August 29, 2010

My Car's Going on Vacation

It could happen only on Facebook.

Three days ago, a long-time, well-loved friend from college posted something along the lines of, "Hey! Anyone got a minivan I can borrow?"

Today, she borrowed mine.

A little crazy, right? I mean, who lends out their car. Their only car. To someone they haven't seen in three, maybe four years. For a multi-state joy ride.

Yeah, that would be me.

Bear with me for a minute. There's a point, but it'll take us a few paragraphs to get there.

See, I learned a ton of things from my marriage. You spend a lot of time, in the after, thinking about how you got where you were, the choices you made, the things about you that contributed to the demise of all that hope and bliss. Because it takes two. Just as a marriage takes two, so does a divorce. So does any part of any relationship, really.

Then you look at your other relationships, too, so you can fit those choices into patterns. Because if there's a part of you running around killing your relationships, you want to know what it is, right? So you can make it stop, find fulfillment, a lifetime of joy, blah blah blah.

I remember one fellow, many years ago (well it would have to be, wouldn't it? I mean, I was married, like, forEVer). We broke up. I mean, he broke up with me. Not politic, but true.

I was pushing him for the why's, and he said, "Well, you're too happy. And you give too much."

Why, yes. Yes, those do sound like reasons to end a relationship.

That wasn't all he said, of course. And, in truth, they are perfectly good reasons. I mean, seriously, do you want to live with Rachael Ray? Love her to pieces - I know a kindred spirit when I see one - but perpetual pep can be a bit challenging in a life partner. You need someone who sees the ups and downs, who sails them right alongside you. And the giving thing ... well. If you're the right kind of person, it creates an obligation that's hard to live up to. If you're the wrong kind of person, it's an advantage, an invitation to just keep taking. And either way, you're both kind of screwed.

The thing is, these flaws are fundamental to who I am. It's really hard to take the happy out of yourself. To make yourself stop giving. I've never figured out quite how to do it. And I've learned that I don't want to.

So I lent my friend my car. For a week. She's driving it to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. She invited me to go, too, long before she invited my car. But my kids started school last week, and we can't take the time off. I'm sending my car in my place. It'll spend a week enjoying the sand, the sun and the sound of the surf, and the entertaining company of my friend. And I will get to drive her little hybrid, with its built-in navigation system - a nav system that I believe, in my heart of hearts, will magically make me on time to things.


Have fun, little car. Bring my friend and her family back safely.

August 28, 2010

First Days

My kids started school this week. One kid at a time. Which means we had three - yes, that's THREE - first days of school. Three days where mom woke up at the crack of dawn and lovingly prepared a breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes with bananas and sausage. Three days of snapping pictures and stuffing backpacks to the gills with school supplies. Three days of nerves and joy and the general angst that comes from changing your whole schedule around from one day to the next.

And the next.

And the next.

Monday was my diva's first day of third grade. It was also the day my new Kindergartner went in to meet his new teacher and see his new classroom. The ex came too, which tickled the kids pinker than my daughter's hot pink polka-dotted leggings. The whole group of us walked to school together.

She had a great day.

I, apparently, did not. I walked right past all the "here's what to do for the first day" papers in the Kindergarten classroom. All of them. Which was a problem.

But not till Wednesday.

Tuesday was all about my Aspie. He's in 7th grade. And that scares me. Because I remember 7th grade. I remember getting thrown up on by the girl on the riser behind me in the spring chorus concert. I remember roller skating and school dances and "going with" a cute, slightly geeky, very tall boy named Jeremy for about a week. I think I dumped him, but it's hard to say because I also can't remember having an actual conversation with the guy. It was all about the intermediaries in 7th grade.

(Note: cute, geeky and tall remains my type to this day. )

So, heck yeah, 7th grade scares me. Puberty and tweendom and all that. But what I'm not scared about this year, for the first time since my Aspie hit Kindergarten, is school. School is good. School is great. My Aspie is in a place where he is cared for and supported and loved. Where he's learning and active and making friends. The transition from summer is still rough, and he's been a bit of a tired, tantrummy mess most days this week. But he'll adjust. And that's the minor miracle. He will adjust.

And then came Wednesday. The day I sent my baby off to Kindergarten with his new red backpack and his name tag, and no stuffed animal for show and tell. Because I totally missed the paper.


He was fine with it, though, when I told him. He's that kind of kid.

I stood back and watched him, standing in line in front of his new teacher, waiting for the kids from the last bus to arrive. He was pensive and nervous and looked so very young. And then, just before the teacher led her line of students off into the bowels of the school, he turned to me, shot me an impish grin ... and stuck his tongue out at me.

I burst into tears.

How did my kids get so grown up?

Damn. I think I blinked again.

August 21, 2010

Mind Your Money, Honey

Once you're out of limbo - that odd and occasionally cathartic period between separation and divorce, which in my case lasted an excruciating 469 days - well, you're supposed to be done. Divorced and fairly angst-free. You indulge in occasional conversations with the ex that run along the lines of, "Hey, can we trade weekends this month," and "Dude, sorry I forgot to pack pants for the five-year-old." But that's it. Free and clear and living your own life, footloose and ex-free.

Except it doesn't work that way.

And it's not even about the kids. Because once you get into a routine, you can handle the kids. Most of the time.

No, it's about the money.

You'd think it would be easy. Shared marital assets? Sell them and split the proceeds. Or divvy them up fair and square. Shared debt? You can't sell it. So you do your best to divvy. You each take responsibility for your own bits and pieces and write it all down on paper, neatly notarized and approved by the judge.

Except the banks disagree. Once you co-sign something that isn't a mortgage and therefore can't be settled and sold, you are apparently co-signed for life. Or at least for the life of the loan. Which means that even if your divorce decree states: "Do you, Mr. Ex-Husband, take this debt, to love, honor and cherish till death do you part?" and he completely agrees that yes, he will take that debt, the bank says, "Uh, no way man. That debt's still married to your ex-wife."

Your debt ties you to your ex as much as your children do. You brought it into the world together, so you share responsibility for it until it's fully grown and able to live on its own. Until then, it gets to eat you out of house and home and keep you from getting the great, low-rate refi you so richly deserve.

I just hope I don't have to send the damn thing to college.

Lesson learned: Mind your money, honey.

August 17, 2010

Woody Monkey

Once upon a time, there was a little boy with sparkling blue eyes and festive red hair. He was smart and funny and generally easygoing. But he didn't much like sleeping.

His mommy liked sleeping. She liked it a lot. But if he was up, she was up, too. By the time of our story, she'd been awake for nearly five years. She loved him. Dearly. But most of the time, she couldn't remember his name.

One night, when his mommy was away for the evening and a friend stayed over to take care of him, a minor miracle happened. The redhead slept. In his own bed. All night long. And all by himself.

Then he promised his mommy he'd do it again. All he wanted was a Build-A-Bear.

Before he even finished that thought, his mommy shouted "DEAL!" She went clickety-clack on the computer and churned out a fully-illustrated, 30-day chart, with pictures of Build-A-Bears dancing in the margins.

He had a good night, and he got a circle for his chart. Then he had a few bad nights. Then another good one, and another circle. The first few days were slow going. But he made it to 7, then 10, then 12. Before he knew it, he had 20 big round circles on his chart. And, seeing that he had only 10 nights left, he bit the bullet and slept on his own, in his own bed, straight through until he was done.

The day before his fifth birthday, this beautiful, sparkling boy earned circle number 30, with 30 nights of fully independent, uninterrupted, I'm-a-big-kid-now sleep.

And now the boy has a new best friend. His name is Woody Monkey. Apparently Build-A-Bear makes monkeys, too, and they let you dress them up in very cool outfits, some of which look astonishingly like those worn by the lead characters in your average five-year-old's favorite film.

I am happy to report that my great, big, heading-off-to-Kindergartner has slept in his own bed every night since his birthday. We're going on two weeks now.

So, if I promise myself a Build-a-Bear, do you think I'll start sleeping, too?

August 10, 2010

The Sea of Fabulosity

As many of you know, my fella recently moved to the other coast. I could call it the "wrong" coast, the presumption being that the coast I'm sitting on is the "right" one. But ... um ...

Yeah, that's really tempting. Wrong, but tempting.

He's been there for a couple of weeks now. I know this because his status on Facebook the other day said, "Week 2," and not because I'm keeping track or anything. Because I so totally would not do that.

And in fact, if you look carefully, you'll notice a quiet, bloggy gap right about the time he moved. That's because I went with him. Not to stay, of course. Just to help.

I'd say I ignored the mom guilt, packed my kids into a shipping crate, stamped my parents' address on the side and shipped 'em off for a week, just so I could go to San Francisco. But we all know that's not possible. Mom guilt doesn't allow for shipping crates. Plus, my kids would do each other serious injury if I left them alone together for that long without their electronics.

But I've got fabulous friends. Deeply, lovingly fabulous friends who get both mom guilt and the importance of giving a newly long-distance relationship the proper send-off.

So when my fella got word of his move, my friends listened and commiserated. They mixed gin and tonics and fed me Thai food and let me talk. Pretty much endlessly.

They quietly arranged a handful of playdates and sleepovers (even when their own kids weren't around), so my fella and I could enjoy a few last evenings together.

And they invited my kids to the beach. For four days. With my amazing au pair.

Even the ex helped. He took the kids on vacation, then brought them from his vacation directly to theirs.

And so my fella and I had a week together in San Francisco. We had friends there, too. Friends who put us up and treated us like royalty. Friends who gave us list after list of things to do so we wouldn't spend our days all mopey and maudlin. We ate pretty food, saw pretty art and pretty trees, and walked the pretty, hilly streets.

We also bought a big down comforter. It is yummy and warm and, well, comforting. Basically, it's a hug in the form of a household good. Because if I can't be there to hug the man in person, he should at least have a hugalicious comforter to take my place.

We said good-bye. I flew away. And then another friend picked me up at the airport. She put up with my overtired, drugged and mopey self, put me to bed and let me sleep. For a very long time. And then she drove me home. Which was really far away.

This is how fabulous my friends are.

Now, mind you, I have many fabulous friends. What happened here, it's just a snippet of fabulousness in a great big sea of fabulosity. But it was a very well-timed sort of fabulous. And the kind you can't repay. So you say the biggest possible "thank you" you can muster, and then you bake a cake or two. For the kids. Because, as it happens, sugar and chocolate compensate beautifully for mom guilt.

(Well, I'll be damned. I think that last sentence just summed up the whole premise of this blog.)

August 1, 2010

Glow-in-the-Dark Days

There are a lot of sucky things about divorce. But the one that sneaks up on you, the one you don't expect, is that the awkward and uncomfortable of the whole thing colors your memories. Even the good ones. This means that your biggest, brightest, glow-in-the-dark days can get sort of gray and irritating.

I have three spectacular glow-in-the-dark days. There may be more, but these are the ones I'd lay down my life to keep shining.

I'll bet you know what they are.

The third of them happened just over five years ago. I woke up that morning calm, relaxed, and uncomfortable in a house full of boxes and the scent of fresh paint. It was 5:30 a.m. The sun was rising. It was peaceful and quiet, and I was roughly the size of a sperm whale with cankles that could sink the Titanic.

Six hours later, my redhead was born.

And no, it wasn't all peace and joy. I blew two IVs. I chewed out the nurse when some goober started delivering lunch on the floor, like 10 rooms away. You've heard of supertasters, right? When I'm in labor, I'm a supersmeller. And that lunch smell that no one else noticed, it made me want to hurl.

I also distinctly remember about 30 seconds of absolute panic when I realized that the ginormous child my midwife's assistant had told me was at least 11 pounds was actually coming out, like now, and I'd decided not to get an epidural and WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING, at which point my midwife did the mental equivalent of a face slap. Meaning, she shouted at me. Yes, at me, a woman in labor. Who does that? But it worked, and my redhead was in my arms, wet and squirmy and bright red all over, not 10 minutes later.

The rest of it, though - all of it - that was peace and joy. It was my daughter in her gymnastics leotard with sparkly clips in her hair because that's what she wanted that day. It was my son, going with the flow and heading off cheerfully with his grandparents (which is a bigger deal than you might think, given his attachment to routine). It was my kids holding their baby brother, and my now ex holding me while my redhead eased his way into the world.

And I don't want that to be bitter, or even bittersweet. I want the birth of my third child, and the births of all of my children, to glow.

To hell with the sucky part. I'm keeping this one.

Happy birthday, peanut.