I dropped my girls off to their grandmother this afternoon, bags packed and hugs a plenty.  I cried pulling out of the driveway.  The past two weeks have been a blur, as if being stuck at home has somehow made time speed up.  I internally rolled my eyes, reminding myself that there will be no more switches or drop-offs in a matter of days.  Their dad moves thousands of miles away in 51 days, to be exact.  Not that I’m counting or anything.  But I still teared up.  We’ve been doing split custody for seven years and it will always be a strange reality.  The girls live dual lives in a similar way that their parents do during the “on” and “off” weeks.  I’m normally not emotional to the point of tears when the girls go back to their dad.  Sometimes it feels harder than normal.

I saw a meme a couple weeks ago that said something like, “Life has become like Vegas: you don’t know what day it is, drinking is acceptable at any time of day, and most people lose.”  It’s funny on the surface, but the kind of funny that makes you laugh because if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.  Like the Quarentini.  We create some concoction to temporarily distract from the reality we’re living in.  But that reality ends up only being a wicked headache the next morning.  And that day blends into the rest.  And we either reach for another Quarentini or choose something else.

I thought I was doing well with the current pandemic: feeling grateful to not only still have a job but also one that allows me to work from home; rocking the zoom meetings; staying safe and healthy.  Being connected via screens, not feeling part of a bigger world in the social sense and waking up never quite knowing what day it is has started to have an effect.  My partner and I had a wicked fight last weekend that spanned the course of days.  I got frustrated with remote school and was harsh and made Vivienne cry.  I’ve been crabby with coworkers who haven’t done anything to contribute to my crabbiness.  Under other circumstances, I would be in Seattle right now having a girl’s weekend with one of my besties who is getting married in the fall.  I worry about my friends who own small businesses.  I worry about the very important people in my life who are in the high risk category.  I worry about a lot of things.  I’m on edge thinking about the things I miss.  I try not to dwell on the fact that those things might not be back for a very long time.

Two minutes after I dropped the kids off, I got rear-ended.

I found a pen, paper, insurance info, and wanted to burst out in tears.  After talking to the other driver and assessing the damage (cracked bumper, neither of us hurt) and realizing that things could have been so much worse, I didn’t want to cry anymore.  I wanted a Quarentini, but one that was strawberry lemonade with frozen blueberry ice cubes.  One that doesn’t mask anything at all but would provide a moment of refreshing relief.  I have no idea how, but I know it will be ok, somehow.  We are adapting, changing, attempting to live a new normal.  That in itself is really hard.

Things are uncertain right now and it feels impossible to have any sense of control.  But we can be stuck or we can figure it out.  We are all still connected and need to figure out new ways to experience what that connection feels like.  I might cry along the way, but I’ll also remind myself that I’ve always said “normal is boring,” anyway.

Posted in Family, Friends, Identity, Parenting, Work | 2 Comments


I was recently accepted to a mentoring program through one of the nonprofits in town.  Based on the national “Open Table” model, the program trains people from an array of community sectors — including business, education, faith communities, healthcare and others — to organize and co-invest their abundant and sustainable relational and social capital in individuals with complex needs and solutions to daunting social challenges.  (Visit https://www.theopentable.org/ for more).  Succinctly, the program is about building relationships that create lasting change.  Logistically, this means four women and I went through eight weeks of training and will now meet as a group with a single mom every week for the next year.

I’ve fallen, recently, too.  I have felt lost trying to navigate massive changes happening personally and professionally.  Stress and choices made by others in which I have no say, but am ultimately affected by, have made it hard to get up in the mornings.  My co-parent has decided to move cross country this summer, which will drastically change the time he spends with our daughters.  Will drastically change his relationship with them.  And will drastically change my situation in becoming a full-time single mom.  There is a magnitude of grief and loss involved in terms of my relationship and friendship with him, but the affect this will have on our almost 11 and 14 year olds will be greater and everlasting.  I am all of the adjectives for anxious about the very near future.

When I was completing my application for the program, and again during introductions this past week, I talked about my own experiences being a mom.  The support system of family and friends has been vast and constant.  I am incredibly grateful that my daughters have been surrounded by a village of individuals who truly love and care about them.  I am grateful that the same support has been there for me.  The “table” all voiced their own reasons for wanting to be involved in this program.  All of us stated a variation of “I want to show up for you.  I want to provide support.  I want to be part of something bigger than myself.”  I’m excited to embark on this journey with women I never would have crossed paths with in any other circumstance.  I am hopeful that meaningful connections will be established through consistent and genuine communication and that we can be part of supporting this mom’s journey.

I met with my doctor last week after realizing that I couldn’t remember a day that I didn’t cry.  My coping through dysfunctional and destructive habits based in addiction has led me into deeper depression.  My counselor reminds me that I am moving through the grief cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  I feel stuck between anger and sadness.  I know this will change, slowly, over time.  On a daily basis though, the number of layers to attempt to sort through is overwhelming.

“These changes are huge,” my doctor agreed, “what do we do to make sure you have the support you need to be able to support your kids?”  I can make changes to my daily habits and routines.  Continue to talk to my counselor.  Eat consciously, exercise, meditate, do yoga, make fun plans, do more creative things, start a different anti-depressant, figure out how to actually sleep at night.  I need to take care of myself in order to take care of my girls.

I will reach out to that village.  Remember I have that village.  And more importantly, remember that my girls do too.

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Cool Girl

Author’s Note:  I wrote the “11 year old” post a year ago.  That’s how efficient I am at publishing blog posts now, apparently.  Thanks to Grandma for letting me host her 12th birthday party at her house, also!

Lily recently turned 11 years old and I’ve noticed subtle changes taking hold.  She takes the stance of “older and wiser sister” more often with Vivienne; she doesn’t want me to read books to her at bedtime anymore; she is pickier about food in her lunch box.  Lily has always been incredibly emotionally intelligent and picks up on the dynamics that exist even when words are not being spoken.  In turn, she often melts away into herself and refuses to communicate.  Many days, letting an ample amount of time pass, just sitting next to her, and remembering to be patient and not pushy gets her to open up.  But there are moments when that shell won’t crack.

Getting ready for school one morning last week, she was sluggish and crabby.  I knew something was bothering her but she wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t eat breakfast, wouldn’t crack the tiniest smile.  I dropped the girls off at school and she walked away without even saying good-bye.  I cried on the way home, wishing the end of my week with them (and the beginning of their week with their dad) would have been different.

She still shares things with me, randomly and sporadically.  I know which of her friends is dating which boys at their school, when they break up, and when they get back together.  I know that two of her friends started their periods.  I know she still hates living in two houses and having parents who are divorced.  I know she has cramps sometimes and just wants to stay in bed.  I know she is already worried about middle school.  I know she is sick of mac and cheese and the other lazy things I make for dinner.  The only thing I know about what might be a better option, according to her, is tacos.

Lily has never been a follower but is careful and kind about how she leads.  She is, in a very deep, conscientious, and real way, a genuinely cool girl.  Lily has participated in a girls’ rock music camp a few times before, which culminates with a live performance at one of our local clubs.  Seeing her on stage, usually with fun makeup and sprayed-on hair dye, introducing herself and then singing and playing her heart out, makes me explode with joy.

She is that cool girl I always wanted to be when I was younger; the one who had this magic and drew others to her, and when you actually got to know her better realized she was a decent human being and not “cool” in the cruel sense of the popular crowd.  I was not cool in any sense of the word.  I was smart and nice and survived middle school by trying to blend in and fending off the popular kids with humor.  Lily is one of the cool girls, in the best of ways.

As she gets older, I worry about a lot of things.

I let her watch too much Netflix and YouTube and don’t make her do enough chores.  I’m worried about hormones and trying to deal with my own as well as hers (AND her sister’s, eventually).  I want her to learn self-sufficiency and responsibility and how to navigate through difficult situations.  I worry about eating disorders and self-esteem and the middle school years to come.  I worry about that spark being beaten out of her through peers and experiences.

I want to explore the world with her and give her more perspectives to think about.  I want to spend time volunteering somewhere with her.  I want to cultivate and encourage her passions without being overbearing.  I want her to love riding the carousel for much longer than she most likely will, and want to continue taking her there for as long as she asks.  She always gets the gold ring.  And she usually saves it for when her sister wants to ride again.  Because that’s what cool girls do.

And then the other night, while tucking her in, she asks, “Mama, what’s a crush?”

I shut down my internal monologue and simply answered, “It’s when you like someone and you want to spend more time with them because they make you happy.”

“Well then,” Lily responded, “Mama, I have a crush on you!  Snuggle with me for a little bit?”

Of course.


Lily recently turned 12 years old and I continue to notice not so subtle changes taking hold.

For her birthday party, a group of girls met at the mall to wander around for a couple of hours and then I paid for them all to ride on these ridiculous, child magnet, stuffed animals on wheels that go about 2 miles per hour, for ten minutes.  We ate pizza and cake (she picked a flying pig version this year for me to make) and the girls did pretend shots of their fizzy drinks.  We made friendship bracelets and they summoned spirits with the Ouija board and sang karaoke.  The girls watched movies and stayed up most of the night.  They slept in and all dined on waffles before heading home.

At one point during the party, half of the group were sitting around the kitchen table and the other half were in another room fooling around with a play kitchen set.  The group at the kitchen table discussed rumors about someone in their grade having had sex, and if it could possibly be true, and who else it might possibly be, and who else had made that jump.  The group in the other room pretend-shopped and pretend-made dinner.  I sat in the living room, quietly observing, and intently working on my own friendship bracelet.

I still think about this moment, months after the party has passed.  Lily is in the crux of becoming a pre-teen, reaching the middle of abandoning her childhood, absorbing information left and right, but still processing things as a kid.  Sixth grade was somehow miraculously smoother than fifth, which has left me petrified and convinced that the shit will hit the fan in seventh grade.  I still worry about, and want, similar things that I did a year ago.

I worry mostly about our communication drastically changing.  I worry about hormones and emotions and depression and the complicated drama that can ensue at this age.  I try to remind myself that her seventh grade experience won’t be exactly what mine was, but I know that she is on the turning point to something entirely brand new.  I worry about taking her actions and behavior too personally instead of realizing that she is going through an incredible change and being able to support her even when she storms off and slams a door.

Our conversations have become more grown-up.  We frequently discuss topics such as gender and sexual identity, periods, the dispensary next door to my house, sex.  She consistently sends me YouTube videos to watch, navigates any kitchen in a comfortable and laid-back manner (schnitzel?  chocolate chip cookies?  you got it!), loves cuddling on the couch, and is pursuing a passion in photography.  She is still that cool girl I always wanted to be when I was younger; she just wants more rides to the mall now.

I should inquire if maybe we can walk down to the carousel next week when her sister will be out of town.  And the snuggles at bedtime?  Those will always be welcomed with open arms.

Posted in Identity, Sex, Siblings, Teen | Leave a comment

Not a Disposable Life

Growing up, my mother was a fantastic keeper of memories in the photographic sense.  My sisters and I would spontaneously select an album from the book shelf and thumb through the pages, hesitating over specific pictures and remembering our childhood experiences.  I remember a random conversation as a teenager in which I was discussing first memories with friends.  I swore up and down that my first memory was when I was very young and we had taken a family trip to a beach.  I told my mom about this later, and she remarked, “Wow, you were incredibly young!  It is kind of amazing that you remember that.  I don’t think you were even two years old then.”  I paged through one of my early albums and gazed at a photo of me lying on the beach, examining a bug.  I then realized.  I wasn’t sure if I remembered my actual experience in that moment or simply the photograph taken.

When I moved into my own apartment at age 18, I lugged two gigantic Rubbermaid’s along with me.  The albums were stored for a couple of years until I eventually bought a house of my own.  They remained in storage, still, for the most part.  I would sometimes curse the gigantic boxes when attempting to make room for other things, but when I stopped and looked through the photos, it was mesmerizing.  And then I felt bad for cursing them, thanked my mother, and decided I just needed a bigger house.

In my experiences with viewing other peoples’ printed photographs, I understand now that my mom had a unique talent for organizing time.  Most photos are stored in boxes somewhere on a top shelf, and that in itself can even be considered old-fashioned in our day and age.  Now the exchange of experiences happens instantaneously within the realm of social media, but they never live long enough to become memories in the same way that a carefully crafted book of photos captures those moments.

I kept up with my own albums through my twenties.  Backpacking through Europe.  Halloween parties and craziness with friends and black and white photo shoots in alleys.  Wedding, honeymoon.  My older daughter has multiple albums.  I think the first is hundreds of pictures of her first couple weeks.  My second daughter has perhaps two.  I gave up, somewhere in the months after she was born, in my attempts of becoming a fantastic keeper of memories.  I admit that I am swayed by the immediate gratification of uploading a photo, and the minimal time necessary to dedicate to the task.  But I still cherish the print media every single time I pick up an album.

When the first Christmas after my separation was impending, I felt the need to start a new tradition with my daughters.  One of the presents was a disposable camera for each girl.  Their assignment was to document whatever they wanted throughout the day (part of the new tradition also involved going out for breakfast, visiting a candy shop, and soaking in hot springs).  I laughed out loud when I had the first set developed; both kids had taken many shots of their other gifts and blurry-too-close-for-a-disposable mementos.  But they had also caught smiles and hugs and happiness.

I was recently taking pictures with a disposable camera at my older daughter’s music camp rock show and one of my dearest friends remarked how strange it was to be using such a device.  I explained the purpose behind the camera (my older daughter still had pictures left on her camera from Christmas and we had forgotten to take them) and she exclaimed how incredible it was that I was teaching my kids a lesson about not having a disposable life with these cameras.

After three years, the Christmas pictures now live in albums.  We laugh at the blurry-too-close-for-a-disposable shots, reminisce about particular presents (“Hey, where is that book now?!?”), and remind each other about the details of each particular holiday.  My daughters and I page through the photographs often, and I realize my friend was absolutely correct in her observation.  In my own small way, in the virtual world we exist in, I have become a fantastic keeper of memories for my children.

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One Week

On Friday, I drop the kids off at school and kiss them good-bye. A week passes, quickly and suddenly, and I find myself in the midst of Friday once again. As I load the backpacks and snow pants and library books into my car, I notice the slight shift. The girls were having a typical sister argument about a random stuffed animal (Lily: “You smacked me with that!!!” Vivienne: “You chose to stand in front of me while I was swinging it!!!” When both the eight year old and five year old have valid points to an argument, I choose to ignore it and let them figure it out.) while I checked in with their dad about the upcoming week. And in that small minute moment, the shift echoed in the silent spaces between.

Over dinner that night, Vivienne clammed up when I asked about school and what “personal goal” her teacher had chosen for her (speaking up in class). Lily, in contrast, held the conversation hostage with her tales about school and third grade friends and drama between said friends.

“I didn’t sit with them at lunch, and they each came up to the table, one by one, to ask why I wasn’t sitting with them.”

“What did you say?”

“I didn’t say anything until the third girl asked. Then I just told her that I was sitting where I was because I wanted to.”

“It can be hard sometimes, especially with friends who are girls,” I tell her, “Some girls think you should only have a few best friends and those are the only girls you ever hang out with or have lunch with.”

“Yeah, but a real friend gets it that sometimes I just want to play with a different friend.”


I think about my own third grade self, my current friendships, and others that evaporated or disintegrated with the passage of time. Cleaning up the dishes from dinner (or rather, pouring myself more wine while my partner cleans them up, lucky duck), the shift smacks me upside the head. My girls, my wonderful and amazing girls, are a week older. They are bigger in ways beyond winter boots fitting snugly or pants inching up above ankles. After a year of switching them back and forth between houses, it shouldn’t surprise me that they continue to change in each of those weeks. But it does.

Vivienne has a play-date with a friend from her old preschool tomorrow, and I ask Lily if we can do something special during that time, just the two of us. She distractedly says, “Yeah! That’d be fun!” in-between moves on the computer game she is playing.

And then it really hits me. These moments are dwindling and I can literally watch them like grains of sand in an hourglass. This is the shift.

“It’s coming,” I tell my partner, “The time when I ask her that question and she says ‘No’ – that she wants to be with her friends or at the mall or wherever – is coming. Thank god I still have this time.”

I remember how much could happen in the span of a week when the girls were infants. In the thick of babydom, I merely survived. The inevitable remarks of “She’s so much bigger! How different she is now! How amazing!” would be cast from anyone who didn’t interact with us on a daily basis. I would simply nod and agree, but always on a superficial level. I was living that “amazing” baby every day and, while loving them with every ounce of my soul, honestly just wanted to sleep and sit somewhere by myself while enjoying a glass of wine. Without the “amazing” baby.

The shift was present then, and still remains.

After the shock of this revelation passes, I remind myself to focus on this week. I will embrace my daughters for who they are right now. I take a deep breath, relish my past memories, excite in future possibilities, and ultimately, feel grateful for the time today.

Posted in Friends, Siblings | Leave a comment