Monday, November 15, 2010

The bet...

D and I were laying in bed chatting on Halloween morning when I had an idea..."I bet you a hundred bucks that you can't be nice to C for the whole day. No yelling at him, no glaring at him, no nothing." D replied with a pretty confident, "ok, you're on." We weren't really betting a hundred bucks, we both like to win and it was just a friendly way to hopefully have a great day as a family.

Thankfully, I lost the bet. The only time I can recall being very truly happy about losing. I lavished D with praise and love that night and he "felt" good. I quote felt because he shoots his vibe off for the world to feel. When he's happy I can feel his happiness radiate through me. When he's angry I can feel it ripping me apart inside. When he is calm and complacent his presence can ease all my fears. Even if he's not talking it is eerie easy to "feel" how he is feeling.

We didn't talk about it at all on Monday and to be honest I had put it completely behind me just thankful for the one peaceful day. Long after we had tucked the kids into bed we were getting ourselves ready to call it a night. D was standing at his dresser and said, "Now you owe me 200". I asked, "200 what?" totally confused. D often has part of a conversation in his head, thinking he is having it out loud and then asks a question as if I can read his mind. But this time wasn't that...he said again, "you owe me 200 for going 2 days". I giggled. He was referring to the bet. He was keeping a running total in his head to motivate him to keep trying.

I was shocked. And pleased. And delightfully thankful that finally something was going our way and D was doing it all on his own. I asked him for the day and he was giving me so much more. It has been 2 full weeks and I owe him 1400 bucks. If we had the money I'd gladly pay up and let him splurge on whatever his heart desired. But we don't and he's not looking for it either.

I asked him why the change all of the sudden. He told me that we were having a conversation about a week prior to "the bet" and I had mentioned that if we ever didn't make it as a life long couple it would be due to the relationship he had (or didn't have) with C. He reminded me that I had said I can tolerate anything and everything that he can dish out, except for the hurtful words directed at C and on occasion J.

I didn't know that he was really listening during that conversation. I remember it vividly as well. We were in the car driving to dinner. It was a pretty rough day and I was just irritated and rambling. It is very true though. I can handle his naps on the couch while I clean, I can deal with paying all the bills and keeping the family's schedule pulled together, I can tolerate the scary driving (I'll just continue to twitch in my seat), but it is really really difficult to sit back and watch as he destroys his bond with the kids. I've always thought that D would be a great weekend dad. He wouldn't take seeing them for granted. He's a kid at heart and loves to play. He's the center off all the kid birthday parties: holding the pinata rope, throwing the football, or keeping the bonfire going strong. There is no doubt in my mind that he has always had the potential to be one of the greatest dads ever. But I wasn't sure what was holding him back. I still don't know nor do I care.

For now I am going to enjoy our time together as the family we were always meant to be. With a patient I'll-do-anything-for-you Mother, a playful I'll-always-protect-you Father, a sweet I-am-a-genius Son, and an energetic I-can-always-make-you-smile Daughter.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Father and son

D has been fortunate enough to be the only dad that C has ever had. They met five years ago when C was in kindergarten and they instantly hit it off. D was introduced to C as Mommy's old childhood friend named "D". I can't remember exactly when he started calling him dad, but he did all on his own. Even before D and I started dating seriously the three of us were on the couch watching a movie together. D was leaned up against me and C was reclined on D's lap. C giggled and said, "this is fun. It's like Mom, Dad, and son." D and I laughed it off and didn't talk about it until long after we were living together. The look on C's face as he giggled that to us is forever burned into my mind. He was so completely and utterly happy. For once it wasn't just Mommy and C.

Their first year together was good. C worshiped the ground his daddy walked on. He wanted to do everything dad did. They shoveled snow off the driveway, barbecued in the backyard, hung out in the garage, went shooting, and even took short rides on the motorcycle all as father and son. Then slowly it started to fall apart. D would get easily angered by C. He wasn't sitting straight at the table, he clanked his fork to his bowl to loudly, he left his clothes on the floor, there were a few school papers left on his desk and not brought to us, it always seemed to be the tiniest of things. As D yelled C cried. It broke my heart to watch.

Over the last four years their relationship has gotten worse and worse. C still loves his daddy with everything that he is. He still wants to walk like his dad and talk like his dad. He wants to be a part of everything that his dad does...stay up late to watch movies with him, wants a ride to school on his motorcycle. But for whatever reason D just seems so down right angry and bitter at C. Not a day goes by that D doesn't hurt his son's feelings in some way. He either yells at him or breaks a promise to something they were supposed to do together.

I've tried to help their relationship the best I can. D claims he doesn't realize he is being so hard on C at the moment it's coming out of his mouth. He says he figures it out after C's reaction and from the "death glare" he gets from me. We tried implementing a "censor" where D would go through me when he wanted to correct C, but that wasn't successful for one reason or another. We've sat down all together to talk about how certain things have made everyone involved feel and brainstormed ways to avoid it in the future. I've also talked about it with them both separately and sadly nothing has been able to help.

I guess what really eats away at me is that D is so different with J. Is it because she's the "baby"? Because she's a girl? Because she's biologically his? I've point blank asked D why he's so sweet to J and not C and he doesn't have an answer for me. He admits that he treats them very differently but doesn't know why and doesn't know how to change it.

I was raised in a home where my mom and dad always had each other's back. There was no asking mom and getting a "no" and then asking dad because he would always inquire, "what did your mother say?" like he somehow already knew she told us no. I very much wanted that for my own kids. I wanted them to trust that mom and dad were on the same page so in one parents absence the other parent's opinion would be sufficient and respected. I've tried and tried to be supportive of D and his parenting of C. I've sportively sided with D even when I felt he was being unrealistic with his expectations of C. I've talked to D about it privately and have explained how sad I am for C. Still, nothing has changed for the better.

Last night we were at my parent's house for dinner to celebrate C's 10th birthday. My younger brother put C in a choke hold playing around and C tried to punch him in the jewels. I asked C to take a minute in the other room to calm himself down and he just started bawling. Fridays in general are tough for C...he is burnt out by the end of the week and my little brother doesn't ever help by picking on C relentlessly. Most of the time C laughs it off, but not when he is tired. To make a long story short D ended up making a sad situation even sadder and I was not having it. I told C to only worry about what Mommy was telling him. I cheered him up, we sang happy birthday and he ate cake and ice cream before he ate his dinner. I knew D was pissed. Pissed at C for crying and "getting his way" and pissed at me for not backing him up.

I'm over it. I'm not playing this game any more. They are going to get along if it kills me in the process. This morning I had a very good chat with C about everyone in the family helping each other out. We all needed to help J learn to play nice and share. We all needed to help Mommy with chores around the house. We all needed to help C be a good listener. And we all needed to help Daddy with a lot of things. We both laughed at the "a lot" comment but it is very true. We have to help him remember appointments, we have to help wake him up in the morning, we have to help him to be patient and kind, we have to help him with essentially every aspect of being a part of a family.

I told D about the chat C and I had. He gave me that blank "I'm having a hard time processing exactly what you are saying" look. The one that says to me, "just stop, you are wasting your breathe. We can try again later" so I left it alone. D's new work schedule is Tuesday to Saturday. Perfect, one less day the boys are together. C likes to spend the night with my parents a lot. I figure we can set up a regular Nana and Grandad date night every Saturday night. They usually keep him until after dinner on the next night so that pretty much covers Sunday. This way I'll only be putting out fires between 6pm (when D gets home from work) and 8:30pm (when C goes to bed). I think I can handle 2.5 hours a day. Less than 18 hours a week. I can do that. Can't be too hard right?

I cannot believe that the relationship between this father and son that started even before that of the mother and father has come to me budgeting a mere 18 hours of time that they are in each others presence. This is truly heartbreaking for me. I know that C was in love with D even before I was. I am now crying and this post has come to its end.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Trust and Love

To start off...I am not a very trusting person. I used to think so and maybe at some point I really was, but as of right now I struggle with trust. There was a very panicky moment the day before college graduation when I realized I had a trust issue. Turned out everything was fine and now I know that I can trust my best friend with everything that I am.

There are so many things that go into trusting a person. D seems to think that as long as I know that he'll never cheat on me then I should trust him. There is some truth to that. I do feel like D is head-over-heels in love with me. There is no doubt in my mind that cheating on me is the very last thing he would ever do. But I don't feel like I can trust him. Am I crazy? Maybe I should do a little explaining...
-D often forgets to do what he says he is going to do. How can I trust that when he tells me something he is actually going to follow through? Is it my responsibility to remind? And if so, how does my reminder help build my trust in his word?
-He stretches the truth a little because he doesn't want to hear what I have to say about the truth. For example, he was taking a History class and had to turn in an analysis of a book or something rather. I asked if it was done. D said yes. Then I found out he failed the class and I asked why he thought he didn't pass. He said because he turned in a book report and not a full analysis. I asked to see what he turned in because according to the syllabus a book report would have earned him at least half credit and with that score he would likely have passed the class with a "C". He then admitted that he didn't turn anything in. Really? Why lie about that? I'm not his mom. It's not my degree or my grades that he was affecting.
-Before we really started dating I told him that I wanted to be like my mom. I wanted to be able to stay at home with the kids and volunteer in their classrooms. My dad was able to provide everything for us and (sadly) I expected to be able to do the same for our kids. Turned out when D got out of the Army it was tougher to find a job than planned. When he finally did it was not the best paying and had no benefits for myself and C. We were struggling. I realized then that I couldn't trust him to provide for our family financially.
-Now before you go off thinking I am terrible for expecting him to be the sole provider in this economy keep reading. We switched roles. I went to work and he stayed home. I was able to get the monthly bills paid, buy odds and ends for the house, and pay off some credit card debt. I had even made enough for him to buy himself a new 52" Sony TV that he just had to have for Christmas. D continued to spend way to much money on random unnecessary things, so I opened a second account hoping I could track where the money was going. And it helped a little, but somehow D was able to convince me that we "needed" things. He needed a guitar. The kids needed 3 new pairs of shoes each. He lost or broke his sunglasses...again... and needed a new pair. We needed a digital underwater camera. It was crazy. I couldn't even trust him to help me save the money I was making.
-During this whole switching of roles ordeal there was also the household things that needed to be taken care of. C was in school and D got him there, but was late at least twice a week. D would wash laundry but it would sit in the basket until it needed to be worn - nothing was ever folded and put away or ironed and hung in the closet. Dinner was take out on most nights. He'd forget to feed the dogs. He would watch TV with J all day. I couldn't trust him to take care of the house and family the way I thought it should be taken care of.
-Fast forward to today...back at work he is and back at home I am. I have slowly put the house back in order - closets, drawers, and cabinets are getting organized. Laundry is in dressers or neatly hanging in closets. Dogs are happy to get breakfast and dinner on schedule. C is on time to school every morning. J and I play games, with doll houses, build block towers, and read books. Dinner is made in the oven or on the stove. So what's the problem now?...Money. We are back at why I went to work in the first place. I make more money. Will I ever be able to trust D to be the financial or the emotional provider for our family? Will I always feel like I am in this alone? Will I ever again have a partner or will I always be "the single parent of 3"?

I'm almost thinking I'd be better off as a true single mom...but only of two. One less person to watch after, remind to do things, clean up after, worry about. One less person to spend money on...better yet, one less person with access to spend the money in our account.

But that isn't what I really want. I want for us to have our lives back. I want D with a memory, patience, driving skills, an attention span, a sleep schedule. But even without all those things I love D. I truly truly deep down inside love D.
-I love him for how helpful he is when people need it. He's the first to stop and help if someone's car has broken down on the side of the road. He's happy to wait a few extra minutes holding the door open for an elderly person or a mom pushing a stroller. He's the first to offer to help family with anything and everything.
-I love him for his optimism. He has this way of finding the positive side to everything. Not that I always agree with his view of the positive. For example D says, our family is very healthy so living without medical insurance for a few months while things are really tough isn't so bad. He sees...we are healthy. I see...accidents happen. But sometimes I crave a dose of his optimism to keep me going.
-I love how he looks at me, how he touches me, how he makes me feel. It's hard for me to put it into writing without sounding corny...but he really truly makes me feel loved, adored, and needed. His actions may not always show it and he may drive me nuts, but when we are snuggled on the couch together and I look up at him I can see his love for me.
-I love his desire and motivation to keep trying. No matter how grumpy I am he'll always try to do something to cheer me up...pick up around the house, take the noisy kids upstairs, grab me a Starbucks. I'm not sure why I have to be grumpy before the sweet things come, maybe this is something I have taught him. Maybe he feels appreciated more when I go from being a super grump to neutral as opposed to me going from neutral to happy. (Yes, that was behavior babble...sorry I just couldn't resist.)

So I'll end this with a question..."Who ever said you cannot have love without trust?"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blog Name Change...

We had a great day together yesterday. Went to one of my best friends annual backyard BBQs and then to the bay to celebrate my cousins 11th Birthday. Everything went fairly smooth. D was reasonably helpful.

So this morning in the shower I got to thinking that maybe I should be taking a more positive approach to this blogging thing. Instead of me being "not sure" of what the heck is going on in my life and where it's headed, maybe we should just be on the "road to recovery". That way when I sign on to vent my frustrations of the day I am looking at is as a mere bump in the road, but still moving in the right direction.

My dad was always "the glass is half full" kind of a person and I was the complete opposite. I am not nearly as dramatic about my misfortunes as my older sister, but none the less it takes me a bit to brush them off and keep going.

D had ALWAYS been the "it's no big deal" type. Not necessarily optimistic, but more along the lines of...someone somewhere in the world has it worse than you so stop complaining. I've always somewhat admired his lack of fear for the future, although it has driven me crazy on numerous occasions. I wish I could just not care sometimes.

So here we are today on the Road to Recovery. It may be the infinitely long road, but each day we will at least be getting closer and closer. I'm sure there will be days, weeks, months we find ourselves lost. And may have even taken a wrong turn or two, but given some time I am hopeful we will find our way back.

Our family has always loved taking road trips together. I'm hoping I can really get D in the car for this one. Figuratively, it may be the trip of a lifetime, but perhaps the most eventful and rewarding of all.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sleep Issue

I don't know how many times I have heard, "I'm not tired" and a few minutes later glance over at D who is sound asleep. It used to happen a lot in the car. He would graze "the bumps", I would silently freak out, but calmly ask if I could drive. The answer was always a very strong I even dare question him? One day coming home from the beach he even went-so-far as to blame it on the Jeep. Really? I drove it the day before out to Palm Desert (3 hours away) and it was fine. Now the alignment was so bad it was causing D to swerve. I convinced (looking back probably not so nicely) him to pull over at the next exit and we switched seats.

Sometimes there are days he goes without sleeping at all. When I was working this happened on a weekly basis. He would come to bed with me, toss and turn, return downstairs, and 8-ish hours later softly wake me so I could get ready for work. Most sleepless nights he did at least one thing for the family...clean the kitchen, sweep the downstairs, wash the car. This made it hard for me to feel okay about getting angry. I was appreciative he did something, which didn't happen often. But I was pissed he was awake all night. Especially because I wasn't home during the day to make sure everything was taken care of...mainly C and J.

Between the stress at my job and the stress of not knowing what was going on at home (or knowing and worrying) I quit my job and sent D back into the work force. He had been frequenting this "shop" for some time and was offered a position. He loves the people and loves the industry so it's a perfect match. He hadn't had any sleepless nights for 6 weeks! He did on occasion come to bed late, but he always made it. Until last night. I heard J fussing in her room and the next thing I knew she was standing at my side of the bed. I looked over my shoulder at D's side and it was empty. I thought, "shit, figures it was too good to be true" and pulled J into bed with me.

I don't ever know what triggers the sleeplessness. I don't know if he falls asleep and then has a nightmare and can't go back to sleep. I don't know if he never falls asleep in the first place. All I know is that I don't like sleeping in bed alone. And I don't particularly like having a 3 year old's foot jabbed in my side because a warm body is sometimes better than nobody. So after no sleep last night, and I'm sure many catnaps throughout the day, D is finally asleep...on the couch, five minutes after I asked him if we should go to bed. His reply, "no, why should we?"

The sleep thing drives me crazy.

After many sleepless nights in row or when the weekend arrives he sleeps the full day away. But because he swept, threw in a load of laundry, and washed some dishes during the week he "earned" the right to sleep until noon on Saturday. Like I didn't do crap all week and wouldn't LOVE to sleep in. But breakfast is to be made, dogs need to be let out to go potty, and it's near impossible to convince C and J that it is okay to play nice with each other for an hour so Mommy can sleep in with Daddy...just once.

Where I found my inspiration...

We were having an especially rough night after an especially rough week. I went searching around for help, for answers and I came across this Blog. The story hit home and I felt compelled to comment. I never thought the comment would be read, let alone understood by anyone else. So here it is my first official unofficial Blog post.

PASP - Combat PTSD HQ: PTSD is a Demon: First It Invades the Veteran, the...: "Reader's comment on August 1, 2010 from the article Combat Veterans Bring the Monster of War Home: The Story of SGT Travis Triggs For the li..."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Is it time to call it quits?

I did my research. I read articles and medical journals about PTSD and TBI, watched documentaries, and searched the internet for answers. With a background in psychology, more specifically behavior analysis, I thought I knew how to help. I reinforced behaviors that I wanted to see more of and ignored the ones I wanted to extinguish. I was patient and forgiving. I was insightful and giving. I held my tongue when I wanted to yell because that's what he needed. I corrected the kids behaviors before hey would upset him. I walked every second of every day on eggshells.

We were not communicating well. I bought us each a journal that we could write our thoughts in. We couldn't get angry at each other for anything that was written in the journal. That was the "safe zone". A place we could express ourselves to one and other without worry. I wrote in the journal consistently...D never touched it.

I worried all alone: about money, about the kids, about D's anger. My family didn't understand and was very judgmental. A few of my girlfriends tried to listen, but it was near impossible to explain what I was feeling or what I struggled through day after day.

One of my best friends is in a very similar situation as I am. We talk and share stories. I always walk away feeling like in some ways she has it so much worse than I do. But I am frustrated with all the same crap over and over. Through all our struggling D keeps trying, but for some reason can never get it right. Am I being selfish? Are my standards to high? Should I just suck it up and accept it for what it is? Or do I call it quits and move on?

I spend the days he's at work wishing he were home. He comes home in the evening and I can't wait for the new work day to begin. I wish the work week would go quickly so we can have family time on the weekend. The weekend arrives and is waaaay too long. I've finally had enough and take the kids out of town for a break. The first morning I wake up and want nothing more than to be home. I come home early and wonder why the hell I didn't stay away for the entire 3 days. I am so hopeful, which should be a great thing, but have realized that with hope comes consistent disappointment.

The first year he was home was a breeze. He was different...but home, so I think I overlooked many of his new quirks. But since that time it has been the same crazy cycle for 3 years. I am patient, encouraging, and optimistic. Then can't hold it together all by myself and lose it...yell, cry, claim I am done doing this. I somehow manage to pull myself back together for another few months, only to breakdown again. At what point am I really through? Right now I'm at a hopeful point. I am reading through blogs and I'm amazed at the number of women who are driving down the same bumpy ass road I am. When I had done all my research before I skipped over the blogs because there was no research behind them. There was no scientific data supporting their claim or their stories. Now I know, it's these women who live it every second of every day who are the true source of knowledge. How they cope. Where they find strength.

For now I will continue to hang in there, but in a few months I will again be asking myself, "is it time to call it quits?"

Our history...

I'm not sure where to start with this. I guess a little history may be helpful.

D and I met in middle school. We grew up in the same neighborhood with the same friends and went to the same church. Our lives were so very similar is was scary.

But we walked 2 very different paths through high school and into our young 20s. While D was causing trouble, breaking the law, and getting kicked out of school, I traveled with my soccer team and managed to make it to school on most days. It was my Senior year in high school that D and I stopped hanging out and talking. We wouldn't speak for the next 7 years.

At 18 I had my son, C. Thankfully my dad made me go to college and my mom helped raise C. I am truly fortunate for the love of my parents. My life consisted of C, work, and school. I didn't have a social life. I didn't have many friends I shared my worries with. I didn't date. I was completely focused on making a future for myself and C.

D had married a high school sweetheart and graduated from boot camp in April 2003. He was deployed to Korea and shortly after to Iraq.

It was January 2006 that I found D on Myspace and sent him a message. He was coming home from Iraq and would be in the states for his birthday. Our first phone call in February was loooong. D talked and rambled for the entire 6 hours we were on the phone. I listened. I had missed a lot in past 7 years. I missed his friendship.

To make a long story short...things went very well for us and we had our daughter, J, in Colorado in April 2007. That same summer we moved back home to San Diego as D was medically separated from the Army with PTSD and TBI. It was here that we exited off the smooth highway of life as we once knew it and hit the rocky, pot hole ridden road we continue to drive on today.