Monday, March 31, 2014

Why YES Virginia, THERE are also GOOD People in this World!

A few days ago I wrote a fairly opinionated, somewhat sarcasm laden post about bad people in this world titled: Why YES Virginia, THERE are bad people in this World

I knew that my view was shared by many, but I didn't expect that by using my small voice, something might happen.

As of today the crowd funding link is down. Apparently GoFundMe has taken it down. A single complaint didn't do much (GoFundMe's email to me basically said as much), but apparently several others complained as well.

This is a small victory, but a victory none the less. For the Price Family who have been wading through a legal system that appears to be punishing them, this is called encouragement.

Sometimes in life, it is the small things, the little voice that is heard.

Organizational Tornado

I have so much rattling around in my head today. This is technically the fourth post I've begun. The other three have been abandoned for the moment.

One is too fluffy. One is far too deep. The other is just not coming together. To top it all off my "to do" list is growing by the second.

I feel like I'm in a vortex of chaos, an organizational tornado as it were. And I feel like writing, at this moment, is my version of procrastination.
"No, List, I do not WANT to do my tax/year end prep."; "No, List, I do not WANT to write a Grant budget!"; "NO! List, I'm TELLING you, I do NOT want to edit the CDA/NDA that you are telling me to!!!!"
But thoughts can't seem to flow into meaning, and words are somehow jumbled. So for today I'll embrace the storm, attack the "LIST!", and hopefully find my way through. And maybe, I'll write a little here and there, to make sure the faucet is more than a drip today.

Review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

I just finished reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen, and it was FABULOUS! Between her mastery of grammar and big words--which apparently is rather vexatious to several reviewers--and her storytelling the book felt more like a conversation than a memoir. 

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

Title and shared last name aside, my Mennonite world was quite different than hers, however the truths and hilarity with which she writes is funny because it is impossible to not relate on such a fundamental level. She writes and tells stories in a way that reminds me, very fondly, of my aunties and a time when this humor and silliness was a constant in my world.

Mennonites, are seemingly extremely conservative by nurture--I'm not certain that Mennonite conservatism is a by nature kind of thing. And they are generally pretty hilarious. I know this for a fact. I am one...sort of...but that is another post for another time.

This book isn't even really about being Mennonite, so much as marching to the beat of your own drum, even when rhythmically challenged. Being unapologetically secular, real and human makes her views and ways of relating them hysterical. 

Excerpt (my apologies for the weird underling--not sure why it did that, can't seem to fix it!)

Friday, March 28, 2014

This Wasn't How I Pictured It

I remember watching my girls play dress up. The irritation. The annoyance. The mess. The cuteness.

Looking back I do wish I had taken more time to enjoy the cuteness and the littleness.

Today my oldest found her graduation dress. And as she stood there I saw every inch the grown up she's becoming. There are times when I think to myself there is NO WAY this child will survive on her own, ever. There are times I'm fully convinced she is going to live with us forever. And then she stood there, poised, gorgeous, grown up.

I didn't picture this day like this. Had you asked me back in the days of dress up and mess up and make up destroyed, what I pictured it would have looked like, it wouldn't have been a picture involving split up parents who can't seem to agree on how to share costs. It wouldn't have involved a fairly substantial panic attack on my part when I saw the price tag. And it sure would not have looked like me walking out of the store without the dress, doing mental math, trying to figure out how the hell we're going to make this, and hair, and make up, and shoes, and pictures, and banquets, and after grad all work.

By this point in my life I didn't think I would be primarily a stay at home mom trying to balance getting kicked twice by life career wise--once when I was forced out of my consulting job in 2012, and had to begin re-education and building a new career. The second time when the Film Industry collapsed 18 months ago, forcing Kyle into a season of rebuilding and re-envisioning his company and finding a way to create income once again--with being a present and engaged mother.

Seeing how our kids have changed emotionally since the choice to prioritize them reassures me that we are making the right choices for our family. The confidence that they are slowly rebuilding after the decisions that their father and I made destroyed them, shows me the path is correct.

But the financial situation at times becomes bleak when you have four children with a nasty food habit and two parents rebuilding their careers. And at times its worse, because you've just dealt with court and other expensive frustrations that take you away from that career rebuilding.

I've had the lectures, 'advice', and comments about going out and "just" adding one more client. Or getting a day job. The thing about that is it will either take me away from the kids too much, which destroys the progress we've made or it will make me compromise part of myself. And compromise is different than sacrifice. Sacrifice I do lovingly and with joy. Compromise means giving away a piece of myself for my own comfort and gain.

In the name of honesty, right now I'm nursing some irrational bitterness toward people I don't even know who are able to be in a financial position to do these things for their kids without worry or consideration. Our reality is that after 7 months of on-going legal costs, tax bills, and time sacrifices that were necessary to our sanity and survival, this month the choice is going to be between either the power bill or the vehicle payment and the dress. For now.

This, my friends, is what one calls life. And we are living it. Not how we pictured it, but as it is. The beauty lies in knowing how lovely the picture really is. When I stop and look at what we've given up, I see the life I didn't envision, but that I've always wanted.

Time to Misbehave Me Thinks!

Lately our lives have been....heavy. There is no better word. Heavy, hard, filled with limited and difficult choices, frustrating decisions, sacrifices and the misery and joys that come with being parents.

Mama and OtherDaddy be tired. Some days we feel really disconnected.

We are parents, apparently we're not "allowed" to run away from home. I've come to realize that may have something to do with the limitations of running away from home when all that is left is $20 in your wallet. Somehow running away to Starbucks isn't what I have in mind.

And then yesterday I stumbled upon this article on --a "A Wholesome Guide to Misbehaving"

Dear GOD did it speak to me! I'm ready...I hear planes flying overhead and I wish I were on them....

Mr. Burgess....

Lets make our own adventure! Because Adventuring with you is my most favorite thing to do!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why YES Virginia, THERE are bad people in this World

I'm not sure who has been following this story, but in Saskatoon there is a story unfolding that has some very distinct sides.

I am biased. I suspect my bias is very much in line with many others in this community. I suspect the skew is very much in support of the the Price Family.

The basics are a quick Google search away, and summarized as this:

  • The Price Family own an acreage just outside of Saskatoon near the community of Aberdeen.
  • Their neighbors, with whom they share a fence, the Krawchuk's, 'protected' their property from a ferocious, vicious, St. Bernard Puppy, named Bentley.
  • Bentley was owned and loved by the Price Family. 
  • Bentley got on to the the Krawchuk property by walking over a snowbank, he was curious about the Krawchuk's donkey. 
  • Bentley was a puppy.
  • Lianne, the Price's oldest child, saw Bentley cross on to the property and immediately sensed that trouble was imminent and rushed out to fetch Bentley home.
  • Have I mentioned Bentley was a puppy?
  • Madam Krawchuk saw Bentley on the property and demanded her husband go attend to the situation. 
  • He was playing Candy Crush at the time.
  • Horrifically, he didn't jump when Madam said jump and as a result of shrewish man-flogging (ok, maybe I'm editorializing a little here, but what the hell, it's my blog!) he was incited to attend to the situation, wielding a gun.
  • Being confronted by a vicious and playful puppy who was being backed up by his gang of teenage girl, he demanded they depart at once!
  • When the puppy failed to heed his warning to leave--I'm certain he first properly determined that the dog was fluent in English, and clearly understood his reasonable, gun wielding request--Mr. Krawchuk saw fit to discharge his firearm at the animal and kill him.
  • By the mercy of a god I do not understand, but am grateful to, Lianne was not injured externally.
  • Internal injuries, having had a firearm pointed at her and her pet, watching her puppy die, and being powerless...well there is no 911 call or medical attention that fixes that.
  • Her father having witnessed the discharging gun and his child draped over the body of her pet, apparently reacted to the situation. As a parent, I commend him for not beating the living tar out of Mr. Krawchuk. 
  • I would have been a parent possessed at that moment.
  • It took a long time for the Krawchuk's to be charged: Huffington Post Story
  • The judge did take into account both the interruption of Candy Crush and the inciteful nature of a shrewish wife when sentencing both Mr. & Mrs. 
  • In an attempt to impress upon these dregs of humanity that there are consequences to entitlement and bad behavior he levied a fine upon them for being idiots. Or discharging firearms. Or being idiots. Either way--he fined them.
There are times when I question humanity. Today is one of those days.

Today an article ran in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix that should have had the headline: Bad Humans ask for funding These pathetic human's are now attempting to crowd fund the fines our courts have levied against them.

Their "GoFundMe" campaign demonstrates this to be a family of moral question and who have no idea how to take responsibility for their own actions. I'm certain that our judicial system was NOT designed with fines to be paid by crowd funding. They were designed, by my understanding, to assist those who do not understand WHY we have laws, in respecting said laws.

And before I get a special shit storm of criticism from people who do not know me and who will feel that I have absolutely no basis to be critical, it should be noted that I shared a back fence with Michael and Fiona Price for several years.

And yes, fences were breached, repeatedly. As a normal, and presumably mentally stable human being, it never occurred to me to wield a weapon. As neighbors we discussed pulling out a picket or two to allow the kids easier access between our shared yards, and prevent their injury.

The only shots fired were invitations, communications and there may have been the spirited exchange of beers from time to time. If we all went about shooting our neighbors....ummmm....well....yeah.....

Also if you don't believe that people convicted of crimes should be able to 'crowd fund' their fines, you can go to:

GoFundMe contact Page - let them know you don't agree with their facilitating further bad behavior and cite this link so they know which one to remove:

DISCLAIMER: **Based upon the RIDICULOUS posting of the Krawchuk daughter on their GoFundMe site, I've taken some liberties with my view, on what I've written above. I can only infer the character of the people mentioned within based upon their public profiles, media coverage and postings**

More Important than the Birds & the Bees talk

When a couple stop being a couple the team has failed. But the players are often unsure what to do, especially the kids.

As a parent you try and find information on how to survive. How to not totally screw your kids up. How to not fight with someone who constantly picks a fight with you. How to co-parent in an uncooperative forum. How to heal you. How to heal your kids. How to date again. And it is defeating and depressing. Seriously.

You see "funny" e-cards, and meme's about the psycho ex, the psycho step parent, the psycho in laws, the psycho psycho's. They aren't funny...mostly. Some kinda are--or at least crazy relatable. Those are the ones you share between friends, but not with your kids.

My kids have heard some pretty negative things about me, about their 'other/step' dad, us as parents, the divorce, and they've heard things that haven't let them be children. I'm not blameless in this. I'm imperfect as a human and parent, and won't ever stop owning that.

When kids can't be kids that's unfair to them. As parents try and 'befriend' their kids or 'share' their own feelings, they rob their kids of childhood, they burden small humans with grown up problems that aren't theirs to carry. The legal term is Parental Alienation, and it is a VERY real thing. Sometimes its overt, but more often than not it is small, well placed, damaging comments.

Sure you got to 'say' your piece. Maybe you did tell the truth. And you got the satisfaction of getting to slam the dad or mom or step parent or grand parent who wronged you. For that whole minute and a half you get to be smug and sanctimonious and pat yourself on the back. I've been there. Reasonable humans feel pretty small and slimy afterward. It is damn humbling to go back and ask your kids forgiveness, while recognizing you've just taken something from them you can't give back.

So to those who feel that its acceptable to confide in their kids, to tell them things in the name of truth, honesty or otherwise, I ask you this: WHEN has a child ever been better for hearing your truth? When have the words 'your mother/father abandoned us'? Or 'Your mother/father/grandmother/etc is a bad parent.'? Who do these statements serve? Not the kids.

When Kyle and I began dating I made sure that I kept reassuring the kids that their dad is their dad and that wouldn't change. The reassurance cycle sometimes is exhausting. Sometimes I had to send myself to my room because I was angry or frustrated, but I worked hard to make sure they knew that their dad is, and will continue to be their dad. Sometimes I screwed this up but I work VERY hard at this.

Their 'Step'dad loves them completely. And we do reassure them of how blessed they are to have THREE parents who love them.

Despite it being nearly 6 years since the initial separation, there are times when our youngest two still ask me, things like "do you hate dad?" or "why does dad hate you?" I can't speak for him or how he answers if they are posing similar questions to him, but I always ache when these conversations come up. In all likelihood these questions aren't even borne of something their father has said to them. More likely than not, these phrases or words are not being spoken to them by their father.

This has taken me a long time to learn.

I believe that these statements from the kids are borne out of their need for reassurance that they are loved completely. Every facet of who they are with no qualifications. When asked things like this I work really hard to answer concisely and without qualification. "No, I do not hate your dad. I couldn't hate him, you are part of him, and I love all of you." or "Dad doesn't hate me. Sometimes grown ups get angry with each other, but angry or frustrated isn't hate. You are part of me, and you know dad could never hate any part of you."

To pretend I had this answer from the onset and am supermom would be duplicitous. It took a lot of reading, counseling, and working out BEFORE hand how I would address issues like these. Preparing to handle the hard things has made the rest of our world easier to handle.

Sometimes I don't have an answer and as such, I say so. I let the kids know I need time to think about an answer so that they get a real answer. They're pretty good with responses like that.

Just like having a talk about Sex with your kids, you can't go in unprepared, and you can't be age inappropriate.

Yet societally we allow adults to share VERY adult things with children and don't show the same outrage we would if, for example, a parent showed an explicit film to a 7 year old in the name of sexual education. How is disparaging a parent less damaging or less inappropriate?

We need to love our kids more than our need to be right. We need to become a society who chooses to let children have their childhoods.

Scary Mommy

If you read nothing else today, read this: The Scary Mommy Blog

When you start writing about being a mom, the challenges, the crap, the frustrations, occasionally you come across a kindred stranger.

The person that somehow has seen into the utter imperfection of your own life, and put words to it. Eloquent, well written, raw words.

The Scary Mommy Blog is one of these. To you 'prefect' moms out there poo-poo'ing this link/blog telling yourself that YOU would NEVER behave like this, I simply say this:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why Me?

I've spent so very much time asking this question both specifically and very generally. 

Why me? Why this? WHYYYYYY???

Unlike Oprah I don't pray for patience, or growth, or other things like that. Generally I don't pray. I ask/converse with universe and mostly it's something along the lines of "REALLY??? C'mon! I don't WANT another lesson!" Followed by a good solid pout. I like to pout, I'm a substantially cuter pouter than crier, it's my preferntial self-flagellation method. 

Over the last 7 months I've perfected the pout AND dealing with my shit. By perfected I mean I'm a rock star pouter, dealing is a slow-going, completely resisted process but ima trying.

Fascinating to me is the incredible, growing list of people who are experiencing what I have in varying degrees and in different places on their journey. 

Twelve years ago I went on a missions trip to Bolivia with Leadership Ministries. I still maintain that everything I brought to that trip lacked a certain amount of "value", but I know I was meant to be there.  That trip taught me all about me. It forced me to spend time with someone I did NOT respect or even like very much. And it forced me to learn to care about that person. Bolivia taught me more than I could ever have taught it. It forced me to look long and hard at me, my life, and to make changes even if they weren't popular with others. 

I'm finding this same process has been similar. I haven't liked it. Not one bit. It's irritating. It's all consuming. It's hard. It makes me look at me. Makes me have to face my humanness. It forces me to admit I'm not perfect but broken and hurting and terrified. I've lacked confidence and the panache I normally try to embody. It's robbed me of fearlessness and sociability and energy and laughter 

It HAS NOT broken my spirit though. It HAS NOT defeated me. It's HAS grown my love for my family and obliterated my tolerance for the superficial, lies and bullshit. It's softened my heart and built compassion I lacked before. It's shown me the difference between anger and righteous anger. It's shown me who I want to be, and how I'm getting there. 

But it has never truly answered the question "why?" --and ironically, I don't feel that the things listed above are the reason. 

Yesterday I was able to sit down with a friend whom I've stayed in touch with via social media for years. We haven't seen each other in a very long time. But she's starting the process I'm primarily through (pending the judgement that we're waiting on) and I was able to walk her through how big a mountain it is, the equipment required to climb it, and the reality of the challenges along with some of the spectacular views. 

I said something to her that I've only ever said once before with true sincerity. Immediately following the Chambers hearing, I was able to honestly say, with fundamental belief inside of me:

I am a good mom 

I said those words again yesterday. And I believed them. After years of hearing--particularly from my own parents--what a 'great' dad my ex is, but never hearing that I too am a good parent, has damaged me profoundly. To find that truth on my own, even after hearing it from others around me for a long time, made it my truth. 

Why me? So that I could learn that I am a good mom. 

Why me? So that I can walk beside other men and women who need to learn that they are good moms or dads. 

I also learned yesterday that when it comes to this particlar subject, I'm well versed. I am smart and I can help others. What that exactly means, I'm not sure at the moment. But it was a revelation I needed. I can help. I am valuable. I am smart.--I feel like these are lessons and truths I should have known long ago but that is why we are all unique, experiencing life with our own perspective. 

For today--whatever that mailbox holds, if anything--I am a good mom. 

Before she lost her mind, Miley Cyrus actually sang a pretty profound song. Here it is with the words--be encouraged friends, we're all on that mountain.

I'm Afraid of my Mailbox

I'm afraid of our mailbox.

True story.

A little over a week ago I faced my Dragon in Family Court. I did my thing. I wore good shoes. The problem is that fairy tales teach us that you face the Dragon, and you slay it with a magical sword and then you live happily ever after.

What fairy tales miss is the instruction manual on when the Dragon decides to reserve judgement, and all you have to go on is an assurance that it is a 'priority'.

This presents two issues for me. First issue--I like dragons. I love the mythology, I would gladly play Khaleesi, I really want a dragon. Which is ironic, considering that I can't stand most reptiles and can't even look at snakes.

My second issue is that I would never look at the Justice as a Dragon, while many metaphors could be made to support it, he wasn't the one challenging me. I was the Dragon.

And I was the knight.

And I've no idea who won, and now--as the judgement will be sent to me via the mail--I've developed a very real and irrational fear of my mailbox.

Everyday I do the dishes, look out the window at it, and talk myself in circles about what may be waiting there for me. I don't know what it will take for me to face it. But it really could go either way.

I'm really hoping for this dragon though....really hoping.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happiness - A Guest Blog Post


One of the glorious things about living with your best friend and our best minion's is that ideas, thoughts and at times debates on various subjects and things happening in our world transpire into awesomeness.

Today, the acquaintance of my Spousal Equivalent, posted to their personal blog that--based upon the number of less than kind people who commented back--was NOT a well received piece.  Here is the blog post in question titled: Canada is Turning me into a Shitty Person

+Kyle Burgess and I discussed the piece and the comments at length and then he wrote this: 
Graham, I have never met you, but I am pretty confident you are not a “shitty person”. From what I can see, you have gone to school, furthered your education, made some cool stuff and seen the world from multiple perspectives. However, at the moment you wrote your post, you were displaying a “shitty attitude”.
“I don’t pray anymore,” and “I’m no longer inspired,” are your own feelings.
I cannot write,”  and “I've been missing the beauty in people and focusing on the negative” are all personal choices and actions.
No one around you can make you feel this way. No one around you can make your decisions for you. If you choose to be “shitty person,” that’s on you and no one else.
“It’s not that Canada is a bad place,” you state. It is a great place. It’s the place that raised us. Gave us free healthcare and public education. Allowed you to travel almost unrestrictedly around the globe. There is running water, roads and electricity. You can walk down the street and not worry about landmines or crossfire. Men and women are treated as equals. You are allowed to assemble and speak your own independent thoughts; something that you have chosen to do. Think of the many countries you have visited and tell them you don’t want any of those freedoms anymore. Tell the starving kids on the street you would forfeit it all because your worldview doesn't align with those you've surrounded yourself with.
Speaking of those who you have condescendingly spoken of, let me share our worldview. Yes, I have chosen to buy a large house. It is a large “thing you need to manage and maintain”. It is also the home of my 4 children. A home that two of which are fortunate enough to have their own small rooms in. And I choose to “work more than live” because I am compensated with just enough to keep their home, enroll them in sports and music, dress them in new and second hand clothes, and maintain a “fast car” (which my grandfather used to teach me to be self reliant). You don’t have to agree with my priorities, but they work for us. We have well adjusted kids who are inspired to create their own lives with their own dreams and values. Their own--not ours.
This is not to say this is how I envisioned things. I was a young and single bachelor in the not too distant past,  travelling the world and living a modest life. It’s funny how things change though as you progress to the next stage of your life. This will happen to you too. Whether now, or 20 years from now, you will evolve and shed the values of your youth. Hopefully you don’t burn the bridges today, that you will need for then.
Just as you, I've spent “time in countries where every single meal is appreciated". One of which is Canada. Almost a million Canadians use food banks every year, and that doesn't include those who are too far from centers with food banks, but are hungry nonetheless. Your story sounds like you are surrounded by a very homogeneous group of people. I challenge you to seek out new networks within Calgary and create the bonds for which you seek.
It sounds a lot like you still haven't figured out what it is you were meant to do with your life. You sound like a smart individual who has made some cool things with your peers. But, you haven't settled into anything permanent. Somehow through this you have managed to pay for the cost of travel. That's an accomplishment if you did it on your own pen. Others would be so fortunate not only to have seen a new land, but to have done it so extensively as you have. They save "to live when they retire" because that is their only option while building families and dealing with the unexpected. 
Don’t “crave an adventure”; live adventurously every day of your life.
Life is a choice. You can choose gratitude or bitterness, but country or environment cannot turn you into a "shitty person". Your choices do. Own them.
Good luck on your journey.
And this, my friends and readers, is WHY I love and trust this man so completely not only with my life, but with that of our children. Today, as everyday, Kyle and I choose joy, laughter and love. For those of your trying to find a way to peace, we wish you well and safe travels. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Become Unapologetically You

My separation and eventual divorce followed a VERY challenging year that included the loss of trust in my husband through actions that were his and his alone, however I admit that my own actions factored into. Or rather, inaction. When you're NOT being the husband or wife you know you should be, that you need to be, you have a culpability in the issues within your relationship. These choices can destroy or build. In our house they destroyed, very bitterly.

Now, nearly 6 years later and much wiser, I often talk to our kids about the difference between an 'excuse' for an action and an 'explanation' for an action. Explanations help us to understand and be empathetic, however it does not excuse bad behavior. Explanations help us find our way to forgiveness when the other side is contrite and seeks it. Excuses break relationships and trust, excuses are simply an attempt to dismiss unacceptable behavior.

At that time, I had lost one of my dearest friends tragically, along with her fiancee, then a betrayal had been exposed that rocked the foundation of the marriage I thought I had, that was followed by my losing my job, a tumultuous separation, a physical attack and then a long verbal barrage and campaign that still stings today.

It was too much for me, and was--in my world--an unsurvivable series of events that led to the end. In the very end it was both our fault and neither of our faults, but both our reactions, actions and responses were undoable. So we moved forward--sort of.

Or at least I did. I have come to understand that I only have the power to speak for me. So within a week I began counseling weekly, ensured my children were receiving counseling, and read books voraciously on divorce, separation, and not profoundly damaging the kids.

What I didn't do is date. I socialized, I saw people, I enjoyed my life, friends, their friends, and freedom that comes from being unaccountable to another grown up after years of being totally, fully and completely accountable.

What I was still, was accountable to my children. So even when I met someone interesting, they didn't meet the kids. I didn't want them to become attached to someone who I wasn't sure I was attached to. Someone who may have sparked chemistry, but who I didn't really want to share my space with. And when I was pressured to 'meet the kids' the relationship ended. Because feeling pressure was a giant flag for me that things weren't right. We were all still healing.

In the end, there man who there weren't flags for. And we did manage to botch pieces of the kids getting to know him, to see me with him, and to figure out how dating and children work. We're only human. It was imperfect.

He's only man my children have ever met and seen me with in the romantic sense and is the man I've been with for the last four years. The man who is for all intents and purposes, their step-father. And a man whom I shall someday marry. The kids know this.

Taking nearly 2 years alone, to figure out who I was and to be mom first was integral for all of us. Take that time. Take it for you. Take it for them. Just make sure you take it.

Test the waters, be carefree, enjoy life for awhile. This is the time when you start to get to know yourself. This is the time that you get to be whoever you want, until you find that happy space and place where you live without the label that someone else has put on you. In it you will find a freedom and confidence that defines you without apology.

And then if you're really lucky, you meet someone who helps you keep racing down that road, who encourages your growth and change.

Be unapologetically you. But take the time to figure out who that person is, get to know them. You'll never regret it, and your children will thank you.

Other good info for those of you navigating these frustrating waters: Huffintong Post: What They Don't Tell You When You're Getting Divorced

Friday, March 21, 2014

First 'Body Shaming', is the next advent 'Family Shaming'?

I've been reading a lot lately about blended families and how couples are "making it work", "vacationing together", "sharing holidays", and how they are able to "put aside differences for the sake of the children".

For a family like ours that still deals in issues borne of acrimony and court, that isn't an option and it feels a little like the whole issue of the California mom accused of Body Shaming other moms with balancing her workout regime, diet and family to become ├╝ber fabulous, darhhhling!

To be clear, I get what the women accusing Michelle Pekarsky of Body Shaming we're feeling--Inadequate. 

Like they had somehow failed to be the "perfect" mother as media makes us feel we need to be. But instead of owning their pain or feelings of inferiority, they lashed out to reverse body shame. This doesn't help anyone, nor does it address the societal issues of "I'm better than you and here's why" mentality. 

Reading these articles about blended families who are working together DOES make me feel inadequate. But that feeling belongs to me. It isn't the fault of others who have figured out what works for them and then can continue to make that work. This feeling is fully on me as I long for a more amicable situation, but trying to force that upon someone who doesn't share the same position doesn't work. No one wins, least of all the kids. 

In our world we make things work as best we can. It's imperfect and hard and at times so incredibly frustrating but it IS our best. We are just humans and we don't have all the answers. We are blended in that I have an ex-husband with whom I have 4 children. The kids live with me and my common-law spouse primarily and see their dad often. He is their dad and we make sure they know he will always be no matter what. My spouse is often referred to as 'other dad'--especially when the kids want to curry favor. 

In times of conflict he can often been heard saying to them "I am not your dad but I am the adult in the room at this moment who loves you and you know what our rules are." This is what works for us. We parent with our rules in our house. 

At their dad's they have another set of rules. Which is extremely hard for them but it is what we have control over. I'm slowly learning to let go of trying to have influence over the rules at "dad's", and it isn't easy for me as a human, but it's necessary as a mom. 

Sometimes embracing the imperfection is the actual challenge. Or maybe there is perfection in the messy, chaotic, well-lived life? 

To the blended families out there making it work, I sincerely commend you and applaud you. To the moms and dads out there feeling like you're screwing your kids up daily, I applaud you. You're doing your best and that is enough. We are on your team playing along side of you. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A New Look, A New Name

I'm trying out a new template for this blog, any and all feed back is welcome! We're also working on a custom domain and all that stuff for me too, but for the moment as there are a few tweaks and changes my apologies for any hiccups!

I've re-titled the blog from "Much Ado About Nothing" to "For What It's Worth" for a number of reasons--partially because everything I write about is purely of my own bias and opinion. Moreso because I'm coming to realize that my voice is not 'nothing'. And that what I am writing about are some of the most valuable things in this world to me. My family, my truth, my children, my love, my support network.

That's what finding your own voice and truth is about. Expressing what your heart is telling you to share, testing the waters of vulnerability.

To all of you who have sent me messages over the last few weeks and shared so many of the heartaches you are going through, I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, it means the WORLD that you take the time to read what I write, that you are gentle and kind in your feed back, and that I make you feel safe in sharing your truth with me.

The thing about experiencing life is that there has to be meaning behind the sorrows as well as the joys. By allowing me the indulgence of sharing with you these thoughts, musings, and ideas, you are helping me.

You are an affirmation that I need to continue to write, and share my truth. Because too often we're told that we're in this journey alone, but to quote Kathy Bates in the movie P.S. I Love You, "Now alone or not, you gotta walk ahead. The thing to remember is that if we're alone, then we're all together in that too."

So, for what it's worth, my heartfelt gratitude.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

So Now What?

As I start to rally back to "myself" post court and legal process that has effectively consumed our life for the last 7 or so months, I am finding that the stress has significantly diminished. There is no small amount of work to be done, year end bookkeeping, 2014 bookkeeping catch up, clients who've shown INFINITE patience with my unreliability and lack of focus.

I've begun to feel more like "myself" than I have in MONTHS, however, I'm also in a weird state of feeling like I barely recognize myself.

There are so many reasons that this is a deeply legitimate feeling for me. But what has struck me through this process, and has thoroughly broken my walls, barriers and ego down, is that it is utterly impossible to weather an attack of what is most fundamentally valuable to you and NOT change profoundly.

In us is the choice to let that change be positive or negative, but there is something terribly disingenuous and superficial about people who are perpetually looking at things "on the bright side" and being positive all the time. Through this process I desperately wanted to scream at some people: "Yes the sun WILL come out tomorrow, Annie, but today it is bloody raining and I'll be Eeyore if I WANT to be Eeyore! Now SHUT UP!"

I fundamentally believe that all feelings need to be felt, especially the negative ones. When we push or are pushed to ignore the pain, the anger, the hurt, it begins to change who we are. It can manifest itself in a very bad way. This is not to say being negative all the time, through the guise of honesty, is any less disingenuous than the overly positive. All I'm suggesting is that it is healthy to be allowed to feel, in your own time and space, what you feel. To really process in an honest and meaningful way so that healing and growth are possible.

There have been studies about the effects of extreme stress and what it does to change your brain. (Traumatic Stress: Effects on the Brain, for example)

Recently, I stumbled upon this subject, and found that what resonated with me was this article in the Huffington Post on PTSD After Divorce and how simply it explains so much of what I've felt and the frustration when people start quoting musicals, or telling me I'm strong, or that I'm better than this. Saying that I just need to let it go, that I'm courageous.

You know what? I'm not. I'm battered and broken, but I haven't given up. I am simply a wounded mama bear protecting her cubs.

Because of this, I've changed and so have my priorities. I don't know that I'll ever take moments with my kids for granted ever again. I am learning how to be a better mother, a better spouse, a better human.

I'm no longer trying to be all things to all people. Or hiding my fear, my brokenness, or vulnerability like I once did. I doubt I'll ever take being treated badly in the same way again. And there are many who won't like the way I've changed. Some more than others.

So as I try to find my strength, and figure out who this new person looking back at me from the mirror is, I can smile and know that I'm not done yet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reserve Judgement

How many times have I said or heard that phrase? How often do we toss phrases around with cavalier abandonment, yet never understand how that same phrase could be deeply meaningful to another?

Reserve Judgement. Words that have lost their cavalier meaning for me. As now I wait to hear someone else weigh in on my family. My children. 

Despite knowing that I did a good job, today I was tormented by all the things I missed. The phrasing I should have/could have/may have used instead. The "why didn't I's" are followed by "what if I's" who are being best friends with the "damn it, I really should have's"

Reserve Judgement. Does this mean that I didn't do as well as I thought? Did I in some way fatally err? Or was I so very good that the Judge was impressed so profoundly that he felt it most fair to not publicly demolish the other side in front of me? Especially since I was wearing great shoes and had effectively used my label maker to create such amazing documentation and research journals? I like to think this, as it makes me giggle. And after 7 months of soul searching, researching, writing, editing, rewriting, and freaking out, frankly I deserve a giggle!

The truth is that I spoke from my heart. I missed details, I left out pieces that would have dramatically painted the other side's character poorly. But I told the truth. We are two parents who should not have been in court. We are two parents who deeply love our children and that is the singular reason we were there, before a mere man who is now charged with attempting to find the balance that we, as parents, could not. A man who is forced to dig deeper, look deeper, into the motivations of each of us and rule. 

Rule for. Rule against. Play King Solomon. He doesn't know either of us. He didn't stay up nights rocking them as babies. Or holding them when broken or scraped. He hasn't had moments of hair pulling frustration as they've tested HIS limits and patience. He hasn't felt the bone deep love of holding any of these four children in his arms. 

I don't know if he has children. I don't know if he is married. But I do know that I do not envy him. Being charged with deciding what is best for a family who's life has been reduced to a few pages of paper and a half hour of standing in his court room trying to persuade him of what is best for them. For us. 

Reserve Judgement. Words that speak of a wisdom that I both envy and fear. Yet in a simple phrase he removed so much fear when he looked at me, and said "go wish your son Happy Birthday." 

There is no win or lose in the emotional forum of Family Court. But there appears to be good people who have terribly difficult jobs. For that they have my respect. 

Until then I hold my babies close and reassure them, and myself, that things are going to get easier.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Don't run, just stop holding your tongue.

Sometimes its just the exercise of standing up and be brave that means you've won. Today I choose Bravery. I chose to reach beyond everything I ever thought me capable of. I chose to rip away the labels that have been placed upon me. I choose to live my truth.  For tomorrow I stand up for myself. Today I've already conquered, I've slayed a very big dragon. 

Now if only I could remember where I put my tiara.........


You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just want to see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
See you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Real Lesson Learned

For the last several months I've been embroiled in a legal battle peppered with affidavits, motions, continuances, more affidavits, more motions.

While I know that by the time I face the Judge on Friday, I'll be absolutely prepared, I also know I will be terrified.  Unlike my adversary, I have limited means, and as such I have chosen to self represent. This decision came from a simple and pragmatic place--no longer being able to justify the exorbitant legal fees that court entails.The money that would have paid a lawyer belongs within our family, it belongs to our children. And as their mother I had to make the best decision for them, despite the fact that my inexperience may cost me the case. You see, the reason I'm fearful, is because my opponent is the father of my children. 

The particulars of the case are incidental and irrelevant to everyone but us. What is important is the education I have gained. Not just the preparation involved. My time working on it, learning the case law, learning the court rules and procedures, isn't a quick or easy task. Making choices best for the children has meant also relegating my research and writing time to their school day, when they aren't around to watch me claw my way up the steep learning curve that our legal system is. Or late into the night when they are asleep. 

They haven't witnessed the tears, and frustration that I've had, because they need to be allowed to be kids. This isn't their fight. 

But its not the technical legal education I really value, while there is great merit in that. The true value lies in what this time has taught me about myself. And about allowing myself to need and lean on others, to be vulnerable and strong at the same time. 

It has been is an extreme exercise in letting go of my ego, my pride, and my need to be right and in control. The moments when I've found out that the children have been told to lie to me. Or that they've been told about the pending proceedings, I've learned to paste a smile on my face and hold them close and let them know, that it's ok. Every child needs to know that their mummy and daddy love them. Period. They should never be forced into taking sides or even FEELING like they need to take sides. Or that one parent is better than the other. 

Not so long ago, my parents felt compelled to yet again share with me how amazing a father my ex-husband is. I didn't disagree. When he is focused on the kids and isn't busy picking new fights with me, he's a great dad. What wounded my heart so deeply, so profoundly, is that I have never in my life heard either my mother or my father tell me that I'm a good mom. Not once. They will extol the virtues of a man who hurt me devastatingly, but I've never heard them say that they are proud of me, or that I've done a good job with their grandkids. I'm told these issues are mine, and that I'm stubborn and inflexible. These are not wounds that will heal completely, they do shape who I am to a degree.

Maybe that's true. Or maybe I believe in respect and boundaries, and earning the right to speak into and be a part of my life. Maybe I've learned that never hearing that I'm a good person, or loving, or loyal or a good parent, means that distance is more than necessary, its protective.

The saddest part, is that I don't miss them as I should. In moments like these, facing something so terrifying I do wish I had a sister, or mother or father I could count on to be ON MY SIDE, to be BY MY SIDE--supportive, non judgmental and MY family. I wish in moments when I'm afraid I could run to my dad, and know he would hold me, and protect me. But I can't.

And this is why I've changed my entire life for my kids in the last 2 years. So they will always know they have parents who love them. Who are on their side. Who will fight beside them, and support them, and love them boundlessly, no matter what. Being present and available far outweighs the financial gains that so many career choices could have made.

So out of all of this, I've learned about Family Law, Affidavits, Motions to Strike, Counter Motions, Petitions, legal terms and rules and counter rules.

But the single most important truth that I've learned is that I am a good mom, and no one can take that from me. No one.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Forced Discomfort

This business of living is a messy one. Like most of humanity I would much prefer it to be neat and tidy fitting nicely into the molds and boxes that are constructs of my imagination. This is not how I imagined my life was going to be.

The fact that discomfort forces growth in spite of our human desire for constancy and comfort, is vexing to me. I find myself a mess of stress, fear, uncertainty. And then I find myself swinging back and forth upon a pendulum that runs from confidence to self doubt and then back again.

I'm preparing for the fight of my life in the next week, a custody and access Chambers hearing. To say "fight of my life" may sound overly dramatic, but any parent knows, mother or father, when it comes to our babies, even the smallest threat to their comfort, success, thriving, or simply their world merits armor for battle.

The irony is that I have little desire to fight. What I really want for my children is to not feel divided, I want them to feel a balance a mutual flow of permission to love the people who love them in their lives. Period. Though I consciously choose to not lay my fears, frustrations, fights or issues at their feet, I know they feel it. They are perceptive, and intelligent, and they know that Mummy is afraid. I am only human.

Often I find myself conflicted as to what to tell them when they ask me questions. I believe in honesty. I also believe firmly that no child should ever know certain things about their mother or their father. Ever. A little girl (or boy) needs to love and know their daddy (or mommy) as that always. There is no age appropriate to take that relationship from your children. Children need to have permission and the space to be children.

Maybe it was naive of me to believe that even through separation and divorce that effective parenting could still happen without this level of conflict. Maybe it was silly to think my repeated requests to sit down, face to face, at a table and talk about this were possible. Maybe it was foolish to want to do a parenting plan to handle the big stuff, together, on the same page. And that by doing so, the small stuff would either become incidental or much easier to navigate.

I wonder if it is ridiculous of me to want/think that there could be times of quiet and common ground surrounding our children. Where joys and accomplishments are shared, where lines are not drawn. That are simply enjoyed as parents, moments where we can know that despite our mistakes, that we have done all we can for them to thrive and grow.

For today I long for a neat and tidy life, without these conflicts and mess--though I know that really wouldn't be life or living. I long for the forum to say: This isn't battle, these are our children!! More so, I long for those words to be HEARD.

I don't know that court will accomplish this, and my heart grieves for this. Sometimes we are forced to places that bring us great discomfort and all we can do is prepare. It hurts me to know that resources and energy are flowing into something that could be easily avoided were different choices being made.

It is helplessness that is frustrating me, and fear controlling me. It is also faith in knowing fundamentally I'm honoring my own truth and that by doing so I'm teaching our children, as best I can, that doing the right thing isn't the easy road. That standing up for your truth matters and is valuable. That there is a difference between truth and manipulation. That there is a difference between not compromising values and integrity for ego. Maybe out of this others that come after me will have a less tenuous road to travel. Maybe that is enough.

In a aberrant way I feel gratitude for this conflict. It means that these amazing little humans are deeply and profoundly loved. Whatever happens in the coming days and weeks, I know this to be absolute: when you stand up for yourself and those you love, there is no such thing as defeat.

Monday, March 3, 2014

We Must Take Sides

I'm often asked about my family. Genealogically, I carry Mennonite, Persian and Indian (India) heritage. My roots however are firmly planted in the legacy of family by choice, men and women who are strong as hell, and who make my life better and much more whole by just being my people.

Our nuclear family is made up of those to whom I've given birth, my four wonderful children, my sweet Spousal Equivalent who chose us so completely and deeply. I marvel at the purity of his character, depth of courage and fierce protection he envelops our family with. Who he is has lead him to be chosen by my ragtag band of humans who are my family. They are ones who have steadfastly stood by me, supported me, encouraged me, and love me. Me.Unconditionally and entirely.

They've taken my side, always and without question. Even if I haven't been right, and needed a good talking off the proverbial ledge, I've never questioned or wondered about the depth of their ties to me. Not once have I ever questioned their loyalty or support. Many of them share my bloodlines, but are still consciously chosen. Everyone of them I am fiercely loyal to and would go to war for. For me, loyalty is uncompromising and rigid, and once it is broken I will never truly trust the breaker again. That is part of who I am.

That's what family is. Which is why I have struggled when being told by people I've loved, called family, and why my relationships have been strained with those both blood related and not, who've chosen the mantra of "yes, dear, but in this situation I need to remain neutral." This has shattered my trust and the trust of my children in people who have proclaimed to love us.

So to you I say this, from a place of love and compassion, what you don't realize is that in ignoring boundaries both spoken and unspoken, you have created a chasm of deeply profound betrayal. Your so called neutrality hasn't actually helped either party but instead create a substantially greater hurt and an ocean of mistrust.

When you disrespect boundaries you don't actually help either party to resolution. Instead you are taking a metaphorical pickax to a rift between people that you have no business being a part of. Continuing to hide behind the position of neutrality only alienates one side while empowering the other. The saddest part is that by choosing this position that seems to you to be magnanimous and altruistic, is your greatest act of betrayal and cowardice. Neutrality compromises the trust that both sides have in you. One will walk away, one will use it to their advantage. This is the way of the world.

It takes courage to stand up and choose to do what you know in your soul is right. It takes guts to dispute a person who wages a character assassination, even more so than one who throws physical punches. The intangible is harder to dispute and words meant to destroy have a way of digging in deeply to the psyche of those to whom the words are spoken, parasitically attaching themselves unshakably.

Just like the conviction we feel when reading words that claw at our spirit exposing truths within us, we have a responsibility to listen to these responses within ourselves. And sometimes forgiveness doesn't mean allowing the betrayer another chance to take a run at you. Sometimes forgiveness is simply moving past that relationship, acknowledging that if it doesn't grow you, or build you up it is time to let it go. If a relationship or person fills you with anxiety and fear, forgiveness won't fix that, your body responses are protective and we are obligated to our humanity to listen to that protective voice within.

It takes character, a ferocious sense of humor and an indomitable spirit to survive in this world. It takes balls to choose sides and fight for that which your soul knows is right.

So every day I wake up, and I give thanks for the family I've chosen. Men and women who had the balls to stand by me and choose me right back.

To Make a Life Instead of a Living

To relieve stress some people work out, others shop, I cook. This week I've baked bread, made chili chocolate truffles, and a pot roast, I've baked brownies, and made Jambalaya with cheddar bacon biscuits and potato salad, among other things. The kids sometimes ask why I do these things, especially when it is 'easier' to buy the similar equivalent at the store.

Easier isn't always the right answer. Two years ago I could have put my family second to the decision to walk away from a lucrative contract with immoral clients. I could have fought to stay in the role I'd been filling and continued to pour my time and energy into people who could have cared less about me.

Financially we would be far ahead. Our family would not be though.

During this time of our lives, where choosing for me to stay home primarily as our priority, making meals from scratch is not only a pleasurable exercise for me, but also pragmatic. Its healthier, and its cheaper. But in the end it really isn't about food, or budget, or health. Its about our whole family learning, adjusting, and adapting.

This hasn't been the easiest transition for any of us. The kids know that we won't drop things to run to the mall, or "just go to" McDonalds because they want it at that second. Our purchases are tending to be well thought out, planned for, and earned. The children are learning a level of consequence to action and the value of working to earn what their "wants", versus the 'demand and therefore it gets supplied' version of life that they see around them. We, as parents, are learning to balance and plan and adjust as well.

Every evening we have dinner as a family, at the dinner table. During dinner we discuss family stuff: who is doing what? What concerns do we need to address? What did everyone do during the day? Why is there never a meal where everyone likes all the food served? When will we not hear the proclamation "I don't like that!"? Who has homework?

Recently, the kids brought up that, in their opinion, there was a decided issue of not getting their demands met by satisfactory supply in the manner to which they wished to become accustomed. During this family discussion we explained that there was a fairly simple solution to their concerns, that I go and get a full time job, and things go back to how they were 2 years ago. They take care of each other before and after school, take on more chores and responsibilities, and have to arrange the rides to and from school, etc, etc. Then I asked: "Do you want mum to get a full time job and not be at home during the day any more?" Having laid out the consequences versus the gains from mum working full time, their answer was unequivocally NO!

Somehow they seem to understand that we work around their needs vs wants, and we manage. Lifestyle HAS changed, and there is much juggling financially. Schedules look very different from the past when 6am wake ups and being at the office by 8am and home after 5pm , dinners out, and having extra cash was the norm.

Instead, most mornings are like this morning when I was kissed awake by our boys after listening to their giggle filled conversation with "Other dad" as he woke them up for the day. I drank my coffee as they made their own lunches and breakfast, a routine we've established to teach the boys to care for their own needs and not expect to be served. Laundry is done and caught up, folded and put away. Dinner is ready for later. The kids will be picked up after school by their parents, cuddles will be had. Work will get done. And I'm wearing pants.

My bank account may be pretty dismal, but my heart is super full.