Tag Archives: blended families

Tripping with My Ex-Boyfriend’s Daughter

Tripping with my ex-boufriend's daughter

Tripping

Does a stepparent relinquish their title, and the unspoken rights, responsibilities, support, care and concern, (often included in the character description) if the relationship ends in divorce?

And what the hell happens in a Girlfriend Mom situation… I don’t know either.

I no longer wear the sash and crown, but there are certain habits and emotional bonds that were formed during my halcyon days as the reining Girlfriend Mom, that have stayed with me nearly three years after the so-called divorce. The role will forever remain in my heart as the most unexpected, and enlightening that I have had the privaledge of playing. And I played Leper #2 in the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar in theater camp.

It was because of these unique relationships, (that seem to be defined, and then redefined every few months) that I took SN (the daughter) on a road trip last Fall from Portland, Oregon to La Jolla, California for her college graduation gift.

A few family members and friends thought it was strange that I was taking a trip with my ex-boyfriend’s daughter. These were some of the same people who thought that it was weird that I still saw the kids. SN’s mother thought it was a wonderful opportunity for her daughter and thanked me. I didn’t need to be thanked because it was my absolute pleasure and joy.

I wanted to make the trip more than SN. I knew firsthand how life affirming such an experience could be. I made the same excursion when I was her age, after my college graduation. After four years in Manhattan, side-stepping dog poop on the sidewalks on my way to class, knocking into Wall Streeter’s as they hustled to the subway, I  hit the road and drove across the country over the summer.

Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to drive across America. I read Kerouac’s, On The Road, watched both Easy Rider, and Lost in America, and the idea of living moment to moment; no plans or schedule was alluring and sexy.

I imagined driving through towns with populations under a hundred. I fantasized about having to get a waitress job in a honkey tonk (even though I’d never waited tables before) because I ran out of money. Perhaps I’d get hired to wax surf boards in a shop along the California coast, even though I’d never set foot on a board. I romanticized the road because I’d been dodging crack dealers on my way to my dorm. Anything would be better than that.

I’d learn how to ride a motorcycle. I’d pick up hitchhikers bumming for lifts. They’d teach me about the world; sharing their wisdom gleaned from years living according to their chakras and not in the chokehold of societal expectations, norms and conventions. These free spirits would regale me with pearls from the backseat of my car, while chewing tobacco, and using an empty Coke bottle as their spittoon.

To be twenty-two.

I used the money that I’d saved over the years in a giant pink piggy bank that my parent’s had bought me when I was nine years old, to fund my trip.

The bank lived on the bottom shelf of my bookcase in my childhood bedroom. It was so big that I doubted that it would ever be full, but I dropped coins into the slit on its back every chance I got.

My parents told me (although it was couched as a suggestion) to wait until the pig was full before I uncorked its underbelly. They assured me that it would be more exciting and gratifying than if I withdrew money every time I wanted another Bonne Bell 7-Up Lip Smacker, which was often.

What ten-year-old girl is going to understand the concept of saving, patience and restriction? It was friggin’ Bonne Bell. Yes, I dipped into the bank on more than one occasion.

As I got older and more disciplined, it became easier to resist the urge to crack open the swine before she was up to her snout in metal and couldn’t take one more thin dime. She did taunt me, especially when my babysitting jobs dried up in the winter of ’83 but I stayed the course.

By the time I graduated college, the bank had been full for several months. I suspect that my parents dropped a few shekels in while I was away at school.

Soon after graduation, I went into my bedroom, closed the door and pulled the weighty bank off of the shelf. I plucked the stopper, emptied the contents onto my medium pile chocolate brown shag rug, and began the laborious task of rolling the coins into their respective denomination wrappers. This was long before the coin machines in local supermarkets. I rolled until I lost feeling in my fingers.

It was mind-numbing and it required a gross amount of concentration and counting. Anyone who knows me, knows that I find counting mentally exhausting.

As I sat with my legs crossed hunched over mounds of coins (as a Pilates instructor I shudder at the visual) I kept having to remind myself of how many nickels were in a two-dollar wrapper. The whole ordeal made me dizzy.

As the rolls piled high, forming miniature pyramids on my rug, my anticipation increased—How far would the money take me? Would I have to get a job bartending? 

When the wrapping was complete, I went to the bank and cashed out. If memory serves, I had over six hundred dollars in dusty and sticky pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I found several half dollars and a handful of silver dollars. I vaguely remember getting those as birthday presents from my grandfather. At the time, I couldn’t get over the fact that a dollar could be a coin.

I also found a peso or two in the mix, which was odd because I hadn’t been to a country where the local currency was a Pesos. Dad?

I had money to make a childhood dream come true and nothing felt sweeter. I was rich!

Once I climbed behind the wheel and was on the road, I tossed my shoes into the backseat of my Honda Accord and crossed over the first of many state lines. I felt as if I’d been infused with a dose of freedom. I hadn’t done a lot of traveling up to that cross country point and I was captivated by the enormity of the country, and awed by the vastness and the quiet. It was eye opening in ways that I had only read about or seen in the movies.

I imagined my foot glued to the gas pedal, never to return to New York. I’d only driven 700 miles from home, but I was convinced that I belonged on the road, and that I would be happy wandering for the rest of my life.

To be twenty-two.

Decades later, I hoped that SN’s experience would be as thrilling as my first time was. I’d play the part of the wise hitchhiker, imparting sage advice, only without the tobacco. I was anxious to see the roads of my youth, and to be seeing them through SN’s youthful eyes.

To be continued…

A Brief and Meaningful Visit

A Meaningful and Brief VisitHim: its going well how about u 

Me: Working. Finished writing a book. You know! I look forward to seeing you. Miss you. xo

Him: How was it and i look foward to seeing you too Miss you 

Me: how was writing a 230 page book? arduous, emotional and immensely gratifying. xo

Him: I cant even write a one page essay hahaha

Me: Yes you can. It takes practice just like everything else in life. Let me know if you ever need help. You’re funny, and I bet you could write funny if you wanted to. See you Saturday. xo

***

I finished writing my book, and a week later, I texted my ex’s son to make plans to see him. It had been a couple of months and the two events had beautifully converged.

It stills make my heart skip a beat when he inquires about me; what I’m doing, how I’m doing. Friends who have kids tell me that it’s rare that their teenagers answers their texts, let alone engage them in a dialogue.

It would be too easy for me to doubt, mistrust or excuse his words away as something that he says just to be nice. Then again, what if it is? It wouldn’t change a thing for me or how I feel about him.

After I spent the day with his sister, we drove to the outdoor cafe where he works. She and I stood off to the side, waiting for him to look up and notice us. We didn’t want to flail our arms around in the hopes of getting his attention, causing a scene or getting him into trouble.

After several minutes, he looked up; his long, wavy brown hair, held back by a headband that boys his age are wearing these days. His face immedialtely lit up and he smiled. I smiled back.

Sure I noticed his reaction, but I took it in stride and kept my giddiness to myself. Over the years, I’ve learned not to attach too much meaning (or any meaning) to the acts, words and feelings that go on in our relationship because as it evolves and morphs, I’m constantly redefining it.

I was only too happy to see him and to give him an embarrassingly long hug, especially since he was on the clock and there were many people around. It always surprises me when he confidently, and without embarrassment, allows me to physically show him my love. Oh, how far I’ve come.

The exchange was brief yet long enough for me to cup his stubbly teenage-acne face in my hands and tell him that I loved him. He responded, “I love you too,” before going back to work. My heart skipped its beat.

As his sister and I walked to the car, she apologized for the brief visit. She went on to explain that her brother only wants to spend time with his friends these days but that it would change once he got older. Who was the adult/mother-ish/parental-like figure here?

I told her that it was okay and that her brother should be spending his time with his friends. I certainly didn’t take it personally. “I didn’t want to hang out with my parents when I was his age. It’s how it goes.”

We got in the car, and she turned to me. “Yes, but did you see how his face lit up when he saw you. He got so happy.”

Yes, I did. And I’m going to trust it.

 

Because The Captain n’ Tenille Said So, Love Will Keep Us Together, Dammit!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

It’s taken me fifteen weeks to write this post. I needed time to figure out how I was going to tell my adoring fans that The Girlfriend Mom is no longer a girlfriend. Well, that’s one way of doing it.

Life is funny. Not funny like watching someone trip over their own feet and then trying to save themselves from face planting. Funny as in curious and ever so surprising. For all of my protestations about not wanting kids, coupled with hesitations about being in a relationship with a divorced father, I now find myself feeling grateful for having the Girlfriend Mom kids in my life. As it turns out, the kids are one of the most beautiful results of my relationship with their father.

My ex-boyfriend (wow, that doesn’t flow fluidly off the keyboard) and I did not have a plan for how we were going to tell the kids, or what we were going to tell them. For my part, I will cop to denial and hoping that dad would take the lead. For his part, I think it was more comfortable for him to simply say that, “we were taking a break,” and let the chips fall where they may. Neither approach dealt with the issue and as a result I felt off balance and alone.

Maintaining a relationship with them was paramount for me, so I forged ahead and started a dialogue independent of their father. After seven and a half years (save a year and a half due to our first breakup) I wasn’t prepared to walk away or fade to black. I didn’t want the kids to feel abandoned. They had already gone through one divorce and I didn’t want to make things difficult or uncomfortable for them. Perhaps it was I who didn’t want to feel abandoned.

I questioned what rights I had as a Girlfriend Mom. What demands could I make on their time? There isn’t a list in a ‘how to’ book on the topic. I debated with myself, and cried. A lot. Everything was falling apart. The life that I had been building for so many years was quickly slipping through my fingers, so I grabbed the kids and held on.

Throughout the relationship, I had many fears and doubts, as evidenced by my many posts. But in the face of those fears and doubts, I planted seeds, I nurtured the relationships and I watched us grow into a pretty high functioning blended family. Not always easy.

I was nervous to reach out to them. Would they care if we stayed in touch? Did they even notice that I was gone? Was I being dramatical? Besides, they had their own lives, friends, school, jobs, and they were still kids.

I had lost their father. I didn’t think that I could’ve handled losing them as well. When I did reach out, their response warmed my soul. I told them that I would always be there for them and that I hoped to always be in their lives.

I was so scared and anxious when I first met the kids. How could I go from childless by choice, to having two small kids in my life? Over the years I saw parts of myself that I never knew existed. Unattractive parts. Who needs that? And yet, something made me want to stay. Something told me to hang on and push through because something wonderful was waiting for me on the other side. Something. Something that looked a lot like love.

The first time I experienced the kind of love that practically rips your heart out of your chest, was when I was leaving for Dubai, two summers ago, to teach Pilates. I bent down to say good-bye to my Girlfriend Mom son, who was dozing off on the couch. He put his little boy hands around my neck and pulled my face down close to his and he cried. I didn’t know that it was possible to feel such pain and love simultaneously.

I had been so worried that we weren’t going to bond, let alone love someone else’s kids. I was never the same after that.

Now what? Is this the next chapter of The Girlfriend Mom- or is it The Ex-Girlfriend Mom now? Ours is not a conventional, traditional, or clear situation. I see challenges ahead, with messy moments thrown in. I also know that no one knows anything about anything, especially about the future. So bring it.

Yesterday I thanked my Girlfriend Mom daughter for allowing me the privilege to experience the joy of having kids in my life. “You’re welcome,” she said. In a million years, I never would’ve dreamed of having that exchange. Isn’t life funny.

Anderson Cooper Recap

AndersonLive

I was flattered that Modern Mom asked me to represent them on Anderson Cooper Live, as the shows featured blogger. As much as I love Modern Mom, and the folks that run the site, I agreed to go because it meant having my hair and make-up done. Let’s face it, having someone glam and primp you is super sweet, especially since I hadn’t washed my hair in days, and make-up for me is lip gloss.

I was picked up by Romantique Care Service; a lovely Lincoln Town Car, as Limo’s are so 95′, and Mike was my driver. It was 500 degrees below remotely acceptable degrees and I was thrilled that I didn’t have to walk anywhere or take the subway.

IMG_1697I decided to wear my new Athleta boots. Side note. Athleta is my new favorite store, not only for workout gear (sorry LuLu but yes, I am cheating on you), but they also have ski pants and shoes! When Lululemon gets with the program, we can talk.

boots in carCBS Studios here I come. (10 minutes later) Anderson Live here I am.

AndersonLive outside

 

 

 

 

I love promptness. Organization. Efficiency. And the crew over at Anderson Live did not disappoint. Before Mike had come to a full stop, H (protecting the innocent) was waiting out in the frigid cold, ready to open my door, greet me, and whisk me inside. When shit like that happens, it’s almost not to feel a little Diva-like.

I was shown to my dressing room and I’m not going to lie. It was a bit cold and the lamp didn’t work, so it was cold and dark. DarkDressingRoomThere was plenty of water and a television, so I drank and put on some CBS show. It’s not usually my chosen network but I figured, when in Rome.

A perky and friendly producer came in and we went over the show. She explained what was expected of me, and I was relieved to hear that it wasn’t much. And then, my favorite part of show business, HAIR & MAKE-UP. MakeUptableIf you don’t think B, the make-up artist, didn’t use every one of those pieces in this picture, on my face, you would be wrong. I’m not getting any younger and my freckles cannot hide as much as they used to. The result, however,  was a person that I hardly recognized. If it were possible, and I’d like to think that it is, I looked older!

MeDressingRoomHair was a different story. The stylist was amazed that my hair had retained its bounce and curl from my five days ago blowout. She merely threw on some hair spray. I was hoping for soap opera hair; shiny and poofy. Oh, well. Hairtable

I was miked and then escorted to the stage. I had no idea that the studio audience was already in their seats. I walked smack dab in the middle of the stage to my assigned, VIP seat. I made up the VIP part. It was just reserved seat. A crew member taped over the Apple sign on my computer and smacked on a Modern Mom logo.

I was ready! The warm up comedienne was One Funny Mother, Dena Blizzard. And she was. Funny that is. OneFunnyMother

Anderson came out to rousing applause and let me say, he is so cute, funny, and not very tall. He acts like someone who you want to hang out with and play board games with. His Co-host for the day was Deborah Tillman, America’s Supernanny.

It wasn’t the most exciting episode but there were some interesting moments. In no particular order; Anderson thought that anyone could tap dance, and does a ridiculous demonstration. Gregory Hines rolls over in his grave just a bit. There was a video of a seeming drunk woman who got trapped in her child’s high chair, and then there was a chat about a new gadget on the market called the iPotty. Because where should our children spend more time? That’s right, on the crapper. Hello hemorrhoids.

Ms. Tillman shared her secrets on how to make kids less selfish, but first she asked, “Are the parents selfish?” Ooh, you go Tillman. She talked about modeling behavior and that your kids are watching you. So true.

Anderson&Deborah

A real live blended family joined Anderson and Ms. Tillman to get advice on how this couple can improve their home life and undisciplined children. What I found interesting was the mother said that it was easier for her to discipline her stepchild. Hmm. Deborah talked about the importance of the parents needing to be on the same page when it came to house rules. She said that loose and relaxed rules doesn’t work and that kids don’t need to know what’s expected of them. This was all great information but I wonder how this is new information. I don’t have my own children and even I know this.

Deborah&BlendedFamWhen the show was over, I was ushered into a photo booth with Anderson, and this is where I touched him. I thought nothing of putting my arm around his back. I’m super glad that Anderson snapped two pictures, because when I saw the first one, back in my dressing room, I looked like I had just woken up after a night of drinking. No, this is not the picture. And no, you will not see the first picture posted here or anywhere.

MeNAndersonThank you Anderson. And thank you Modern Mom for asking me to represent.

Funsy.

 

 

Do You Know The Blended Family Shorthand?

I will admit that it was only recently that I learned what LMFAO stood for. Maybe it’s because I prefer to speak in complete sentences, using actual words. I know it takes a bit longer, especially when texting, but I am not going to abbreviate ‘in my opinion’, with imo. Because I h8 abbreviations. And yes, I do like the feel of a nice Uni-ball fine pen on a crisp white legal pad.

So you can imagine my shock when, researching blended family websites, and step-parenting blogs, I came across the list below. It’s challenging enough, living with a man who has kids, fighting to carve out my place in a family already in progress, but now I have to decipher acronyms?

What, in the name of that sweet little baby Jesus, is wrong with using a complete name? Are we in that big of a rush, that we just don’t have the time to write out, or heaven forbid, say, Stepson?

I had my own ideas of what these abbreviations stood for.They’re noted in BOLD.

•    BS = Biological Son; Term can be used by a parent who is also a stepparent to describe their own biological children.
Where I come from, BS always meant bullshit. As in, these shortcuts are bullshit. Although in this case, an abbreviation is appropriate because it’s not nice to say shit in public.

•    SS = Stepson or Step-siblings; Term used by stepparent to describe a stepchild without identifying the child by name. Step-siblings refer to a group of step-children who all share the same biological parents.
This is obvious… the SS… WW II… ring any bells?

•    SD = Step-daughter; Term can used by stepparent to describe a daughter brought into the relationship by a biological parent who is now the stepparent’s mate.
Just a ‘T’ away from sexually transmitted disease.

•    DD = Daughter of (my) Divorce or Divorced Dad; Term stepparents use to describe a daughter born from previous marriage with the husband/wife they have divorced. Remarried individuals use this term to describe a person who has a daughter from a previous relationship. In forums and groups the phrase is mostly used by stepmothers.
Didi Conn, “Frenchie” from Grease? Yeah, okay, that was a stretch.

•    DS = Divorced Son, or Son of (my) divorce; Term stepparents use to describe a son born from previous marriage with the husband/wife they have divorced. Remarried individuals use this term to describe a person who has a son from a previous relationship. Phrase is mostly used by stepmothers.
I don’t have anything for this because it’s asinine.

•    DH = Divorced Husband; Term used by a previously married woman to describe an ex husband and/or to describe a current husband who was previously married to someone else.
See DS.

•    DM = Divorced Mom; Term usually used by men to describe an ex wife with whom he shares children and/or to refer to his current wife who has children from a previous relationship.
Depeche Mode.

•   SK = step-kid; Term used generally to describe a stepchild.
        No, it’s the internet country code for Slovakia- oh, yes it is.

•    BD = Biological Dad; Term used to describe a custodial or non-custodial parent who is also a man.
Add Wong, and you’ve got the actor who plays, Dr. George Huang, Law & Order, SVU.

•    BM = Biological Mom; Term used to describe a custodial or non-custodial parent who is also a woman.
This is too easy. BOWEL MOVEMENT. It will always be bowel movement, no matter how long I’m in this blended family circus!

What the blended family acronym committees haven’t included, is an abbreviation for a woman like myself; unmarried, no children pulled from my tender loins, living with a man who has kids, with custodial rights every other weekend.

According to the list above, I’m not a DM, and I’m not a CSM (Childless Step Mom), an abbreviation curiously absent from the above list. Thus, I give you the GM. Not General Motors. Not General Manager. The Girlfriend Mom! You’re welcome.

And just when you thought that would be the end of this tomfoolery, some genius, with a lot of time on their hands, decided to add numbers after the acronym, signifying the ages of the individual that they’re attached to. Because, again, it’s just too time consuming to say, and or write, “My stepson is 18 years old.”

Now, instead of a family unit, comprised of unique personalities, and distinctive styles and traits, we’ve become numbers and a part of a friggin’ algebra problem.

My boyfriend is a BHDM18,13 and I’m a GM0, who has to go lay down now because my head is spinning.