Scarlet Begonias and a Touch of the Blues

When I was in 9th grade I met the other me, I guess you could call her my soul mate. I don't know if they exist, but I know that if they do, she's mine.

She was a year younger than I was, but we were both old souls and Aquarians to boot, so we knew that things like age were unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Initially she rubbed my then best-friend, Brooke, the wrong way, the same way I'm sure I would have felt if Brooke had started going on about a new girl that I was going to love. I mean when someone comes along and has a life-changing moment with you best friend, starts hanging out with her all the time, audibly clicks with her on a level that you never have even approached, you might tend to get a little ticked off. I don't think that Allie had a "best-friend" per say, but more like a smattering of close girl friends. I on the other hand had a very serious relationship with Brooke.

Brooke and I had been inseparable since the first day of seventh grade. I had started that day apprehensive, the geeky girl at a new school with no real friends. The class was set up with two rows of desks on both sides of the room and one at the back. I took on of the seats in the middle of the back row as the side rows had filled up. She was the last person to come in and she came and sat down right next to me. That was it. From then on we were attached at the hip. She was like the older cooler sister I never had. She new just how to rebel, but still get your parents to do stuff for you. She knew all the music to listen to that was both incredible and would make it clear that "THEY" didn't understand us. She had a closet full of band tee shirts and oversized jeans, and enough eyeliner to paint our world black. She taught me all about bands, makeup, boys, cult movies, pot, lsd, tequila, and worlds more. Most of all she taught me that I was not just some bookworm sitting in the corner not fitting in, wearing the wrong clothes, listening to the wrong music. She saw someone special and wow, did I feel special. This beautiful, 5'10, 120lb. anti-goddess had strolled into the classroom, sat down next to me, sized me up, and decided that I wasn't a loser, I was Her New Best Friend.

It went on like that for a while, the two of us, unbreakable. Then I met Allie and things changed. I learned that I didn't have to be so hostile to the world around me, that there were other equally rebellious ways to act out that maybe wouldn't worry my parents quite so much, or scare my classmates. For a while the three of us were the best of friends. Boys would come and go, sometimes stealing one of our three for a little while, but always returning her, usually a bit wiser.

Brooke always just seemed a little bit angrier at the world, a little more sullen, everything with her was just to another degree. As we grew up she needed the approval of guys more and more and of us less and less. But we let her go do her thing, never completely, always keeping in touch, eating lunch together, seeing each other at parties, but by the time she was 17 she was dating a guy who'd been legally buying beer for years and he had her under his thumb. It's sad when no matter what other people tell us we just can't see how beautiful we really are.

But as Brooke drifted away from us, Al and I just got closer. We had sleepovers every weekend, staying up until the sun came up talking about anything, and everything, and nothing at all. We dated best friends. We shared pregnancy scares. We tried ecstasy together and danced among the stars. We trekked around this great city, enjoying our immortality, testing our invincibility. We cried for each other's losses, and celebrated each other's triumphs. She became my sister in this life, just as surely as she's been my mother, or my daughter, or both in others. When we had a group of friends, we shared our love with them, when the group shrunk down to just us plus one, let's just say he got to feel how much love there really was concentrated between the two of us. We spent glorious summers throwing caution to the wind and squeezing every last drop of enjoyment we could out of the night. She was my first real love, though so much more than a lover as it was not her body I yearned for but her mind and her fellowship. I don't think many have seen anything like us, it was really the experience of a lifetime.

We would see Brooke, though less and less as high school came to a close. She had gotten involved with some really negative people and some really killer drugs. They had a serious problem with strong women. Women who demanded to be treated as equals. Women who could hold their own and didn't need a man to sanction their happiness, or existence for that matter. They had no problem having Brooke around them. Looking back now, she appears so tragic to me. Depression had such a deep, nasty hold on her, but she rejected the medicine and therapy that could have helped her in favor of heroin and emotional abuse. I should have done more to help her. It's something that I'll regret not trying harder to stop for the rest of my life. Because she was my first love and she deserved better. Better than her jerk boyfriends, better than sqatting in bad parts of Philadelphia, and better than dying because of the hold that awful drug had on her.

Allie and my relationship stayed close until it came time for her to go to college. I was a year ahead of her in school, but because of my partying ways and my inability to balance that with school, I stayed where I was and attended community college. Allie managed that balancing act as if she was born to do it. Parties and drugs, but homework got in on time and done well and she had the brains to boot! So off she went, to our mutual dream, Boston. She came home and visited a lot in the beginning, as she was still dating a guy who lived here, but once that ended her visits became fewer and fewer and we saw less and less of each other.

We still see each other from time to time, chat on the phone once every couple months, but she's busy with work and her boyfriend and school(Just finished her Master's at Columbia, Lucky Bitch) and I'm busy with BF and the LM and being sick (you'd be amazed at how much time that last one steals), so we don't get to talk or see each other as much as we'd like to, but I guess that's what happens sometimes. I haven't stopped loving her with all of my heart and when we do see each other, the only way you can tell that anything's changed is all of the new stories we've got to tell each other.

So where did this tale come from, why now? I guess I was just feeling blue myself and in need of a real girlfriend and I realized that I just don't have that anymore and I don't know that I ever will. As much as I love BF and even though he's my friend as much as my lover, he'll never be her, and that's ok. But I really do just want her and it's really hitting me, now that she's setting up her life and her career in NYC, that she's not going to come back here and have a life side by side with me and that our kids won't know each other, let alone play together, and we're not going to grow up to be little old ladies together.

Tonight, that's breaking my heart.

So thanks for listening to me again. It help's to be heard.


Melancholy Baby

Do your kids ever just break your heart into pieces without even noticing?

LM was asked to draw a picture of his family this week.  He drew his mom, his mom's boyfriend, his mom's boyfriend's daughter, and his dad.  He captioned it "Dad me Mom [pseudo-step-sister] and Dad," Notice who's missing?  Yep, that would be me.  And notice that he's calling his mom's boyfriend "Dad" when he's never called me anything but "Rachel."  Yeah, I felt like I'd been punched in the chest as I sat at the table trying not to cry or puke, the two things that my body seemed to think were an appropriate response.  I didn't want to make him feel any worse, but damn was I feeling blasted into a thousand pieces.

I've been in love with that little boy since I first met him with his long dark eyelashes and his adorable stripey pajamas.  I loved rocking and singing him to sleep at night. I changed diapers as if they were nothing to be bothered about. I watched him grow and develop, learning to walk and talk at the exact same time.  Watching that talking move from words to sentences at lightning speed.  Watching walking turn to running just like that ::snap::.  We worked together (and when I say we I certainly include his dad and mom in the mix) to do the potty training thing, high-fiving his achievements and reassuring him when he didn't make it.  Started school together, taking pride in every step he made in reading and writing and math.  Beaming as everything seemed to come as easy to him as it had to all of his parents.  I love watching him grow, coming up with crafts we can do during lazy afternoons, making Halloween costumes, decorating the house for Christmas together.  I love being his step-mom.  I love that I've been in his life from the beginning, from before he could remember anything else, but with this one picture, I felt as if I didn't exist.  It was like all of the effort I'd put into shaping this little man into a great big man was invisible to him.  Like I was invisible to him.

His dad followed him into the living room and had a had a talk with LM about how he'd hurt my feelings by leaving me out of his family picture.  LM said he'd just forgotten and miscounted at the time that he drew it and that he was really sorry.  I felt awful for him for being in that position.  He didn't mean to leave me out - he's only six, he just forgot.  He wasn't being malicious, trying to hurt me.  It's not his fault that at his mom's house they stress the whole concept of family, and what everyone is to everyone else, and all of that, while at our house things are more relaxed.   We don't say "Our family trip for today is..." or tell LM that I'm his stepmom and he should call me mom or something else to symbolize that.  It's up to him here, and I feel like over there, at his mom's, his very impressionable mind is filled with ideas like "call X your sister, call X Dad, that way we're more of a family" And I'm not saying it as direct or blunt as all of that, but up until as recently as right before our court case in August, LM was calling these people "my mom's boyfriend" and "my mom's boyfriend's kid" and I can't imagine him just coming up with new titles for them out of the blue like that, especially since he was still at the same school in the same class with the same kids he'd been in class with for two and a half years.  Anyway, somehow he seems to think that they're more of a family than we are, whether that's because of the names they call each other, or the fact that they have two kids and we only have one, or just because the word "family" is stressed throughout their everyday life, I don't know, but I do know that it hurts to feel like our family is secondary in his mind, or not even a family at all.  And that hurt was just amplified when he symbolized his family as all of them plus his dad.

So while they were in the living room talking about how the picture had hurt my feelings, BF did something that I'm really not sure was a good idea or made anything better; but was clearly done with the best intentions.  He told LM that he should apologize to me and redraw the picture with me in it.  He apologized ever so sweetly, gave me a big hug and kiss, and told me he didn't mean to leave me out, that he'd just lost count.  Despite the sweet, loving way it was delivered, I was unable to really take it to heart because he was doing something that his dad told him to, not something that had just come to him, it was forced, he felt like he had to apologize and fix it.  But I smiled anyway, gave him a big hug and said thank you.  Then LM started on his new picture of his family, this time with two moms, two dads, and one pseudo-step-sister.  He didn't label this one, so I had no chance to see if he'd call me "Mom" like the Ex's BF is called "Dad," but it was a nice picture and he even asked me if I'd like "fancy" or "regular" hair - the difference, "fancy" hair has a flip on the bottom, "regular" hair is straight.  I smiled and chose "regular," realizing that this might hurt for a little while, but children hurt their parents, often inadvertently, and it happens to every mom at some point in their children's lives.

I love our sweet LM and while he might frustrate or annoy me or break my heart, he's as stuck with me as I'm stuck with him and I wouldn't have it any other way.  I love him more than the world itself.


The Ex - Updated!

How do you deal with an ever-present frustration in your life?  Mine's BF's Ex-wife.

Since our whole court debacle over where LM went to first grade, where she won, she has become more and more of an overwhelming frustration.  Immediately after our court case she tried to renege on the transportation plan that she'd proposed to the judge and was questioned about for an hour.  She also tried to get BF to agree to give up one of our nights with the LM because that's what's convenient with her school schedule this semester and she, for some reason, thinks that she has the right to have more time with LM than we do.  BF was having none of that, so he told his lawyer what was up and once faced with further court time to re-decide the issue. she backed down and agreed to do what she said, under oath, that she was going to do .  It's like she thinks she's the mom and she gets to call all of the shots, like there isn't a second person in the picture with full parental rights.

And it's not just that that burns my ass, she's deceptive and manipulative and straight out lies to us to get what she wants and it's hurting LM.  Last weekend they (she and BF) worked out a deal where she would get to keep him until 8:00 pm on Sunday rather than the usual 10:00 am and we would be able to get him after school on the 28th so that we can go camping.  She's never on time, so 8:00 came and went and they were nowhere in sight, no phone call, nothing.  LM has to go to bed at 8:30, so we wanted to get to spend a little time catching up with him before bed, but clearly that wasn't going to happen.  We got a call close to 8:40 from her saying that she was still about ten minutes away. Her excuse for being so late was that it rained going to and coming from their destination.  She has no respect for our time with LM; she knew it was raining and that it would take longer to get home, yet she didn't leave early or anything, she stayed exactly as long as she'd planned to.  Then when LM finally got home we found out that they were late because they stopped at Cabela's, a national chain of hunting, fishing and outdoorsy stuff mega-stores.  We found this out because he's crying and talking about what a jerk his mom is for stopping to look around a store he had no interest in when he was supposed to be going home to spend some time with his dad.  He felt like she had cheated him out of time with his father, something that she does on a regular basis.

The week before, she asked if she could keep LM late on Saturday night because it was her birthday.  Totally rational request, I mean if we were having a birthday celebration for BF's 30th birthday, I would hope she would allow us extra time with him so that he could attend.  The thing is, she didn't want to spend extra time with him.  She went to a concert with her boyfriend and left LM with a babysitter, her sister Sara.  So the extra time she was asking for was not for her to get to spend time with her son on her birthday, it was so that her sister could spend more time with LM, time that he should have been spending with BF and me.

I felt lied to, manipulated, and just disrespected.  I feel that way often.  She's always late, usually by an hour or more.  She has no respect for my time because I don't work, something she blatantly said to BF a few weeks ago.  She's still bitter about their divorce, which she openly admitted would have happened with or without my influence.  She also still really bitter that LM stayed home with me when he was 2-3 instead of going to daycare, she acts like I took time with her child away from her, regardless of the fact that she would have been working and he would've been in daycare with strangers during that time even if they'd stayed married.

Right now, she's trying to make me put LM in the Halloween costume she made for the school party rather than the one I'm making.  She also wants me to copy her on every email I send to LM's teacher because, in her words, I'm "usurping [her] role as his mother, " and, "actual parents are traditionally the points of contact." Guess what - I'm an actual parent, LM calls me his parent, the court calls me his parent, I’m his parent.   Finally, she says that "it would be best for [LM] that if anyone represent him, it be [BF] or I." Why? She give no reason, but I called shenanigans on all of it.  I'll be driving LM to school in the costume that I made him, which he's really excited about.  She going to the party, so if she feels like embarrassing and upsetting LM by making him change costumes in the middle of the party, that's up to her and she'll deal with the consequences.  I hope she doesn't.  I hope she doesn't put him in a position where he has to choose between parents over a Halloween costume.  I hope for once she can be unselfish and let go of control long enough to let him have a good time.  And I realize that I could also be the bigger person and get the costume from her for him to wear to school, but he's already so excited with the costume that I'm making him.  He loves the idea of having two different Halloween costumes, he helped pick out the fabrics, he helped me to fit his mask and is really interested in all of the parts that I'm sewing, and he loves the idea of being something more "scary" for school.  I'm not going to take that away from him and I don't think anyone should.

What's sad is that I would have understood how she was feeling and considered changing things if she hadn't been so rude and demanding.  She didn't ask me a single question, she just told me what was going to happen.  Clearly, she doesn't have any negotiating skills.  When you want something from someone or you want someone to do something your way, the least thing you can do is ask rather than demand.  Being bitter and excessively assertive isn't going to get you anywhere.  And it didn't.

These are just a few of the recent episodes that have angered me.  She does it on a pretty regular basis.  

I'm stuck with her, she's LM's mom so she's not going anywhere, but I'm as close to him as a second mother and I'm staying right where I am too.  The most important thing for me is that this doesn't spill out into an arena where LM has to deal with the fact that his mother and I think so very little of one another.  So far it hasn't and I won't be the one to do that to him.

So how would you/do you deal with these kinds of people in your life? I'd really like to know because I'm at a loss, but I hate being angry with her all the time and it drives BF crazy.  He's able to just brush off her various unpleasant behaviors, but I just don’t know how to do that.


Here I was thinking that she was going to play the good mom and not bring LM into this little dispute over where and when he will wear which costume made by whom, but apparently not.  

Tonight as we perused the racks at JC Penney, he came to me with a look of concern on his face and said that his mom had told him that she was supposed to make his Halloween costume, not me.  

Faced with what was so clearly a little boy dressed up as a punch in the gut (definitely not the iSomething costume LM said the Ex was planning), I simply told him, with as light an air about it as possible, that I could continue making his bat costume and he could wear it to school, or he could wear the costume his mom was making him, whatever he wanted.  
He said I should keep making the bat costume.  



Something's wrong with my eye. Feels like a corneal abrasion or something like that. It's watering like crazy and it's hard to open. It started bothering me around two o'clock. By six, when BF came home, I was laying on the couch, nose running, eyes tightly closed trying to...I dunno, disappear, I guess. BF saved the day though. He had vision correction surgery a few years ago and had steroid and anti inflammatory eye drops. So I used those and then when after 15 minutes I was still in pretty bad shape, he sent me off to bed to rest. I slept for a while and when I woke up I was feeling a lot better. I don't feel as well now as I did when I first woke up, but it's bedtime soon, so I get to rest again. Tomorrow I suppose I'll find an ophthalmologist and get it checked out. I need to stop wearing my contact lenses to sleep and stop putting my eyes at risk. You only get one pair, right? Well, until they start growing them.

Anyway, on to more interesting things. I started work on LM's Halloween costume today. He's being a bat, it's going to be cool. I'm a bit pissed off about Halloween this year. Historically, he's gone trick-or-treating with whichever parent was scheduled to have him that night. This meant that the Ex had him for every Halloween of his life, with the exception of last year, when we had him. This arrangement worked fine for her when she was getting him every year, but a week ago she IM'd BF and said, rather rudely, that we had had him last year and this was her year. This is how everything works with her, when she's benefitted by the situation it's just fine, when she's not getting exactly what she wants, she bitches until it goes her way and that's exactly what happened. BF is so sick of dealing with her and her bullshit every single holiday, that he just gave in and said that she can have him this year and from now on we'll alternate years. It's frustrating that BF so strongly avoids confrontation with her that she always gets her way, but as it turns out, I get my way here too. She works and goes to school so she's too busy to participate in any of Jake's school events, but I have plenty of availability, so I get to make him a costume for school on Halloween and attend his school Halloween party. We're also going camping the weekend before Halloween from Friday afternoon through Sunday night and the campground has all sorts of holiday festivities, including trick-or-treating and hay rides. So we end up getting him for Halloween anyway, just not for official trick-or-treating Monday night. LM's really excited about his bat costume, but even though he said he wanted to go with something scary this year, he doesn't want to be a vampire bat ::shrug:: I'm sure we'll have some scarier costumes in the coming years. His mom has been tasked with making him an iPhone costume. I'm glad he decided to task me with something easier, that I can do well. His mom has always let him be whatever his favorite thing was that year, like a volcano, or a vacuum cleaner, with varying degrees of realism. I like going with animals or humanoid thing better than some of his off-the-wall things-I-like-to-play-with ideas, I think they come out better. Last year I made him a dog and he loved the costume and it looked really great. I'll post a picture tomorrow.

On the health front, me, my mom, and BF all went to the Lupus Foundation of America's Living Well with Lupus Symposium. I got to meet and talk for a bit with Christine Miserandino of ButYouDontLookSick.com. She's my lupus idol, it was really cool. The first breakout presentation we went to was pretty bad; the woman presenting wasn't very good, her PowerPoint was all messed up, and the topic wasn't what I expected or really of any value to us. The lunch was mediocre, though the desserts were really good. The second breakout session was great. It was less of a presentation and more of a moderated discussion for young women and teens with lupus. It was great. We had a chance to discuss the things that affect our young lives, rather than the issues that are more often discussed about women who are of a more typical age for coming down with lupus (30-50ish). I got to share what I've learned about lupus thus far, things like sex, having babies, drinking, going to college, starting a career, etc. I also made several connections with people that I think I'll stay in touch with. Some I hope to be able to advise as they come into womanhood, but one woman I met is about the same age I am and she's at the same sort of places in her life as I am regarding things like where we are in our diseases, relationships, and wanting to become mothers. I hope that I've found a new friend who can really understand where I am in life.

So that's all for now, it's bedtime and BF's waiting for me. I'll write again soon. See ya!