(Not quite) A Picture Perfect Holiday Recap


It’s doesn’t always resemble a movie even if you live in a movie town

“It’s [not always] A Wonderful Life”

Well it’s over. You survived. Santa came and went. The savior you were waiting for arrived. But was it everything you expected it to be?It was another picture perfect holiday scenescape here in beautiful Los Angeles, California. The weather showed a delightful eighty one degree high in the forecast.

photo courtesy of Steven Swimmer

photo courtesy of Steven Swimmer

I awoke to the sunshine. It’s not something out of the ordinary here. It’s appreciated but…

It wasn’t as picturesque inside as it was outside. For living in a fairy tale, it wasn’t exactly a fairy tale.

And I wasn’t the only one experiencing that unfortunately.

I saw update after update on social networks with happiness and cheer. It’s the holiday season and I live in a picturesque movie town amongst the most brilliantly spectacular people in the country.

Or at least I’d like to believe that.

How could anyone feel anything but festive on this most joyous day? Well unfortunately there were the other messages. The messages that reading a piece of your heart broke with them a little bit.

Of friends and family apart.

Of lovers lost.

Of abandonment.

Of “Ebenezer Scrooges.”

Hardened hearts in the most spectacularly vibrant people on the planet. Obliterated but doing their best to just get through the day.

This year I took the path of a single mother. And, while I wasn’t alone entirely and I had plenty of offers to do things with friends just as I did that day I had him, I was… very alone.

Remember when I told you in my last post about the separation that happened back in February of 2008? According to the “*current order” it’s not my year to have my children for this holiday. (Yes, holiday. I’m not particularly religious despite/because of years of Catholic schooling and teachings.) Nonetheless I was supposed to have a Skype call with my children to celebrate the day together. I planned the entire day around it -turning down several offers to go out that would potentially interfere.

So I waited with great anticipation… it was my version of waiting for Santa to come on Christmas morning.

It didn’t happen…

broken-heart

You would think I might be used to this stuff by now..

Reel back to a few days prior when I posted to my private social network about my eldest son not behaving the greatest enough to make me question giving him coal.  

(I didn't by the way.)

(I didn’t by the way.)

And I thought about my ex husband and my children.  

And why the call likely didn’t happen.

And why I wasn’t there with my eldest as he opened gifts earlier that morning.

About the fighting with my father on Christmas Eve because of differences in parenting styles.

About how my eldest believes the world revolves around gifts.

About how my other children believe the same.

About the comments calling me “negative” and picking at my lack of religion or beliefs in Santa and the otherwise commercial version of this so called picturesque holiday of “goodwill towards your fellow man” and “cheer.”

dontbelieveinsantagrinchmas

I had a couple of friends offer to have a few drinks with me in celebration and “bah humbug’ing” this abysmal reality of a day.

That didn’t happen either.

Thousands of miles away two of my children were living a lie.  Sure there were likely tons of gifts and warm home made cooking to go with the “Leave it to Beaver” Christian lifestyle my ex believes he is currently giving my children.  A similar smaller version could be said with my oldest son at my father’s.

 

The posts kept coming.

Presents and joy.

Happy families gathered around piles and piles of presents and food.

The friends who were also “orphans” drinking their cares away.

The friends without children going to dedicated “orphan” outtings.

The friend who ended up at the beach.

The friend who joined another family of friends for their meal.

The friends who went to the movies together.

And then there was me.

I could have gone and done a bunch of things.

So why didn’t I?

This isn’t a completely sad movie.  Earlier that day I had some very positive conversations.  My oldest son called me and told me he’d missed me that morning.  We talked about the differences in how his grandfather and I parent and about his newest little brother.  And while it wasn’t perfect, it made me smile.  My children are my heart.  This year has been all about reuniting with them.  Little by little there have been some major steps of progression towards this this year.

And then there was something else entirely.

My grandparents aren’t doing very well.  There are several health issues going on that… will likely lead me back to Illinois very soon to see them.  My family fears these may be their last days.

On the last phone calls I have not been able to speak with my grandmother.  Her health and the timing of the calls has prevented it.

I got to talk to her yesterday however.

not taken yesterday

It snowed.  The house was full of visiting family- my sister and her daughter and my uncle and his daughters.  I laughed as she scolded my grandfather and told him he couldn’t drink wine (an Italian must at the table) because it would not be good with his current pills.

I listened as I could tell her face was glowing as she regaled about how my cousins closer in proximity were picking up art.  And she asked me about my newborn.

“Does he look like you?”

“I’ll send you a picture.  He’s little like me.  We’d like to visit soon.  I’m worried about you.  Will you even have the strength to hold him when we get there?”

We spoke about the argument with my oldest son.  About her son and me differing on our versions of respecting ones elders.  About how because of the argument we were not able to see each other that morning.

“It sounds like you can have some quiet time with the new baby then.  That doesn’t sound like a bad day at all.”

Suddenly the rest of the day didn’t matter.  The other things making me blue didn’t matter.

At least for that moment.

She was right.  In the simplest of all things she was ever so right.

Our phone call got cut short due to some technical difficulty.  I thought I would end up calling her back and telling her that the line had dropped.  I never ended up doing so.  I had the Skype call coming up and needed to tend to that.

But even after that phone call no show, and the blue that I felt with that, I know that maybe that little bit was all she was supposed to have done.  It was just enough to push me through the rest of the day.

I spoke to friends here and there but essentially kept to myself on Christmas.  To me and my newborn, it was just another Wednesday.  It wasn’t the most perfect day in our most perfect movie town but, it was real, and that’s ok.

In the real world life, and holidays doesn’t always resemble a movie.  That’s just how it is.  And you know something?  That’s alright.  Even if you live in a movie town.  It’s alright.

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The Gift of Not Gifting

Over the course of time I have become enamored with the idea and action of gifting.  There are so many rewards to the heart with the act of giving.  What people tend to forget is that there are also so many potential setbacks.

Here’s an  image you are likely familiar with if you have been on the internet longer than five seconds.  It is a silly but accurate reminder of what I will be alluding to with this post.

free_candy_van

When my children were here with me over the summer, I wanted to do so much for them.  Any parent should understand how hard it is to be apart from their children even for a short time.  So, when the time came that they were finally here, I wanted more than anything to give them the world.  To get them here in the first place meant the world to me.  In that regard, I am thankful that I was privileged with the company of good friends to facilitate that visit happening including getting them here (despite my ex husband moving cross country without any notice so he could be with the newest woman he met in a video game) and even getting them to Disneyland.

While the material things themselves were wonderful, especially as I was beyond broke and having to tell my children that unfortunately I could not buy them everything, the act of it was far more meaningful to all of us.  Or… at least at that moment.

As more moments passed where my children have been distanced, I have began to abhor giving.  Not because I don’t want to… but because I see the little acts of bribery and compensating techniques that are actually happening.  Giving, especially to children, gives less when it is done all the time.

Both of my sons have had birthdays since my last postings.  I have found myself taken back with disgust for the reactions to giving and lack of giving done to them.

A little bit of a super personal background:

My oldest son is currently living with my father.  It was a decision made years ago as a temporary solution to my ex husband essentially leaving me in a very desolate space.  So desolate, in fact, that I am finally gaining the momentum to…

My younger son and daughter are living with their father.  That situation is extremely delicate and frustrating.  The man stole my children and ran off with them after emotionally and physically abusing me.  My last visit was the first one I had been able to get in YEARS as the man had: told them someone else was their mother, refused to take phone calls, and jumped states and cities several times while he leeched off some woman.  I have been working on this- without assistance- for a long time now.  As you may know, however, Los Angeles (and most of California in general) is a very difficult place to get on your feet.  I have suffered and learned so much from this grand place.

Since that visit, things have been progressively different.   My children know again that I am their mother.  They are very young and are starting to question the world around them.  This is something I have been encouraging and my ex has been discouraging.

(No guy like that wants to hear: Why did you keep me from a mommy that loves me so much and wants to be in my life?)

As the years and bits of time have passed, I have seen first hand how damaging both of the environments are for them.  One of the biggest reasons?  It’s the one thing that I haven’t been able to do a ton due to the lack of free flowing finances… as I have been working to recover from the financial shackles I allowed my ex husband.  Giving has been a cross to bear actually.

My younger son, when here, showed a major addiction to video games.  This is not completely surprising.  I met his father at a gaming company I worked for years ago.  His father has met two women in online gaming since me.  He is clearly focused on gaming…  it is… at a frightening level.  I fear that my son might…

A friend of mine loaned me a Game Boy for the plane ride and while they were here.  As my son didn’t have a portable gaming device, he was enamored with it and didn’t want to let go.  Combined with his learning and developmental problems, this only made me more nervous.  Near the end of the visit, I didn’t want him to have anything to do with the device.  He couldn’t handle the responsibility on even a sharing level and would break down when it was taken away.

As his birthday approached, he voiced to me on a webcam visit that he wanted a portable gaming device for his birthday.  I told him no.  I explained that he had not been able to handle it and, when and if he could show me differently, I would reconsider it.  At this point, he broke down.

“I don’t like you Mom.”

Can you guess what happened after that?  Yep his father and his latest girlfriend bought him one.  They had overheard the conversation.

It was one instance of many with regards to gifts that has bothered me.

When the calls were to initially start, and the kids had left here, the gifts and things I gave them were mysteriously lost.  I sent two cameras out to even get the visits.  They never arrived and there was an excuse for several weeks paired with talking down to me and telling me that my confirmation slips and testing of equipment were simply not true.

Something important given to my daughter also went missing.  One of my grandparents sends jewelry found at thrifts every so often. I found two butterfly pins in a bag of jewelry and decided to do something special for the two of us.

I gave my daughter a pink butterfly pin and I kept a green one. I told her where the butterfly came from. That it was from her great grandmother.  It would be a reminder of each other no matter how far away we were each time we wore it.  I told my daughter:

“No matter how far away we are, when we have these on especially, remember how much your mother loves you and that you are always with me, even if you’re not physically there.”

“You’re not just my mommy.  You’re my friend.”

It was a way to remember the love we shared no matter how much distance was between us.  It was nothing fancy material wise but it was a special bond between the two of us.

In addition to the butterfly pin, I gave her a jewelry box with other little costume jewelry. I told her to make sure she kept the pin safe in the box.

For a couple of weeks after the visit, it was a wonderful and special shared moment. She told me that she had worn the butterfly to her first day at the new school.  I wore it en route to a prospective client.  It was the magic and love of giving.

Not too long after she returned she told me that her father lost the pin.  We had talked about it on our phone calls prior.  He had to have known how special it was to us.  But there it was, coincidentally missing.

Another instance with my kids has been that the kids are always showing me gifts on my weekly webcam visits.  They then ask me when and if I will be sending them things.  It happens every single week.  Items are shoved in front of the camera.

“Mom look at what Tuffles got me.”

“Mom look at this [thing given by my ex husband & his girlfriend]”

It’s always something.  And it was always followed by:

“Mom when are you going to send us more things?”

I found myself responding more and more:

“Gifts are not the measurement of love.  I show you how I love you in ways beyond gifts.  Material things are  great but they’re not important.  Hearts and genuine love are what matters.  Those are the real gifts.”

My ex husband and his girlfriend didn’t like this very much… and the consistency has not faltered.  I await tomorrow’s gift.

Now back to California and my oldest son.  My oldest son knows I have an affinity for fish.  After some casualties, I found myself with an extra small tank.  I wanted to give him this tank and get him some betas.  There had been a whole economical discussion about it and some comical adventures with his siblings (to be written about in a future piece).  He told me that he couldn’t have fish because his grandfather said no.  The tank topic stopped and we went to birthday requests.

My son’s birthday present came from some great timing as I assisted my friends over at Loot Crate.  The box included a Ninja Turtle action figure amongst other geeky treats.  Since this son was named after one of these figures, it was absolutely perfect.  To add to it more, there was a blind box key chain from Futurama in there as well.  There is a very embarrassing story of when my son was a toddler that revolved around the character Bender.  We didn’t know it at the time, but Bender was in that blind box.

For several weeks leading up to his birthday I tried to coordinate something to assist with it.  I wanted to have a pizza party and make decorations with my Preval vFan Airbrush System and center the experience around that (albeit small) gift.  It didn’t happen.  My father wanted to do everything and spared no expense to get the biggest, most unnecessary amount of tokens and gaming for my son and his friends.   Oh and about the fish?  I arrived at my father’s house to find that my son now had a goldfish… and that my father had bought a big tank specifically him now.

My father gloated about all of it.  My son was happy, but ungrateful.  It was frustrating.  I couldn’t say anything until after the fact.  I wanted my son to have an enjoyable time with his friends.  I watched, but kept my distance.  I wanted to allow for some independence and freedom.

When I was to go back to Los Angeles, my son had an attitude about him.  He was unappreciative and showing it.  I explained to my father that this was part of the reason I didn’t want things to be so extravagant.  He didn’t agree.  He just kept gloating about how much he’d spent.

My son and I discussed his gifts when we got back to Los Angeles.  There had been talk of me taking things away as a form of discipline for him being ungrateful.  The talk helped a lot.  I saw my growing little boy in there.  After our talk, he apologized and went back to tell his grandfather that he didn’t like how he was treating his mother.  He remembered that gifts, while great, were not everything.

I have a stack of material things I wanted to give the kids.  I wanted to share some small things with them to show them that I think of them constantly.  But now?  I am now in a position where the act of giving has soured me from wanting to do it… at least in one way.

“I believe more and more in the words I spoke to my children.  Of the importance of the heart and compassion that are far more material than any material possessions.  I struggle daily trying to get to the point where I can give them everything I dream they would want.  But perhaps, especially in this instance it’s for the best.  Perhaps the best gift for them is what I have been doing all along… the real one that they need the most…. and that’s holding back and not giving. 

Ownership

“Did I tell you once that you are the kind of girl that guys want to own?”

I paused and withdrew a bit as he continued.  As we talked, we came to many conclusions.

“Too much honesty.”

Perhaps so.  No… he’s right.  Part of the problem is that I have been too honest.  Part of the problem is that amidst my open honesty with others, I have failed in areas within myself.

Apathetic and vibrancy… the merge of introverted and extroverted.

Two worlds which coexist, but when joined can result in a transferrance of volatility, passion, and…

Understanding.

I am scrubbing away with a fever.  Despite the imperfections, they both may very well be perfect.

There is toxin in her lips.

There is toxin in his essence.

But he’s in a class all of his own.

He is on his own pedestal and hers as well, though he may not believe he is worth it.

She is one that dances in the moonlight.

She saunters in a room and doesn’t go unnoticed.

She is the rock and also the pearl hidden away deep at the bottom of the sea.

She is like the sun that brings out the sparkles of the rage of currents.

She is the calm before the storm.

He is the waves that rush upon the shore.

He is the rock along the beach.

Steady and constant, but often filled with turmoil.

He wants nothing but safe waters for the boats along his spine.

He is protective and vigilant…. he wants no one to be hurt.

He wants not to be the one to get hurt.

And these two forces, both great and mighty fight and push and pull with their toxins.

Is it a lost cause?

Perhaps the cause is that much greater…

Genuine.

Real.

Simple…

Madness.

Passionate.

Vibrant.

Worthwhile.

Brutal honesty: Unhappiness in the military

DISCLAIMER: As a note to all my friends and to people all over the world within the military, this blog is not to belittle your efforts, dedication, hard work or jobs.  I know that there is so much that you do than what is in the focus of this blog.  This is to those lost souls that have turned to the military to complete themselves rather than a foundation based in patriotism.

On one gaming forum that I belong to, I’ve made a few friends-people that have both helped me through hard times as well as touched me through their laughter, stories, and support.  This is the story of one of them.

His name is Hazard Cheif and he’s a pathological liar.  At first, I just thought he was kidding around.  Then the lies got bigger… mafia, car races, cheating girlfriends (ok that one could have been true), boats, yadda yadda yadda.

Sometimes it was funny.  I mean, it felt like a game to a degree.  But over time it became less and less funny.  As a friend, quite frankly I hoped that he would get past this stage in his life and start on the path to finding himself.  Given that I have been on this road (looking to find myself not the pathological lying bit), I distanced myself.  I never really disappeared but I also wasn’t there all of the time.

Once in awhile he will message me.  We will have a bit of loose conversation and then back to poof.

Last night was one of those nights…

(11:44:22 PM) supernerdlady: are you done with the pathological lying yet?
(11:44:33 PM) HaZaRd Cheif : ha yes actually
(11:44:42 PM) HaZaRd Cheif : i’ve left it behind me
(11:44:49 PM) HaZaRd Cheif : along with alot of people
(11:44:58 PM) HaZaRd Cheif : im in the US Navy now

Conversation continued more as I asked him about postcards. He said that he was stationed stateside and had not yet been deployed but would send some when he was.  And then he started to mention that he was actually looking forward to deployment…

(11:47:35 PM) supernerdlady: thats not something to look forward to
(11:49:36 PM) HaZaRd Cheif : i’ve never left the US
(11:49:59 PM) HaZaRd Cheif : it’ll be a chance to see new cultures learn new things meet new people
(11:51:55 PM) HaZaRd Cheif : other than that shit life has actually kinda sucked

It was abundantly clear that he’d joined the service in an attempt to get away from reality rather than face his issues.  As a good friend, I didn’t pander to his statements where he tried to rationalize his choice…

(11:53:33 PM) supernerdlady: escaping doesnt solve anything
(11:53:42 PM) supernerdlady: but thats one thing the service is good for i guess
(11:53:55 PM) HaZaRd Cheif : yea i guess.
(11:54:00 PM) supernerdlady: you dont need to focus on yourself bc you can just do what they tell you
(11:54:03 PM) supernerdlady: be how they tell you
(11:54:36 PM) HaZaRd Cheif : i’ve already been in for a year and 3 months, and i feel like i havent really done anything with my life thats really of any importance
(11:54:57 PM) supernerdlady: what dictates whats important or not?
(11:55:11 PM) supernerdlady: did you learn anything in that time?
(11:56:00 PM) HaZaRd Cheif : i learned…. heh, how to iron military creases in my uniforms, alot about the UCMJ, and that i despise marines… ha

Now before you start with the hate mail, as I stated in the disclaimer above, I will reiterate that this blog is not to belittle your (anyone within the military or friends of someone within the service’s) efforts, dedication, hard work or jobs.  I know that there is so much that you do than what is in the focus of this blog.  This is to those lost souls that have turned to the military to complete themselves rather than a foundation based in patriotism.

He was unhappy and didn’t see just how unhappy he was, or rather, he didn’t know how to.  And then, it happened.  The beginning of the potential end of our friendship…

(12:15:50 AM) supernerdlady: at least its a steady paycheck
(12:15:54 AM) supernerdlady: thats more than i have
(12:16:24 AM) HaZaRd Cheif : yea
(12:16:40 AM) HaZaRd Cheif : id trade the paycheck for happiness anyday

Tick, tick boom.

That was it for me.  I told him flat out what I thought about his statement, and it was not pretty.  It’s so not pretty that I am not going to post it. But here’s a summation of how it went:

I told him that I “would take my poor, artistic, extremely happy but not always perfect or stable paycheck existence over a life like what he was living- without decision making or happiness over his any day.”  I wished him the best of luck to find whatever it is that he is looking for and that the only person that could save him was himself.

It was harsh, brutal honesty.  I let him go.  I meant what I said.  I felt really bad about it.  I know he’s not the only person going through this… so many others like him are experiencing this same pain.  Why doesn’t anyone do anything for these men and women?  Is a future with your own voice really that bad?  In the process of giving someone something they can be confident and successful in with moving up ranks and encouragement, we walk away from what really matters: that same application inwardly.

Mr Hazardous Chief, tread safe out there.  I hope you find the beacon to guide you home safely soon.

But.

“I love you but…”

is not going to be good enough for me.

It was a frustrating night last night.  Yet another night where you were not here.  This time, there wasn’t an excuse for it.

This isn’t grade school.  You can’t tell the teacher the dog ate your homework this many times and her to just give you a passing grade.

You are a grown up.

Love is a gift, not a right.

And when I give you something so very… and you say you do too, but then do things like this again

You didn’t call or message or even say you were sorry.  The fact that I had to instant message you at 3am to get a response an hour later, sans apology…

In my romantic naiveity, I want so very much to believe you when you say those three words.  I want my friends to be wrong.  I want to believe in the passion that I remember.

Memories are inherently sticky.  Those of you in the beginning… of those moments in the sun where nothing else mattered, will always make my heart tug thinking about.

“Nothing is forever.” my best friend told me.

I’m brought back to that night with Moo.  Of a discussion that continues to mean even more each day.

“Some things are meant to be legendary.”

I wonder what happened to the man I fell in love with last summer.  It is a shadow.  The season has changed.  And now, you are a ghost.

In your wake, there are questions.  I know now that it really isn’t about my wrong doings this time.

If you love someone, you move mountains for them without them asking.  You once did.

Monday morning will be tomorrow.  You will be at E3.  I’m not sure where I’ll be just yet.

This is the part in the movie where either the boy rushes to the girl…

or

or

or

I have to go to see my son. Afterward I think a drive along the coast may be in order.  Some roads you have to walk alone.  I’m to the point where that’s what I want to do.  It’s getting a bit easier each day when things like this happen.

“I love you, but…”

No.  If you love me, that word will not be in that sentence any longer.

Relevance? Unknown

I had.. the most bizarre dream last night.

And you were there.

And so were you.

I don’t remember all of it.

Hell, I don’t remember much of it.

Is it odd for an atheist to pray?

Isn’t a thought released to the air really just the same thing?

What is a prayer exactly?

Another time.

Another story?

This one is just about a wish.

Yes, yet another wish.

Because if you can’t dream it, you can’t realize it.

If you can’t realize it, you can’t actualize it.

If you don’t know what you want, your odds of getting it.. well, they just aren’t as likely.

A discussion with my roommate last night bid some inner reflection.

I was exhausted.  Yesterday was a long one.  But even when my body begged me to stop, I just kept going.

I had to ride out the storm.

I had to punish myself so I knew when I was finally there that I’d deserved it.

But I deserve everything along the way too.

The heartache.

The pain.

The levity.

The letdown.

Talking.  More and more talking.

I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by such a wonderful support group.

“The thing was.. over the past months you were with him, you grew up immensely.  He, on the other hand, just remained the same.  If anything, he regressed.”

My head is…

I’m so…

~L.

the grip

Mr Parker

the panther

etcetera. etcetera.

There’s alot you don’t know… that you’ll never know.

“I think you’re reaching far too low than you should be.  You are worth so much more than you have been giving yourself credit for.” said another good friend, regarding business affairs.

But the statements…

“Women seem to have it either one extreme or the other.  It’s either full fledged all out full of themselves intensity or no self esteem at all.”

Potential.

Love.

Success.

Dreams.

I was about to go to sleep when he messaged me.  He just won’t let me let him go.

“Is there ever a time when you’re not amazing?”  I asked him.

But that’s yet another story.

I “prayed.”

I wished.

I dreamed.

And you were there.

And so were you.

I don’t remember all of it.

Hell I don’t remember much of it.

I couldn’t see faces.  I can only remember one name.  I’m not even sure if it was the person in the dream.

I remember very little.  But what pieces I do, I remember vividly.

I was sitting across the table from a gentleman.

He asked me:

Why couldn’t I be your first choice? Why am I not your first choice?”

And I said:

“You already are. You always were.”

And then I woke up.  I tried to remember more of the dream.  I couldn’t.  It was driving me batty.

I forced myself to get back to sleep, determined and vigilant to uncover the subliminal messages underlying within.

I remember one name:

yours, Mr Parker.

Even still, I’m not sure.  I woke up again.

No answers.

Just stillness.

Is it odd for an atheist to pray?

Isn’t a thought released to the air really just the same thing?

I just kept going.

I had to ride out the storm.

I dragged myself out of bed.  I saw Mr Parker online.

“You should call me.  I miss your voice or something.”

“Or something… ” he said, as if he already knew.

…Or something…

I drove to work.  The words stirred in my head.  Everything about last night.  Everything about this morning.

I pulled into my spot and went to walk upstairs.  I lifted my eyes up and there you were.

What’s the meaning of all of this?  I’m unsure.

No answers.

Just stillness.

I have to keep going.

I have to ride out the storm.