Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

Well, it's New Year's Eve, and it's time to come up with some resolutions for the upcoming year. And, I might as well make them public in hopes that someone will help me stick to at least some of them this year!

Resolution the First: Lose weight. This is my perpetual resolution...sometimes I succeed in keeping it, sometimes I don't. Instead of assigning myself a specific goal weight and stressing myself out, I am going to resolve to live healthier, eat wiser, exercise more frequently, and I am going to make it a family affair. I want to teach my daughter healthy eating habits and I want her to learn the value of living an active lifestyle. I want her to learn what it is to have a healthy, positive, and realistic self-image. And, I want my daughter and my husband to live a long, long time!

Resolution the Second: Baby #2. Aaron and I have been talking about growing our family since we got engaged, and we have decided that we hope to make that dream come true this year. Here's to practicing!!

Resolution the Third: Continue to improve as a mother. Yeah, I think that I am a good mom. I do the very best I can every day, doing what I think is best for Grace and ensuring that she knows how much she is loved and cherished. But, there is always room for improvement. I need to focus more on my relationship with my daughter and less on how clean (or messy) my house is. I need to stop and enjoy each moment with her, because she is getting bigger every day and I know I only have one shot to experience her childhood with her. And, I need to remind her constantly that she is so special and that her mom will always be there for her.

Resolution the Fourth: Tell Aaron that I love him every day. Yes, Aaron and I always say, "I love you," to each other when we leave the house in the morning or when we are ending a phone call with each other. But, I worry that sometimes those words lose meaning after a while. So, in addition to using those three words, I need to expand on my feelings. Aaron, in a couple of words, is the best. He needs to know that. I am so proud of him and how he has adapted to life as a stepdad. He's a supportive, loving, understanding husband. He's not perfect, but he is absolutely wonderful and I love him dearly. I need to make sure he knows that.

Resolution the Fifth: Decide what I want to do when I grow up. I love my interpreting job, but I don't see myself doing it forever. I need to find a stable, rewarding, long-term career that allows me to devote a large amount of time to my family, and unfortunately, I don't know what that career will be. I have a couple of ideas, and I need to sit down with someone at the UW here in Milwaukee to find out how my Bachelor's degree in Spanish can serve as a base for a future career for me.

Resolution the Sixth: Go to Bonnaroo!! Aaron and I went to the 'Roo two years ago and had a BLASTY, but we missed Bonnaroo last year because I was unable to take the time off of work to go. This year, screw it...we're going. We love live music and camping with the sweaty hippies too much to miss out on this festival two years in a row. And here's to hoping that the Decemberists and Franz Ferdinand come back to the 'Roo this year! Is it too much to ask to have Ben Folds back as well? Pretty please?? I'll be anxiously waiting to see the lineup!

Resolution the Seventh: Turn 30 gracefully. I talked in an earlier blog entry about my approaching 30th birthday so I won't drone on about it here. Needless to say, it feels a little weird knowing that I am moving into a new decade of my life but I am not going to obsess about it. Rather, I'm going to be excited that I am happy and healthy and I am going to celebrate the experience that my past 29 years have afforded me. Then, I am going to apply moisturizer liberally to battle those little wrinkles that are creeping up around my eyes.

Resolution the Eighth: Get involved with the upcoming elections. It's so easy to feel disgruntled about politics in general, but deep down I still believe regular ol' people can make a difference. That belief comes from my parents, who showed me that taking the time to participate in our democracy is a child, I accompanied them to the voting booth, handed out literature with them, and listened to them have healthy debates regarding important issues among themselves and with others. They taught me that if I don't like things the way they are, I should work to change them. So I am educating myself on the candidates and my choices and when I (finally) make my decision on who I am going to support, I am going to get involved.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful, healthy, and happy New Year. Here's to another great year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Hangover

Christmas was wonderful but exhausting. For us, the holiday was actually a four-day-long whirlwind party that had us running all over the state to spend time with our cherished loved ones. We came home today with a car full of gifts (most of them for Grace) and with our bellies full of tasty holiday food.

Grace had a blast with Christmas this year. She got into the spirit of things as soon as she realized that Santa had come and that she was going to receive tons of gifts, but she also really enjoyed spending some quality time with her extended families. And, even though she skipped her nap a couple of days due to our hectic schedule, she behaved like a little angel.

And, Aaron and I enjoyed our first Christmas as a married couple. We took some time out to exchange gifts, just the two of us, which was nice since we didn't have a three-year-old begging to open our gifts for us. My hubby clearly picks up on hints, since he got me a much-needed pair of winter boots (cute ones) as well as tickets to an Editors concert coming up here in Milwaukee. And although we struggled a bit with splitting up our time evenly between each of our families, I think we realized that the most important thing was that our own little family spent all of this time together, no matter where we were.

We all will be hitting the hay early tonight...back to work and day care tomorrow. More parties to come this weekend!

Friday, December 21, 2007

My Child and My Ex-Husband

Today is a tough day for me, as is any day when my ex-husband has my daughter for the day.

My ex doesn't see my daughter much. When we were married, he was a very hands-off parent...he never wanted to be alone with Grace, he never bathed her, he rarely fed her, and I got the impression that he would have been much happier watching a Law and Order marathon than spend some good quality time with Grace. This was a large part of the reason I decided to leave him. He was a crappy dad, pure and simple, and I was not about to put my child through a lifetime of that.

Right after my ex and I split up, he saw Grace a couple of times a week. The visits were short and most of them were spent with me coaching my ex on what to do (and not to do) with Grace. "No, it's not ok to plunk her in front of the TV for hours." "No, you can't feed her McDonald's at every meal." "You should probably get some healthy snacks in your apartment." "Try to engage her in conversation--read her a book." "Wet diapers must be changed immediately so she doesn't get a rash." It was enough to drive me out of my wits, but I had to do it for Grace's sake.

His visits became less and less frequent, and then I eventually stopped calling him to try and initiate a visit. Visits went from twice a week to weekly, then a couple times a month, and now we are averaging about once every six weeks or so. He was also supposed to call Grace every Monday night to chat with her, even though he thought that was pointless. Those calls stopped months ago.

Ok, I need to stop here and vent. If you TRULY cared about your child, wouldn't you want to see him or her frequently? Wouldn't you at least flipping CALL every now and then to check in on your child? Wouldn't you have a vested interest in her school, her health, her moods, her daily life? Do you care that you are potentially damaging your child's self esteem by showing her that one of her parents doesn't have the time to even place a five minute call once a week check in on her? And, I'm sorry, but you don't go from being a sad excuse for a parent to parent of the year because you take a four-hour parenting course. It doesn't work that way.

But I digress...

So, a couple of weeks ago, my ex called me and told me that his mom wanted to see Grace around Christmastime. (Oh yeah, the only time he wants to see Grace is when his mother initiates a visit.) My stomach dropped when I received this call. Yes, legally he has the right to see Grace when he wants to. But, the past several times he has taken her for the day, Grace has come home looking DRAINED. She has told me a couple of times that she doesn't want Daddy to pick her up. Last visit, he took Grace to the Children's Museum here in Milwaukee, and something there scared her so much that even mentioning the idea of going to a museum to Grace sends her into a panic. Aaron and I made the mistake of taking her to a museum recently to tour a space for our wedding reception, and when we told her we were in a museum, she threw a huge tantrum. Shaking from head to foot--she was terrified. It took at least a half hour to convince her this was not the museum she went to with Daddy and that she didn't have to be afraid.

And what did my ex say when I confronted him about this? He blew it off and said he had no idea why she would be acting that way. Yeah freaking right. Are you that clueless, or are you just a liar?

So, naturally, when visit time with my ex comes, I turn into a basket case. I don't sleep for a week before the visit, and I am useless the day of the visit. Becoming a mom has opened up a whole slew of new emotions I never knew I had, and one of the rawest and most powerful of those emotions is the fear of something bad happening to your child. I have no control over what happens at these visits, and if my ex was at least halfway responsible, I would feel better about things. But, he's not, so I don't. And, the worst of it is, I know he will not be honest with me about what happens during a visit. Things could have gone horribly but he will go on and on about how much fun Grace had and how much he adores her. So, I have to rely on a three-year-old to give me the facts, and that is not a position I want to put my daughter in.

The other thing that gets to me is that he loves to play the role of the doting father at these visits. He gives her gifts. He takes her to do fun stuff. He doesn't discipline her. THIS ISN'T PARENTING! This is a glorified version of babysitting in which the child has free reign and gets whatever she wants.

I do the best I can to prepare Grace for these visits. A few days ago, I started to tell Grace that Daddy would be coming to pick her up for a visit this week and that it would be lots of fun. I told her that Grandma has Christmas gifts for her and that she'd get to open them at the visit. I told her that Aarie and I would be there to pick her up before bedtime. She understood what I was saying and even seemed a little excited about the visit so I tried to convey nothing but positive messages to her so she wouldn't go into it feeling apprehensive. Then, I laid awake every night this week dreading today. Part of being a parent is sometimes, for your child's benefit, jamming your own feelings as far down as they can go and not letting them out. I think this is particularly true for divorced parents.

Grace seemed happy to see my ex this morning when he picked her up, but I noticed a look of panic on her face as I put her in his car. I swallowed hard and smiled and told her that today was going to be a fun day and that I loved her so much and that Mommy and Aarie would pick her up tonight before bed. She said, "I will be a good girl,"and then they were off.

So, today has been a tough day for me. I found it hard to concentrate at work because my mind would always wander back to Grace and wonder if she is scared or if she is having fun or if she needs me. I called to check on her earlier, and it sounded like things were going ok. I am eagerly watching the clock and waiting for the time to come to go and pick her up.

Sorry, I know this entry really isn't in the spirit of the season. I promise that once I get through today, things will brighten up significantly for me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Day Care versus K4

Well, we have come to that point in Grace's life when it is time to start thinking about her future schooling. Believe it or not, my little girl actually has the nerve to keep growing up, so I might as well face it and try and prepare her the best I can.

When Grace and I moved to Milwaukee to be with Aaron, the initial plan was for the three of us to live in Aaron's house for about a year or so, and when the time came for Grace to start attending kindergarten, we would move out to the 'burbs. Milwaukee Public Schools in general don't have the greatest reputation in the world, so we were planning to move out of the city so Grace could attend a school in a nearby district.

Now that Grace and I have been here for a while and are putting down roots in our neighborhood (which I LOVE), Aaron and I have decided to stay in the city for a while. I have done some research into Milwaukee Public Schools, and yes, like any other large city, there are plenty of schools in our district that I wouldn't dream of allowing Grace to attend. However, there are also an abundance of schools, including our neighborhood schools, that are excellent, award-winning learning centers. I am also fortunate enough to have friends that have both taught in MPS and were MPS students, and I have gotten tons of great information from them about the district and about some of the specific schools in our area.

Grace has been in day care since she was six weeks old because I have needed to work full time. The day care she attends right now is fantastic--Grace absolutely loves it, she's learning tons of stuff, she is coming out of her shell more and more each day, the rates are reasonable, class sizes are small, and it's less than a mile from our home. The center's administrator has a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and 25 years of experience at this facility, and it shows. The curriculum is organized, challenging, and balanced. The children clearly flourish there, and it is apparent that the teachers truly enjoy their work and care for the kids. I couldn't have asked for a better environment for Grace.

I had planned to keep her in this day care until kindergarten, but recently I have been weighing the idea of enrolling her in the K4 program that our neighborhood elementary school offers. The attractive thing about the K4 program is that, starting at age four, there is more exposure to the "academic" side of things and there is a real focus on preparing kids for school. And, our neighborhood elementary school is actually a specialty school, concentrating on Arts and Humanities. Being that Grace is an artsy kid, I think that building on that interest and providing her opportunities to learn more would serve her well. This particular school has received honors from the state for their programs and word of mouth from some of the parents whose younger kids attend Grace's day care along with lots of research tells me that this particular school is one of the best in the district.

The other reason why I am seriously considering enrolling Grace in K4 is a letter we received recently from Grace's day care. In the letter, the administrator clearly states that the center's focus is shifting from a "preschool" type of environment to an "infant, toddler, and older toddler" program. Red flag. It is true that many of the center's families enroll their children in the K4 so there aren't an abundance of four-year-olds in the center (in fact, there are only a handful), and this shift in focus shows me that the center is responding to that fact. I understand where they are coming from--they have to tailor their program to work for the majority of the kids--but I'm more than a little concerned about what will happen to Grace if I keep her in this center next year and she becomes one of the only four-year-olds there. Will she be blended in with the younger kids? Will she continue to be challenged? Will keeping her in this center help to prepare her for kindergarten?

She loves this day care center, and so do I, but I need to weigh these issues. I want Grace to be prepared and to have all of the opportunities that she can to gain knowledge. I also want her to be in an environment where she feels comfortable enough to flourish. Transition has not always been something Grace has handled well...she's like her mommy in that respect. I am touring our neighborhood elementary school the first week in January and enrollment time comes right after that, so I'm going to have to make a decision pretty quickly. Looks like some late nights pacing the floor and doing internet research are in store for me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

She's Definitely My Kid

This pic was taken yesterday while my little one was enjoying a double fudge chocolate cupcake at the cafe inside Barnes and Noble. Mmmm...the only thing that kept me from nabbing a piece of it was the fact that my pants were feeling a bit tight. :-(

Normally, I wouldn't have caved and let her have so much sugar in one sitting, but we had had a long day of shopping and she was remarkably well-behaved all day, so I felt she deserved it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Venting For the Sake of Venting

I have two totally unrelated stories to tell, just because I feel like venting and I am hoping that things look a little brighter for me after I hit "publish post" and move on with my day.

The first story has to do with my upcoming 30th birthday. For the last year or so, I have been looking at this new milestone with some trepidation, not because I think 30 is SO OLD (relax, you over-30 friends, you) but just because I have really enjoyed being in my 20's and would kind of like to stay here. So, my bright idea was to take a trip as a birthday present to myself, to hopefully usher in the next decade of my life with a memorable vacation and get rid of any negative feelings I may have about my birthday. The first thought was taking a trip to Las Vegas, since I've never been there and have been wanting to go for some time.

After some thought, though, I changed my mind on my vacation destination. My grandparents are snowbirds who head down to Green Valley, AZ every winter to escape the seasonal hellhole that we have to endure in Wisconsin. They have been going down there for at least the last fifteen years or so, and I love going to visit them. Now that my grandparents are older and aren't in fantastic health, I see more value in going to see them than going to Vegas. After all, Vegas will be around forever, and unfortunately, my grandparents will not. So, my birthday trip will be to Arizona and I am so excited.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a very fearful flyer. I have flown zillions of times and I used to tolerate it, but a bad experience that I had on a flight, coupled with the horrible images from 9/11 that have been seared into my brain, have left me terrified to fly. Sure, I'll do it, and I did it three times this year, but I am the type that is nervous about it two weeks before the flight and can't truly relax and enjoy a vacation (at least the last day or two) because I am stressing about the return flight home. So, my only concern about my Arizona trip, naturally, is the flight. Last night on my way home from work (see, I am already obsessing and my birthday is over two months away) I came up with a brilliant alternative...road trip.

(Ok, I know, I know. I am far more likely to die in a car accident than a plane crash. Unfortunately, this logic doesn't work in my brain for some reason. I can tell myself that I'm safer on a plane than on any other form of transportation thousands of times...I still don't calm down. I guess I just don't want this stress during my birthday.)

As a kid, I made the cross-country drive to Arizona several times with my parents. It was always a blast and I have tons of great memories from our journeys. I saw this as an opportunity to take one such trip with my new husband and daughter and maybe start a new tradition. Yeah, it's a long ass drive, but there is so much beauty along the way and so many cool places to stop that I think everyone should do it at least once. The journey there and home is part of the excitement. I couldn't wait to tell my hubby about this new plan last night at dinner. I just knew he would be stoked by the idea as well.

He wasn't.

After hearing my presentation, he was silent for a minute and then asked, "Drive to Arizona? You're doing this because you don't want to fly, right?" He then took this opportunity to remind me that our child is a preschooler and then made a very helpful comment about how small my car is. He also told me that we would have to have the brakes fixed before we would go. "Fine", I said--I have to do that anyway. And then he added, "You have been putting off getting your oil changed...when are you going to get your car fixed?" And then he did a quick financial analysis in his head and concluded that flying would be more cost-effective than driving anyway.

At this point I was beyond pissed off. After all, this was the man that had told me over and over "It's your 30th, we will do whatever you want." My hubby is a great guy, the best, but we are newlyweds and thus are butting heads over things like this because we are still finding our way together. And, I realize that perhaps I'm not being the most reasonable here, either. Yes, flying would be much faster and probably a little cheaper than driving (although my Saturn gets great gas mileage). I should probably suck it up and fly, but I don't want to. Not this trip. I want my new family to have our first road trip. I want my daughter to start making all of the great memories I got to make as a kid. And, I'm sorry, but I don't want to spend my whole vacation thinking, "You still have the flight home..." And I know having a three-year-old in the car for hours and hours probably won't be the easiest, but I at least want to give it a shot. I know there will be future vacations where I will have no choice but to fly, like when we go to Mexico or Europe, or even back to Disney. I guess I just wanted to do it differently for this trip.

So, we're stuck. Aaron obviously wants to fly and I am standing my ground, too. It's bugging me. I know disagreements are inevitable in marriage as they are in any relationship, but I wanted my way on this one since it means so much to me. And at the risk of sounding spoiled and whiny, it's my birthday trip, dammit. I'm sure we will eventually reach an agreement on this. It's just getting there that will be the challenge, kind of like the trip to Arizona itself.

The other story has to do with government bureaucracy. I should know better than to get worked up about this, especially being an Army ex-wife and having lived a few years filled with bureaucracy, but I can't help myself.

I have not received my regular child support payment from my ex in over a month. I used to get checks every two weeks like clockwork, but they suddenly stopped coming, and right before the holidays. I'm sure this has to do with the fact that my ex changed jobs some time ago and the state of Wisconsin doesn't know about it. I'm not going into a dissertation about how it's his responsibility to inform them and blah, blah, blah--this isn't the forum to hash that out. What does really irk me is that there is no system of checks and balances in place to prompt the state agencies to SEEK OUT that information to ensure kids get the support they are entitled to. Sure, parents can get tossed in jail after 180 days of non-payment, but what happens in the interim? Isn't there some sort of intermediate form of intervention by the state?

I know some parents go years without any support from their child's other parent, so I feel kind of bad complaining about just one month. It's not like the payments we receive save us from plunging into utter poverty. But, I see this as an injustice to my child, and like any mom, that bothers the hell out of me. That money is used to help pay for her day care expenses and stuff like that.

So, I did all of the things I thought I should do to try and resolve this situation. I made sure the child support agency had our proper address. I signed up for online account access so I could monitor all activity on the account. I updated my phone number. And, I waited.

Today, I finally broke down and did something I didn't want to do, which was call the state about this. I had been hesitant to do this because I know the agency is probably totally swamped and I wanted to make sure I let some time pass in case my ex had in fact informed them of his change of employer and they were just a little backlogged. Something similar to this happened when we started receiving support, and after a couple of weeks, things worked themselves out. I was hoping the same thing would happen this time.

After waiting on hold for an eternity with the child support agency, I finally talked to a live person. Armed with social security numbers, case numbers, and all of the information I could find, I explained the situation. Obviously the agent had heard this story a million times before, because she cut me off before I could finish and told me with a high degree of annoyance in her tone that they can't do anything for me until my ex reports his income changes. I asked her if there was something I could do, and she answered with an emphatic, "No." And then she asked me if I needed anything else and hung up.

Ugh, ugh, UGH! I feel really bad for those poor single moms or dads who desperately rely on this income to feed and clothe their children. One month of missed payments could be devastating to them.

I realize that it would be a huge undertaking to go after every single parent who misses a child support payment. I'm sure the funding simply is not's being redirected at other productive and helpful things, like funding an endless war and finding ways to deny that there is such a thing as global warming. But, I can't force my ex to call the state to report his changes to get the process going again, so there is nothing I can do right now except wait. And, waiting is something that I am simply not good at.

I'm about to hit "publish post". We'll see how I am feeling in a few minutes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Child Prodigy

Tonight, Aaron, Grace, and I had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Cafe Lulu, and while we were enjoying some tasty dessert at the ice cream shop across the street*, Grace decided she wanted to assume the role of Santa Claus for awhile. Here is how the conversation went:

Grace: What do you want for Christmas, Aarie?

Aaron: Hmmm...Mama. (He was trying to claw his way out of the doghouse.)

Grace: You can't have Mama for Christmas.

Aaron: Why?

Grace: Because mama is not a toy.

What an excellent answer!

This also makes me a little nervous that Gracie thinks that all of her Christmas presents are going to be toys. She may not be as excited as I am about the princess shirt I bought her at the Disney Store.

*I couldn't mention the ice cream shop without mentioning the heavenly eggnog ice cream that I enjoyed there. Mmmmmm...and I also love the fact that in their blurb about nutrition facts, they tell the guilt-ridden consumer that the ice cream is not fat free and if you want healthy, you should eat a carrot. My kind of peeps.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Snow Day

Today was a wintery, messy day in Milwaukee. In addition to the three or so inches of snow that fell, sleet and freezing rain came down on us as well, creating some very hazardous driving conditions. When I clicked on the morning news this morning, I found that nearly all of the school districts in the area were announcing closures and many local businesses were following suit. Grace's day care was one of the few in the area that remained open, and since I work at the hospital and sickness doesn't know (or care) that the roads are icy, we ventured out into the nastiness. Aaron's company was open so he had to report to work, too.

I was a little bummed that we didn't get to take part in the snow day today. I remember having plenty of sick days as I was growing up. I always knew that school would be closed when I woke up in the morning and could hear my dad outside, clearing the driveway with the snowblower before he left for work. Those days were wonderful, especially as I got older. My parents always had to work despite the cruddy weather, so my younger sister and I were left at home to sleep in, watch The Price is Right and soap operas, and lounge around in our jammies all day. It was like a special, unexpected vacation, right in the middle of the school year. Good stuff.

So, memories like that were on my mind as I slowly made the drive in to work this morning, trying desperately not to skid into the cars in front of me on the highway. I thought of how nice it would be to be stranded at home with my little family, eating Christmas cookies and watching movies all day long.

The weather continued to worsen as the day wore on, and the doctors at the hospital were hurrying from appointment to appointment to get everyone out and home before things got really bad. I found that my last appointment ended a full hour before it was supposed to, so I headed home early. As I was getting ready to leave, I got a call from Aaron, telling me that his office was closing early and that he would swing by to pick up Grace from day care early.

So, I got my snow day after all. All three of us were home much earlier than usual, and soon after we all arrived, we were curled up on the couch, snug and warm, watching Gracie's new favorite movie, Ratatouille, and relaxing together. This snow day was even better than the ones I remember from my youth.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I am going to start calling my mom from now on when I need insight into myself.

I have been feeling kind of down lately and was having some trouble putting my finger on what the problem was. After all, I am happily married and a mom, and I am finally working in a job that I really love. So, last night, when I was chatting with my mom on the phone, I mentioned to her that I have been feeling...something...but couldn't figure out what it was or why I was feeling it. My mom, as always, had the answer for me. My life is normal now, and I'm not used to that. She hit the proverbial nail on the head.

My life over the past several years has been quite turbulent. In 2001, I made a life-changing decision to pick up and move to Texas, across the country and away from my family, to give my relationship with my then-boyfriend a chance. We ended up getting married, and a few short months after that, my ex was diagnosed with brain cancer. Our lives became a flurry of doctor's appointments, chemotherapy sessions, surgeries, and long nights in the hospital. I had to quit my job to care for him, so my life no longer looked at all how I had anticipated it would just months before. I remember looking around at my neighbors during this time and thinking that their lives seemed so NORMAL--they were going about their days, working, grocery shopping, eating out, and here I was, with my world falling apart.

Over the months of chemo and radiation that I went through with my ex, I noticed him slowly slipping away from me. Physically he was still there and was in remission, but mentally, he was no longer the man I married. His personality changed completely. I started to lose the ability to connect with him and the worst part of it was that is was not his fault. He had been taken away from me, not by the cancer, but because of the treatment he received to his brain. And, I was turning into a new person. I became angry, resentful, and anxious about everything.

Around this time, my ex and I moved home to Wisconsin and decided to try and have a baby. Because of the chemo he received, my ex was infertile, so we decided to try donor insemination. I got pregnant on the first try, and I was overjoyed for the first time in a long time. I was going to be bringing another person into this world. My life became consumed with nurturing and caring for this new life inside me, and I was so wrapped up in it all that I didn't notice my marriage failing. By the time my daughter was born, my marriage was all but in shambles. I put on a happy face and tried to make us into a family, but it was all for naught. My ex was used to being cared for, and he couldn't handle the fact that I had another person to care for now. He didn't want to care for Grace, so I had to do it all myself. And, he had to undergo yet another round of radiation due to a relapse of his cancer, and the treatment this time took even more of him away than the first round. There just came a point when we didn't know each other anymore, and so we split up. I can look back on it now and I see it as such a sad story...but it was what we were given, and we had to deal with it how we thought we should.

So, I became a single mother with a very young child. I had to move in with my parents for a time, so I could get myself on my feet. My ex and I had tons of debt from medical bills and I had to find a way to pick up the pieces and start to build a new life for Grace and me. I had a full time job, a college education, and an extremely supportive family on my side, so I think I started out a lot better off than a lot of single moms. I would be lying if I said it wasn't hard, though, because it was. There were plenty of nights that I stayed up wondering how Gracie and I were ever going to be able to keep our heads above the water.

When I met Aaron, I was not looking for a serious relationship. My sister set the two of us up, and from the moment he and I began exchanging emails, I knew he was different from the rest of the men in the world. Meeting him for the first time confirmed that--he didn't seem to mind the fact that I was a single mom of a toddler and lived 90 miles away from him. He seemed to look past all that and see me for ME, and he helped me to remember who I was. Before long, I found myself falling in love in spite of myself, and Aar and I decided to make a serious attempt at a long-distance relationship. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, here I am, remarried, living in a great house in a great city, enjoying being a mom of a fantastic kid, working at a job in interpreting that I love. I couldn't understand why I have been feeling so down lately. What do I have to be depressed about??

It took my mom's comments to make me realize I'm not depressed, really. What I think I am feeling is a transition to normalcy. I finally have the life that I have always wanted...a nice, predictable, white picket fence life...and I'm finding that I have to adjust to this life. I can let myself relax and not worry what is coming up around the bend. I don't have to anticipate the worst anymore. Instead of being in overdrive all the time, I can let the gears slow down and coast along every now and then. I'm just not used to this, and I need some time to adjust. I think this is the odd feeling I have been having...I am adjusting.

Before my mom and I hung up last night, she said to me, "Normal is good. Go and pick out your Christmas tree this weekend with your family. Everything is going to be ok." Who knew my mom was so wise?

Oh, and my heart is going to be fine. Just a leaky valve, and a very minor leak at that...nothing to worry about.