A bucket full of crazy

So I’m off to Dubai and the Maldives this week… Feels very strange to even be writing this. It’s not all fun and games, actually it’s mostly long flights, a lot of hand holding, and uncomfortable heel wearing, but it’ll be in a beautiful place so there’s only so much complaining I’m allowed to do. It’s not the best time to be leaving as the Ex is still recovering between hospital stays and the kids have gone through enough upheaval to last them a lifetime, but the truth is, this trip is partly work, partly getting my mind off things and honestly, I really need a break. Also, sunshine and beaches. Most importantly I get to spend a few days with my brother, which is awesome and though he often pisses me off like no other he’s also one of the people with whom I have the most fun. Which seems to be the way most siblings feel about each other… or so I’ve gathered watching my two kids interact.

I’m always a bit nervous leaving the kids, especially since this time I’m going to be taking six different flights in a little over five days. My mind always goes to the tragedy, to the unimaginable, it doesn’t help that I just finished reading a book on a plane wreck and subsequent stranding on a desert island in the pacific. I really should watch what I read and when…

I feel like I should leave my children with words of wisdom and extra hugs and heartfelt letters… although this blog and the previous one are a form of heartfelt letter I guess. But I can’t really live like that though can I, because if I start doing that I’ll have to do it whenever I leave the house, or they leave the house and then it just gets weird and obsessive and a little bit disturbing. So I just tell myself I’ve been on hundreds of flights, and will probably be on hundreds more and everything will be fine, and my children will grow up with me by their side and all will be as it should. The alternative, obsessing and fearing and trying to control something that I really cannot control is just a recipe for disaster. So I sit here, writing this, trying to keep a lid on the bucketful of crazy that seems to take over whenever I have to fly anywhere without my kids. I wonder what I’ll be like when they are the ones flying off without me. I shudder at the thought.

Good news sometimes catches us unawares

Sometimes, in the midst of all of the crap, you almost forget to mention the good news… the Ex’s blood work and BM biopsy came back clean! (Yes, that statement merits an exclamation point). This means the chemo worked, he gets to go on the transplant list and we get some good news to lift our spirits. He now has several options for treatment, he can get a donation from a donor off the registry, he can get a donation from cord blood or he can use one of his siblings (least ideal solution), the doctors will choose based on the time frame for each option, the sooner he can get the transplant the better, because he may not have to go through another round of chemo if they can get the transplant done quickly, which is another bit of really great news.

We’ll see, but it’s nice to have options for once.

Good days happen

I didn’t go to the hospital on Tuesday, the Ex had other visitors and I decided to take the afternoon to shop for groceries, decide the meal plan for the week, and just potter around the house; my closet looks like a tornado went through and frankly the rest of the house is pretty much the same, I had plenty to do.

So of course I invited two friends over for the kids, and since kids have a way of mysteriously multiplying suddenly I had six kids in the house, three girls and three boys, which obviously means the house now looks like a tornado went through, followed by a hurricane and then whatever was still standing got taken down by an earthquake.

Thankfully the kitchen is in the center of the house and has a great view of the yard, so that’s where I spent my afternoon. Turns out this wasn’t as bad as it seems, I spent a lot of time making sandwiches and doling out water, but I also got a cake in and a nice risotto with spinach and bacon. Two kids decided to stay for dinner. My kids are exhausted and ecstatic. I’m pretty sure today was a good day.

Right back at it

One of the things that has changed along with the Ex’s illness is my work status. I’ve forgone my state of idle bliss and have gone back to work. Much against my best intentions…

Several moons ago, I worked for a few years at a lovely medical Spa near our town. I worked for the Ex, which was much less devastating on our relationship than one would think. I managed the Spa, and quite enjoyed the work despite it being intensely time consuming. I enjoyed it so much that I worked until two days before the Boy was born and I went right back to work once I’d healed from the whole ordeal. The Boy was a delightful baby (during the day) and slept contently beside my desk when he wasn’t eating. The job, however, was time-intensive and stressful enough that when I fell pregnant with the Girl a year later I completely lost my shit and decided I was done. DONE.

So fast forward to January and the Ex asks me to return to my previous job, with better hours and for a limited amount of time, just to get some projects off the ground basically. I said no. Because, mostly, I’m not crazy enough to go work for my ex husband when we’re going through an extremely difficult and emotionally destabilizing (for me) separation. And then he got sick. And then I had no choice but to take the job. Mostly because I have issues with saying no to people.

It’s taken some adjusting. I’m only working part time, but with all the added work of taking care of the Ex, bringing him his meals and all the rest of it, it really feels like I’m working full time. Also, I miss my kids. And I miss exercising. A lot.

I know, I know, everybody works… but I had a pretty good set up before!

Also, there are things I had forgotten about working with actual adults. I get to talk to actual adults. I also need to remember that I’m not dressing for the park or errands. The last few weeks I’ve been holed up in the office, so jeans were fine, but now I’m interacting with clients a bit more and, as I realized this morning, jeans and sneakers ain’t cutting it! So now I’ve got to do a closet check, with subsequent tears and wails of I’ve got nothing to wear. Oy Vey!

I’m tired just thinking about it.

Did I mention that I actually have to use my brain now? For several consecutive hours I need to be able to not just concentrate but also look smart doing it. I need to follow conversations and look at a budget without going cross-eyed, and I need to remember what I tell people to do and why. My brain is about to explode.

It’s not all bad, but it’s not what I would have chosen. For now I’m rolling with it and trying to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as much as possible. Also, trying not to tank the projects, alienate the staff, or kill one of the clients, all distinct, if remote, possibilities… thankfully I’m too tired right now to worry about that too much, which I guess is one of the benefits of insomnia. Score one for insomnia.

If they can do that, so can I.

This week has been hell, I would have said about ten minutes ago. It’s been a difficult week for me, full of ups and downs; too many emotions and too many tears. I can’t get rid of the anger, the disappointment, the resentment… so many negative feelings along with worry and fear for the Ex’s life (I’ve decided it’s time to stop calling him the Husband… I fiddled around with the Father of my children, but that’s just too goddamn long to write), worry for my kids, worry for work, worry, worry, worry… which reminds me, need to get my brow botoxed before I turn into a prune.

My MIL was here for a few days, then my mother arrived, which, if you’ve read my past posts you would thing was a very bad idea, considering how much we fight and argue and disagree… but in times like these, I’ve realized, I need my family around. Case in point, last night we were watching tv and at around 1 am, when every other sane person that knows how tired I’ve been would encourage me to go to sleep, we decided to watch “just one more episode” (Lucifer, good show btw), by then of course it had been four hours since dinner so I was feeling peckish and I turn to her and say I’ll just pause this for a second, I’m going to make myself a sandwich. And instead of saying do you really need a sandwich at 1am? Which is what I expected and was getting ready to argue, my mom just goes “ok”, gets up and follows me downstairs to make her own sandwich. And at that moment I realized how badly I needed having her around. She’s the one that makes me have two glasses of champagne with dinner, because, really, why not. She makes me feel like maybe I can loosen up and let go of my obsessive control issues every once in a while. She’s the one that is completely and unequivocally on my side in the fuck fest that has become my life. She loves the Ex, but she loves me more, and she sees him differently from the way I see him. She doesn’t blame me as much as I blame myself, she takes a bit of the responsibility from my shoulders, she helps me see him with his flaws and not just my own. She sees how badly he is feeling, she realizes and acknowledges the difficulties he is going through, but she also sees and cares about mine. I’m happy I asked her to come, cause sometimes, no matter how old we are we really do just need our mom.

But this wasn’t the only point of this post. Right before I started writing I saw the following video on the war in Syria. And just like that my problems did not seem so big. We all live our own personal tragedies, of course, and my problems aren’t any less important to me now, but they have been put into perspective. There are people trying to survive atrocities, daily, all over the world. If they can do that, I can survive this.

Crying, rivers and streams

I used to have a husband.

I used to have a man that loved me, took care of me, put me first and who put my happiness above all else. I married this man, I loved him, I gave everything to him, I tried to make him happy and to take care of him. We made two beautiful, perfect little lives together. I was exceedingly lucky.

Our marriage wasn’t perfect, but it was ours and it worked. For a time it worked. And then it didn’t work.

He got leukemia, twice, he had two bone marrow transplants; he developed an illness called GVHD (graft versus host disease), which some transplant patients get, but he survived. He survived, but we didn’t. I don’t even know when and how it happened, our marriage died, slowly, over time, we didn’t even notice. One day everything was fine, and the next I simply can’t take the fighting any longer and I ask him to leave, for the night, for a few days, just to get a break from it all. He left, and it was a nightmare, so he came back after a week, but he never really came back. He came back and slept in another room, he shut down or off or maybe I only then started noticing. He simply didn’t love me anymore. It took me forever to understand those words. How, how can he not love me anymore? We’re supposed to love each other forever. We’re supposed to love each other more each day, not less, not stop.

It took months, months of arguing, of crying, of trying to wrap my mind around it, months of negotiating, figuring out what we were doing, months of hopes and crushed hope, months of misunderstandings, of righteous indignation and of broken hearts.

Finally in September I accepted that I could not and would not try to keep a man who loved me, yes, because we’ve been together for sixteen years and have two children, but who no longer loved me as his wife, who no longer loved me for me. And then it took two more months before he finally moved out of the house, but only half way, all his stuff is still here. And after that we still went on for months trying to figure out a new routine, trying to parent together without being together, trying to become independent from the other while maintaining a good relationship. I never threw a vase at him. I wish I had. I wish I had yelled at him, I wish I had gotten angry at him and thrown plates at his head, I’ve got so many plates. I wish I hadn’t cried quite so much.

Last week he was diagnosed with leukemia again. AGAIN. And I’ve started crying again, and I can’t stop, I literally can’t stop. I used to have a husband, now I have a man that I love, but with whom I am no longer married – on paper, I am, but in every other way that counts, I’m not – who needs me, who I can’t abandon if for no other reason that he’s the father of my children and because I can’t imagine a life without him in it, and because he is my family and I am his. And so I can’t stop crying, crying rivers and streams.

The road to nowhere

The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. Though I agree with the sentiment, in some instances I think good intentions are much more subtle, and more pernicious than that. Oftentimes good intentions are just good excuses. In a society that daily turns less civil, less altruistic, and less kind, it’s easy to give ourselves an out. I meant to help, I planned to volunteer, I wanted to give a hand… but I didn’t have time, it didn’t work out, she never asked… and despite all this, it’s easy to still feel good about ourselves. Because our intentions were good, we meant to. We didn’t, of course, because, well, sometimes life just gets in the way, we’re all so busy nowadays. But I wanted to, I meant to, and that counts for something doesn’t it. Although… it really doesn’t, does it?

Meaning to do something is not quite doing it, wanting to is just shy of actually getting a result, and after all helping others, particularly with no recognition is really kind of bother. Good intentions make me angry, at myself when I realize that I’ve been using them as an excuse and at others when they feel self-congratulatory for not really doing a damn thing. Telling someone “you know I’m there for you if you need me” is not quite actually being there when they need you, it’s just a way for us to feel like we’re contributing and then not giving a crap.

Good intentions are a great way to be disengaged, to be selfish, to be miserly with our time, our emotions and ourselves, while still getting to feel sanctimonious about it. They give nothing, they create nothing, they really aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on so rather more than the road to hell then, good intentions pave the road to nowhere.

Feeding children in Italy

I read a lot of food blogs, both the recipe ones that inspire me to try something new, or simply trigger my drool reflex, and the real food / traditional food ones that inspire me to eat better, treat my body better, and make better, simpler choices for my family. And I’ve noticed a giant chasm between how kids are fed in the US compared to Italy. I had never really thought about it, but now, what with the internet broadcasting everyone’s opinions and choices (and judgments) all over the place, one tends to notice things more.

For example, American kids seem to snack all the time. When they were toddlers I wouldn’t leave the house without a snack, whatever time of day it was, and sure this did save me occasionally, when I was running late, to avert hunger related meltdowns, it isn’t really necessary beyond the initial toddler phase when they haven’t yet completely regulated their meal times. And yet, if I’m going to go somewhere for any extended amount of time I feel the need to bring a snack. Italian kids don’t snack. They have three main meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner and a snack around four o’clock. All kids eat like this. They don’t munch on crackers at the super market. Mothers don’t cut up carrots to take with them every time they leave the house. And the kids somehow survive. That was the first difference I noticed.

The second difference I noticed was when they started preschool. My kids go to a small (tiny) neighborhood preschool, there are only about thirty-five kids aged 3 to 6. They have three teachers, the janitor, and a cook. The cook is beloved by all. Every morning she goes around to our little village shops (which are nothing more than a butcher, a mini market, and a bakery) and she buys whatever vegetables are freshest, whatever meat looks good, and the freshly baked bread for the kids’ lunch. Sure, she has to follow the dietary guidelines of the Italian health ministry, but basically she’s like a mom cooking for her kids.

In typical Italian tradition, the children get a primo (first course – which is generally soup, or pasta, or risotto) and then a secondo with vegetables (main course – generally protein, meat, fish, an omelets etc.), occasionally they get a one-course meal, like pizza or polenta with meat sauce, but that’s a special occasion and usually includes a salad. Dessert is always fruit, or fruit salad, once a week it’s either pudding or yoghurt. They eat really well. They only drink water. They take turns, setting the tables and passing around the breadbasket and then clearing the tables, wiping them down and putting the chairs up for the floors to be cleaned. They love being in charge of something. There are even days, when the cook makes fresh pasta that the kids go up and help her, once a year they make pizza as an activity and then eat it. I have a lot to complain about in Italy, and I certainly have my share of frustration at three-year olds being served coke at birthday parties (because three-year olds really need the caffeine rush), but the school system really has its stuff together, at least food-wise. Children don’t pack their lunches here, it’s all provided by the state. Of course, not all school get the quality that we do because some schools don’t have a cook on staff but outsource to a caterer so the food is reheated and sometimes over cooked, but still the meals are well-balanced and nutritious.

So for once, a post wherein I don’t complain about Italy, where kids eat really well even at school, which should surprise absolutely no one considering how obsessed Italians are with their food!

Song of Summer

It’s August, it’s the middle of summer here. Things are winding down in the US, schools are starting up, life is going back to normal, yet here we’re still in the thick of things. In fact, the Husband hasn’t even had his vacation yet. Summer is a strange time, I find, and this summer has been stranger than most.

I take off for the beach with the kids by mid June and I’m there, suspended in a sort of limbo, until the end of July. The days run into each other, people come down for a few days, this year I’ve had to come home every so often for the never-ending story that is the money pit, we get up, we go to the beach, we come home, we do chores, we watch more tv than we should, we play silly games, we argue and yell more than we do at home. It’s a strange dynamic that comes with summer, we become a one-parent family for most of the week, with nothing to do and no seeming structure but the structure imposed on us by our human needs and cravings and by the rhythm of the sun’s rising and setting.

I’ve never really wanted a house at the beach before getting this one. I hated the idea of always going to the same place, of feeling constrained and obliged to go there because it was just sitting there waiting for us. But now I appreciate the familiarity of going to the same place every year, the shopkeepers’ greetings, the special attention, the small discounts reserved for “friends” that we get at all the little shops. The Children enjoy meeting their friends at the beach every year, a year older, wiser, all from different cities, but with the same desire to leave their hometowns, their schools, their city friends behind and just dig holes together in the sand. What is it about digging holes in the sand? What’s the appeal? And yet it’s not just the children who do it, I find myself digging holes for no reason, at first with my foot, and absent-minded movement, but soon I’m getting in there with my hands with gusto, up to my elbows just digging away with the intensity of one looking for some long-lost treasure.

Our beach place makes me happy. I’m not sure what it is. I like that it’s small but large enough to have friends stay, I like that the kitchen/living room is just one large (ish) area so that the children are always under foot, I like that it’s easy to clean and take care of, it reminds me of living in Milan going to school, a simple life made of basic needs and pleasures.

We’re home now, the seaside magic always ends with the coming of August and the crowds that descend during the official Italian vacation month. Our wandering days aren’t over, of course, we’re of to the french Riviera for a few days to visit the Nonni and then to the mountains of Trentino for the Husbands official holiday. When we get home, we’ll have to gear up for the Boy’s first grade debut, which is making me especially maudlin this summer. How does time go by so quickly, how is he starting first grade already? How are we still here in this two-horse podunk town? I went on the International School of Turin’s website the other day and got all in a lather that I can’t send the Boy to school there (too far). This isn’t where I thought we’d be at this point. It’s so strange (and somewhat disheartening) how our lives tend to go down unexpected paths despite years of methodical and meticulous planning. I’m trying to hang on to summer’s insouciance but I already feel the tendrils of my temporarily abated control-freakishness creeping in and getting a hold on me. But I’m still holding on to the summer song with a strong grip as the raindrops start falling like every afternoon, and hopefully this small hint of anxiety that’s starting up will be washed away with the summer storm.

A lot like giving up

Every time I open the BonnyBard file to write another entry on the blog it shocks me how long it’s been since my last one. When I wrote on Moomser I managed to write at least three times a week and read and comment on loads of blogs, now it’s a miracle if I remember to open my mac every three days to check my email. I’m not exactly sure what has changed. My time is distributed differently: I exercise more, I have a lot more to do with the new house, I have less help, but the kids are also older and in school longer, and I’m not in the hospital with the husband for hours on end anymore. Yet I can’t seem to find the time to write. And when I do, it’s because I’ve got crap to work out. I’m starting to annoy even myself! But in the spirit of letting go and trying not to control everything I’m just trying to take things as they are, observe them, take note of them and then just sort of letting them work themselves out. Not exactly sure how that’s working out for me yet.

I had a mini meltdown today. I was sitting in the kitchen with the kids and the Husband comes in, does something funny, and I crack up. For a full ten minutes. I laugh until I get tears in my eyes from laughing, I start to get over it, the mirth gets ahold of me again, over and over for what feels like forever. Initially, it feels good, liberating, but then I realize I’m not really enjoying the laughter, it’s kind of hysterical and maybe I need a good slap to shock myself out of it. And then the laughter turned to tears, not actual crying tears but just sort of crying tears. Enough so that my kids started giving me funny looks but not so bad that they didn’t believe me when I said they were tears of laughter. Even though they weren’t, not really.

This past year has been so hard. Not in any tangible sense, nothing I can really explain that would make sense to others, but it’s been hard. The Husband and I can’t seem to connect, we try, we’ve got great days, good weeks, and then just completely hopeless days and weeks. I no longer feel like my only option is divorce, I’ve seen the consequences on a friend and her children up close and personal and I would really rather not go through that. Even though, I, unlike her, am not completely dependent on my husband financially. Yet nor do I see a way out of this slump, I don’t have the hope and blinding optimism required to pick up and leave, certain that something much better awaits me. I don’t think my life would be better with another man (who?), nor do I think it would be better if I were to be alone. I just want the marriage that I’m in, with the husband that I have, to work itself out. I’ve done all I can do, I’ve tried it all. At this point I think he’s the one that needs to work stuff out, and mostly he agrees, he just hasn’t found the energy or the motivation to do it. But all this waiting around is taking its toll on me.

I’ve learned, through trial and error, that I can’t control everything, no matter how much I may want to, or how much easier it would be if I could. I cannot keep hitting my head on the wall. But letting things go, and waiting patiently to see if they improve, if someone else takes the reins… well, that’s no easier. It’s just as painful and it’s just as much hard work, though in a different direction. Hence the hysterics.

This is all I can say on the subject, I’ve put it out there, and hope it makes me feel better, or not. Who knows. This feels a lot like giving up, and it’s not a good feeling.