tales from the surviving straight spouse

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No more silence

I am back and have much to explore.  Whether my silence was self imposed, the result of emotional suffocation or pure laziness doesn’t really matter. 

I am grateful to return to expression.  I am grateful for my friends who want the best for me and yet can stay with me while I make my own way.  I am grateful to support my son who is enlisting in the national Army reserves.  I am grateful that I am here.

Cherry Picking 101

Five years old.

It is weird to look back at being a small girl.  I can’t remember too many details.  Things pop out here and there about me, my body and attitudes about my body and being a girl.

Many moms, dads and siblings make up words for genitalia.  It makes me crazy.  One of the worst things we can do to our children is to apply shame, discomfort to a body part.  My hackles are rising as I think of all the phrases I’ve heard.  “PeeShee” and “Peachy” and prize for most damaging: “Junk”

I had a “wee wee”  I don’t any more.


If you just squirmed a bit, you can thank the media, the adults and peers of your early years.  Or curse them.  As an adult, sure it is fine in the right moments to have a little fun…but for a child…viewing their bodies seriously and proudly is vital.

Babies naturally begin exploring their bodies when they become physical able.  Imagine the wonder and joy when a baby begins to find places that give them comfort.  My 2nd son still twirls the same spot on his head he began rubbing as an infant.  I bet he started in the womb.

I don’t know when I started to explore my genitals.  I do know when I stopped.  My parents and a brother were in the study (apparently with the pistol…) watching television.  When I came into the room my brother said, “Someone’s been cherry picking.”  My father laughed.  My mother gave me a look that shriveled my insides and told me not to touch my wee-wee.  I must have been really at it – because everyone knew when I came the room.

There it was…I had done something wrong, bad, unacceptable.  I didn’t even know the effect that moment had on me until much later.  It took me 37 years to get COMPLETELY past that.  That fun filled story will be told in a week or so.

A bit later I learned that boys and girls had different “privileges”.  One particularly hot day I walked out into our back yard without a shirt on.  I was 7.  I never saw my mom walk around with out a shirt, but as far as I could tell, I looked just like my brother from the waist up (never dreamed that the waist down was different – hah! How do you spell naive?)  I look bewildered at my brother who was angry and shouting at me to get back inside and get a shirt on.  The question that soon became repeated over an over again until it echoed inside was “What were you thinking?”

I was thinking as a human being who is biologically formed, yet molded by the conscious of others who ignore developmental biology.

Sometimes I stand in front of the mirror naked and say “Hello there, I’m thinking that this is beautiful and naked it just fucking fine.”

It is easy to look at the past through adult eyes and dismiss these “minor events”.   For a five year old it is not minor and realizing that it happened to a brain not yet developed is key to releasing the damage.

Want to share your learned, early-years words for


because I’d be interested to know…

Nanowrimo here I come.

Hello November 2, 2013,

I watched you come and go last year and the year before.  No more.  I want to tell my story, just one track on  a twisted continuous revolution.  Marilyn Monroe said,

“We are all born sexual creatures,thank God, but it’s a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift.”  

November, I am giving to you the story of me…how I developed sexually.  I am not afraid of telling the truth.  I think there are many people who need to hear stories of damage, growth and living life fully.  By age of 18 one in six women will be raped and that is only what is reported.  Maybe, if more stories are told, the world will change.  Parents will accept and respect the “power” they have to foster the start of a healthy life.  I’ve read one coming of age story written by a man, “Running with Scissors.”  It was inspiring and appalling all in one book.  Maybe you will get a millisecond of that, November.

Look out November…I’m here.

Tune in to tomorrow for Cherry Picking 101.



Summer Passes Quickly

The air conditioner went back on, I was hoping that the season had passed. 

I went up to the Pocono mountains to visit my aunt with my father a few weeks ago.  She is 92 and I have never seen her happy.  I think of all the opportunities and choices she made, the guideposts she relied on to live her life.  Where did all that pain and misery come from?

My mother flipped out on me last week.  I haven’t spoken to her since.  She really made quite a stir and then became overly dramatic when I didn’t budge.  I had to come to a difficult  conclusion: she loves me as a mother is expected to, but she doesn’t like me.

It reminds me of an old boyfriend.  I climbed into bed in a sexy nightgown and he reached for an electronic device and began interacting with the alternate nebulous reality.  To some everything always looks better “out there”.  The could be and would be are temptations which erode the *is*. 

I wish people knew the secret:  let go of tomorrow and yesterday.

We have just now…that is all we ever really have.  I can’t say it enough.

I’m going to call my mom, she really hurt me, but festering, brooding and “should haves” is not living.

we take a moment and breathe.

after a day of bullying, fighting, teachers disorganized – calling students names – I come home to the tutor from 4-5 – that is tricky because oldest son finishes dance class at 5…4 miles away during rush hour, son #3 finishes wrestling also at 5.  The tutor goes overtime by 10 minutes. Son#2 accidentally lets crazy puppy out.  Son#1 – 5:20 pick up, simple lecture from coach.  Son#3 5:40 – a more complicated “FYI” from coach. 

It is 5:45 now.  We head to son#3’s therapist for his final session (at this time).  We have 1 hour 15 minutes to get there.  I am sad that I have to do a fastfood dinner.  Then I realize I need to pick up son#2’s prescription at the doctor’s or the maws of hell will open in the am.

Traffic sucks.  We get the prescription and to the therapist’s town with 25 minutes to spare.  The entire time son#2 is speaking continuously.  Eventually everyone in the car is pleading for him to be quiet.  He laughs a simplistic giggle and keeps on talking. I dream of veering off the highway and floating into a dimension of peace and silence.

Instead, I must find food for them. My self loathing is increasing because they are not eating healthy. I turn into a Dunkin Donuts. “They have sandwiches here…lets get…”. “NO WAY, MOM” son#1 barks. I ask him to just pick something. He refuses. I tell him we don’t have time for this, he digs in his heels. When did they lose all respect for me? I pull out of the drive through line and continue on my way.

I wonder how many subconscious thoughts run through my brain that tear me down. I want to scream. Instead, I pull into a Burger King drive thru. I lecture on respect. I know it is moot.

I order nothing…too gross for words. I get yelled at for accidentally giving out the wrong sandwich. The wrestler son insists he is not hungry – really, not hungry after wrestling practice and nothing to eat since noon? (he didn’t eat breakfast this am either). While checking the order the guy behind me lays on the horn. I take off. Yes, son#2 is still talking.

We sit in the therapist parking lot. We are missing a fry, of course it is my fault. Wrestling son tries not to eat – his kids meal. He goes up to the office. We sit in the lot. Son#2 and #4 are fighting over who gets shot gun. I make sure they understand we are not going anywhere and that when we do seat assignments will change. Son #2 persists and asks for reassurance 15 more times in the next thirty minutes. I feel like crap. I go up to get son #3 from therapist office. He has something he needs to tell me. He wants to know when I will quit smoking. I tell him I just am not sure but will come up with a reduction plan. At this point I havent had a smoke in a few hours.

We stop at the pharmacy, drop off the script. Come home, do home work, showers, jammies and snacks. Run out to pick up the prescription because of the pharmacy backlog we could not wait earlier. Son #2 intermittently sucks his thumb and speaks to everyone within a five foot radius. I cannot keep it together.

I make it to the car. I text a friend for support. Son#2 tries to read over my shoulder. He asks 20 questions about my text in 5 minutes. I tell him to stop in a very firm voice. (God this is tedious to write…should we take an intermission??). He opens his phone and starts texting gibberish like crazy “I can text, too ya know. I know how. I can do it.” He is mad and trying to get under my skin. We just spoke about this 6 hours earlier.

I am reminded of the reading teacher lecturing him this afternoon about his text messages to her – looking exasperated with me for my son’s unavoidable short comings. I cannot maintain calm any longer. I explode as nicely as I can reminding him what text messages are for, what he is capable of. Just when I fear he will cry, he whisper, “Sorry, Mildred” and lays that honey sweet smile across my spirit. I am humbled by his perseverence.

It is 10:20. I am on empty – but we have the meds and kids are fed. I ask everyone to get to bed, apparently in Chinese since no one moves. I ask my wrestler to turn off the game, get a shower and get to bed. He looks at me and returns to his Skyrim quest as if I was invisible.

I speak the Chinese in a louder octave. Suddenly, they understand the Chinese. I also become the mean, unfair, unkind mom.

An hour later everyone is asleep. I am unfocused and hazey. Too charged to sleep. I breathe, be present and breathe again. I wouldn’t want any one else to be Mildred.


Sometimes I get sick of me.

The same old story: DD, kids with special needs, snotty town – it becomes tedious, even for me.  My shit really does stink.

So I took a break.

Hi.  I’m back.  The fertilizer continues to propagate.

I saw the Mary Tyler Moore Statue.  I love friends who know that I know that we are so glad we found each other.  I am grateful and though the dance continues with a sickness that I try not to think about, I think overall life isn’t so bad.  Puppies, though piddling, make hearts grow.

Last week I got a call from son#3’s therapist – “I have blah blah blah open please call me back to confirm one of those dates.”

All of the dates are the week that ex husband has son#3 with him.  I text ex husband Son#3 has therapist on blah blah, can I pick him up and take him? no response for a week.

I get a call from the therapist, “I spoke with your ex husband and he is going to bring son#3 on Thursday at 6.  We decided that every other session would be with the other parent.  I hope that is okay with you.”  Of course this is okay!  I want his father involved.  I don’t want this to be about me.  She sounded nervous.  I hate to be paranoid – but I am sure that she is beginning to fall under the DD spell and start to doubt how anything could be wrong with this man.  I trust my supervisor, though and she highly recommended Ms. Peach.  I can only stay calm and focused.

I had to text DD, though:

you could have discussed with me the scheduling of son#3 with Ms. Peach.  I asked you last week about him and you ignored my text.  You don’t have to play games.  I know you need to, but I am doing this for son#3 because he asked – not for me or you.  

I’m not playing games, Ms. Peach insisted that she talk to u.

She told you to ignore my text?

No. She didn’t have the 8/14 @ 2 appt in her book.  I didn’t respond to ur txt b/c I knew I would be discussing all of this with her.  I’m sorry if my waiting to respond to u left u feeling slighted in some way.

Thanks. she didn’t have it in her book because I was waiting on you to respond to my text.  i thought we could talk to each other instead of through Ms. Peach.  If you prefer we can continue to go through her.

No response for a day.  Then this little gem:

I have to leave the house at 7:30 2mrw.   Would u like me to bring the boys over then or would it b easier for u if I brought them over 2nite?  I’m thinking 9pm.  I’d like to do what’s best 4 u.  Tx.

Amazing!  Suddenly he is thinking of me, how incredibly sweet.  It isn’t because he can’t get the boys up in the morning without a battle?  Is this the same man who just lectured his sitter for coming by my house with son#4 to get money I owed her?  Is this the man who said it isn’t appropriate for son#4 to come to my house when it isn’t part of the schedule?  Is this the man who has continuously ignored my texts as part of his games?

I forgot.  Last Friday I received a tearful call from son#4:  “Daddy left me home with big brother.  I don’t want to be home with him.”  I text DD and tell him that son#4 is very upset and it is inappropriate for them to be left alone.  DD calls me (can’t answer a text message)  He is extremely concerned that CPS will be called.    I told him not to worry.  I have given up.  I won’t be calling them any more.  I no longer have the fight in me.  I tell him that it is sad that I get phone calls like this.  DD has been told by so many people to stop leaving the boys alone.  As always, he is above the rules that most people view as logical and safe.

Last Sunday son#2 and son#4 told me that they were going to camp for a week this coming Sunday.  DD got on the phone and told me he had signed them up (without discussing it with me).  He also informed me that he was going to be away and that I would have to take them to camp.  It would never occur to him that perhaps I might have had plans with the boys.  I recall two weeks ago when son #3 was going to camp for two weeks.  I offered to DD to take him since they hadn’t seen each other for a week and he would then be away for another 2 weeks.   I try, seriously to be thoughtful and travel on that high road.

I have a nasty taste in my mouth.  It is the taste of defeat.  It is the taste of playing games.  I was free tonight.  I could have taken the boys, but I thought of all the times I’ve bowed to him.  I told him I had plans and I am up early anyways.  I reminded him to bring the camp gear.  Son#2 calls me in tears, “Daddy says  you aren’t taking us tonight because you have plans.  Don’t you want us to come over?”  I lose again.  It seems as if he manages to make me the bad guy with minimal effort.  I’ve dropped to the low road.  It stinks down here.

Revisiting Angst.

In college I had to build a shell – that I just didn’t care.  My roommate and I created a saying “It just doesn’t matter, because I really don’t care.”  That related to everything dishonest that we witnessed around campus – students, administrators and professors.

We had to put on the armor of fake ennui and manufactured indisposition in order to withstand the insensitivity of the people around us.  We had gotten stuck at a conservative Catholic University – just at the point when we were chipping through our adolescent, confectionery shell of long held parental beliefs of what is good and bad.

I find myself not wanting to care again, but now I am the parent.

I want to run.  I want to be vindicated.  This post has enough for 3 entries, but I will summarize the past week:

  1. Last Thursday I asked DD if I could pick up son#4 three hours earlier than planned because I had a half day from work.  He said yes, but reminded me that we needed to stick to visitation schedule for the boys.  I told him never mind.  Son#4 was at his home with a sitter – they had no plans for those 3 hours.  It wasn’t an inconvenience for anyone.
  2. Friday afternoon, DD invited me to my own son(#4)’s birthday party via an email addressed to all of the parents in son #4’s class.  I wasn’t included in the planning – though when son#4 asked me a few weeks ago about what to do for his upcoming birthday party – I told him that we should talk to his father before making any decisions.  Though clearly that wasn’t what DD did.  I was just another person asked to the party.  That hurt.  I responded to all of the invitees “Thanks so much for including me in our son’s party!  I can’t wait to celebrate with him”
  3. Friday night, Son#2 shaved his eyebrows (for the first time) and his scrotum – but this time he cut himself – while at his father’s home.  Calling CPS has never resulted in any changes…so I will just write a letter to the CPS worker and her supervisor just to cover my bases – explaining that I’ve tried to reach out to CPS with no results or changes since 2009 and this is the latest of a series of events demonstrating poor supervision.  I explain that I don’t expect much action – but would like this letter to be included in son#2’s file – so that if and when something extremely dangerous happens, it will be noted that I’ve tried.
  4. Saturday morning, I get an email asking me if I could take the boys for DD while he goes away with his boyfriend to Puerto Rico for 6 days.   I reply that I will always, if possible spend time with the boys – but I am concerned about the mixed messages.  I reminded him that he said we needed to be sticking to the visitation schedule.  I review that 3 extra off the schedule hours with son#4 causes DD concern, but three extra nights is acceptable when he is going on vacation with his boyfriend.   I also ask if he is going to be paying alimony or child support before he goes on vacation.  psss I know you are surprised that I haven’t gotten a response back.

It is these things that remind me of the coldness of college.  How strange it was to be surrounded by good “Catholics” who lied, cheated on exams, slept with a friend’s boyfriend/girlfriend, being sexually harassed by a professor or belittled or excluded anyone slightly different.  In order to survive emotionally, I built a facade of uncaring.

This is different.  I will always care about the boys – that part doesn’t change.  They are the chink in my armor.  No matter how far I distance myself emotionally, intellectually, physically – the bond of sharing children will always be there.

I have this angst, this edge, this sadness and exhaustion – but each smile, each hug, each time I hear “mom” I realize how  much I am needed.

I won’t go away and I won’t back down and most especially, I will sleep deeply and peacefully.