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Posts from December 2008

The Symbolism of a Basketball Game

Basketball season has begun. My daughter missed the first game because she was out of town. In the second game, she made the tying basket and then the winning basket, so my concern about her abilities is not the problem. (And she played on an empty stomach, my fault, of course, and in sneakers that are too small for her, really my fault.)

For the first half of the game I talked to the mother of the triplets who would be going with her daughters and husband to see a play right after the game. (Speak of conflicted mothers, she had one daughter on each of the teams playing, and then one cheering them both from the sidelines.) Sitting or standing along the walls of the basketball court were fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, grandparents, and friends. For my daughter, I was there. Now it was quite obvious that most of the girls did not have a mother and father watching the game because it was not so crowded; but neither did it mean that they did not have a parent off watching a sibling play his or her game or at some practice. It simply meant that most of the girls had one person in attendance, like my daughter.

But my daughter had me there remembering the last two years of basketball games. Two years ago after her team lost in the finals, ex (with whom my older daughter sat) called me a bitch when I walked over to congratulate her and he was standing by; and last year he didn’t attend a single game, not even the finals, which her team won. He doesn’t even have the excuse of saying that he can’t stand basketball, because that had been his sport. No, the man is such a mental midget that he can’t put aside his feelings of “having to see me” over his daughter’s desire (need) to have both of her parents there.

I know that there are many instances which cause me to regret having married him, but the hardest is to see what a horrible father he is to his younger daughter. He does not ignore my older daughter; rather he has made her into a sort of surrogate wife, which is just too creepy and upsetting to think about long enough to write a post about. But his virtual dismissal of this girl, this charming girl with the beautiful eyes that are so much like his is deeply, deeply damaging and surely must be the cause of intense heartache for her. And there is nothing I can do. Yes, I can be her cheerleader and her punching bag, which I am, but I can never make up for presenting her with a man who is so lacking in compassion, so unable to leave his mental kingdom long enough to nurture another.

During a time out I watched as the coach showed her a move, and then she must have asked him a question, to which he calmly responded. I was thankful that she has at least some positive male role models. That at least some men take the time to nurture their own daughters, and then extend the nurturing to coaching. Maybe she will see her father as one manifestation of a father and a husband, but she will have these other men in her life to think of as well. She has friends’ fathers, her grandfathers, her uncles, her coaches (although last year I was thrilled that it was a woman who led them to victory), her teachers. Please, please, I think, let her not accept a man like her father as the standard, as acceptable.

After the game we went out for lunch, then for ice cream. She told me about her week, told me that I am annoying, even that I was prying when I wanted to know what subjects her best friend was failing. We had a mother-daughter outing, and it was lovely. But I wonder if she would have preferred a father-daughter outing.

Chanukah Story

At the request of JC over at +StoryRhyme I wrote a children's story, something that I haven't done in years. When the girls were young, I wrote a lot of stories. But once I stopped reading to them, the writing part stopped too. But it was a lot of fun to think about what children think about. So, first, check out her site, which is a great compendium of original stories, and then check out my story, "Lighting the Chanukah Lights with Emily." 

Happy Holidays to you all. Happy Chanukah. Merry Christmas. Happy Kwanzaa. 


Turning My Back on Rejection

Day in and day out I am rejected. At school everyday I face approximately 75 teenagers who would rather be anywhere except English class. There may be a few who want to be there, but it surely is not anywhere near the majority. Do you remember wanting to be in high school? Then I go home and face my very own teenagers: older daughter, who would rather be pulling out the hairs of her eyebrows in the privacy of her room, than talk to me; and younger daughter, who would rather text anyone in the world about “he said, she said,” than tell me anything about her day. Then there’s mr ex whose very presence reminds me that I have rejected my life as it was. And the “For Sale” sign in front of the house points to how my present life is what I have rejected, and that I am living within the walls of rejection.

Is that why I turned to blogging? To find an outlet where I can find people who accept me? You know, a club that doesn’t reject me as a member?

Is this how life works? We need to accept what we accept and not worry about what we do not? Or that we should not worry about what does not grasp us with warmth and that same level of acceptance that we require? Am I the interpersonal equivalent of a perfectionist? Everyone has to like me or I feel somehow lacking, that I didn’t color between the lines, so to speak. Or do I just need a core group of people around me, with me, physically and mentally? It’s hard to get that when the people who will give me a hug or go out with me on a Friday night are so far away. Is there a certain level of physicality or physical comfort that I need in order to feel balanced?

There surely must be negative vibes being generated in my presence that I unconsciously absorb when I tell my students (myriad times a day) what they must do, which is inevitably against their innate desire to be vegetables on a couch even in the middle of a classroom. And feng shui or not, being in a house that contains so much sadness and bitterness and, yes, hatred, must seep into more than my mind, it must be the source of so much exhaustion, and an inability to find comfort within myself and my life. I’m a pretty cerebral type, but the more I develop in life (okay, age), I realize that the words in my head are not enough to make a fulfilling life.

Last year when I had the torrid affair with the not-separated-enough man, I found myself carrying myself with comfort and confidence. Perhaps it was the sex-glow, but I think that it was the touch-glow, and the glow that comes from being physically accepted by another and by the body’s ability to carry (like a camel) the sensation of a touch for long after the intimacy has ended. And it was lovely, because I think that I was putting my hand on other people’s shoulders or arms more then than ever before. I was spreading the glow, and that just made it all the better.

Is this all about missing sex? Or is it about missing human contact? Or is it about both? Is it also about having teenagers who no longer want a hug from mommy and from whom I need to ask permission to give a peck on the cheek? It is, perhaps, also about being forced into a sort of isolation ward, where most of my interactions are with people who have to be with me. I love lunch in the teacher workroom, but honestly, we are work colleagues and so while we laugh a lot, we are not buds.

Is this how it’s going to be if I don’t create in the flesh friendships with people who I see more often than on a monthly or bi-annual basis? Is this where a lifetime of being an introvert has led me, to feeling isolated? Or is it merely how it feels to be living with people who have not elected to be with me? How many of our daily encounters are with people who want to be with us? If we are married, it is daily (okay, it depends on the day, but still, it is daily). So in essence, except for a spouse or significant other, we spend most of our lives with people who have to be with us. Generally, this seems to be okay, I mean there are people we don’t get along with; on the whole, in my experience, most people are good and have an aspect to them that you can find enjoyable or bearable. It seems odd to think about it, especially now when people are thinking so much about family get-togethers, that so much of our lives is with the un-elected. You have family and work colleagues. How often do we get together with friends? Especially once we have entered the realm of creating our own family? Is this balance what is missing? This need not to dump the people who reject me, but rather to balance it out with more people who I want to be with and who want to be with me?

Sounds like a plan, but this seems to be even harder than finding a potential mate. There is no Craig’s List list for friendships (an idea that I thought of way before Craig’s List even came on the scene, if you must know). But perhaps this should be my New Year’s Resolution (which I generally do not do): to create my own social situations and relationships. Maybe not having a husband to rely on for built-in company is actually good for me, because I am not as much of an introvert as I thought I was. And maybe one of the reasons that my marriage was bad for me was because of its isolationist tendencies. Change is good, as long as you change internally with the external change.

Anyone want to get together next Saturday afternoon for a walk? 

Problems Brewing

The man who must see me smile everyday came over to where I was sitting at the big table in the teacher’s lounge working on my laptop and gave me a from behind hug and then put his cheek next to mine. (I was actually working so I didn't notice his approach.) Uh oh. That surely went past the boundaries of our little dance: hello, chat, smile, goodbye. Have I mentioned that he’s a retired police officer? I think I’ll confront him by going to the library during my planning period for the next few weeks.

(Clarification: heading to the library is hiding, not confronting, of which I have a sad history of avoiding. I think that I will try just telling him that I was uncomfortable.) 

Do We Ever Do Nothing?

At the coffee shop (to which I have returned since I want to be outside at a place that feels comfortable) there are eight people (not including the staff). Seven people are doing something on their laptops. There is one man sitting with a cup of something hot just staring out the window. My first instinct is to ask him if he’s okay. Then it occurs to me that we are so used to being busy, or filling our time, that just sitting seems to indicate that there is something wrong. But maybe he is the healthiest one of us, taking the time to distill the ideas and thoughts and emotions in his head, and not merely adding to the pile or ignoring it.

And, then I saw the screen of one man sitting near me, it seems to be of football scores. Maybe I need to ask him if he’s okay?

Sunday Evening

This weekend was lovely in its nothingness. I want to prolong this weekend and the feeling of calm I have attained. This weekend, with some meals in and some meals out, with some time with make-up on and much more time in flannel pajamas, had the right blend of inside and outside. This weekend with time and a conversation with older daughter; and younger daughter away for a brief retreat from which she returned home content. I don’t want it to end.

I don’t want to lose the softness that I attained once I confront my students tomorrow morning when I tell them that it’s time for the pronoun-antecedent agreement test and they tell me that I never told them or they forgot that I told them. I don’t want to break their mood from the weekend, either, but I must. I am so looking forward to the winter break. Break, indeed. 

Driver Behind Me Beware

I am a spiteful driver. Yes, I am. If the person behind me is too close to me and I am in the left lane and I am in a less-than-gracious mood, I will stay in the left lane and not increase my speed limit speed to accommodate said annoying driver behind me. In fact, I just might slow down, to show him/her that he/she (I have noted that both men and women are tailgaters of the non-alcoholic kind) needs to relax and not bother me. You see, spiteful. But I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not alone in my spitefulness.

The Symbolism of a Snake

The house that I am trying to sell has a creek (or is it a stream? and what’s the difference anyway?) off to the side of the property. One day I decided that I must walk over to the creek; it seemed such a waste that I had never been there. As a kid in our Queens apartment I dreamed of houses, and yards, and creeks, and trees, and walks in nature without first taking a two-hour drive and here I was, with all of those things, and all I did was sit in the house or on the deck or porch and look out.

It was springtime when this thought of discovery came to me, and as I stepped out of the house and surveyed the tangled bushes and fallen trees that lay between the creek and my lawn (or lawn-like surface since there’s far too much moss and wild grass and weeds growing there to earn it the nomenclature “lawn”) a word popped into my head: SNAKE. And at the very appearance of that word in my head, so went all thoughts of discovery and walks along the banks of the stream/creek. Let my daughters and their friends in their flip flops and shorts brave the overgrowth. Back to my table and chairs on the porch I went.

But life is never that simple. There are always reminders for us that we are not in charge, that we do not control the circumstances and coincidences of our lives.

And so, a few hours later, when I went to inspect the development of my flower garden there was, on the beautifully paved driveway, a snake. I kid you not. I just laughed. Whoever makes the world go round certainly has a sense of humor.


Book Review: Keeping Kids Out of the Middle

I was recently asked to review a book and publish my review of it on my blog. Besides the immediate flattery and sense of “having made it” to some degree, I also thought that the book would be a good one for me to read and for perhaps some of my readers to learn about and read. The book, Keeping Kids Out of the Middle: Child-Centered Parenting in the Midst of Conflict, Separation, and Divorce, by Dr. Benjamin Garber turned out to be too tame for my life, or co-parent, in the jargon. Nevertheless, it was a good introduction, I think, to the types of things that a parent could expect when heading down Divorce Alley.

Dr. Garber’s focus throughout was what to do to make sure that you don’t bring in your adult animosities into your parenting. His suggestions made sense, and seemed to serve as a finger-snap to parents—SNAP out of it, think about your child before you say what you are about to say. And I truly wish I had a co-parent with whom I could expect reciprocity when dealing with the kids and discussing me with them. But as I was reading about how I need to not adultify or parentify my children I had a real-life crisis that his book just did not address.

My daughter, who was 230 miles away from her father, and was with her mother (that would be me), and her sister, and her grandparents but was abiding by what her father had told her to do when she was with me, which means that he was telling me how to parent and telling her that she had to listen to him, not to me. I didn’t recall Dr. Garber getting to this situation, it was all so “normal,” how each parent has his/her own rules and you need for the child to understand that. He did not address one parent telling the child only to listen to him. I don’t know if Dr. Garber would have sanctioned my “I don’t care what he told you” scream in the face of her fear of not doing what her father wants and completely dismissing what I told her to do, but there is a point that us adults cannot be touchy feely and we cannot be wiped off the face of the parenting earth. Okay, maybe I really am a bad parent and now I know it even more. But I will try, I promise, to be more understanding of her bind. But I will not be complicit in any arrangement that makes me sensitive but invisible.

Maybe I am too blinded by my situation to see that it really is like so many “normal” ones he gave guidelines and suggestions to, but it didn’t feel like it. I felt even more out there, since I had passed the point of only speaking nicely about their father with them when the instances of his speaking against me kept multiplying, because trying to be a good parent when the other parent hasn’t read any parenting books is darn hard. At a certain point you need to stand up in the face of so much negative publicity from the "co-parent."

His helpful suggestions and commonsense tips, and setting out what to expect in different situations were insightful, gave me a sense of what others are dealing with, which is always a good thing. The surveys and self-tests, and even tables were useful, if only to think about what I should try to do on my own, and to get a sense of what to expect from my daughters and the legal system, and their father, to some degree. I did miss having stories; Dr. Garber is more of a clinician than a storyteller, too bad. I always like an anecdote to illustrate a point (can you tell?).

Garber, Benjamin D., Keeping Kids Out of the Middle: Child-Centered Parenting in the Midst of Conflict, Separation, and Divorce. Deerfield, FL: Health Communications. 2008.

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I Have Nothing to Wear: Pants Department

Perhaps the most serious flaw or failure to appear in my closet is pants. This may be news to the clothing companies, but women have thighs and for some horribly upsetting reason, they get bigger as we get older. As the breadth of our experience widens, so do our thighs. It is truly a horrible part of life. I suggest the companies that make pants take note of this, and not just those who specialize in “designing” elastic-waisted pants.

I refuse to buy elastic-waisted pants. It is yet another peculiarity of mine; I fear that wearing elastic-waisted pants will make me feel my age or older, and my weight or more, and I am not ready for that. No, I still need a button and a zipper. But for goodness sakes, can’t they just use a little more fabric when they say “comfortable fit” so that more than my ankles are comfortable. It’s a horrible feeling to not be able to pull up a pair of pants that are ostensibly your size over your thighs. We hourglass and pear ladies do not want stretch fabrics, we just want fabric. Maybe the fabric that is saved from the pants of size 0 girls can be used instead on the 12+ women.

I’ve been butt-looking lately, and I have noticed that there really are many women with “junk in the trunk,” as they say. So why do I leave store after store with nary a pant in a bag? There are clothing stores where I can find tops that fit me, but not bottoms. What’s the deal? Hello, we are not all Heidi Klum. Maybe we don’t make the duds look as beautiful as she does, but I’m pretty sure there are more women with butt and thigh issues than who look like Mrs. Klum. And besides, I thought people liked a challenge (design that is), it is supposed to make them better, stronger, wiser, and reveal that they have talent.

I have one pair of black Lee jeans that make me smile every time I put them on because they fit. They do not make me feel that I am about to split the seams or break the zipper or pop a button. But, alas, I only have one pair, and on the days when I must give them a rest, I suffer. Things with other pants are always going somewhere, generally up the crotch because they don’t fit well. Or, they are clinging to my thighs so tightly, that when I stand up, they don't resume the position, they stay clinging to me as if I was still sitting. It’s really not a fun way to spend one’s day: with pants going up up up all the time, or stay stay staying where they should not be. Oh, it's a terrible thing, to have to constantly try to conceal pants tugging.

I think that the solution is for the pajama companies to start designing pants. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, clothes that are as comfy as flannel pajamas? Now we just need to work with them on the patterns, I don’t know about you, but I do not want to wear snowflake-patterned pastel pants to work.