Monday, July 6, 2015

Disconnecting and Staring Your Loved Ones in the Face

Today I am doing the unthinkable for this vacation. I am using a computer and writing a blog. This week with my extended family is all about not connecting digitally and reconnecting with the age-old forgotten tradition of conversing with one another, without constantly checking down to see if somebody else has sent us a text. It's fantastic to see my 19 and 20 year old cousins intentionally leaving their phones in their rooms, even though this old house now has Wifi. Everybody here wants the excuse to disconnect, and I find that so awesome I had to reconnect just to tell you about it.

As I sit in this spot on the big covered porch staring out at the rippling lake my kids have Uno cards spread out in front of them, uncles are reading the newspaper, others are doing a jigsaw puzzle inside. Later today we will convene on the lawn for the Hartshorne Family Olympics, a yearly tradition that involves old and young chasing each other down in capture-the-flag, water balloon tossing, and egg-on-spoon races.

I can't believe that I don't make it a priority to disconnect this way in my regular life. Perhaps, like everyone else, I just get too caught up in the daily digital age, and staring at the screen most of my day becomes scarily normal. I love a week up here in the mountains to remind me to log off, shut it down, and get a good look at the faces of the people around me. I am hoping this year that it lasts more than week.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Summer Time Frenzy

Last night I had my first good night's sleep in what has felt like forever. Working nights screws you up so badly that it's hard for your body to figure out what to do when it's dark, and I spend many nights staring at the ceiling, the anxiety of knowing that I will be tired the next day chasing around my circulating thoughts. So I had a couple of nights at work this week, then a couple of those nights, and then last night exhaustion got the better of me and I slept like a baby, sausaged in the bed with both kids. Whatever it takes, as all mothers know, whatever it takes.

The kids had camp this week. Sofie loved hers but Nathan hated soccer camp. Mean guy in charge spent the whole day yelling at them and made several kids (my son included) cry. Kind of a downer when you spend a bijillion dollars finding the perfect situation for your kids. I guess better luck next time for us. Hopefully sleepover camp later in the summer will prove to be more of a joy. One can only hope.

Camp is simultaneously glorious and hideous for me. Do other parents feel this summer time frenzy? I am delighted that they have somewhere to expend all that energy, run and play with friends, and counselors to manage their needs all day. On the other hand, it's another thing to set my alarm for, make the lunches, don't forget to pack the towel, fill the water bottles, rush out the door and have them deposited in two completely different locations at almost the exact same time, only to turn around and retrieve them in their utterly exhausted state six hours later, bring them home and keep them from killing each other while I stare at the fridge, bleary-eyed from working all night, and try to figure out which of these left overs could become tonight's dinner. Is this easier than lying around all day and trying to nap in between Garfield episodes? The jury is still out.

I am trying to be the good single mother who can make it all happen, keep my kids lives fulfilled without losing her mind, but as any mother who tries to pull this off will probably tell you (unless she is either totally lying or smoking crack) sometimes it's not worth the heartache. I think camp is necessary for some of my sanity this summer, if I am able to catch even a couple of hours to myself to keep ahead of the terrible mess building up in the house, or pay my bills, or even (gulp!) go for a quick run, I feel like a hero. But apparently (and this is a shocker) sending them to camp is not going to be the answer to finding my inner calm.

Tomorrow we head to our undisclosed Pennsylvania mountain location for a week with my wonderful extended family. Lounging by the lake, long walks, and cocktails and novels on the porch await. Now there is some inner calm channeling calling my name. So ready.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Young Poets

Today I attended a poetry slam in my son's fourth grade class. All the kids stood up and read poems that they had carefully crafted, each one more beautiful than the last. The best were the kids' "I am from" poems, where they told about all of the things that make them who they are. It's amazing what kids will pick out of their own lives that they feel shape them. My son had some beautiful lines, mixed in with some totally invented ones about fracturing a rib while doing some athletic event and waking up in the hospital (no, this never happened). He makes shit up, wonder where he gets that?

His teacher also asked the parents to write a poem for their children that she would keep a surprise. She then read them out loud to the class and each kid had to guess which poem was for them. Nate was pretty adorable when she read mine, total embarrassment mixed with delight. So super cute. I totally cried. I am not a poet by any stretch of the imagination but here's my poem for my boy:

Mother’s Day Gift

He came to us on Mother’s Day,
His big brown eyes took my breath away,
A beautiful baby I could only dream of,
One quick glance and I knew it was love.

At first his breathing wasn’t right,
In the ICU he spent his first night,
But soon I held him in my arms,
And first was weakened by his charms.

He holds my heart tight in his hands,
Even now with all his demands,
X-box, iPad, and TV,
Sleepovers, junk food, play dates please?

Now as my boy turns to a man,
And grows up as fast as he possibly can,
I love him and I tell him so,
He takes my heart with him wherever he goes.

My boy that came on Mother’s Day,
Is the greatest gift that I could say,
I’ll take his anger, spunk, and joy,
For me there is no other boy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Three Dreaded Letters: AMA

This week I celebrated my birthday, or I should actually say, I tried to avoid celebrating it. I don't know exactly what it was about turning 35 that really depressed me, but it got me good. Maybe it was the chipper young gal at work who exclaimed "Oh! You're now AMA (advanced maternal age)!" I almost punched her. Almost. Maybe it's the life filled with turmoil and change that makes getting older more depressing, or maybe it was that I spent the weekend in New York with my best friend having a wonderful time talking about crown molding and falling asleep at 10:30 (which was a really awesome weekend, I am just very aware that it is a new phase for those of us who have always torn the town up). All of these things are fine, but on the actual day together they felt like a ton of bricks smashing me in the face.

Everyone I know who is older than 35, of course, is very busy telling me how young I am. Well, sure, that's easy for you to say, but the reality is that this is the youngest I'll ever be again, right this second, and man that shit's scary. Also I'm rolling into 35 newly single after a long time, with a plate full of responsibilities and a strong desire to run away and hide my head in the sand. Good times all around. On the upside I know that I have an unusual amount of amazing people in my life, and I am probably one of the luckiest people alive in that respect. I also am blessed to have a job I love, and kids who rock, so it's really not so bad. I'm just hoping that next year I get my birthday mojo back and can celebrate in true Kate fashion. 36, nothing scary about that!

Monday, May 25, 2015


Adjusting. That's what this phase of my life is all about. For me, for my children, for all of us. We are all trying to pick through the pieces of a marriage that could not be salvaged.

My marriage ended almost three months ago and, as anyone who has experienced divorce can attest, that life change has brought about just about every recognizable emotion known to man. I'm sure the gauntlet of emotions has not been completely run, but I have certainly had enough feelings to last me a lifetime. I have wished many times for a fast-forward button to skip ahead six months to the place where the feelings have dulled a bit, where life has balanced out somewhat and the adjusting has happened, but no one is giving me that button. Crap.

Yesterday I threw my son a belated birthday party. In typical fashion, we had a barbecue, invited some lovely friends and some rowdy ten year old boys, and made some food and drinks. Nothing fancy. It was my first attempt at hosting as a single mother and let me just say that I am in no rush to do it again. My friends are all lovely and there was lots of help, but the underlying reality of being the only one ultimately responsible for the whole scene really stressed me out. I think it was more the emotion of being the only one that made me anxious and edgy, as opposed to the actual work involved, but it was not a great feeling. Today I feel the lingering pulse of anxiety coursing through my veins as I lay low with the kids. It's interesting what will set you off and make you feel this way, because up until now I have been managing the solo gig pretty well.

I think my new reality will involve less hosting. More focusing on finding the calm and less about the action. I feel like there is a lot of internal pressure on myself to continue our lives just as they were, but the reality is that everything has changed, and the adjusting cannot really begin until I accept that truth. Breaking up is totally not a good time, especially when kids are involved, but there is a palpable relief that has accompanied this experience that I cannot ignore. This is the right choice for me, the only choice, and we will keep adjusting, no matter how rocky that road may be.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Tropical Storm Katia

Today I have been a tropical storm of emotions. I was awake much of the night, plagued with anxiety and overwhelming sadness of that which I cannot fix. It's hard to imagine being sad and anxious in such amazing surrounding, but I have so much of my heart wrapped up in this place that it's hard not to know how to feel sometimes. I love this country so much, it has beauty beyond belief, and intense poverty in equal amounts.

Our friends joined us two days ago from my long time stomping ground of San Cristobal, a terribly impoverished city in the south of the DR. The two girls, Sindy and Yari, now ages 21 and 16, were daughters to me and my friend Jane for many years, but over time it became complicated, and we had to let those relationships go in order to forage ahead with our own lives. Cristian, Jane's old boyfriend and longtime admirer and much like a brother to me, is also here with his adorable (but emaciated) 8 year old daughter. It is both wonderful and terrible to see them. I love to have them here, but I wish they would go away so I don't have to think about how much they don't have, and how nothing I could ever do for them could ever be enough.

It is an emotional roller coaster, to say the least, enhanced by the fact that I DO NOT want to leave here in two days. I am not sure if I will ever be ready to come back. I woke up this morning weepy and wracked with anxiety and guilt that is almost impossible to fully explain. Guilt for having left these beautiful girls 12 years ago and not returning, and guilt for the fact that I have to leave them again, and I cannot really ever be their mother.

I am somewhat better now, if not extremely exhausted from the emotion of the day. Our San Cristobal friends go home tomorrow, and then we will have one more day to decompress in the sun before boarding our flight home (sob!) and hopefully seeking solace in our familiar cozy beds.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Paradise Found

Yep, paradise alright. Complete and total. And I must add that it wasn't hard to find. We have moved  on to the actual vacation part of our trip and a vacation it sure is. The house we rented was sight unseen, and could have been anything, but turned out to be an a perfect, incredible, heaven, and very cheap by our American standards. The rooms are palatial, as is the patio and pool area. I can't imagine ever leaving this amazing place, and I am beyond happy that we decided to stay for ten days of miserable New England winter. I find myself having visions of leaving my life behind and relocating to the tropics, which of course is very dreamy and romantic when one is vacationing in paradise, and probably a lot more work in real life.

People are always asking me why I spend so much of my life vacation planning, but here it is. I am right where I want to be, tanned and happy, with bachata playing on the stereo and a pina colada in the blender, and it didn't cost me and arm and a leg, or really more than a fraction of what most Americans pay to go to Disney World. (And I don't have to spend my days at a theme park wearing Mickey Mouse ears). I'm glad we spent so much time in the hot, dirty countryside at my mother-in-law's house enjoying the people and feeling crowded so that we could come here, spread out, and feel incredibly fortunate. Makes it even better than coming straight from home.

My mother-in-law, Erma, has been staying with us, and will do so until tomorrow, when some old and dear friends are coming from San Cristobal, the town I first loved here in the DR. Erma has done remarkably well here, considering she is so out of her element and, much like her son, doesn't particularly like to leave her house. She spends our beach days at my brother-in-law's house, claiming she is allergic to the ocean, and we pick her up on the way home so she can make a Dominican dinner as she likes to. Today we are all home by the pool, and thinking about some grilled chicken for lunch. I am not-so-secretly scheming about ways to make my life here, we'll see how that works out, I'll keep you all posted.