the big 4-0

This past Saturday, I turned 40. I don’t typically make a big fuss about my birthday, but it’s one of those milestone ages that felt fairly significant. And for whatever reason, I just felt really sad about it. The rational part of my brain knew I was being silly: aging is part of life, right? This is how it goes. Either I turn 40 or I drop dead at 39, and the latter didn’t sound like a good option. But still, there was part of me that felt sad in a “damn, I feel old and this sucks” way.

A decade is a really long time, but still, I was thinking about how much my life changed during my 30s, and it sort of shocked me. When I turned 30, I had only been married a few months, I had no kids, and I was still living in Seattle. I’m pretty sure that if you told me that by the time I turned 40, I’d be divorced, have two daughters, be in a different-but-ultimately-much-happier relationship, live in North Carolina, with my parents less than 2 miles away (and that this wouldn’t make me insane, but that I’d actually be incredibly happy and grateful to have them so close), and that I’d own a dog, I’d have thought you were nuts. When Chris and I were talking about it and I was listing all of the things that are different now, I could only think of two things my life at 30 has in common with my life at 40: I still have Beaumont (but he wasn’t even my cat back then! He was Dave’s cat, and I just happened to retain custody of him after the divorce), and I still have the Subaru I bought when I was 25.

Speaking of my Subaru! I didn’t have the kids over the weekend, so for my birthday celebration, Chris and I went to test drive cars. Random, I know. But Chris’s Nissan is basically dead (it’s 16 years old and has over 300K miles; it needs repairs that cost double what the car is worth), and I’ve been wanting a bigger car with third row seating for a long time now. Since I’m in a better position to take on a car payment than he is, we decided that he’ll pay me the trade-in value for my Subaru (which is not a lot – Subarus are great and it still runs like a champ, but it’s a pretty old car), I’ll sign the title over to him, and then I’ll get a new car.

Test driving cars was a pretty fun way to spend the day, and it distracted me out of my little “black cloud” mood. Afterward, we went out for dinner at one of my favorite Italian places. Chris came up with the idea that instead of having cake, we could drive to downtown Raleigh to get fresh Krispy Kreme donuts for my birthday, which sounded awesome to me. We got extra for my parents, to thank them for dog-sitting Roxie all day while we were out. (My dad is pretty much in love with Roxie, so he doesn’t seem to mind when I ask him keep her.) On the drive back, Dave texted that the girls were upset about not seeing me on my birthday, so we did a quick FaceTime chat, which was really sweet.

On Monday, I got the girls back, so we went to my parents’ house, and did the actual cake and “happy birthday” song and all of that. And Chris gave me tulips, because he’s good at that kind of thing.

I didn't have the girls this weekend on my actual birthday, so we did cake tonight at my parents' house.

And now, a few days into this whole 40 thing, I feel ok about it. I mean, I’m not thrilled about the prospect of getting old, but I did a whole hell of a lot in my 30s. I’m kind of interested to see what the next decade has in store for me.

winter weather, week 2

The crazy snow/ice stuff we’ve been having lately has resulted in this: Catie has been in school for 1 half-day in the past 2 weeks. Last Monday – 11 days ago – the schools had an early release day because of inclement weather. It was closed the next 4 days. School was open this past Monday, but Catie was sick, so Dave kept her home with him. School has been closed due to weather every day since then.

One half-day out of 10 school days. That seems insane. But, same as last week: Dave and I are juggling the childcare stuff back and forth, daycare has been open a few days this week (which has helped significantly because they have a school-age program for kids on break, so Catie can go there too), and generally, we’re fine.

I mean, of course it’s always frustrating to have your routine thrown off, but compared to a lot of people, I don’t have much to complain about. Our power stayed on, and nobody has been sick (other than the colds we all get this time of year), so it’s been ok.

Catie likes an audience when she plays Wizard 101 on my laptop. (And yes, they're both sitting on Chris's lap. Again.)
(Side note: I hate the wallpaper in my office, which is why it’s covered in kid artwork. If this house wasn’t a rental, I would tear it down so fast.)


I will admit, however, that I am not at the top of my parenting game when the kids are home while I’m trying to work. They get way more screen time than they should, because it’s the easiest way to keep them quiet and happy so I can concentrate. Catie has played more hours of Minecraft this week than I can count, and Lucy’s new obsession is the movie “Aladdin,” which she probably watched at least 20 times.

And I mean, on the scale of annoying Disney movies, there are far worse options than “Aladdin.” Robin Williams as the Genie is pretty brilliant. But good lord, if I ever get the song “A Whole New World” out of my head, I will dance for joy. I would rather hear “Let It Go” all day than that song.

At least she’s moved on from her brief “Snow White” obsession, though. I had forgotten how high-pitched and screechy Snow White’s voice is. That movie was going to break me sooner than later.


On one of our recent snow days, the kids were starting to get restless and whiny, so I suggested we do a Family Movie Night. I know, I know, more screen time, just what they need, but we were stuck in the house and I was dead from working all day.

We got “Big Hero 6” on pay-per-view, since none of us had seen it. Lucy was bored because there’s no princesses and no singing, so it wasn’t her type of movie. Catie liked it, even though it made her cry. And Chris and I both really enjoyed it, probably more than the kids.

I will say, my favorite thing about the movie was that there were two nerdy, science-loving girls who were totally badass and just as tough as the boys, and I kind of want to make Catie re-watch the movie every day just to reinforce that message. For a kid who already thinks of herself as weird for not liking “girl stuff,” I don’t think she can see that too much.


Random and off-topic, but since I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time around my kids lately:

My favorite recent Lucy-ism is when something bothers her, she says, “it makes me annoying!”

Also, anything that happened in the past is “last earlier.” As in, “We went to the mall last earlier.” It could’ve been yesterday, could’ve been something that happened a year ago. It’s all last earlier. I have no idea where she got that, but I’ve heard it so many times that it kind of makes sense to me.


While this winter weather break has been manageable, I would really like some warmer temps right about now. Not just because my work productivity plummets when the kids are home or because I’m worried about all the school they’re missing, but also because I am tired of running on my treadmill since the sidewalks and greenways are all covered in ice. A little nature would be nice. Hopefully it’ll be back soon.

39 and change

This past Friday was my birthday, I’m now 39. Which is only notable because it’s the last birthday where I can say I’m in my thirties, and the Big 40 Milestone is looming next year. (I’m actually not all that fazed about turning 40, but give me another 11 months or so and maybe I will be.)

This was my weekend to have the kids, so Chris and I went out to dinner on Thursday, the night before my birthday. This is how I’ve changed in middle age – I have no desire for more stuff in my life, so I don’t really care about gifts. But a really nice meal that I don’t have to cook? Yes, please.

(For the local people: we went to Dean’s. Every single thing we ate was delicious. Highly recommend.)

Funny thing, Chris was about an hour late getting home, and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be worried or annoyed. When he finally got to the house, I found out that he’d been going from one store to another trying to find tulips, because he knows they’re my favorite flower. And it’s pretty hard to find tulips in January, since they normally bloom in the spring. But he persevered.

Birthday flowers the night before my birthday. He's good. (I am also cracking up that the florist lady wrote "2 lips" on his order instead of "tulips.")

I told him that while I appreciated his thoughtfulness (he remembered my favorite flower! That’s very sweet!), he really didn’t need to go to all that trouble. Leave the tulips for Mother’s Day, and just get whatever for my birthday. I’m pretty excited when anyone gives me flowers, it doesn’t really matter what type.

(Except lilies. I think they smell like rotting garbage. They’re pretty to look at from a distance, but I don’t want them in my house.)


Friday, my actual birthday, was… less great.

Backstory: Catie’s birthday is 11 days after mine. She decided this year that she wants to have a small birthday party at our house – just her cousins and a couple of friends from school. I am completely ok with this idea, as is my checking account.

But! She also decided that she doesn’t want a grocery store sheet cake (she says they make her stomach hurt, which… ok yeah, that’s legit). She says she wants a strawberry cake with vanilla frosting.

Keep in mind that while I am pretty good with basic entrees and side dishes, baking is not my thing at all. I’ve successfully made a loaf of banana bread, but that’s about it. I don’t even own cake pans, the only cakes I’ve ever made were a straight-up box mix dumped into a 9×13 casserole dish.

So! I scour the Internet (well, ok, I asked on Twitter and a bunch of my friends sent me links) for recipes, and I asked my mom to dig through the box of my Grandmother’s recipes. My Grandmother made the most amazing cakes, and she always made them for our birthdays when we were kids. I remembered there was a strawberry cake that she would make for my sister, because that was her favorite. (My brother and I always asked for her chocolate cake. Which is another recipe I should get from my mom.)

My mom found my Grandmother’s strawberry cake recipe, and it turns out that it’s almost exactly the same as this one on Taste of Home. I also found a pretty basic recipe for vanilla frosting. But since I’ve never done anything like this before, I thought I better get a practice run to make sure I could actually do it, before the day of Catie’s birthday party. So hey, my birthday! Perfect excuse to make a practice cake, right? I bought some cake pans, borrowed my mom’s 10,000 pound KitchenAid standing mixer, and attempted to make a strawberry cake with vanilla frosting.

The actual cake part was fine. I need to buy some wire racks for cooling the layers, because the trays I used made them stick and tear a little (I made the torn side face inward on the layers so it wasn’t obvious). But then, the frosting. The damn frosting. The texture was all wrong, it was like dried-out crumbly Play-Doh, and I couldn’t spread it, and it was starting to tear up the cake, and I just… lost it. I kept thinking that if my Grandmother was here, she’d know what to do, because she was the cake expert, and I wished she was still around to help me.

Basically: a damn birthday cake made me cry.

Then I sucked it up, snapped a picture of it with my phone, posted it on Twitter, and asked for help. I got several good ideas – run my spreader knife under hot water to help with the frosting that was already on the cake. And for the remaining frosting, add a few teaspoons of milk and stir like crazy until the texture was more creamy, less crumbly.

birthday cake

I mean, look, I’m not at any risk of ending up on one of those competitive baking shows anytime soon, but I made a cake. With the help of social media, sure, but still. It counts.

When I picked Catie up that evening, I told her about how I’d done this practice cake for her birthday, and I was so excited because it meant that I knew I could make the kind of cake that she wanted. And I don’t know if she was just overtired or if all kids her age are unintentionally cruel, but she just laid into me that it was NOT AT ALL the kind of cake that she wanted, and I was going to ruin her birthday with my stupid cake that was not what she wanted, and why would I do that to her, and and and….

Normally I shut it down pretty fast when my kids are rude, but it had been a long day dealing with this cake thing, and after all that work and effort that I’d put into it? I started to cry. (Again! I cried twice on my birthday! Yay me!) Which made Catie feel bad, so she started crying and apologizing. So, you know, at least she’s capable of showing remorse and isn’t a complete sociopath? I’ll take my silver linings where I can get them.

We made up before we went to get Lucy at daycare, then we went to my parents’ house for dinner.

Birthday cake with my babies. Doesn't get much better than that.

And for the record? That cake was delicious. Not as good as my Grandmother’s, but that’s an impossibly high bar.


The rest of my birthday weekend was nice. The weather has been so unseasonably mild, and we’ve taken advantage of it. Chris hung out with the girls on Saturday morning so I could go for a long run (7 miles! Also, the half marathon is less than 2 months from now! OMG!), and when I got back, he had cooked breakfast for all of us – bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, and French toast. Running for over an hour and then walking into a house that smells like bacon? Aaaaamazing. Later we went to my parents’ house again, so the girls could plant flowers with my mom.

On Sunday, we took their scooters out to the neighborhood greenway. We stopped to check out the ducks and geese at the lake, and went to the playground. That was pretty fun.

Nice day for scootin' on the greenway.

Checking out the ducks and geese at the lake

Aside from the stupid cake stuff (and I still haven’t totally figured out what I’m going to do for Catie’s birthday cake next weekend), 39 has been pretty good so far. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

In which I nearly get hauled off to the pokey

(This title is such a tease. You know I’m WAY too boring to go to jail for anything interesting, right?)

Sometime back in June, I got pulled over on my way to a doctor’s appointment. I was running late, the left turn arrow was already on yellow, and I tailed someone through the intersection even though I knew it’d be red before I could clear the intersection.

Of course, a cop just happened to be there. And he pulled me over.

He was going to let me off with a warning, but then he ran my license, and he found a notice that I had no car insurance, and that he was supposed to take the plates off of my car.

Important side note: I did have insurance. What happened was an overlap with my car insurance when I changed over from a joint policy with my ex-husband to a solo policy by myself. So I was basically double-insured for a while. Then I figured it out, my old joint policy was canceled, and the new policy was in effect. But, hey! Boring-but-critically-important detail: my new insurance company never informed the DMV that they were covering me. Whoops.

Apparently the DMV sends you notices about these types of things when they happen. But the address that they had on file was my old house, not the one I moved into after my separation. And even though I had a forwarding address, for whatever reason, those letters didn’t get forwarded to my new house.

So, yeah, it was basically a giant clusterf**k of miscommunication that led to that Wednesday in June when the cop got a screwdriver out of his trunk and took the license plates off of my car.

I called my insurance company in a panic, they apologized profusely and immediately faxed a letter to the DMV, I drove my plate-less car to the DMV, paid for my new tags, and that was that.

Or so I thought.

I sort of missed one important detail there: the ticket that the cop wrote for my lapsed insurance? Apparently the ticket didn’t disappear once I straightened things out with the DMV. Court system & DMV are two totally different systems. Which I guess I knew, but never really thought about?

There was a court date a couple of weeks ago. Which I missed, because I assumed that there was no reason for me to be there. You know, since I’d paid my fees with the DMV, proven to them that I was sufficiently insured (and always had been), and gotten new license plates.

And all of that boring backstory is what led to this tweet tonight.


I had gotten home with the kids, heated up dinner, and I was in the bathroom taking a much-needed pee break when my doorbell rang. I saw the cop car outside, and… well, my general rule is that I don’t answer the door for strangers, but if a uniformed cop rings your doorbell, YOU ANSWER IT.

He told me that I’d missed my court date and that because of that, there’s a warrant that’s been issued for my arrest. When I started to freak out that I was home alone with my two kids because I’m a single mom, he shook his head and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not taking you anywhere.” (He really was very nice about the whole thing.)

He gave me a card with the number for the district attorney’s office, and told me that I need to call and set up a new court date. He said that if I have proof that my insurance never lapsed & that everything is ok with the DMV, it’ll likely all get dismissed.

Moral of the story: I’m apparently an idiot and need to pay closer attention to fine print. But it’s fine. I’m fine. Not in jail. All is well. Just… that was not exactly what I was expecting for a typical boring Tuesday night in the suburbs.

trying to get off the ledge

Things with Chris have been good. So, so amazingly good. And for some reason, I am completely terrified about this.

I don’t know where this stems from, and I’m trying to figure it out.
* Is it because we crashed and burned on Round One, and I’m afraid of history repeating itself? Could be.
* Is the problem that my new meds haven’t totally kicked in yet and I’m still dealing with a chemical imbalance that causes major anxiety? Entirely possible.
* Is it because one man who promised to love me forever did, in fact, leave me a little over 2 years ago? Probably at least partially.
* Is it rooted in self-worth issues that started when I was a kid and my dad told me I was fat when I was 5 years old? Maybe.
* Is it some mutated DNA strand handed down from my Puritan ancestors who believed that life was just hard work and misery and that nobody deserves to be happy? Hell if I know.

But it brings up this feeling that I call the Doom Cloud. It’s as if there’s a voice in the back of my head telling me that yes, things are good with Chris, but they’re TOO good. I’m too happy. This can’t possibly last, it has to end. At some point the proverbial clock is going to strike midnight and I’m going to turn back into a pumpkin.

So it’s like the anxiety is this weird self-defense mechanism that kicks in to prevent myself from being too happy. I guess my brain’s logic is that maybe then it won’t hurt as much when it all goes south. Which is stupid, because if it ever does come to that, it’s going to hurt like hell. I know that from past experience, and I imagine it’d be worse, because I feel even closer to him now.

The Doom Cloud is basically this black cloud on the horizon that you can’t avoid, you can’t *not* see it, you know it’s coming right at you, and it’s absolutely terrifying.

And the kicker is, he does everything right. He checks in with me every few hours with text messages. He goes out of his way to do nice things for me. On Tuesday night, I was having a hard time, but not really talking to him about it, I was just letting those little demons rattle around in my head. He seemed to somehow know, and he came over after the girls were asleep. We sat on the couch and he held me in his arms and petted my hair and talked to me for over two hours. Or rather, he made me talk about my feelings. Which is something I am still really terrible at doing, but he’s good at dragging it out of me. I didn’t know how much I really and truly needed that time with him until he was actually there.

He tells me he loves me over and over, and I believe him. He says he’s with me because he chose to be with me and he wants to be with me, and I believe him.

Then he tells me that I deserve to be happy and feel loved, and… on some level, I know that’s true, but I just can’t seem to internalize it.

Once, when I was apologizing for all of my neuroses, I said, “You know, your girlfriend may be batshit crazy, but on the up side, she really loves the hell out of you.” He told me that he’s been with many iterations of batshit crazy women, and he can handle my particular brand of crazy since it won’t involve him ending up at the ER at any point. (That’s a long story for another time.)

I told him that I’m terrified that at some point he’s going to get tired of constantly talking me off the ledge, and he’s going to decide I’m not worth the effort anymore.

He said, “I don’t know. Once you come off the ledge, you’re pretty damn fun.”

I’m trying, y’all. I’m trying to ignore the Doom Cloud. I’m trying to spend more time off the ledge than on it. I’m trying to just relax and soak it all in and be happy. I just didn’t expect it to be this damn hard.

digging my way out

Following up on that last post. I am… Well. Not better, necessarily, but ok.

I saw a psychiatrist. She’s weaning me off Lexapro, and switching me to a different anti-depressant (something called Viibryd, which I’ve never heard of, but allegedly it’s supposed to target anxiety, so: BINGO). And she also put me on a mood stabilizer, which sounds great (moods! stabilized!), but apparently it takes several weeks before I’ll start noticing that one.

Coming off Lexapro, btw, is pretty horrible. I’m dizzy and nauseated all the time. It’s like constantly having a case of motion sickness combined with the first trimester of pregnancy. No fun at all. But I think (I hope) that I’m past the worst of it now.

The doctor also told me that I need to work on establishing more boundaries in my life. Since I work from home most of the time, and then the kids are here, I don’t get out of the house often enough, and I need to work on making that happen. So I’m trying.

I saw my hairdresser yesterday, who I adore. I told her I wanted to do something different with my hair since I’m feeling so blah lately. She wisely wouldn’t let me chop it off, but she colored it a reddish-brown with gold highlights that I am absolutely in love with.

Amazing how a cut & color can improve one's mood. (And not that you can tell, but it's now reddish-brown with highlights and I loooove it!)

It’s kind of amazing how something as simple as changing my hair can improve my mood.

(But seriously, the bags under my eyes. For the love of God. If you want proof that I need more sleep, there ya go.)

Also, in the interest of “getting out of the house more often,” Kim’s daughter Jasmine (who is 16) came over and baby-sat for me last night. She played with the girls, fed them dinner, got them in their PJs, put them to bed, then she cleaned my kitchen and folded laundry. I love her. I’m going to try to see if I can get her to come baby-sit one evening a week or so, just so I can get out and have some non-work/mommy time occasionally.

And I don’t know if it was the time off from the kids, or the fact that I had a lot of fun last night, but this morning I felt great, and we got through an entire morning routine (eat breakfast, get dressed, pack lunches, off to school and daycare) without snapping or yelling at either of my kids even once. That’s kind of a miracle.

So, like I said, not really better, but ok. Hopefully I’ll get there soon.


I’m not sure what’s happened to me lately. I used to be a good mom. I think I still am, sometimes, but not as much as I used to be. And I don’t know exactly what happened or when it all changed.

I’m just so angry, all the time. A lot of it is just about my life in general – I resent that I’m stuck raising two kids by myself while their dad gets to go do whatever he damn well pleases and show up for visits when it suits him. Some of it is directed at Lucy, because that whole “shared bedroom” idea lasted about three nights, and now she’s back to waking me up multiple times a night. Some of it is directed at Catie, because apparently 6 is the age when The Attitude kicks in, and man alive, I wasn’t prepared for that.

There are moments when I love them so much that I can’t stop kissing them and I feel so insanely lucky to have them. But those moments happen a lot less frequently than they used to happen.

I post funny stories and cute pictures on Twitter and Facebook, because it’s all I can come up with. I haven’t blogged in over a month, because the only thing on my mind is how awful I feel all the time.

My nerves are on edge from the minute I pick them up at daycare until I finally get them to sleep. I refer to it as my nightly marathon. Not a single night goes by without me snapping and yelling at some point.

The other night I was trying to eat dinner (after I’d already fed and bathed the kids), and Catie came over to me, and just her touching me on the arm made me flinch and snap at her, “What do you want NOW?”

She was trying to give me a kiss.

Yeah. Mother of the damn Year over here.

The happiest moment of my day is after I drop them off at school and daycare, and I get to go to work and focus on something other than their needs. I dread the weekends because it means they’re all over me for 48 hours.

There’s a constant knot of anxiety in my stomach. There are times that the worst imaginable thoughts flash through my mind. That I hate my children. That I wish I’d never had them. That I wish I could run away and never come back.

I think for a long time, the anti-depressant I was taking (Lexapro, for those of you who care, and which I’ve been on for over two years now) made life more manageable for me. It’s obviously no longer working.

And so, tomorrow, I’m going to see a psychiatrist for the first time. Because I think this requires more help than my regular family doctor can provide. And I pray that this new doctor has something that can fix me. Because this is not normal, and more importantly, it’s not me. This is not the kind of mother I want to be. I don’t want my girls to grow up and remember their mom as this bitter, angry, horrible person.

I know I was a good mom once. Hopefully I can be that again. Sooner rather than later.