Being a stepparent is not for the faint of heart. In fact, sometimes, it just downright sucks.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that since Dan and I got married, now almost three years ago, we’ve had to endure countless lawsuits and custody skirmishes courtesy of his litigious and insecure ex-wife.
Despite these issues (during which I’ve been wrongly accused of doing horrific things), I have always gone above and beyond to treat all of my stepchildren (including the one who ultimately threw us over to go back into a religious cult) with kindness, generosity, and love, embracing them as if they were “blood”.
And yet, this weekend, my now 11-going-on-12-year-old stepdaughter showed me that no matter how much I give, do, or put myself out, it will never matter: I will never be all that important. And sometimes, not even worthy of treating like a real person.
Case in point: My husband had to go to a day-long class on Saturday, so I took C out for a Stepmother/Stepdaughter day. Or so was the plan. I was thinking about it all week, figuring what we could do that would be fun for her. So the plan was to take her to see Confessions of a Shopaholic (which I knew she wanted to see), for a lunch that involved lots of sauce and cheese, to Michaels for new fabric (since she makes clothes for her iPod–very inventive, by the way), and to Borders for the next installment in the Stephanie Myers series (one of her favorite authors).
Well, “selfish” me.
Here’s how the day went instead: We had lunch whereby I spent most of it eating off of her plate while she texted her friends. Then, with an hour to kill, I took her into Marshall‘s for new slippers (because I had gotten her a pair that she loved there previously and thought it would be nice to update them) until the movie started. Once there, she wanted to sit on one of the fluffy chairs “alone” while I “did what I wanted to do.” But there was nothing I wanted to do–the point was to be together. And I was certainly not about to leave her alone in the store, especially since she’s not my daughter and if anything happened to her, I could never forgive myself.
Still, as I continued to tell her she had to stay by my side, she continued to plead and beg that I was being unfair and that she would be fine. As I held firm, so did she. And before I knew it, she was in full-throttle temper tantrum, finally running off in a huff into the dressing room.
Some fun day, huh?
So, I took several deep breaths and, wishing I had an IV of Sangria coursing through me, plucked her from the dressing room and told her, forget the movie, we’re going home. And by the way, “You’ve been incredibly rude and inconsiderate to me. I’ve planned a nice day for us, and you’ve ruined it and I think you owe me an apology.”
To wit she said, “I don’t care and no I don’t, I want to go home. NOW.”
And so we got into the car, and she promptly climbed in the backseat. I repeated what I’d said in the store, “C, I am not your mother and I am not your father. And so, what you do with them is up to them. But when you’re in my care, I will not leave you alone.”
She promptly started to scream, “You don’t trust me! You don’t even trust me! I have taken safety classes and I know what to do and my mom lets me alone all the time.”
To which I said, calmly, “I do trust you. I don’t trust anybody else. And again, I am not your mother or your father. So when you’re in my care, you have to stay close to me.”
But she held to her story, screaming and crying, as if I were Godzilla driving a Honda Element.
But then, finally, when I pulled over to try to ratchet down the hysterics, she looked me in the eye and said calmly, “You’re not number one in my father’s life, you know.”
GadZOOKS, where did THAT come from?
So I said, “What?”
And she said, “You’re after me, and Heidi and …” she began to rattle off the names of my husband’s other three children who, along with Heidi, have shunned Dan for their religion. And, as a result, play absolutely no role in our lives.
As she described how I fell just under the dirt that held up the totem pole, I wondered if I might have left some accidental chocolate for comfort in the glove department. I could not believe what I was hearing. I could not fathom that this kid, who I’ve embraced and loved, just like Heidi who’d left us, was talking to me like I was an old used maxi pad crumpled into a ball and rolling down a rainy gutter.
Of course, once I was able to close my mouth and gather my wits (kind of like the way you do when somebody comes from behind and whacks you in the back with a crowbar), I calmly explained to her that “there was no competition for her father’s affections. He has plenty of love for all of us.”
Now there is much more to the story than that–it didn’t even begin to end there (nor did the agony)– but if my point is simply to convey how being a stepparent is about as fulfilling as scraping poop off your sneaker for a living, well, then I think I’ve made it here.
And now, I’m off to get that Sangria after all, even though it’s only on Sunday afternoon. But what the heck, I’ve earned the privilege of temporary altered consciousness. (Because 1/3 of a glass will do it just fine.) Wouldn’t you say?
This morning, the electricity went out in our house at approximately , just when Kiran Chetry and John Roberts were about to deliver the day’s headlines on CNN. As I lay there in bed, listening to my favorite morning team talk about the just-passed stimulus package–and to the wind gusts outside our bedroom window that sounded strong enough to lift the house off its very foundation–the overhead fan suddenly went dead. There was a subtle thud and then…no lights…no glare of the computer…no coffee brewing in the kitchen downstairs.
Of course, Dan and the dogs had just left on their morning walk, so it was the perfect storm in terms of stimulating my already over-active imagination. I grabbed the blankets close and visualized myself sweating and begging some horrible apparition to “keep away, you just KEEP AWAY FROM ME…”
After a few unpleasant minutes, however, I lowered the blanket, sat up straight, and took a deep breath into my lungs. Good grief, when will these hormones give it a rest?
Then, with newly amassed composure, I reached over into Dan’s nightstand to get a flashlight, when I found a LOVE NOTE FROM ANOTHER WOMAN AND SOME PICTURES. (Kidding, silly…)
I turned the flashlight on and aimed it at the ceiling, humming “When the Shark Bites…” for no good reason, my eyes riveted to the bright circle of light around the now motionless fan. I sat there for 30 minutes, thinking about all I had to do that day requiring an electrical connection and growing anxious, until I heard Dan’s keys in the front door. “The power’s out,” I yelled.
“Oh yeah?” he said, the door slamming behind him. I got up, ran downstairs, and promptly shined the flashlight in his face. “See?”
Then, I followed him and the dogs from the foyer to the kitchen, where he gave them each a treat and promptly went about the business of surveying the house. He turned on the miner’s light now wrapped around his ear and retrieved some Home Depot special from the kitchen drawer–an oversized and, no doubt, overpriced contraption that’s part flashlight, part radio, and part intercom.
Then, moving to the rhythm of the radio’s static, he crouched over and started going room to room like a stealth wolf, checking in corners, pulling up hard and heavy blinds, and commanding the dogs to “give me space.” All the while assuring me we’d be okay–he’d take care of us. After all, he was a “survivalist”.
To which I replied: “Honey, we’re not lost at sea or under seige. The power’s out.”
“Or so you think,” he said.
Later that morning, after Dan scoured the house of its evil spirits and manipulated the electric-powered garage door well enough to get his car out, my friend Ellen called from Chicago. She told me about the time the power went out in her house a few weeks ago, when they had had those unexpected and uncharacteristic winter tornados. “It was out for four days, could you imagine?” Of course, it had only been two hours and counting before I started Jonesing for a little electricity of my own, so I couldn’t.
“How did you manage?” I asked, knowing full well that my friend Ellen, whose screen doors and mailboxes are wired up to an expensive security system, is always ready for emergencies.
“You know, I had lots of candles and coolers with ice,” she said.
“For your Pinot Grigio?” Because my friend Elly, well, she likes the Pinot.
“Hell no,” she said. “I can drink that stuff piping hot. More for the food perishables.”
She told me that she also has a small television that runs on batteries in lieu of going a day without contrived entertainment–and how I should too “just in case”.
“You know, in times of darkness, you just need to know how to get through things by watching whatever you can get your hands on–Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, old sitcoms. It all helps.”
True dat, I thought, fantasizing about Regis and Kelly.
As I listened to the rhythm of her wisdom, I started to wonder if I’d ever see those two again? If we’d ever get our electricity back? And, if we didn’t, how would I brew my coffee? Cool off without a ceiling fan? Blow dry my hair? Watch the girls duke it out on The View–or see the hairs on my chin in enough light to effectively pluck them? After all, it was going on three hours now. And I was starting to feel anxious, like ants were crawling up and down my legs.
And then, suddenly, without warning, I heard a whir, a beep, and the sounds of second- shift anchors on cable news. Aaah, the ceiling fan, the cordless phone base, the television in the bedroom. Electricity, glorious and powerful. It was BACK.
I swear, there is no better feeling than when you know for sure you can microwave your oatmeal. Really, think about it.
If getting a book deal is simply a matter of landing a crowded plane onto the Hudson (because you know that’s coming) or birthing 14 babies without having a life partner, job, or ethics, well, I’m on it.
At least doing something ridiculously far out and extreme would give me the sense of renewed purpose I’m seeking, beyond just getting up every morning and heading to work just 10 feet away from where I sleep.
Sure, I’m glad to have freelance projects. And they’re good ones, really. But I want a job–the kind that requires me to get dressed every morning, put on lipstick and my favorite boots, get in the car, and actually drive off. You know, leave not only the building, but the actual area.
Until that happens, I’ll be here in my “home office”, writing and strategically communicating with clients and all the voices in my head, engaging in my quiet addiction to Twitter, and checking from various and creative angles my crows feet in the bathroom mirror. So if you’ve got a good joke, words of encouragement, a rockin’ job lead, whatever, send it to me at email@example.com.
In the meantime, I’ll be back with a happier post by the weekend.
I’ve come to an important conclusion this past week: It takes a village to shrink an ass. That’s the truth. And believe me, if anyone’s got a village, it’s me. Friends and concerned observers from as far away as Canada and as close as up the block continue to tell me what to do to shed my peri-menopausal paunch. And finally, finally, I think I’ve found the recipe for doing it:
·Protein and lots of it.
·Just enough carbohydrates to keep your feet moving.
·A pin’s-head worth of healthy fats, but only on those nights you can see the Big Dipper OR a shooting meteor clear enough to sketch it accurately.
·Coffee, black, no cream or artificial sweeter (which I mourn, by the way).
·No diet soda. (Bye bye my pretty little Diet Sunkist, I’ll miss you. I’m blowing a kiss now…)
·No dairy. (Unless, of course, I’m okay with having pain in my knees from now until perpetuity, according to the trainers at my favorite WellnessCenter.)
This diet regimen, along with my personal translation of the bestselling book Eat Pray Love (i.e., Walk Cry Run–my new morning ritual done in the park by our house, especially dramatic on those mornings when I miss a particularly tricky patch of black ice and go down like a confused flock of seagulls) and finally, an actual result.
Over the past few weeks, I have managed to shed 7 pounds–a story of hope and inspiration in and of itself (somebody call Oprah), especially when you consider that I’ve been walking, lifting weights and dieting for 24 straight months and the only thing I’ve lost is my will to live and my car keys.
Coincidence? I think not.
And still, while I am delighted to bore all my readers with these surely-tedious-by-now posts about my hormones (see previous post) and trimming the fat, do NOT look for this deliriously exciting subject matter on Facebook. Because, I swear, if one more person tells me I need to be on Facebook (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia), I swear, from here on in, I’m going to write about pizza in every post.
I am digging in my heels.
That’s because I already have a blog, a Web site, two email addresses, a LinkedIn profile, a cell phone, a landline, a walkie talkie, several pens and notepads, an Etch a Sketch, a three-hole punch, the Wii Fit (well, okay, not yet…), two office windows, a Swingline, a traveling backgammon set, and a Twitter account. Good grief, if I add a page on Facebook, when will I have the time to do what’s really important (shop for shoes, stop at Starbucks, schnookie the dogs, change the linens in the guest bedroom, etc.)?
I have to wonder: Can you network so much that you actually start diminishing your returns? And if so, when does that start to happen? When do you hit critical mass, whereby everything that happens from there means, well, nothing?
Besides, what’s so great about Facebook anyway? It’s addicting. Blah, blah, blah. That’s what everyone says: “It’s addicting!” Why just the other night, I was having dinner with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while and one of them spent 45 out of 60 minutes curiously looking down. Little did I know, she was rapt to Facebook on her iPhone. And here I thought she was just really digging into her salad.
I don’t need that kind of temptation, given my already delightfully obsessive personality.
Besides, it wasn’t all that fun interacting with R*c&2 M*##, who cheated on me with my best friend at the time, K@#$n B*%g, back in high school. Why would I want to hear from either one of them 10 some years later? (Okay, 30. There. Are you happy?)
I just don’t get it. People spend entire lifetimes trying to learn forgiveness through meditation, medication, psychotherapy. Today, however, all you need do is set up a page on Facebook, and a 12-step program is no longer necessary. Suddenly forgiveness is simply a matter of hitting “accept” when someone–anyone–asks you for a penny.
Well, not me. If you wronged me in high school, I want a clear and sincere 140-character tweet for all the world to see on why you’re sorry for what you did and how you promise you’ll never do it again. (You all know who you are.) There, that’s 103 characters–plenty of room left over for groveling.
Then, and only then, will I be willing to entertain the notion of accepting you as a friend on my Facebook page. IF, that is, I HAD a Facebook page. Which I don’t. And I won’t.
OKAY, FINE. Maybe I’ll post one this weekend. But I will NOT over-engage or get all silly about it. Like my best friend, Lorrie. “Oh my gosh,” she went on last night over the telephone, “you can’t believe who sent me an email on Facebook.” Then, she went on to rally off a bunch of gibberish names I hadn’t heard or thought about since Nixon was in office. (Although gosh, it would be great to catch up with just a few of them…) I had to sit through the whole lot of it before I could ask whether we were meeting at Miels or Lulus on Saturday.
I will not do that. I just won’t.
Oh, and one more thing, if I don’t have my Facebook page up this weekend, check back again in a week or so. I’ve got to write an interview piece for the Wildriverreview.com this weekend (plus a blog, always) and if I don’t get it done, my editor will shoot me. Which means I won’t be able to post a link to it once I’m up and on the air, or what have you. (Insert Sarah Palin wink here…) Well, you know what I’m saying.