Date Archives November 2011

The Single Momma Sorority

I haven’t showered since Thanksgiving (yes, of 2011, smartasses). I showered that morning, then I took a pass the next day as the kidsters and I were just planning a day of bouncing around the greater suburban Philadelphia area visiting cousins. Then later that night … the cough.

The evil cough.

The ex took the kids yesterday (Saturday) so I spent the ENTIRE DAY on the couch, flipping channels, hacking my brains out and sleeping. Mostly sleeping. In fact, I’m pretty impressed with the amount of sleeping that I did.

Other than feeling miserable, I have to admit: I sort of enjoyed it. Mothers don’t get to have days like that. Mothers don’t get to just sink into a sick day and wallow in bad TV.

Score one point for being divorced. (Yeah, I feel your jealousy, married people.)

But let me tell you this: Being a single momma is not always as glamorous as it seems. It’s not all drinking tea and sitting around in the mismatched outfit you’ve had on since Friday night in a deliciously quiet house. It’s not all marathons of Ghost Adventures and Deadliest Catch and the Real Housewives. It’s not all hacking up your lungs in gorgeous, uninterrupted solitude.

Being a single momma is like being in a sorority (I think — I can’t say for sure because I’ve never been in one). A quiet sorority. A sorority that I think a lot of people want to spend very little time in. But let’s face it: Even if you get remarried and manage to score the whole white-picket-fence deal, you’ll always be a member of the Single Momma Sorority, even if you only have to pay dues a couple of times a year. Why? Because the dream of the Nuclear Family Under One Roof is now forever out of reach. Poof!

I love stealing a few naked minutes with another Single Momma. I don’t mean nude naked, I mean honest naked. When we get to talk about what it’s really like. When we get to talk about what the people in the Married World just do not understand. Because it is a different world. That is not to disparage my friends in the Married World, many of whom have been so kind and wonderful to me. That’s just to say that a Single Momma (and Single Daddies, too) are looking at the world through very different lenses.

I recently had to go to a court-ordered parenting class. In the county I live in, both parents have to attend one of these as part of the legal custody process during a divorce. I followed a man into the elevator and he asked what floor button he could hit for me. “Four,” I said.

“Aaah, parenting class,” he said with a bitter smile. “Me too. This is my ninth one in 16 years.”

“Whoa. Why so many?” I asked.

“You have to go back every time something changes with custody,” he said. “She keeps dragging me back to court. Just be sure to stay until the end, because sometimes they take attendance at the end and if you’re not there you won’t get credit.”

There were sign-in sheets at the entrance. The instructor wasn’t there yet.  The man signed his name, looked around and headed out the door. (He never came back.) I signed in and looked around. It was possibly the saddest room I’ve even been in. There was no idle chatter. No one looked each other in the eye. There were professionals in business suits. There were people in jeans and sneakers. There were people with lots of tattoos. There were people who looked like they were a step away from being homeless. It was like the DMV — it didn’t matter what your station was in life, here everyone was going to sit together. Here we were all in the same category even if we’d rarely encounter each other in the world outside of this courthouse.

I was halfway tempted to go, “Hey, fellow single parents! Who wants to go out for a beer after class? Can anyone afford one?” And then we’d all laugh in the pathetic camaraderie of people who have been carrying a crushing load for too long. But I didn’t have it in me. I was sad, too.

My guess is that most people don’t think that they’re going to find themselves sitting in that room. No one wants to end up in that room. But there are many reasons that people end up there. And as much as I hated being there, I did get some validation that the ex and I are doing some things very right — apparently kids whose parents have “low conflict” divorces fare much better than those with “high conflict” divorces. So that was nice to hear. And it made me thankful that if we all have to walk through this hell — and that’s exactly what it is, even though I think it’s the best decision under the circumstances — at least it’s not as bad as it could be.

So listen, if you’re a Single Momma, I want to say this to you: I’m still figuring this whole thing out. I’m guessing you are, too. There are a lot of us walking around in the world. We’re going it alone in many ways. We’re often not part of a couple, we’re often not part of a family unit — people don’t always know how to relate to us. But our little sorority gets new members every day. Let’s not be afraid to use our voices, OK? It’s scary, isn’t it? I know, I’m scared, too. We don’t have a fall-back plan. A lot of us have significant financial issues. We have a lot of pain to deal with from broken marriages. We have kids to shepherd through life — kids who we want to feel secure, loved and peaceful, even when we don’t always feels those things ourselves. We want to love again but we’re terrified of doing it wrong. We feel like we’re in a place of transition, but we don’t know what we’re transitioning to … and that can feel very odd and slightly dangerous (hate to say) when you have kids in tow. We want to find a way to pick up the pieces and put them back together in a way that beautiful and fulfilling.

Let’s figure this mess out together, shall we? Let’s hold up our heads up when we can (it’s not always easy) and let’s not be afraid to lean on each other during the sad times. Let’s not be ashamed about being Single Mommas, even when you can feel people looking at you and trying to figure out what you did wrong to get in your position. Let’s do our best to be spectacular about the whole thing. Let’s accept what is, and find the blessings in all this.

And what are those blessings? Here are some that I count (because I can’t end on a bummer note):

  • A friend of mine grew up in a divorced home. She always quotes Dr. Phil: “It’s better to come from a broken home than to live in one.” Yep.
  • I suspect that my kids’ relationship with their dad is deeper than it otherwise would’ve been. He suspects this as well. (I know this is not the case for everyone, btw.)
  • Re-awakening of my self to my own life. For years, my life did not belong to me. (I know that many mothers and wives feel this way.) It has been delicious to rediscover the world on my own terms again.
  • Time. Yes, it’s the dirty, guilty little secret of the Single Momma. It can be nice to take a little break from mom duty from time to time. (See above paragraphs about wallowing in sickness.)
  • Missing my kids. When they come back after being with their dad, I just want to roll them in butter and powdered sugar and eat them all up.
  • Second chances. (Is that the title of a Jackie Collins novel? Should be …) Falling in love like a giddy teenager all over again is fecking cool. Finding out that I can be … pretty, or even … sexy (gasp!) at the ripe old age of pushing-40 is awesome.
  • (Cover your eyes for this one, prudesome peeps.) Sex is fun again. Really, there were times in my life when it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal to just go, “Eh … take it off the menu… I’m good.” Hee hee hee!
  • I am the Lord Goddess of My Home. I am the Ultimate Supreme Authority in the Single Momma Townhouse.  No one is second guessing me (you know, other than my kids).
  • No excuses. Getting divorced is a great way to find out how messy you really are. When you live with someone, you can blame all the clutter and yuckiness on the other person. When you’re the only adult in the house, you find out that maybe you really are the one making a mess of the bathroom sink, even though you’re not the one making a mess of the garage. Then you have the opportunity to work on these things. Oh, joy.
  • Sweet little texts from a sweet Irishman asking, “Are you feeling any better, my love?”
  • Hope.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is time to shower. Go forth and be clean, bitches. We will chat another time.

Talkin’ turkey (not a cooking post — really, what were you thinking?)

Today I’m thankful for:

1. Waking up with the Irishman instead of waking up alone on Thanksgiving.

2. A gorgeous morning. A detour through Valley Forge Park on the way home. Scenery that still takes my breath away even though I’ve seen it a million times. My own “secret corner” of the park.

3. Just a smidgen of quiet time before the kids get home to medidate, drink coffee and do a little writing.

4. Anyone who spends a fraction of a moment reading this blog on Thanksgiving. I love you even if I don’t know you.

5. An ex-husband who decided to have his Thanksgiving with the kids a day early this year, so I get to have them all day.

6. Knowing that my munchkins will be here soon. The house feeling warm, lively and full. Sitting in the living room and watching the Macy’s parade together while digging into one of the apple pies we made yesterday. Snuggling on the couch. Drinking in every second, knowing that next year they’ll be bigger. Knowing that for this year, at least, they can’t get enough of me.

7. Baking with the wee ones. Becoming more patient about it every year. Knowing that they’ll grow up with memories of baking with mom in the flour-covered kitchen.

8. Pie for breakfast!

9. Say it with me people: Pumpkin pie flavored coffee creamer….

10. The bittersweet feeling of missing my dad. Memories of him hunched over the kitchen counter doing carving duty before every holiday meal. The feeling of his larger-than-life presence in the house, taking up so much silent space. His voice cutting right through the rest of us chattering when he did speak. Him sitting in his chair later in the day, drinking wine and maybe singing a Marty Robbins song in his surprisingly lovely singing voice. I swear, sometimes not even Elvis could top my dad.

11. The bittersweet feeling of wishing I could introduce dad to the Irishman.

12. The bittersweet feeling of watching the family evolve. Sad and beautiful at the same time.

13. That the word “bittersweet” exists because, man, it does the job, doesn’t it?

14. That somehow I have managed to acquire the most interesting, loyal, funny, diverse group of people as my friends over this lifetime. I would make sweet love to all of you (if you’d quit being such prudes about it).

15. Having the courage to try on a dream even if they don’t always pan out.

16. Having faith that it’s alllll gonna be OK.

17. Having someone to laugh with.

18. Being able to laugh all by myself sometimes.

19. Seeing the humor in painful situations.

20. Answered prayers.

21. Getting more than I asked for sometimes. (Way to go, Universe!)

22. Not hating the ex, even though we make each other nuts sometimes. We’re still doing OK. Our kids still have both of us — often. Knowing that as far as divorces go, this could be a whole lot more tragic than it is.

23. Immense, immeasurable fulfillment from being involved in Food for Thought. Finding the right people to help me this year. Good things ahead!

Blessings to all! Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Food for Thought …

Hey, blogmuffins. A lot of you wrote to me about the food drive that I’ve mentioned a  few times here on the old bloggity. If you were touched by those stories and would like to help, please check out the Web site for Food for Thought – Philadelphia.

Some great friends have banded together with me to turn the food drive into a bona fide non-profit organization. We’re doing some great stuff and we’d love you to be a part of it. Please check out the links for Our Story and What We Do to find out how we got started and what we’re up to these days.

Thanks!

 

 

Secrets of the Irish

Last night the Irishman invited the kids and I to family night at his “secrety society” of Irishmen.

Want to know what the raffle prizes are for a gathering of Irish people?

First prize: Whiskey. Second prize: Whiskey. Third prize: Whiskey. There was no fourth prize. No kidding. I think I laughed for 20 minutes over that.

Have I ever mentioned that the Irishman has three kids of his own? And that I have two kids of my own? So if you do the math, you’ll quickly discover that between us we have about 150 kids. As we all know, children’s power and volume increases exponentially for each additional child …  (If you don’t believe me on the volume thing, try doing a water displacement test.)

Have I also mentioned that our combined brood could be the poster children for Aryan Nation*? That is, all the kids have white-blonde hair except for his oldest (who used to have white-blonde hair) and all but my oldest have blue eyes (she got mommy’s green eyes).

Anyway, his oldest is 11 and a boy and … not into family night with the old Hibernians. He lucked out and got to go to a sleepover party last night. But the rest of us schlepped out to eat roast beef and hear Irish music. Me, one bald, ex-roofer and four little blondes — ages 8,7,6 and 3.

We got a lot of comments like this: “What beautiful children you have! Are they all yours?” “Which ones are yours? Are there some cousins in the mix?” and “They are so cute! You have a beautiful family.”

And it was weird. And funny. And nice. And uncomfortable. Because we were at an Irish Catholic event, the idea of … us, I guess, all of us … was a little unusual. Divorce only became legal in Ireland in 1997. The Irishman, in his old-worldy way, is absolutely devastated that he’s divorced. (Also, because we were at an Irish Catholic event, all the proceeds went to pro-life efforts. On the way home I said, “Uh, just so you know, I’m not exactly pro-life…” )

It was also hard because it was “family” night. The Irishman had spent the day cleaning out his storage unit and combing through the personal archaeology of families past. That kind of stuff is brutal. It can shake even a strong person.

Before we left, he was in the kids’ room trying to dig out some pretty-girly clothes for his youngest to wear. I followed him in. “You’re not yourself tonight. You OK?”

“Tough day,” he said.

“Also, it’s family night,” I said. “Wrong family,” I noted. “I don’t take that personally or anything. It just is what it is.” (Note: I never say “It is what it is” without thinking of Kevin Federline juuuuust for a moment.)

“No, that’s not it,” he said. “Just a tough day.”

Then we crammed four kids into the back seat of his car so we could all drive together for a change. Like a family. (His words.)

And that’s what it’s like to grieve for your old family while trying to look forward and figure out what your new family might look like.

Then: Guinness in cans. (Who knew?) Kids playing under the table. Bittersweet songs from the old country — not my old country, but someone else’s. Potty trips with four sets of little feet under the stalls.

Then home. To two separate places.

*Dear God/Google, please don’t let my blog start showing up on searches for Aryan Nation. Thanks.

(Dear white supremacists: You have landed on this web site in error. Nothing to see here. Have a nice day.) 

 

 

What I Didn’t Do Today

If you want to know if I took a half an hour of precious work-at-home time today to attempt to make a much-craved pumpkin pie, I did not.

If you want to know if I then ruined the entire thing by dumping too much salt into the mix because the lid wasn’t properly secured to the salt shaker, I also did not do that.

If you were curious about whether I then I spent about 20 minutes or so desperately trying to salvage the whole mess, I’m going to tell you this: Wasn’t me.

The ingredients that I didn't use.

Wondering if the back of my throat started to get that burning sensation one experiences after accidentally getting hit by a massive wave and then ingesting gallons upon gallons of ocean water? Let’s just say this: Nope.

Now I bet you’re thinking that if you looked in my Google search history, you might find something like “what to do if there’s too much salt,” “cooking disasters,” or “hot nude celebrities.” None of the above, people. None of the above.

If you’re also wondering whether I briefly considered boiling the pie filling with potatoes, because potatoes are supposed to be a de-saltifier, and then removing the potatoes and then trying to bake the pies anyway, I say this: Who? Moi?

Now, of course, the obvious question that I know all of you are thinking right now is this: Gee, I wonder what book Trish has been reading for the last few weeks?

While I don’t normally like to disclose that kind of information, I will at least tell you this: It’s not this one.

The book that I am sooooo not reading right now.

So now, let ME make a suggestion to all of YOU: Get back to work, people. Nothin’ to see here.

Hey, look. A puzzle. Puzzles are fun.

Pioneering the Single Momma Lifestyle

I guess I sort of left you all hangin’ with the Irishman, huh?

God bless that crazy, ridiculous man. He has given me carte blanche to blog about him. I have license to say anything I want. (Really, babe? Anything?) (I don’t know who I’m writing to there in those parenthesis because he swears he’s never going to read this. We shall see…)

Anyway, this permission isn’t new. It’s been in effect practically since we started dating. That makes me laugh because most men I dated had the complete opposite reaction when they found out that I had a blog.

But it’s been hard to write about my darling man because, you know, we’re a work in progress here. I’m no Pioneer Woman, who can recount how she met her cattle-ranchin’, chaps-wearin’ husband ten years ago and then write a “bodice ripper” from the perspective of an assured happy ending. I can’t promise you a multi-part installment finale detailing our (gulp!) big white weddin’. I can’t give you sweeping panoramic photos of our ranch, detailing everything from how to make a great pie to how handle cows. I’m never going to give you sweet pictures of our jointly-made children, because this here momma went out and got herself spayed like a dog.

So I guess if I’m pioneering anything, it’s the Single Momma Lifestyle. We Single Mommas are a huge demographic. We move through the world very differently and we especially date differently. So what can I give you?

I can’t tell you about being a sweet young thang and meeting my Prince Charming, but I can give you an honest look at the exhileration and the terror of getting out there and looking for love again, kids in tow. I can’t tell you about how my heart raced every time I saw my cattle ropin’ Marlboro Man, but I can tell you about how I think my Irish stockbroker is the manliest man I’ve ever met (the dude can put a roof on your house, knows how to milk a cow — God bless rural Ireland — and can move a billion dollars across the world in a matter of minutes). I can’t tell you about making out for hours on his porch that overlooks the prairie, but I can tell you about sneaking upstairs, giggling, for a quick smoochfest while our kids watch TV.

In addition to being the manliest man I know, the Irishman is also darn romantic — so much so that it took me weeks to stop wondering if he wasn’t perhaps the best liar I’ve ever met. “Who are you?” I’d ask. “Who talks like this?” After nearly five months and many, many whispered sweet nothings, as well as many sweet somethings, I’ve managed to squelch that impulse a bit.

So I now I believe all (OK, most) of those things he says. But I hope I never get used to hearing them and will occasionally still have to ask, “Who are you? Who talks like this?”