Saturday, February 25, 2006

And On and On the Battles Goes...

"All's fair in love and war," but what about when a child is involved? Where do you draw the line?

After what was a wonderful weekend last week with M's daughter V, we had a week filled with phone calls from her telling us both how much she missed us and couldn't wait to be with us again next weekend. Then M got a call last night.

It was from the counselor.

For those of you who have followed this blog for a while, you might remember the extreme's M's ex went to, to try to keep him from seeing V. We had prayed and prayed and finally the judge allowed M to see his daughter with a counselor supervising. The counselor spent time with the 3 of us for 5 weekends and observed nothing but what she called "positive things." So she went to court last month and told the judge -- which was what led to unsupervised visitation and allowed us to have V last weekend at his parents -- and the judge was pleased. M's ex was not. She and her lawyer (M can't afford one and the court forced him to pay for her's) came into court with all kinds of lies about V being very distraught about my and M's relationship, about it being inappropriate for me to be around V, about M needing to be supervised, etc. The judge didn't buy any of it. It seemed that M had won.

Last weekend it seemed that the nightmare had finally ended and order was restored. V no longer had to sneak messages to M to tell me she missed me, she could get on the phone and say it herself. She was clearly happy - his ex had to see that. It seemed that the battle was over.

Until M got a call from the counselor letting him know that his ex had filed a complaint with her employers, accusing her of not doing her job correctly, of V not being able to communicate with her -- because V is "terribly distraught" about everything. (Which the counselor conceeded to us that she knows is a lie.) The court ruled last time that we need to check in with the counselor at the end of every visit V has with us (every other weekend) but now what will happen seems unsure. Fortunately, she has decided to stay on the case - in spite of the letter - until the next court date, to try to protect M from losing his visitation should his ex find a counselor sympathetic to her position. (She admitt that before she met M - from what his ex said - she expected him to be a rat and was surprised that he "had no tail" when she met him.)

And so the battle rages on, and what is at stake is more than "ownership" of an entity once shared in marriage, it's a little girl, who has more love than anyone I've ever met for everyone involved. How long will this continue and how many more times will this child be hurt before peace can be made?

I can only pray it will be soon.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Playing Mom

On Friday, as I anxiously awaited the end of the day when M and I would go to his parents' house to have his 5 year old daughter V for the weekend, something someone said struck me. That day, a conservative talk show host referred to Hillary Clinton's infamous "I could have stayed home and baked cookies" speech and explained that raising kids was much harder than working 9 to 5. Being that I have no children of my own, I doubted the validity of that statement. Little did I know the coming weekend would make me rethink that rush to judgement.

Though I'd spent a number of Saturday afternoons with M's daughter, I was still nervous as to how the weekend would go. I never could have anticipated that I would spend 2 days and 2 nights with a 5 year old on my lap, glued to my hip, and in my arms.

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Nor could I have anticipated that V and her dad would be playing tug of war with me the whole weekend. Arguing over what percent each got of me while we watched TV together, over who got to sit in the middle and over who I belonged to. (I never felt so loved.) Every night, we stayed up much later than V's bedtime playing games, watching movies, having tickle fights and jumping on the bed -- so late it made me wonder which of the three of us was the 5 year old.

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Each night, V cuddled up in bed with me until she got tired enough for M to put her in her own bed, and each morning at approximately 7AM (!!!), V came and crawled right back into my bed ready to wake me up. She and M had a good time playing with my camera phone before she did so, however.

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We went on the Metro, to the mall and to the toy store, spent time at an arcade, painted pictures, danced around the house and did each other's make up. I got so used to being with her that it almost didn't phase me when someone said to us at the mall "Wow, she's almost as tall as her mom." (Almost!)

The weekend was more than I ever could have hoped for. On so many levels and in so many ways, it really felt like the three of us were a family. When V announced that she loved me (which she said on a number of occasions and to various family members) as she snuggled up next to me on our last day together, I just felt so content and I knew that this time it would be much harder for us to say goodbye. (In fact, V was positive that she was taking me home with her -- something I'm sure her mother would have loved!)

Needless to say that Sunday night, I slept like a baby - though even in my dreams, I was sad that V wasn't with us. I don't think I was ever so exhausted or so grateful (in my whole life) to have a Monday off of work than I was today. When M called this morning, after I woke up after 10AM (drained beyond belief), he said, "So, do you still want to have children?" I said, "Yes, I'll just sleep all day while they are at school." "What will you do for the first 5 years?" he asked.

My reply?


Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentine's Day...

Valentine’s Day: the day when every happy (or otherwise) couple has full freedom to flaunt their affections (or make up for their lack thereof) for their better (or not much better) halves. It’s also a day when greeting card companies, chocolate manufacturers and producers of various singing stuffed animals make up for lackluster year-end sales by distributing (ad naseum) products that could make any grown woman cringe. It’s an excuse for a romantic getaway, a night on the town, even an "unpredictible" proposal. It’s an opportunity to show the person you love how much you love them. (The measure of which - mind you - will be measured in pounds of chocolate and stems of dying roses.) And a day for all those who are not in relationships – and desire to be - to curse the fact that Cupid ever sprouted wings.

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Sounds cynical? That’s what life – and a number of love-less Valentines - does to you after a while, I guess. It’s also what has sparked the SciFi Channel to launch its “Valentine’s Day Sucks” Marathon. (And we wonder why Star Trek fans have such a reputation for being dateless little nerds? Way to expel that myth guys!)

Sadly, Valentine’s Day, for too many couples becomes a day to say and do the things we should be doing every day, year round. Fortunately, though, it is a great excuse to eat and buy CHOCOLATE - guilt-free. (I may be somewhat cynical, but I'm still a girl!) Maybe it’s not all that bad afterall…

This year, I have a lot more than chocolate to be grateful for. And it's not only on Valentine's Day that I remember that. It's nice to have a reminder though.

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To all those out there who are miserable this Valentine's Day, have faith. Cupid's arrow may not have struck yet, but God is always in control. Trust me, I know. This comes from someone who's been boycotting Valentine's Day much longer than celebrating. And if worse comes to worse, there's always chocolate... and we can always use an excuse for more of that!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

When I grow up...

"When I grow up, I want to be..." Do you remember what it was? A doctor? An astronaut? A veterinarian? Truth be told, my list included an olympic gold medalist, a neuroscientist (not kidding), a lawyer or... a marine biologist -- who writes books (of course). And what was stopping us from becoming any of those things? As far as we were concerned, we could do anything, be anyone we wanted, right? Until we got our first credit card (mine was at 14) and realized we'd need something to help pay the bills, put food on the table... something a little more practical.

Growing up with the "mouth I had on me" as my father called it (referring to the fact that I never shut up), I was always told I'd be a politician. I didn't quite know what that was, but from the way my dad said it I knew that it was something bad. Given my tendency to always try to make him see the other side in every argument (for which I was always called "contrary") he eventually declared that "this kid" was gonna be a lawyer. I don't know how much that influenced the path I chose, given he was not in my life much when I was making these decisions, but it was not before long that I was mailing out my law school applications, ready to take on the world. Until I came to Washington D.C. in the Summer of 2001. Much in the way Jimmy Stewart's character in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" did, I fell in love with this place and knew it was where I belonged.

For 2 years, I've been working in government/public policy here in our nation's Capitol. I have the privelege to say that I work for the most influential Conservative thinktank in the country. As my workload increases and my tasks become more demanding, I only feel more empowered and proud to work here. Though this is a non-profit organization (which believe me, means there is no profit to be made), it has been the most fulfilling job experience I've ever had. Yet still, I can't brush aside my childish dreams and give up on going to law school entirely. Eventually, I'm sure I will, whether this year or next. But what about all those other dreams?

While I'm sure that in the physical state I'm in now I won't be winning (or competing for) any Olympic gold medals anytime soon, and that I won't be using my political science degree to operate on anyone's brains (I hope!), I still have always kept that desire of being a writer. Yes, my job has given me the opportunity to do a good deal of writing on environmental, energy and regulatory policy, but there is still that creative side of me that I've struggled to maintain while working in the policy world. Today, those childhood dreams came true for me.

This morning I got a call from an old professor of mine writing to let me know that he selected a play I wrote in college to be in his upcoming book - a sequel to "From the Heart of Brooklyn" (my hometown). I recall the play "The Interlude" vaguely, if only because I still can recall how my heart pounded when he stopped me after class and asked me to stay and perform it with him for his advanced class. I was so excited. In my thick Brooklyn accent, I shouted out the lines from where I sat. "Angelo what are you tawking about?" My professor put down his page more than a few times to wipe his eyebrow and laugh. He told the class that I was a promising playwright and I remember it striking me so funny because in all the writing that I'd published at that time (mostly poems and short stories -- and none in novels of any kind), none of them were plays. It's funny... how sometimes you forget your dreams, but they don't forget you.

I'm glad I had a big imagination as a kid. I'm glad to know that just because I chose one path doesn't mean it's the only path. There's still so much possibility. That goes for you too, you know...