Fear Factor

Why is it scary to do things we need to do sometimes?

I don’t understand that but I find that it is a constant struggle in my day to day life. It plays out in little ways and medium ways and big ways. And the only thing I can sort of sense lurking behind all of that resistance is fear, but what am I so scared of and why don’t I know?

This is where I get unsettled and slightly disturbed with myself because… I am pretty sure I didn’t used to be like this. Or maybe I did, but not to this extreme.

I will talk myself out of many things. And for each thing I will have very good arguments and justifications. But there must be something that is behind all of that. Something has me scared. Something has me timid. Something has me risk-adverse.

Fear of change?

Possibly. I mean I am tired of things changing all of the time. Which is weird because I am a fan of adventure and spontaneity, but massive changes are exhausting and stressful and there have been so many of them in such few years. I mean I just wrote about a counselor advising me to let go of my desire for stability a few days ago and how baffling and enlightening that was. Well, guess what? I’m still not really sure how to do that and I’m still not really sure I want to. I know I should…

Fear of failure?

Also a possibility. I feel a lot of pressure to succeed. I feel like people expect me to do everything well because I’m “so smart”. If I don’t try to do something, I can always just say “Well I didn’t try” and that lets me off the hook. Everyone would just accept that because clearly if I had actually tried, I would’ve knocked it out of the park. Except that’s not true and when you don’t knock it out of the park, when you swing your hardest and it’s a total air ball… that sucks.

It’s funny, because the more the years pass since I separated from my husband and then divorced him, the more wounds I find. You would think that it would be the opposite wouldn’t you? I did. I thought, ok yeah I’ll have some scars for the rest of my life but I don’t know. Maybe I understimated how much damage I was inflicting on myself.

My ex-husband and I had a strange relationship. We were infatuated with each other, the way most couples are in the first year they are dating. And it was in the middle of that infatuation we found out I was pregnant with my Eldest. But I can tell you honestly, because I vividly remember saying it to him, that I just could not envision what spending the rest of my life with him would be like. I tried to imagine us old and together and couldn’t.

But everyone assured me that was normal and silly and we got married.

It wasn’t normal and it wasn’t silly, it was a warning. And I ignored it and many others. Repeatedly.

I felt intense pressure to make that marriage work. I felt intense pressure to stay in it, to have a family, to really give it a go and do all of the things married couples do. And it was a disaster. Because in that process, I had to swallow a lot of painful things. And I told myself a lot of ugly things. And I felt a lot of ugly things. And I experienced ugly things.

Now I am here and now is when I am starting to get a feel for what the hell I did. And I don’t know how to fix it.

It isn’t the divorce that breaks you, it’s the relationship. The divorce itself is fast. Even if it drags out in court a year or two, it is most likely much shorter than your relationship. No, it’s not the divorce. It’s the relationship.

And in my case, and in that of many other divorced women, you have the added factor of motherhood. Motherhood changes you. And yes while there are many positive changes that come with motherhood, there are negatives as well. What are they? Specific to each individual is my guess. Oh sure we write all the beautiful words on how being a mother is the best thing that has happened ot us and that it has changed us in profound and meaningful ways.

But it also fucks with you.

I am pretty sure that I have never known fear the way I have known it since becoming a mother.

And I am one of the laidback ones. Or so I have been told.

But it’s there. That dark creature.

You suddenly check on your sleeping baby, panicky looking for signs of breathing.

You are wary of strangers meeting your child.

You become educated about healthy food and toxics in your food and beverages.

You stay up at night envisioning what you would do if a fire broke out in your home and it happened to be in the hallway between you and your children. Ditto for what to do if someone breaks into your home while you all sleep.

You become anxious when any kid in your child’s class comes down with something contagious.

You try and get a good, no excellent, idea of who your child is friends with and what their families are like. Are they the wrong crowd or the right crowd?

You wish your child would tone it down because to attract attention to oneself can lead to bad things.

You wish your child would be more assertive because to be a doormat is painful and dirty business.

You are all at home and they are playing in a separate part of the house and suddenly you notice they have been quiet for too long and the little goosebumps come up on your arm.

Fear. The fear that comes with motherhood. I am not saying I feel all of these things. I am not saying I feel them all the time. I am simply saying that I did not really understand fear until I had my kids. I didn’t get anxiety until they came into my world screaming and crying, hungry and bewildered.

I don’t know. I really just don’t know a lot actually. But the one that’s bothering me a lot these days is what the hell am I so terrified of exactly and how the hell do I fix it?

From The Receiving End

In Personal Finance, lots of topics stir up some serious discussion– nice and not nice. And that makes sense, because Personal Finance is… Personal. One of the topics that always made me sort of uncomfortable to read about is in regards to loved ones helping loved ones financially.

I think it is fair to say that the majority of the advice says if you care about a relationship, don’t give or loan them money because financial dynamics have an often devastating effect on relationships.

There have been many times in my adult life where I have needed, and received, financial assistance from loved ones. There have been a few times where I have provided financial assistance to loved ones as well but that’s not what I want to talk about today.

Today, I want to talk about what it’s like to be the loved one that needs, and receives, your help.

I’d like to start by pointing out the obvious– this is a personal story and a personal experience. I don’t think I am the universal representation of people who need and receive financial assistance. I speak for me.

Hmm… this is turning out to be harder to write than I thought. Oh pride, you silly monster.

The thing that I want to say is that receiving charity is not an easy thing to do. I feel like I really should say that and that I should try and explain that.

I have received a lot of charity in my life. There have been little things and there have been big things and there have been the things in between. To put it bluntly, a big reason my kids and I have what we have is not because of me or their father but because of the metaphorical village.

It is my family that arranged a deal with their friend so that I could live in a 3 bedroom home in Coral Gables next door to my Grandmother while paying the equivalent of a 2 bedroom apartment in West Kendall. It is my family that pays for my children’s private school tuition, that bought me the car after mine died, and that pays for my kids to go to Karate class. Most of my nice clothes is birthday and Christmas gifts. It is my family that pays for our annual winter trip. It is my family that chips in and contributes a significant amount to, or outright buys, the children the more extravagant of the gifts they ask for– Walt Disney World tickets, tablets, Nintendo DS systems, a laptop, etc. Not to mention, there have been instances in my life where we have been given significant gifts by close friends, acquaintances, co-workers, strangers, and anonymously.

I am trying to explain to you what a giant conflict of emotions that creates in me. On the one hand, there is a major amount of guilt, there is a feeling of inadequacy, and there is a bit of humility.

On the other hand, on the other much more massive hand, is this insane overwhelming sense of gratitude. I am lucky. And I know that I am lucky. And I do not take my situation for granted at all, I promise you that. I might not be the best at expressing gratitude, especially as my family tends to dismiss any attempt I might make at saying thank you, but I can tell you that I feel it immensely. My family’s generosity makes me cry a lot and often. My gratitude is wet and salty.

But it’s sincere.

Now, that is one aspect of charity– nice extras. But there is one more, and that is help when there is a crisis.

When things are a mess, when everything that can go wrong does and it all goes wrong one after another after another, I fall apart. I spend a lot of energy worrying and thinking and calculating and stressing and timing and counting and adding and recounting. I sleep poorly. I eat poorly. I cry a lot of the not good tears.

I keep those moments close. Or at least I try. I really try and not let anyone catch on to how dire a month (or YEARS) might be for me. I’ll make a joke or two, ha ha money sucks, and I am freaking out inside. Eventually, one of my parents will finally figure out what is going on. They’ll get me talking and they’ll get me to slip up and before I know it, it’s all pouring out of my mouth– a vocal vomit.

And when that happens do you know what they do? They help me. And I fight it. I beg them to please not do that. I explain to them that it makes me feel worse when they give me money. I tell them that I hate that I’m like this and their helping me isn’t a solution. I compare myself to others and feel that I have failed my parents and my children, that I am not living as I ought to be.

Recently, this happened. Crisis level was reached. Help was offered. And I was protesting again. I was pacing my bedroom on the phone with my father. I was raking my fingers through my hair shaking it crazily, working it into a stress-induced frizz cloud. I was telling him that I am too old for this and that I feel like crap when they have to step in and I just need to figure things out.

My dad starts talking. My dad is a social worker. My dad knows what to do. I used to get annoyed by that, but now I appreciate it. Here are some of the things my dad told me to help me be ok with accepting financial assistance from them (again) and so here are things you can say to someone you want to assist financially (caveat: you must mean them because we know if you’re lying):

  • This is something they have the means to do. They ran the numbers, and this is the number they are offering because this is the right number for their budget. This is not putting any pressure on them financially at all.
  • They want to do something to help and in their situation, giving financial assistance is actually the easiest way that they can help.
  • They see it as an investment in me and I am their daughter and therefore any investment in me is worthwhile.
  • They see it as an investment in my children and they are their grandchildren and therefore any investment in them is worthwhile.
  • If I win the lottery, the offer is off the table. [Humor helps]
  • I am not expected to pay them back. It is a gift. If later on, I wish to make them a gift equal to the amount of money they gifted me, they will not say no. But if they do say no, I am welcome to plan and pay for a family vacation that is equal in cost to the amount of money gifted to me and they will be happy to attend. [No really, humor helps a lot.]
  • And finally, in regards to how crappy this made me feel: They want me to think about what is better for everyone and that is more important than how I feel about the idea. They feel better doing SOMETHING. My kids feel better when their Mom feels better. The boyfriend and I feel better when I am not anxiety ridden. So, I’m just going to have to take one for the team.

Far be it from me to advise you how to spend your money. But if you know someone who is struggling financially to the point it is taking a toll on them physically, mentally, and/or emotionally and you have without question the ability to give X dollars to that person, I want you to know they will most likely appreciate it in a way they will never be able to properly express and if they try they will most likely make a mess of their face and hair. I want you to know that you might very well open doors they didn’t know existed and that you might give a gift so much greater than a bill paid on time. I want you to know that you are a good person, a kind person, and that you are appreciated. Even if it’s not by the person you gave money to, I can guarantee you that you are the kind of person that is appreciated by at least someone, likely lots of someones.

One final piece of advice– if you want to help someone but are unsure how to do so without making things awkward, here are some ideas:

If you see the person physically, you can sneak it to them. You can slip cash or a gift card into a purse for instance. If it’s a co-worker, you can have a bunch of co-workers sign a card and then slip in extra money. You can leave it on their desk with a typed note and sign it Anonymous.

If you don’t see the person physically, you can still be sneaky. You can mail, or email, them gift cards anonymously for instance. If your detective work turns up an Amazon list, you can peruse it for things that seem more need-type things than true Wish List items and have them sent anonymously.

In either situation, take advantage of special occasions to pad their accounts if you can. Sure, a manicure can be very relaxing and a good mood lifter, but it’s not going to do as much for her as a well-stocked kitchen. So get her a mani pedi certificate but throw in a more significant gift card for the grocery store.

If the person has children, you can tell the person you opened accounts for them when they were born and you’d like to see if any of the money that you have been saving can be of service now that the kids are older. Offer to pay for a Summer Camp program for them or extracurricular activities. If they have kids, and they live close by, you can ask for the kids one day and take them shopping for clothes for instance (and hey kids let’s get Mom and Dad something too).

There are many, many ways you can help a friend or a loved one who is in need. And when help is freely given the right way, the relationships don’t suffer. I think most people on the receiving end are bigger than that. I think that at the end of the day, the only one they blame for negativity is themselves and they know that they are lucky to have a genuinely loving person in their life. And I think that most of us on the receiving end eagerly wait for the day they can be on the giving end– especially towards those that were oh so generous to them.

So, on behalf of those of us on the receiving end, I saw thank you to the givers. Thank you for investing in us. Thank you for being patient with our shortcomings. Thank you for seeing us in a way we probably can’t see ourselves. Thank you for not judging us. Thank you for not holding us to standards. Thank you for loving us.

 

 

 

Tutu Couture– The Firebird

I make tutus for fun and for play and for dress-up. My tutus take a couple of hours and are not meant to last a lifetime. However, the reason I love making them is because I love the real deal. Growing up in ballet, I developed such a sense of appreciation for a beautiful costume. Watch these quick five minutes and enjoy watching a work of art come to life.

Board Games the Whole Family Can Actually Enjoy

Disclaimer: The links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links. That means if you click one and you buy something on Amazon, I get a super tiny portion of your purchase at no additional cost to you. So, if you do that, thank you!

I have always loved board games. I have fond memories of playing games like Mouse Trap, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Monopoly, Operation, and Guess Who with my brothers. If I was lucky enough to have girl friends come over, we’d play Girl Talk and Mall Madness. At my cousin’s house, we’d always play Life and with my dad, we’d play Stratego and chess. Mom would play Parcheesi and Chutes and Ladders. And of course, you have the card games like Go Fish, Old Maid, War, and Spit.

So, now it’s my turn to play board games with my kids and unsurprisingly I hate a lot of them. Candyland and Chutes and Ladders are annoyingly luck-based. Hungry Hippos is a disaster to keep in any kind of organized fashion. Twister ends up in a fight. Not to mention– how do you happily play a board game with your family when the kids are different ages and at completely different skill levels?

I have tried lots of different things and played lots of different games. Sometimes, I think a game will work for all three and it ends up relying too much on reading which knocks the six year old out. Other times, I’ll get something I think they’ll like and it’s way too easy which drives away the already hesitant eleven year old.

That doesn’t mean family game night at my house is a wash, though.

To get your kids into board games, you should be prepared to play quite a few matches of a particular game with them. It takes a while for kids to get the hang of things and rule books, especially in many of the European games, can be intimidating. If you take the time to sit with your children and play the games, they learn a lot. Obviously, they learn how to actually play a game but they also learn how to care for a game and its many pieces, how to use a rule book, and how to deal with each other. While I always think getting the family together to play a game is ideal, I also think it’s super great when kids play board games together without adult assistance.

My list of games was made with that in mind– games that are good enough for adults to enjoy with their kids and simple enough for the kids to eventually feel confident playing without adult supervision. Also, these are games you most likely haven’t heard of and games you probably won’t find in Wal-Mart, Target, or even Toys R Us. I did that because you’re most likely aware of the classic games enough to make decisions on whether or not your kids can play them. But there are other games out there that are independently published or coming from Europe that you might not be familiar with but still deserve your attention.

Games like:

KING OF TOKYO: Competition at its most fierce– King of Tokyo is every man monster for themselves. Players select a creature and battle it out trying to take over Tokyo and win the game. Reading is totally manageable as the only reading needed is for power-ups which are kept face-up on the board. This means someone can read them aloud for a younger player and explain how it works. Scorekeeping is easy with little boards with scrolling numbers for victory points and a life meter. Math is simple add and subtract of small digits– “I had one victory point, now I score two more so I have three.” Older kids and adults will appreciate developing strategy and overcoming challenges especially when a younger sibling acts completely irrationally and throws wrenches into their plans.

King of Tokyo Game Setup

King of Tokyo

BLOKUS: The funny-shaped pieces will most likely remind you of Tetris, but funny-shaped pieces are all they have in common. In Blokus, each player picks a color and tries to take up as much territory as possible. There is only one rule in Blokus making it super easy to learn and super challenging to play– each piece played must touch a piece of the same color, but only at the corners. Sometimes a great strategy is key and other times no strategy is the best way to go. Players can turn on each other and block each other or they can gang up together against another player– a common scenario in my house because the kids like to gang up against me.

Blokus Game Board

Blokus

CATAN JUNIOR: Chances are, if you have your finger anywhere near the pulse of geek culture, you have heard of the game Setllers of Catan. What makes Settlers of Catan a fantastic game is that every game has a different setup and therefore replayability is high. The game has lots of rules though and while that makes for a wonderful game for adults, for kids it’s not the best deal. Catan Junior, however, nails it. There is no need for reading during gameplay so your youngest players will feel very at ease. Math is super basic add and subtract with very small values. The pirate theme is fun, and the game pieces are awesome– sturdy, colorful, and intricate. A much lighter version of Settlers of Catan, Catan Junior does a great job of laying the groundwork for kids who will most likely one day be playing Settlers of Catan. Mom and Dad won’t have to play many matches before the kids get it but they’ll want to.

Catan Junior

Catan Junior

TOKAIDO: This game has been in my house less than a month and yet it has seen more gameplays than others that have been sitting on the shelves a lot longer. The great thing about Tokaido is that it’s a calm game. Yes, there is a clear winner at the end of the game, but most of the time people forget that and just play to play. In Tokaido, you are a traveler in old-time Japan. The point of the game is to “experience” Japan in your journey in various ways– encounters with fellow citizens, buying souvenirs, taking in the panoramic sights, relaxing in the hot springs, paying your respects at the temples, and of course resting and eating at the inns. Any reading can be delegated to the oldest player at the table, but after enough games isn’t even needed because everything is drawn out on the cards. And speaking of drawing, the game’s artwork is absolutely breathtaking. I mean it’s gorgeous and adorable and amazing. Scoring is relatively simple– the only time it gets tricky is with souvenir collections but an older player should be able to easily navigate that. Rules are simple, strategies are plentiful. And again, it’s seriously hard to get worked up about this one.

Tokaido

Tokaido

FORBIDDEN ISLAND: OK so maybe it’s time to bring the family together instead of ripping them apart with vicious competitive board games. Stealing treasure from a homicidal island is the perfect answer. Forbidden Island is a cooperative game. That means the players play together on the same team against the game and they either win or lose– together. I should say the first cooperative game I played was Pandemic which is amazing and fun for adults, but I feel Forbidden Island is a much better game for families. Again, there is no reading needed. There’s no math either, just counting. And since everyone is playing together, the littlest of kids can play and get the help they need from the adults without everyone freaking out about it. One last perk about this game is that there are different levels of play, so you can play the Novice level with your kids a few times to get them comfortable with the game. We are yet to ramp it up past that when the kids are involved because it can still kick our butts.

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island

Bonus Suggestions

These are two games I am suggesting because they are more targeted than the ones above. I honestly believe you can play the above games with any reasonable combination of ages and skills. These two games are different but are still worth attention from families.

MR. JACK: There are two reasons this game is in the Bonus section– 1) It’s a two player game which makes it not ideal for typical family game nights and 2) It’s hard. The game doesn’t have any reading. It doesn’t have any math, just counting. But the game requires strategy, concentration, and strong analytical skills. I think you can easily use it to challenge a determined elementary school child. In the game, one player is Jack the Ripper and the other player is the Detective. The character that is Jack the Ripper is trying to escape London and the Detective is trying to catch him before he escapes or before time runs out. The one thing I really like about this game is that the odds are heavily stacked against the Jack the Ripper player. This makes it perfect for an adult that really enjoys challenges or an adult who is playing against a child. This is a great game for that one on one time your kid loves to have with you. And honestly the chances are good they’ll kick your butt.

Mr. Jack

Mr. Jack

ROBOT TURTLES: The reason this game is in the bonus section is because it’s borderline too easy for older kids and an adult doesn’t really play, they are sort of built in helpers. In Robot Turtles, kids are “writing” code for their robotic turtles using cards. No reading is needed at all for this game. The goal is to get their turtle from point A to point B. The parent acts as the computer, manipulating the turtles precisely as commanded by the child’s code, even if wrong. Parents are bullied into providing strongly encouraged to provide hilarious sound effects. The game can be simple and it can ramp up in complexity with the addition of obstacles and new programmable skills. The ultimate level of the game has the child “write” the code in one stroke and then the parent executes it. There is no winner in this game as all players have to get to their goals. Older kids might find the hardest level interesting for a couple of games, but I don’t think it will hold them more than that and it’s really hard to get them interested into being the computer unless you happen to have that kind of kid. Adults might find it tedious as well but if you’re a good sport about it, I would think you can handle a couple of matches. Definitely a good game to sucker visiting relatives into- “Hey honey, Uncle Billy would make some awesome Robot Turtle noises! You should ask him to play with you!”

Robot Turtles

Robot Turtles

So there you have it! These are some of the really neat games we have been playing at my house as a family– there are many more that are for the adults and maybe a future post. What games do you play at your house together?

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BONUS CONTENT (I’m all about the bonuses today)

If you’re curious about these games, Wil Wheaton has recorded him and his friends playing a couple of them the YouTube Channel Geek & Sundry.

You can watch them play King of Tokyo and Forbidden Island (John Scalzi and Bobak Ferdowsi play this one with him– squee!).

Enjoy!

It all comes tumbling down

Years ago, I started writing this particular blog because I felt so alone with my separation and divorce. I was losing friends left and right, and the few I had left just couldn’t relate. Same thing with family members. So I started writing to see if maybe by sending out a signal, I’d reach others who’d understand. Maybe I’d get some great advice. Maybe I’d learn something that would help someone else because we all feel alone at one point or another, don’t we?

And that’s what happened. I was really focused on single motherhood for a long time. And it worked. I had a good group and we were learning from each other and helping each other.

I stopped writing. Looking back, I don’t really know exactly what happened but I can sort of theorize. Here I was writing about my experiences as a single mom but I wasn’t actually getting anywhere positive. I was always a mess. Things just kept coming at me.

Growing up in a Cuban home, the best metaphor I can give you is dominoes.

Premature Whammo, Image from WikiMedia Commons

 

For the past several years, before my ex and I separated, my life felt like a constant domino rally. Here I was oh so carefully placing my dominoes, working towards my big design, and then WHAMMO! Something happened and before I could finish placing my dominoes, the whole thing would come tumbling down right before my eyes. And just like dominoes, sometimes it felt like every single one came crashing down, and other times it felt like maybe just some, or maybe half. But there I would have to go again, carefully standing them up one by one. And then again, WHAMMO.

I felt like I wasn’t learning anything. I wasn’t making progress. All of the good blogs are about people who succeed somehow. They made themselves lots of money, they became debt-free, they found love in a hopeless place, they created successful businesses, they survived and thrived, they got tenured.

I felt like I never made it anywhere. Up Up Down Down Back Forward Back Forward. Repeat. Repeat. My life, the never-ending Konami Code.

Ultimately, I felt blogging about it wasn’t helping. It was making things worse because writing about all this BS just made me have to face it more often. I was grossed out by my own life and the blog felt like a funhouse mirror– it’s supposed to be funny and good but it’s actually kind of scary.

Image from WikiMedia Commons

Scary-ass image from WikiMedia Commons

But I can’t let it go. Life is ugly it turns out. And what keeps pushing me to honesty and to openness is not all of the blogs I read are success stories. When I get down, I tend to exaggerate how much success is happening around me. I downplay those who struggle and yet they continue to lay open their messiness– sometimes in heart-wrenching honesty, let me tell you. Reconnecting with those blogs is what has pushed me to openness. Remembering that once upon a time people used to thank me for sharing MY mess. I had a friend tell me not too long ago that she missed my blog. She would read it, never comment, and so many times she’d find herself nodding as she read thinking, “Yes, me too!”. I have felt that reading other people’s blogs and it feels good. I was deeply touched that someone, ok more than one someone, had connected with me that way.

So here is my mess.

The last time things went really topsy-turvy was the child support modification order the ex submitted and won. That was like someone kicked all my dominoes down and then grabbed them and flung them all over the room sending them skidding under furniture and flinging them into faraway, dark places. It has been really hard to put the dominoes back together.

I started to try and put things together and make something again but it was an overwhelming mess. That’s what happens when $1500 a month vanishes. It wrecked me. Not to mention, it looks like the stress of it all just completely shut down my immune system and I have been catching every single illness I have come in contact with– colds, pneumonia, strep throat, more colds. I gave up on the damn dominoes and have sat still for a while crying, whining, and staring absentmindedly at the mess not sure what to do next…

WHAMMO.

In an email, the ex informed me he sent me paperwork in my oldest son’s backpack. He wants to modify the parenting plan. He is not happy that he gets the kids every Wednesday and every other weekend. He wants them every Monday, every Wednesday, and every other weekend. He didn’t see that I would have a problem with this so he wants me to sign the paperwork with him in front of a notary next Monday and file it with Self Help on Tuesday morning.

F*cking dominoes.

When I saw the email, I knew one thing– I needed to talk to someone who was not biased. I needed to talk to someone who didn’t know me, who didn’t know him, who was all about the kids.

So I went and had a meeting with the school counselor.

This was my first meeting with him. I had attended some of his parenting seminars last year and we knew each other by face because I’m an active volunteer, but he didn’t know me or my situation so I felt that he was my best bet. Especially as he is a parenting coordinator and a divorce mediator. Our school counselor is awesome.

I told him about the email I got and that I wanted the perspective of someone who was truly about the kids first. I’m going to share the key points of what he said to me because maybe they’ll help someone else in the same situation who can’t access a professional like I was lucky enough to do.

It was his feeling due to the suddenness of the request, the fact there was no prior discussion about it, the amount of time he is requesting, and the swiftness the ex wanted it handled, this was most likely financially driven. When he added the number of days the ex is requesting, it comes to half the year. In Florida this has a severe impact on child support. To what degree, he couldn’t say but most likely he is attempting to reduce the amount of child support he is responsible for or eliminate payments entirely. He said this was important to keep in mind because I should prepare for that to come in at some point even though in his email he stated he was not changing anything else including money.

However, he said despite what a person’s motives are, you need to look at these things as to what is best for the kids and make decisions with that in mind and nothing else. So with that in mind…

First of all, he felt more time was needed. Any change to parenting plans has a significant impact on children and should not be rushed into. He was especially concerned about the youngest because at six there is a lot going on and this kind of change would be most heavily felt by him as children of that age tend to be more attached to mothers. So he asked me to really take some time with this one. To give it a couple of weeks so that when we reach a decision, I can sleep at night and am not a mess every time I see the kids. If I’m anguished every time the kids see me, the kids are going to have a really rough time.

When it comes to divorce, he feels it’s the parents who should pay the consequences and his ideal parenting plan is one where the children remain in the family home and mom and dad move out into separate apartments and take turns moving back and forth between the house and the apartment. Of course, no one takes him up on it. I considered it big time but financially, I can’t swing it. One rent in Miami is difficult enough, one rent and a half? Paying half a rent and living in my car is more realistic. My mother approves of this plan for the record.

So what’s the second best situation?

One where disruptions are kept to a minimum and transitions are kept out of the school week as much as possible. He thinks our current situation– every Wednesday and every other weekend is OK, but still sucks because the Wednesday is disruptive. He felt that the ex’s request to throw in every Monday is a recipe for disaster as it just chops things up even more and requires more packing up and moving around from the kids. He felt very few judges would grant it because of that.

The other major issue with his request for every Monday and Wednesday is that it lays the burden of the two busiest days of the week on me. Tuesdays and Thursdays are karate nights. Karate starts at 6:30 and the kids don’t make it back home until after 8:00 PM. They have to eat, shower, and be in bed in an hour. It’s insane. And because I get home late from work, the kids go to Karate directly with my mother. This means I see them for approximately ONE hour Tuesdays and Thursdays. So while I technically have the kids more nights, I actually tend to have very little time WITH them during the week.

So what are some alternatives? We discussed two.

One would be to keep every Wednesday in place since the kids are used to it, but to add in every other Thursday. So that when it’s his weekend, the kids are with him Wednesday night through Sunday night. This gives them five nights at Dad’s house which is a good amount to feel settled. It’s still a little choppy every other week but it’s actually an improvement to the current situation. Dad would have to be responsible for the extracurricular activities those days as well (Wednesday soccer for the little one, Thursday karate for all three, Friday gymnastics for the girl and soccer games for the boy).

If he is not content with that and wants to have the kids half the time, the counselor said the only way to make it work in the best interest of the children is to do one week on, one week off. He explained 15 years ago he and many of his fellow psychologists did not approve of that method. They felt 7 days was just way too much time away from any one parent. However, over the years they have seen that children who are in this pattern fare the best by far. They do much better with the divorce and report they feel better about it more than the choppy splits. These kids just do better overall. And the older they get, even longer blocks do great. One social worker from a high school told me the divorced teens in his school are almost all on two week blocks. And they love it. The judges love week-long blocks too and are pushing for it more and more. Last year in Florida, legislature was introduced requiring judges try and push for it as the primary parenting plan for every “normal” divorce. It died in legislature, but the fact it was introduced shows the momentum behind this.

When it’s a one week on, one week off scenario, the best system they have found has pick-up take place every Sunday at 4 PM. No drop-offs because it makes shuttling things around harder. When you pick up you have time for BOTH parents to do the audit and if you catch something is missing, the kid can run back in and grab it. When you do a drop-off, you are placing the burden of putting everything together and verifying it on one parent and it creates a problem. By having pick-up at 4 on a Sunday, the kids have a chance to have dinner at the new house, get ready for school, and settle in. They start their week on a positive, calm note.

With this system, each parent is 100% responsible for the kids during their weeks. School projects, homework, school forms, extracurricular activities, illnesses, etc. all have to be managed by that parent. Yes, you can and should reach out to your co-parent for help but you’ve got to own the issues that week. Also with this system, parents are encouraged to attend extracurricular activities and school activities during their off weeks. This way the children at least see the other parent. Communication between parent and child should happen daily. And finally, the parenting plan should include a provision where for one night a week (usually Wednesday nights), the “off” parent picks the kids up, handles homework and dinner, and drops the kids off at the “on” parent’s house. He also encourages a weekend playdate (Friday night or Saturday afternoon)– a trip to the park, a movie date, etc. Just a few hours where the other parent picks the kids up, takes them out, and brings them back to the “on” parent’s house.

As you can imagine, this system demands 100% teamwork and that’s why it’s the hardest yet, ultimately, the best solution. Communication is essential. There is no room for frosty relations between the co-parents. Significant others and family members have to get on board. It doesn’t have to be a hippie lovefest but, there is just no room for bullshit.

That’s why it’s terrifying. And yet, that’s why it can be so good. It forces a lot of healing. Oh there are going to be fights and arguments and back forth. There is going to be a learning curve. Mistakes are going to happen. Feelings are going to get hurt. Oh well.

Either change we make, the counselor said that I could let him know and that if I was OK with it, he would meet with the kids for a while to check in with them and see how they were handling it to help give me some peace of mind and to help us manage issues as they arose.

So, that’s the latest tumble over here. I am refusing to think about the potential financial consequences here. Why bother? That’s not what’s being modified RIGHT NOW and if I try and think about all angles I’ll go crazier. Besides, once I make it about money, it’s not about the kids. I freaking love my kids. I am going to protect my kids. I don’t care what their father’s motivation is. Maybe he’s going to get married. Maybe he’s having a mid-life crisis and is realizing he’s been pretty shitty. Maybe he’s getting pressured by his family. Maybe it IS about the money. Either way, I’m going to force this to be about the kids and nothing else.

The counselor is right. If any of this is going to work, I need to be OK with it. And that means I need to sit with it, think about it, consult with others. Let the idea gel in my head. I need to wrap my arms around it, maybe cop a feel. I need to get there.

There is one last thing the counselor bestowed upon me.

I admitted to him part of the reason the request was so hard for me was because of the instability of it. Once again, good things have happened in my life (boyfriend got a new, better job AND his AA) and whammo! A BIG CHANGE! I told the counselor all I want is some stability. I want things to stop shaking on me for just a while.

You know what he told me?

Maybe I need to just accept I am not going to have a stable life. It’s just not what I’ve been given. Maybe I should just let go of that desire.

Man. That has been echoing through my head nonstop.

Let go of stability?

Confusingly, that makes sense. I just don’t really know how to put that into practice.

Right now, I’m sitting with my messy dominoes. I’m trying to visualize the new plan. I’m trying to consider different angles. I am consulting with others.

I have an appointment with another psychologist Monday morning. This one isn’t a children’s specialist, she’s for grownups. I’d like her take on the situation, on the options, on communication, on how to get there. I’d also like her input on the counselor’s suggestion to relinquish my desire for stability and what I can do to get there and how I can learn to see the good in the constant upheavals.

I’m in a better mindset today. And I think I’ll be in a better mindset every day. The only real thing I can truly try and exert any sort of control over is myself. Sometimes, to help others, you have to help yourself. Maybe even most of the time.

Playing with Lush

I have a not-so-secret secret to share with you. I’m addicted to Lush. I’ve been addicted to Lush for a really long time now. I used to order their products online many years ago. Now, there’s a Lush close to my house. I generally avoid it like the plague because finances are really tight lately (aren’t they always?) but sometimes I go in there for my treat.

Lush can be pretty pricey. Everything is handmade and they make an effort to use high-quality ingredients, more and more of which are fair trade and organic. My primary weakness for them is the bath bombs and the secondary is the bubble bars because I love soaking in a hot bath that smells amazing and looks super pretty.

But the bath products can get expensive. Bath bombs are usually about $7 each. I try and split them in half to stretch my dollar but it’s actually harder to do than you’d think and sometimes, I just need a full bomb in my bath– especially with the anxiety levels on high lately.

So anyways, I think maybe I have found a new thing to play with from Lush that is a little easier on the wallet– their fresh face masks.

Lush’s fresh face masks are not new to their line of products. They’ve been around for a while. But they’re new to me.

The Lush fresh face masks are also about $7 each. They are sold in little pots and kept in a mini fridge at the Lush stores. This is because they’re made with fresh food ingredients and do not have preservatives so they will go bad. Which is good! Why put crap on your face right? When you buy a fresh face mask, you store it in your fridge for up to 3 weeks (they have expiration dates on the pots).

Fun thrifty fact: If you trade in five of the little black Lush pots, you get a free face mask. So even though you can buy other products that come in the specially marked pots, the fresh face masks themselves are the best deal. So essentially, buy five get one free.

The really cool thing that I had not realized about the masks is that the little pots pack a punch. You get lots of applications out of that one little pot. So unlike a $7 bath bomb which you can probably get two good uses out of, you can get like 6 uses out of a fresh face mask.

One thing the cashier also suggested I try with the mask is a steamer tab. They cost about $2 so I got two different ones– the Tea Tree Toner tab and the Dream Steam tab. She said if you use the steamer tab before the mask it opens up your pores so the mask really does its job. For the mask, I chose Ayesha.

Spellbinding ingredients to smooth wrinkles

Ayesha is a blend of tightening and toning ingredients to refresh tired-looking skin. We use vitamin C-rich kiwi to brighten dull spots, asparagus to nourish and absorb excess oils and honey for hydrating and soothing red areas. This fresh mask is named after the fictional priestess who discovered the secret to immortality – ten minutes with it on and you’ll see why! Dull, tired and mature skin transforms for a bright, youthful glow.

Ok so, let’s get to the part where we play shall we?

So the first thing you do is get your hair up and away from your face and start with a nice clean(ish) face.

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Then you fill a bowl or sink with super hot water. I chose a bowl because my sink is lame and not only did I fill it with hot water, I microwaved it to make it even hotter. And of course you need your steamer tab. I chose the Tea Tree Toner Tab.

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Then you drop in your tab and it goes all fizzy!

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Then you grab a towel, place it over your head and lean over the sink. You try and do this all while not knocking everything over on your tiny sink countertop. And then you give up on that and just knock things over because it’s gonna happen and you’re trying to relax here.

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You chill like that for a few minutes or until the tab is finished dissolving. My tab dissolved IMMEDIATELY so I just hung out a bit longer. I was kinda disappointed with this part. It just didn’t work for me. There was really little steam and the tab smelled nice but not major. I didn’t feel like it was actually doing any pore-opening magic which was the point of the thing. Now the cool thing about this is that you’ve made tea tree toner water. You can store it in a spray bottle and keep it in your fridge a few days and spritz toner on yourself as needed. I couldn’t find a spray bottle so I just let it sit in the bowl and used it later.

Now that you steamed your face, you get to put goop on your face. You get your fresh face mask jar out of the fridge. Oh, see that little white message on the bottom with the recycling symbol? That’s what shows you that pot qualifies for the trade-in program.

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And you open it up.

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And then you start spreading it all over your face. The first thing that you notice about this product is that it’s not visually appealing. It’s brown goop. On the website it looks way more solid but as you see it’s actually kinda liquidy and mushy. Which is fine with me because I know these masks are made with things like fruits, veggies, honey, oils, and clay. The second thing you are going to notice is that it is COLD. It was after all sitting in your fridge. And your face just got steamed open (supposedly). So it’s COLD. Which is actually kind of fun. Then right away when you get over the IT’S COLD thing, the thing that hits you is the smell. Asparagus. A lot of people have a hard time identifying this smell and my guess is that they just don’t eat a lot of asparagus because I caught it right away and I wasn’t even sure there was asparagus in this when I bought it. You know those delicious smells that inspire you to say something like, “This is so good, I want to bathe in it!”? Asparagus is not one of those smells. So this mask is not all delicious smelling, it’s very earthy smelling and roasty. Which isn’t to say it smells gross it’s just really unique. So, right as you process the smell, you also realize the mask is tingling. Looking at the ingredients, my guess is that’s the Witch Hazel at work. I love tingly masks. LOVE them. So that’s what the application process is like– lots of sensations. Cold! Asparagus! Tingle! Repeat! When you’re done, you look like a baby who is starting to eat solid food and failing miserably.

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After you’re smeared in fancy baby food, you have to let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes.

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So that’s what I did. Which was interesting because I didn’t have my glasses on and was blind. After the time was up, I jumped in the shower because the goop gets everywhere no matter how well you get your hair out of your face. When I got out of the shower, I used the toner tab water to rinse my face one last time and that’s it!

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Fresh faced and ready to go to bed!

Did it work? Is my skin amazing? I don’t know. I’m not that particular. I just want to do something that pampers me and spreading baby food on my face is very pampering for whatever reason. I do have a before picture and an after picture here. Side by side…

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Before

After

After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t see much of a difference except I look redder in the After but I just got out of the shower so that makes sense. I’ll keep using the mask until it runs out and we’ll see if there’s any difference later. What I’m really looking for is something that helps me out with the breakouts I’ve been getting hit with the past couple of months. So that’s the big test for me. Things like tight, bright, and youthful make no sense to me. No more pimples please. That’s all.

At this point, I don’t think I’d buy steam tabs again but I do have one more to try so we’ll see. I will definitely buy another mask. I’ll most likely buy a different type because I’d like to try them all, not because I disliked Ayesha. I liked it just fine, especially the tingling!

For those of you who are culinary-inclined, there are lots of face masks you can make yourself. Pinterest is awash in recipes including recipes for some of Lush’s masks. I can’t stand being in the kitchen for anything other than pouring a drink for myself or eating sweets so I am not very inclined to try this but if you do, let me know! Curiosity might just get me there.

What’s your not-so-secret secret? Do you pamper yourself? How? What do you love?

Strepped out

Last week I mentioned I was sick. Turns out I was misdiagnosed– it was strep throat. So I am on antibiotics now and am improving. Just very very tired.

One thing we discussed is why I keep getting sick. They say with someone like me where there’s no medical history of problems it boils down to two things– too much stress and too little sleep. Yes I have to get bloodwork done to rule out other stuff but they basically feel that shooting for six hours of sleep at night while dealing with the stress and illness is just wrecking my immune system.

Sleep is the big thing I have to focus on. I’m determined. Part of the problem is the significant other. He likes to stay up late and with the job he’s had with the constantly changing hours, it made sense for him to not have a fixed schedule. The problem is, I was letting myself get swept up in it and am paying the price.

The good thing is first of all that I talked to him and I’m going to stay firm on this. I can’t keep getting sick. So I am going to do what the doctor suggested and aim for eight hours of sleep so that I can at least get seven. That means I have to be in bed by ten every night so I can be asleep before 11. Hopefully he can join me but if he can’t… sorry babe, really. I hate going to bed without him but I have to. I’m falling apart!

The good news is that he is hopefully starting a new job next Monday and the hours for that one are consistent and more in line with my schedule so he will have more incentive to get to bed at the same time I do. I am hoping the new job helps iron out some of the wrinkles because wrinkles stress me out so if I can get more sleep and have less wrinkles to worry about, that’d be great.

OK I’m exhausted. The meds are making me sleepy beyond belief. I’m going to sign off now before I ramble something silly.

If I get sick one more time…

As a kid, I was pretty healthy. Ok yeah I was the only one that needed glasses. And yeah I was the only one that had to have their appendix taken out. But other than that, I was pretty good. Sure I got the chicken pox. And I got my colds and viruses. But I broke no bones, and I had no allergies.

A few years ago, things… changed. I don’t know what caused it. Maybe it was moving to a different part of the city. Maybe it was the hormonal shift that came with my thirties. I honestly do not know. But for the past few years, I have suffered one respiratory issue after another. Sinus infections, viral infections in my throat, freaking pneumonia, and on and on. Not to mention, I even got the flu for the first time in my life!

So yeah. Sickness. One thing after another it seems. A couple of weeks ago, right when I started my vacation, the sniffing started and the eye boogies and the itchy throat. So I jumped right back onto Claritin. The beau told me I was snoring like crazy, which I don’t usually do, so I started taking Flonase at night too. And my throat was bothering me that whole week I was on vacation. But it got better. And then it got worse. Way worse.

Yesterday when I woke up I felt like my throat was swollen shut. I could breathe, but I did not want to speak or eat or anything. For the first time in my life, I could actually feel the glands in my throat mostly because the one on the right side felt like a rock. When I told the beau to feel my glands, he did and I actually yelped because it HURT. Even my ear hurt. So I ended up at the doctor. Viral infection. No antibiotics. Just treat the symptoms and let’s try and make sure it doesn’t worsen.

What in the underworld is happening to me? I’m ten dress sizes larger than I was four years ago, my knees hurt like hell when I run, and I get sick all of the time!!

Boy is it hard to keep a positive attitude when your body is freaking out. Sheesh!

But I’m trying since I’m all about the good stuff right now. Trying to load up on positive so there’s not much room for negative.

Tonight, I’m meeting with a friend to talk about my tutus. She is a photographer, my other friend is a face painter, and I make some pretty darn cool tutus. So we are going to brainstorm. I’m not nearly as aggressive as I was about this. I’m more like, this is a for fun thing– a for fun thing that brings me a few extra dollars every month. If it becomes a big thing, that’s great and if it doesn’t that’s ok.

There are other things that I am fleshing out in my life. I started a local book club– our first meeting is in October. And I am going to host open invitation game nights through the month of September. Plus with school starting again, there will be lots of projects to work on since I’m helping the heads of the Homeroom Parents Association and am spearheading the Volunteer recruitment efforts as well as the Box Top challenges.

Oh and you know what else? I used to be super annoyed with Facebook (but addicted anyways) until a friend posted this really interesting article about what happened when one user stoped “liking” content on the site and restricted themselves to either commenting, sharing, or completely disregarding it. So I tried it, and it’s been so much better! Fun little experiment if you’re interested in changing up your Facebook experience.

So yeah, those are the ramblings going around over here. Trying hard to keep the lights on and trying to put systems in place to make it harder for them to blackout on me.

Self-Destruct Mode

Did you all have a nice weekend? I did even though it wasn’t quite restful. Still, time was spent with my friends and my family and things got done around the house to some degree so that’s pretty good for me.

Do you know what baffles me? And I’m not sure if this is a universal experience or not so do chime in.

I am noticing more and more that when things start to go dim for me, I really don’t do much to fix it. I actually do a lot more to make it worse than anything else. When things start to darken, I seem to instinctively stop doing things I like. I stop going to bellydancing. I stop writing. I am not so enthusiastic about seeing friends or family. Instead of running around trying to brighten things up, it’s like I can’t make it go dark fast enough.

I am not hardwired for survival apparently.

And I really only start to notice that when I am able to come out of the funk again. It’s like I’m dehydrated and starving and try to fill up again. And then all I can do is wonder, “why on earth did I stop this in the first place?”.

Speaking of abandoned things, a comment I got from Sandy the other day reminded me– I really miss Google Reader. When Google took that away, it really messed up blogging for me. I just never could get into Feedly. Reader was easy. Everything was right there. I check my email every day so naturally Reader got checked too. Not so with other services I’m afraid.

Which is just as well. Blogging keeps changing. Talk about accelerated evolution. I remember the days of blogs as personal diaries. And then as tools to connect with like-minded people. And now… I don’t know what they are honestly. I don’t really read them much. It seems they are all in existence to make money one way or another. Very few seem to be interested in only the community. Which I understand. Money is useful.

Anyways, hopefully I can keep the lights on longer this time. I do like it better this way.

The thing I like most

I love people who make me laugh

 

Last night, I went to a new friend’s house and I laughed a lot. The wine and the company and the calm in my head allowed the laughter to come easily and plentiful. It was nice.

I remember thinking or saying if I laugh like that once a month, I’ll be just fine.

Laughing more. It’s on my list. So is spending time in nature. Checking in with my kids. Reading more. Writing more. Making things because I want to make them. Watching more anime. Spending more time with friends. More living.

It’s my hope that by focusing more energy on things I enjoy, on things that make me laugh, on things that make me glad, I won’t have enough energy for darker things. Simple math right?