Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Step-son: An Introduction

I have never written about my step son...let's call him Nolan. I have not written about Nolan becasue....well.....I have not had much of anything to say that was not a complaint. There, I said it. I know, it sounds awful and it probably is awful but there it is. Society has different standards when it comes to step-parents. Parents can say, "Man, my kid is driving me crazy", but if a step-parent says the same thing it sounds really mean and nasty. Try it, "Man my step-kid is driving me crazy." See? Mean.

He came to live with us when he was 14 and was with us full-time until he graduated high school (Well...he didn't actually "graduate"). Being a custodial step-mother of a teenager is more difficult than you can imagine. I don't recommend it. Seriously, step-parenting is hard to begin with but teenagers are just a whole other ball of wax. I remember myself as a teenager and I can't imagine my parents liking me very much for a few years either and they raised me with their values and expectations of behavior. So having a 14 year old teenager who has had a difficult life dropped into your newlywed lap ain't no picnic...for anyone.

Nolan is the type of kid (and now young adult) with lots of "issues" only they are not the typical "teenager" issues one expects, are developmentally normal and that they usually grow out of. No, Nolan has some very deep-seeded character issues that I fear will negatively impact his entire life.

On my 2nd date with Mr. Peeveme he told me he had a 9 year-old son. Nolan was supposedly an oops baby. His mother and Mr. Peeveme dated for 6 months in College. The plan was to graduate and go their separate ways..but she "accidentally" got pregnant. I swear I am not being a bitchy person when I accuse her of doing it on purpose. My evidence? She was charting to prevent pregnancy. Who does that? Nobody. I have charted and there is no way a women does that to avoid pregnancy. She also went on some huge "body cleans" 2 months before she got pregnant. Stopped drinking, caffeine, ect. Accident my ass.

Mr. Peeveme and Nolan's mom tried to make it work but, of course, it didn't. Much like Nolan, she lies habitually. If you meet her in person she seems like the nicest, most gracious, most interesting person...much like Nolan. And she is all those things....like Nolan. But she's lies, uses people, never plans, thinks the rules don't apply to her and does whatever she damn well-feels like doing no matter what the consequences are to her or other people and never takes responsibility....just like Nolan. A nice word to describe her would be a "free spirit". Thankfully she and I have not had much interaction and the times we have interacted she has been nothing but lovely and I, lovely right back.

Nolan was about 3 when they split for good after much going back and forth. When Nolan was 5 his mom found a new man and moved across the county (the first of many many, many new men/home situations for Nolan). We are not talking about a mom who does drugs, beats him ect. No real "abuse" as a court would define it but it certainly was not a stable home. Noland had a destructive combination of spoiling and neglect. One day they were best friends (I do not think parents should be their kid's friend. Kids need parents...not friends)...next she was off on another adventure (usually because she had a new boyfriend) and Nolan was left alone a lot.

Nolan lived on the other side of the country so we didn't see him much so it wasn't a part of everyday life. Six weeks in the summer...alternate x-mases, a week in Spring. Mr. Peeveme and I didn't live together so even when Nolan was here I was only sporadically around him but I knew from the start that the kid had problems.

He always embellishes. Nothing is ever his fault. Nothing is ever the complete truth even when there was no incentive to lie. He's arrogant beyond belief. When I first met him he was failing the 6th grade and his reasoning was that his teacher was jealous of him becasue he was smarter than her. A notion not discouraged by his mother. My mother would have slapped my smart-ass mouth if I ever dared to be that disrespectful and delusional. ...even Mr. Peeveme was buying into it until I explained he was not doing Nolan any favors by letting him think/talk that way.

By the time Nolan was 13 he had moved 14 times. His mother would get a new job...get canned after 6-12 months then have to move. She'd get a new boyfriend...move in....18 months later he'd get sick of her crap and kicked her out. Many times Nolan moved mid-year to a new school.

A few months after Mr. Peeveme and I got married Nolan's mom met a new man and wanted to move in with him. Only they'd have to move to a different city where all the public schools were very bad. They thought they'd just get Nolan into some fancy East Cost private school...never mind that his grades were very poor and nobody could afford the 30K per year tuition. No matter....he'd just get a scholarship. Yea, realistic indeed. Well, surprise, he didn't get into any school let alone get a scholarship.

So 3 weeks before our California public schools started he moved in with us. We live in a wonderful community with fantastic schools. And no, it's not an accident. We PLANNED it that way for when we had kids (pre-infertility days).

And so, I become the custodial step-mom of a teenager. Also, since Mr. Peeveme traveled I become the primary care-giver much of the time.

Next post...the teen years.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Perfect Moment Monday

I have a Doppler so I can listen to the baby's heart when I get scared that it's all going to shit (which is much less often than it used to be). I use it maybe once a week. When I was pregnant with Piccolina I used the it almost every night. As the day progressed I would get more and more panicked that something happened. The sound of her heartbeat relaxed me enough so I could get to sleep. It made me giggle with happiness and I would delight in the unbelievable fact that I had a real live person growing inside of me.

Piccolinna loves to help Mamma with her "medicina" (medicine in Italian...that's what we call the doppler). She loves to help Mamma by pushing the button to turn the doppler on and she nods as I tell her, "That's baby's heart". Inevitably she wants to hear her own heart. So I put the doppler on her chest and she giggles with delight at the sound of her heart beating. Just as I did three years ago.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ice Breaker/Ball Buster

Recently, I attended a day-long seminar at work. There were about 20 of us. As is customary in these situations the presenters had us do an ice-breaker. This particular exercise had a list of statements and you had to find a person for each of the statements. The person with the most names wins.

The statements were things like:

I have eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast.
I speak a language other than English.
I practice the traditions of my ancestors.
I have lived in a foreign county.

Participants scurry around to find names to fill-in next to their statements and their name next to a statement of the other participants.

The further along you get the harder it is to find additional people and the harder it is to find a statement that you fulfill since all the easy ones are taken.

I was standing with a group of 3 or 4 co-workers and we were hurriedly comparing lists and offering up our names to various statements.

I found a statement I thought I could fill, "A person who has overcome a major personal challenge". I told them, "Put me down for that".

One of my co-workers asked, "What personal challenge have you overcome?". Never mind that this was probably not a wise question. I mean, what if I had over come a meth habit, nose picking or habitually crapping myself on Fridays or something else that I would not like to talk about?

I instinctively and proudly rubbed my growing belly as evidence of overcoming a major personal challenge.

She exclaimed, "THAT'S not a challenge".

Over the buzz and chatter of a room full of excitedly talking people I paused, got very serious and said in a measured tone, "If you only knew what I have gone through to get here you would not say that. Not everyone can have a baby whenever and however they want." And there was stunned silence. I went on, "If you only knew. I'm glad for you that you don't."

And then a ran away to another group of people becasue I'm a competitive bitch and I wanted to win!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fuck you, Joel Madden

Apparently you let love plan your babies. News flash...that ain't no plan and excuse my infertile ass if I don't jump-for-fucking-joy for you.

You knocked up your girl friend twice without planning so...you MUST be sooooo in love. Too bad my husband and I aren't as in love as you two must be. No, we must not love each other much at all since we had to let Dr. W and at least a dozen highly trained medical professionals and a one or two laymen plan our babies.

While I applaud your charitable efforts and dig your girlfriend's jewelry line I must inform you: That's luck...not love, dude.

By some twist of fate you are fertile and I am not. Mr. Peeveme and I have been through some really dark and uncertain times and STILL are a committed and loving team. My Dh will never be able to look in the eyes of the child I am carrying and see my eyes. We love despite the lack of genetic link. We love despite the fact that we had to spend over 60K and had numerous heartbreaking failures to get here. We love when our dreams have been shattered; when plan A, B, and C have failed. We love in the bad times.

Love is easy when things are good. Anyone can do that. Love that endures the bad times is real and lasting even if it's not fruitful in the reproduction department.

I wish you and your family the best of health and happiness. I don't know you. I don't know your struggles and challenges but you very publicly have something I have always wanted and planned for: child bearing with ease. Good for you. But don't say it's about love because it's not. You don't love your girlfriend more than I love my husband. You don't love your children more than I love mine. I'm infertile and while I have been quite literally "dead inside" (carrying around my dead baby for over a month while waiting for a natural miscarriage) I am not euphemistically dead inside. I love. Surmounting all encumbrance, I love.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Parable Corner

I came across this parable and wanted to share. Stop me if you've heard this one.

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working. He asked the first, "What are you doing?" and the man answered, "I am laying bricks." He asked the second, "What are you doing?" and the man answered, "I am building a wall". He walked up to the third man, who was humming a tune as he worked and asked, "What are you doing?" and the man stood up and smiled and said, "I am building a cathedral".

Monday, March 23, 2009

Perfect Moment Monday

Warning: this post involves me talking about my little girl. So skip it if you do not want to read about that kind of thing today. I completely understand.

Piccolina is 2 1/2. Yesterday Mr. Peeveme went to his office to get some work done so I had her all to myself. She's very much a Daddy's girl so I love my time alone with her. We don't do anything special. Just hang out and play as I try to get some housework done. I don't need a lot of things to do or even toys to keep her occupied. Soapy-water in a bowl and some spoons as I wash dishes will keep her happily occupied as does: a coloring book as I fold laundry, a clean sponge and some water as I clean the bathroom, her hands on the vacuum under mine as we vacuum, skootching around my wet kitchen floor on a towel to dry it after I have mopped. I realize our time together sounds more like child labor than play time.

As a career mom I only have the weekend to run my errands and get the house clean (I use that word loosely...I think I mean "livable"). As a grand finally to the day we take a walk around our neighborhood. We marvel at each flower, butterfly, dog, squirrel and bench. We say "hi" to our neighbors. Each night before bed we make a tent out of two chairs and a sheet and read books for at least 1/2 hour. We only have about 12 books but she sequels with delight as we squeeze into the tent and she selects the evening's readings.

Our paried-down lifestyle is a conscious choice. I made an effort not to buy a lot of things since before she was born. We make it a conscious effort not to "do" lots of things either. I want her to learn to be happy and content without all the flash and fluff. We have gone to the zoo once. Given how "deprived" she is I thought it was going to blow her mind. She liked it but seems just as happy "helping" Nonna make homemade pasta.

I took her to the ballet once. Again, she liked it and I will take her again but going to the park is just a thrilling to her.

We go to the homes of other children her age and I'm blown away by how many toys they have. It seems like every child her age (and much younger) is in pre-school. dance lessons, art lessons and various structured activities. For a moment I feel bad for Piccolina...like she should have more....like I should buy her more....we should do more.

In the past few months she has taken to doing something that absolutely makes me cry with joy. She does it a few times a day and the joyous effect it has on me never diminishes.

She often stops what she is doing and with a face contorted by too-big of a smile she exclaims, "Mamma, I'm so happy.", and gives me a big hug. And I know I'm doing something right.

She did this yesterday as I was folding laundry and she was coloring (with a pen on blank paper).

Just wait until I give her a paper towel and let her clean the baseboards!


Tomorrow I will post the resolution to my III-part series "Passive Aggressive Co-worker".

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cure is worse than the Disease

One of the on-line pregnancy calendars recommends using an ice-pack on hemorrhoids. Really? Anyone ever try that?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Didn't see that coming

Crap. The person I just hired in Dec just quit. To tell the truth it was not working out that well and I was staring to regret my decision. She was the most contentious and mature candidate but she had been missing work left and right. I passed on candidates with more relevant training becasue she had the critical thinking skills that can not be taught. I could teach someone how to run the survey software, SPSS, do queries to get the data. I made an unconventional decision because I thought in the long run it would pay off.

Turns out she doesn't like the work. Hey, I understand. I have a PH.D. and I find some of the things I have to do mind blowingly beneath my pay scale. But isn't that what a job is all about? Some things are fun and challenging, others are things one just trudges through. She wants to feel like she's doing something she likes. On some level I can understand that especially if you are going to take time away from family (she has two little boys) you better feel it's worth it. I don't think they need the money....she was just dipping her toe back into the labor pool after being a SAHM.

So I get it and am not mad at her but on another level I think: for a part-time job where you get paid $30/hr and set your own hours I would not care what the work was especially in this economy.

So I'm a bit screwed. It takes about 2 months to get someone hired here. The HR process requires paper work to go to the Board of Trustees before someone can start working. They only approve once a month and the paperwork deadline to get on the agenda is 3 weeks before the meeting. So you have to offer someone the job, get all the paperwork in, and then tell them....see you 4-8 weeks when you can start working. It sucks. I need to have someone totally up an running independently running by May/June because I am going to be away on maternity leave.

Fuck me. I put out a offer to one of the candidates I interviewed in November hoping she's still interested. If not I have to go through a whole search process again...which extends the time line considerably.

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's Lent again but I'm not complaning

I appears that Lent has, once again, snuck up on me. For non-Catholics, Lent is the period of time beginning with Ash Wednesday continuing through Easter when Catholics focus on penance and charity. Usually it takes the form of giving something up (like chocolate, TV ect).

Now, I'm not a good Catholic and have not been very observant. I am making an effort to do that, not for reasons of faith but for reasons of leading a meaningful life. A few years ago I started to observe Lent. The first year I gave up swearing. I actually did a good job with that but I felt I needed to do something a little deeper and life affirming.

This year will be my THIRD year attempting (note: I have not been remotely successful) to give up complaining. The first year I was in the middle of dealing with infertility, being a custodial step-mom to a teenager and generally hating the grating sound of my own voice (both out load and in my head). So I decided to give up complaining. I wanted to be more mindful of how I communicated with co-workers, friends and family. I wanted to focus on the positive. I wanted to reflect instead of react. I didn't do so hot but I did try. At least I become more conscious of how often I complained and, every so often, stopped myself.

Year 2 I decide I needed to start a blog so I could get out all my complaining on line. I did not start the blog until after Lent....which should tell you that a failed miserably at not complaining in real life.

So here I am, Year 3 with the same goal of not complaining. It's hard. I do it so often and without thought. I can hardly recognize when I'm doing it. It has become my primary method of communication.

Seriously, when I am being good at not complaining I have a hard time coming up with anything to say.

I mean, if my step-son, who made a cross country move (against our wishes) just 6 months ago, is now needing to BORROW money for him to MOVE BACK in with us? Is that complaining or a statement of fact?

Also, I find I will complain but use a pleasant tone so it does not sound like complaining. But is that cheating? I think it is.

I find it really sad and scary that if I am not complaining I have nothing to say. Yea, I'm a joy. Can't imagine why I am not invited to more parties or lunches.

I imagine I will be blogging more complaints. More likely I will blog about struggling with not complaining. I'm off to a bad start. Just yesterday I told Mr. Peeveme as we were making our weekly grocery list and planning a weeks worth of dinners (a weekly torture ritual), "I fucking hate dinner. I hate the whole thing, the list making, the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning. I feel it sucks my life away." Surprisingly he didn't respond in a loving, compassionate manner. In fact, we had a micro spat which left us both feeling like shit all becasue 1) I blurted out something that could have been said in a better way or 2) didn't need to be said at all.

That's the real reason behind this. I have a great husband and beautiful little girl. We make dinner together every night. It's nice family time. If I could focus on that I might not mind all the work. Or maybe I would still mind it but not as much and my DH certainly doesn't have to know that I hate something that we share and that is an important part of his culture and upbringing.

My work has provided me with the privilege of some leadership training that might help me in my quest to shut my whiny trap. It's called Bio-Reaction and I will post a bit about that in the days to come.

Also, Lent is about Charity. I have been meaning to do something for months. This Lent I will go ahead and make the effort even though I am broke, overwhelmed with my own little life, and it makes me feel uncomfortable (being socially retarded and all).

WARNING: Social Justice interruption

I really dislike that word: Charity. Charity is something well-off people do to make themselves feel better...it's not a cure for social ills. Additionally, it has the effect of making us feel like we are off the hook for creating true social justice. Charity, is fine as long as it's understood that is not all we should be doing. True social change is the goal. Volunteering at Food Harvest is wonderful and the people who need the food are grateful but what does that do to change the fact that there are people who do not have enough to eat? What about livable wage, health care, affordable housing? Charity is a band aid on social ills. Charity is a salve for the conscience of the masses. It is not changing the underlying inequities that cause the needs for charity.

OK Social justice rant over