Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Hobbit Day!

Cameron's college roommate from, oh, about 30 years ago, remains a huge part of our lives. Today she and her husband are taking us to see The Hobbit for Christmas! While I am thrilled, Cameron is beyond ecstatic. He was up early this morning, showered, and garbed in his new Hobbit t-shirt before I was even completely awake...and I'm normally the early morning person.

Oh course, getting up early was inhibited by the third week of recovery from the flu, and from the 10 hour adventure yesterday of installing a new TV in the bedroom. Our company gave us a Christmas bonus Friday. Cameron had already been looking, leaving a sticky trail of drool across every TV in the store. The folks at Best Buy were very helpful, but we all underestimated the challenge of hanging a TV in a 30 year old mobile home.

The adventure began at 10 in the morning and ended with three trips to Home Depot and mostly finishing about 8 at night. We had to move furniture, discard the 14 year old monstrosity that had stopped working, move art, and rearrange the entire room. The adventure spilled into the living room as well, as Cameron's God and Goddess painting had to be moved, which required even more shifting of art and furniture.

At last we were ready to and the new bracket. Uh...we forgot to take into account that the 2 1/2 screws that secure the mount for the TV will poke through a 2 inch trailer stud. Yeah...Home Depot. Several times. Brainstorming, a patient sales clerk with an idea for a brace that will hid behind the painting....well, you get the idea.

So we finally get done and Cameron plugs in Lord of the Rings...and I fell asleep!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Marine

I've written before about my son, who was, is, a Marine. Once a marine always a marine, regardless of being on active service. My son was born angry. He was a colicky, difficult baby. I was a very young mother with no clue as to how to care for an infant. I married a man not his father for a home and security. We put his name on the birth certificate. It was not a good situation.

Nevertheless, I loved my cotton top child. His younger brother came along three years later with exactly the opposite temperament. A year later, I divorced their father and began a very difficult journey with a great many side turns and challenges. Their father provided stability. I provided a different way to look at the world. I missed visitation twice in their lives. Once when I was too ill to travel and once when I was snowed in and the police wouldn't allow anyone on the holidays.

I eventually went to college and traded my GED for an Bachelor's degree and grad school. Their father remarried. He didn't approve of my life style. He didn't understand my drive for education. Or my inability to fit into the world we inhabited. He didn't like my parents and thought them to be a poor influence on his children. My mother is schizophrenic and he had little interest in understanding mental illness. And he passed many of his attitudes to my eldest son, right down to condemning my later religious path, sexual orientation and number of cats.

Put that on the back burner.

The Marine now has three children of his own. I held Belle once, when his attitude relented briefly. For a few months before being stationed in Iraq my son included us in his life. He told Cameron that he loved her. He told me he would never cut me off, saying, "I'll never do that to you again."  I knew it was a lie. The one time we saw Belle, my tears rained, because I knew we would never see her again.

For a few years The Marine's wife posted pictures on FaceBook and Piccasa. I regularly tortured myself with photos. When their son was born, fewer pictures were posted. They stopped all together when the third child was born. I'm assuming from FaceBook comments that The Marine preferred my access to be cut off. My daughter-in-law still "friends" me on FaceBook; my son never has. But it became apparent my "friendship" with her was causing difficultly in her marriage, I stopped contacting her.

The other day I was on my younger son's FaceBook. A comment there led to The Marine's Halloween photo of himself, and the comments were public. As was the disrespecting comment to the LGBT community. Sigh.

Put that on the back burner.

I spent 14 years of my children't lives planning, preparing, dreaming of regaining custody. When I finally got joint custody I was also, unfortunately, in the end of a very dangerous, very damaging marriage to a psychopath. So my children didn't get the best of me when  they finally lived with me full time. I immediately plunged into another relationship because I couldn't keep custody without a second paycheck. I look at those four years I had the boys with such a mixture of joy and sadness. I wanted my sons to see another world besides the narrow minded world they came from. They attended ritual with me. My youngest even chose to study the wiccan path for a time. My eldest was horrified, in a quite condemning kind of a way.

Get a small side dish.

Cameron was at one of those gatherings with my children, and spent a long afternoon talking with Marine. They share a strong Christian background. At the time, Cameron had just begun his journey into a dual path. And Cameron can quote scripture with the best of them. For a while it seemed Marine had found a balance and respect for other's beliefs. But when he choose to return to his father's home to finish his last year of high school, he stopped speaking to me. I later heard about the very harsh paper he wrote for an English class about, "My Mother the Witch."

Stir it all together.

I t is truly one of life's greatest ironies that in my fourth decade of life I found my path and left behind abusive, damaging relationships. By all rights, I should be dead several times over. On the streets of Atlanta. At the hands of my biological sperm donor. At the hands of several ex-husbands. Then in my fourth decade I fell in love with Cameron. I followed him to this state and we created a world of love and stability. I went back to school. I became a therapist. I repaired my damaged relationship with my parents. I bought my very modest home and put down roots. And those very choices have cost me my grandchildren. Today my heart grieves.

One of the hardest part of this grief over the loss of my son and his children is other people's comments. The placating tones of someone's "Blood is thicker than water" or "One day he will realize" sets my teeth on edge. My study of family systems has taught me that one parent can replace another, just as my own adopted father has replaced my evil sperm donor. Marine has a lovely step-mother who is loving, yet as narrow minded as his father and himself. There's no room for me. The safety of Marine's narrow minded world requires him to be closed off from me, my liberal ideas, my religion, my sexual identity, and my 23 cats. (Once when he was a teen, I became so exasperated my a comment he made about my 13 cats, I told him to pick which ones he wanted to take to the pound. He dropped the subject.)

Of course I believe in miracles. Of course I send love and light to the grandchildren daily. But as the days tick by, does the possibilities of that day. For many years I comforted myself with the possibility of change. Of the grandchildren growing up and one day find me. Indeed, I believe that something new might one day be created, but that the past cannot be recreated.

I grieve my son and grandchildren as though they are dead. There is no relationship to connect us. If by some miracle, I began a relationship with Bella now, we've missed a lot of history. I haven't seen her grow up. I've never heard her call me grandma. The other two children have even less reality as I've not held them, seen them, known them for even a moment. Grief becomes a familiar companion, one easier to live with as years wear on, but constant.  Eventually it simply becomes part of your identity.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The long journey: I have earned my License in Marriage and Family Therapy

Almost seven years ago I took my first classes in Pastoral Counseling and in Family Systems. I was working as a debt collector at a check collecting agency (now out of business; thank you Mitt Romney). They had tuition reimbursement, making the possibility of going back to school a reality. I knew I wanted some sort of counseling program, stumbled on the Converse College website, and knew what I needed to do.

It's been a tough journey. Long days and longer nights. Job changes. Getting up at 3:30 in the morning to go to work, seeing clients in the afternoons and taking classes at night. Going to bed at 9:30 and getting up the next morning to do the same. I finished classes, passed the licensure exam on the first attempt, and completed my internship/supervision at Safe Homes Rape Crisis Coalition. It has been a journey of personal and professional development. And unlike many of my peers, I have a job in my field, even if I am still getting up at 3:30 in the morning.

As of this past weekend, I completed all requirements and have now been fully licensed. I don't have immediate plans to change jobs and discard the oddball hours. Jobs in the counseling/therapy field a few and hard to come by. I've been "promoted" to the supervisory committee at work (meaning I can sign off on treatment plans) and was rewarded with a modest pay raise, which is more than my peers working for the state.

And here I am exhausted. I look forward to the winter months for healing, sleep, recovery. Come spring, I look forward to exploring the beginnings of the next journey. The seminary at Chapel Hill has a M.Div program that I am seriously considering. I think I want to start gently, though. They also have a class on Pagan Elders that focuses on Starhawk that is not toward a degree. I want to start there. I may have found my way professionally, but my spiritual life needs some serious nurturing.

I was also fascinated to see they have a degree in Pastoral Counseling for pagan; it's systemic. It looks like they borrowed heavily from the family systems world that I have already trained in. That is awesome. It looks like a place I will fit into nicely.