gymnastics today then?" and he said, "No, my car was broken down for a day so I got behind on some errands and I need to go to the grocery store."

Need I point out that he only has her three hours during the week, whereas I have her the rest of the time, and I'd taken his shift, which was my only three hour break in the week, and I hadn't gone to the grocery store either?!  Need I point out how inconsiderate of my schedule this was, and how lacking in parenting this was?  Need I point out that for a father who loves his daughter, he sure doesn't spend that much time with her, and doesn't go out of his way for her?  Need I point out that this is enough to make a sane person very, very angry?

I'm human.  It irked me.  And I was tired, and wanted some down time.  And I didn't get it.  Despite my comment, "I need to go to the grocery store, too, and I couldn't do that yesterday as planned...." he didn't budge.  I loaded up the child and the dog into the car, drove to gymnastics, got her settled there, took the dog for a walk while she tumbled and cartwheeled and bounced.  And then I got her home and got the laundry going, and then spent some time checking work email after she went to bed, waiting for the wash to be ready for the dryer before I went to sleep.

I could be angry that this is my life.  I could be really, really pissed off that Bryan is such a mediocre father, and that, just like in our marriage, there is no equality, and he does what is best for him without the remotest consideration that his actions impact other people.

But I'm not.  I'm not angry any more.


My divorce was filled with anger and sadness just like other people's divorces.  I won't go into the rest of the details here, because I've covered it elsewhere on my blogs, but the anger was real.  I only mention the recent irksome behavior to point out that it's still a part of my regular life: divorce did not change Bryan into a fantastic human being and an amazing father.  He is still the man who inspired me to divorce him.

But I'm not angry.


I think that the key to my success - happiness with life - is that I decided, while still in the divorce process, that if I was going to put myself and my daughter through the pain and suffering of divorce, I had to use that pain and suffering to get to a really great life.

When I'm angry, I feel miserable.  That burning feeling, the focus that anger brings, the mental refrain of "it's not fair!" and "how dare he!" is all consuming, and I loathe that feeling.

I want to feel joy.  Gratitude.  Peace.  Laughter.  I want to focus on all of the good things going on in my life.  I want to be truly present to the small moments ("Wow, I can't believe that Katherine can move her body like that!" and "This smoked salmon is so delicious!" and "This song makes me feel like dancing" and "Oh I solved the problem at work!" and "That sunset is gorgeous" and "I love putting up the Christmas tree!") and not be stuck in the mire of anger.

I do not know how to lead a happy life while feeling resentment about my marriage, its end, and the divorced life.

And I really, really, really want to be happy.


I spoke to a UU minister the day before I asked for my divorce; she is the only person I told prior to telling Bryan.  I told her, "I'm SO ANGRY!" - angry at Bryan, angry that I had to get a divorce, angry to find myself leading NOT my dream life, angry that it should have been so different.  She said something wise to me in that moment.  She said:

"Your anger has served you well: it was your body's way of telling you that you needed to change things, that things were not well.  But now you've used that anger to create change, and the anger doesn't serve itself any more.  It's time to let the anger go."

At first, I thought that she was crazy.  "Let it go" is a Disney song (not yet released at the time of that conversation, but still!) and if it was that easy, well, life would be a lot easier!  I wanted REAL advice, something helpful, and I got "let it go"?!  I thought surely she'd lost her mind by passing along such watered down platitudes.

But it stuck with me.

It took a long time for her advice to sink in with me, for me to understand the message.

I think that the simplest messages are the hardest ones to understand, and this simplicity was deceptive, because it's one of the most complicated things I've ever done.


I do it imperfectly, but overall, I think I've finally let go of most of the anger around my divorce.

I have some sadness - I never wanted to grow up, get married, have a child, and then get divorced! - but I am much more focused on the joys of my life than I am that sadness.  I just don't feel burning anger any more, not because things are simple, or because Bryan is a model ex-husband, or because my life is otherwise perfect.  I am not Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce, friends with my ex and full of respect for him.  My happiness doesn't come from the situation, it comes from the decision to be happy.


When Bryan bails on Katherine - and hence, on me - I reframe it this way:

Man, he's a mess.  I'm so glad I'm not that much of a mess.  He doesn't realize how he's missing out on so much of Katherine's life - she is such a great kid, and he hardly spends any time with her!  I'm so glad that I have the capacity to be there for her.  Look at me, I'm Wonder Woman!  I can go to work, make the home made meal, and get my daughter where she needs to go, and still find time to read a book or go on a date.  Yay, me!  I'm so glad that I can show up for Katherine in that way.  And I won't say a word to her about it, because she doesn't need to hear that her dad's a schmuck - she can see it anyway.  Too bad for him that he doesn't see what he's missing out, but lucky me, I get to spend more time with my daughter.  Let's go!

I have friends who think that I'm giving him too much, making his life too easy, with my behavior.  He drops the ball, and I pick it up.  He doesn't manage, so I manage.  He leaves all the heavy parenting to me.  Is it fair?  No way.  Do I make his life easier?  Absolutely.

For Christmas, he will come to the party that I throw, and eat my food and drink my drinks.  He will sit by my Christmas tree, and likely make rude comments (it cost too much or it's too traditional or it's too big or there are needles below it and he hates the needles on the floor or the tree skirt is too girly or trees are such a waste of time - I've heard it all).  He will not only eat my food and drink my drink, he will ask for special things and put down other things ("What?  Don't you have scotch?  Man, it's Christmas!" or "What's this salad for, rabbit food?!") even after he helps himself a bit too much to the bottle of Maker's Mark that I put out, leaves his dishes all over the house, asks me to get him another drink as he calls out from the sofa.  Seriously?!

And I'll let it all go.  Sometimes I'll say, "No, sorry, I don't have that," and sometimes I'll say "Help yourself," but I won't say a word as I clean up his messes, and I won't respond to his jibes.

I'll look to Katherine, to her face as she delights in Christmas.  I'll turn to my friends, and we'll catch eyes and they'll go "Is he kidding?" and I'll cheerfully say, "Nope!" and they'll say "I don't know how you do it!" and I'll say "I'm Wonder Woman.  It's a skill," and we'll laugh together.

And I'll feel sorry for Bryan, who doesn't realize that everyone sees his behavior, not just me, and that it reflects poorly on him.

I'll look at my beautiful tree, my happy daughter, my room full of friends, and I will smile that this is my life.  I will enjoy the food - a combination of delicious treats like fondue and chocolate torte, combined with healthier kale salad and fruit salad with pomegranate and satsumas - and be pleased.

This is my definition of a successful divorce.  My life isn't perfect, but I'm not angry any more.  I'm thriving, and my daughter is thriving.  I see more good than bad.

But I wouldn't be human if I didn't look at his behavior, and mine, and think "Buddy, you never had it so good as when we were married.  In the divorce, you got stuck with yourself, and I got this beautiful new life.  Lucky me, because now I only deal with you sometimes, and not every day!  It must stink to be you."

Well, I never said I was perfect or a Zen master.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


The better that my life gets - measured almost entirely by my own level of happiness plus my daughter's level of happiness - the more I see how broken I was.

The more I see how broken I am.

I was crazy to get married to Bryan.  That is not because he was or is a bad person, that is because we were a terrible fit.  He doesn't value physical health (he overeats and drinks too much and doesn't exercise and doesn't have good sleep patterns and basically does everything on the "don't" list from your doctor), he doesn't love adventure, he doesn't care much about his home, and he doesn't like responsibility.  He doesn't volunteer, he's not a nature-guy, and he doesn't really like his job (a choice, given his education and possibilities).  He enjoys a lot of down time reading or watching books, but not doing (and he wanted to read "his" books, and the best way for him to not read a book was for me to recommend it to him).  He didn't want children.  He likes things easy, without a lot of effort.  He doesn't cook or clean.  He doesn't like taking care of other people.

Does this make him a horrible person?  No.

But I can not think of a worse fit for me, AND I PICKED HIM.

I changed all that: I insisted that our marriage change, and then I insisted that he work on his end, and I did a lot of work on myself, and I changed myself and got a backbone to do what I believed in, and still things didn't change on his end, and I ended it.  He was hurt and angry and said that I didn't love him unconditionally, and I see now that even through it all, he had a right to be hurt.  After all, maybe it was me who changed, and not him, and he would have gone on in misery with me for years without divorce, but I ultimately said, "Enough."

I was willing to accept that we didn't fit together, until the grief of it, the grief of trying to fit something that didn't fit, nearly killed me.  Dramatic?  Maybe.  But my breast cancer and my divorce are tied together in my mind, and my unhappiness was the link between them.

Leaving him did not instantly heal all that is broken in me.  I have come so far, but I have a long ways to go, and I see that part of my journey more clearly now.

I am healing my career, my body, my day to day life.  I am so proud of all that I have done to repair what was broken in me, and I'm putting the pieces back together carefully, filling the cracks with gold.

But like any puzzle, it's easy to see where the missing pieces are.

I am not good at romantic relationships.  I never have been.  I have been broken, and brought that brokenness with me to romance.

Right now, I don't see a romantic future.  When I gaze at the future, I see.....nothing.  A curtain is drawn, or it's a fog, or it's all darkness....but I can't see it.

What I know is that I'm terrified of choosing badly again.  I'm terrified of bringing my brokenness, and building out of that brokenness (and a house made of broken pieces would not be a very good house).  I'm fearful that I will shatter what I have so carefully pieced back together.  I fear finding myself once again, the frog in the boiling water, suddenly aware that I am moments from death unless I change everything.

I am good at being single. I have a good life: friends who come for my birthday, wonderful holiday celebrations, a warm and loving relationship with my daughter, manageable finances.  I'm well fed, things are pretty clean, the bills are paid.  This holiday, my tree is up, the porch is strung with lighted garlands, there are cards hanging on the wall.  Life is good, and I am deeply happy.

And grateful.  So intensely grateful to be happy.  I know how blessed I am, and I count my blessings all the time.  I'm alive, and here to enjoy my daughter, my good health, and my abundance.  Deeply grateful.

So I hope it's not ungrateful of me to say that I see my brokenness, and that I still hope, wish and pray that it will be healed.  That I can see that I struggle to let someone into my life, fearful of what that may mean, that maybe I have not been ready for love.

I'd like to be ready for love.  I know that I may not be.

But I have a pot of gold, and I will keep gluing the pieces of my brokenness back together.  It is painstaking work, and so important not to make a mistake: I want the bowl that is me to be smooth, and whole, and I will not go quickly and risk putting in a piece at an angle and ruining the whole.  I will go slowly, cautiously, but I will keep working at it.

I will not pretend that I am whole.

I will not pretend that I know where the lost pieces are, but I will climb on my hands and knees, looking for them under the sofa, wedged under the moldings against the wall, slipped under the refrigerator.  I will go into the dark corner with the dust bunnies and carefully extract these bits of me, wash them like they are a newborn infant, tend to them, and put them back in their place.

There's that famous line of the movie where the female lead says to her romantic interest, "You complete me."  Make no mistake, that is not what I am looking for: no man holds the pieces of me, no man can complete me.  These pieces belong to me, and life has broken them, and I have misplaced them, but they are mine and mine alone, and only I will recognize them (with, perhaps, a bit of divine intervention).

But I think it's remarkable that now I can see where they are missing, and I know to look for them, and that I can tend to them carefully.

I do not know if I will ever be ready for true love.  I do not know if I will be held tenderly the way I wish to be held, and to hold.  I do not know if I will ever model for my daughter what deep love like that looks like.  I hold a vision of what true partnership looks like, and I begin to hope that I will not need to become perfect in order to attain that vision, and that perhaps someone can see how I have been broken and love me anyway.
I will keep working on myself, loving my life, focusing on the goodness in it, while I dream of the kind of love that everyone longs for in their lives.

The man for me will see my scars, and weep for their pain, and for their beauty.  He will have his own cracks, filled with gold, and I will stroke them and wonder at them, and we will drink deeply from each other's cups.

I am not young.  I am not fresh and new.

But still, I think, something good, fresh, and new awaits, and it will be all the better because of this slow work I am doing.

Let it be so.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tween Angst

Yesterday, on two separate, unrelated occasions, I hugged friends as they sobbed about their tween daughters.  I spent an hour in the dark calling out to one of those girls last night, shining my flashlight into bushes and saying, "Honey, please come home - are you there?" into the night: she had gotten mad at her parents and run out of the house, yelling "I'm running away!" and they had called me, frantic to get help, desperate, frightened.  We had just called 911 when  I found her a few blocks away, at a drugstore, where she had gone to get out of the freezing night.  After locating her, I called her mother, her father appeared, and it was impossible not to tear up when I saw her father's face: when he realized that his "baby" was safe, he could not stop sobbing from the relief and pain and fear of it.

The tween years are upon us.  Thank goodness not every day is like that - it was a double drama day, more than I knew how to handle, but what else can I do? - but I'm hearing more and more stories from more and more parents.  Good, loving parents who have their kids' best interests at heart: the kind of parents who read parenting books and serve vegetables and hug their kids - these aren't "problem" parents, or "problem" kids.  These are kids who get good grades and have good manners.

Last night when I hung up the phone, I called to Katherine, "I have to go look for your friend Eloise - she's run away and her parents want help finding her.  I've got my phone, so call if you need me, I'll be close by....and please put on your pajamas and start reading!" as I grabbed my coat, hat, and gloves and ran out the door.  Fifteen minutes later it occurred to me that I had left perhaps ten candles burning in the house - a favorite winter evening ritual - and I called Katherine to make sure that the house hadn't burned down and asked her to blow them out for me.  She was concerned about her friend, volunteered to help look, wasn't worried about being home alone on a dark night.

Only afterwards did I think how extraordinary that was - I left her with fifteen seconds notice, and she took it in stride, and was more concerned about her friend than herself.

I know that the tween years are upon us.  I have been told over, and over, and over, and over again by books, media, and other parents that "just you wait!" and that drama is inevitable.  I think I'm told some version of many times a day, actually.

And it's getting old.

I know that I'm a Pollyanna, and that my optimism is deep in my bones, and that I cannot prevent the natural course of things.  But I also deeply believe that Katherine and I are in a good place, that we're learning to navigate one another, that I can adapt to her changing needs (and still parent her, more mother than friend).

Last night, after the friend was found, the parents hugged, my coat hung back up, I climbed the ladder into Katherine's bunk bed to talk to her.  I wanted to lay down next to her, to hold her next to me like she was my toddler, but I know that she is long past such things and that I'd only make her uncomfortable, so I contented myself with sitting at her feet.  I asked her, "Are you and I okay?  Your friends are freaking out and really mad at their parents, and it's kind of scary to watch.  If you ran away, I would be so scared that I would shatter.  Would you talk to me instead?  Do you feel like I listen to you?  Are you okay?"  She assured me that she was well.  She told me that "we" are well.  She smiled, and she made jokes.  She let me hug her, squeezed me back.

I am tired of drama.  Cancer drama, divorce drama, career drama - I'm sick of it.  I absolutely have had my fill of drama, and I feel like I've been a good little girl and managed all the drama in my life relatively well, but I have to say, I am over it.  I do not have a ton of drama-capacity left, and I am ready for some smooth sailing right now.

I'm ready to ski with my daughter.  I'm ready for big pots of vegetarian chili and watching a TV show together.  I'm ready to hang out at the bookstore with her.  I'm ready to take her to movies that I don't really like.  I'm ready to go ice skating with her.  (Make no mistake - if I skate close to her she will sail away from me, laughing with her friends, but when she's hungry she'll come find me!)

Not EVERYONE has big tween and teen drama - some families manage it okay.  I know that it's going to take luck, in addition to good parenting and boundaries and reliance on Katherine's good nature.

But I'm starting to believe in grace.  I'm starting to really believe that the hard times are behind me for a while - perhaps a long while - and that we can do this, Katherine and I, and that it's going to get better, not worse.

Hubris?  Maybe.  If I fail at this, I'll be honest and admit my failings, I promise.

But I really, really think we're going to be okay.