Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tank Park Salute

I wrote this some months ago.
In the week since my former father in law passed away, I have found myself overwhelmed with sadness and grief.  I see older men with their wives, limping slightly and I have a flash of anger.  Anger that they are here and he is gone.

I'm amazed by my brain.  How could I think such a thing? 

So anathema to who he was, each day of his life. 

I looked to him to see how to respond to something like this.

This is the man who helped paint my children's room before they were born.  He helped me buy three of my past four cars.  He bought the ipod for me so I was able to start listening to podcasts.  I am still in shock - I'm not sure that I can even comprehend what this loss means for me and my children.

I take comfort in knowing that he loved me and was proud of me.  Despite divorcing his son.

When I moved out, the movers didn't show up.  He (and my ex) were there with friends.  He helped me move into my new place. He said to let him know if I needed anything, and he meant it.

One of the last times I saw him, I mentioned to him that I was reading the Hamilton biography.  I wanted to give it to him afterwards.  I wanted him to read it as well., so we could talk about it.  I would like to think he would have done that.  He mentioned that he wasn't impressed by Hamilton.

Few people in one's life will love you unconditionally.  Love without any expectation of reciprocity.  I was fortunate to have my former father in law who believed in me.  With no strings attached.  He and my former mother in law helped me go to night school to go into IT.  When the twins were born, they would take a weekend and stay up all night with the twins so their dad and I could sleep for 8 precious hours.

This grief is a knot that may never come undone.  Logically, I know this is the way he wanted to go.  Peacefully (is death ever peaceful?) in his sleep.  Not after a long illness.  With all of his wits about him, completely independent. 

I'm almost certain I had a conversation with him about this very thing.

As a former daughter in law, my position is tenuous and intensely awkward.  My presence is not wanted.  There is some sort of competition in this grief. It must be threatening that I loved my father in law too.  Just because I divorced their son, doesn't mean I loved them any less. 

Truth will prevail, and this truth prevails.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Showing up

"Why don't you come on back to the war, let's all get even"
-Leonard Cohen

Being heard has been a defining motivator in my life.  As a mother in her forties, I find it bemusing how invisible I am. 

Yet being invisible has its advantages.  Much can be done when others are not paying attention.

I'm breaking my radio/blog silence because I can't quit you; this is my way of being heard.  Even if only a handful of friends hear me. 

The proof is in the pudding, as they say.  Speaking and listening matter, but in the end, it's the actions that speak for themselves. 

I am determined that my legacy be one of showing up.  I show up to things I value.  And when I can't show up (usually due to finances, or being the mom of twins), I want the people I love to know that I'm there in spirit.

People can throw around all sorts of ideas.  Who wins.  Why they win. Who's right and who's wrong.  In the end, respect is apparent, no matter what is said. 

Respect is showing up.  Love is doing the dishes, voting, marching.  Respect is learning and being open to learning.  Being willing to be wrong.

Words matter.  But in the end, what one does matters more than what one says. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016


From my layperson's perspective, there doesn't appear to be a lot of medical research into addiction. I suppose it is a little bit like malaria.  It's not news because it happens all the time.  News is reporting what's new or different, or what's changed.

I am heartened to hear of new medication options that might help people struggling with addiction.  (This is link to the radiolab episode "The Fix").

I remember when SSRIs were becoming more mainstream in the early 90s.  It's amazing how much difference medication can make.

Many friends (including me) were anti-medication.

And there are good reasons for the skepticism.  The psychiatric community historically has discriminated against women (if not people of color).  And that's completely ignoring the treatment of the LGBT community until quite recently.

But I also know many people who have benefited from the medications (including me).  For me, I think it's pretty obvious.  Just like my body not making enough thyroid hormone, my brain doesn't appear to handle serotonin appropriately.  For me, it's been an simple equation - I take thyroid medication, and my symptoms decrease.

So I agree with the notes in the podcast that medication radically changed how people viewed mental illness and talk therapy.

With that said, I still see a tremendous amount of value in talk therapy (i.e. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).  Medication can work wonders, but there are still thought patterns that may need to be examined.  There are relationship skills that need to be learned (or strengthened).  CBT can help a person develop boundary setting and healing from trauma that cannot happen just through taking a pill. And it doesn't have to be a life sentence.  Medication may be needed for a short amount of time for getting through something (like death or a divorce), but can also be decreased over time.

So medication for addiction may be incredibly helpful for those struggling with addiction.  But in the end, there may also be a great deal of value in examining the underlying issues of addiction.  How does a person deal with the uncomfortable feelings that led to the addiction in the first place?  How does one interact socially when all social interactions involved a substance?

It's incredibly complex, and I'm not even scratching the surface of the issue's complexity.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

New Tricks

I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms. - Henry David Thoreau, Walden or Life in the Woods

The past years of transition have been ones with many firsts for me.  I am also consciously embarking on many new experiences.  I'm finding a mix between the comfort of routine and branching out.

I went golfing.  I am not a golfer, have never been a golfer.  I've played lots of mini-golf, but true golf is a bit different.  I've also played video game golf, but again, there's a big difference between clicking some buttons and determining one's stance.  It can be tricky not to hit the golf ball like a baseball.

I went golfing with my work team.  Mostly I drove the golf cart.  I knew ahead of time I would not be very good, and I wasn't.  But it was certainly a new experience.  I prefer to do things (particularly at work) that I know and understand.  There is already a great deal of programmer culture to appear that one knows different technologies or programs (whether or not one does).

There's a tendency to want to rest on my laurels, but that's not how I want to live.  I want to be doing and trying new things throughout my life, no matter what age.

Then this past week, I stayed in a hotel by myself.

It was one of those things I was struck by.  It must sound so odd.

Here I am, a professional woman in her late thirties, and I've never stayed in a hotel by myself before. It's not that I haven't traveled before (I have) or that I haven't stayed in a hotel before (I certainly have).  It's just that usually when I travel, I would go with someone else;  my kids, my former partner, friends or family.  Or, I would travel to a friend or relative's home (by myself) and stay with them.  I haven't traveled for work before and needed to stay in a hotel.

I suppose that's why it felt disjointed, I wasn't aware that this would be a new experience, and yet it was.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What I miss

I don't miss a great deal about being married.  Is that heresy?

It seems like there is a lot of societal pressure to get married, to stay married, to be part of a couple (particularly for women).

These are some of the things I miss.

-Seeing my kids every day
It's not really part of marriage, but because their dad and I lived in the same home, I saw my kids every day.  Now that's not the reality.

-Changing light bulbs
As someone who is relatively short, it was nice to have someone taller around to be able to reach the light fixtures.

-Being able to easily drop my car off for service
It's a lot less complicated when you have two adult drivers.  I can drop my car off now, it's simply takes more effort and coordination.

-Comparing notes about my day
When you live with someone, it's nice to compare days and to support one another (daily).  I have lots of friends but it's not the same as having someone physically there.

-Having someone who could attend work events, etc. with me
It's a bit awkward at typical couples' events to be there by myself.  On the other hand, it's nice to only have to entertain myself, and not other people.

-Taking the babysitter home
It's a longer process to return home, pick up the kids and babysitter, take the babysitter home and then return home myself.

My former partner and I get along, so we're flexible when one of us is sick, needs to watch the kids, etc.

I know many divorced parents don't have that option.

Perhaps what's more strange is there isn't more that I miss.  Like anything, marriage has its advantages and disadvantages.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Flowers in British Columbia

mystery yellow flower 2015
Recently I had the privilege of travelling to Vancouver.  It is breathtakingly beautiful there.    
Blue hydrangea 2015
Stanley Park rose

Stanley Park Rose (Orange)
Tree growing out of granite

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Free range parenting fail?

The best part of childhood is exploring, getting dirty - experiencing the outdoors in all its splendor.  Not everyone agrees with me.

I live on a small lake.  I love going down to the water with my kids.  We skip stones.  We throw rocks in the water.  It's part of the reason I chose to live here.

There is a dead tree that fell into the lake. My two have been systematically taking it apart.  Tearing off the bark, breaking off the branches.

dead tree 2015
I would have done the same thing when I was ten.  And while growing up in my family was not always easy, my best memories are of exploring the outdoors.  Creating potions with leaves.  Building clubhouses underneath bushes.

Last Tuesday after dinner, we were out breaking branches.  All of a sudden, I hear "Are you going to clean that up?"  I didn't know where the voice was shouting from.  A neighbor was standing on his second floor porch and proceeded to curse us out (literally).  I started gathering the wood chips together.

He shouted things like "we all have to live here.  Now that tree looks like sh*t without its branches." "I've seen you here with your kids.  How can you let your kids do this? You're a (insert expletive here) mother".

We went inside.  I was shaken and upset.  My kids were shaken and upset.

I checked with the leasing office to find out the rules and to report this guy.  Sometimes people are jerks, which is what I told my kids.  If he has an issue with me, then he could have come down to the lake and discussed it with me as an adult.

Part of the injustice of it is that I know I'm a good mom.  Allowing my kids to explore the outdoors (while I'm right there) is part of what makes me a good parent.  Some jerk saying that I'm not a good mom, because he doesn't like what I'm doing is just his opinion, and doesn't make it true.

But part of the reason it upset me is that I work really, really hard to be the best mom, the best person I can be.  One guy's opinion doesn't change that.  And isn't it odd that we can hear twenty positive opinions but the negative one is the one we remember?

What kind of world will we live in when kids are indoors all the time in front of screens?  We already spend too much time in front of screens, consuming.  I haven't read the Nurtureshock or free range parenting books, but I'm familiar with the concept.  We spend so much time protecting our kids, so much time in sanitized situations, children are unprepared to deal with the world as adults.

I will continue to go down to the lake with my kids. We will continue to explore the outdoors.  Maybe we won't take apart the dead tree, but I'm not changing the way that I parent.