Thursday, December 15, 2016

out with the old

I’m a pretty reflective person. It’s part of my job to ask my teachers to be reflective in their work, and recently I’ve found myself thinking back over the last year or so, and how my life has changed. There’s a trick about being reflective. In my work, we call it being “strengths based”. If you’re good at turning inward, it’s really easy to go down the rabbit hole of “what if”. If I’ve learned anything over the last year, it’s that the “what ifs” aren’t things that you can go back and change. The only thing you can do with them is to think about how they can affect the moving forward. Most days it’s really easy to look back and think about all the ways I fucked up 2016. But that’s not what I’m trying to do here.
This was a year of change, to be sure. I got divorced. I watched my children navigate this new life we created for them. I beat myself up at every opportunity for that. I cried a lot. I struggled nearly daily with the why and the how and even the what ifs. But I also grew this year. A lot. I went to a lot of therapy. I owned up to some ugly stuff. I took responsibility for my part in what led to my divorce. I thought a lot about how I could have different relationships moving forward. I worked on being assertive. I worked on saying no to things, and on saying yes to others.  This year I had to accept that some people who were closest to me would no longer be in my life. Family I will likely only see at graduations and weddings from now on. I had to endure those people lashing out at me in their anger and misunderstanding by calling me names. As recently as this week, I was called trash. A sadness. A self-centered martyr. Reading those things about me from people I once turned to as the closest in my life is nearly unbearable. But this year, along with all of that hard stuff, I continue to work on the things that I can control in those situations. Namely, my reaction to them.
I recently read an article in the Atlantic about what traits make loving relationships last.  It was interesting to me for a multitude of reasons, but specifically because the research these people had conducted on couples divided them into two groups – “masters” and “disasters”. The article talked about how connecting with your partner was crucial to a lasting relationship. “There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”
I feel like all of those findings are true of love, of friendships, and just the way we approach life in general. It’s so easy to look for mistakes in people and in situations. It’s easy to blame someone else instead of turning inward and recognizing what you bring to the situation. It’s easy to disconnect and turn away. What’s hard work is being purposeful about finding joy. It’s hard when all the world around you seems to be falling apart. It’s hard when you are worried all of the time about how your children will turn out in light of your failings. It’s hard when the people you once held dear find it so easy to be hateful, to call names, and to place blame. It’s hard to look inward and think about all of the things that lead up to a failed marriage. And though I thank everything holy that 2016 is almost over, it’s not nearly the end. In this crazy year, maybe the biggest lesson was learning to give grace to myself and to others.
I’m beyond ready for 2016 to be over. For every reason I’ve written about here and for a hundred more. I don’t know what 2017 will bring, but I know that in it, I will be kinder. I will be looking for more ways to be thankful, and to be thoughtful. I will be looking for opportunities to connect with the people around me in meaningful ways. This year, in the midst of all of this madness, I met someone. And while it was maybe the worst time in history to meet someone new, I realized very quickly that there is a reason this person is in my life right now. He finds joy in things. He is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know. I think 2017 is for helping me find more of that in myself.  And I’m really looking forward to a new chapter in this crazy book of life.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


In the wake of the split of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt this week, I’ve taken notice of a trend: everyone is a marriage expert. From memes of Jennifer Anniston’s smug face to statements like “Karma is a bitch, if he cheats with you, he will cheat ON you.” Everyone has something to say about this. And, yes. I know. There are a hundred or more other important news events that I could write about right now, but I’ve been struck today by my anger and frustration over this. I guess it’s just that marriage by itself is just so fucking hard. Double the hard by adding kids to the mix. Triple the hard, I can only assume, by being a celebrity. I was talking about this with the woman who was combing head lice out of my daughter’s hair yesterday. (Which is another story for another post…now is just too soon.) She wanted to gossip about it, and I just said, “I can’t imagine how hard it must be for all of them.” She looked at me and raised an eyebrow. I said, “I recently went through a divorce and it was terribly hard, and no one knows who the hell I am. All you want to do in a divorce is to shelter your children from all of it. I can’t imagine being so much in the public eye that shelter isn’t even an option.”
Furthermore? When did every human being on the planet become such a sanctimonious asshole about marriage? Puh-lease. “Oooh. You got what you deserved!” Is this really what people think? What about, sometimes you don’t know what people are going through? How about, you don’t have a clue what is happening – or not happening, as the case may be – behind closed doors? What happens when people change, during the marriage, or as a result of it, and then the relationship is suddenly not what it was when it started? What if maybe having children changes the entire nature of the relationship? What if there are suddenly not enough hours during the day to nurture children, and to nurture a marriage, and maybe the two spouses don’t know how to connect anymore after the disconnect happens? Maybe you wake up one day and you don’t know who the person sharing your bed is anymore? What if the way you were raised, and what you saw as an example of marriage happens to shape your own marriage? What if you become someone you didn’t like as a result of being married? Maybe becoming that person was to try to fit in, to try to soften your edges, or to try to connect with a new, extended family that is nothing like your own? What if maybe some marriages just don’t work and that’s actually not a bad thing?
I just love how everyone has opinions about this, but I would ask if the same people would want their marriage or relationship under the same kind of scrutiny? Would you want someone to watch you navigate the days and weeks and months after a marriage fails and comment on that, too? Because let me tell you what that’s like. It’s fucking awful, no matter what happened, or how blame is laid, or how “amicable” you think you are with your partner. And guess what? I bet Brad and Angie will find out pretty darned quickly who their friends are. Not the friends who smile and wave as they pass on the street.  I’m talking about the friends who come over to sit with you as you cry. The friends who bring over a pizza and braid your kids hair because you just don’t know what you’re going to feed them tonight, and man, who doesn’t like having their hairs did? I hope they find friends who take them out of town for a weekend, or who welcome them into their homes when they just need to get away. I hope they find the friends who want to go out and NOT talk about how life as they knew it will never be the same. I hope they find friends who will ask how they’re doing, and actually mean it, and will actually stick around for the long answer. I hope they find friends who aren’t scared by the random crying that comes during those first weeks and months. I hope they find friends who, a year from now, will still be there, and will be able to say, “Man. That fucking sucked. But you survived, and your kids are happy and healthy, and look! You are ok!”  I guess I just wish that people would stop and think about these things before making blanket statements about marriage. Guess what? People do stupid shit. We are all human, and we ALL do things that could make a marriage fail. Most of us are just lucky enough to do our failing outside of the public eye.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Every year on their birthdays, I write a little something for my girls. Something to mark what was happening during that time in their lives. Something to show them when they’re older so that they can know both how much they’d changed over the years, and how very much I love them. Today I pulled up what I wrote about Lucy last year, on the eve of her 10th birthday. I read it again this morning and I got sad thinking about this last year of her life. Lucy will most likely recall her 10th year as the year her parents began living in different houses.  This is the year that her mom started working full time for the first time in her life. This is the year of Lucy’s life when her mom listened to a lot of sad music. This is the year we all sat together as a family many times and had some of the most honest conversations we could have, all the while trying to protect Lu and her sister as much as humanly possible from hurtful truths about relationships, and about marriage, and about love.

Lucy continues to be cautious with emotional situations. She is teetering on being a teenager with every fiber of her being.  She’s listening to her own music, she’s figuring out her own style. She’s pushing boundaries as far as what she gets angry and back talk-y, and teenager-y about. And yet, there are plenty of times that she still tries to climb into my lap and snuggle with me. I will take that as long as I can, because I know it’s only a matter of time before she wants nothing to do with being that close to her mama. Lucy feels a lot of things that she doesn’t like to talk about. She’s the first to tell me all about a song she likes, or a movie that was funny, but she is the last to tell me something emotional.  She is so much like her mama in this way. One of the things we’ve started doing this year is writing notes to put in a happiness jar. We started this at the first of the year as a way to keep us thinking about the good things that were happening every day in our lives. We don’t always keep up with it, and I don’t always read what the girls write, but once, during the first week of doing this, I snuck a peek at Lucy’s note. “I got first place in Disney Infinity Race pack” (a video game they like to play with Steve). I stood in the kitchen and laughed for a long time. Sometimes I worry so much about how much I’m fucking up my girls that I miss those funny moments when they’re just normal kids who get excited about normal kid things. We’ve had a lot of those moments this year, too.

This year has been a lot of things for all of us. I hope that one day Lucy will look back and realize how much her dad and I love her and how we tried to do everything we could in this, her tenth year, to protect her heart.  In the end, there has also been a lot of laughter this year.  And, in spite of everything that seemed to fail this year, there was a lot of love: an abundance of love for Lucy Bloom.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

sometimes it snows in April...

Tonight while making dinner, I stood in the kitchen listening to Prince’s Under the Cherry Moon album.  It’s one of those albums I bought on a whim in some used record store when I was about 15. I played the shit out of it, and there are so many good tracks on it, but when Sometimes it Snows in April came on tonight, I began to cry. The girls came in and wanted to know what was going on. I explained to them that one day they’ll look back and that they will remember different events in their lives because of the music they were listening to at the time. I told them that Prince had provided so much of the soundtrack to my life, and that the news of his death today has made me so very sad.
When I was 10 years old, my Aunt Karen bought me the Around the World in a Day cassette tape. I think it was the first one that was all MINE. I wore it out. There was something about the lyrics of Raspberry Beret that made me 1, want to run away with Prince, and 2, want to know what was going on in that head of his. That feeling never really ended. The first time I heard Darling Nikki, I knew it was filthy and awesome because it made me feel filthy and awesome, which was a pretty conflicting feeling for a not quite teenaged white girl. Prince had a way of doing that. I had my first slow dance with a boy to Arms of Orion from the Batman soundtrack. I was a freshman and it was homecoming, and he kissed my neck as we danced.  It’s one of those memories of being young and na├»ve and sweet that makes me envy my girls for getting to have those first feelings some day.
Prince was the music playing when I went out dancing with my girlfriends in my early twenties.
One night I danced to Pussy Control.
On a stage.
In a cage.
In a gay bar. 
Wearing not so many clothes.
Just exactly the way I believe Prince would have wanted it.   
Prince was the music playing when 1998 turned 1999 and I looked at the jackass I was dating and thought, “this can’t be all there is.” Prince was the music playing for lots of…well. My dad might be reading this. So…you know. Sorry, dad. I believe Prince would have wanted that, too. Prince was the music playing when I had to explain to my sweet pal Emily what Pink Cashmere was. We talked and laughed about this conversation just tonight.
Just a few months ago, I was at a bar in downtown KC and they had a turn-table playing Purple Rain. I sat with a friend and listened to that album from beginning to end. I knew each and every word. So did everyone else at the bar, and it was so much fun to sing, laugh, and share memories of that music with complete strangers – who weren’t strangers by the end of the night. I believe Prince would have loved that, too.
I’m sure I’m being overly dramatic when I feel the need to write about this, but the idea of one of my heroes not being around and not making music anymore honestly kills me a little bit. Prince was more than just a musician. He was a character. An icon. A persona. Tonight my friend John who lives in Minneapolis texted me a picture of the crowd gathered on the streets there. He said, “This is the greatest impromptu festival ever. Complete community. Complete love. Everyone is happy and singing – it’s beautiful…it gives hope.” First, I love that someone I’ve known since I was 13 thought enough to text me about this. Clearly, he knows me a little bit. But I also think, once again, this is what Prince would have wanted.
After I told the girls why I was sad tonight, Zoe looked at me and said, “hey, mom? remember when I was a little kid and I loved ACDC a lot and then you told me that Bon Scott wasn’t alive and I couldn’t ever see him? I know how you feel.” Oh, sweet Zoe. Someday you really will know exactly how this feels, and I hope I’m around to share those memories with you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Each year on the girls’ birthdays I write a little something for them. It began long ago out of the need for them to know how happy I was to be their mom. My own mom used to tell Lisen and me on our birthdays that “she was so glad it wasn’t X amount of years ago”. I’ve said it before that while I think she thought it was a funny statement, it was actually not funny at all. But that’s my mom for you, and it’s my intention to be a million times different for my children. When I woke Zoe up this morning, I whispered in her ear, “I’m so happy you were born.” And it’s true…every word of it. Even on the hard days.

I read back to what I wrote for Zoe last year, and it almost made me cry. We have been through a lot this year in this family. There has been so much change for Zoe and her sister: some of it good change, and some of it tricky and difficult. And none of it is just my story to tell. But. I will say that I got upset reading my post from last year because I feel like Zoe is a different kiddo today than she was on March 30th of 2015. Zoe’s anxiety has diminished almost a hundred percent. She has learned to name her feelings in a way that most adults can’t even do very well. Zoe is still feisty, sassy and a whole lot like her mama. She says things before she thinks about them very much, and sometimes those things make me laugh. Sometimes they’re pretty hurtful. But through it all, Zoe is Zoe. She owns her emotions, good and bad, and she makes no apologies for being herself. I hope more than anything that she can harness that and hold onto it into adulthood. It would serve her well.

I have had to do some giving up of control over the girls these last several months. I realized how much I was stepping into their lives and trying to help when those were times they could and should be helping themselves. It’s been hard for me, and I have learned so much about myself and about my girls in the process. What helps, more than anything, is that I have a wonderful support system. Zoe has a wonderful support system. The sweet counselor at her school has become a beacon for Zoe, and for me sometimes as well. In a recent email from her, she says about Zoe, “It is amazing to hear her talk and reflect back over how she was vs. how she is.  She is able to say, "I just tell myself that I am strong and I am ok."  

I read that sentence the first time and cried. I cried because Zoe’s strength is recognizing her strength. Again, something most adults, her mother included, have trouble doing. She is going to be an amazing 9 year old, and I cannot wait to see the kind of person she becomes. You don’t get to pick your kiddos. You get to shape them a little bit as you go, but what I’ve learned is that, in the end, you have very little control over their personalities. I’m so glad I got a Zoe. And I am so glad that 9 years ago today happened. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Some days it’s just about getting out of bed and thinking that this day is going to be better than the day before. It has to be. Some days are hard. This last week was full of new people, new routines, and so many new things that opened my eyes. This last week was hard. These last few months have been hard. Some of the hard stuff was my doing. Some was not. Some I will talk about in time. Some I will not. And most of it, in the end, is not my story solely to tell.
Last week I met a mother from Ethiopia. At 30, she has seven children. She walks from her home nearly 3 miles away from my new school with her youngest child in a sling, strapped to her person. Some days are just too cold for her to bring her child to school. Some days are just too hard. Last week I watched the ladies I work with provide warm coats and food to the children who would need them the most in the coming days. This was a victory.
Last week I watched a teacher bathe a child who hadn’t had a bath in weeks. Last week I learned of a 17-year-old mother who was so proud of the trip she took to the library with her toddler over Christmas break. This was a victory. Some days the things we think are hard are not really all that hard. Last week I waited with a child for her school bus to come take her from my school to another so that she could get the services she needs. She is nearly blind. She has glasses, but someone forgot them. She has leg braces, but someone forgot those, too. But. This day she was at school and she was happy. This was a victory.
Last week I went from teaching children in this city’s highest economic bracket, to being in a school that serves the most at risk families in our community. Last week was hard. Not so much for me, even though it was easy to mistakenly think it was just that. I got to come back to my warm home. To my children who love me. I got to buy groceries and cook a nice meal for my girls tonight.  This weekend, however, as nice as it was, wouldn’t let me forget what I had to go back to tomorrow. Something has changed. In five days, something has changed in me and I know now that I am right where I need to be.
Tomorrow will be hard. I will wake up earlier than I’m used to waking. I will juggle kids’ schedules and try to make sure everyone is happy even when things are changing all around us. Tomorrow life will be hard. And then, I will get some perspective, and realize that things are going to be ok. Even if it takes a while. And that is a victory.