Monday, March 31, 2008

The Trail (Part 2)

Son (yesterday), on the way to pick up daughter from the charter bus (she was returning from her ethnic dance festival) - I had said that I didn't think things had gone quite as well as I had hoped for... we had supper over at Smitten's with her and her two kids. Made fresh rolls (Vietnamese fresh rolls - rice wraps, noodles, shrimp/vegetation, other stuff)...

Son: "Actually, from my perspective... and maybe its just me... but I thought it went pretty well. Everyone in my life - with maybe the exception of you... and [Smitten] and stuff - are insane. Emo or insane - or both... my friends, and mom, and stuff... So it was kind of nice to have just a normal supper. With no freak-outs, or weird shit, or warnings and feelings of impending doom... So, no, i dunno, maybe you felt something different - but i thought it was pretty good. i liked it."


I picked son up late friday night from his friend's house. He was exhausted. But he couldn't sleep. We stayed up awhile and talked and just hung out.

i could tell he was really on the edge. not edgy - but on the edge. edge of collapse and ability to cope. he still denies anything is taking a toll on him - though his denials are getting more feeble.

i just stayed with him. he played his game. i surfed the net and yakked here and there - some serious topics, some not - did some dishes - made sure he had some nutritious and healthy food. drank water. he slowly wound down enough that he agreed to go to bed something around 12:30am


saturday i woke him up at 2 in the afternoon. i let him numb his mind on his current favourite game - grand theft auto: vice city (on the PS/2 I talked about awhile back). he doesn't need anyone shitting on him for being slack. why? what the hell else did he have to do? maybe a little homework, but otherwise all he needed to do was sleep and feel safe and secure.

after an hour or two a made him get up and shower. took him out for supper. we went to an indian place. cost a little more than i wanted, but he likes indian and i wanted to see some colour in his face.

he's so pale. his skin is white, white, white. sickness white. ghostly white.

his complexion is pretty bad too.

after eating - i ordered it between medium and hot - the blood was flowing and he was pretty happy. we toodled off to the movie store and got a couple of movies.

my whole intent was to just make him feel safe and secure in an undemanding environment.

he was happy - i was bugging him about how much he ate and the look of slightly satisfied pain he had from having eaten a bit too much. he had quite the sheepish grin - much like a little kid when you've bundled them into a bed after they complained they didn't want to go to bed, but they were tired.

we watched the movies, made our comments about them, and just hung. around 1:00am we went to bed.

i found out the next day that he had not been able to go to sleep. he tried. he wanted to go to sleep. but his body wouldn't let him. he described not being able to find any comfortable position. having prickly skin. having muscles that demanded to be moved. a heart that began racing.

i told him he was having an anxiety attack. he said "no - not like that. i'm not explaining it right. i was getting angry. like when [boyfriend] Bob lost it on me. i was at the edge of throwing everything away. of just 'poning him. of just busting loose and breaking things and hitting people"

i said that while he was angry - it was still essentially the same kind of emotional event as an anxiety attack, and had the same kind of root causes

that i would see about getting him some relaxation therapy classes to help deal with it - not that it would do much, but it might take the edge off sometimes


i talked to son on friday night about what he had told me about his sister thinking that maybe she'd be moving in with me full time (read last post).

i talked to him more about why it would be better for him to move in with me than with his friends.

i talked a bit about the logistics of such a move and about some of the changes and choices that would have to occur if we were all in the same domicile all the time.

when presented with some ideas around his mother's reaction to both her kids leaving and how to potentially deal with that all (if it came to pass), he said "yeah - and i'd wanted to try and repair my relationship with her..."

he talked about maybe staying with her to try to help her through her meltdown if daughter left. i asked her how he thought that would work out. asked him how he thought he might do - given that i had tried to fix his mom for 20 years (20 years, one week and one day [as of today]). asked him if he believed that his strengths and abilities in that area would succeed any better than mine.

asked him what he thought the effort of trying to save his mother would do to his own survival.

told him he didn't need to abandon her, just asked him to face the reality of how it would work out.

i discussed further how the mechanics of him and his sister moving out would work. he hadn't even considered that he could go stay with his mother for a weekend, or visits. the kids are both thinking in awfully final terms. i am trying to mediate/moderate their experience. to temper the terrible siuation they are in - and the terrible spot they have been put in.

i told him that even if he did choose to stay with her, or help her work through things, that i would support him and offer him shelter.

i asked him to go in with his eyes open wide on the possibility of success - and about what it would do to him as a human being. pointed out what had happened to his sister. asked him if he was prepared to give up a chunk of himself to make peace - or if being in a constant battle would help him or her.

he accepted that there was essentially nothing he could do. that wishing wouldn't make it better. that he knew how it would work out. and that eventually he would move out, because he would fight and "battle her" because he will not accept her crap. and that it would have been wasted effort and pain from the beginning, because she won't change.

i told him that he could spend time with her - enough to be with her, but not enough to damage him - he could love her, but needed to accept that she was who she was - that he needed to accept that his mom was broken and that only she could make the choices to fix herself.

and that none of us had the tools or ability to fix her. that only she - with professional help that was far beyond our capability - could fix herself.

that it was like the time his uncle had nearly drowned - and had started pulling his children under in a panic to save himself when they went to rescue him. (his legs had gone paralysed - what happens when you drink Rye Whisky in the hot sun all day and then jump in a cold assed lake... BTW, another brother-in-law jumped in and saved him).

i asked him if he thought his mother was self-aware enough, or not selfish enough to avoid pulling him or his sister under - to avoid ruining their lives.

i pointed out that he was the child, not the parent, and that if his mother was outside of the situation, and lucid, she would give him the same advice.

he sadly accepted that he would have to look out for himself first.


i'm going for a job interview on thursday

it's only a six month term right now

it will be extended if i meet pre-specified goals

it pays about $1000.00 more per month than my current job, but offers tremendous entre into the upper reaches of the IT world in our jurisdiction.

as one of my co-workers (and confidante) said "If there was ever a position made for you it's this one, [Cadbury]. if you don't want the job, give them my name - anything to escape the insanity of this place"

it is also only 3-4 days a week in the initial 6 month term. it would go full time at around $30K more a year than i make right now if i meet the goals. i can make those goals.

i don't want to do what i'm doing anymore.

i believe in the cause, but not the people i work for. they are self-interested pricks who don't deserve the mantle and name of our movement. and they don't deserve my efforts and support.

i expect that attitude may percolate up into the work situation described last post, even if i try to be polite and professional.

for the record, all of the staff (including my boss and the office manager) have the same opinion of the current crew we work for. some of them are decent as individuals, but as a group are just appallingly... um, limited.

i discussed the situation with my parents and they approve of my plan - and recognise (and offered) that they will be on the line to hold my head above water if things go sideways.

Mom and Dad are true believers from a long way back. They have the same opinion of the current crew as we staff do. Mom doesn't hold a party card any more, but Dad still does.

If I leave i will receive a severance/buy-out of something over 8 months salary. All of the staff were offered the buy-out after the election. It is still pending and open 'til June.

I intend to finalise my Linux and Microsoft certification while on my 6 months if I get the job. If I don't get my term extended I will go back to university. I can get my computer science certificate in two 4 month semesters (using credits from my unfinished degree). That will leave me with a little room at the end - especially if I am frugal - to get a new job. Unlike many parts of the U.S. our economy here is booming - we have a terrible labour shortage - especially for IT people. I would be almost assured of getting a job immediately - others who got punted after we lost the election (who were IT people) got jobs in less than 3 weeks. These were young guys without 20 years experience (like me).

My parents support the idea of me going back to school and have said they would back-stop the other end.

I am still considering things, but my mind is pretty much made up.

The only thing that causes me pause is that it would affect my ability to get a house. But all I really want is an extra bedroom. I am looking into whether I can rent a townhouse, or - god forbid - see if Mom and Dad will co-sign because i would be not in a permanent job at that point. That would, of course, assume that my settlement was done...

and that's a whole separate ball of wax

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Trail (Part 1)

It feels like it's been forever since I last wrote here. I have been visiting your blogs on a half-assed basis, trying to stay current, even if not participating.

It's been a long couple of weeks riding the trail.

Not sure where that trail is going right now.

So, what's going on?

The stbx is going increasingly unstable. It is taking a lot of time and psychic effort to assist my kids and to stay fully anchored for their sake.

I have been headhunted for a job. The executive director of a high-tech industry association.

I got a disciplinary letter from work saying I was slack, shoddy, and disinterested (nonchalant) in my work (the quick summary of two pages).

One of the worst moments came when I went back to my office after the initial hour long meeting about the letter. I had just sat down and was trying to keep myself composed. The letter and the meeting had come right out of the blue - no expectation of it whatsoever. And my daughter called. Called to talk to me about her mother and the pressure and anxiousness daughter feels. Daughter is having trouble coping with her mother's instability and increasingly irrational behaviour and outlook on life. It took every bit of my being to not allow my voice to crack or to betray how I was feeling. To keep myself stable and calm and reassuring for daughter.

I am grieving the letter and the points it makes. I have challenged the way that my boss and the office manager have characterised the incidents they discuss in the letter. Resolution is currently bound up within the grievance process. I am making sure that I behave in a way that is unassailable.

One criticism is my arrival time. My office manager has hated my flex hours arrangement with my previous boss for the entire time I have worked there. She does not consider my flex hours reason (getting kids off to school in the morning) to be valid. She is angry and resentful that she had to do it all those years (she's in her late 50s) and still get to work at the appointed hour. She is angry that I am getting a "special privilege" because I'm a man. Even though flex hours is in our contract. She is mad because on of the other people (a woman) did not get granted flex hours when she requested it. The lady requesting it had as part of her specific job duties to open the office in the morning... at 8am. So the former boss said no to flex for her.

I would stay until later. But in the office manager's eyes, only the 8am start time counts.

So she revoked my flex and i was late a few more times - including for medical appointments - that's part of the grievance. No one else has been disciplined for coming in after 8am (arrivals go from 8 'til about 8:15am). Again, part of the grievance.

Also, they said I had missed/not completed a couple of pieces of work. I had handed them off to co-workers because I was working on a network problem. I have no direct supervisor right now, and had made my own judgments because my boss was unavailable.

Also, as we have re=formed in our new status as an office - all the roles have changed - and the job descriptions remain the same. I essentially have no list of duties right now. All but two of the things that they complained about are nowhere described in the contract or in any list of duties.

I should note that I am not perfect, and that they are within their rights and within reason to speak to me about the issues they did. They can ask for better performance (especially on the 8 am arrival time) - but part of that improved performance counts on them providing better direction.

They agreed that my counterpoints had validity and committed to doing better at providing guidance and direction. That they would actually give me a list of things they consider to be my duties. As I said in one of the meetings "I accept that i may have appeared to be wandering aimlessly - because I am. But that's because I have no idea of what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm just guessing. That's why I've wandered into each of your offices for sometime now, on at least a weekly basis and asked you what my role in our new structure is. Pieces of my old job have been moved around to other people - and I'm OK with that - but how can you give me shit when I don't even have a list of job duties? I'm not going to accept any formal discipline or formal complaint until I know, in writing, what I am responsible for."

They committed to giving me better direction, duties in writing, and a written list of priorities - as well as committing to being available when I need a decision made on conflicting priorities - and giving me written authority to make my own decision when they are (as they often are) unavailable.

The grievance process will be a long one - and will likely involve the revision of our collective agreement.


The kids are shellshocked.

They have this terrible haunted look in their eyes.

I feel awful for them.

Daughter has begun discussing an endgame that would see her live full time with me. Son has been talking about moving out with his friends - I'm trying to assist him in thinking through that sort of a decision - which would be a bad one for him.

On a personal level - family level it's quite draining.

I will discuss some fo these details later.


As mentioned I've been headhunted - not a perfect scenario, but one that would see me out of the current volatile work situation I'm in, and into another...

I'm going for an interview and thinking things through

more on that later.


That's it for now

this post turned out to be longer than i had first thought

i am heading out with son to do a few errands

daughter is away in another city at an ethnic dance festival.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"charity dinner"

Daughter and Son had agreed they would tell their mother where they were going.

When it came right to the point of telling her daughter blinked and told their mother they were going to a charity dinner. Son wasn't happy but followed his sister's lead.

The birthday dinner was good.

I thought they had followed through on the plan. I found out tonight they had not.

Even though I was supportive of dodging the bullet, once that I had brought myself to the mental and emotional place needed to support the kids through the shit storm, I was a little deflated by the turn of events.

Monday, March 10, 2008

voicemail and conversation with son

i get home this morning from Smitten's. There is a voice mail from daughter. She is telling me that her mother is not home. It's almost midnight when the message was left. Daughter did not call me on my cell (i have since given explicit instructions [again] to call me on my cell because i might not be home).

Son calls me after school, tells me that their mother left. Said she was going for a pack of smokes. Gone for 2 1/2 hours until 12:30 a.m.

the kids were concerned about her. they don't know whether she's dead, or has followed through on her abandonment threat. They stay up waiting.

they call her sister, they call boyfriend bob - neither has heard from her. she didn't take her cell phone.

She comes home. They challenge her. she says "oh, i forgot my cell phone", son points out she could have used a payphone...

She launches into some shit she's read in a book by Dr. Wayne Dyer (some book - i think by him - i'll confirm...). She keeps the kids up until 1:30 a.m. engaged in some psycho drama.

This is on a Sunday night. That would be a school night. And then when son doesn't make it to school today, she comes home and bitches at him.

I am at a loss for words.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


some excerpts from an email exchange with Smitten (names removed - if you spot one send me mail right away, please)

yes - the subject line of that email was the same as the title of this post

this is in regard to a birthday dinner for her son - a dinner that got rescheduled from last wednesday to this monday - a day that is when my kids are with their mother.

i had discussed the option of them either obfuscating or flat out lying about where they were going with me

---- Me ----

talked to the kids about a "cover" story for monday

suggested the political fundraiser idea

Son said

"i vote for the truth and when she starts to bitch, i tell her to ---- my ----. and when she whines about it afterwards, i battle her. i don't need to take her shit!"

I pointed out that Daughter has to live through this too, and might not be as comfortable as a battletoad

Daughter chimed in with this view

Son said "Then when she bitches at Daughter, I battle her again!"

Daughter said "but you're not always there, Son."

Son said "Then i battle her again, and make her life so miserable she never attacks you on it again, Daughter. And then i battle her again the next time. I don't care about what she says anymore. I view confrontations with her as more of a sport."

I left it with the two of them to work out how they felt. i will discuss it again to see what resolution might be gained.

---- Smitten ----

Wow, that is interesting.

It is good to hear that he is willing to stand up for the truth, even
knowing the consequences.
And in the end he is right - she will eventually stop her crap and just
have to accept life the way it is.
But there will be some pain along the way.
If everyone knows what the pain will be and is willing to work through it, making coping strategies and defences, then it is worth it. Well worth it actually.


From what you have told me, you have taught him to stand up to unfairness; to take a stand in a just cause that he believes in; to do the right thing even if it means hardship for awhile.
And now he is.

---- Me ----

> It is good to hear that he is willing to stand up for the truth, even
> knowing the consequences.
> And in the end he is right

yeah - he is right

i was trying to ease things for Daughter

i guess i'm not as strong as Son that way

lying and pirouettes worked for me to ease the immediate pain of most encounters in my life

> From what you have told me, you have taught him to stand up to
> unfairness; to take a stand in a just cause that he believes in; to do
> the right thing even if it means hardship for awhile.

he didn't model/learn it from me in my personal life and dealings

maybe in dealings with the school or outsiders, but not close to home

> And now he is.


self-confidence and surety will do that for a person

whether it's innate strength, or having been sheltered from being torn down by those you love

it's an interesting vector change to see Son do what he does

to not care what anyone says about him

even if it leaves him alone
(as he has discussed recently in relation to other kids and friends)


my Dad said to me

"You seem to be prepared to mix it up with your opponents in your student politics - at the drop of a hat - but don't seem to be able to to do that with [stbx-Mrs_C]. You seem to have some trouble standing up for yourself when it's in your personal life."

there is an irony to the source of that statement



perhaps part of it is also protectiveness

perhaps he is protecting Daughter and I

maybe that's the behaviour he saw modeled

---- Smitten ----

> i was trying to ease things for Daughter

> >i guess i'm not as strong as Son that way

You are a natural protector - and that is strength. Of course you want to ease things for her - you are her father and you care. She is still a little girl who is influenced into doing things she doesn't want to do just because she is young, and that is unfair.

Perhaps some of your reflexes are that you know what it is like to be where she is, and no one protected you

Over this past year Son has learned not to fear the wrath of "mother". He is seeing her with adult eyes which is liberating. She does not have the power over him that she once had (nor over you) and he is freed from being a victim. He now has power and is relishing it (e.g. the comment about confrontation as a sport). I see this as a positive. He is fighting back and is on the other side of the pendulum where he may want to get a bit of revenge.

Is that wrong?

Maybe yes, maybe no... but to find his middle ground and understand his own boundaries, it has to be done. Either now or later.

Each victim must face their abuser and take back their personal power. How each person does it is different, and Son is doing what feels right for him.

Sounds like he wants to stop the bullshit and the lies and face things straight on. He is tired of her abuse and knows that tip toeing around it will not change it. He no doubt has tried different methods over this past year and has come to the conclusion that no matter what he does or how he does it will change her behaviour, so why should he try so hard? He may understand that to tolerate abuse and to let her manipulate the household is license to let it continue. And he does not want that.

And he knows he has you as mental and physical refuge. And that my dear is what is giving him his own strength to deal with his abuse and heal. You did not have that advantage.

As for you and your strength - it is a different path and process for you. You are also confronting people/things that you would have not done before. From what you have shared, the "lying and pirouettes" are not an automatic response for you anymore. (?)

---- Smitten ----

> it's an interesting vector change to see Son do what he does.
> >to not care what anyone says about him
> >even if it leaves him alone
> >(as he has discussed recently in relation to other kids and friends)

As you have said, he is a different kind of person. He has the abilities to make friends and conform to the norm but chooses not to. [a non-conformist coworker of Cadbury's] seems to be doing just fine.

> >but,
> >perhaps part of it is also protectiveness
> >perhaps he is protecting Daughter and I
> >maybe that's the behaviour he saw modeled

Perhaps. But he also saw that the protecting had a limit. It couldn't stop everything and someone always lost in the end (in this case you). Another guess is that he has already been as hurt as much as he can be. So what has he got to lose?

He has a trump card and wants to play it.
There is no better time to play it than on Monday when he can bring her arch enemy into it.

And another thought is that he has seen Daughter start to protect herself. He sees the strength building within her.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Overwhelmed, Shit, and Procrastination

Work is winding up. We have two major periods in the year and this is the bigger one. It is about 3 months long. The other one is in the fall.

We barely survived the one last fall - and it was only 2 weeks long. Now we were just a few weeks out of the election and 2 weeks after moving offices, but it was still a hell of a ride for those 2 weeks.

We have 5 more staff for this sitting, but we have a much longer period to cover, and a lot more going on than last fall.

The demands have been ratcheted way up in terms of tech work. I no longer even do much communications and writing - little strategy. I hate being the guy who just plugs stuff in and fixes peoples "my computer won't work" bullshit problems.

It's not what i signed on for - i hate being relegated here, but i'm the only one who can do what i do. not quite true, but the other guy who knows what to do on tech is the only one that knows all the rules of the house and is in charge of that element of the office - he's the staff quarterback for the next 3 months.

I am trying to find my happy place doing what i'm doing.

I have been given one piece of research, but it has been left languishing while i solve the inevitable every day computer/network crisis.

It doesn't help that the client group are for the most part full-on egomaniacs. I suppose that's what you have to be to put yourself out for that much public judgement. This group is worse than most. They may be my team, but they're mostly assholes (2/3 anyway). I've been around this type of folks for my whole life, but this group is the most self-absorbed i've ever seen.

by next time around (4 years from now) i hope to *ease* a bunch of them into retirement from this life - by challenges if nothing else works...


i have way to much to do at work


i have little mindspace left. i read your blogs BTW - i just have nothing in me to comment. i apologise. even less to post here.

in fact i am just posting right now out of guilt, and to avoid doing my next task. i feel like it will never end and have begun avoiding stuff i'm supposed to do.

it's a bad character trait of mine when i am drowning in shit/overwhelmed

slough until the deadline becomes almost impossible to avoid

i've tried to shake it over the years and have gotten better, but it still rears its head sometimes

it's weird though - i have had more on my plate at various times and have taken care of it handily and with good humour

but sometimes i just suck

like now


it's one of those things that Smitten keeps telling me

don't agree to do anything you don't want to do. don't allow people to make you feel obligated until you finally give in and do something


i have a bunch of stuff to do for a couple of weeks from now for my daughter's ethnic dance group. big festival coming up

i am/have been sloughing a job i should do (volunteer co-ordination)

it will cause problems

i'm aiming to finish the job by late this afternoon/early evening

as usual, i am good at what i do, and should be able to pull the fat out of the fire. but maybe not this time...?


i haven't been sleeping well over the last couple of months

the snoring

headaches, muscle problems, fibromyalgia flare-ups

winter sucks too

sucks my soul and my spirit


i have little enthusiasm for anything


as you know, daughter has been coming over to my place for her weeks with me

stbx has been trying to interpose herself in this.

stbx has been proposing different arrangements to the kids. month on/month off. daughter a week with her and son with me, then switch - so we'd always have a kid with each of us - both kids have rejected that option from the get go.

stbx doesn't want to ever be alone...

stbx has been trying to get me to talk to her. i have been putting her off now that i am aware again of her latest tactics.

i know that some of you (like Sicilian and Smitten) have warned me in the past about allowing myself to be sucked in by her and her methods to get me trapped in discussions - but i am a trusting fool. I also start with the belief that people are sincere - and easily forget and forgive/let go when crossed (how i survive my profession/employment i don't know. Smitten says i willingly self-delude. that as a hopeless romantic and true believer in a better world, that i am unwilling to see the ugly parts of the world around me...

[now it's 2 hours or so after i started this post - i got called out to troubleshoot some systems]

which is strange because i have to wrestle in the muck in a really sordid way every single day in my job function - i'm the [or was - and i guess still am] the opposition research guy. it's my job to be cynical and ugly).

anyway - it always takes me off guard every time she finds a new way to suck me into conversations. i never quite wise up to it until a few conversations in...

i'd like to think that now i will be able to avoid stuff for awhile because i have re-concluded that i will have nothing to do with her for any reason except for "i will drop them off here or there" or "is [son/daughter] there?" on the phone.


daughter has been going straight to my apartment after school. sometimes a short stop at the house on the way. she is trying to avoid the stbx. last night they went to the house to watch a movie with son's friend who is still living there...

they said there was something really weird in the stbx's behaviour that freaked them both out. they said she was nicer than usual but there was something really weird they didn't like. they didn't want her around them and her presence caused them serious distress

i asked them about it for some period of time (40 min) in an effort to help tham understand what they were feeling, but didn't make much headway. they were active participants in the emotional examination, because they were trying to figure it out too. but we couldn't. hopefully this doesn't mean she is going to go all murder/suicide on them...


i have been headhunted for a job. i am in informal discussions with the folks. it would pay about 30K a year more than i make now. it would be for a one year term, with success based extension possible. it is executive director of a high tech industry association.

i talked to my boss about getting a year's leave of absence from my job and he said he would do it (we [staff] are all watching out for each other's backs as we got through the transition to our new station in life as on office. the client group is a little, um, fickle. we watch out for each other...


i need to go home now because now it's hometime