Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Psycho Ex

Don't worry. This post isn't what you think. It isn't a brutal bagging on my ex-husband. That would be unfair, tacky, and wrong. So let's get the straight right now. I do not believe in ex-bashing. Especially in a public forum and NEVER in front of your children. Maybe in private with your best girlfriend and couple of Margaritas. In fact, that situation might just be necessary for your mental health. But that's about the only time it's appropriate.

One thing I've noticed that all divorced people have in common is the Psycho Ex. I have a friend whose ex accused her of being a lesbian in an attempt to get custody. There's a lady I know whose ex was a doctor, but when she left, he quit and went to work part time at a liquor store just so he wouldn't have to pay any support. I know of a woman whose ex injured himself and then accused her of physical abuse when all the while he was stalking her. A friend of a friend had to get a restraining order against her ex, not for abuse but because when he would drop off the kids, he would come into the house and not leave. He'd just sit on the couch like he still lived there.

The Psycho ex syndrome goes both ways. I've heard of plenty of single moms with full custody who act like they own their children. They won't share doctor, school, sports information with the Dad. Then complain that he doesn't show up to events he didn't even know were taking place. I know of ex-wives who obsess over knowing who their ex is dating and then make a point of befriending that woman just so she can sabotage the relationship.

Once, when I was still married, we went to dinner with a friend of ours and his new wife. It was awkward because we had been friends with the ex-wife. It was also awkward because the new wife spent the entire dinner telling stories of "psycho" stuff the ex wife had allegedly done. And I spent the entire dinner trying hard not to say, "Well, you were the secretary that her husband was sleeping with for years and eventually left her for. That tends to make a woman mad, if not a little crazy."

It's clear that psycho ex-spouses come in all forms. You've got your stalkers, your drama queens, your guilt-trippers, your child-owners, your control freaks, your deadbeats, your mid-life crisis clowns, and your everyday wackjobs. This roaring mom isn't even going to breach the subject of the seriously deranged and dangerous. Except to say that if you are in a relationship with one of those, get out now. And get help. Don't wait and let someone read in your diary that if something ever happens to you, they should suspect your ex.

Still, I wonder...if every divorced person has a psycho ex, does that mean that I am a psycho ex, as well? I've never heard anyone say, "My ex is a perfectly wonderful human being and the most accommodating, generous, beautiful ex-spouse in the world." If you are divorced, do you sometimes wonder what story others are getting about your ex's psycho ex?

I commend myself that I have never even come close to committing the above referenced scenarios. But I know for a fact that I've done some things that my ex would probably consider to be crazy. I'm pretty sure he blames the 18 year old's tattoo on me since I am her only tattooed parent. Her nose piercing was probably my fault too, for being so lenient with the tattoo situation. Telling the kids they needed to talk their dad into getting a puppy so they could have pets at both houses was probably a little bit conniving, as well. But, hey, I've always admitted that I'm just one estrogen charged bad hair day away from the nut house. In fact, when I look around at the inundation of Lego's and soccer balls and music books and rescued kittens and more children in my house than I can legally claim even when mine are at their dad's that week, I'm pretty sure I'm already living in one.

So I guess the point is, single parents, if you are going to be psycho, do it in a way that ends in puppies and diamond studs (even if the studs are stuck in your 18 yr old's nose). At the very least, do it in a way that will eventually bring laughter, and I don't mean the evil scientist laughter. Not only will it make for less awkward dinner parties, but it might just make post-divorce life a more joyous place to live.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Random White Trash Mattress

DISCLAIMER: If you consider yourself to be white trash, or if your ancestors were white trash, please read no further. I will probably offend you.

About five years ago, we purchased my son a new mattress for his bed. The old mattress was a perfectly good mattress. It wasn't falling apart or anything. We just upgraded him to something more supportive. The kids immediately found many playful uses for the old one. So we kept it. For the kids to play with. Just for the summer.

And the next summer.

And the next.

In fact, it now is a permanent fixture on the floor of the downstairs family room. We fondly refer to it as the random mattress. Well, maybe I don't refer to it so fondly. It's more like, "I swear I'm gonna burn that stupid, ugly random mattress if you don't get it out of the middle of my family room." Obviously five years of threatening arson has made not any impression whatsoever on any member of the household. Even the alien beasts we call dogs laugh at me from the random mattress.

My kids love the random mattress. All their friends love the random mattress. Having it means the family room is always ready for a slumber party. I, however, think it's an ugly tripping hazard that makes me feel very white trash. But, I also realize I can't actually burn it and it won't fit in the trash cart, so I don't know how I'd get rid of it anyway. If only I had a pick-up I could throw it in the back of...

And that's not the only thing about my post-divorce house that brings on that white trash feeling. There's the weed patch in my backyard due to the broken lawn mower, and the remnants of last year's Christmas tree that I know is hiding somewhere in there. You see, I was never in charge of Christmas tree disposal, so I tossed it in the backyard until I located the place to recycle it, but never was able to find that out. There's also the brown patch of grass in the front yard caused by the broken sprinkler head-induced drought. There was the dead tree in the front garden, until a friend helped pull most of it down except for about four foot of the stump so every time I pull into the driveway I feel like I'm being flipped off by the dead tree that I dared strip of its bare branches. (OK, I realize no one else probably sees the skinny dead tree stump as one giant "naughty finger" pointing to the sky, but remember whose twisted brain is blogging here.)

So when the downstairs couch popped a seem causing the stuffing to burst from the cushion I was very tempted to just put the couch on the porch. It would provide a comfortable spot to watch my brown grass grow, would it not? But we wouldn't be able to watch anything after the sun goes down because the porch light has been burnt out for at least 3 weeks. (The ladder that was tall enough to reach the porch ceiling didn't stay with the house.)

It's always a learning experience, this post-divorce, single woman life. While I have learned that men are good for some things, (like fixing mowers and sprinkler heads) I've also learned the importance of self-dependency. On some days, it would be very easy to feel bitter or jealous or something negative knowing that the ex-husband has a very nice brand new home filled with very nice brand new furniture cleaned by a professional cleaning service and surrounded by a beautiful yard kept by a professional lawn service.

But the feeling doesn't last long. Whenever I pout over the lack of a new sofa, I inevitably find peanut butter smeared on the old one. Just the other day, my daughter pointed out how everyone's grass seems pretty brown and dry this summer. Hmmm...guess I was too busy obsessing over my own yard to notice anyone else's. And nothing brings a smile like the vision of exhausted kids sprawled on the stupid random mattress the morning after a night full of laughter and happy memory making.

I guess it's good to have stuff around to remind me that just because life is messy, doesn't mean it isn't wonderful. That just because the stuffing is exploding from my sofa and my dogs nap daily on a random mattress doesn't mean our life is trashy at all. In fact, the true value of life is much more obvious when you're surrounded by hazards and inconveniences.

So if you stop by my house, don't be offended by the tree stump greeting or feel awkward about the shabby furniture. Just smile and make yourself comfortable on the random mattress. You'll soon feel like one of the family. Heck, we might even share our moonshine with ya.

Ya'll come back now, ya hear!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Yes, it's been a while since my last post. That's because I've been busy...swimming in my pool! Can you believe it? It's finally up and filled and has stayed that far anyway.

How did we do it? Two Steps: Determination and Perseverance.

Of course, while Frank and I shovelled more rock in the 100 degree, scorching sun, we both complained and whined and griped and wondered if the work was even worth it. Like a good mom, I encouraged him and said the pool would be even more fun because of what we had to go through to set it up. Not sure he bought it. Even after splashing around in our little oasis and repeatedly dunking his sister, I'm still not sure he bought it.

While I was floating on my back, enjoying the beautiful summer sky two nights ago, I wondered if (like over achieving) determination and perseverance is passed down through our genes. If so, my quiet and calculating daughter received and overabundance of them. Once, when she was about 5 or 6, we were swimming at the Y. She wanted to go down the indoor slide.

Lifeguard: "I'm sorry. You have to be able to swim all the way across the deep end and back to be able to go down the slide."

QC: "I can."

Lifeguard: Smiling sweetly. "I don't think so. I'm sorry."

So my daughter, who had never swum more than about 5 feet on her own jumped in the deep end and swam all the way across and back. She pulls herself out of the pool, plants her hands on her hips and glares at the lifeguard. "Can I go down the slide now?"

The same daughter loves to help me bake. When she was a toddler, I put her in charge of dumping. Whenever an ingredient needed to be added, it was her job to dump it in. We made a good team in the kitchen and it was usually a lot of fun. Except when it came to making chocolate chip cookies. She wouldn't "dump" the chips. She added them to the dough one by one. It made me nuts! But she liked the single chip method and no amount of cajoling, coercing, threatening, or begging would change her way of doing things.

It's makes us crazy, doesn't it, when kids set out to get what they want? It's funny when Family Guy's Stewie starts his "Mom. Mama. Mom. Mommy. Mom..." It's funny because we've ALL heard it. Or how about the Simspons "Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? No." The kids KNOW they are driving us crazy and yet the persevere because they also know that eventually they will get what they want, right?

So what happens? Why, as adult women, is it so hard for some of us to ask for what we want? And to persevere until we get it? Studies show that women are less likely to ask for raises or promotions. We're less likely to enter a job interview and ask for the pay we really want right from the beginning.Why is it so difficult for some adult women to open their mouths and say, "This is what I want and I'm going to get it. I hope you support me, but if you don't I'm doing it anyway?" Is it because we don't feel we deserve it? Are we afraid we will seem pushy?

Even though it wasn't easy and it took a whole lot longer than 15 minutes, with determination and perseverance, I finally got my pool. Because I wanted it. I thought we deserved it. And I didn't want to disappoint my kids. But somehow, nearly passing out from blowing up the inflatable top, shoveling rocks for days in the blazing sun, dealing with the odorous swampy bog, filling and re-filling the water was a whole lot easier than finding that same determination outside the confines of my backyard. Hmmm...Maybe the lesson here wasn't for my son, but for me.

While we're enjoying the last days of summer, take some time to find your inner child. It might require you to spontaneously jump in the deep end. Or shovel some rock in the blazing sun. Or open your mouth and ask for what you really want. True, you might drive someone crazy. But in the end, when you are floating, peacefully gazing at the stars with a smile on your face, it will all be worth it! I promise!