Monday, October 11, 2010

Much Too Much

Yeah...for all of the blather, not much to back it up.

But. A funny thing happened on the way to a blog post...

A co-worker - and one with whom I'm not particularly close, not to mention a person who's a little bit...well, eccentric, to put it mildly - said to me: "Have you ever thought about writing?" And here's the weird part (Okay, here's the weirder part, because the whole thing was not-quite-right): I felt...stripped, in a way. Like, embarrassed. Because for this particular person - someone, mind you, with whom I've had very little interaction, to ask such a question? Yeah, well, it almost felt like I was parading around the office, wearing a sandwich board that said: "Thinking of writing a memoir. Your comments, please - but only if they're positive". So, anyway. I answered as truthfully as I could, all things considered - and by "all things", I mean that this exchange was taking place between me and someone who could very well know my whole sordid mess of a story (oddly, she once came to a Halloween party at my then-house; the "home" in which I lived with my then-husband, a Halloween party to whom we both invited our co-workers. She came as the guest of someone that we...well...that we never really expected to come. And, surprisingly, about 10 years after this particular event, we became co-workers - and she remembered me and the party. Considering this, yeah...she could know)...but I've come to assume that of everyone. Better safe than sorry, right? And, it wouldn't surprise me if I learned that she thought, 'who better to write a memoir than someone who has a fucked-up mess of a story that, if it's good for anything'...well, it's like a train wreck. You know people want to watch; so why not charge them for the "privilege"? And, if I'm going to be truthful here -and, hell: Who better to be truthful to than a bunch of strangers? Okay...if I'm going to be truthful here, I harbor far too much resentment for the consequences I've suffered. Oh, I'd love to take the moral high road - that traveled by the most altruistic of altruists - and say something like, "If my story helps even one person, then it was all worth it." Bullshit, and double bullshit. Anyone who says that is choking on the bullshit, make no mistake. THERE IS NOTHING THAT MAKES IT "WORTH IT." But, yeah...publishing a memoir would go a long way toward, well...taking the edge off. So, back to the conversation: She said that she sometimes gets these "feelings". And that talking with me - and mind you, the conversation that we were having was a very innocuous one - made her feel that I should write. And, further-she said this-when she gets these feelings, they're very often right, and she felt, well...compelled to share this with me.

I was - no joke - quite touched by this. I don't think I do the greatest impression of a satisfied-with-where-I-am person, most especially professionally. And, look: She could be totally full of it - maybe even full of herself. But when something like this comes at you in a bolt-from-the-blue fashion, I don't know...even the cynics among us - and, oh, how I count myself among their numbers - would be tempted to sit up and take notice.

So I am asking you all, who humbled me with your feedback regarding my "first chapter" (and there was one comment that touched me so deeply, a comment about how many people use the Internet to puff themselves make themselves look better...and how I have chosen to utilize this forum to do pretty much the polar opposite of that; that made me feel, well...on the right path, for lack of anything better to say): If anyone is still reading what I am writing: Should I stay or should I go?*

*Disclaimer: This isn't a solicitation of praise. This is a genuine appeal for HONEST FEEDBACK. I'm looking at you, Booksteve. Considering your business...could you point me in an online publishing direction? I'm at the jumping-off place and I'm gonna jump or hang up the parachute.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

From Whence I Came

Yeah, I've "spoken" - perhaps too much - of the day that changed everything. The beginning that was an ending that was the beginning of an ending and the end of a way of life. Well, the "anniversary" of that date is fast approaching - September 14, 2006, to be precise about it. I've been so melancholy and edgy...and I'm sort of aware of it (obviously), but it wasn't until just recently that I've become AWARE of it. I guess we're all like that.

I recently had job interview in which it became necessary to "disclose". They were going to background check, and I decided that it was preferable to me to get my story out there in some sort of a context, rather than as the contents of a perfunctory report that related just the facts. Ma'am. I'll have another such opportunity tomorrow, and to bastardize Nietzsche...even though it does make you stronger, I'd argue that it kills you a little bit in the process, too. The only way I can really characterize it is surreal: THIS is my life? THIS is my story? And that is where I become eminently frustrated: Because it's only PART of the story, but such a fantastic part that it sort of supersedes all else. What I told this interviewer, though, is so much easier to say, and boy, does it sound eloquent. I said: "I would have to ask, at what point does one's past become just that - one's past?" I also gave her some blahblahblah - and I'm coming across as more facetious than I felt, or feel - about the fact that I CANNOT dwell there...that I have to look ahead but that when I do look back, I look at the then and the now.

And that brings me to more surreality: I mentioned that my formal punishment consisted of 6 months in an "alternative" correctional facility - although my lawyer nailed it when she told the prosecutor that they could send me to prison (and that was the first offer from the prosecutor - two years in prison, take it or leave it, and you should really take it because I happen to be in a "generous" mood today), they could take my freedom, but the divorce/custody had really taken all that was meaningful from me; this woman can be hurt no further, she said. Well, during that 6 months, I crossed a lot of paths. And some of them were being trodden by some very disturbing people, disturbing in the way that institutionalization renders a person. One of those path-walkers is back for another 15-minute helping of infamy...she's currently facing federal charges for compelling prostitution...of minors...and despite the fact that, in the interest of said minors, particulars about the kids are being closely guarded, it's very likely that at least one of these children is her own.

Relativity is inherently dangerous in many ways, particularly when it's being used for self-aggrandizement or, worse, self-pity. This woman's actions have been in my face and on my mind for several weeks now, and I fear that I'm applying my own, very twisted version of the Theory of Relativity. Like addiction, for this there is no cure...and I need to get myself on the road to recovery quickly. I'm finding myself licking wounds that should have healed long ago...and maybe even some that never existed in the first place.

Streaming Consciousness

First of all...I'm not even really sure that I'm back. I keep abandoning this blog. I do want to make some sort of concerted effort to get back to it...I think, in fact, that I NEED this; and I'll get to that. But, recently - and I'm not a huge follower of blogs, not on a regular basis, anyway - I responded to a request made by another blogger: She asked that people send to her posts from their blogs. She's essentially an atheist blogger, but...well, she's hard to characterize. But I felt some...I don't know, connection with her; like me, she's an atheist (and maybe I'm not even quite that; more of a questioner) looking for a religion. How many of those are there? So, I sent her THE POST; the one that's about the fateful day that changed my life; the 2 minutes that reverberate still. I've not really followed up on what - if, indeed, anything - that she did with the post (she was going, I think, to re-post those that "touched" her on her own blog). But I thought that I could perhaps use that as an ass-kick to get back to my own blog. And, truthfully, I've been somewhat intimidated by what I see out there on the Internet; I mean, some truly beautiful and thought-provoking blogs! How the hell do I fare amongst all of that? But then...I got even more frustrated with myself. Why should I allow that to daunt me? This thinking is akin to the way I used to feel about my husband: Me, married to a man with these intimidating degrees! An undergrad in engineering from one of the country's preeminent engineering institutions! And an MBA! But then I would think: Why NOT? I mean...why take vicarious validation from someone when I'm perfectly capable in my own right? So...I'm going to accept my own challenge and, instead of being daunted and feeling intimidated, well...I'm going to try daunting for a change.

One other thing, another motivator: Someone very special to me. This is a person with whom I am no longer in frequent contact, but who was so unreservedly a proponent of mine in many ways. She was one of the first people to whom I showed THAT POST...back before it was a blog post, when it was the "first chapter" of a someday-I-hope-to-write-a-memoir. She recently characterized herself as a "secret admirer" of this blog...and while I'll not be so self-involved as to say "this is for you", to HER, I will say, unequivocally, that her support and encouragement are so precious to me that they serve as inspiration and encouragement.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


As much as I intended to remain staunchly anonymous, well...vanity, vanity, all is vanity. This post is an anecdote about my adorable 3-year-old, whose name is, obviously, Ella. And I really thought myself clever with the title, so...there you have it.

This past weekend was one of "my" weekends with the kids - and, as Lemmy can certainly attest, I'm a different person at those times. Like many of us, I fall prey to periods of bluesy melancholy, and sometimes even succumb to out-and-out depression; but when my kids are with me, I'm animated and happy, very much in my element, and I cannot help but think about the times past when - I'll admit it - my kids sometimes felt...cumbersome. If only, if only. Not to mention, I've heard many a person complain about their kids - and it's not like I wasn't sometimes one of them - and I think, I'd give a pinky finger to have what I had...and lost. Or, if I'm being perfectly frank, what I gave away.

So, to the point. This past Saturday morning, my daughter and I were playing with her many, many babies. As an aside, there is a disorder called, I believe, Reactive...something, that stems entirely from a child's inadequate maternal bonding during their first year of life. As I've mentioned previously, I spent six months in what is euphemistically called an "alternative" facility - actually, a community-based correctional facility that is, strictly speaking, a very low-security jail, but is conducted more along the lines of a rehabilitation center. By "rehabilitation" I am, of course, referring in part to substance abuse; however, it's a far more holistic approach than that and I honestly know of almost no one who couldn't benefit from what they do there. In fact, my sister, in pursuit of a master's degree, was required to take a course that almost perfectly mimicked some of the "courses" I was required to take during my stay. At any rate, the disorder to which I previously referred manifests itself at around 5 years of age and is marked by violent tendencies and outbursts. It doesn't stop there, though, and considering that my husband and I divorced RIGHT before Ella's first birthday, well...just add this to the list of damages about which I was worried. It has been to my GREAT relief that she is extremely maternal...and I do mean extremely. She fusses ceaselessly over any life-form that's even a minute younger or a tad smaller than her, and the baby-doll play is among her favorite. I am "Gammy", the dolls' grandmother, and, thankfully, I factor hugely into these activities.

Saturday morning, as I sat with a lapful of dolls, she fussed about, feeding everyone their bottles and checking diapers (I have sacrificed many a paper towel to make dolly diapers, and double-sided tape functions amazingly well as a fastener - it works almost like real diaper-tabs). She then told me that she was going to feed everyone baby food, and proceeded to pretend to be taking something down from an imaginary cupboard, opening "jars", pouring "food" into "bowls", and mixing everything with "spoons". I said, "So, what are you feeding your babies? Applesauce? Peaches? Squash? Peas?" With great solemnity she said, "No. I'm giving them strange mangoes." Well...she was so serious, I didn't have the heart to laugh out loud, but I did ask her about this. "El? Don't you mean...strained mangoes?" No, she adamantly replied. Strange mangoes.

And I think I like it better her way. It also sounds like an awesome name for a band...or maybe for the hopefully-some-day book. Because, to be perfectly honest, sometimes life is, well, like a bowlful of strange mangoes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Murder by Numbers

Yes, once again...a small aeon between posts.

I have long joked that the "math-gene" must skip a generation. The father of my children is an immensely intelligent man, with an undergraduate degree in engineering. I am making (this semester, at least) every effort to blow my attempts to wrap up a mechanical engineering degree (well, a 2-year, at least). As everyone obviously knows, if you're not good at/don't like math, DON'T go down the engineering path.

My 10-year old doesn't seem to have much in the way of math skills. As I've written before on this blog, he has oodles of other strengths, some of which are so special and uncommon that they easily supersede this shortfall. However, no one gets through fifth grade by achieving high marks in "intuition" or "sensitivity", so I do share his father's sentiments about his rather lackadaisical approach to the subjects which do not hold his interest, and I can relate to my ex-husband's frustration with some of the grades he's earned lately.

The similarities between us - at least on this subject - end there, however.

I do not consider myself an eminently patient woman. Where my kids are concerned, though, I've surprised myself many times. Likewise, I'm NOT creative but, once again, for them, I can be many things I cannot be for myself alone.

As to the differences between my ex and I: Under NO circumstances do I feel that it's appropriate to tell your middle-school-aged child that - just as a for-instance - he would benefit for a special tutor for retarded people. And, believe me: I know his wrath firsthand. Several years ago, I was having some difficulty with a physics course [I ended up dropping out of school during this semester; I was having a horrible time, and was almost constantly sick. I thought the culprit was stress, but it turned out that I was pregnant. For the eighth time in 6 years. Expecting another miscarriage, I left school - and was branded a "quitter" by my then-husband - but I'm glad I did. Several months later (and 5 weeks early) our healthy, amazingly un-preemie-like daughter was born], and he was merciless. This was calculus-bases physics, and I had gotten straight As in calculus. I was having difficulty setting up the problems, and I don't think I'll soon forget being asked, in the most sardonic, taunting tone, if I had taken "retard" calculus. So...I can relate to my son.

My ex-husband, despite his often vocal denigration of my approach to many things (in case I failed to mention this, he comes from a LONG line of perpetually negative people), asked me to step in and see what I could do. I came up with...Mama's Magic Math Methods. While I won't bore anyone with the details, this is nothing more than some little tricks I developed as a child to
enable me to do math in my head - and I still use them, and so far they seem to be helping.

What I really, really wanted to say to my husband is this: Unfortunately, math has not been kind to our son. For instance, he knows the following equations:

Mommy + Daddy + 2 kids = Happy Family of Four
(Family of four) + Mommy fucking up = Divorce and Loneliness

And he's certainly gotten a tremendous amount of exposure to the concept of diminishing returns, because (Him)/(Daddy's Thoughtless Cruelty) = ZERO. As in, zero self-esteem. And quite possibly (Him)/ in feeling like (1/2)(person).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Quality of Mercy

I recently - very recently, as in yesterday - experienced a fairly substantial disappointment; I had interviewed for a job that I wanted, badly, and did not get it. Hey, that's life...but if I've learned anything over these past three years, it's that the only way out is through. Trite, perhaps, but very, very true. So, I allowed myself a "wallowing" period, and then moved on to a more "count your blessings" sort of mindset...and although I'll admit that this may sound a little silly to some, it works for me.

The admittedly sparse amount of posts I've managed thus far have contained a lot of information about my children, as will this one. I've received some (greatly appreciated) comments telling me that previous recountings have brought tears to some eyes, and I think that this one may, as well; however, this should engender tears of a very different sort.

The avatar at left is, of course, not me; it is my small daughter and although it's a not-very-flattering photo, it captures her attitude precisely. She's quite a beauty, with magnificent violet-blue eyes and lashes that reach to her eyebrows. In the photo, her lovely blond hair looks frizzed out and wild, and, in case you're wondering...yes, she is flipping the bird. The photo is saved on my computer under the title "Hername_springer" because I think that she looks for all of the world like someone you might see in the audience of "The Jerry Springer Show." My girl has no filter.

My son, on the other hand, has been described by more than one person as an "old soul." I agree completely. He, too, is physically striking, with a fine-boned face and a generous mouth. But it is what issues from that lovely mouth that has sometimes taken me completely aback, shamed me at the level of maturity and wisdom I can only hope to one day possess.

Some months ago, on a Sunday afternoon that represented the near-end of one of "my" weekends with the kids, my volatile little girl dropped a strawberry on the floor, and in the way of nap-needing 3-year-olds, threw a small fit, yelling incomprehensibly and directing her outrage my way. My son, who was walking through the kitchen at the time, did an abrupt about-face and marched right up to his sister. He closed in on her and said, "Do not ever speak to our mother that way, with such disrespect. You know that Daddy will be here to pick us up soon, and after we leave, Mommy will be alone. Alone, and with your temper fit as one of the last things to remember about the weekend." He then looked at me and said, "Mom, you're the adult here. You don't have to accept that from her." I was amazed, stunned into silence...and, I have to admit, somewhat gratified. My ex-husband is a yeller-screamer. I'm the one who says things like, "You're angry and frustrated. I understand. But I'm not the source of those emotions, and I will not accept being the target of them." So, it was wonderful to hear my own words come back to me, to know that it's not falling on deaf ears. But, of course...I'm digressing.

I held my son at arm's length, by his shoulders, and with wonder in my voice half-whispered, "Where did I get you?" He looked directly into my eyes and said, "I believe in you, Mommy."

Five words. Five words that have seen me through wound-licking disappointments. Five words that have LITERALLY kept me alive because, you see, there's always suicide. Five words that have allowed me to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, I've gotten a couple of things right where these children are concerned.

Five. Words.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Only the Lonely

I don't do "alone" very well. I always thought that having a husband, a family, would "complete" me in some way...and what a bitter disappointment to find out that they were not doing what I believed, almost unequivocally, would be their job. Now, it all seems so academic; if you don't have it within, you sure ain't gonna get it from without.

I still do not have it within.

I have written, to some extent, about the crime and the punishment. And, if you go to enough 12-step meetings, or spend enough time in rehabs or in the "recovering" community, you'll hear about plenty of dirty deeds. It's never a good idea to play the "relativity" game, and I've always salved my conscience by telling myself that I got cracked - HARD - because I have been given to in other areas. By this I mean that I've been given intellectual gifts, strength, determination, and the wherewithal to dig myself out of the hole into which I so fervently threw myself. After all, I tell me, if I'm going to admit and accept the bad - my weaknesses - then I am allowed to acknowledge the good - my strengths. It should by now be obvious that to some extent, this constitutes an internal dialogue between Me and Me...a pep self-talk, if you will. However, I do honestly believe that you are only given what you have the strength to withstand...although given by whom, I am not yet sure.

This only helps sometimes. And this is not one of those times.

My children, as I've said, are in the primary custody of their father. I spend as much time with them as humanly possible, but it's never enough. Not nearly. I speak to them almost every night on the phone, although I didn't talk to them last night; school began again for me, and I had classes until 10 pm...and, stupidly, I hadn't charged my phone enough and it died before I returned home. So, I was very anxious to speak with them this evening. For Christmas, my ex-husband bought our son a Wii, and it's been a huge, huge's something he's wanted for some time now. So, when he answered the phone, I heard It: That Sound. The one that causes the bottom to drop out of my stomach and my throat to clench up like I'm going to vomit.

What I heard was the sound of a happy family. My happy former forsaken family. And I ask myself, When will that entity who has decided that I have the "strength" to withstand what sometimes feel like blow after blow...when will It have decided that enough is, quite simply, enough? Perhaps I haven't yet cried "Uncle" loudly enough, and the same stubbornness that I place in the asset column won't allow me to do that - not yet.

Oh, yes, I was incarcerated for 6 months. And the loss of one's freedom is a harsh punishment, to be sure. But that? A cakewalk compared to the loss that, quite simply, just keeps on taking.

I fully expect to receive some "get over yourself" feedback on this post and I probably need it. There's not a shadow of a doubt in my unquiet mind that I am doing nothing less than wallowing in self-pity at this moment, and the only thing I can say for myself is that at least I acknowledge that fact. But...moments like this, these are why I started this blog in the first place.

Mea Culpa

Well, I never manage to surprise myself, that's for sure. I'm great at beginnings - enthusiastic, full of bright ideas and hope. And then...well, I petered out quicker than usual this time. Ironically, almost every night, while falling asleep, I "write" posts for this blog in my head. So, it's time to get moving on actually writing them ON THE SITE.

If anyone out there is still reading...I'm still writing. The events of the past few weeks will make for some excellent posts, the site needs maintenance, and a long weekend looms.