Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Random Good (and Potentially Good) Things

  • I got my first dossier request last week! On one hand, YAY TEAM! On the other hand, it's from a really good school, and I don't think I'm "the one" they're really looking for. I can totally do what they're looking for (at least what they describe in the ad), but it's not primary focus. I probably won't even get an interview request after they read my additional material, but it's a nice way to start the job market season.

  • Have I mentioned that Hubby and I are going to the USMC Birthday Ball? If not, we are, and it's next month, and apparently the thing to do in Doha is to have one's dress tailor- made. So, I did! I found a couture dress by Jovani, which I fell absolutely in love with, and I took a picture of it to a local tailor...and voila...I go pick it up today. The whole process is unbelievable to me. You take the picture, he sketches out the dress, making any changes you want, then he takes your measurements, tells you how much material you need (and what kind). Then, you hop across the street to the fabric souq and buy the material. This is a picture of my tailor's shop...check out the dress in the storefront.

I've already had two fittings, so I know the dress fits beautifully. I'm just amazed to have such a stunning, simple, formal gown made precisely to fit *my body*.

  • Makeup: well, why stop at a couture gown, I ask? Thinking this will be the only time that I have a reason for and the financial means to look truly mahvelous, I have reserved an appointment with a professional MAC artist to have my makeup done. Like, she has an artist's portfolio, and she's done photo shoots for national ads and stuff! And get this---it's going to be airbrushed!! I've never had airbrushed makeup before, and I feel all naive and child-like, imagining that my makeup will be flawless, and for once, I really will be pretty :)
  • If, that is, ...I can get the hair. For the first time, I'm trying a salon in Doha on Saturday. The master stylist that my friend recommended isn't accepting new clients, but if I'm happy with the job one of the other stylists does this weekend, then I'm going to see if I can convince her (the master stylist) to do my hair just for the Ball. I'm a little nervous about this haircut and highlights....God, I hope she doesn't screw up my hair.

Yes, I realize this post was all about me and shallow things about me, at that...But, you know, it's just what I had to talk about right now, and it's my damn blog.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What a Young AcadeMama Was Like

Since IntlExptr (from Here, There, and Everywhere) posed the inquiry in the comments to my last post, and since I'm in a writing mood, I thought I'd offer a little description of a young AcadeMama in the making. What was I like at 11 years old?

Well, my parents had just divorced, and my Mom got full custody after a very long, drawn-out, nasty court battle. At the time, in my head, I thought this was a horrible thing because I saw her as the disciplinarian. You see, while my Dad was off in the Middle East on an oil rig for a month at a time, my Mom was raising my brother and I, and she didn't have a lot of help. Shortly after the divorce, my Mom was diagnosed with a rare disease, Guillain Barre Syndrome (pronounce gee-YAN bah-RAY)...a rapid sickness, mediflight to Home State Capital City, and within a matter of hours, she was paralyzed from the neck down. One of her lungs collapsed, and she was on a ventilator for weeks. So, my brother and I "got" to go live with my Dad, who'd found himself a young, little barfly to act as stepmom/babysitter for us, while he continued to work. Oh, and he also told my brother and I that my Mom had a form of AIDS because she was, essentially a slut.

So, how does that affect a young girl like me? Well, I thought I was ugly, and thus adored my father's attention, despite the fact that he literally put the fear of God into me with his voice when he was angry. I was smart, I liked to play independently, but I knew more about adult things than any 11-year old should know. People around me didn't think that I was listening, but I was. I didn't always understand, but now I do. I felt horribly ugly and awkard. I was very tall, slim and athletic build, with no chest (things that resulted in me being tormented about for years). Add to that the fact that my stepmother decreed that I was not allowed to wear make-up or shave my legs, and I was virtually the laughing stock of 6th grade. I desperately sought attention from boys, even though I didn't "chase" them, if that makes sense. But never, I repeat NEVER, did I speak to my father or mother with the kind of disrespect with which Hannah speaks to me. If it were my father, I would have been hit with a belt...this was, after all, the man who headbutted me for opening a can of soup for breakfast. With my mother, and once I was a teenager, I was a smartass and sarcastic, and I thought I knew everything. I was shady and tried to break all sorts of rules (usually with great success...stealing her car in the middle of the night, drinking and smoking at friends' houses, etc.). But I always knew where the line was with her, and I never crossed it. Hannah? She jumps right over the line and doesn't even realize it.

I didn't have to try to do well in school. Basketball was the one thing that made me special because I was good...really, really good. But it wasn't enough to make me popular or pretty or rich enough to buy cool clothes (another hard thing to find when you're 6' at about 13 years old). I was non-confrontational because I had no self-esteem. I had an absent father, which simply added to my desire for a male voice that confirmed my worth. I thought I knew everything I needed to know, and I actually was mature in some ways. I always managed to balance my mischief with very clever deception, good grades, and the appearance of "normal behavoir."

Much of what I see from Hannah didn't come with me until I was well into my teens, and I'd decided to move back in with my mom (after she recovered and got out of the hospital). When I told my Dad that I wanted to move back in with Mom, he told me to take every picture of me in the house with me because he didn't want anything to remember me by. What does that do to a 12-year old?

I'm still trying to figure that one out...but none of it was good, which is why I have lots of baggage. I don't know how to be the parent Hannah needs me to be, the kind of wife and co-parent Hubby deserves, and carry all this baggage around too. Obviously, I had a fantastic mother, and my father taught me everything I needed to know about what *not* to do. I know what I need to do for myself, but I just don't have time to fit therapy in my schedule right now. There are some skeletons I'm just not ready to deal with right now, and taking care of my kids is my priority. For now, I pray....I pray for patience, strength, less swearing, less anger, the ability to distinguish between enabling a poor work ethic in Hannah and offering the opportunity for her to learn from failure. I pray with thankfulness, though, for all the gifts we have: health, each other, and the willingness to get through this together, no matter how long it takes. I literally fall asleep in prayer most nights, and I hope God understands.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Enabling, Protecting, and Resenting the Single-Parent Feeling

Following up on my last post, I can say that there's no way I'd let H live with her natural father. No, it would not be the best thing for her...for all sorts of reasons. She'd feel like I gave up on her, she'd feel like an outsider moving in to her Dad's "re-made" family, and ultimately, it would absolutely break my heart to be apart from my child. Like a piece of me floating out in the unknown, afraid and hurt, and feeling abandoned by the one person who'd been the constant factor in her life. It will never happen, and I'm ashamed for even thinking of it.

That said, after our incident last week, I talked with a neighbor, who happens to be a counselor at our university, and he offered some extremely helpful insight into our situation. He gave sound advice for a two-prong approach to helping H devlelop an internal motivation for making the changes that are needed for both her academic success and her emotional development (not to mention her relationship with me). The first step is to establish one of her school counselors as H's "Coach"...kind of like a life coach, except this will be to keep her on the right academic path. This might include having her stay after school for the study sessions that are offered 3 times a week, rather than having me help her with homework. The second step is to get her into counseling with someone who works with kids. We have a person in Doha who has many years of experience (in the US and here), and we've met her before. I like her a great deal, and I think she could have a lot to offer Hannah.

It's a fine line that I'm walking between wanting desperately to help Hannah stay organized, be successful in her academic work, maintain healthy friendships, and protect her from the nasty bullies that live in our compound and make their rounds at her school AND resenting the fact that I feel like my ex-husband is getting out of all this shit scot-free! He doesn't have to fight, argue, negotiate, and battle with Hannah over homework, clothes, time on the TV, her attitude, etc. He's living the farm life on the fucking Ponderosa, and I'm left with the hard ass work that is parenting a child (one with ADHD at that)! While Hubby is wonderful about being a co-parent, when it comes to Hannah, she very often will only "deal" with me. She prefers me to help her with homework, she looks to me for the "final word" on house rules, and it's me that she pushes to the edge with her backtalk and attitude. It's a dynamic between her and I that, I'm afraid, will turn into something toxic over the next couple years. Even more importantly, I'm terrified of the decisions she might make as a result of that dynamic.

At the end of the day, I'm doing the best I can, but I always feel like it's never enough.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Out of Tricks, Out of Energy, Out of Confidence

I'm officially at my wit's end with H. I'm mentally, physically, emotionally drained almost daily after arguing, asking, pleading, threatening, negotiating ad nauseum over homework, room cleaning, and her habit of speaking to Hubby and I disrespectfully, talking back, and sometimes, downright lying to our faces. We've had a couple notes from teachers regarding bad academic habit/work practices (which she has covered up at home). Almost daily she forgets something she needs for school (her planner, her math binder, her special thing she needed for science class), and then she calls at 8:00, as I'm on my way out the door with one of the other kids (and then to my office to actually work for the day), and she genuinely expects me to a) go find the lost thing and b) bring it to her at school, which is all the way across town.

I love my children--each of them--more than life itself. Raising them is the biggest joy of my life, and I thank God for having blessed me with three healthy, happy daughters. But, I feel like I'm drowning when it comes to H. I feel like nothing I do is right, no matter how many books I read, no matter how many coping strategies I try to implement (for her *or* for me). When I have to take two Valium just to cope with the frustration, anxiety, and stress of helping her with her homework, there is clearly a problem. When I make myself a bloody mary to help me calm down after the hour and a half long battle (and that is truly what it feels like), there's clearly a problem. I feel like a parenting failure. I feel like nothing I do with her is--or will ever be--good enough. Like I'll never be the mother she expects me to be no matter what I do.

Today, the thought actually crossed my mind: Is is possible she'd be better off living with her natural father? She seems to respect everyone else in our family except Hubby and me. Doctors have explained that this is natural because she sees us as the ones who will never give up on her, who will love her no matter what. But sisn't sending her to live with her natural father doing just that: giving up? -+But I'm out of ideas, and I'm out of energy. I feel like so much of my time and energy is spent dealing with the challenges that she faces, that I end up shortchanging my other two children, as well as my husband, and I won't even begin to consider myself. Utlimately, I sometimes I feel like I'm losing my damn mind and that's it's all my fault.

I feel like I have no support system, no human resources for dealing with these issues. Furthermore, I feel like I don't have the time it takes to do everything: teach, work on my research and writing, pursue the job market, spend quality time with my family, *and* figure out how to create a healthy, strong, trusting relationship with a daughter who is faced with a variety of ADHD problems (in addition to going through puberty). I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of professional, personal, familial, and emotional needs, and there is no life raft to be found.

Part of me wants to believe that things would be better if we were in the States, but I can't be sure of that. I just know that something has to change soon because I can't hang on much longer.