Monday, February 25, 2019

A much needed space

We had strongly considered not going to Puerto Rico this year. We went in 2016 because we wanted to try a family vacation to somewhere amazing to celebrate Maryna having been home for a year. We went again in 2017 because it had been so nice. We went in 2018 partially because we figured it was our last year of all the kids on the same school scheduled breaks and to help bring badly needed tourism dollars after Hurricane Maria. This year felt un-necessary as we planned it. But we got the chance to rent our favorite condo again and, really, we needed a break.

So we went, just the 5 of us, and it was magical, as always. (and as is the new normal, pictures are scattered across several devices so these are the camera ones)

We spent most of our days on the beach by our condo, building in the sand and walking along the coast. We spent the better part of one day hiking some trails in El Yunque (including swimming in a water fall) and another taking a ferry back and forth to Culebra to see Flamenco Beach where we snorkeled until we were caught in a downpour that left us somehow wetter than we already were.  On our 2nd last day we drove into Old San Juan and toured the forts and city.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Things here suck.

It's funny how one kid's struggle can so completely overwhelm the rest of life. Really? Things are good.

Katie is enjoying school, getting new opportunities, occasionally trying new things and discovering it's not fatal, and she is still one of my favorite people to hang out with as we pick apart literature or the news. 

Jorge is thriving in his 6th grade year. He just played the role of Grimsby in his school play and he was funny and confident and clearly loved by his classmates. He turned 12 and spends more time with his D&D group than his family and that's probably best for everyone since he is the most social creature ever to walk on this planet.

August just tested up to his purple belt and is incredibly smart. Crazy smart, really, which means he's in trouble nearly every single day even at his super-accommodating school. We're learning about the periodic table today? bah. I already know how to diagram atoms and identify the elemental structures and bonds and I'd rather write my story.... and he's off to the office for an hour. We're working on giving repeat lessons a chance because there's always more to learn, Mr. Know-it-all.

But then there's M. Oh my heart.

In a series of crushing revelations, we learned that the boyfriend is not "27, just turned 28" as we were told but actually was 34 at the time he started dating our 19 year old high school daughter. Only 5 years younger than us, her parents. Older than most of my younger siblings.

I'll give everyone the chance to process the vomit-y reaction you naturally had to that if you aren't a skeevy creep who wants to say "age is just a number" which really means "he may be 35 now but he is still only emotionally able to handle acting, dressing, working, and living like a 17 year old".  He STILL DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A DRIVER'S LICENSE.  He's the poster child of a Scrub (Thanks TLC. 20 years later and still strong). "Always talking about what he wants and just sits on his broke ass." Word.

So at 34 he started dating a 19 year old high school student. He tried to take her to prom. They were pregnant within 4 months of starting dating so you can do that  math. Both of them lied to our faces for over a year about his age, such as when we celebrated his 28th (ahem, 35th) birthday at Thanksgiving. And there were other revelations about his decisions over the last 17 years of his adulthood. There's just nothing good to say here, folks. Not one.damn.good.thing.

My girl is completely blind right now. This fierce girl that has spent 4 years growing and progressing through the emotional and mental scars left by her past is now back to where we first found her.

When I asked about their plans to handle the emotional and mental wreckage that birth and parenting will always turn up for anyone, he spoke for her "oh, I told her she'll have to just be strong and get through it." And everything in me wanted to jump on the coffee table and kick him in the face. Strong is what has kept her alive and surviving in whatever way she could. Strong is what keeps the lies of depression just dulled from their roar. But strong isn't enough to heal it, grow past it, and thrive. That takes a plan, therapy, work, support, and perhaps medication. I'd like to see him break his legs and then I'd tell him to just be strong and keep walking. Surely you don't want to have to use a crutch or go to therapy to actually heal that. Just be strong and get through it. Asshole.

Clueless. Immature. Selfish.

I'm so angry I feel like there should be sparks flying out of my scalp. I want to be petty and pull all of our support (the car mostly) and say "this is the life you will have with him. He has nothing to offer anyone, and he never will. You will be letting him live off of you until he runs off with his next 19 year old girlfriend." I want to vomit every time I see him.

I've never felt this hate-filled toward anyone. Let's keep the pop music rolling and cite Bieber: "My mama don't like you, and she likes everyone." 100%. I love everyone. I look for the last shred of good in anyone and everyone. Up until 2 weeks ago I'd come up with 100 excuses why this guy was worth trying to accept and help even thought he was an exceptionally immature and un-ambitious "28 year old". Now that he's 35? And has no integrity? And all the other things we learned? Yea, shove off. Shove all the way off. Bye.

But how do you cut off a kid when it means damning her and your new grand-daughter to whatever chaos and insecurity she's signed onto?  Do we step back and let it happen in hopes she sees it herself quickly, turns back, and still trusts us to be there? Can we do that? Or do we need to keep a life-line and small safety net in place to show we really can be trusted...but then she'll use it constantly and life won't seem so bad and she won't admit to herself or anyone that she even has "help" from us to keep them from total disaster.

I don't know. I just don't know. The whole thing makes me feel sick, angry, manipulated, hurt, disgusted, frustrated, and STABBY-SMASHY-KICK-KICK-SCREAM-Y. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Ending 2018

I'm not a big fan of change. I like routine, predictability, order and efficiency. 2018 has not provided much of that. Ironically, I was sure that getting tenure would be the thing that nailed down all the routine and predictability one could ever ask for; and yet immediately after getting that wonderful news and a commensurate raise...nearly everything else that we took for granted sort of blew up.

We said goodbye to our sweet girl, Daphne, the day after Labor Day (Sept 4, 2018). She was (to our guesses) about 15.5. We got her in late 2003 and she was almost a year old. She was a good good dog and a furry old horsey and we miss her.

Maryna found out she was pregnant and stormed out of the house and moved in with her boyfriend of about 4 months. It...sucked. It hurt and we cried a lot. But we put on our grown-up pants and did the grown-up adult stuff and dealt with the hurting person (as in she was hurting and she was hurting others). We rallied around the other three hurt and confused kids and it felt exactly like I imagine standing on the deck of a storm-tossed ship trying to preserve enough of our bearings and essentials to continue in a meaningful way once it all blew over and settled.

We've resumed a new relationship and baby-girl is due in March (again, both my baby-girl, and her baby girl). It's raw and still being shaped and under Things UnBloggable.

Of course, there was also my health scare, the death of a colleague which tumbled much of my work routine into an extra stress of teaching, my best friend losing her job and moving multiple states away, teen-and-tween angst for Katie and Jorge, some behavioral health concerns about August from his teachers, and just so much more.

It has been a relief and a release to just stop moving the past 4 days. Since Christmas afternoon I have barely gotten out of pajamas, not eaten a real meal, and my Fitbit is worried I am in a coma. I'm letting myself process all of this yuck that I've been pretending is "fine. Just fine." And then, if that works, I can set it cleanly and firmly behind me as I start a new semester and new year.

2019 promises to have lots of drama and opportunities and excitement and a new baby girl. Hang in there. (That's a note-to-self, mostly)

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

There and back again

I flew to Phoenix late Saturday and returned Tuesday afternoon. Typical work trip with some meetings and lots of meetings and then some more meetings followed by hanging out with small groups of people to discuss issues and projects. Y'know. Meetings.

Somewhere in my final evening, we had a dinner meeting at a fantastic taco place (Them: Dinner? We're going to taco - something-or-other. Me: You had me at tacos.) I paid for my dinner and tucked my wallet back into my backpack.

We came back to the main conference center where two of us walked over to another restaurant hosting a reception celebrating some accomplishments in the field. It was packed -- total madhouse--  imagine 250 PhD professors in a single restaurant dining room all shouting math at each other over drinks and cheesecakes and tasteful but loud music. I circulated around once and said a few hellos and then made my exit, walking 1.5 miles back to my hotel. I was excited to go to bed before 11 knowing I didn't have to leave for the airport until 7:45. Sleep!

At my hotel door, I realized I no longer had a wallet.

There was going to be no sleep.

I immediately contacted my dinner colleagues as well as the restaurants to see if anyone had a lead. I re-traced the 1.5 mile path to the reception hall, gathering some friendly and sympathetic colleagues along the way. There were over 6000 people at the conference of which I know about 200. I managed to cross paths with three of the nicest ones while standing on a random street corner, crying a bit in frustration, trying to remember which side of the street I'd walked down for that section. They immediately fell into step with me, declaring they were extremely interested in seeing this part of the sidewalk too, and enthusiastically insisting that it would be no problem at all to get on my 9AM flight with zero forms of ID or money.

After an hour, I insisted they go to their rooms and sleep and I walked the 1.5 miles back to my hotel, arriving around 12:45. I canceled all the bank cards and called in a police report. The officer arrived around 2:30 to file my report and give me documentation.

By 3AM I was finally in bed with strict instructions to somehow (without any money or cards) get to the airport by 7AM to endure whatever was required to get through security without any form of ID. The officer who filed my claim may have suggested that no one really checks for tickets on the trains. He may have also offered to buy me a ticket. Honestly, it was so late and I was so tired and frustrated and frazzled it may have been a dream.

The next morning I had Rob help me pay for a taxi using his credit card, which got me to the airport. (please note here that I had to skip out without actually paying for my hotel bill including the breakfast I'd billed to the room the day before.) I made a new friend in the TSA agent who had to ask me enough questions that she may be my biggest identity theft threat ever, but eventually I was able to prove that I knew more about me than she did and so she escorted me through security and did a full pat-down and baggage search and sent me on my way to the gate. Rob then bought me a gift card to Starbucks which came to my phone so I could attempt to buy some gluten-free food for the day.  I called the school secretary to have her pay the hotel bill.

And then I discovered there are no Starbucks in that whole wing of the airport and cried a bit more (I WAS SO TIRED) and some kind woman gave me $20 and her friend gave me $10 and I ran away crying before anyone else could be nice to me and shut up that's how this works for me. But then I got some yogurt and a coffee and flew to Chicago and got a chicken salad and a coffee and some GF cookies and flew home (and on that last flight my seat partner congratulated me on my obvious pregnancy and a woman across the aisle chimed in with her congrats and my head burst into flames and I died.).

And I voted and taught a class and prepared my 8AM lecture materials and answered 4,520 emails and glanced at a report I had due the next day and gave up hope and went to bed.

And today was better.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Stage mom, part ... I forget. 4?

Katie loves costume design. This meant a cool opportunity last spring to work on Aladdin with the local city ballet for a weekend. That experience led to a friend inviting us to be the entire costume support function for a dance troupe that was in town in September for a weekend (on site for 2 days sewing costumes literally onto people as they stood there or while they were between shows). This past week a contact from those events called us in a pinch and asked us to fill in on a real movie set!

A few movies have been filmed here in town in the past few years, and Katie and I spent all day Friday on set with a Tony-award costume designer and his crew.We hemmed pants and sewed on patches and tailored skirts and attended fittings and made alteration notes and processed laundry and generally geeked out while getting to watch costumes that we had handled being worn in scenes. We were there for 13 hours as volunteers and during that time we handled dozens of costumes and learned a ton. I'm not sure which of us geeked out more, but I think it was her.

Friday, November 02, 2018


This blog started nearly 14 years ago because I was 4 months pregnant for the first time and wanted a place to remember it all and keep family informed.

Friends, my oldest is now 4 months pregnant with her first. I'm going to be a grandma in March. To say it's a bit mind-boggling is an understatement (to be clear, not the same child I was pregnant with 14 years ago; our oldest). Many of my friends from college who are my age are still having their own babies... Grandma. Sheesh.

But everyone's healthy, things look good, and the little one should be here for the beginning of spring. (like, calendar spring. Up here felt-spring might mean May)

Thursday, November 01, 2018


I find I'm still angry.

I'm still angry about my tenure process. How it went, why it went that way, the entire process (up until it was resolved) was humiliating, infuriating, and just awful. I'm still angry that it happened, that it continues to be denied as an issue by many, and that it continues to happen to others.

I'm angry about my health scare. I'm mad at my body, mad at the way our medical system works, mad at how much it would have cost if we didn't have insurance -- angry that others facing the same events might have had to take out loans to cover the medical tests and biopsy that I had which would have cost over $15,000 without the very good insurance that I happen to have. I'm mad that it still hurts every time I move my left arm or lay on that side.

I'm angry that so many of the 200+ students I'm dealing with this semester can't seem to understand basic instructions like "read the book before class" or "try the homework before you come to see me" or "read the syllabus about when things are due" and so I have nearly 100 emails per day of someone asking something that should not be my problem. Take responsibility, people. You're adults (barely) and you are (in theory) choosing to be here so make it a priority.

And deep down in the bottom of most of this is my anger that our ability to help our oldest was so limited. Despite our intentions and efforts and time and energy and everything else, it feels like we made no difference. No real attachment or trust or relationship happened despite 4 years of efforts, no real healing or growth despite all the opportunities for therapy, medication, and intentional felt-safety. We'd hoped to provide her with the space and resources and incentives to process some of her history and imagine a different future. I can't help feeling like we failed completely, and I don't like failing. There's so much to be said here -- I'm not mad at her; she wasn't ready to take these opportunities and hopefully someday she is and we can help support her journey at that time -- but I'm frustrated.

And that's probably 99.99% of it. I'm frustrated at my inability to just control the world.

And I don't handle frustration well. I tend to declare anything overly frustrating "stupid" and dismiss it. But I can't do that with any of this because it's every moment of my waking day (and much of my dreams). So I stay angry and frustrated instead and occasionally blow up about stupid little things. A therapist friend described it as stuffing all your real heavy complex emotions into a junk drawer and then when you need a small amount of emotions in an easier setting (like, being mad at a traffic jam) it all comes falling out at the same time. That's where I am. This is my junk drawer.